Friday's developments are the latest in a scandal over politicians' expenses, that has damaged Britain's ruling Labour and opposition Conservative parties in the run-up to a general election that must take place by June.

'Dishonest claims'

The saga was exposed last year when The Daily Telegraph newspaper published leaked details of thousands of claims, including second homes, horse manure, porn
movies and a mole catcher.

Starmer named the four politicians as Elliot Morley, David Chaytor and Jim Devine, who are Labour MPs, and Paul White, known as Lord Hanningfield, a Conservative member of the upper House of Lords.

Morley, a former environment minister, faces two charges of dishonest claims for mortgage expenses.

Chaytor faces three charges of dishonest claims, while Devine faces two charges for making claims based on false invoices.

The BBC reported that the three had issued a joint statement denying the charges and vowing to "defend our position robustly".

White faces six charges, centred on numerous claims for overnight expenses for staying in London when records show he was driven home and did not spend the night in London.

"I totally refute the charges and will vigorously defend myself against them," he said in a statement, adding: "All the claims I have ever made were made in good faith."

The four defendants are scheduled to appear in court on March 11.