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Mugging risk' for late working women MPs

PUBLISHED: 16:29 11 November 2009 | UPDATED: 09:43 12 August 2010

FOUR women MPs claim the cleaning up of the Westminster expenses system puts them at risk of mugging and sexual assault. In a joint letter both Tory and Labour MPs attack plans for a ban on second homes if politicians live within an hour of Westminster,

FOUR women MPs claim the cleaning up of the Westminster expenses system puts them at risk of mugging and sexual assault.

In a joint letter both Tory and Labour MPs attack plans for a ban on second homes if politicians live within an hour of Westminster, as proposed by Sir Christopher Kelly last week.

The MPs, which include Beckenham MP Jacqui Lait, who is standing down at the next general election, expected in May next year, published the letter on Monday.

Taxpayers currently pay for the Beckenham MP to have a constituency flat, while she lives more than 70 miles away in Rye in East Sussex, where her husband Peter Jones is leader of East Sussex County Council.

The letter, signed by Ms Lait, Curtis-Thomas, Kali Mountford, and Phyllis Starkey said they cannot be expected to take public transport after 10.45pm

It read: "Trains are slower and less frequent at night and some MPs will not be able to reach their home stations until after midnight.

"In some cases they will have to alight at unstaffed stations and walk to their cars. The risk of mugging or sexual assault is obvious."

They also said it will put off other women becoming MPs.

The letter was part of a concerted fightback by female MPs against the expenses clampdown.

It also emerged that Work and Pensions Minister Helen Goodman wrote to Sir Christopher Kelly to warn that if second homes were axed and travel allowances cut then "stress, mental ill-health, divorce, etc would explode".

She said: "A Parliament of the wealthy and eccentric would result."

"Women members can not be expected to walk around alone in London after 11pm."

Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Nick Clegg are all urging their parties to back the Kelly report in full.

However Labour MP Jane Kennedy said she would stand down from the House of Commons if she is banned from employing her partner.

Ms Kennedy said she was not "able or willing" to abide by the changes which would come about in the House of Commons as a result of the MPs' expenses scandal.

The 51-year-old divorced mother-of-two employs her partner, Peter Dowling, to work in her office.

Mrs Lait previously told the Times: "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."

marina.soteriou@archant.co.uk

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