Jacqui Smith - Standards and Privileges Committee Contents



4.  LETTER TO RT HON JACQUI SMITH MP FROM THE COMMISSIONER, 17 FEBRUARY 2009

I would welcome your response to a complaint I have received from Mrs Jessica Taplin about the identification of your residence in London as your main home for the purposes of your claims against the Additional Costs Allowance.

I attach a copy of Mrs Taplin's two letters to me of 16 February. In essence her complaint is that your London residence is not your main home as defined by the rules of the House, and that you should not, therefore, have so designated it for the purposes of your claims against the Additional Costs Allowance.

The Code of Conduct for Members of Parliament provides in paragraph 14 as follows:

"Members shall at all times ensure that their use of expenses, allowances, facilities and services provided from the public purse is strictly in accordance with the rules laid down on these matters, and that they observe any limits placed by the House on the use of such expenses, allowances, facilities and services."

Section 3 of the Green Book on Parliamentary Salaries, Allowances and Pensions published in July 2006 sets out the rules for the operation of the Additional Costs Allowance. Section 3.1.1 sets out the scope of the allowance as follows:

"The Additional Costs Allowance (ACA) reimburses Members of Parliament for expenses wholly, exclusively and necessarily incurred when staying overnight away from their main UK residence (referred to below as their main home) for the purpose of performing Parliamentary duties. This excludes expenses that have been incurred for purely personal or political purposes."

Paragraph Section 3.2.1 sets out the eligibility requirements as follows:

"You can claim ACA if:

a) You have stayed overnight in the UK away from your only or main home, and

b)This was for the purpose of performing your Parliamentary duties, and

c)You have necessarily incurred additional costs in so doing, and

d) You represent a constituency in outer London or outside London."

The principles of the allowance are set out in paragraphs 3.3.1 as follows:

"You must ensure that arrangements for your ACA claims are above reproach and that there can be no grounds for a suggestion of misuse of public money. Members should bear in mind the need to obtain value for money from accommodation, goods or services funded from the allowances."

and in 3.3.2:

"You must avoid any arrangement which may give rise to an accusation that you are, or someone close to you is, obtaining an immediate benefit or subsidy from public funds or that public money is being diverted for the benefit of a political organisation."

Section 3.11.1 gives the definition of the main home as follows:

"Main home

When you enter Parliament we will ask you to give the address of your main UK home on form ACA1 for the purposes of ACA and travel entitlements. Members are expected to locate their main homes in the UK. It is your responsibility to tell us if your main home changes. This will remain your main home unless you tell us otherwise.

"The location of your main home will normally be a matter of fact. If you have more than one home, your main home will normally be the one where you spend more nights than any other. If there is any doubt about which is your main home, please consult the Department of Finance and Administration."

I would welcome your response to the complaint, taking account of the rules which I have summarized above. In particular, it would be helpful if you would:

1.  set out the arrangements you have made for your accommodation in London, and in your constituency, including any changes to those arrangements in the last seven years;

2.  explain the nature of this accommodation in London; why you consider it to be one of your homes; and also why you consider it to be your main home;

3.  explain the nature of your accommodation in your constituency and why you consider it not to be your main home;

4.  set out separately for each of the last three years, and to the best of your recollection, the number of nights you have spent in your London residence, in your constituency residence, and elsewhere;

5.  explain what costs arising from your constituency residence you claim from parliamentary allowances;

6.  set out the nature of the discussions you have had with the House authorities about your arrangements.

Any other points you may wish to make would, of course, be very welcome.

I attach a note which sets out the procedures I follow. I am letting the complainant know that I have accepted her complaint and am writing to you about it. I shall also confirm this in response to any press enquiries and in replying to those who have written to me. It would be most helpful to have a response to this letter within the next three weeks. If there is any difficulty about that or you would like a word about any matter, do please get in touch with me at the House.

I would be very grateful for your help on this matter.

17 February 2009


 
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