Jacqui Smith’s £23,000 claim

By Vikki Graves

Image from www.bbc.co.uk
Home Secretary Jacqui Smith

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith claimed £23,000 in tax-payer funded allowances on her second home last year, the maximum claim available to MPs. The news comes as Ms Smith continues to face criticism for an accidental expense claim for adult films watched by her husband, Richard Timney, in April 2008.

The timing of these revelations is not good for the Home Secretary, whose expense claims are currently under investigation. She claims her ‘main’ residence is with her sister in South London which allows her to make claims on her ‘second’ consituency home in Redditch, Worcestershire, despite her family living there permanently.

Despite his full time job as his wife’s parliamentary assistant, Mr Timney found plenty of time for watching movies. As well as the two unnamed ‘adult’ features, he also saw Ocean’s Thirteen, widely regarded as the weakest of the trilogy, and Surf’s Up, a mock-documentary for children that received mixed reviews back in 2007.

Following the news of the mistaken claim, Ms Smith released a statement saying the £67 she received for the television package, billed as part of her internet connection, would be repaid in full and Mr Timney yesterday issued a public apology.

“As soon as the matter was brought to my attention, I took immediate steps to contact the relevant parliamentary authorities and rectify the situation.” – Jacqui Smith

Prime Minister, Gordon Brown defended the Home Secretary at a Downing Street news conference today, and yesterday Foreign Secretary David Miliband told the BBC’s Andrew Marr show he thought Ms Smith was doing an “outstanding job”.

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But political pressure on Ms Smith is certainly mounting, with Labour MP Paul Flynn today calling for her resignation. A full review of MPs expenses is due to begin in September, but it remains to be seen whether the Cabinet, and the public, can separate Ms Smith’s ministerial responsibilities from her financial wrong-doings.