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New Labour candidate urges expenses court action

PUBLISHED: 18:19 20 May 2009 | UPDATED: 16:45 25 August 2010

WINNER: Teresa Pearce.

WINNER: Teresa Pearce.

THE new Labour parliamentary candidate for a controversial seat says MPs should face court action for fraudulent claims.

THE new Labour parliamentary candidate for a controversial seat says MPs should face court action for fraudulent claims.

Tax consultant Teresa Pearce, 54, who has lived in Erith for 25 years, beat seven other Labour women to be the candidate for Erith and Thamesmead last Saturday.

Her victory comes as the current constituency MP John Austin, who voted for Ms Pearce, has been criticised this week after the Daily Telegraph leaked his expense receipts.

Ms Pearce said: "Anybody that commits fraud should be liable to court action. If you put forward fraudulent expense claims you will be liable to action.

"I think if you are the legislator for the rest of the country, by setting things like the Finance Act you should follow those standards.

"This is the law for the electorate and it has to be the same law MPs live their lives by. They need to have standards at least as high as the electorate, if not higher. They should lead by example."

Mr Austin, who claimed £23,083 for his second home in the last financial year, said he is considering bringing legal action against the Daily Telegraph but refused to comment further.

His successor said: "I don't need a second home as I already live here. Everybody else in this constituency travels to London from Abbey Wood which takes 35 minutes.

"I will not be claiming train fares. The only time I would claim would be if I were travelling late at night and I got a taxi - for safety reasons - which is the same in my current work."

In the race to find a candidate, Georgia Gould, 22, the daughter of Lord Philip Gould - one of the architects of New Labour - came third with former minister Melanie Johnson second.

The six-hour hustings meeting had to be postponed from April 18 after ballot boxes containing postal votes were found to be tampered with.

Ms Pearce said the attention on Miss Gould was frustrating especially as candidates were barred from speaking to the press.

The mother-of-two said: "It just made the whole thing about Georgia and it wasn't. There were eight of us. She worked very hard and for her to come third is no shame at all."

Following the controversy over the selection process, the London Labour Party refused to shortlist the list to the usual six.

Ms Pearce said: "As there were eight of us there were instances when members had one candidate in the living room and another at the door.

"It has been a peculiar selection process."

marina.soteriou@archant.co.uk

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