In the Media

Labour MP Margaret Moran claimed ?164 for birthday cards at taxpayers expense, court hears

PUBLISHED November 8, 2012

Margaret Moran, the former Labour MP, forged invoices for more than £24,000 of non-existent goods and services as part of a £53,000 parliamentary expenses fraud, a court heard yesterday.

The 57-year-old repeatedly abused the expenses system to "pocket public money" and refurbished three houses by "arranging for the taxpayer to foot the bill", it is alleged.

She even claimed £47 for 50 Christmas cards and £164.50 for birthday cards.

On one occasion she successfully claimed for £14,805 for a replacement boiler and plumbing work using a "bogus" invoice for work that was never carried out, a jury heard.

Following The Daily Telegraph's investigation into MPs' expenses in 2009, Mrs Moran's expense claims were investigated by police, resulting in 15 charges of false accounting and six charges of forgery.

The former MP for Luton South, who stood down at the 2010 election, is being tried in her absence at Southwark Crown Court in London after psychiatrists declared her unfit to stand trial.

Peter Wright QC, for the prosecution, said that between April 2004 and August 2008 Mrs Moran claimed more than £60,000 in taxpayer-funded parliamentary expenses "which enabled her to receive over £53,000 to which she was not entitled".

He explained that MPs were entitled to expenses for a designated second home, as most MPs have homes in London and in their constituency, but Mrs Moran had twice swapped the designation of her second home "in a process known as flipping".

The jury was told that Mrs Moran had used a system "based on trust" to "kit out" homes in London, Luton and Southampton using money to which she was not entitled.

In 2006 she submitted a claim for £4756.40 for replacement kitchen units for her second home, which was accompanied by an invoice from a firm called Elite Builders.

In fact, said Mr Wright: "The invoice was a complete forgery." The address given for Elite Builders was the home of an elderly couple and the work was never done.

In the same year Mrs Moran claimed £979.84 for kitchen units and worktops, but, said Mr Wright, the invoice she sent in was only an estimate and "the work was never done and never paid for".

In 2007 Mrs Moran submitted invoices for £14,805 and £1,823 for building work in the name of Mandere Construction, but the bills were "utterly false" said Mr Wright.

He pointed out that the bogus invoices were submitted at a time when extensive repairs were being carried out at her third home in Southampton.

In 2008, after "flipping" her designated home to Southampton, Mrs Moran submitted bills for £22,500 of building work, including dry rot repairs. In truth, said Mr Wright, the work had been done in the previous financial year, when she had already exhausted her parliamentary allowance, and when her designated second home was in Luton.

Between 2004 and 2006, Mrs Moran submitted claims for utility bills totalling £2,424, but bank records showed that the actual amount paid for the utilities was £286.35, said Mr Wright. The invoices included hundreds of pounds for phone bills at her second home for a landline that did not exist, he said.

On several occasions Mrs Moran allegedly altered invoices by hand to change the address to that of her designated second home when in reality she had bought furniture and goods for one of her other houses.

She allegedly claimed £2678.76 for carpets for her one-bedroomed flat in London, when in fact the carpets had been installed at her three-bedroomed semi in Luton, then tried to claim for them again after "flipping" her designated second home to the Luton address.

She also claimed £47 for 50 Christmas cards and £164.50 for 18th birthday cards to send to new voters, both of which were disallowed, so instead she re-submitted the bills as "printing job" and "surgery cards" to get round the rules, said Mr Wright.

Mr Wright said: "The underlying responsibility for each MP is to conduct their financial affairs with utmost probity.

"This isn't some private pot that you can dip into if you choose to."

Mrs Moran was arrested in 2010 after one of her aides, Ushrat Sultana, made a complaint to police about her behaviour and provided a dossier of documents showing the alleged fraud.

The hearing continues.