Did a minister call Cameron a '****ing toff' in the Commons?

Enlarge   Work and Pensions Minister Anne McGuire is accused of swearing at David Cameron in a during the MP's expenses vote

Work and Pensions Minister Anne McGuire is accused of swearing at David Cameron in a during the MP's expenses vote

A woman minister was accused last night of using an obscenity at David Cameron during the controversial vote on MPs' expenses.

Accounts of extraordinary scenes of class envy in the Chamber, which would take British politics to a new low, emerged yesterday.

The Tory leader's aides claimed Anne McGuire called him a 'f***ing toff ' in response to a taunt to Labour MPs. It is said she used the insult in the crowded division lobby on Thursday night.

The confrontation echoed a blistering exchange between Shadow Chancellor George Osborne and one of Gordon Brown's lieutenants moments earlier.

According to the Tory version of events, Mr Cameron told Labour MPs around him 'you have voted for the John Lewis list' - a reference to the taxpayer-funded scheme for furnishing second homes used by MPs.

Mrs McGuire, a junior minister in the Department for Work and Pensions, is said to have responded to the provocation by muttering 'f****** toff' under her breath but loud enough to be heard, the Tories say.

Mrs McGuire, 59, is the MP for Stirling in Scotland. She was considered a Blairite with a sharp sense of humour. Last night she said she was being deliberately misquoted. 'I utterly deny that I said that to him. It is untrue,' she said.

'He was behind me and he made some crack about the John Lewis list and I said "we didn't vote for the John Lewis list David". I don't know how he managed to manufacture an altercation when it didn't happen. And that is not how I address people.'

Her alleged barb followed a similar incident when Ian Austin, Mr Brown's parliamentary aide, is said to have told the Shadow Chancellor to 'f*** off, you toff' after Mr Osborne said 'what you are doing is a complete disgrace'.

According to the Tories, Mr Austin and Labour whip Tommy McAvoy called to colleagues: 'Come this way, comrades'. Mr Austin is alleged to have said to Mr Osborne: 'You should come and join us'.

Mr Osborne replied: 'What you are doing is a complete disgrace.'

Mr Austin apparently responded: 'f*** off, you toff.' The MP for Dudley and a veteran political bruiser, has denied the insult.

He said: 'I did not swear at him. Although I think he's a toff, I didn't say he was one. All I did was refer to him as a multi-millionaire' - a reference to Mr Osborne's wealth as the heir to the Osborne and Little wallpaper fortune.

It is not unusual for Labour and Tory MPs to exchange taunts and insults in the scrum that comes when a Commons division is called.

But the class-based venom in the exchanges will be seen as evidence of the growing bitterness at Westminster between the two sides.

The clashes came during Thursday's votes on the second homes allowance, which allows MPs to charge home furnishings and utility bills to the taxpayer.

Just hours after backing Mr Brown's calls for pay restraint and voting against a recommended ten per cent salary rise, MPs voted to keep their £24,000-a-year second homes allowance. And they rejected moves to subject their allowances to external audits following recent scandals.

MPs said they wanted to spare the taxpayer the cost of accountants to scrutinise their expenses and objected to replacing the allowance with a £30-a-day stipend.

But they also approved a plan to charge the taxpayer an extra £3.2million a year to get bigger and better offices in their constituencies.

The Members' Estimates Committee had recommended changes to the system in the wake of a series of scandals. Liberal Democrat Nick Harvey, one of its members, was scathing over the result. 'It was a total own goal on the part of the Commons,' he said.

Matthew Elliott, chief executive of the TaxPayers' Alliance, said: 'By clinging on to the plasma screen TVs and luxury kitchens allowed by the "John Lewis list" they have shown astonishing arrogance and disregard for people's concerns.'

Labour former minister Peter Kilfoyle, who voted against the reforms, said that he had objected to outside auditors.

'Why should somebody come around my office and do an effective time and motion study on my staff when I am technically self-employed?' he said.

Downing Street said Mr Brown missed the vote after being told by Whips that his vote would not make a difference to the result.

Woman in the news                                                               Anne McGuire entered the Commons when she defeated the then Secretary of State for Scotland in 1997.

In the Labour general election landslide, she won the Stirling seat that had been Michael Forsyth's for 14 years and has steadily risen through the ranks.

Within six months, the mother-of-two who is married to an accountant, became a Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Scottish Secretary.

She was handed various jobs until, in 2005, she moved to the Department of Works and Pensions as Minister for the Disabled.

A trained teacher, she has worked mostly in the voluntary sector and had been Depute Director of the Scottish Council of Voluntary Organisations before being elected.

There she has worked primarily with disadvantaged youngsters and adults with learning difficulties.

Mrs McGuire has been a senior member of Labour's Scottish Executive and was its chairman in 1992-1993.

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