Caroline Spelman to repay £9,600 after 'Nannygate' probe
Mar 4 2009 by Jonathan Walker
Meriden Conservative MP Caroline Spelman is to repay £9,600 after an inquiry found she unintentionally misused House of Commons expenses.
A report by the official Commons watchdog concluded that she had overpaid her assistant, Tina Haynes, allowing her to work as a nanny looking after Mrs Spelman’s three young children.
But it also found that the Shadow Cabinet Minister had no intention of breaking Commons rules.
Mrs Spelman is expected to keep her job as Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.
Crucially, the inquiry concluded that Ms Haynes had legitimately carried out administrative work for Mrs Spelman in a part-time capacity, and rejected claims that she was never anything other than a live-in nanny.
Senior Conservatives claimed this demolished claims in a BBC report, which had accused Mrs Spelman of simply using taxpayer’s money to pay for childcare.
Mrs Spelman issued an apology, saying she had made a mistake when she was a new MP.
The Warwickshire MP has been a high-flyer in the Conservative Party, but her career hand in the balance after allegations emerged last year that she paid for childcare using parliamentary allowances.
The row is thought to have forced David Cameron to delay a reshuffle of his top team. In January he finally acted to shift Mrs Spelman from party chairman to shadow communities secretary.
The MP has insisted that Tina Haynes was only paid with public funds for secretarial work between 1997 and 1998, and her nannying duties were rewarded separately with free board and lodging.
But asked by the BBC last year about the extent of her admin duties, Ms Haynes said she had only posted letters, “took the odd phone call” and passed on messages “once or twice a week”.
Standards Commissioner John Lyon has been examining the case for nine months and the final verdict was issued by the Committee on Standards and Privileges, which approved Mr Lyons’s conclusions.
It concluded: “For two years from June 1997 Mrs Spelman paid Mrs Haynes from her parliamentary allowances a salary as her part-time administration assistant that enabled Mrs Haynes to work also as her nanny without additional or separate financial reward.
“This had the effect of misapplying part of Mrs Spelman’s Parliamentary allowances.
“We accept that this breach, which occurred at a time when both the rules and expectations were less stringent than they are now, was unintentional.”
Mrs Spelman had agreed to repay £9,600, the report said.
She said: “I fully accept the findings of this inquiry which I sought because I wanted the opportunity to clear my name.
“I am glad the committee finds that the work done by Tina Haynes met a genuine need for an assistant in the constituency, that she was qualified to do the job and that the work was done.
“However, as the committee notes, the arrangements had the unintended effect of misapplying some of my Parliamentary allowances for non-Parliamentary purposes, for which I am sorry.
“This is a finding which I take very seriously and I will of course immediately pay the money in question back.
“The Committee makes clear that this breach of the rules on my part was unintended. It took place more than a decade ago when I was a new MP.
“But I apologise sincerely for it. I fully accept people have a right to expect the highest standards from people in public life.”