NORTH Wiltshire MP James Gray has defended his decision to hire his lover Phillipa Mayo as his diary secretary.

Mother-of-three Ms Mayo will now take on the position that was once held by Mr Gray's ex-wife Sarah.

Mr Gray said: "This is a very straight forward matter - a secretary left my employment at Christmas and I needed a replacement.

"I wrote to 150 local members of the party and told them what I intended to do and I have complete party approval.

"Phillipa is fully capable of taking on this role and is high qualified.

"This is all above board and I am just trying to be as transparent as possible."

Since the announcement last month, some of Mr Gray's constituents have slammed the MP for his inappropriate action'.

Ken Edwin-Scott, from Kington Langley, said: "I feel that his latest action is beyond belief - he has now switched his diary secretary salary from his ex-wife, now that she is divorcing him, and transferred it to his mistress.

"I understand that he has, in addition, a full time secretary in Westminster, part time secretary in the constituency, a parliamentary researcher and a part time agent.

"All of these are paid for by us, the taxpayer, out of his parliamentary expenses'. How can he possibly justify all this staff?

"He is most certainly not fit for office and I feel that David Cameron would certainly condone this action to save further embarrassment to the party."

Mr Gray came under fire for his relationship with Ms Mayo, a former countryside campaigner, when he admitted the affair in 2006.

At the time his ex-wife was undergoing treatment for breast cancer.

Spokesman for the North Wiltshire Conservative Association Eddy Shah said: "Everything has been done above board and nothing illegal has taken place.

"I think the timing is the only error in judgement in James' decision and he should perhaps have waited.

"It is logical to have one's partner as your diary secretary because they know where you are all the time and can organise your life for you.

"We all need to be transparent with what we are doing and this is just an example of that.

"At the end of the day James is a bloody good MP."