Jacqui Smith - Standards and Privileges Committee Contents


I am pleased to provide you with the information you request about the number of nights I have spent in London and in Redditch on the basis of each of the last financial years. My best estimate, having referred to both ministerial and personal diaries and according to my own recollection, is as follows.


142 nights in London

130 nights in Redditch

55 nights on ministerial or personal trips


150 nights in London

133 nights in Redditch

82 nights on ministerial or personal trips


157 nights in London

147 nights in Redditch

62 nights on ministerial or personal trips


146 nights in London

155 nights in Redditch

64 nights on ministerial or personal trips

In terms of the figures for the current financial year (2008/09), you will note that had one more night per month been spent in London rather than in Redditch the balance would have been more than reversed.

On the basis of these figures, I maintain the position I set out in my letter to you of 24 February that I made a wholly reasonable judgement that I would spend more nights in London than at any other property. I based that judgement on:

  1. Previous rules, in place until February 2004, that assumed a Minister's main home would be in London.
  2. My experience of previous financial years, in which I spent more nights in London than in Redditch.
  3. My expectation, as Home Secretary, that I would need to be in London with no warning and could therefore spend more rather than less time in my London home.

My letter of 24 February also identified two important factors in how my role as Home Secretary has affected the balance of nights spent in London and in Redditch. The first is that I have undertaken more Ministerial trips overseas. As these largely take place during the working week, they will tend to reduce the number of "London nights". The second is that there are many times when I have departed very early from Redditch or arrived very late in Redditch. These days have obviously been spent in London, and had I not been able to depend on a ministerial car in Redditch, I certainly would have spent these nights in London as well.

You raise the issue of my police protection. I have considered your request carefully, in view of the important issues it raises for the relationship between protection officers and the principals whom they protect, and in view of the potential implications your request may have for others who are covered by protection arrangements.

Given these wider implications for protection arrangements, I sought advice from Sir David Normington, the Home Office Permanent Secretary, on how to respond to your request. Having discussed the matter with the Cabinet Office, Sir David's response is attached. You will wish to judge whether to approach the Metropolitan Police Service and, through them, the West Mercia Constabulary, along the lines you propose.

Having no familiarity with the type of records which may be held, however, I am not in a position to judge how accurate they may be. As you will appreciate, accuracy in these matters is of paramount importance to me.

My own view is that the most accurate records for my movements are my Ministerial and personal diaries, supported by my own personal recollection. In the instance of providing access to a Home Secretary's Ministerial diary—a document maintained and owned by the Home Office—I understand this would be an unprecedented step, but I would be very happy to arrange an opportunity for us to go through this and my other diaries for the years in question.

You ask in your letter whether I consider my claims under the Additional Cost Allowance criterion are justified given that I already owned a home in Redditch. My interpretation of this condition has always been that the "additional" element related to additional costs involved in having to have two homes in order to carry out both parliamentary and constituency duties. I have never interpreted "additional" as being about whether a particular home was added after election to Parliament.

When I was elected to Parliament I needed to have a residence in London too—the distance for commuting is too great. There was a genuine need for an additional residence and the nomination for which was to be my main residence only changed when I became a Minister in line with the rules at the time.

However, the fact that I have maintained a home in Redditch—in addition to my home in London—is of course directly related to my role as a Member of Parliament. If I wasn't an MP, I would only need one home and may well have sold my Redditch home to move elsewhere. I, therefore, believe that the costs that I have claimed for my Redditch home have been precisely to enable me to stay overnight in my constituency.

I hope that you find this clarification and the new figures helpful. Please do not hesitate to contact me again should you require further information. As ever I am very keen for this matter to be resolved as quickly as possible.

26 March 2009

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