Page last updated at 16:24 GMT, Monday, 9 June 2008 17:24 UK

Watchdog 'considering' nanny case

Caroline Spelman
Mrs Spelman arranged the meeting with John Lyon herself

The parliamentary standards watchdog is "considering carefully" Tory chairman Caroline Spelman's employment of her former nanny and secretary.

The statement from John Lyon's office followed talks with Mrs Spelman, who is facing questions about paying a nanny out of her MP's staffing allowance.

It would be "exceptional" for him to probe a matter dating back 7-years.

Mrs Spelman, MP for Meriden, says her nanny, who she employed in 1997 and 1998, was paid for secretarial work.

Parliamentary rules prohibit MPs from spending their allowances on activities not directly related to their jobs.

Denies wrongdoing

The nanny at the centre of the row - Tina Haynes - has said Mrs Spelman employed her for both childcare and secretarial work in 1997 and 1998.

Mrs Spelman denied she had been wrong to use public funds to pay for Ms Haynes, saying she had done secretarial work so it had been "entirely within the rules".

I would be amazed if there's any substance to this
David Davis, Conservatives

A statement from Mr Lyon's office said: "The parliamentary commissioner has received representations from Mrs Caroline Spelman MP that he should investigate the circumstances of the employment of her then secretary in 1997."

He would consider "carefully this matter" against procedures agreed by the Committee on Standards and Privileges for the investigation of complaints against MPs.

But his office stressed: "It would be exceptional for the commissioner to institute an inquiry into matters which go back more than seven years.

"It would also be exceptional for him to do so on a self referral.

"In either of these circumstances, the procedure is that the commissioner consults the Committee on Standards and Privileges before deciding to initiate an inquiry."

'Convincing account'

Tory leader David Cameron said he believed his colleague was "right to come out and explain what these arrangements were that she had 11 years ago and why she brought them to an end and how they operated".

"She gave, I think, a very convincing account of all of those things," he said, after giving a speech to the relationship guidance charity Relate.

"She also said 'I am going to see the parliamentary commissioner for standards to explain to him these arrangements and make sure that everything was within the rules'.

"But obviously explain as well that the arrangements were ended 10 or 11 years ago."

Conservative Central Office said Ms Haynes - who was Mrs Spelman's nanny from 1997 to 2002 - had also worked as her constituency secretary for six hours a day - or 30 hours a week - between 1997 and 1998.

'Upright'

But when asked by the BBC's Newsnight about the extent of her secretarial duties, Ms Haynes said she had only posted letters and "took the odd phone call" and passed on messages "once or twice a week".

However, in a statement on Saturday, Ms Haynes described her role as a more formal one but did not specifically say she was employed as the constituency secretary, or that this role amounted to 30 hours a week.

Shadow home secretary David Davis told BBC One's The Politics Show Mrs Spelman was "upright and straightforward".

"I would be amazed if there's any substance to this," he said.

"She says this is something she did for one year, and thought it might be misrepresented or misinterpreted, it wasn't outside the rules at the time and she put it right then."

But Labour MP Kevan Jones said there was "a big question mark" over Mrs Spelman's use of allowances.


SEE ALSO
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Full text: Tina Haynes' statement
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A guide to MPs' pay and expenses
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FROM OTHER NEWS SITES
Guardian Unlimited Standards watchdog warns of 'distrust' over expenses review - 21 hrs ago
Birmingham Post Caroline Spelman calls for inquiry to clear her name - 21 hrs ago
Daily Record Sleaze probe for Tory chairman over nanny expenses row - 23 hrs ago
Sky News Tory Chair's Grilling Over Expenses Row 09/06/08 - 23 hrs ago
Biggleswade Chronicle Watchdog 'considers' expenses probe - 33 hrs ago



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