ESTHER McVey has hit back at criticism that she has claimed tens of thousands of pounds in expenses to rent a London flat despite her husband owning a property a mile away.

The Tatton MP, who was appointed ‘minister for common sense’ last year, has received £39,000 in taxpayers’ money to rent the flat over the last two years.

She lives there with her husband, Tory MP Philip Davies.

The Daily Telegraph, which first reported the story alongside the campaign group Led By Donkeys, said McVey and Davies had been claiming expenses on the property since 2017 and could have received as much as £250,000 from the taxpayer.

Davies owns and lets out a flat about 25 minutes’ walk away in Waterloo.

In his register of interests, Davies has declared an annual income of more than £10,000 from this property.

Davies told Led By Donkeys he would have been happy to continue claiming mortgage costs on the flat he owns, “but that option was removed from me”.

Knutsford Guardian: Tatton MP Esther McVeyTatton MP Esther McVey (Image: Esther McVey)

Tatton MP Ms McVey said all this information has been in the public domain for 10 years and claims the allegations are 'baseless smears against Conservatives'.

She said: "This situation was forced on Philip by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) - it was not through any choice of his.

“The flat he ‘owns’ is not mortgage free - if it was we would happily stay there without having to charge the taxpayer rent whilst we are working away from home in London.

“Our home is in Tatton which we pay for like everybody else does.

“Does anyone really believe that workers who work away from home should pay for their accommodation costs when doing so? As that is what this seems to be suggesting.

“Does anyone pay for their accommodation costs when working away from home or do they expect their employer to cover those expenses?

“As Philip wouldn’t be allowed to reclaim his mortgage payments on the flat, then what people are saying is that we should cover the cost of working away from home ourselves.

Knutsford Guardian: MP Philip DaviesMP Philip Davies (Image: Newsquest)

“That regime would set workers’ rights back decades and make Parliament the preserve of just the very wealthy.

“That is a strange principle for a left-wing publication to take.

“However, I think we all know the people behind this story don’t really believe that - it just likes to publish baseless smears against Conservatives.

“All of this information has been in the public domain for a decade, as it is all published, and it has never come up before because everybody knows - including the journalists behind the story - that there is no story.

“As we approach an election they are trying to smear their political opponents, and hope that mud sticks.”

After the 2009 expenses scandal, rules were changed so that MPs could not claim their mortgage payments back from the taxpayer.

Ms McVey and Mr Davies are not breaking any rules but it raises questions about whether the arrangement represents value for money.

As a minister, Ms McVey has repeatedly railed against Whitehall waste.

Last year she wrote in the Daily Mail that she did not “want you to see a single penny of your hard-earned cash wasted on unnecessary public spending”.

In February she told GB News she had written to independent government agencies asking them to spend more efficiently.

“We want to make sure there isn’t any waste, “ she said. “You can’t put up taxpayers’ bills and ask the government for more money, and yet not get rid of wasteful spending yourself.”

According to IPSA, the watchdog created after the expenses scandal, both MPs claim rent for a property in London.

Led By Donkeys has highlighted the cases of several parliamentarians who own and let out properties in London while at the same claiming expenses to rent flats in the capital.

The group said at least another eight MPs were claiming rent in London while also registering income from letting out their own properties in the city, claiming more than £1m in rental expenses since 2017.

Mr Davies told Led By Donkeys: “If I owned the flat outright and I could stay there without incurring any cost then I would agree that I should do that, but that doesn’t remotely apply in my case.

“As far as I am aware, all workplaces cover the accommodation costs of people working away from home, and I am surprised you think that should no longer be the case.

“That, of course, will lead to only the wealthiest people in the country being able to become MPs.”