As if the provision of porno movies for her husband being claimed on government expenses were not enough – this afternoon it turns out the Jaqui Smith claims £23K on her second home allowance – nearly the max amount allowable. Surely some coincidence. I predict she’s out of a job by the end of the week. What a great photo of her in the Guardian, who also provide this story written by Allegra Stratton and Deborah Summers . Having Gordon Brown rallying behind you must make you feel a whole lot better….
Jaqui Smith claimed £22,948 in 2007-08 – almost the maximum permitted amount – from the allowance to help MPs run a second home, it was revealed today.
The revelation came as Gordon Brown appealed for Smith to be allowed to get on with her work as home secretary after she apologised for claiming the cost of pornographic films on her parliamentary expenses.
As she left her London residence this morning, the beleaguered minister declined to respond to reporters’ questions about the films, watched by her husband, Richard Timney, at their family home in Redditch, Worcestershire, while she was away.
Amid mounting speculation that the incident could cost Smith her government post, the Conservative leader, David Cameron, described the latest revelations as “deeply embarrassing” for the home secretary, but stopped short of calling for her resignation.
Brown offered his support, insisting that she was doing “a great job” and had “done the right thing” by paying the money back.
Before the revelation about pornographic movies, Smith was already under investigation for using the additional costs allowance (ACA) to meet costs associated with her family home in her constituency. When she is working in London she stays with her sister.
Smith’s arrangements are controversial because she treats her sister’s home as her main home for expenses purposes, allowing her to claim for the property in Redditch, on the grounds that she spends most of her time working in London.
Smith has accepted that the claim for two pornographic films was wrong and she has agreed to pay the money back.
But she has not accepted that there is anything wrong with her decision to use the ACA to claim money in relation to her home in Redditch. She has strongly insisted that this arrangement is within the rules.
Today the full extent of her ACA claim for 2007-08 was made public. She claimed £22,948, close to the maximum of £23,083.
Smith’s total expense claim, including travel, office and staffing costs, was £145,331, according to the chart produced by the parliamentary authorities showing figures for all MPs for 2007-08.
Earlier the prime minister was asked at a press conference in 10 Downing Street whether he still had confidence in Smith, who is under investigation for claiming second home expenses on her family house in her Redditch constituency while living as a lodger with her sister in London.
Brown said: “The home secretary is doing a great job and I do not think this issue should be allowed to detract from everything she is doing to ensure we protect the public and keep our neighbourhoods safe.
“She has done the right thing by taking steps to rectify the mistake that was made as soon as she became aware of it.”
Brown added: “This is very much a personal matter for Jacqui. She has made her apology; her husband has made clear that he has apologised.
“The best thing is that Jacqui Smith gets on with her work, which is what she wants to do.”
Timney, who is employed by the home secretary in her constituency office, submitted a claim for a £67 Virgin Media bill last June for a television in the couple’s family home in Redditch. The bill included two adult films, at a cost of £5 each, as well as two viewings of the heist movie Ocean’s 13 and one of Surf’s Up, a children’s film about a rockhopper penguin.
Last month Smith was revealed to have claimed taxpayer-funded allowances for her family home while living with her sister in London. She is due to explain that to the parliamentary commissioner for standards, John Lyon.
The new row brought an immediate climbdown from the Smiths. Within hours of the story being published in a Sunday newspaper, Timney appeared outside the family home to give a brief statement.
Barely looking up, he said he had submitted the claim for the television package “inadvertently” alongside a legitimate claim for his wife’s internet connection. Timney said: “I am really sorry for any embarrassment I have caused Jacqui. I can fully understand why people might be angry and offended by this. Quite obviously, a claim should never have been made for these films, and as you know that money is being paid back.”
Smith, who employs her husband on a salary of £40,000 a year to run her office, was said to be “mortified” after she was forced to apologise for the claim. A close friend of Smith’s said Timney would be “sleeping on the sofa for a while. To say she’s angry with her husband is an understatement.”
Although parliamentary rules on expenses allow MPs to claim the cost of their television package alongside their internet connection, the friend said Smith planned to repay the entire amount. The committee on standards in public life has announced it will look at the system of expense claims by MPs, but it is unlikely to report until after the general election.
Cameron today called on Brown to speed up the review of the whole system of MPs’ pay and allowances announced last week, saying that there needed to be “complete transparency” in relation to claims by MPs.
Speaking on GMTV, the Conservative leader said he believed Smith had “questions to answer” about her reported claim of at least £116,000 in second home allowances on her Redditch family home.
But asked if she should resign, he said: “I do not think this individual thing is the issue.
“I think she has got some questions to answer about the second home issue. It does seem to me pretty incredible to claim that the home where her family is, that is not her main home.
“I think this goes to a deeper problem which is the second home allowance for MPs. The prime minister has ordered a review but he has sort of kicked it into the long grass.
“The review doesn’t start until September, it is not going to report until after the next election. That is hopeless. We have got to get on with it … Have a quick review, right now, sort it out and come up with an answer.”
However, backbench Conservatives cast doubt on Smith’s ability to continue as home secretary. David Davis, the former shadow home secretary, said: “I do think on this circumstance the sympathy for her will be even less than it otherwise would have been because she is not that good at her job.”
Apologising for the wrongful claim, Smith said: “I am sorry that, in claiming for my internet connection, I mistakenly claimed for a television package alongside it. As soon as the matter was brought to my attention, I took immediate steps to contact the relevant parliamentary authorities and rectify the situation. All money claimed for the television package will be paid back in full.”
There are rumours in Whitehall about how details of the Smiths’ television bill emerged. It follows a run of recent expenses scandals involving Labour MPs, suggesting that stories are being leaked from the parliamentary office for expenses claims.