Page last updated at 17:03 GMT, Wednesday, 25 June 2008 18:03 UK

Cabinet couple face expense probe

Ed Balls and Yvette Cooper
The husband and wife team are both Cabinet ministers

Cabinet ministers Ed Balls and Yvette Cooper have been referred to Parliament's standards watchdog.

Standards Commissioner John Lyon's office has confirmed it has received a complaint about the ministers, who are husband and wife, and is investigating.

It is understood the complaint relates to their use of the additional costs allowance to cover MPs' second homes.

A spokesman for the couple said they had done nothing wrong and had agreed claims with the Commons fees office.

Conservative MP Malcolm Moss made the complaint in February, saying the couple were able to "maximise" their ACA claims by saying their second home was in London.

'Spirit of rules'

It refers to the fact that Schools Secretary Mr Balls and Chief Secretary to the Treasury Ms Cooper, who both represent constituencies in West Yorkshire, describe their London home as their second home - for which they can claim the allowance.

He wrote: "I seek your ruling as whether in this instance the spirit of the rules or even the letter of the rules has been breached given that these MPs have said that their main home is in Yorkshire when it appears that their children go to school in London."

Ed Balls and Yvette Cooper have done everything in accordance with advice from the Fees Office
Spokesman for the couple

The ACA second homes allowance is worth up to 24,000 a year per MP - a Commons review of MPs' expenses has recommended it be replaced and tighter checks on expenses introduced.

But that review, which reported its recommendations earlier, did not address the issue of husband and wife MPs, because of "ongoing investigations" - understood to relate to Mr Balls and Ms Cooper.

A spokesman for the couple said: "Malcolm Moss MP has made a complaint to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards which is currently being considered.

"Ed Balls and Yvette Cooper have done everything in accordance with advice from the Fees Office, which has confirmed they have acted within the rules."

A spokeswoman for John Lyon's office said the complaint was made in February - but could not confirm what it was about, or how long the investigation had been going on for.

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