May 19 2013 Latest news:
Sunday, November 18, 2012
A Government equalities minister claims the maximum expenses for a second home in London despite living just 19 miles from the Commons, it has emerged.
Helen Grant lives in a £1.8 million home in Reigate, Surrey - outside her Maidstone constituency.
But she also rents a Thameside flat near the MI6 building in Vauxhall which is funded on expenses.
Mrs Grant is eligible for a second home allowance on Parliamentary expenses because her constituency is outside London and the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) confirmed the MP’s claim was within the rules.
But the Reigate home in which Mrs Grant lives is not far enough from London for the constituency MP - Tory Crispin Blunt - to make similar expenses claims.
A spokesman for Mrs Grant said: “Mrs Grant’s constituency has been deemed by IPSA to be a non-London constituency and she is therefore fully entitled to use her rental accommodation allowance either in London or in the constituency.
“She has a base in her constituency at her mother’s property, where her son also lives, so she sees no need to rent a further property there.
“The focus of her time and responsibility has always been Maidstone and the Weald.”
The expense claims were uncovered in an investigation by Channel 4’s Dispatches, which is due to broadcast a film called MPs: Are They Still At It? tomorrow night.
A spokesman for IPSA said: “We set the rules up based on the constituency the MP represents. We provide support for one of those locations to help with renting a flat.
“Ultimately it comes down to the MP’s judgment about what they need to claim for.
“We don’t check to see what private assets an MP has.”
Mrs Grant’s London flat is supported by expense claims of £1,666.67 per month - the maximum allowed within the rules, which caps rental claims at £20,000 per year. Mrs Grant has filed claims for rent since March this year.
Matthew Sinclair, chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said the MP appeared to have breached the spirit of the rules and called for them to be tightened to prevent other such cases.
“Helen Grant’s arrangements certainly appear to be against the spirit of the rules.
“The taxpayer-funded allowance for a second home is meant to be there for MPs living in a constituency home from which they cannot reasonably commute to Westminster on a daily basis.”