I fiddled the taxpayer, MP admits

DOWNING Street says a disgraced South Yorkshire politician is in an "untenable position" after he became the first sitting MP to be convicted of expenses fraud.

Eric Illsley, MP for Barnsley Central, was last night facing massive pressure to resign his seat immediately after admitting dishonestly claiming more then 14,000.

Labour Party leader and South Yorkshire MP Ed Miliband insisted Illsley should do the "right thing" and go voluntarily after it emerged he could keep his job and salary even if he was jailed.

The Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "If someone has defrauded the people they are there to represent that is quite an untenable position."

Appearing at Southwark Crown Court, Illsley, aged 55, yesterday pleaded guilty to three false accounting charges over claims for council tax, maintenance, repairs and utility bills for his second home.

Sentencing was adjourned for four weeks for reports.

If he is sentenced to less than a year, he will theoretically be able to remain as an MP and keep receiving his parliamentary salary.

However, the House of Commons would have the option of passing a resolution to eject him from his seat.

Tory Peter Baker is believed to be the last MP expelled in 1954, convicted of fraud.

llsley, of Westmoor Crescent, Pogmoor, Barnsley, was due for trial yesterday but changed his pleas on three charges of false accounting, relating to expenses claimed on his second home in London.

He had previously denied dishonestly claiming more than 25,000.

His barrister, William Coker QC, said Illsley had admitted wrongly claiming about 14,500.

In a five-minute hearing the MP, who was suspended from the Labour Party after being charged in May, but who continued to attend Parliament as an Independent, sat rubbing his face and frowning.

Simon Clements, head of the Crown Prosecution Service's Special Crime Division, said: "The grossly inflated claims he submitted could not be attributed to an oversight or accounting error - indeed he claimed that the expenses system was a way of supplementing Members' salaries.

"By his guilty pleas he has accepted that he was dishonest in making these claims.

"Eric Illsley took advantage of the trust placed in him by his constituents to act honourably on their behalf.

"He siphoned off public money into his own pockets and betrayed those who rightly expected the highest standards of integrity from him as a Member of Parliament."

A Barnsley by-election would not be relished by the Tories or the Lib Dems. Illsley won the seat with a commanding 11,093 majority.

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