Page last updated at 09:18 GMT, Thursday, 26 March 2009

McNulty facing MP expenses probe

Tony McNulty
Tony McNulty's spokesman said the MP had been "compliant" with the rules

Parliament's standards commissioner John Lyon has decided to investigate a complaint about Labour minister Tony McNulty's second home expenses.

Tory MP Greg Hands had asked him to see whether the rules were breached.

Work minister Mr McNulty has claimed £60,000 since 2002 for the house in his Harrow constituency - 11 miles from the Commons - where his parents live.

He says he did not break any rules but Mr Hands said he believed the "arrangement is indefensible".

Mr Hands, who is MP for Hammersmith and Fulham, told the BBC on Monday: "Sixty thousand pounds of taxpayers' money has been claimed in expenses on Mr McNulty's parents' home in Harrow - clearly something has gone wrong here.

Map of Greater London
Map showing distance from Tony McNulty's home to Westminster and his parents' home for which he claimed expenses

"He's the MP from Harrow and living in Hammersmith. Neither place is particularly far from Westminster and clearly I just don't think his arrangement is defensible."

Mr McNulty himself said the rules should be looked into. He lived with his parents in the Harrow house, which he owns, before his 2002 marriage to second wife Christine, when he moved to her home in Hammersmith.

All MPs, apart from the 25 who represent inner London constituencies, can claim up to £24,000 a year in allowances towards the cost of staying away from home while on parliamentary business.

'Completely compliant'

Although Mr McNulty's Harrow constituency is only 11 miles from Westminster, he does not count as an inner London MP. His main home is eight miles from Harrow in Hammersmith, west London.

He said he made "considerable" use of the Harrow property and that it allowed him to do his job more effectively - but had stopped claiming the allowance in January because the fall in interest rates meant he could afford to pay the mortgage from his MP's salary.

MPs can claim up to £24,006 this year
Cannot be claimed by 25 inner London MPs
Covers rent, mortgage interest payments or hotel expenses
Can cover repair and utility bills, furnishings, insurance
Includes £25-a-night subsistence allowance, including food, for nights spent away from home
In 2006/7, 23 of the 49 MPs representing outer London seats claimed the allowance

Mr McNulty's spokesman said the MP is "completely compliant with all the regulations around the allowances for second homes".

Mr Lyon is also still investigating Home Secretary Jacqui Smith's second home claims - she has defended claiming about £116,000 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.

She said the Commons authorities had approved her conduct.

The second home allowance - known as the additional costs allowance - is arguably the most controversial of all MPs' expenses and was at the centre of a high-profile freedom of information battle last year.

Following the newspaper revelations about Mr McNulty's claims, the independent Committee on Standards in Public Life, set up in the 1990s to look into parliamentary sleaze, announced it was to hold an inquiry into the whole system of MPs' expenses and allowances.

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