Road built 'after pressure by minister's wife'

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A minister's wife who objected to police vehicles stopping in front of her home secured the building of a new road behind it at public expense, according to allegations that have reached a Labour MP, writes Patricia Wynn Davies.

The minister's wife, whom the MP has declined to name for security reasons, complained about the changeover of police cars outside her front door. A new road built at the back of the property then prompted a fresh objection that the vehicles put her horses at risk. That led to the road being fenced in, also at public expense.

She went on, it is alleged, to complain that a bridge over a stream was in danger of collapsing because of the positioning of a security camera. Despite a surveyor's report that old pipework was to blame, the camera was moved to a new location, again at public expense.

The sanctioning of the expenditure provoked questions in the minister's department but these were swept aside by senior officials, it is claimed.

Alan Williams, the Labour MP fo Swansea West and a member of the Public Accounts Committee, the Commons watchdog on public spending, said yesterday that a further four or five examples of possible misuse of the ministerial security budget had been brought to his notice.

Mr Williams has written to Robert Sheldon, the Labour chairman of the committee, pressing for an investigation into guidelines on security spending on ministers' homes.

'We all understand why such precautions are needed,' he wrote. 'But . . . it is in ministers' own interests to know that there is public recognition that no undue enhancement of private property can take place.' Mr Sheldon has not yet responded.

Mr Williams said that a recent parliamentary answer showed spending on security running at pounds 1.5m a year. 'One needs to know whether the guidelines are clear and are being observed.'

Mr Williams said he was worried about the implications of the current privatisation of the Property Services Agency, which is responsible for government property projects. 'Will PSA files be shredded or otherwise disappear?' he asked.