Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Third Report


Annex G

Letter to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards

from Mr Michael Trend MP

Thank you for your letter of 22 January. I shall deal with the numbered points that you raise, in the same order.

1.  ACA was initially explained to me at a briefing on financial matters, of a sort given at that time to all new members shortly after their election. This took place at the Fees Office, which was then in Dean's Yard, but I have no record of the date, nor do I know the name of the person who spoke to me. My understanding of ACA following that briefing was in substance what I set out in my earlier letter—namely that, since I was an out-of-London MP with two places of work, I could claim ACA in respect of accommodation either in London or in my constituency; that I needed to nominate one of my addresses as 'home' for the purposes of the allowance, and that I could then claim ACA in respect of expenses incurred in the other. I did not understand that I was supposed to assess whether London or Windsor was my "main residence", and that only my "main residence" could be designated as 'home' for ACA.

Until my conversation with Mr Archie Cameron in December 2002, my later discussions about ACA with the Fees Office were all on the telephone, and I have no details either of dates or of the names of the people I spoke to. I can say that when I had the conversation about my buying my house in Windsor (the conversation in which I was given advice as to which type of mortgage was better from the point of view of claiming ACA) there could have been absolutely no doubt that the Windsor house was going to be my "main residence".

2.  The description given in my earlier letter of the pattern of my overnight stays in London—in the 1992 parliament frequently, in the next parliament less often, and since 2001 rarely—is my own honest recollection. I have no diary of the period which would enable me to give more details.

3.  You ask how could I understand that my main home could continue to be in London for the purposes of ACA, even after I had bought my house in Windsor. This was not my understanding. Had I asked myself, after I bought the house in Windsor, whether London or Windsor was my "main residence", I would certainly have said that it was Windsor. I did not ask myself that question, because (as I have explained above) I did not understand that ACA could only properly be claimed in respect of a property that was not my "main residence". I believed that I could properly continue to designate London as 'home' for the purposes of ACA, even though, in domestic terms, Windsor had become my "main residence".

4.  I never discussed the "definition" of my main home with the Fees Office at any time, nor was this the purpose of my meeting with Mr Cameron following publication of the Mail on Sunday story. When I first became aware of the Mail on Sunday allegations, my reaction was just to say that they had got it wrong. They were accusing me of claiming allowances for a London property—but I was not doing so, and never had. I went to see Mr Cameron to confirm that this was right. This, of course, he did, but he also explained to me the significance of identifying my "main residence" for the purposes of ACA, which I had not previously understood.

27 January 2003





 
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