Page last updated at 03:19 GMT, Wednesday, 27 May 2009 04:19 UK

MP's sister works from 100 miles

David Cameron: 'She does have some questions to answer'

Tory MP Julie Kirkbride pays her sister £12,000 a year for clerical work - even though she lives more than 100 miles from her constituency, it has emerged.

The MP for Bromsgrove, Worcs, employs Karen Leadley, who lives in Dorset, part-time, the Daily Telegraph said.

Ms Kirkbride said her sister carries out work using a computer which is networked to her constituency office.

Her Bracknell MP husband Andrew MacKay has already been forced to stand down after revelations about his expenses.

He quit as David Cameron's aide after it became known he had claimed £23,000 a year in second home expenses on his London address, despite not having a property in his Berkshire constituency.

The Telegraph's latest revelations about MPs' expense claims include suggestions that ministers may have to repay tax after reclaiming the costs of accountants to help them complete personal tax returns.

If Sir Alan thinks I am joking, I warn him I am not
Simon Heffer, Daily Telegraph journalist

It also says Conservative MP John Greenway was reimbursed £500 for petunias and fuchsia he bought for his London flat, while columnist Simon Heffer said he may stand against another Tory MP Sir Alan Haselhurst - who claimed £12,000 for gardening - at the next election.

Answering claims about her expenses, Ms Kirkbride insisted she had done nothing wrong.

She said the employment of her sister had been registered for some time and that she was a popular member of staff.

"She lives in Wimborne, Dorset, but she has a computer which is networked to my constituency office and London office," said the MP.

"She carries out tasks on a regular basis but her principal job is to do constituency correspondence during the parliamentary recess."

Ms Kirkbride added that her brother Ian had used £1,000 from her parliamentary office expense account to buy electrical equipment because he sourced items for the best price on the internet.

Toilet brush

Julie Kirkbride
Ms Kirkbride insists she has done nothing wrong

According to the Telegraph, plants claimed by Mr Greenway - the MP for Ryedale, North Yorkshire - were among items for a flat later sold for a £282,000 profit.

These included £3,500 in household goods and furnishings, £1,900 on redecorating the hall, kitchen, bathroom and stairs in 2004-5 and 2005-6, as well as £24 for a lavatory brush and 59p for a box of matches.

Mr Greenway said he paid capital gains tax on the flat sale and all his claims were made in good faith and approved.

Separately, Telegraph journalist Simon Heffer said he would consider opposing Sir Alan, MP for Saffron Walden, unless he repaid £12,000 in public money he reportedly claimed for gardening work at his country house.

The longstanding MP should admit his error and apologise for making the claims, Mr Heffer said, or he would stand against him as an independent.

Sir Alan is currently Deputy Speaker of the House of Commons and a candidate to replace outgoing Speaker Michael Martin.

"If Sir Alan thinks I am joking, I warn him I am not," Mr Heffer, an associate editor and columnist, wrote in the paper.

"I have backers and volunteers."


Sir Alan has issued a statement saying he would this week repay the £12,000 "out of respect" for constituents, according to his local newspaper, the Cambridge Evening News.

He had previously said his claims were within the rules but acknowledged the public had a right to question them.

A host of Conservatives and MPs from other parties have agreed to repay thousands of pounds towards the cost of claims made between 2004 and 2008 which although approved at the time, are now accepted to have been inappropriate.

Some Tories have been forced to stand down at the next election after being criticised for their use of taxpayers' money in claiming expenses.

Four Labour MPs have been told they have to appear before a party disciplinary panel to explain their conduct over their expenses or face losing Labour support at the next election.

Elliot Morley and Margaret Moran had been due to appear before the National Executive Committee's special endorsements panel on Tuesday although it is not clear whether either attended.

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