Expenses row as Maidstone and Weald MP Helen Grant claims for second home despite living just 19 miles from Commons
by political editor Paul Francis
Maidstone and Weald MP Helen Grant has defended claiming
the maximum expenses for a second home in London - despite
living just 19 miles from Westminster.
Helen Grant, recently appointed equalities minister, lives
outside her Maidstone constituency in a £1.8 million home in
It was reported at the weekend she also rents a flat near the
MI6 building, in Vauxhall, which is funded on expenses.
Mrs Grant is eligible for an annual £20,000 second home
allowance on Parliamentary expenses because her constituency is
The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA)
confirmed the MP's claim was within the rules.
But the Reigate home in which she lives is not far enough from
London for the constituency MP - Tory Crispin Blunt - to make
similar expenses claims.
Responding to the reports, a spokesman for Mrs Grant said: "Mrs
Grant's constituency has been deemed by IPSA to be a non-London
constituency and she is therefore fully entitled to use her rental
accommodation allowance either in London or in the
"She has a base in her constituency at her mother's property,
where her son also lives, so she sees no need to rent a further
"The focus of her time and responsibility has always been
Maidstone and the Weald."
Video: Helen Grant is
heckled over her intentions to claim for a second home at
a KM Group-run hustings event before she was elected in 2010
Although the claims are within the rules for MPs expenses, they
may be seen by some as outside the spirit of them.
However, Mrs Grant made no secret of the fact she has
always intended to claim for a second home.
Speaking before she was elected at a hustings meeting organised
by the KM Group in 2010, she said: "I do have a home in the
constituency, in lovely Marden.
"I will continue to have a home in the constituency, but I also
need to keep my other home, as I have a 15-year-old son, who is at
school there, and I need to be able to see him in the evenings and
check he has done his homework, and so on."
Mrs Grant was heckled by members of the public, who claimed
"most people working in London get the train".
The expense claims were uncovered in an investigation by Channel
4's Dispatches, which is due to broadcast a film called MPs: Are
They Still At It? tonight.
A spokesman for IPSA said: "We set the rules up based on the
constituency the MP represents. We provide support for one of those
locations to help with renting a flat. Ultimately it comes down to
the MP's judgment about what they need to claim for."
Helen Grant is
considering closing her constituency office in Maidstone
The MP has recently said she was considering closing her
constituency office in the County Town.
Her decision to claim the second homes expenses have come under
fire from Green Party spokesman for Maidstone Stuart Jeffrey. He
has started a petition calling for her resignation.
He said: "In a government that is destroying the lives of those
most in need, the equalities minister is busy making her life very
"Three jobs, doesn't live in the constituency or anywhere near
it, and soon won't have an office here. She clearly has no time for
Maidstone's constituents and should stand down as our MP."
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