MPs to consider 'nannygate' affair

MPs will consider today whether Tory frontbencher Caroline Spelman should be punished over the "nannygate" affair.

The Standards and Privileges Committee is due to discuss a report into Mrs Spelman's conduct prepared by Commons sleaze watchdog John Lyon.

Mrs Spelman's position has been in doubt since allegations emerged last year that she paid for childcare using parliamentary allowances. MPs' expenses are only supposed to cover activities directly related to their jobs.

The controversy is thought to have forced David Cameron to delay a reshuffle of his top team. Last month he finally acted to shift Mrs Spelman from party chairman to shadow communities secretary.

The Meriden MP has insisted that Tina Haynes was only paid with public funds for secretarial work between 1997 and 1998, and her nannying duties were rewarded separately with free board and lodging.

But asked by the BBC last year about the extent of her admin duties, Ms Haynes said she had only posted letters, "took the odd phone call" and passed on messages "once or twice a week".

Critics have also pointed out that Ms Haynes was working at Mrs Spelman's family home in Kent, some 140 miles from her West Midlands constituency.

The arrangement ended after the Conservative Party's chief whip told Mrs Spelman it could be "open to misinterpretation", and she appointed a new constituency secretary.

Standards Commissioner Mr Lyon has been examining the case for nine months. He originally refused to launch a probe as it focused on events from more than seven years ago. However, he agreed after Mrs Spelman said she wanted to clear her name.