Jacqui Smith - Standards and Privileges Committee Contents


I am writing to seek your help in enquiries I am making into a complaint against Rt Hon Jacqui Smith MP in respect of the identification of her London residence as her main home for the purposes of claims she has made against the House of Commons Additional Costs Allowance.

In essence, the complaint I am investigating is that Ms Smith's London residence is not her main home as defined by the rules of the House and that she should not, therefore, have so designated it for the purposes of her claims against the Additional Costs Allowance.

A central feature in defining a Member's main home for the purposes of the rules for the allowance which applied at the time is that a Member's main home, if they have more than one home, will normally be the one where they spend more nights than any other.

I need, therefore, to identify as accurately and reliably as I can the number of nights which Ms Smith has spent at her London residence compared to the number of nights she has spent at her Redditch residence, recognizing that some nights of the year she will have spent at neither residence.

Exceptionally, senior officials have made available to me Ms Smith's official diaries. I have carefully checked with Ms Smith both these and her personal diaries. Together, these have given me a reasonable estimate of the number of nights Ms Smith has spent at each location in recent financial years. But if the police service had records which allowed you to identify with confidence the number of nights Ms Smith has spent in her London residence, and the number of nights she has spent in her Redditch residence between 28 June 2007 when she became Home Secretary and 31 March 2008, and also between 1 April 2008 and 31 March 2009, that could be most helpful in establishing the full pattern of Ms Smith's overnight stays during that period. I do not need to know the number of nights spent elsewhere as these are not central to the calculation.

Ms Smith has emphasised to me that accuracy in these matters is of paramount importance to her. These figures would only be of value to me if they could be produced with a high degree of assurance as to their accuracy, and if they could be produced within a reasonable timescale. I would not want to incur a disproportionate use of police resources.

I have consulted Ms Smith to seek her agreement to approaching you for this information. She has consulted senior officials. They have noted that they do not normally even confirm or deny whether individuals receive protection and certainly never reveal any details about the nature of that protection. They note it would be a highly unusual step to reveal any information relating to personal protection. They advise that senior politicians who accept protection as a necessary consequence of the job they do might look at it in a completely different way if in the future they thought that protection could be used to provide personal information to a third party. Senior officials therefore advised that they would much prefer it if police records were used only as a last resort. Ms Smith has said it is for me to judge whether to approach the Metropolitan Police Service and through you the West Mercia Constabulary with this request.

Given the central importance of this issue and against the possibility that the police may have wholly reliable information about Ms Smith's overnight stays, I have concluded that I should put this request to you so that I can, if possible, have as accurate a picture as possible of Ms Smith's overnight stays. I have informed Ms Smith that I am doing so.

I appreciate that some of this information may be held by another police force and, if that is so, I would be grateful if you could liaise with them as necessary.

I enclose a note which sets out the procedure I follow in seeking evidence from witnesses. As you will see, this request is classified personal and confidential and my request and your reply is subject to Parliamentary privilege. It should not be disclosed more widely. I would expect, however, to show your response to Ms Smith, and to include it, with any necessary redactions, in any memorandum I prepare for the House of Commons Committee on Standards and Privileges, who would normally expect to publish it with any report they produce.

I would very much welcome your help on this matter. If you consider that it will not be possible to produce figures to a sufficient degree of accuracy or within a reasonable timescale or at a manageable cost, I would appreciate early notification of this.

22 April 2009

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2009
Prepared 12 October 2009