Tory MP Anne Main ordered to repay £7,100 after flat probe

A Conservative MP was ordered to repay £7,100 and apologise in writing today after a parliamentary investigation into her claims for second home allowances on a flat where her daughter was living.

Anne Main began claiming expenses on the flat she rented in St Albans shortly after becoming the city's MP in 2005, even though her family home was only 20 miles from the constituency in Beaconsfield.

Parliamentary Standards Commissioner John Lyon ruled that it was fair for her to designate the Beaconsfield house as her main residence for expenses purposes, and to treat the flat, where she spent one or two nights a week, as her second home.

But he found that Mrs Main's employed adult daughter spent more time at the flat than the MP did, living there rent-free and paying no household bills.

The MP told Mr Lyon that the parliamentary Fees Office had told her it was permissible for her children to share her second home, and that her daughter's use of the flat added nothing to the cost of buying, maintaining or heating it.

But in his ruling, he said: "Public funds should not have been expected to meet the living costs of Mrs Main's adult daughter when she stayed in the St Albans flat. That should have been a private matter for the family."

The Commissioner also found that Mrs Main breached Commons rules by claiming more than £3,000 a year between 2005 and 2008 for food consumed while she was away from her main home, including around £20 a week for evening meals while working in Westminster.

The rules state that MPs whose main homes are neither in London nor their constituency could claim for food while at Westminster or at their constituency, but not both.

The Commons Standards and Privileges Committee accepted Mr Lyon's findings and ordered Mrs Main to repay £2,100 wrongly claimed for food, along with an additional £5,000 to reflect her daughter's use of the St Albans flat.

The committee's report into Mrs Main's case was published on the same day as Sir Thomas Legg's much broader report into MPs' expenses claims over the past five years.

Sir Thomas told her to repay £1,388.59, relating to overpayments for rent and service charges. The report noted that she has repaid £1,788.49 since last April.