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UK Politics

Expenses-row MP dismisses 'house ban' claim

The head of the Commons committee that deals with MPs' expenses abuse dismissed an allegation that his wife banned him from the constituency home he claimed for as "akin to Harry Potter" today.

Tory MP David Curry admitted having an affair but defended his record on expenses after being forced to stand down pending an inquiry.

Mr Curry is facing allegations that he claimed almost £30,000 towards the cost of a property that it was claimed his wife does not allow him to use.

But he said today he has been spending more time with his wife of 38 years to patch up their relationship.

Speaking from his family home in Saffron Waldon in Essex, he said: "My wife has not banned me from anything. I had an affair, there is no denying that. We got over it.

"If you were repairing your relationship with someone, you would want to spend as much time with them as possible."

On his expenses, he added: "My expenses are very modest. They are completely above board. I am the second cheapest MP in Yorkshire."

According to the Daily Telegraph, Mr Curry's wife demanded he did not use the cottage in his Yorkshire constituency after she discovered five years ago that he was having an affair.

But challenged over the allegation today, he said: "That's akin to Harry Potter. I have stayed in it hundreds, if not thousands, of times.

"I have had the house since 1987, I have not bought it on a speculative whim."

After the claims emerged, the MP for Skipton and Ripon referred his case to Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards John Lyon, who investigates alleged expenses misuse.

Mr Lyon's reports are passed to the Standards and Privileges Committee - of which Mr Curry was elected chairman last month - to recommend punishment, where necessary.

Mr Curry said he was willing to share any information with the Parliamentary Commissioner, adding: "I am not expecting to end up in the Tower of London."

Mr Curry also denied claims that he rarely stayed in his house while he is in Yorkshire.

"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."

He said the claims, which totalled £28,078, would have been approximately £20,000 but he had to hire a local consultancy firm to oversee some redecoration after damp-proofing work to the cottage.

Mr Curry, who was travelling to Yorkshire to attend a surgery in his constituency, is due to stay at the property this evening.

In an earlier statement, Mr Curry said: "I used the cottage to carry out my duties as a constituency MP and am content with my arrangements.

"However, given the particular responsibilities of the chairman of the Committee of Standards and Privileges, I shall refer my case to the Commissioner on Parliamentary Standards John Lyon and will stand down from the chairmanship during the course of his inquiries."

Mr Curry, a former minister, designated the cottage as his second base in 2005.

He had moved back into his family home in Saffron Walden, Essex, after making up with his wife following the alleged affair with a headmistress in his constituency.

Mr Curry claimed about £250 a month towards the mortgage until it was paid off in 2007.

The Daily Telegraph reported that he rarely stayed in his constituency and, when he did, usually stayed at the local £40-a-night Travelodge.

He told the newspaper he had used the cottage less than he would have liked in previous years, but put the reasons down to maintenance work and his father's illness.

Mr Curry has already announced he is stepping down from Parliament at the next general election.