St Albans MP Anne Main's expenses payback: the full story

St Albans & Harpenden Review: Mrs Main breached the rules by allowing her daughter to stay in her taxpayer-funded pad. Mrs Main breached the rules by allowing her daughter to stay in her taxpayer-funded pad.

ST Albans MP Anne Main has been invited to apologise and asked to pay back thousands of pounds in public money for allowing her daughter to live rent-free at her second home.

The Parliamentary Standards Committee ruled Mrs Main had breached the rules by allowing her daughter to stay in her taxpayer-funded pad in Samuel Square, Pageant Close, St Albans.

Mrs Main claimed thousands of pounds in mortgage repayments and a council discount even though her 24-year-old daughter, Claire Tonks, had been staying there more frequently than herself over a three year period.

Following a report into MPs' second home expenses by parliamentary standards commissioner John Lyon, Mrs Main was ordered to repay £7,100 in respect of the period between November 2006 and April 2009, when Miss Tonks had been living at the flat.

Mrs Main, whose main home is just 20 miles from her constituency in Beaconsfield, was also found to have flouted parliamentary guidelines by claiming more than £2,000 for meals eaten away from her main home. Her expenses claims included food bills for meals in Westminster.

In his report, Mr Lyon stated that while it is acceptable for an MP's children and family to share a designated second home, it is not permissable for an independent adult to reside at the expense of the public purse.

Mr Lyon said: "On any interpretation of the evidence, Mrs Main's daughter is an independent adult. She could have been expected to have been reponsible for her own living costs.

"It was entirely a matter for Mrs Main whether she subsidised those costs, for example by not charging her adult daughter rent when she stayed in the family's Beaconsfield home.

"There was nothing unusual in that: many other parents do the same. But it does not follow that the same principle should apply to parliamentary-funded accommodation.

"Public funds should not have been expected to meet the living costs of Mrs Main's adult daughter when she stayed in the St Albans flat. That should have been a private matter for the family. It should not have been a matter for public funds."

Mrs Main has been forced to apologise and repay the overclaimed expenses.

However, the backbench MP refused to accept that allowing her daughter to stay at the flat for 'moral support' was punishable.

In evidence to the standards committee, Mrs Main said: "I am very disappointed that the commissioner does not accept a mother's desire to see her daughter for part of the time as natural but that he chooses to describe it as an 'emotional benefit' and that he believes it is a benefit I should somehow pay for it.

"The emotional benefit was to me as a parent. we could have mother and daugter time and spend time together. There was no financial benefit, and she didn't need to be there, but it helped me in my role having her there sometimes, as it freed up my time to serve to my constituents."

Charles Bunker, deputy chairman of the Conservative Party in the Eastern Region, told the Review St Albans Tories would remain supportive of Mrs Main as the party's candidate in the impending General Election, despite today's revelations.

However, rival politician, Liberal Democrat parliamentary hopeful Sandy Walkington, who will go head to head with Mrs Main in the polls in May, said: "Ultimately I just don't think any member of Parliament for St Albans needs a second home. This morning everyone was going to the station leaving their own home, and catching a train to work and commuting home - that's the way it works. St Albans is a communting constituency and an MP shouldn't be any different."

Mr Walkington's Labour counterpart Roma Mills added: "It's good to see that this has been resolved. It's good to see the process has been transparent and obviously effective.

"It's a great lesson for the future for all of us in public life - be very clear about why you claim and what you claim in terms of expenses. It's right that they should be in the public forum."

Comments (3)

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10:25am Fri 5 Feb 10

jimaydee says...

I am still bemused that this tainted MP is the best candidate the local Conservative party can find to represent St Albans. This seat could be a safe Conservative seat at the next election, instead it seems her presence makes it marginal. Surely the local party could find a local candidate of stature and credibility. (one that could even use the train like the rest of us !)
I am still bemused that this tainted MP is the best candidate the local Conservative party can find to represent St Albans. This seat could be a safe Conservative seat at the next election, instead it seems her presence makes it marginal. Surely the local party could find a local candidate of stature and credibility. (one that could even use the train like the rest of us !) jimaydee
  • Score: 0

10:40am Fri 5 Feb 10

hasan_ali_imam says...

I find it rather puzzling that a daughter is expected to pay rent when living with her mother or that her chores in the flat should be considered as an emotional benefit that needs to be paid back! Would a daughter wan to visit her mother knowing that she has to pay to see her! It seems that John Lyon prefers to fracture families. The investigation into Anne Main’s expenses must have cost the public purse over £100,000. One wonders if this is good use of public money considering she had already been cleared by the Conservative Party of any wrong doing AND after she was re-selected as the Tory candidate thanks to the support of local members. This is a question I would like to pose Lib Dem’s Sandy Walkington who skilfully avoided commenting on the ethics of wasting public funds for this investigation and separating a daughter from her mother. Instead he focused on a different issue of the ethics of having a second home thereby presenting a holier-than-thou attitude despite the fact that Lib Dem MPs had been asked to pay back funds as well. A dedicated constituency MP, like Anne Main, has a right to have a normal family life as well as the right to serve her constituents without any hindrance.
I find it rather puzzling that a daughter is expected to pay rent when living with her mother or that her chores in the flat should be considered as an emotional benefit that needs to be paid back! Would a daughter wan to visit her mother knowing that she has to pay to see her! It seems that John Lyon prefers to fracture families. The investigation into Anne Main’s expenses must have cost the public purse over £100,000. One wonders if this is good use of public money considering she had already been cleared by the Conservative Party of any wrong doing AND after she was re-selected as the Tory candidate thanks to the support of local members. This is a question I would like to pose Lib Dem’s Sandy Walkington who skilfully avoided commenting on the ethics of wasting public funds for this investigation and separating a daughter from her mother. Instead he focused on a different issue of the ethics of having a second home thereby presenting a holier-than-thou attitude despite the fact that Lib Dem MPs had been asked to pay back funds as well. A dedicated constituency MP, like Anne Main, has a right to have a normal family life as well as the right to serve her constituents without any hindrance. hasan_ali_imam
  • Score: -2

12:43pm Fri 5 Feb 10

FreddyD says...

Also if you trawl the detail. The food repayment was due to claiming for food at Westminster. As all MPs do I should think! The Green Book says that food can be claimed 'away from the main home' and this seems ambiguous. But then there is a response from the fees office that says that this rule is very opaque and open to easy misinterpretation as it is meant to cover food at second home but the rule doesnt actually say so. I am sure there are 645 MPs that should be also paying money back if this new interpretation that seemed to apply to Ms Main is applied to the rest. I do think that £5k as an emotional benefit charge appears a bit steep. Jacquie Smith had her whole family living in the second home and she was not charged for emotional benefit. Why not? Her family could live nowhere else either apart from the single bed room that Ms Smith rented from her sister. At least the rulings for these MPs have one consistency and that is that they are inconsistent!
Also if you trawl the detail. The food repayment was due to claiming for food at Westminster. As all MPs do I should think! The Green Book says that food can be claimed 'away from the main home' and this seems ambiguous. But then there is a response from the fees office that says that this rule is very opaque and open to easy misinterpretation as it is meant to cover food at second home but the rule doesnt actually say so. I am sure there are 645 MPs that should be also paying money back if this new interpretation that seemed to apply to Ms Main is applied to the rest. I do think that £5k as an emotional benefit charge appears a bit steep. Jacquie Smith had her whole family living in the second home and she was not charged for emotional benefit. Why not? Her family could live nowhere else either apart from the single bed room that Ms Smith rented from her sister. At least the rulings for these MPs have one consistency and that is that they are inconsistent! FreddyD
  • Score: -1

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