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Expenses row MP: 'It doesn't matter where I live'

PUBLISHED: 12:02 02 March 2009 | UPDATED: 11:25 12 August 2010

AN MP has come under fire from tax payers for her absurd second home expenses in the same week the Home Secretary is under investigation for the same thing.

AN MP has come under fire from tax payers for her "absurd" second home expenses in the same week the Home Secretary is under investigation for the same thing.

The Tax Payers Alliance (TPA) blasted Beckenham MP Jacqui Lait after she refused to explain how she calculated how much time she spends in each of her two houses.

Mrs Lait told the Times it "didn't matter" how many nights she sleeps in her main home, a mansion in Rye, Essex, or her constituency address in Beckenham.

She said: "If you think it's feasible to commute from Rye you're wrong. It takes two and a half hours if you're lucky. There are no late trains so how do you expect me to do it without crashing because I'm asleep at the wheel? What does it matter where I spend my time? It doesn't matter."

Although Mrs Lait is supposed to spend the majority of her time in her main home, she insisted that she spit her time evenly between the two. She said: "I spend 50 per cent of my time in Rye and 50 per cent of my time in Beckenham."

She raged: "Are you calling me a liar?" when asked to explain how she calculated that.

Under parliamentary rules, MPs can pocket nearly £23,000 per year in Additional Costs Allowance (ACA) for a second home but nothing for their main home.

From 2001 to 2007, Mrs Lait has claimed £109,203 in ACA, which is supposed to help MPs who live outside of London with expenses when they are working in the House of Commons.

Asked whether she would sell her Rye home if the ACA rules changed and outer London MPs were no longer allowed second houses, she said: "My husband is leader of the council in East Sussex and has to live in his constituency. Do you want me to get a divorce?"

But TPA campaign manager Suzie Squire said: "It is absurd. MPs maximising the profits for their own financial gain is not right.

"The problem is that she is not breaking any rules but that needs urgent review. It is not about getting every penny and pound that you can. She should be leading by example. Her attitude is really bad and it is damaging people's confidence in the system."

Erith and Thamesmead MP, John Austin agreed the system needs reviewing.

He said: "There was more justification when the house used to sit beyond midnight but in recent times we have had more civilised hours.

"All the allowances need to be looked at by an independent body, not by members. It would be simpler if we had a set allowance for staying over in London.

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