Tory MP submitted over 700 exaggerated expense claims

Bob Blackman MP
Bob Blackman MP

Tory backbencher Bob Blackman faces repaying more than £1,000 in wrongly-claimed mileage expenses.

An investigation by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa) has found that the Harrow East MP submitted more than 700 “inaccurate” claims.

The Ipsa inquiry’s provisional findings state: “The Compliance Officer has concluded that mileage claims submitted by Mr Blackman are, in almost every instance, not accurate and greater than the distance travelled. This is disputed by Mr Blackman.”

The expenses scandal MPs & convicts who have coveted Parliamentary pass to publicly subsidised bars & restaurants

telegraph-exs

Disgraced former Cabinet minister Chris Huhne is among many former discredited MPs handed a coveted pass granting him access to the parliamentary estate and its heavily subsidised bars and restaurants.

The politician dramatically quit as Liberal Democrat MP for Eastleigh two years ago after pleading guilty to perverting the course of justice.

He had tried to cover up swapping speeding points with ex-wife Vicky Pryce, and was jailed for eight months.

But Mr Huhne is among a host of former members granted a Commons pass, according to a list disclosed to the Press Association under freedom of information rules.

Some 360 are able to use Westminster’s heavily subsidised bars and restaurants as well as other facilities – including ex-Tory minister Jonathan Aitken, who was jailed in 1999 for perjury and perverting the course of justice.

A number of the other passholders left the House at the 2010 general election in the wake of the expenses scandal.

Derek Conway had the Conservative whip withdrawn and then stepped down in Old Bexley and Sidcup after being heavily censured for putting his son on the public payroll without apparently having any duties.

Labour’s Ben Chapman declined to stand again in Wirral South after it emerged he had overclaimed on his mortgage by £15,000 – albeit with the permission of the House authorities.

Harry Cohen had his £65,000 resettlement grant withheld to make up for wrongly claimed accommodation expenses when he gave up the Leyton and Wanstead seat he held for Labour.

Ex-Labour MP Jim Devine, who was jailed for 16 months for making false expenses claims in 2011, was reported to have had a parliamentary pass that year. However, he does not feature on the list.

Labour backbencher John Mann said: “I do not think someone who has committed a criminal offence that has meant they went to prison should get privileged access to the Houses of Parliament.

“Let them queue with the general public if they want to get in.”

Mr Mann said the list “reinforces the impression that this is a gentlemen’s club”.

He also raised concerns about the potential for lobbying of serving MPs, as many of the former members have gone into public affairs or taken on consultant roles.

“Why should people who have been beaten in an election have special privileges over the general public?” he said.

“What these positions are generally used for is people making money through their parliamentary contacts.”

McShane Jailed For Expenses Fraud

mcshane

Disgraced former Labour minister Denis MacShane has been sentenced to six months at the Old Bailey after admitting making bogus expense claims amounting to nearly £13,000.

The ex-MP previously pleaded guilty to false accounting by filing 19 fake receipts for “research and translation” services.

MacShane, 65, used the money to fund a series of trips to Europe, including one to judge a literary competition in Paris.

His guilty plea followed more than four years of scrutiny into his use of Commons allowances.

Flanked by two security officers, MacShane, wearing a dark suit with a blue striped tie and glasses, said “Cheers” as the sentence was delivered, before adding, “Quelle surprise” as he was led from the dock.

Mr Justice Sweeney told MacShane his dishonesty had been “considerable and repeated many times over a long period”.

“You have no one to blame but yourself,” the judge said.

The judge said MacShane had shown “a flagrant breach of trust” in “our priceless democratic system”.

“The deception used was calculated and designed,” he said.

He told MacShane he must serve half his sentence in prison and was ordered to pay costs of £1,500 within two months.

Parliamentary authorities began looking at his claims in 2009 when the wider scandal engulfed Westminster, and referred him to Scotland Yard within months.

But the principle of parliamentary privilege meant detectives were not given access to damning correspondence with the standards commissioner in which MacShane detailed how signatures on receipts from the European Policy Institute (EPI) had been faked.

The body was controlled by MacShane and the general manager’s signature was not genuine. One message, dated October 2009, said he drew funds from the EPI so he could serve on a book judging panel in Paris.

It was not until after police dropped the case last year that the cross-party Standards Committee published the evidence in a report that recommended an unprecedented 12-month suspension from the House.

MacShane, 65, who served as Europe minister under Tony Blair, resigned as MP for Rotherham last November before the punishment could be imposed.

Police then reopened their inquiry in the light of the fresh information and he was charged in May – even though the letters are still not thought to be admissible in court.

The offence of false accounting covered 19 ”knowingly misleading” receipts that MacShane filed between January 2005 and January 2008.

The court heard that MacShane incurred “genuine expenses” for similar amounts which he chose to recoup by dishonest false accounting rather than through legitimate claims.

Mr Sweeney said: “However chaotic your general paperwork was, there was deliberate, oft repeated and prolonged dishonesty over a period of years – involving a flagrant breach of trust and consequent damage to Parliament, with correspondingly reduced confidence in our priceless democratic system and the process by which it is implemented and we are governed.”

The judge said he had considered a number of mitigating features, including MacShane’s guilty plea, and that the offences were “not committed out of greed or for personal profit”.

MacShane had suffered “a long period of public humiliation” and carried out the offences “at a time of turmoil” in his personal life, Mr Sweeney said.

The court heard that MacShane and his wife divorced in 2003, his daughter Clare was killed in an accident in March 2004, his mother died in 2006 and his former partner, newsreader Carol Barnes – Clare’s mother – died in 2008.

The judge also considered his previous good character and that the money had been paid back.

The court heard that MacShane submitted four of his false claims while serving as Europe minister.

He joins a list of politicians prosecuted as a result of the expenses scandal.

They include fellow former Labour minister Elliot Morley, as well as MPs Jim Devine, David Chaytor and Eric Illsley.

Tories to fall foul of the law were Lord Hanningfield and Lord Taylor of Warwick.

Sentences have ranged from nine to 18 months.

Another ex-Labour MP, Margaret Moran, was spared prison and given a supervision order instead after suffering mental health problems.

Mr Sweeney told MacShane that he acknowledged a difference between his case and other MPs sentenced following the expenses scandal.

However, MacShane “deliberately created misleading and deceptive invoices and then used them in order to procure payments of public money”, the judge added.

“You must therefore have been aware throughout that it was an essential feature of the expenses system then in operation that Members of Parliament were invariably treated as honest, trustworthy people, and that the unwritten assumption was that only claims for expenses genuinely incurred in accordance with the rules would be made,” Mr Sweeney said.

“Yet you acted in flagrant breach of that trust.”

Tory MP Resigns Amid Lobbying Allegations

patrick mercer

Newark MP Patrick Mercer has said he is quitting Parliament amid allegations that he broke rules on lobbying.

The backbencher said he was resigning the Tory whip immediately “to save my party embarrassment”, and would not stand at the next general election.

The move comes ahead of a BBC Panorama programme due to be broadcast next week.

In a statement, Mr Mercer said: “Panorama are planning to broadcast a programme alleging that I have broken Parliamentary rules.

“I am taking legal advice about these allegations – and I have referred myself to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards.

“In the meantime, to save my party embarrassment, I have resigned the Conservative Whip and have so informed Sir George Young. I have also decided not to stand at the next general election.”

A Conservative Party spokesman said: “The Prime Minister is aware. He thinks Patrick Mercer has done the right thing in referring himself to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards and resigning the whip.

“It’s important that the due processes take their course.”

A BBC spokesman said: “Panorama has been investigating lobbying and the conduct of MPs and members of the House of Lords.

“The programme is still being made and will be broadcast as soon as possible. The investigation has raised a number of issues related to those involved.

“Panorama has sought responses from a number of people including Mr Mercer.”

The Daily Telegraph said it had also been carrying out an investigation into Mr Mercer.

The MP and former army officer served as shadow homeland security minister until 2007, when he resigned after suggesting that racism was “part and parcel” of life in the forces.

Relations with David Cameron have been tense ever since, and in 2011 Mr Mercer was reportedly taped describing the Prime Minister as “despicable”.

Councillors in Mr Mercer’s constituency, where he has a 16,000 majority, said they were shocked at the news of his resignation.

Councillor Peter Duncan said: “I always thought of him as a very solid citizen. If this news is true then I am shocked. I thought he was a very strong individual with a strong point of view. He will be missed.”

Another Tory councillor Derek Evans said: “I’m very surprised at the news. I’ve a lot of trust and faith in Patrick. I have utter faith in him as an MP.”

Huhne & Pryce freed from prison

huhne

Former Cabinet minister Chris Huhne and his ex-wife were both freed from prison today after serving around a quarter of their eight-month sentences for swapping speeding points.

Huhne, a former energy secretary and once-aspiring Liberal Democrat leader, left Leyhill Prison in Gloucestershire by the main entrance in the back seat of a silver Honda, making no attempt to avoid waiting media cameras.

His ex-wife, economist Vicky Pryce, earlier emerged from East Sutton Park Prison near Maidstone, Kent, via a back exit and left with her solicitor Robert Brown, pursued by press photographers who been camped outside the Category D open jail for women and young offenders.

Huhne will return to the London home he shares with PR adviser Carina Trimingham.

The former Eastleigh MP left Pryce in 2010 as his affair with Ms Trimingham was about to be exposed, ending his 26-year marriage to Pryce and leading her to reveal the speeding points swap to newspapers in a bid to “nail” him.

Pryce is expected to return to her home in Clapham, south London.

The former couple were each handed eight-month prison sentences on March 11 for perverting the course of justice a decade ago when Pryce took speeding points for her then husband.

Huhne finally pleaded guilty to the offence on the first day of their trial in February after months of staunch denials and several attempts to get the case thrown out, while Pryce was later convicted by a jury after a retrial at Southwark Crown Court when her defence of marital coercion failed.

Both will now have to wear electronic tags, used to enforce either a timed curfew or a place of residence, as a condition of their early release.

For sentences of less than a year, an offender is automatically released after serving half of their sentence.

In addition, offenders serving sentences of between three months and four years, with certain exceptions for violent and sexual offenders, may also be eligible for release on a home detention curfew (HDC).

This allows an offender to be released up to 135 days before their automatic release date.

MPs have repaid £390,000 – but one MP refuses to cough up

stewartjacksonmp

MPs have repaid nearly £390,000 in profits judged to have been made on taxpayer-funded homes, says Ipsa, Parliament’s expenses watchdog.

The highest amount paid was £81,446 by Conservative David Jones, one of 71 MPs who continued to claim towards mortgage interest payments from 2010 until 2012.

They had to repay a share of any capital gain and most have now done so.

But Tory Stewart Jackson(above) says Ipsa is bullying him by taking legal action to get him to pay £54,000 it says he owes.

All MPs used to be able to claim expenses towards the cost of mortgage interest payments on their “second homes”.

But changes introduced in 2010, following the expenses scandal, stopped the practice for all new MPs. Most now rent properties or stay in temporary accommodation like hotels if they need a base in London.

MPs who had already bought properties under the old system were allowed to continue to claim mortgage interest payments until August 2012 – as long as they agreed to repay a share of any profit made over that period, even if they chose not to sell.

Properties were valued by a surveyor in 2010 and again in 2012 – and the amount MPs had to repay depended on how much they had claimed, and how much the property’s value had risen by.

Mr Jackson, who claimed £32,494 over the two years, has been told to repay £54,000 based on valuations of his home in Peterborough.

Ipsa says it has filed a claim at the High Court to recoup the money.

But Mr Jackson says the watchdog’s actions are “heavy handed and disproportionate and are clearly intended to bully me into submission”.

He disputes valuations of his property done in 2010 and 2012 and says they assume his property rose by almost 20% in value, while others in his constituency fell by 3% over the same period. He still lives in the house and points out that he is being asked to repay more than he claimed.

“IPSA have negotiated with 70 other MPs in a secretive and arbitrary manner but in respect of my case, regrettably, they have refused to negotiate. I am merely seeking fair play and consistency and will pursue legal action to receive it.”

In total, the 71 MPs claimed £926,159 of public money to cover mortgage interest over the 15-month period. Twenty nine of them were told to repay a total of £484,828 – of which nearly £390,000 has been repaid so far.

The largest claims were made by Labour’s Michael Connarty – who received £34,168 and has repaid £6,833 – and Mr Jackson.

But 42 of the 71 MPs have not had to repay anything, as their properties fell in value over the period.

Among those repaying the most are Mr Jones, Conservative MP for Clwyd West, who claimed £18,060 in expenses but due to rising value of his London property has had to repay £81,446.

The DUP’s Gregory Campbell, who claimed £16,755 towards a London property he still owns, has repaid £61,403. Conservative Philip Hammond repaid £34,610 – more than the £20,967 he claimed and DUP MP David Simpson paid back £30, 308 having claimed £11,208.

Some are still repaying money, such as Conservative David Willetts and Labour’s John Denham, who have not sold their properties, and Lib Dem Andrew George.

An Ipsa spokesman said: “One of the most damaging aspects of the expenses scandal was the practice where MPs got taxpayer support to own a second home. That is why we said we would stop this, and we have now done so.

“The final stage in bringing this to an end was our allowing a short transition period for MPs who were already committed to second mortgages.

“But in doing this we set the condition that the taxpayer would want its share of any increase in the value of the property. Today we are publishing that these capital gains are worth almost £500,000 to the taxpayer.

“MPs knew this was the deal and agreed to the conditions at the start.

“In valuing the property, it was important that we didn’t rely on amateur valuations or guesses from the web.

“Instead, we demanded formal valuations at the start and end, from the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors – the most authoritative voice in this field.

“We would only accept valuations from RICS members or fellows – providing proper assurance on the value of the properties.

“We required all MPs to provide these independent valuations at the start and end of the claim period. And we published the way in which the capital gain would be calculated. The same method of calculation has been applied to all 71 cases.

“Stewart Jackson provided us with two RICS valuations. As he has been unwilling to pay the £54,000 due we have issued proceedings to recover the sum through the High Court.”

MPs PROTECT LETTERS ADMITTING FRAUD

Letters from former minister Denis MacShane admitting expenses abuses cannot be used to prosecute him because they are protected by Commons rules, it has been revealed.

Officials said parliamentary privilege meant the key correspondence was withheld from police when they launched a probe into the MP two years ago.

The documents are still not legally admissible – even though they were published in a Commons sleaze report yesterday.

The situation emerged after the Standards and Privileges Committee detailed how Mr MacShane knowingly submitted 19 false invoices over a four-year period.

The cross-party group said the invoices were “plainly intended to deceive”, branding it the “gravest case” they had dealt with.

The former Labour Europe minister pre-empted the recommended punishment of 12 months’ suspension from the House by announcing his resignation as an MP last night.

He insisted he had not gained personally from the abuses but wanted to take “responsibility for my mistakes”.

“I have been overwhelmed by messages of support for my work as an MP on a range of issues but I accept that my parliamentary career is over,” he said.

“I appreciate the committee’s ruling that I made no personal gain and I regret my foolishness in the manner I chose to be reimbursed for work including working as the Prime Minister’s personal envoy in Europe.”

A senior Labour source said: “Denis has done the right thing.”

Parliamentary Standards Commissioner John Lyon found the MP had entered 19 “misleading” expenses claims for research and translation services from a body called the European Policy Institute (EPI), signed by its supposed general manager.

However, the institute did not exist “in this form” by the time in question and the general manager’s signature was provided by Mr MacShane himself or someone else “under his authority”.

“The effect was that, unbeknown to the (expenses) department, Mr MacShane was submitting invoices to himself and asking the parliamentary authorities to pay,” the Commissioner said.

One letter from the MP to Mr Lyon in October 2009 described how he drew funds from the EPI so he could serve on a book judging panel in Paris.

“I was invited by Jacques Delors to join a committee to draw up a short-list for the European Book of the Year on which I still serve,” he wrote.

“Again, there were no funds to cover the costs of travel and staying in Paris for these meetings and since I used them to try and advance the case of British writers, including helping to steer the committee to choose the work of British historian (redacted) in 2008 I thought it reasonable to use EPI money to cover these costs.”

Mr Lyon also described how Mr MacShane had a “cavalier approach” to the use of public money in purchasing computer equipment which was not used solely in support of his parliamentary inquiries. In some cases departing interns were allowed to take away a parliamentary-funded laptop.

Mr MacShane also claimed for his own “extensive” travel across Europe, entertaining European contacts and building a “personal European library”.

The Commissioner said Mr MacShane further breached the Code of Conduct by refusing to co-operate with his inquiry.

Mr MacShane blamed the British National Party, who were behind allegations against him and had won a “three-year campaign to destroy my political career”.

“Clearly I deeply regret that the way I chose to be reimbursed for costs related to my work in Europe and in combating anti-semitism, including being the Prime Minister’s personal envoy, has been judged so harshly,” he said.

Scotland Yard dropped the case against Mr MacShane in July after receiving advice from the CPS on an initial evidence file.

The force said last night: “We are aware of the report and will be assessing its content in due course.”

However, a senior Commons official said police would not be able to rely on Mr McShane’s letters to the commissioner.

Clerk of the Journals Liam Laurence Smyth, who is responsible for parliamentary privilege issues, insisted the correspondence was protected because they were collected by the commissioner as part of parliamentary proceedings.

He admitted that many people would find the situation “surprising” but said privilege was necessary for Parliament to function effectively.

Even if Mr MacShane had openly admitted criminal behaviour in his evidence, the police would not be able to rely on the comments in court, Mr Laurence Smyth said.

He confirmed that police were not provided with any of Mr MacShane’s evidence or the other information amassed by the commissioner when the Commons authorities referred the case to them in October 2010.

However, he suggested police may now be able to use the letters as a “map” to further their own inquiries.

Conservative MP Philip Davies called for the Met to reopen its investigation and expressed alarm that Mr MacShane was being protected by parliamentary privilege.

“I think that is a very sad state of affairs. All it will do is further undermine the reputation of parliament,” he said.

“There will be millions of people out there who think that MPs are above the law and that is what the perception will be.

“It seems that someone who should be brought to justice isn’t going to be.”

It is understood Mr MacShane formally applied for the post of Crown Steward and Bailiff of the Chiltern Hundreds last night – the traditional way of resigning from the Commons.

Chancellor George Osborne is expected to confirm his appointment today, at which point he will cease being an MP.

It has emerged that three years ago, at the height of the expenses scandal, MPs voted down reforms that could have made evidence such as Mr MacShane’s letters admissible in court.

Clause 10 of the Parliamentary Standards Bill made clear that parliamentary privilege should not knock out evidence simply because it related to “proceedings in Parliament”.

However, the Commons narrowly voted to drop the measures in July 2009 amid concerns of a “chilling” effect on free speech.

A Government green paper on parliamentary privilege launched in April has again suggested changing the rules to ensure such evidence is admissible.

The document says “it is wrong in principle to deny the courts access to any relevant evidence when the alleged act is serious enough to have been recognised as a criminal offence”.

It proposes removing privilege in all criminal cases, except where the alleged offence “related closely to the principal reason for the protection of privilege – i.e. the protection of freedom of speech and debate in Parliament”.

Labour MP John Mann branded the idea that the documents should be protected by parliamentary privilege “nonsense”.

“My interpretation of privilege is it’s to prevent people suing over an allegation made in Parliament,” he said. “I’ve had a lot of exchanges about privilege and the idea that it would have applied in this case, well, I don’t think they have a leg to stand on.”

‘BERSERK’ MP SPARED JAIL

Eric Joyce MP

“Who else could have atacked four peole and got off so lightly?” – Converse Prisoners Newspaper

MP Eric Joyce was spared jail today for beating up four politicians while drunk and telling police “You can’t touch me, I’m an MP”.

He also called officers “c****” after going berserk and headbutting Tory MP Stuart Andrew and councillor Ben Maney.

The suspended Labour party member was warned he could face prison for the attacks.

But chief magistrate Howard Riddle fined him £3,000 and ordered him to pay £1,400 to victims after he entered early guilty pleas.

Joyce was also given a 12-month community order – banning him from entering pubs and licensed premises for three months – and imposed with a curfew order from Friday to Sunday.

Joyce also attacked Tory councillor Luke Mackenzie before turning on Labour whip Phillip Wilson.

The politician – who accepted he was “hammered” during the brawl – expressed his “shame and embarrassment” through his barrister, Jeremy Dein QC, at Westminster Magistrates’ Court.

“He is unreservedly apologetic for what occurred on the night in question,” Mr Dein said.

The 51-year-old accepted that the fact that he was drinking was not an excuse “for the dreadful scenario that unfolded”.

Joyce launched into a frenzied attack after shouting that the Strangers’ Bar “was full of f****** Tories”.

Having attacked two MPs and two councillors he then wrote in a police officer’s notebook: “We are a Tory nation, that cannot be forever… good cops unite.”

Witnesses to the brawl said “he was very angry, drunk, angrier than anyone”, prosecutor Zoe Martin told the court.

One onlooker said his “eyes looked like nobody was home” while another said his “eyes looked dead”.

Violence flared after the £65,000-a-year MP for Falkirk started singing “very loudly”, drinkers said.

Joyce, while sobering up in the cells. told police of one of his victims: “I think he was a silly fat Tory MP. He was pushing like a girl and giving me a bearhug.”

A barman had told officers there was a “happy and friendly” atmosphere before Joyce “flipped” on February 22.

Prosecutor Ms Martin said: “Mr Joyce started to sing very loudly… that was noticed by several people in the bar. Nobody seemed bothered by it.”

Joyce then approached Tory MP Alec Shelbrooke, saying: “Don’t look at any of my guests like that again.”

MP Andrew Percy walked past and asked Joyce to move.

Joyce replied: “No, you f****** can’t”, Ms Martin said.

Witnesses said Joyce then shouted: “There are too many Tories in this bar” and later: “The bar was full of f****** Tories.”

Mr Andrews protested, saying: “You can’t behave in that way” before Joyce launched into a string of attacks.

Mr Riddle told Joyce: “What you have done has not only brought physical harm (and) shame on yourself… but it has also damaged the place where you work, the place where laws are made.”

He took into account Joyce’s previous conviction for drink- driving but gave the defendant credit for his early pleas.

Speaking afterwards, Joyce said he was “deeply apologetic” for his actions.

Outside court, he said: “Clearly it’s a matter of considerable personal shame.

“I’ve been duly punished today. I’ve been lucky to avoid prison. I’m very ashamed, of course.”

He said he wanted to apologise to a “long list” of people he had let down, including his constituents and fellow MPs.

But he said he did not intend to stand down as an MP before the next election.

“It would be easy but I was elected in 2000 and I will continue serving,” he said.

Asked if he thought he had a problem with alcohol, he told reporters: “I think drink was an aggravating factor, that’s something I have to deal with personally. Not everyone who drinks gets involved in fights.”

Labour Party sources indicated that any decision on Joyce’s future in the party would not be made until after he was sentenced.

A spokesman said: “Eric Joyce was immediately suspended. There will be a full party investigation pending the end of the legal process.”

Joyce’s guilty plea does not necessarily mark an end to his career as an MP.

Under the Representation of the People Act 1981, MPs are disqualified from the House of Commons only if they are convicted of a criminal offence and sentenced to 12 months or more in jail.

Joyce has already said that he will stand down from Parliament at the next general election, expected in 2015.

Joyce – who had been drinking with friends at a table in the bar – flew into a rage when Mr Andrews said: “You do not treat an MP like that in a place like this.”

After the first fist was thrown, Mr Mackenzie became involved, moving between the two.

Joyce “punched him with a glancing blow to the nose” before being restrained, Ms Martin told the court.

“He then proceeded to punch Mr Mackenzie in the mouth, causing a small cut to his lip and swelling,” she added.

“A number of witnesses said he was ‘generally lashing out at this stage’.”

Mr Maney then became involved trying to restrain Joyce again.

Joyce “looked straight at him and headbutted him, causing a cut to his inside upper lip,” the prosecutor said.

Witnesses said “Mr Maney stumbled back after the headbutt… looking white as a sheet and shocked,” she added.

One witness described Joyce’s demeanour as looking “possessed and completely out of it”.

Another said his “eyes looked like nobody was home” and his “eyes looked dead”.

Ms Martin said: “Mr Wilson put his hand on Mr Joyce’s shoulder and said ‘Calm down Eric, what’s going on?”

Mr Joyce swung round and punched him in the face.

Tory MP Jackie Doyle-Price then intervened, saying: “If you are going to punch my staff, punch me first and you don’t want to punch a lady.”

Police arrived at the scene to find tables and chairs upturned and Joyce smelling “strongly of alcohol and his eyes were glazed”.

As officers tried to restrain him, Joyce head-butted Mr Andrew.

“All of the witnesses describe Mr Andrew at the time to have been placid,” Ms Martin.

Joyce then told police: “You can’t touch me, I’m an MP.”

As he was taken away, he shouted “He deserved it” and swore at the officers.

Joyce, who had been sinking glasses of red wine, then wrote in a police officer’s notebook: “We are a Tory nation, that cannot be forever… good cops unite.”

He then told officers: “I nutted a guy, it was a wee scuffly thing… If people said I was hammered that was probably true.”

Mr Dein – who said his client is likely to stand down as Falkirk MP at the next election – urged Chief Magistrate Howard Riddle to avoid a custodial sentence.

“For the sake of a few seconds, havoc has been wreaked in his life,” Mr Dein said.

The QC added: “He has not just let him and himself down but all of those who he represents.”

Joyce faces expulsion from Labour after the party launched an internal disciplinary investigation.

A Scottish Labour Party spokesman said: “Eric Joyce was immediately suspended from the party.

“He remains suspended following the completion of the legal process and the Labour Party’s disciplinary process will now take place.”

A senior source in the national party said: “This is a process that will lead to his expulsion from the party.”

Mr Andrew said today he does not hold a grudge against Joyce despite the “traumatic” experience of being head-butted.

Speaking outside his constituency office in Leeds, he said: “Following today’s court case I appreciate Eric Joyce’s guilty plea and the remorse he has shown for the serious nature of his actions, as no person should assault another.

“I do not harbour any grudge or ill will towards him and hope that any personal challenges he faces can be overcome in the coming months.

“Indeed this case does raise valid concerns in relation to the level of pastoral support and understanding available to MPs in Westminster who may be experiencing personal difficulties and I hope that this issue will now be addressed.

“I have been advised that I am to be awarded a payment of £350, which I will be giving to charity.”

Mr Andrew also thanked colleagues, constituents and members of the public for “their many kind messages”.

Responding to questions from journalists, Mr Andrew said: “MPs are not above the law – they should be treated in exactly the same way as any other member of the public.”

Asked how he was feeling now, he said: “I’m fine, it’s been a difficult fortnight that’s for sure. It’s been quite a traumatic occasion but let’s get it behind us now and move on.”

Describing what happened on the night, Mr Andrew said: “I tried to defend a colleague who was merely trying to get to his seat, Mr Joyce lost his temper and unfortunately lashed out at a number of us and eventually head-butted myself.”

Mr Andrew said he had not seen anything like this before in the Palace of Westminster.

“This sort of behaviour does not happen – it was out of the blue completely.”

Asked if Joyce should resign from his position, Mr Andrew said: “That’s a matter for Mr Joyce, he has to think now about how best to serve his constituents. Perhaps it will be for the authorities in the House to think about that. That’s a matter for him and for them.”