Page last updated at 12:20 GMT, Sunday, 22 March 2009

McNulty defends expenses claims

Tony McNulty: "I think I've complied entirely"

Employment minister Tony McNulty has said he did nothing wrong by claiming second-home expenses on a London house where his parents live.

He received allowances worth thousands of pounds for the property in his Harrow East constituency, which is eight miles from his main home.

He said he made "considerable" use of the home and it allowed it him to do his job more effectively.

But he said "anomalies" in the expenses system did need to be looked at.

'Constituency base'

Details of Mr McNulty's expense claims, the latest to be made about a leading MP, appeared in the Mail on Sunday newspaper.

The MPs' Additional Costs Allowance of up to £24,000 a year goes to MPs from outside inner London to cover the cost of staying away from their main home when carrying out parliamentary duties.

I have said these things need to be looked at
Tony McNulty, employment minister

Mr McNulty told Sky News that he had been claiming money for the home when he had been working there two or three days a week.

He stopped claiming the allowance in January because interest rates had fallen so much that he could afford to pay the mortgage from his MP's salary.

However, he said that he still used the house regularly, especially on weekends.

"I think I can do my job more effectively having my base in the constituency," he said.

Mr McNulty said he had complied with the rules on second homes for MPs from outside inner London but that the system did need reviewing in light of recent allegations.

"I have said these things need to be looked at," he said. "There are anomalies."

"If transparency is not quite there in terms of the additional costs allowance then perhaps we need to look at them again."

Mr McNulty said every MP had to clear their own arrangements with the Commons authorities but the idea that all MPs were "at it" in trying to manipulate the system was simply wrong.

The BBC's political correspondent Ross Hawkins said Mr McNulty believed he had stayed both within the letter and the spirit of the regulations on second home expenses.

But he added that some people might question where these arrangements provided value for money.

New home

The MP lived in the house in Harrow with his parents before he got married to his second wife, Christine, in 2002.

Mr McNulty then moved into her home about eight miles away in Hammersmith, west London.

Under parliamentary rules Mr McNulty can claim an allowance for a second home in his constituency even though it is only 11 miles from Westminster.

Mr McNulty's spokesman earlier told the Press Association that the MP was "completely compliant with all the regulations around the allowances for second homes".

"There is absolutely nothing irregular in Tony's situation," he said.

Earlier this year Home Secretary Jacqui Smith had to defend her actions after it emerged she had claimed about £116,000 in expenses for her family home in the West Midlands after declaring her sister's property in London - where she stayed four days a week - as her main residence.

Ms Smith said the Commons authorities had approved her conduct while the parliamentary standards watchdog said there was no need for an investigation.

MPs' allowances became the subject of controversy when it emerged last year that Conservative Derek Conway had paid his sons to act as researchers while both were students.

The Commons Standards and Privileges Committee found he had overpaid them and ordered him to repay some of the money.

In February this year, Parliament's Committee on Standards in Public Life decided against launching an inquiry into MPs' allowances.

The committee felt new arrangements for auditing their expenses were "a significant step forward" on their own.

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