A former government chief whip was told by the Commons authorities that allowing the Labour Party to pay for and run a computer at her taxpayer-funded home could make her “politically vulnerable”.
A Commons official added that she should be careful, “particularly in the run-up to an election”.
Hilary Armstrong, the MP for North West Durham, also claimed £3,100 towards the cost of repointing the gables and walls on her constituency home.
The Green Book rules state that MPs must avoid any suggestion “that public money is being diverted for the benefit of a political organisation”.
A note of a conversation with Mrs Armstrong written on fees office notepaper discloses that officials were uneasy about the former Cabinet minister claiming for the computer on her expenses. The official wrote on June 22, 2004: “I said that we were uneasy about her providing a desk and computer for party use in ACA home.
“It conflicted with the ‘wholly, exclusively + necessarily incurred’ requirement. Could make her politically vulnerable. Mrs Armstrong said party had no office in her constituency. What else could they do?”
The pair discussed “redesignating her North East home as her main property” so that she could install the computer at her own expense.
The official added: “Currently she has designated London as her main home. Mortgage on London is in her husband’s name. Change now would mean reallocating the mortgage. The risk was probably not huge, provided that she was careful particularly in the run-up to an election.”