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Maidstone MP Helen Grant's second home expenses 'understandable', says Conservative party chief

Maidstone and Weald MP Helen Grant

by political editor Paul Francis

Conservative party chiefs have defended under-fire Maidstone and the Weald MP Helen Grant over her expenses claims.

The chairman of her local constituency association says her decision to use her rental allowance for a flat in London is "understandable and acceptable".

In a forthright defence, James Peace said she was not neglecting her constituency and that her job as equalities minister meant she had to be in London most of the week.

Mrs Grant has faced criticism after it emerged she was claiming for a second home despite the fact her Reigate home is 19 miles from Westminster.

She is permitted to do so under expenses rules as her constituency is deemed far enough away from Westminster.

However, the MP who represents Reigate cannot claim the same allowance.

Mr Peace said: "Helen has clearly demonstrated her commitment to this constituency. Since the 2010 election her mother has moved to Sutton Valence, and her son has moved schools to live here too.

"She is also in the constituency most weekends holding surgeries, attending events and seeing her family."

He added: "Helen's exceptionally demanding job requires her to be in London

"she is exploiting the system to the maximum and she seems to consider her constituency a complete irrelevance..." – teacher becky matthews
for most of the week, which is where she lives during that time.

"Her decision to use her rental allowance in London is therefore understandable and acceptable given her circumstances. Helen has our
wholehearted support."

However, the Maidstone teacher who tackled Mrs Grant at a public hustings event before she became an MP over if she intended to claim her second homes allowances said she was appalled by the disclosures.

Becky Matthews said: "She is treating the voters of Maidstone with utter

"She is exploiting the system to the maximum and she seems to consider her constituency a complete irrelevance. She should do the right thing and resign.

"She does not even have a home in the constituency now. Mr Cameron has talked a lot about people 'doing the right thing', but Helen Grant has a very dim grasp of what the 'right thing' is."

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