Page last updated at 00:09 GMT, Thursday, 25 June 2009 01:09 UK

Smith: Expenses furore 'horrible'


Jacqui Smith talks to Carrie Gracie on World Service's The Interview programme

Former home secretary Jacqui Smith has described the furore about her expenses claims and pressure on her family as "horrible" in a BBC interview.

Ms Smith also said she had not intended for news of her resignation to leak out before the recent reshuffle.

Asked about expenses claims her husband made for two adult films, she said it had been "intensely embarrassing".

But she said later revelations about all MPs' expenses showed she had not been "the worst sinner".

Ms Smith became the focus of newspaper revelations about her expenses claims weeks before the Daily Telegraph started publishing stories about claims by scores of MPs, based on leaked receipts.

'Real intrusion'

She told the BBC World Service's The Interview programme being the first to be put under such intense scrutiny had been hard.

"Having to fight your way out through TV cameras when you go out of your house in the morning, having press photographers outside your house for weeks on end is a real intrusion. It's horrible," she said.

"I could have coped with it on my own but my oldest son was doing, has just finished in fact, his GCSEs ... and I just felt that it was not fair on all of them."

It was intensely embarrassing, it did bring immense pressure on to my family
Jacqui Smith

She defended designating her family home in her Redditch, which she shares with her husband and children, as her "second home" on which she claimed expenses - while saying her "main home" was a property she shared with her sister in London.

Her case was referred to Parliament's standards commissioner John Lyon, amid claims she spent as little as two nights a week there.

The rules until 2004 had been that ministers' main homes should be in London, she pointed out, and said the rules stated her "main home" should be the property where she spent the most nights.

"So I didn't, as some people have done and been criticised for, change the allocation at that point," she said.

"I stuck with what the rules had been before."

She said - aside from mistakenly claiming for adult films - she believed she had met the "high standards that I set myself" and did not feel "personally ashamed".

But she said the claims for the films, part of a broadband and TV package she had claimed for the month, had been "wrong".

"It was intensely embarrassing, it did bring immense pressure on to my family," she said.

She said she had received an "immense amount of support" from her constituency, with some people feeling she had been given a "tougher time" because she was the first to have her expenses scrutinised.

But she had also had "some criticism" - including a group campaigning to get rid of her - and said some people had been savage to her face.

On the issue of her resignation - which came days before a host of other ministers, including Hazel Blears and James Purnell, quit in a tumultuous week for Gordon Brown - she said the news had been leaked early against her wishes.

She had told Gordon Brown in April she wanted to quit but he asked her to stay until the reshuffle. The decision was due to the expenses issue but also the pressure on her after ten years in government, she said.

The expenses issue had made it hard for her to "get out and talk" about important issues like crime and immigration and that was not good "for the government and the party", she said.

She said she agreed the expenses issue had caused "considerable damage" to politicians' reputations.

She said she wished MPs had prioritised the expenses issue earlier and she had personally reduced her claims since the recession started "because I recognise the sensitivities that there were around it".

You can hear the full interview with Jacqui Smith on The Interview Programme on BBC World Service, Friday 26 June, 2330 GMT.

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