Conservative Party chairman Caroline Spelman, who is under fire for using public money to pay her nanny, faces new claims she employed her for longer than she originally stated.
The Westminster sleaze watchdog is currently considering whether to investigate Midlands MP Mrs Spelman for paying her nanny out of MPs’ expenses.
It emerged nine days ago that the Meriden MP paid Tina Haynes to look after her children and do secretarial work for a “short term period” after her election to Parliament, between 1997 and 1998.
The Sunday Times reported that Ms Haynes in fact remained on the public payroll for almost two years, from April 1997 to March 1999.
And the newspaper said she also failed to make clear that, for at least some of this period, her nanny lived at the family home in Kent, more than 140 miles from her West Midlands constituency.
Meriden MP Mrs Spelman insists she did nothing wrong in employing Ms Haynes. She says the nanny was doing administrative work at her home – which she was using as her constituency office – as well as providing childcare services outside school hours.
The arrangement was ended after she consulted the then Chief Whip James Arbuthnot, although it was agreed she had “not done anything wrong”, a party spokesman said when the story emerged on June 6.
Sources within the Conservatives admitted Ms Haynes had been employed as a constituency secretary until March 1999, five months longer than was initially suggested.
But it is understood that the party is happy that the time between Mrs Spelman meeting the chief whip and ending the arrangement was the same.
John Mann, Labour MP for Bassetlaw, told the Sunday Times the disclosures would intensify the pressure for a full inquiry.
He said: “The cover-up seems to be deepening and her position is becoming untenable. I am sure that the standards commissioner will want to explore every detail and discrepancy.”
The question mark over Mrs Spelman’s expenses comes in the wake of the resignation of the Tory leader in the European Parliament, Giles Chichester, who transferred more than £400,000 of staff expenses into a private family company.
The party’s chief whip in Strasbourg, Den Dover, was replaced after insisting there was nothing amiss in paying his wife and daughter a reported £758,000 over nine years through a company for secretarial and support services.
A Conservative spokesman said the party would make no further comment until John Lyon, the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, made his decision on whether there was a case to be investigated.
Mr Lyon is expected to announce his decision within the next fortnight. Last week Mrs Spelman met Mr Lyon, to clear her name.
She took the unusual step of asking him to launch an inquiry, after the claims emerged.
In a statement Mr Lyon said he was “considering carefully” the matter but it would be “exceptional” for him to open an inquiry into matters more than seven years old, or which an MP had referred. Instead of throwing the complaint out, he will consult the Committee on Standards and Privileges before deciding whether to investigate.