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MPs' expenses: Andrew Turner claimed for 'life coaching' classes for his parliamentary assistant girlfriend

Conservative MP Andrew Turner used his office expenses to pay for his girlfriend, who is also his parliamentary assistant, to have "life coaching" classes.

 

Carole Dennett, who was described at an employment tribunal as becoming "fiery" after a "liquid lunch", wrote to the fees office that she hoped the 2005 general election would then pass "in an alcoholic blur".

Her boyfriend, Andrew Turner, also used his office expenses to fund "life coaching" classes for another member of staff.

Mr Turner, a former vice-chairman of the Tory party, has represented the Isle of Wight since 2001 and employs Miss Dennett to run his constituency office.

In 2004, he was ordered to pay £10,250 to Colin Hedgley, his former office manager, after a tribunal found he had been unfairly dismissed. He had been sacked at a disciplinary interview that he could not attend because he was off work through stress.

Mr Hedgley told the tribunal of a "poisonous" atmosphere in the office, and described how Miss Dennett had once subjected him to a 20-minute "tirade" that left his "knees knocking and his stomach churning".

Other employees gave evidence that Mr Turner was "very weak" and that Miss Dennett appeared "fiery", "especially when crossed or if she'd taken a liquid lunch".

After the tribunal chairman ruled that Mr Turner supported his girlfriend ahead of staff – even though her treatment of other workers was "far below acceptable" – Mr Turner used his incidental expenses provision, used to cover the costs of running a constituency office, to pay £6,471 of the compensation bill.

He had also claimed £940 for "HR advice and support" during the dispute with his former employee.

The month before the general election in 2005, Miss Dennett, in an email to the Commons fees office after they asked for bank account details, wrote: "Look forward to receiving the money – I shall then be able to spend it on lots of booze so that the forthcoming election goes in an alcoholic blur.

"What do you think?"

The following year, Mr Turner submitted a bundle of receipts for office goods that included £6 worth of wrapping paper bought from Matalan on Christmas Eve. The fees office did not question the claims.

He was also reimbursed £240 for a member of staff to study GCSE maths, but had a £424 claim for a camcorder and £20 for a leaving gift rejected. That summer Mr Turner put through a £160 invoice for a member of staff to have "life coaching (4 sessions)".

Mr Turner also submitted a £20 receipt for House of Commons cufflinks and £139 for a digital radio, even though he had bought another for £199 the previous year.

The couple designate their jointly owned house on the Isle of Wight as their second home, on which they claim about £1,100 a month in mortgage interest payments.

Mr Turner said in a statement: "All costs relating to industrial tribunals can be legitimately claimed against parliamentary expenses. All costs were fully agreed with the fees office."

Asked about the "booze" email, he replied: "In the cold light of day this could be judged as inappropriate but it was a private joke between two people who were in regular contact." He admitted the wrapping paper "should clearly have been crossed off the claim".

He said the life coaching was agreed in advance with the Commons. "Relationships between staff in my office are good," he added.

Andrew Turner

Job: backbench Conservative MP for the Isle of Wight

Salary: £64,766

Total second home claims

2004-05: £19,983

2005-06: £19,997

2006-07: £20,064

2007-08: £19,953

 
 
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