Political turmoil

Home Secretary to quit Cabinet

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith today became the first Cabinet casualty of the MPs' expenses scandal, after it was revealed she told Gordon Brown within days of revelations about her finances that she wanted to quit the Government in a reshuffle.

Ms Smith was the most high profile among a clutch of resignations to hit the Prime Minister today, including two further members of his administration.



The moves created a momentum that threatens to de-rail his planned relaunch in the wake of what are expected to be abysmal polling results for Labour in the council and MEP elections on Thursday.



Children's Minister Beverley Hughes announced she wanted to leave in the shake-up - for family reasons - and Cabinet Office Minister Tom Watson is also expected to step down.



Labour backbencher David Chaytor confirmed he would retire at the next election to contest claims he reaped almost £13,000 in taxpayers' cash on a mortgage that did not exist.



And ex-Cabinet minister Patricia Hewitt, relatively untouched by the expenses furore, said she was not seeking re-election, to concentrate on charity work in India.



Sources close to the Home Secretary said Ms Smith was so hurt by revelations in March - including the humiliation of repaying £10 her husband Richard Timney, who works as her assistant, claimed for watching two adult films - that she told Mr Brown just days later that she wanted to quit.



One source said: "She's been hurt by what's gone on and it's been a difficult couple of months for her."



Another source close to the Home Secretary said she wrote to the Prime Minister at Easter in the wake of disclosures about her expenses to inform him she did not wish to continue in Government.



As well as the outrage over her claim for adult films, Ms Smith was criticised for claiming her main residence was a rented room in the property she shared with her sister.



That allowed her to claim second home allowance on the family home in Redditch, Worcestershire.



It is understood Ms Smith's decision was influenced not just by the expenses claims but also driven by a desire to spend more time with her family.



Her children, aged 10 and 15, live with Mr Timney during the week while Ms Smith is in Westminster.



The source defended Ms Smith's claims compared to later revelations, and said the family "went through" the expenses scandal before the wider story broke, meaning they faced the media attention on their own.



The Home Secretary did not mention her decision as she opened a debate in the Commons this afternoon, but looked on with barely disguised fury as shadow home secretary Chris Grayling paid tribute to her as Britain's first female home secretary at what he described as her "final appearance at the despatch box".



Labour Backbencher Mr Chaytor, MP for Bury North, said he made the decision to leave Parliament at the next general election after weekend talks with senior party officials and his constituency party.



He had already been suspended from the Parliamentary Labour Party and faced the humiliation of being de-selected as a candidate after a forthcoming "star chamber" inquiry.



Announcing his decision to go, Mr Chaytor said that, for the coming months, his "priority must be to explain my errors following allegations over the use of parliamentary allowances".



"This will be time-consuming and stressful," he went on, adding that he would not have time for constituency campaigning.



He is to repay nearly £13,000 he claimed by continuing to submit £1,175 monthly bills for mortgage interest months after the loan was paid off.



Another Cabinet reshuffle casualty could be Chancellor Alistair Darling, whose career is hanging by a thread after he was forced to apologise for, and pay back, hundreds of pounds he wrongly claimed on his taxpayer-funded expenses.



Today he even had to revise the amount he repaid after quoting the wrong figure.



After telling broadcasters last night that he was repaying £350, an aide said today the true sum was nearly double that, at £668.



Transport Secretary Geoff Hoon was also under pressure after being forced to issue an apology and pay back money after admitting he had "accidentally" overclaimed £384.



Ms Hughes increased the sense of disarray in Westminster by releasing a statement disclosing she had told the Prime Minister she wanted to leave the Government in his next reshuffle, which she said could be "very soon".



Ms Hughes will also be leaving Parliament at the next election, as will Ms Hewitt, MP for Leicester West. Both cited family reasons and denied their decisions were related to the expenses scandal.



But they were the latest of 15 MPs who have lined up to hand in their resignation notices since the furore erupted almost four weeks ago.



Another Labour backbencher, Jim Devine, was facing de-selection today after being referred to the party's star chamber over allegations that he submitted receipts from a firm that may not have existed.



Gordon Brown, struggling to contain the expenses row, is to start chairing a new National Democratic Renewal Council, made up of ministers, from next week.



But his proposals to help rebuild the public's trust in parliament were again drowned out by the expenses row.



Asked today for his views about Mr Darling and Mr Hoon, Mr Brown's spokesman said: "He thinks they are both doing very good jobs."



Mr Darling, on a visit to Swindon, brushed aside questions about the Government's future, saying: "We want to make sure we support our economy, that we help the people of this country, that we also have the right constitutional framework so people feel confident they can have a say and that when they want things done, they can get them done.



"That's what we are concentrating on. Whether it's today or weeks ahead, that's what this Government is totally focused on."



But feverish speculation at Westminster is already turning to the fate of Mr Brown after the impact of the results of this Thursday's elections sink in among Labour ministers and backbenchers.



And tonight, the SNP and Plaid Cymru announced they would use an opposition day debate next Wednesday to urge the Prime Minister to request the dissolution of parliament and hold a general election.

News
Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleActor, from House of Cards and Benidorm, was 68
News
A scene from the video shows students mock rioting
newsEnd-of-year leaver's YouTube film features staging of a playground gun massacre
Travel
travel
Environment
View from the Llanberis Track to the mountain lake Llyn
Du’r Arddu
environmentA large chunk of Mount Snowdon, in north Wales, is up for sale
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Voices
A family sit and enjoy a quiet train journey
voicesForcing us to overhear dull phone conversations is an offensive act, says Simon Kelner
News
i100This Instagram photo does not prove Russian army is in Ukraine
Arts and Entertainment
The cast of The Big Bang Theory in a still from the show
tvBig Bang Theory filming delayed by contract dispute over actors' pay
News
Morrissey pictured in 2013
people
Sport
England celebrate a wicket for Moeen Ali
sportMoeen Ali stars with five wickets as Cook's men level India series
Life and Style
The director of Wall-E Andrew Stanton with Angus MacLane's Lego model
gadgetsDesign made in Pixar animator’s spare time could get retail release
News
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
Travel
travel
News
Robyn Lawley
people
News
people
News
i100  ... he was into holy war way before it was on trend
Arts and Entertainment
High-flyer: Chris Pratt in 'Guardians of the Galaxy'
filmThe film is surprisingly witty, but could do with taking itself more seriously, says Geoffrey Macnab
News
people
Life and Style
food + drinkVegetarians enjoy food as much as anyone else, writes Susan Elkin
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

VB.Net Developer - £40k - Surrey - WANTED ASAP

£35000 - £40000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: .Mid Level V...

Digitakl Business Analyst, Slough

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Competitive Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Dig...

Mechanical Estimator: Nuclear Energy - Sellafield

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Car, Medical, Fuel + More!: Progressive Recruitmen...

Dynamics NAV Techno-Functional Consultant

£50000 - £60000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: An absolutely o...

Day In a Page

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine