Tory chairman faces standards watchdog

Ms Spelman will face the watchdog later today
Ms Spelman will face the watchdog later today

The row over Conservative party expenses entered its second week today as the party's chairman, Caroline Spelman, met the Commons standards watchdog to explain payments she made to her nanny using taxpayers' money.

The nanny is said to have also worked as Ms Spelman's secretary, taking calls from fellow MPs and organising her diary. Such a role can legitimately be paid for out of the public purse, but any further work of a personal nature - such as collecting her children from school - cannot.

Observers are now waiting for a statement from the parliamentary commissioner, det to be released this afternoon.

Senior Conservatives lined up to highlight their support for Ms Spelman yesterday, as the party becomes increasingly shaken by the series of accusations against it.

The situation has become bad enough that David Cameron is sending Hugh Thomas, the Conservative party's head of compliance, to Brussels this week to scrutinise MEPs' claims.

Tory MEP leader Giles Chichester was forced to resign at the end of last week for funnelling expenses money into a company in which he and his wife were the sole directors.

The Sunday Times newspaper has revealed Sir Robert Atkins, a Tory MEP and former government minister, used his parliamentary expenses to fly to his son's wedding in the US.

Sir Robert, 62, who served in the Thatcher and Major governments, attended the ceremony at Montclair, New Jersey, in November 2006. He said that it "coincided" with an official invitation, making it possible for the taxpayer to pick up travel and hotel bills.

Sir Robert insisted he had fully complied with parliamentary rules for the wedding trip. He said the event coincided with an invitation from the Republican National Committee and in a statement this weekend emphasised that his expenses were approved by the parliamentary authorities.

"The allowance contributed to the cost of my flight, hotel and travel to the various locations where I was either campaigning or discussing current political issues with Republican party members [in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut]," he said.

Atkins is also among the many MEPs who put family members on the payroll. His wife, Dulcie, is employed as a secretary and his son, James, worked for him in Brussels until 2004.

Meanwhile, the Sunday Mail reveals Scots Tory MEP John Purvis has admitted paying £120,000 of tax payers money to a firm he owns.

Millionaire landowner John Purvis funnelled the taxpayers' cash through a company, he admits to being a partner in. He claimed £120,000 in expenses for six members of staff.

In his register of interests, he said Purvis and Company was the "service provider" for paying his staff.

Mr Purvis, 69, said he had been paying staff through the firm for a number of years and had sought clarification in January 2007.

He was also caught up in an expenses row in 2004.

An investigation by an Austrian MEP named him as one of a number of British representatives who claimed allowances for sessions they didn't go to or attended for only a few minutes.

Den Dover was removed as chief whip last week as it was revealed that he had paid up to £750,000 to a firm run by his wife and daughter.

The accounts of the Dover family company, MP Holdings, reveal that it spent £32,000 on repairs, thought to be on the family's Hertfordshire home. A further £56,411 went on motoring costs and £75,397 on postage and stationery.


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