THE NEWBURY MP accused of leaving a hosepipe gushing water in his garden - just 24 hours into a countywide ban - has denied the "pathetic" allegations.

Richard Benyon, who is also an environment minister, became embroiled in the row when a Sunday newspaper photographed the hosepipe running for two hours in the grounds of his 20,000-acre family estate in Englefield.

But speaking to the Newbury and Thatcham Chronicle, Mr Benyon, who is in charge of water conservation, said: "It's just a pathetic attempt to do over a minister and in context of all the things that are going on, I can't believe the amount of publicity it has been given.

"I can confirm that no one, not I, not my family or anyone who works for me, has used that hose - or indeed any other hose - since the ban has come into effect and we have been compliant with all the restrictions introduced."

The minister at the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) added: "I will leave it for others to decide as to who would have turned that hosepipe on, and to what their motive may have been."

Englefield House has its own water supply and does not need to adhere to the ban, which applies to the nine million Thames Water customers in the Thames Valley and London. But Mr Benyon insisted his family are committed to preserving water and has still implemented the restrictions.

The hosepipe ban, which affects 20 million homes across the country, was introduced on Thursday and anyone who breaches it faces a �1,000 fine.

The national newspaper claims that a reporter spotted the 15ft hosepipe gushing water at the �3m stately home when it visited the Tory MP to discuss the hosepipe ban on Friday. Mr Benyon's wife, Zoe, was seen turning the hosepipe off around 30 minutes later.

The reporter denies turning on the hosepipe. But Mr Benyon has reported the incident to the police and a letter has been sent to the Press Complaints Commission, which deals with complaints about the editorial content of newspapers and magazines.