Claire Ward has issued a comprehensive statement to explain her expenses claims, revealing she lives in Westminster on Monday to Thursday and in Watford at the weekends.

The Watford MP has sought to answer the question of why she has a second home when so many people commute into London every day.

Her statement said:

"When I was elected in 1997, I promised to live in Watford and I moved into a flat as my only and main home. However the House of Commons had no routine time for finishing in the evenings and on most nights the House would finish after 10.30pm frequently sitting until the early hours of the morning.

"Initially I commuted by train or car to my home in Watford. As trains are very infrequent in the early hours of the morning and driving whilst extremely tired is rightly frowned upon I began to use the allowances to stay in hotels.

"However, not knowing when the House would sit late or when the business would collapse early meant that sometimes I had a hotel booked when I could have come back to Watford. At other times without a hotel arranged I ended up sleeping in my office. This was not a satisfactory arrangement and certainly would not help anyone to perform at their best.

"I therefore claimed the allowance for a second home in London, as I was entitled to do, to enable me to use my time in Westminster as effectively as possible. MPs have two places of work – Westminster and their constituency and they must divide their time between the two.

"I was married in 2003 and like most couples we were keen to have a family. In 2004 I moved my second home from a small one bedroom flat to a two bedroom flat in Westminster. I paid the stamp duty and the capital gains tax. Although the hours of the House of Commons had changed and there were fewer all night sittings, it had been agreed that any changes were temporary until the new parliament.

"From the start of the new Parliament in 2005, the House of Commons has been sitting on Mondays and Tuesdays at least until 10.30pm, on Wednesdays at least until 7.30pm and on Thursdays until 6.30pm.

"By the time I was re-elected in 2005, I had a child on the way and I had planned to continue dividing my time between Westminster and Watford to maximise my working hours and family time. My first child was born in 2005, though sadly she was still born.

"Following that election I was also appointed as a Government Whip, a post I continue to hold today, which requires me to be in Parliament for longer hours than most MPs.

"I take my duties as an MP very seriously and I have always sought to do the best possible job in representing the people of Watford but I make no apology for having a far greater duty to my children. I believe that it is essential in any democracy that our Parliament should have people from all walks of life and all stages of life. Combining a family and a job with late hours is difficult but I try to balance the two.

"On nights when the Commons sits until late, I try to return to my Westminster flat to see the children at lunchtime or bedtime before returning to work. If they were permanently in Watford that would not be possible. As they are young, they are also in a position to travel between my two places of work. So on a Friday they are in a nursery in the constituency (until recently both were but only my daughter is currently at the nursery).

"We are then in Watford as a family until we return to Westminster for the start of the parliamentary week on a Monday. It does mean that my children have a pretty hectic life but I have to decide whether it is better to do that than not see them at all during the week when I would be working in Westminster for long hours and undertaking constituency engagements for considerable amounts of the weekend in Watford."