Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Third Report


Annex E

Letter to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards

from Mr Michael Trend MP

Thank you for your letter of 6 January. I set out below my account of the events which led up to the complaints made against me. If you would like further details please let me know.

At the time of my election to Parliament in April 1992, my main residence was a house that I owned in London. Since my selection as a candidate in April 1990 I had been renting a flat in Windsor; following the election, I rented a house in Windsor, but I continued to own the London house. I was told by the Fees Office that ACA could be claimed in respect of accommodation either in London or in the constituency, and that I therefore needed to nominate one of my addresses as 'home' for the purposes of the allowance. At this time I nominated London, and claimed the allowance in respect of the rented house in Windsor.

In 1993, I sold the London house, and made arrangements for alternative accommodation in London. In the 1992 parliament I used to stay overnight in London frequently, in the next parliament less often, and since 2001 rarely. This reflects changes in my own life, and in the sitting hours of the House. It was, however, my expectation that I would need to stay in London more frequently in the future, due to the recent changes in hours, especially the much earlier starts to formal business.

In April 1994, I bought my present house in Windsor. For the purposes of ACA , my 'home' continued to be London, and I claimed the allowance in respect of the Windsor house.

Over the years, I had several conversations with the Fees Office about ACA. My understanding was that the arrangement I had made was allowed within the rules, and I checked this with them whenever my circumstances changed. I remember clearly the conversation I had with the Fees Office at the same time of my move to my present address in Windsor, in which I pointed out the precise nature of my circumstances. I was told that my claim for ACA could properly continued , and indeed the Fees Office advised me that, because mortgage interest was an expense properly chargeable against the allowance, I should go for an endowment mortgage rather than a repayment mortgage.

It was at all times my honest and sincere belief that my claiming ACA was in accordance with the rules. This belief was supported by my conversations with the Fees Office.

On 15th December 2002, the Mail on Sunday published a story alleging that I had for many years been claiming ACA in respect of a London property which did not exist, and when I seldom spent the night in London. This is also the allegation made in the complaints against me submitted to the parliamentary commissioner.

At the earliest opportunity, I checked my arrangements with Mr Archie Cameron of the Fees Office, who confirmed, of course, that all these allegations were false, since I had at no time claimed ACA in respect of any London residence.

In the course of my conversation, Mr Cameron told me that, the Windsor house having become my main residence, I should not have claimed ACA in respect of it. I was dismayed and very upset by this, because I had always acted in good faith in the belief that my conduct was perfectly proper.

However, I accepted what I was told by the Fees Office in December, and determined to put the matter right without delay. I enclose copies of letters exchanged between us, which show that my offer to pay the whole sum was accepted by the Fees Office, and that they now regard the matter as closed. My outstanding account with them has been settled in full.

My mistaken understanding of the effect of the rules concerning ACA was a belief honestly and genuinely held. However, I deeply regret having found myself in this position and have sincerely apologised for it.

21 January 2003




Attachment 1 Letter to Mr Archie Cameron, Director of Operations, Department of Finance and Administration,

from Mr Michael Trend MP

I am now clear that I had a misunderstanding, honestly and genuinely held, about the terms of the ACA. As a result, I made claims on my Windsor residence which I now realise fall outside those terms. I very much regret this happened and I would like to offer my apologies to the House. I, of course, wish to set the matter right at once and I have offered to pay whatever is outstanding which I understand is £90,277. I understand that the House authorities are content for me to do so.

I am grateful to you for your help in this matter.

19 December 2002




Attachment 2 Letter to Mr Michael Trend MP

from Mr Archie Cameron, Director of Operations, Department of Finance and Administration

  

Thank you for your letter of 19th December 2002 in which you state that you now realise that you made claims on your Windsor residence which were not in accordance with the terms of the ACA and that you are anxious to pay the sum in question.

I am grateful to you for bringing this matter, which I now regard as closed, so speedily to a conclusion by making prompt arrangements to repay the sum in full. Once the sum is paid in full your outstanding account will be settled.

19 December 2002





 
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