A Tory MEP who paid his wife and daughter's company £758,000 in parliamentary expenses has been dropped as the party's chief whip in the European Parliament. Den Dover, who said it was within the rules to pay the family company for secretarial and support work between 2001 and 2007, was replaced the day after the Tories' former leader in Brussels, Giles Chichester, quit after breaking rules on expenses. Yesterday David Cameron, the Conservative leader, moved to quell the row over expenses, ordering that all the party's MEPs should publish a compete breakdown of their claims.
He dispatched his chief anti-sleaze official, Hugh Thomas, to Brussels to enforce new party rules on expenses to make sure MEPs meet the "highest possible standards with accountability and transparency".
Mr Dover, who has been an MEP for the North-west since 1999, insisted he had broken no rules by using his European Parliament allowances to pay the money to a family company run by his wife, Kathleen, and daughter Amanda.
He strongly defended the arrangement under which he paid the firm MP Holdings Ltd around £100,000 a year from his European Parliament allowances and said the row over expenses was not linked to his departure as Tory chief whip.
On Thursday, Mr Chichester resigned as leader of the Conservative group in the European Parliament after admitting breaking parliamentary rules by channelling £445,000 through a family firm of which he is a paid director.
Yesterday the party's acting leader in Brussels, Philip Bushill-Matthews, replaced Mr Dover with Richard Ashworth, although party officials said it was unrelated to controversy over Mr Dover's expenses.
A Tory spokesman said the post of chief whip automatically lapsed with the change of leader, adding: "Some things are not as dramatic as they appear. This is just a quickfire change of job."
Company accounts show that MP Holdings, based at Mr Dover's home in Borehamwood, Hertfordshire, was paid £125,102 last year and paid £60,000 to its directors. It recorded a retained profit of £10,240.
Mr Dover, who declared the company and his family's directorships in his register of interests, said his wife was paid between £30,000 and £40,000 while his daughter was paid between £20,000 and £30,000 as a part-time assistant.
He said the firm has paid for the two women to run two company BMWs, although Mr Dover insisted that the cars were "years and years old" and were essential for them to carry out official business.
Mr Dover said the company paid rent for the use of his British homes as offices and spent nearly £22,500 in 2001 and 2002 for repairs on his homes in Hertfordshire and Chorley, Lancashire. Mr Dover said he had claimed a proportion of the money to cover the use of his Chorley home as a constituency office.
He insisted that all the arrangements had been audited and were within European rules. He said: "I believe it is incumbent upon all members of the European Parliament and all members of Parliament to be fully accountable and answer any questions from the media, from the parliament, from wherever, and be confident what they do is right and proper within the regulations. The cost has to be incurred. The work has to be done."
Mr Cameron said: "I have said very clearly that MEPs, like MPs, must meet the highest possible standards with accountability and transparency." He added: "Anyone who flies under the Conservative banner carries a wider responsibility to the reputation of the party."
Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat leader, is working on a new code to come into force next year to ensure that his MEPs also publish details of their claims. But Gary Titley, the leader of the Labour group in the European Parliament, said expenses details should not be published.