The Conservative MP who quit as chairman of Parliament's anti-sleaze committee after allegations that he misused expenses has described the claims against him as fiction "akin to Harry Potter".
David Curry, who stood down as head of the Commons Standards and Privileges Committee after just a month in charge, said that his use of allowances was "completely above board" after allegations that he claimed £30,000 on a home that his wife had banned him from using. The MP for Skipton and Ripon, who has served as a minister in past Tory Governments, said that he was actually very good value for money as "the second cheapest MP in Yorkshire". He is now awaiting the start of an official investigation into the allegations after voluntarily referring his case to the parliamentary commissioner for standards, John Lyon.
"My expenses are very modest," Mr Curry said yesterday, speaking from his family home in Saffron Waldon, Essex. He added that he had been spending more time with his wife of 38 years to restore their relationship after he had admitted having an affair. The Daily Telegraph had claimed his wife banned him from his Yorkshire cottage, which he had listed as his second home, after discovering the affair five years ago.
"My wife has not banned me from anything. I had an affair, there is no denying that. We got over it," he said. "If you were repairing your relationship with someone, you would want to spend as much time with them as possible." He said that allegations that he did not use the Yorkshire property were "akin to Harry Potter", insisting he had used it "hundreds, if not thousands, of times" since buying it. "I have had the house since 1987, I have not bought it on a speculative whim.
"I have a very large constituency of more than 700 square miles. Sometimes when I am far away late at night I will stay in a hotel rather than travel a great distance back." Mr Curry said that his claims on the house, which totalled £28,078, were bumped up by around £8,000 as a result of hiring a local firm to oversee redecoration after damp-proofing work.
The probe into Mr Curry's case by the parliamentary commissioner for standards is likely to take months as Westminster looks set to be unable to escape the fall-out of the expenses scandal ahead of the next election. The police are also investigating whether charges can be brought against any of the worse offenders. Although Mr Curry said he would share any information with the parliamentary commissioner, he added: "I am not expecting to end up in the Tower of London."
Mr Lyon will hand his findings to the Commons Standards and Privileges Committee, formerly headed by Mr Curry, which will decide on a punishment. The committee has recently forced the former ministers Jacqui Smith and Tony McNulty to apologise to the Commons, but has been criticised for failing to ask them to repay more money.
David Cameron believes that Mr Curry has done the right thing by standing down while the allegations are investigated, but the party's leadership has not yet decided to throw its weight behind him.