We were expecting at least three parliamentarians to be charged over their expenses this morning and in the event four have been. Three Labour MPs — David Chaytor, Jim Devine, Elliot Morley — and the Tory peer Lord Hanningfield have been charged with false accounting.
Chaytor, Devine and Morley were all banned from seeking re-election by Labour’s “star chamber”. Hanningfield has resigned his position as a frontbench business spokesman in the Lords and has had the Conservative whip withdrawn. But he can’t resign from the Lords even if he wants to.
Jack Straw’s Constitutional Reform Bill, which will allow peers to resign their seats voluntarily, is currently at committee stage. The bill will also introduce rules allowing peers convicted of a criminal offence to be expelled from the House.
At the moment the maximum penalty available to the Lords is to suspend peers until the end of the current parliamentary session. Last year Lords Taylor and Truscott became the first peers to be suspended since 1642 following their involvement in the “cash for amendments” affair.