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Sunday, 20 April 2014

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Government minister with Carlisle links defends expenses claim

A Government minister who was raised in Carlisle has defended claiming the maximum expenses for a second home in London – despite living just 19 miles from the Commons.

Helen Grant, appointed to the Ministry of Justice in September’s reshuffle, lives in a £1.8m home in Reigate, Surrey, outside her Maidstone constituency.

The Equalities Minister also rents a Thameside flat near the MI6 building in Vauxhall which is funded on expenses.

Mrs Grant, who grew up in Orton Road, Raffles, is eligible for a second home allowance on Parliamentary expenses because her constituency is outside London. The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) confirmed the MP’s claim was within the rules.

But the Reigate home in which Mrs Grant lives is not far enough from London for the constituency MP to make similar expenses claims.

A spokeswoman for Mrs Grant said: “Mrs Grant’s constituency has been deemed by IPSA to be a non-London constituency. She is therefore fully entitled to use her rental accommodation allowance either in London or in the constituency.

“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 property there.

“The focus of her time and responsibility has always been Maidstone and the Weald.”

Mrs Grant is the daughter of Gladys Spedding, who was involved with the former North Cumbria Technology College – and its predecessor Harraby School – for 26 years, taking on the roles of deputy head and vice-chairwoman of governors. Mrs Grant and her mother lived in Raffles until they moved to Scotby when she was seven. She was educated at St Gabriel’s, Scotby Village, St Aidan’s and Trinity schools.

Mrs Grant represented Cumbria at hockey, tennis, athletics and cross-country. She studied law at the University of Hull and has lived and worked in the Kent, Surrey and south London region since 1994.

The claims were uncovered in an investigation by Channel 4’s Dispatches, which last night broadcast a film called MPs: Are They Still At It?

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 judgement about what they need to claim for. We don’t check to see what private assets an MP has.”

Mrs Grant’s London flat is supported by expense claims of £1,666.67 per month – the maximum allowed within the rules, which caps rental claims at £20,000 per year. Mrs Grant has filed claims for rent since March.

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