Page last updated at 16:24 GMT, Monday, 23 November 2009

Labour MP Andrew Dismore defends expenses

Hendon MP Andrew Dismore
Mr Dismore sits on the Commons standards committee

A second member of the MPs' standards body is defending his expenses claims after reports he "flipped" two homes.

Labour's Andrew Dismore, who represents a north London seat about 10 miles from Parliament, claimed £34,000 on a second home in west London between 2001-2003.

The Daily Telegraph said he then made second home claims on his Hendon flat, amounting to £31,000 from 2003-2009.

He said he had done the "right thing" by the rules, had not sold on either flat and his claims had reduced.

Mr Dismore is a member of the standards and privileges committee which decides on punishments for errant MPs.

The committee has faced some criticism that it has been too lenient on MPs reprimanded for their expenses claims.

Homeopathy surgery

On Friday its chairman, Tory MP David Curry, stood down pending an inquiry into allegations about his own expenses.

MPs who represent seats within 20 miles of Parliament were stopped from claiming second homes expenses earlier this year but Mr Dismore's claims for a property in Notting Hill, west London, date back to 2001.

It was the right thing to do to designate the Hendon property as the second home
Andrew Dismore

The Daily Telegraph says he owned the Notting Hill flat with his partner, who ran her homeopathy surgery from the property, and designated it with the Commons fees office as his second home, on which he was allowed to claim expenses.

It says he claimed £34,000 between 2001-2003 on that flat, then told the fees office he wanted to start claiming on his Hendon flat, which he reportedly bought without a mortgage, instead.

The newspaper says he went on to claim £31,000 in bills for that property. He stopped all second homes claims in April - at that stage MPs voted through temporary changes to stop outer London MPs claiming the allowance.

'Cheaper to run'

Mr Dismore said the Notting Hill flat was "not a homeopathic surgery".

He said he bought the Hendon property intending it to be his main home but realised he was spending more time at the Notting Hill flat due to "increasing parliamentary demands on my time".

The guidance at the time to MPs was that their "main home" should be the property where they spent most nights, so Mr Dismore said he then started claiming for the Hendon flat as his second home instead.

He said: "It was the right thing to do to designate the Hendon property as the second home and the London property as the main home."

DAvid Curry
Committee chairman Mr Curry stepped down on Friday

He added: "The Hendon property was cheaper to run, which was also an important consideration to me, and my claims progressively and rapidly reduced year on year since then. Although I could have claimed more I did not do so."

He said his total second home claims for 2008-9 totalled less than £3,000.

He has said he will consult with other members of the standards committee and will tell them why he believes he has done nothing wrong, but he has not ruled out stepping down from the committee.

The Telegraph story has prompted an official complaint to Parliamentary Standards Commissioner John Lyon from the Sunlight Centre for Open Politics. Mr Lyon will decide whether to launch an official investigation.

MPs within commuting distance of Westminster are unlikely to be able to claim for a second home in future - the practice has already been stopped under interim changes and was also included in reform proposals outlined last month.

BBC political correspondent Laura Kuenssberg said the claims relating to Mr Dismore "focus more unwelcome attention on the group of MPs meant to safeguard the reputation of the Commons".

They come after the Daily Telegraph alleged that Mr Curry, MP for Skipton and Ripon in North Yorkshire, claimed nearly £30,000 for a second home that his wife had barred him from using after he had had an affair.

Mr Curry admitted having had the affair but said reports his wife had banned him from the home were "akin to Harry Potter".

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