A GOVERNMENT whip was today embroiled in the growing expenses row after claiming thousands of pounds for a second London home despite already having one within 10 miles of Westminster.
Assistant government whip Dawn Butler has claimed £37,245 in taxpayers' cash in two years to pay for a second property.
The Labour MP for Brent South has a house in Wembley, aboutnine miles or a 32-minute Tube journey to Westminster, and a home in Stratford, about eight miles or a 24-minute Tube ride.
She was today facing questions over why she needed the two homes, which are almost exactly the same distance from the Houses of Parliament. Her office has stressed in the past that she moved into the Wembley house after being elected in 2005 to allow her to serve her constituents.
Ms Butler is the second government member to come under fire this week over second home allowances after it emerged Employment Minister Tony McNulty claimed £60,000 for a house in Harrow where his parents live.
Opposition MPs and Ms Butler's neighbours today criticised her housing arrangements.
Greg Hands, Tory MP for Hammersmith & Fulham, said: "These allegations raise further questions. Gordon Brown needs to get a grip on his ministers and their expense claims."
Mark Jansen, 26, who lives two doors from Ms Butler's Stratford home, said: "Most taxpayers can't even afford houses at the moment and yet an elected MP, who is meant to represent us, has two. That just doesn't seem fair, especially in the current financial climate."
Ms Butler claimed £15,442 in second home allowance in 2005/06 and £21,803 in 2006/07. As an assistant government whip, she is entitled to an annual salary of nearly £90,000 including her MP's entitlement of £63,291. Her total expenses' claim, which includes staffing, office, travel, postage, second home and other costs, was £285,356 over two years.
Ms Butler bought the three-bedroom, mid-terrace Wembley home for £250,000 in 2006. It is now valued at about £260,000. Her two-bedroom terrace Str atford home, believed to be the family home she lived in before becoming an MP, is worth around £235,000.
Neighbours today said she is rarely at the Stratford home. Jose Gomes, 40, has lived next door for 14 years. He said: "I used to see her all the time, now I only see her every couple of months. Her brother's here occasionally."
Her neighbours in Wembley said they regularly see her and that she spends the majority of her time there. Speaking at her Wembley home today, Ms Butler declined to answer questions from The Standard about her use of the second home allowance. She said: "I totally resent you coming to my private home. Have some respect. How dare you."
Her spokesman has previously justified the expenses claim and said: "When she was elected she moved straight into the constituency and the [allowance] helps her to do that."
The Prime Minister has backed an inquiry into MPs' expenses by the Committee on Standards in Public Life, and has sought to widen it to include work carried out by politicians outside Parliament.
A number of Tory frontbenchers have lucrative directorships which have been criticised by other MPs.