MP Claire Ward has defended her decision to claim more than £95,000 in expenses to fund a second home – despite living less than 30 miles from Parliament.

Figures show Ms Ward claimed a total of £95,694 in Additional Costs Allowance (ACA) between 2002 and 2007.

The ACA – one of many lucrative Parliamentary perks – is designed to cover the costs incurred by MPs living many miles from their constituency homes.

Members can claim up to £24,006 in mortgage, hotel, insurance, cleaning, utility bills and repairs each year – an arrangement critics claim is open to flagrant abuse.

Claimants can, for example, use the allowance to pay mortgage expenses for rarely used (or unlived in) properties. These properties can later be sold and the profits pocketed.

Government Minister and Harrow MP Tony McNulty was pilloried this week for his decision to claim £60,000 to fund his parents’ home during the same period.

Ms Ward, however, defended her claim. She told the Watford Observer: “The reason I have a second home is to allow me to be able to work in Westminster, which includes a lot of late nights.

“I am a Government whip which means I tend to be in the house for longer periods than other MPs. My second home allows me to balance my work with seeing my family.

“I understand a lot of other people also work very long hours too but MPs often work until around 10.30pm at night. I often have to come back to the House very early the next morning.”

Asked whether taxpayers’ money would be better spent on alternative solutions, such as hotel accommodation of taxi rides, Ms Ward stressed the need to await the findings of an inquiry by the Committee for Standards in Public Life.

She also criticised the media coverage of the matter. She said: “It is unacceptable for the press to say MPs pocket all the allowances they are given. Most allowances never pass through their hands and go on running their offices.”

According to parliamentary figures other local MPs claimed as follows:

  • James Clappison MP, Hertsmere, £79,963
  • Mike Penning MP, Hemel Hempstead, £43,744 (elected 2005)
  • David Gauke MP, South West Herts, £16,038 (elected 2005)

What do you think? Do you believe MPs should be allowed to claim such second home expenses? Let us know by commenting below.