UK Politics

MPs' expenses: David Chaytor's friends 'shocked'

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Media captionBarry Sheerman: "Those of us who know and respect David will stand by him"

David Chaytor's fraudulent expenses claims came as a shock to friends, who say it was "totally out of character".

Labour MP Barry Sheerman said Chaytor was "the straightest person that most of us knew" and he had been disappointed by what had happened.

His colleague Graham Stringer said it was a "personal tragedy" for an ex-MP who worked hard for his constituents.

Ex Labour MP Chaytor, 61, was jailed for 18 months after admitting false accounting over his expenses claims.

He was suspended by Labour after the allegations surfaced and the party now says he will be excluded from membership.

Elected during Labour's 1997 landslide victory, he had served his 13 years on the backbenches - including as a member of various committees.

'Disappointed'

Former chairman of the education select committee, Labour's Mr Sheerman told the BBC he was shocked at the developments as Chaytor was known in Parliament as "hard working and the straightest person that most of us knew".

"Most of us who have known him over the years still think it is totally out of character for him to do anything dishonest," he said.

"He's such an active person that I'm shocked and disappointed about what's happened."

He said he was disappointed Chaytor received a custodial sentence rather than doing community work: "I can't think of anyone better to work in the community with unemployed people or with young people rather than being incarcerated at the taxpayers' expense - but we are where we are."

But he said justice had been done and been "seen to be done".

"I'm still shocked that David would ever do anything wrong.

"I have kept in close contact with him over these long months and of course the effect on his family has been very great indeed... Those of us who know and respect David will stand by him... Those of us who have been his friends will maintain that friendship."

'No doubt'

Chaytor's fellow Manchester MP Mr Stringer told the BBC that while "justice has been done" he was "very sad" for his former colleague.

"It's a personal tragedy for Dave. He'd been an assiduous constituency MP and he'd worked hard on many national and international issues.

"But he'd pleaded guilty to a very serious offence. So on a personal level, I think it's tragic and I'm very sorry it's happened.

"There's no doubt he's guilty... he's going to prison. I just think on a human level that is very tragic."

The former chairman of the committee for standards on public life, Sir Alistair Graham, told the BBC he was very pleased there had been a successful prosecution because of the depth of the MPs' expenses scandal.

But he added: "I knew David Chaytor before he became a member of Parliament when I worked in West Yorkshire, he was a highly respected figure at that stage and to see him, to face a custodial sentence of 18 months after defrauding the expenses system of MPs is rather sad for him and for his family.

"This was a very serious expenses scandal and it's right that MPs are seen not to be above the law."

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