Horsham MP Francis Maude has said it is ‘completely appropriate’ to rent his constituency office from the town’s Conservative Association.
Last year Mr Maude, a Conservative MP, paid £10,439 to the Horsham Conservative Association for renting his constituency office at Gough House in Madeira Avenue, according to figures released by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority.
Several readers approached the County Times to express their concern at the practice, which is within the current rules, asking whether taxpayer-funded expenses should be paid to a political party.
Mr Maude explained: “It’s completely appropriate and it means that for my constituents there is an office in the constituency.
“The amount paid covers both the rent and the services provided there which I use regularly which is worth having.
“I have quite a lot of meetings there and [it acts] as a point of contact.”
He said that there was a clear separation between political activity and his work as a constituency MP for Horsham.
His office said the fact that he paid £10,439 in rent and services was a matter of public record.
News of hundreds of MPs renting office space from their constituency offices from local party headquarters hit the national headlines this week.
Mr Maude, as minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster General, was one of ten ministers reported as engaging in the practice.
Under the IPSA system rent levels are independently assessed to ensure they are in line with local market rates.
After the expenses scandal in 2009 Sir Christopher Kelly’s report did not call for a ban, but recommended a more robust audit was introduced to ensure expenses were not being used to benefit any party political organisations.
Bernard Jenkin, a Conservative MP and chairman of the Public Administration Select Committee, called for the practice to be banned earlier this year.
In Sir Christopher’s report, published in November 2009, Mr Jenkin said: “There must be no impression that parliamentary expenses are being used as back-door funding for political parties.”
This week it was also revealed that Mr Maude claimed £803.29 on expenses for his energy bills at his second home between April 2012 and March 2013 (report, page 28).
The Horsham Conservative Association was approached for comment about the office rental arrangement but at the time of publication had not responded.