Published: 00:01, 19 January 2017
MP Damian Collins tried to claim £6,000 in expenses to pay his wife’s company for work to press the case for a new nuclear power station at Dungeness.
But the claim was rejected by IPSA (The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority) because it breached parliamentary rules.
Mr Collins has now confirmed the work looking at the future of nuclear power on Romney Marsh “will continue” but is now being done “in house” by his office staff in Westminster.
The MP for Folkestone and Hythe and chairman of the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, had tried claiming the fees requested by Noble Purpose, which is based in Folkestone and was set up by his wife Sarah.
He said he was unaware of the rules preventing him making a claim to pay a family member through the MP’s parliamentary allowances but had declared his intentions to IPSA from the outset.
The report he wanted his wife’s firm to produce was to lobby the government for a new Dungeness C power station.
Documents released under the Freedom of Information Act (FOI) showed the invoice dated December 3, 2015 was for “research exploring the local economic impact and community benefit” if the station on Romney Marsh was recommissioned by the government.
The claim was classified as ‘professional services’ but IPSA said it rejected the claim because “no costs may be claimed relating to the purchase of goods or services, where the MP or a connected party is the provider of the goods or services in question”.
Mr Collins said: “Since I first discussed the idea of my wife carrying out a project taking a deeper look at the future of nuclear power, I have strengthened my office team in Westminster so there is now more in house resource to look at these kind of projects.
“I was aware the rules state that you have to declare upfront if you are seeking to employ a member of your family, and I did that.
“I wasn’t aware that it would not be possible in this case, for my wife to be paid through her company for this one off project, rather than directly as a member of staff.
“I put in an application to IPSA for work that would be done by my wife but paid to her through her company.
“IPSA told me that there was no problem with my wife doing the work if we she was on the payroll for my parliamentary office but that the rules said that she couldn’t be paid to do the work through her company.
“I put in the application up front to IPSA to check with them, before the work started, that it would be possible to carry out the work in the way I had envisaged. As it was not, we did not proceed with the project.”
He explained his wife had other work commitments at the time and was not suitable for her to join his parliamentary office staff so they “decided not to take the matter further”.