Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 19 April 2014

Minister defends expenses claim

Helen Grant, appointed to the Ministry of Justice in September's reshuffle, lives in Reigate, outside her Maidstone constituency

A Government minister has defended claiming the maximum expenses for a second home in London despite living just 19 miles from the Commons.

Helen Grant, appointed to the Ministry of Justice in September's reshuffle, lives in a £1.8 million home in Reigate, Surrey - outside her Maidstone constituency.

The equalities minister also rents a Thameside flat near the MI6 building in Vauxhall which is funded on expenses.

Mrs Grant is eligible for a second home allowance on Parliamentary expenses because her constituency is outside London and the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) confirmed the MP's claim was within the rules.

But the Reigate home in which Mrs Grant lives is not far enough from London for the constituency MP - Tory Crispin Blunt - to make similar expenses claims.

A spokeswoman for Mrs Grant said: "Mrs Grant's constituency has been deemed by IPSA to be a non-London constituency and she is therefore fully entitled to use her rental accommodation allowance either in London or in the constituency.

"She has a base in her constituency at her mother's property, where her son also lives, so she sees no need to rent a further property there.

"The focus of her time and responsibility has always been Maidstone and the Weald."

The expense claims were uncovered in an investigation by Channel 4's Dispatches, which is due to broadcast a film called MPs: Are They Still At It? on Monday night.

A spokesman for IPSA said: "We set the rules up based on the constituency the MP represents. We provide support for one of those locations to help with renting a flat. Ultimately it comes down to the MP's judgment about what they need to claim for."

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