Jury out in Essex peer Lord Hanningfield expenses trial

image captionLord Hanningfield denies six charges of false accounting

The jury in the case of a former Conservative peer accused of expenses fraud has retired to consider its verdict.

Former Essex County Council leader Lord Hanningfield, 70, is alleged to have claimed for hotel stays in London he did not make.

He denied six counts of false accounting at Chelmsford Crown Court.

Lord Hanningfield was suspended from the Parliamentary Conservative Party when he was charged over the claims.

He also stood down as a front bench business spokesman in the House of Lords.

Lord Hanningfield, of West Hanningfield, near Chelmsford, is appearing at court under his name Paul White.

He has previously told the court he claimed for the overnight stays in London while actually returning home "because all the other peers were doing it".

'Absolutely clear'

And he said that while MPs could claim up to £130,000 a year for staffing, there was no such allowance for peers, adding that he had claimed extra in some categories because of losses in others.

On Thursday Clare Montgomery QC, prosecuting, told the jury: "The rules are absolutely clear about what you can and can't claim for.

"Lord Hanningfield is the only person who says you can claim travel when you haven't travelled and claim an overnight stay when you haven't stayed overnight.

"If you can't afford to be a peer, the answer is not to make up false claims, it's to stop doing the job."

Alun Jones QC, defending, said Lord Hanningfield had been using the expenses system to recoup his costs.

He was often out of pocket and had made no money out of 40 years of public service, he said.

"The House of Lords is unique in asking people to do a full-time and demanding job - and you are not paid for it," said Mr Jones.

He also questioned the thoroughness of the police investigation, and said there were many other peers who saw the allowance system as a way to generate income.

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