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Jim Devine - Grasping hoon of an MP.

Aye up, something fishy is going on here?! As the Sunday Herald reports.

A SCOTTISH Labour MP is facing fresh questions over his expenses after claiming he billed the taxpayer for his local publican to put up shelves in his own bar. Jim Devine said the £2326 of "joinery" was for storing personal and party political material in a pub cellar he was renting.

The bizarre explanation is the Livingston MP's latest attempt to defuse the expenses row he has been embroiled in for weeks.

Devine could be deselected as a Labour candidate this week after he meets his party's special endorsements panel, dubbed the "star chamber", over £4483 of questionable expenses.

The MP claimed £2326 from the taxpayer for joinery that included the supply and fitting of 66 metres of "heavy duty" shelving. The invoice was in the name of Tony Moran, a publican in Devine's home town of Blackburn, West Lothian.

Although the expenses claim was made from Devine's constituency office budget, a trip to the MP's Livingston headquarters found no evidence of shelving.

Devine attempted to explain the mystery by telling his local newspaper the shelves were at his London home. However, Moran flatly contradicted that when he spoke to the Sunday Herald.

At an emergency Labour Party meeting in Livingston last week, the MP then said the shelves were installed in the cellar of a former Blackburn pub.

The public house, now closed, was run by Moran when the expenses claim was made in March 2006.

Devine is said to have told local party members he was reluctant to discuss the joinery claim as the shelves were used for storing party political material. House of Commons rules forbid MPs from using the publicly-funded expenses system for party purposes.

In a BBC interview last week, Devine tried to explain the joinery riddle.

Asked where the shelves were, he said: "Just down the road in a shed. They're industrial shelves. They were used to store office equipment, my personal equipment, and ... other party material."

Asked why he could not give an inspection of the shelving, he said: "Because they're in, they're in, a what-d'you-call-it, they're in a cellar that, sadly, the pub has gone bust. And that's where the material had been stored."

Asked if he had rented the pub cellar, Devine said: "Rented this space out and, what-d'you-call-it, used the shelves, the industrial bought shelves, so we could store this material."

He said the pub was called The Crown, but a visit to the former Crown Inn by the Sunday Herald reveals further discrepancies in Devine's story.

The space Devine said he "rented" to store office equipment, personal files and Labour Party material is a filthy shed, half-filled with beer kegs, pipes, and dusty bric-a-brac, with broken glass strewn on the floor.

Although there was shelving inside, it did not match the description on Moran's invoice.

Instead of 66 identical "lineal metres", there was less than half this amount in the cellar. It was also in three different types, three different sizes, and three different colours. Not one shelf was a metre long.

Two also carried faded labels saying "Mar 00" and "April 00". Devine was elected an MP in September 2005.

Franco Cortellessa, the new owner, said many of the shelves were already rusted when he bought the Crown in October 2007, less than 18 months after the date on Moran's invoice.

Cortellessa, who plans to re-open the Crown in October, said when he took over the pub the shelves had been full of bar supplies and clothing, but no Labour Party material.

"It was all Tony Moran's. There was nothing to do with a party or anything like that,'' he said.

A former employee at the pub said the cellar was completely unsuitable for storing office equipment or supplies.

"It was where all the bottles and barrels were kept. Never in its puff has it been used for that a Labour Party base. The only time I've seen Jim Devine has been when he's been going to the shops."

Approached at his home, Moran said: "No talking to any **** from the Sunday Herald."

Devine was also questioned by local Labour members last week on a £2157 claim for rewiring, which he said he initially paid to the electrician in cash.

The MP was asked at the Livingston meeting whether he could produce a bank statement confirming a withdrawal for the same amount at around the time he paid the handyman.

It is not clear what Devine's answer was to the questiom.

The MP last week claimed he had called in the police to investigate the expenses allegations.

This followed revelations disaffected Labour members were intending to call for a police investigation into the politician.

Devine declined to answer questions when approached at his Blackburn home.

New Labour MP Jim Devine has fiddled a total of nearly £17,000 in “car” and “mileage” costs, but the office manager, Marion Kinley, told the Sunday Herald she did all the driving and “I received only £60.” Devine has some improbable excuses.

A leaked email also shows that a Labour councillor accused Devine, the MP for Livingston, of expecting his staff to act as chauffeurs.
He also voted against the Gurkha's being allowed to stay, still lots of money for shelving, dubious electrical companies and travel expenses but none for OAP's who took up arms for this land.

2 people have spoken:

manwiddicombe said...

dubbed the "star chamber"

Gorgon Brown himself called it a star chamber in an interview with Andrew Marr, the same interview where Marr asked him about "pearl handled revolvers".

I hope that, on the strength of the evidence you've presented, the troughing bastard does get deselected. And made to repay the money. And investigated by the police.

Fidothedog said...

Aye a bullet would resolve the issues, but the bastard would claim it on expenses.