Tory MP told to repay nanny expenses

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Indy Politics

Conservative frontbench MP Caroline Spelman was ordered on Tuesday to repay almost 10,000 pounds she used to pay a nanny with taxpayers' money after she inadvertently broke parliamentary rules on expenses.

Spelman, shadow Communities and Local Government Secretary, faced investigation from Parliament's standards watchdog over payments she made to her part-time constituency secretary Tina Haynes for administrative work.

A probe was launched by John Lyon, the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, after a BBC report said she had been using her Commons allowance to pay Haynes for nanny work rather than a secretarial role.

The Commons Standards and Privileges Committee ruled that had broken the rules, albeit not deliberately, and told her to pay back 9,600 pounds.

"We accept that this breach, which occurred at a time when both the Rules and expectations were less stringent than they are now, was unintentional," the committee said.

"Mrs Spelman has accepted the Commissioner's findings and has told us that she will pay back the misapplied sums."

Spelman, who has apologised, said Haynes helped her deal with a backlog of correspondence left after the death of her constituency's previous MP Iain Mills six weeks before the 1997 general election. Haynes received a wage for part-time administrative work as well as free board and lodging in return for childcare.

But the inquiry concluded that the situation had allowed Haynes to work as a nanny without any separate financial reward.

The arrangement, which began when Spelman was elected as an MP, ended after she hired a separate secretary following advice from the party's chief whip.

The staffing allowance MPs receive is intended to meet the cost of assistants with parliamentary work, and is not meant to cover expenses incurred running their private lives.