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Review of past ACA Payments - Members Estimate Committee Contents


Annex: Individual decisions


Annex: ACA Repayment Appeals

Baroness Irene Adams of Craigielea

In your case the ACA Review takes 2 points -

1)  That in 2004-05 you were paid cleaning cost of £2,895, £895 more than the £2,000 which the ACA Review has chosen as the annual limit. It therefore recommends repayment of £895.

2)  That you should provide mortgage interest statements to support payments of £4,110 made to you for the period of April 2004 - April 2005.

You appealed to me in respect of both matters. As to cleaning you pointed out that in 2004-05 there was no £2,000 limit, the amount claimed was paid in good faith to a cleaning contractor and the claim was accepted without challenge by the Fees Office. All of that I accept. You say that it would be wholly unjust to change the rules retrospectively in relations to expenses incurred during the lifetime of a Parliament dissolved in April 2005. I understand your point, but my carefully restricted terms of reference do not permit me to address it. For convenience a copy of my Terms of Reference is enclosed. They only allow me to consider whether there are special reasons in your individual case which show that it would not be fair and equitable to require repayment. You have given me no such reasons. The £2,000 limit for cleaning expenses has been applied by the ACA Review to all Members.

Turning to the ACA Review requirement to provide mortgage interest statements for the period April 2004 - April 2005, you say that your "statement of 2004-05 was at that time submitted" to the Fees Office, and you assume that they still have it. Obviously it was not available to the ACA Review, and even though you changed from Northern Rock in 2007 and no longer have the records yourself I fail to see why it would be difficult for you to get the information from Northern Rock in time to meet the ACA Review deadline.

I would therefore dismiss your appeal.

My report to the MEC will be in the form of an introductory section, followed by copies of my replies to the individual appellants, so this reply will form part of my report.

Rt Hon Michael Ancram QC DL MP

In your case the ACA Review recommends repayment in respect of 3 categories of expenditure, one of which you accept as appropriate. The other 2 are -

1)  Cleaning costs of £11,250 over 4 years 2004-08, which exceed by £3,250 the annual recoverable limit of £2,000 chosen by the ACA Review.

2)  Gardening costs of £5,702.34 over 3 years 2005-08, which exceed by £2,702.34 the annual recoverable limit of £1,000 chosen by the ACA Review.

You appeal to me in relation to both categories. You say that all of the expenditure was incurred at a time when there was no prescribed limit. You say that the limits chosen by the ACA Review are arbitrary and retrospective, and that they take no account of realities, such as the location of a second home, local rates of pay, and whether the second home is used to benefit constituents. I agree with all of that, but the ACA Review has explained why it considered it appropriate to impose limits and my carefully restricted Terms of Reference do not permit me to re-open that part of the ACA Review decision. For convenience a copy of my Terms of Reference is enclosed. They only allow me to consider whether there are special reasons in your individual case which show that it would not be fair and equitable to require repayment. You have given me no such reasons. The £2,000 limit for cleaning expenses has been applied by the ACA Review to all Members.

You point out that in most years you have not claimed up to the ACA annual limit, and that there were other items you might legitimately have claimed had you known that cleaning and gardening costs were to be restricted, but you were anxious to take account of the interests of the taxpayer. I accept that, but I cannot set off the sums now identified for repayment against expenses which you might properly have claimed when in fact you did not do so and the Fees Office has therefore had no opportunity to test the validity of those claims.

I have ignored the £2,000 error in the ACA Review letter of 11 December 2009 because it has not been repeated in the Review itself.

I would therefore dismiss your appeal.

My report to the MEC will be in the form of an introductory section, followed by copies of my replies to the individual appellants, so this reply will form part of my report.

Ms Vera Baird QC MP

The ACA Review states that you were overpaid by £1,279.23 for mortgage interest in 2008-2009, and recommends that you repay that sum.

In your Grounds of Appeal to me, you explain that because your mortgage lender did not provide regular month by month statements of interest paid, you used one such statement repeatedly as the basis for seeking recovery from the Fees Office recognising, as did the Fees Office, that any discrepancy could be rectified at the end of the accounting year. In fact, no year end rectification took place, but it is now clear that you underclaimed for each year up to April 2008 and overclaimed for the year 2008-2009, roughly as alleged. Nevertheless over the 5 year period 2004 to 2009 you underclaimed by £368.73, so, you contend, the public purses has suffered no loss, and you should not be recommended to repay.

If the facts are as you contend, and I have no reason to believe that they are not, then I agree with you. I recognise that for accountancy purposes, closure dates are important, and it may be said to have been careless of you not to bring your claims up to date at the end of each financial year, but what matters to me is that overall you only claimed for payments which you were entitled to recover. I therefore find that in your case that there are special reasons why it would not be fair and equitable to require any repayment, and I would allow your appeal.

My report to the MEC will be in the form of an introductory section, followed by copies of my replies to the individual appellants, so this reply will form part of my report.

Mr John Baron MP

The ACA Review recommends repayment of the ACA payments for the mortgage interest in respect of the increased loan of £34,035 which were paid to you between 2004 and 2009, a total of £8,821.10.

You accept that, as stated in the ACA Review, you extended your mortgage on your constituency house in June 2004 by £34,035. You say that was done "in order not to claim for many allowable expenses which I was incurring" and which, if claimed, would have far exceeded the mortgage interest claimed on the increased debt. You say that the arrangement was agreed in advance in correspondence with one identified member of the Fees Office on 7 June 2003, following telephone conversations with another identified member of the Fees Office in the spring of 2003. You then draw my attention to certain types of recoverable expenses which you did not claim.

In your appeal to me you say that there should be no repayment, for the reasons set out above, but I am not persuaded by your arguments.

For present purposes I am prepared to accept that in 2003 you did canvas your proposed course of action with 2 separate representatives of the Fees Office (although I have not seen the letter of 7 June 2003 or heard from either identified member of that office). But whatever approval you may believe that you obtained, what you were proposing was plainly contrary to the provisions of the Green Book (2003 edition), which at paragraph 3.12.1 stated to be not allowable "interest on any additional mortgages, advances or loans secured on the same property". Interest on increases in mortgages was subsequently expressed to be recoverable where the increased loan was obtained for the repair or improvement of the property, but that has no application to your case. In his introduction to the Green Book, the Speaker advised Members to read it with care and to "seek advice in cases of doubt". He did not suggest that office staff could waive rules which were clear, and in the present case there was no room for doubt.

As to your alternative argument, I cannot accept that interest charges wrongly claimed and paid should be set off against other types of claim which could have been made but which were not made at the proper time and tested by the Fees Office.

I would therefore dismiss your appeal.

My report to the MEC will be in the form of an introductory section, followed by copies of my replies to the individual appellants, so this reply will form part of my report.

Mr Nigel Beard

The ACA Review states that in 2004-2005 you recovered £2,979.96 in respect of cleaning costs, which exceeds by £979.96 the annual limit of £2,000 set by the ACA Review, so you are recommended to repay £979.96.

In your appeal to me you make 3 points. First, you say that in the relevant year you made a standard monthly claim of £248.30 -

"because I did not want my secretary and staff to spend time each month collecting receipts and pursuing cleaners, window cleaners, carpet cleaners laundry, etc. I took the view that they had more important things to do".

You go on to say that the Parliamentary procedure appeared to recognise the difficulty of obtaining individual receipts by accepting that, for claims under £250 per month invoices and receipts were not required.

Secondly, you say that your claims were made according to the rules at the time and approved by Parliament's Fees Office.

Thirdly, you say that the £2,000 limit was unknown at the time and its imposition is retrospective, and arbitrary.

Your first and second points do not seem to me to add anything of substance to your third point. Twelve monthly claims of £248.30 totalled £2,979.60. As you demonstrate, the claims all related to costs of cleaning said to have been incurred. The ACA Review has said nothing about failure to produce receipts, so the requirement to produce receipts for any expenditure in excess of £250 is not relevant. I accept, of course, that the Fees Office accepted and approved your claims, or you would not have been paid. I also accept that the £2,000 per annum limit has been imposed retrospectively, for the reasons set out in the ACA Review. I entirely understand your sense of grievance at being required to repay for exceeding a limit of which you were not and could not have been aware, but my carefully restricted Terms of Reference do not permit me to re-open that part of the ACA Review decision. For convenience a copy of my Terms of Reference is enclosed. They only allow me to consider whether there are special reasons in your individual case which show that it would not be fair and equitable to require repayment. I cannot discern any such reasons.

I would therefore dismiss your appeal.

My report to the MEC will be in the form of an introductory section, followed by copies of my replies to the individual appellants, so this reply will form part of my report.

Rt Hon Sir Alan Beith MP

The ACA Review states that you were overpaid by a total of £1,841.23 for rent (£592.25 in 2004- 2005, and £1,248.98 in 2005-2006) and recommends repayment of £1,841.23.

In your Grounds of Appeal to me you deal first with the claim for £1,248.98 made in April 2006, after the rent had been paid on 3 April, but submitted with claims for March 2006, and apparently treated by the Fees Office and by the ACA Review as relating to the 2005-2006 fiscal year. As you say this seems to be no more than what is sometimes described as a "cut-off" error. You believe that the "overpayment" of £592.25 in 2004-2005 may have been due to a similar error in taking account of your wife's contributions for the period March to May 2004, but say that in any event it should not lead to a recommendation for repayment because, over the whole five year period from 2004 to 2009. It is accepted by the ACA Review team that (1) you only claimed for rent which you had paid and which was recoverable, and (2) you claimed in all £447.84 less than you were entitled to recover.

I know of no reason to doubt the accuracy of what you say in your Grounds of Appeal. Indeed the Review team calculations show a 5 year underclaim of £603.12, and if that is right it seems to me that there are special reasons in your case showing that it would not be fair and equitable to require any repayment, so I would allow your appeal. I recognise that for accountancy purposes closure dates are important, but what seems to me to be much more important is that your claims were restricted to payments for accommodation which you were entitled to recover.

My report to the MEC will be in the form of an introductory section, followed by copies of my replies to the individual appellants, so this reply will form part of my report.

Mr Graham Brady MP

The ACA Review says that you were paid £1,815 for a sofa in installments from July 2004, which exceeded the guideline price of £1,100 by £715, so it recommends that you repay £715.

In your Grounds of Appeal to me you say that the sofa was purchased "from an ordinary high street store at a 25% sale discount", the purchase price being spread over two years with interest free credit. You also say that at the time the only guideline available to Members was that goods should not be "antique, luxury or premium". You believe that you met that requirement and explained to the Fees office what you had done. You contend that the retrospective application of a guideline of £1,100 is unjust, and I understand entirely why you say that, even though, as I am sure you would accept, it would have been appropriate for there to have been a published guideline so as to ensure that Members could not be accused of extravagance in the use of public funds.

However, as you recognise, my remit is restricted. I can only interfere if I consider that there are special reasons in your individual case showing that it would not be fair and equitable to require repayment either at all, or at the level recommended. For your convenience a copy of my Terms of Reference is enclosed. I am not persuaded that such reasons do exist. The ACA Review having fixed the guideline (or at least revealed it) you can at least derive some consolation from the fact that you have had the benefit of a sofa worth more than £1,100, and, whilst there is no evidence whatsoever of any impropriety on your part, it seems to me to reasonable to expect you rather than the public to pay for that extra benefit.

I would therefore dismiss your appeal.

My report to the MEC will be in the form of an introductory section, followed by copies of my replies to the individual applicants, so this reply will form part of my report.

Mr Jeremy Browne MP

The ACA Review states that on your election in 2005 you extended the mortgage on your London house to assist in the purchase of a house in your constituency. You designated your London house as your second home, and the loan extension was not within the Green Book rules. It therefore recommends repayment of £17,894.24, being the interest paid (and recovered by you) on the extension to the mortgage over the Review period. So far as I am aware there is at this stage no issue in relation to the figures.

In your Grounds of Appeal to me you explain that in 2005 you owned a flat in London then worth £210,000 which you had bought in 2001, with the assistance of a mortgage loan of £130,000. You wanted to buy a house in your Taunton constituency and envisaged that it would be your main home because you would spend the majority of your time there. As you point out, the Green Book (April 2005 edition) states in paragraph 3.9.1 that "your main home will normally be the one where you spend more nights than any other". The only way in which you could finance the purchase of a house in Taunton was to increase the mortgage on your London flat, which you did, the flat being then designated your second home.

Unfortunately, what you did created difficulties because at paragraph 3.12.1 the 2005 Green Book set out certain types of expenditure which were not recoverable, one of which was -

"interest on any additional mortgages, advances or loans secured on the same property".

You complain that the ACA Review has taken an excessively rigid position when interpreting that rule which, you contend, was designed to prevent Members from taking out additional mortgages simply to free capital and doing so at the public expense. As to the purpose of the rule, I am inclined to agree with you, but its wording is clear, so I am driven to the conclusion that the expenditure which you incurred (ie paying interest on the additional mortgage) was under the Green Book rules then in force not recoverable.

That, however, is not entirely an end of the matter because it is clear to me that what you did was done openly and honestly, and for the very purpose for which ACA was established, namely to enable you, as the representative of a relatively remote constituency, to fund a second home. My Terms of Reference require me to consider whether in your case there are special reasons showing that it would not be fair and equitable to require repayment either at all, or at the level recommended. I find that such reasons do exist. Even though on a narrow view it could be said that by making claims outside the scope of the Rules you have cost the public purse the sum now claimed the reality is that, as you point out, almost any other financial arrangement (eg raising 100% mortgage on your Taunton house and treating that as your second home) would have resulted in higher legitimately recoverable claims.

I would therefore allow your appeal in full.

My report to the MEC will be in the form of an introductory section, followed by copies of my replies to the individual applicants, so this reply will form part of my report.

Mr William Cash MP

The ACA Review states that for the period from April 2004 to April 2005 you were paid £14,840 for rent under a tenancy agreement with your daughter, which is said to be irrecoverable because this was a "conflicted" transaction. The term 'conflicted' is explained in paragraph 86 of the Review. It includes renting a second home from a close relative, and the review regarded such transactions as tainted, whenever they occurred. In your case the Review also referred to another transaction relating to an item of furniture, but in relation to that transaction there is no appeal.

In your Grounds of Appeal to me you point out that it was only in the July 2006 revised edition of the Green Book (published more than a year after you made your claim) that there appears for the first time, at paragraph 3.3.3, anything to indicate that rent paid to a relative would not be recoverable. It follows that prior to July 2006 such a claim could only be regarded as irrecoverable if, as the ACA Review seems to have held, it offended general standards of propriety. I cannot accept that approach. Everything seems to me to depend on the facts of the individual case.

As you explain, the facts in your case are that in January 2004 you were asked by the Fees Office to provide a copy of the tenancy agreement, and you did so. It disclosed the relationship between landlord and tenant, and the agreed rent was subsequently paid and reclaimed in the usual way. It was, you say, about the market rate, and I have no reason to doubt that assertion. The flat was in central London, and your daughter was not using it because she was working away from London. Eventually she decided to sell it, and that brought the arrangement to an end.

In my judgement there are special reasons why it would not be fair and equitable to require repayment of any money. They are that in 2004-05 you paid rent for accommodation. Such rent was recoverable under the Rules as they existed at the time unless there was some evidence of impropriety. There is no such evidence in your case.

I would therefore allow your appeal.

My report to the MEC will be in the form of an introductory section, followed by copies of my replies to the individual appellants, so this reply will form part of my report.

Colin Challen MP

The ACA Review states that you were paid £8,795 for renting a room from your own Senior Researcher at £60 per night from November 2006 to January 2008, which was a conflicted transaction. It also states that in June 2005, you were paid £1,078 for 2 items of furniture (a display cabinet at £719 and a chair at £359) which exceeded the relevant guideline price by a total of £363, so it recommends that you repay £9,158.

You now appeal to me against both parts of the decision. As to the accommodation you have helpfully set out the facts. In late 2006, you sold your London flat at a market rate to your researcher. There had been a Boundary Commission review which left you without a seat to contest at any forthcoming election. It seemed possible that there might be an election early in 2007, and you wanted to have the flat sold before the election. Nevertheless you needed accommodation, so you agreed with your researcher that you stay on in the flat if you paid rent at £60 per night. The agreement was an interim arrangement. It was not expected to last long. It was disclosed to the Fees Office, which was aware that the landlord was your researcher, and it eventually came to an end. As you recognise, the arrangement has to be measured against the rule introduced into the Green Book in July 2006 which provides, at paragraph 3.3.3 that -

"ACA must not be used to meet the costs of leasing accommodation from:

  • yourself
  • a close business associate, or any organisation or company in which you - or a partner or family member - have an interest; or
  • a partner or family member"

You say that your researcher did not fall into any of those categories. I disagree. Whether or not she would be accurately described as a business associate she clearly fell within the class of persons contemplated by the rule. Your arrangement also falls within the Review's definition in its paragraph 8 of a conflicted transaction because she was an employee.

But that is not entirely an end of the matter because my Terms of Reference enable me to intervene where there are special reasons in an individual case showing that it would not be fair and equitable to require repayment. It seems to me that in your case there are such reasons. The arrangement which you made was disclosed to and accepted by the Fees Office as a temporary arrangement. It was to cover the cost of accommodation, the basic purpose of ACA. The nightly rate was patently reasonable, and any alternative arrangement would almost certainly have resulted in a larger legitimate claim against public funds. The fact that the arrangement went on for longer than originally envisaged does not seem to me to be of any significance. I would therefore allow that part of your appeal.

As to the claim for furniture, you say that you considered the 2 items to be value for money, the claims were accepted by the Fees office and that when the items were purchased you were unaware of any guidelines, no such guidelines having been published. All of that I accept, but my carefully restricted Terms of Reference (a copy of which I enclose) do not enable me to assist you. All Members who made purchases of furniture and then made claims have had those claims measured against guidelines which had not been published at the time, and I can find no special reason why in your individual case it would not be fair and equitable to require repayment. There can be no suggestion of impropriety, but you have had the benefit of the items you purchased, and hopefully that has been greater than had you purchased less expensive items. To that extent it is not unreasonable to ask you to pay.

I would therefore dismiss the second part of your appeal, and consider that overall you should repay £363.

My report to the MEC will be in the form of an introductory section, followed by copies of my replies to the individual appellants, so this reply will form part of my report.

Mr Christopher Chope MP

The ACA Review says that you were overpaid mortgage interest to the extent of £119 in 2006-07, and £133.61 in 2007-08, a total of £252.61. It also says that in April 2004 you were paid £105.25 for mobile phone bills, which are not allowable under the Green Book rules. So the Review recommends that you repay £357.86. You now appeal against the Review conclusion, both in relation to mortgage interest and in relation to mobile phone bills.

As to mortgage interest, you point out that, as is often the case, annual statements of mortgage interest are produced on the basis of a calendar year, but claims to the Fees office have to be finalised no later than 2 months after the end of its financial year (i.e. by the end of May). You therefore, with the agreement of the Fees Office, based your claims each spring on the mortgage lenders statement of mortgage interest for the previous calendar year, with the claims for January to March of the current year calculated by reference to the monthly average disclosed by the statement. A recalculation was then made in the following January, when the next annual statement became available. What the Review has done is, with the benefit of hindsight, to measure your mortgage interest claim for 2006-07 against a combination of 3/4 of your mortgage lender's annual statement for 2006 and 1/4 of the lender's annual statement for 2007, and to perform a similar exercise for 2007-2008. That approach makes no allowance for annual reconciliations (no doubt because they occur in a subsequent financial year) nor does it make allowance for underpayments in other years. In fact the figures now available, which I understand to be undisputed, show that in the 5 year period covered by the Review, you underclaimed by £1,634.80 (after allowing for the overclaims totalling £252.61). In my judgement the accounting method which you adopted with the Fees Office was plainly a sensible way in which to proceed on the basis of the information then available, and you have shown special reasons why in your case it would not be fair and equitable to require repayment of £252.61.

Turning to the mobile phone bills, for which you were paid £105.25 in April 2004, as you point out claims for recovery of such expenses were not prohibited by the Green Book until April 2005, when a change was made to paragraph 3.12.1. In the previous July 2004 edition of the Green Book, the only relevant reference to telecommunication charges was in paragraph 3.11.1 where it appears as an example of allowable expenditure. In those circumstances I fail to understand why the Review decided as it did, and you have shown special reasons why in your case it would not be fair and equitable to require repayment of £105.25. You may well be right to say that had the claim been challenged as being outside the scope of ACA you could have claimed the same sum under the Incidental Costs provision, as the expense was wholly, exclusively and necessarily incurred for the purpose of performing your Parliamentary duties, but, having decided as I have, I do not need to investigate that Ground of Appeal.

I would therefore allow your appeal in full.

My report to the MEC will be in the form of an introductory section, followed by copies of my replies to the individual appellants, so this reply will form part of my report.

Rt Hon Charles Clarke MP

The ACA Review says that you were overpaid mortgage interest by £400.34 in 2004-05 and by £343.30 in 2008-09 and recommends repayment of the total, namely £743.64.

In your Grounds of Appeal to me you explain, as you did to the Review, that your claims for each fiscal year were, with the approval of the Fees Office, based on annual statements provided by your mortgage lender in relation to the previous calendar year. What the Review appears to have done is to use the annual statement to calculate interest paid in each fiscal year and then seek recovery for overpayments without making allowances for years in which there were underpayments. In fact over the 5 year period, the underclaims exceed the overclaims by £2,539.42. In the email sent to you by the Review on 14 December 2009, it was said that -

"It would not be possible to set off overpayments against underpayments over the five year period because the ACA was an annual allowance, with annual limits, and it was therefore necessary to look at each financial year in isolation."

I make no comment on that approach save to say that my function is to decide whether in your case there are special reasons which show that it would not be fair and equitable to require repayment. In my view the facts speak for themselves. Such reasons do exist. I would therefore allow your appeal.

My report to the MEC will be in the form of an introductory section, followed by copies of my replies to the individual appellants, so this reply will form part of my report.

Mr David Clelland MP

The ACA Review says that in June 2004 you increased your mortgage from £116,000 to £161,500 in order to buy out your partner's share in your second home. Over the review period you received £12,970 in respect of the mortgage interest on the additional loan. You and your partner were subsequently married. It is said that in the circumstances the transaction appears conflicted, and you ought to repay the additional interest, together with £431.36 legal fees incurred in connection with the buy-out for which you were reimbursed, a total of £13,101.36. It is accepted that you have repaid £300, so the Review recommended repayment of £13,101.36.

In your Grounds of Appeal to me you explain that in 2001, when you decided to buy your London flat, your partner lent you £25,000 from her own family resources. The flat was then purchased in joint names. A couple of years later publicity about misuse of expenses led to fears that MPs might have to surrender any capital gain on a second home, and your partner wanted to withdraw her money and re-invest it for the benefit of her own family. You explained the position to the Fees Office which asked for a proper valuation. The value had increased, and in order to give her 50% it was necessary to increase the mortgage by £45,000. The Fees Office agreed to that course, the loan was raised and your partner was paid.

I accept that there may be good grounds for concern where one partner raises a loan which is used to free up capital for the other partner, and the cost of servicing the loan is then charged to the public purse, but, subject to one provision of the Green Book, your explanation does not indicate that there was anything improper about what you did in the summer of 2004 to release capital to the lady who subsequently became your wife. As you point out, she already had children of her own, and once she wanted to realise her investment the only practicable alternative would have been for you both to sell the London flat, and for you then to use your share of the proceeds to obtain another flat. That inevitably would have involved another mortgage on which you could recover the interest, so in purely financial terms what you did probably did not place any additional burden on the public purse. However your actions did contravene paragraph 3.12.1 of the December 2003 revision of the Green Book, which was current in June 2004, and which expressly stated that interest on any additional mortgages, advances or loans secured on the same property was not recoverable.

It follows that in my judgement, the Fees Office could and should have drawn your attention to the provisions of the Green Book (of which you should yourself have been aware). That seems to me to be a more fundamental objection to what happened than to describe it as conflicted. But what remains is the question of whether you should now be required to repay. Are there special reasons to show that in your case it would not be fair and equitable to require repayment? In my view there are. The arrangement was made for a proper purpose (to enable your partner to recover the value of her investment). It was fully disclosed at the time. It did not cast any additional burden on the public purse, and it simply left you with modest accommodation in London, in your own name which you needed for your parliamentary duties.

I would therefore allow your appeal.

My report to the MEC will be in the form of an introductory section, followed by copies of my replies to the individual appellants, so this reply will form part of my report.

Rt Hon Mrs Ann Clwyd MP

The ACA Review says that you were overpaid in respect of mortgage interest in 3 financial years, £826.08 in 2006-07, £230.38 in 2007-08 and £2,028.96 in 2008-09, a total of £3,085.42.

The Review also states that you were paid £1,390 for 2 chairs purchased in 2005-06 and 2006-07, which exceeded the guideline price for 2 chairs of £1,100 by £290.

There is also a finding of overpayment of council tax which you do not mention in your Grounds of Appeal to me, and which I therefore conclude that you do not dispute.

In your Grounds of Appeal you do not dispute the overpayments in respect of mortgage interest in 3 years, but point out that in the other 2 years covered by the Review, you were underpaid in respect of mortgage interest by a total of £2,650.62, and you submit that when deciding what should be repaid the underpayments should be taken into account. I agree. They provide special reasons in your case showing that it would not be fair and equitable to require repayment of £3,085.42, but only of that sum less £2,650.62 namely £434.80.

Turning to the 2 chairs, you say that when you bought them you were unaware of any guideline price. I accept that, but I am sure you would accept that anyone assessing the reasonableness of your claims would have had to apply a limit somewhere. The Review has now fixed a guideline price for your purchases, and exactly the same approach has been adopted in relation to the purchases of other Members. Inevitably it is embarrassing because I am sure that if you had known of a guideline you would not have claimed more, and there is no evidence whatsoever of any impropriety in what you did, but my Terms of Reference are carefully restricted. For your convenience, I enclose a copy. I can only interfere if satisfied that there are special reasons in your individual case showing that it would not be fair and equitable to require repayment. I can find no such reasons. The guideline having been applied you are still left with 2 chairs towards the cost of which a substantial contribution was made by the public purse.

I would therefore allow your appeal in part and recommend that you repay a total of £434.80 + £290 = £724.80 in addition to the overpaid council tax.

My report to the MEC will be in the form of an introductory section, followed by copies of my replies to the individual appellants, so this reply will form part of my report.

Frank Cook MP

The ACA Review says that you were paid £1,238.41 for a refrigerator in April 2004 which exceeded the guideline of £605 by £633.41. It recommends that you repay £633.41. It also discovered overpayments to you in respect of council tax, which, as it accepts, you have repaid. I am therefore only concerned with the sum of £633.41. I have no authority to deal with other matters.

In relation to the purchase made in 2004 you say, and I accept, that the guideline now relied upon was unknown to you at the material time. Nevertheless, as I am sure that you would accept, anyone assessing your claim would have to be satisfied as to the extent to which it was reasonable for that expense to be borne by the public purse. Was the item of equipment necessary? Was the expenditure proportionate, or was it extravagant? The ACA Review has done that by reference, it seems, to a list often, but not always, used by the Fees Office, namely the John Lewis list. I entirely understand your irritation at being asked to repay for exceeding a guideline of which you were unaware, and I can find nothing to suggest any impropriety on your part in claiming as you did.

Belatedly, in your letter to me of 14 January 2010, you have raised a new ground of appeal. You produce evidence to show that at the end of the fiscal year 2004-05 you exceeded your ACA annual limit, and so were unable to recover £1,618, including a mortgage interest payment of £1,357.72. You submit that anything now said to owing for the refrigerator should be set off against what you proved, but could not claim, at the end of that year. I agree.

I would therefore allow your appeal.

My report to the MEC will be in the form of an introductory section, followed by copies of my replies to the individual appellants, so this reply will form part of my report.

Sir Patrick Cormack MP

The ACA Review says that in 2004-05 you were paid £2,610 in respect of cleaning costs, in 2006-07 the figure was £2,592 and in 2007-2008 it was £2,820. Each sum exceeded the allowable annual maximum of £2,000 set by the Review, and it therefore recommends that you repay the total excess of £2,022.

As you point out in your Grounds of Appeal to me the expenses were incurred when there was no published guidance limiting annual claims for cleaning. Indeed you say that you were given to understand that any claim in the region of £2,500 to £3,000 per annum would be considered entirely acceptable and that it was permissible to claim for laundry and dry cleaning. You go on to explain why your cleaning costs were as they were - for a time you had 2 cleaners on compassionate grounds, and you also were required by the terms of your lease to have your 7th floor windows cleaned regularly.

I make no criticism whatsoever of the claims that you made, but I am sure that you would accept that anyone assessing the reasonableness of your claims would have to draw a line somewhere. The ACA Review has chosen to draw that line for everyone at £2,000 per annum. Of course it is irritating that you were unaware of that line when making your claims. No doubt had you been aware of it you would have restricted your claims and so avoided damaging publicity, but my carefully restricted Terms of Reference only permit me to interfere if I find special reasons in your individual case showing that it would not be fair and equitable to require repayment. I have no authority to go so far as to question the drawing of the line. For your convenience a copy of my Terms of Reference is enclosed. I can find no such reasons, and so I would dismiss your appeal.

My report to the MEC will be in the form of an introductory section, followed by copies of my replies to the individual appellants, so this reply will form part of my report.

Mrs Ann Cryer MP

The ACA Review states that between 1 April 2004 and 19 July 2005 you were paid a total of £16,646.45 for the rental of a flat from your son in law, which it describes as a conflicted transaction. It also states that in March 2007 you were paid £2,973.50 for furnishings, £1,350 for a table and £795 for a rug which exceeded guideline prices of £660 and £330 by a total of £1,155. Finally, it states that in March 2009 you were overpaid by a total of £441.25 for a carpet. Apparently it was a fitted carpet priced at £73 per square metre which is said to have exceeded the guidance price of £38.50 per square metre. You are recommended to repay a total of £18,241.70. The figure should, I believe, be £18,242.70, but for present purposes nothing turns on that.

In your Grounds of Appeal to me you say that until you received the first comments of the ACA Review you had never heard of a conflicted transaction, and that in 2004-05 you had no reason to believe that you could not recover rent paid to a relative provided that the rent was reasonable, and that the money was in fact paid, as it was in your case. I entirely accept all of that. It was only in the July 2006 edition of the Green Book that there appeared, for the first time, anything to indicate that rent paid to a relative would not be recoverable. Prior to that it seems to me that recoverability must have depended upon the circumstances of the case. In your case, as you explained to the Review in your letter of 20 October 2009, you asked the Fees Office in August 2001 whether it would be acceptable for you to sell your studio flat and rent part of a 3 bedroom flat which your son in law was proposing to buy. The Office agreed to the proposal but said that there would have to be a fair market rent. The Office then made enquiries with a Westminster estate agency to establish the rent of £1,000 per calendar month, inclusive of service charge, council tax, water and gas. The Office also assisted with the wording of the tenancy agreement. It resulted in you claiming less than you had been claiming for mortgage interest and other outgoings when separately housed. Unfortunately, in due course your son in law and your daughter split up. Your son in law then wanted to sell the flat, and in July 2005 you moved out to enable him to do so. I find no evidence whatsoever of impropriety in what you did, which did not contravene any rule in existence at the time. Accordingly, I am satisfied that there are special reasons in your case which show that it would not be fair and equitable to require repayment of any part of the sum of £16,646.45.

The situation in relation to furnishings is different. You say, and I accept, that you were unaware of any guidelines when the purchases were made. You never had a table or desk in London, and the item purchased for £1,350 nicely combined both. The rug, purchased for £795, was large enough to cover almost the whole of the bare wooden floor of your lounge. It was cheaper than having a fitted carpet and the cost of the bedroom carpet included fitting, underlay and paper lining. All of that I accept, and I can understand your irritation at being said to have exceeded guidelines of which you were unaware. But I am sure that you would accept that anyone assessing the reasonableness of your claims would have to draw a line somewhere. The ACA Review has chosen to draw that line for all Members' purchases by reference to the unpublished guidelines. My carefully restricted Terms of Reference only permit me to interfere if I find special reasons in your individual case showing that it would not be fair and equitable to require repayment. I have no authority to go so far as to question the drawing of the line. For your convenience, a copy of my Terms of Reference is enclosed. In relation to your purchases I can find no such reasons, but at least you have enjoyed the use of the goods in relation to the cost of which at the end of the day the public purse has made a substantial contribution. I would therefore dismiss your appeal in relation to furnishings and recommend repayment of £1,596.25.

My report to the MEC will be in the form of an introductory section, followed by copies of my replies to the individual appellants, so this reply will form part of my report.

Mr Ian Davidson MP

The ACA Review states that you were overpaid £474.47 for mortgage interest in 2007-2008 and recommends that you repay that sum. It also made other findings which you do not appeal.

As you say in your Grounds of Appeal, the issue is straightforward, should you be able to claim the gross interest on your mortgage (as calculated by the lender) or only the net figure debited to your mortgage account, which takes into account your family's savings, because you operate an offset mortgage? You contend that gross interest is recoverable, the Review disagrees. You say, and I accept, that before you changed to an offset mortgage you discussed with the Fees Office what you proposed to do, and received approval for the claim subsequently made. You also point out that under an offset mortgage the "gross" rate of interest is less than under other types of mortgage, so your claims have been less than they would have been had you not entered into the offset arrangement.

The Green Book entitled you to recover "interest paid on repayment or endowment mortgages". It seems to me to be entirely possible, and in no way improper, to interpret the provisions as they were interpreted by the Fees Office and by you, and although they could have been interpreted otherwise, it seems to me that there are special reasons in your case showing that it would not be fair and equitable to require any repayment.

I would therefore allow your appeal.

My report to the MEC will be in the form of an introductory section, followed by copies of my replies to the individual appellants, so this reply will form part of my report.

Mr Dai Davies MP

The ACA Review states that in November 2006 you were paid certain expenses for your constituency office which are not allowable under the Green Book as ACA expenses. They should have been claimed as Incidental Expenses. The total sum involved, which it is recommended that you repay, is £439.80 (£328 council tax, £48.35 telephone, and £63.45 for repairs). The Review also made a finding in relation to council tax which you accept, and which is therefore not addressed in your appeal.

In your letter of 14 October 2009, copied to me, you say that you were elected to Parliament in June 2006 as an Independent Member without the support of a party structure, and you believe that when you made the claim for £439.80 you used the wrong claim form. You say in your letter that you have spoken to the Fees Office, which accepts that there was a genuine mistake, and is prepared to make the necessary accounting adjustment after the conclusion of the Review. I understand from the Review papers that no one in the Fees Office recalls such a conversation, but for present purposes that is not critical. What is critical is that the claim could have been properly presented under another head and if so presented it would, I understand, have been met.

In those circumstances, it is clear that there has been some carelessness, but no dishonesty, and no loss to public funds. Had the right form been used, you would have received the same sum. That satisfies me that there are special reasons in your case showing that it would not be fair and equitable to require repayment of any part of the £439.80.

I would therefore allow your appeal.

My report to the MEC will be in the form of an introductory section, followed by copies of my replies to the individual appellants, so this reply will form part of my report.

Mr Philip Davies MP

The ACA Review states that in May 2005 you were paid £232.64 for a telephone and answer machine, telephone wire installation, and telephone and broadband line rental which were for your constituency office and were not recoverable under Green Book rules. The Review recommends that you repay £232.64.

In your appeal to me you explain that the claim was made in the first month after your election, and that you made a mistake. It should have been presented as an Incidental Expenses claim, not an ACA claim, and if so presented it would have been met. So far as I am aware what you say is correct and I do not need to consider the other point you raise. It follows that there has been no loss to public funds, and that enables me to say that there are special reasons in your case showing that it would not be fair and equitable to require repayment of £232.64.

I would therefore allow your appeal.

My report to the MEC will be in the form of an introductory section, followed by copies of my replies to the individual appellants, so this reply will form part of my report.

Rt Hon Frank Field MP

The ACA Review states that you were paid a total of £19,885 over the 5 year review period for the services of a housekeeper, cleaning and gardening. The information which you gave to the Review showed that some housekeeping services were recoverable under heads other than cleaning and gardening, and some were not. The Review imposed its own limits, as applied to others, of £2,000 per annum and £1,000 per annum for cleaning and gardening. That, over 5 years, produced a figure of £15,000, and it regarded as acceptable 50% of the remainder of your claim, namely £2,442.50. It recommended repayment of the remaining £2,442.50.

The Review also states that between July and December 2004 you received £800 for petty cash and that between June and December 2005 you received £1,000 for unspecified incidental costs and sundry expenses. As petty cash in any form is not recoverable as ACA, the Review recommends repayment of £1,800.

Finally, for present purposes, the Review states that you were paid a total of £228.55 for 3 BT bills which did not relate to your second home (December 2004 £80.79; April 2007 £75.35 and August 2007 £72.41). There is also a finding in relation to utility bills and another item which you do not challenge.

As to the housekeeping claim you say to me that you should have relief because the Review approach depends upon the arbitrary imposition of an unprecedented retrospective limit and is therefore unfair. I understand entirely your sense of indignation. So far as I am aware the claims represented expenditure actually incurred, and which was reasonably considered by you to be recoverable when each claim was made. But I am sure that you would accept that, even if unspecified at the time, there had to be a limit on what could reasonably be claimed against the public purse. The Review has set the limit at £2,000 per annum for cleaning and £1,000 per annum for gardening. No doubt if those limits had been set before your claims were made you would not have exceeded them, but my Terms of Reference have been carefully restricted (for your convenience a copy of my Terms of Reference is enclosed). I can only interfere if I find special reasons in your individual case showing that it would not be fair and equitable to require repayment. In relation to your housekeeping expenses, I can find no such reasons. The approach adopted by the Review has been applied to all Members' cleaning and gardening claims, and the Review's treatment of the balance of your housekeeping claim does seem to be a realistic attempt to distinguish between allowable and non-allowable items.

Turning to the claims for petty cash made in 2004, you say that the total should be £600 not £800. The records which I have seen indicate that you are right. Claims for £200 were made in July, September and October. A fourth claim made in November was disallowed, and on 8 December 2004 a letter was written to you to say that you could not claim petty cash. In December you made a claim for £200 for household sundries. That was paid because it was apparently an ACA claim, and the edition of the Green Book then in force only required invoices or receipts for items of expenditure of £250 or more.

As to the £600, you say that you should not have to repay because it was simply entered under the wrong allowance heading. It should have been claimed as Incidental Expenses, but I can find nothing in the Green Book to suggest that petty cash of itself was recoverable as IEP. At paragraph 5.10.1 the July 2004 edition states (as in relation to ACA) "Evidence in the form of invoices or receipts must be provided for all items of expenditure of £250 or more". It seems to me to follow that if you had made IEP claims for "petty cash" you would have had to be in a position to explain (and indeed should have explained in the claim) the nature of the expenditure to show that it was recoverable as Incidental Expenses, something which you have not done at any stage. I therefore find no special reasons in your case showing that it would not be fair and equitable to require repayment of £600.

I turn now to the claims totally £1,000. From the information available to me, the details of your claims seem to have been as follows -

1)  Invoice 026892, June 2005, £200, sundry costs/expenses.

2)  Invoice 030880, July to September 2005, £400, incidental costs.

3)  Invoice 033642, October to December 2005, £400, incidental costs.

I accept that the first invoice may have related to expenditure within the scope of ACA, but the second and the third invoices should have been supported, at least to the extent of £150, by proof of expenditure. I therefore find no special reasons in your individual case showing that it would not be fair and equitable to require repayment of £1,000. There is insufficient evidence to show that any part of it was expenditure properly recoverable as ACA.

As to the telephone expenditure of £228.55, you accept that the expenditure should have been claimed as Incidental Expenses and not as ACA, and if so claimed it would have been paid, because it was all connected with your duties as an MP, so there has been no loss to the public purse. I agree, so in relation to that expenditure I do find special reasons in your case showing that it would not be fair and equitable to require any repayment.

My conclusion is that overall you should repay -

  Housekeeping expenses      £2,442.50

  Petty cash claimed in 2004      £ 600.00

  Incidental expenses, etc. in 2005/2006  £1,000.00

              £4,042.50

To a limited extent, therefore, I would allow your appeal.

My report to the MEC will be in the form of an introductory section, followed by copies of my replies to the individual appellants, so this reply will form part of my report.

Mr Robert Flello MP

The ACA Review states that you were paid an extra month's rent of £1,200 in 2005/2006, which duplicated a payment made in June 2005. It recommends repayment of that sum.

In your Grounds of Appeal to me you point out that you only made one claim for rent paid in June 2005, and suggest that some confusion may have arisen because you also paid a deposit of £1,200.

In fact the problem arose because in 2005/06 you claimed rent in advance, and thus were paid in that fiscal year for 11 1/2 months when you should have been paid for 10 1/2 months (ACA claims being restricted to expenditure already incurred). However in July 2007, when your tenancy came to an end, your position was regularised; and I accept that over the period from May 2005 to 31 July 2007 you did not in the end recover as ACA more than the rent you had paid.

I am therefore satisfied that there are special reasons in your individual case showing that it would not be fair and equitable to require any repayment, and I would allow your appeal in full.

My report to the MEC will be in the form of an introductory section, followed by copies of my replies to the individual appellants, so this reply will form part of my report.

Mr Michael John Foster MP

The ACA Review states that in 2004-05 you were overpaid £861.94 for mortgage interest, and that you have repaid £466.25, so it recommends that you repay the balance of £395.69.

As you point out, the conclusion in the annex to the Review is not well expressed. The documents show that the figure of £861.84 relates to 2 fiscal years. For 2004-05, you accept that you were paid £438.71 more than you should have been in respect of mortgage interest, and you have repaid that sum. You have also repaid £27.54 in respect of overpaid council tax. What seems to be said by the Review is that in 2005-06 you were again overpaid in respect of mortgage interest, the overpayment for that year amounting in all to £423.23. You invite production of evidence to substantiate that sum, but go on to say that even if it be correct you should not have to repay because in that fiscal year your ACA claim was capped. In December 2005 you made ACA claims which were tested and accepted by the Fees Office but which were not met because of the existence of the ACA annual cap, then set at £21,634, the shortfall being £1,802.31. The cap having been applied you made no claims for the first 3 months of 2006. Had your mortgage interest claim been reduced by £423.23 some of your other tested claims would have been met.

I understand that the £423.23 relates to a period of Dissolution, when any mortgage interest paid would not be recoverable. I also understand that it has now been accepted by the Review that in the fiscal year 2005-06 you paid considerably more mortgage interest than you were able to recover because, as you say, in December 2005 you reached your annual ACA limit. Looking at the fiscal year overall the Review no longer contends that you were overpaid mortgage interest, and, taking into account the repayment already made, there is no longer any recommendation for repayment.

In that situation there is no longer any need for an appeal because there is nothing to appeal against.

My report to the MEC will be in the form of an introductory section, followed by copies of my replies to the individual appellants, so this reply will form part of my report.

Mr Roger Gale MP

The ACA Review states that you were paid a total of £2,098.47 for office mobile phone bills between April 2004 and June 2005, such costs not being allowed under Green Book rules.

It also states that you were paid 13 times for rent in 2008/2009. The March claim for £354 covered a payment for rent in April 2009 and should have been paid in the following financial year. You are therefore recommended to repay a total of £2,452.47.

In your Grounds of Appeal to me you draw attention to a letter to you from the Fees Office dated 2 December 2909, which states that "mobile phone costs were not specifically disallowed in the Green Book until the situation was clarified with the publication of the April 2005 edition of the Green Book, circulated to Members after the (June) election of that year, when they were included as an ineligible expense". If that is right, and a study of the successive editions of the Green Book shows that it is, then your claims in respect of mobile phone bills as ACA expenditure were not ineligible when they were made. The Review having made the error which you identify it is clear that there are special reasons in your case showing that it would not be fair and equitable to require repayment of any part of the sum of £2,098.47.

Turning to the claims in respect of rent, you explain that as the Easter recess fell early you posted your claim for April 2009 at the end of March, but it was dated 1 April and was not paid until mid April. As the Fees Office confirm in their letter of 2 December 2009, you made no further claim for rent in April, your claims resuming in May. Accordingly, I see no evidence of you having been paid 13 times for rent in 2008/2009, from which it follows that these are special reasons in your case showing that it would not be fair and equitable to require repayment of £354.

I would therefore allow your appeal in full.

My report to the MEC will be in the form of an introductory section, followed by copies of my replies to the individual appellants, so this reply will form part of my report.

Mr Mike Gapes MP

The ACA Review says that in April 2004 you were paid £186.89 for council tax relating to a period in the previous financial year (21 November 2003 to 31 March 2004), which was not an allowable expense for 2004-2005, and it recommended repayment of £186.89.

In your appeal to me you accept the basic facts, namely that the claim was made just after the end of the financial year to which it related. You believe that at that time the Fees Office accepted claims of that kind, and it certainly accepted yours. What seems to me to matter now is that the expenditure was recoverable, and the delay in claiming was slight. I have no difficulty in concluding that there are special reasons in your individual case showing that it would not be fair and equitable to require repayment other than to the extent of your admitted overclaim of 40 pence, which you say was due to a clerical error on your part.

I would therefore allow your appeal.

My report to the MEC will be in the form of an introductory section, followed by copies of my replies to the individual appellants, so this reply will form part of my report.

Mrs Linda Gilroy MP

7. The ACA Review says that:-

You were overpaid for mortgage interest of a total of £2,125.00 (£751 in 2005-2006 and £1,374.00 in 2006-2007);

In 2005-2006 you were overpaid £480.00 for Council Tax, and;

In September and November 2007 you were paid £1,748.33 twice.

You are therefore recommended to repay £4,353.33, less £2,055.51 already paid = £2,297.82.

I understand that the Review now accepts that the £1,374.00 has not been correctly described. It relates to the following fiscal year, 2007-2008, and forms part of the £1,748.33 referred to above. The recommendation for recovery in respect of the sum of £1,374.00 is therefore no longer pursued, but, as you accept, you should repay the £1,748.33 which was paid twice.

In your Grounds of Appeal, and in correspondence with the Review Team, you point out that all your claims were for rent, not mortgage interest. You accept that in 2005-2006 you did over-claim because your claim covered the period of dissolution, and that you were overpaid £480.00 for Council Tax. In that year you reached your ACA ceiling, and had to repay to Fees Office £468.45. You were also unable to re-claim as ACA your final monthly claim for £1,813, which included your rent of £1,374. You therefore claimed to set-off against what you owe for 2005-06 (£751+£480= £1,231) the total ACA claims approved but not paid (i.e. £468.45 + £1,813.00 = £2,281.45).

I cannot entirely agree with your approach. When calculating how much rent had been overclaimed in 2005-06 the Review team took into account the fact that although rent was paid in the final month none was recovered by you as ACA. Furthermore, I cannot give you credit for the remainder of your final monthly claim because those items were not tested and approved by the Fees Office. On the other hand I consider that you can set off against £1,231 the £468.45 you repaid. The result is £762.55.

Taking into account the £2,055.51 I consider that the recommendation for repayment should now be for £762.55 + £1,748.33 = £2,510.88 less £2,055.51 = £455.37. To that extent I consider that your appeal should be allowed.

8. My report to the MEC will be in the form of an introductory section, followed by copies of my replies to the individual appellants, so this reply will form part of my report.

Mr Paul Goodman MP

The ACA Review says that -

1)  you were overpaid for mortgage interest by a total of £2,318.90 (£572.57 in 2005 to 2006, £3.04 in 2006 to 2007, £122.93 in 2007 to 2008 and £1,620.36 in 2008 to 2009);

2)  you were paid £1,310.17 in 2004 to 2005 for mobile phones, which are not allowable under Green Book rules;

3)  you were overpaid by £252 for council tax in 2006 to 2007 (being paid for 12 instalments when only 10 were required).

You are therefore recommended to repay £3,881.07.

In your Grounds of Appeal to me you set out the history of your correspondence with the Review Team in relation to mortgage interest and other items, but say nothing to persuade me that the Review's final figures in relation to mortgage interest, which are set out above, are incorrect.

As to mobile phone expenses, you say that you used the wrong form. The expenses could have been claimed as IEP. I agree that they could have so been claimed if the expenses were "wholly, exclusively and necessarily incurred on Parliamentary duties" (Green Book 2004 paragraph 5.1.1). However, what may be of more importance in your case, is the fact that it was not until April 2005 that it was stated in the Green Book, for the first time, that mobile phone rental and charges could not be recovered as part of ACA. I therefore conclude that you should not be asked to repay mobile phone charges which you incurred and for which you claimed prior to that date.

You appear to accept the Review's finding in relation to council tax. I therefore conclude that you should be recommended to repay £2,318.90 (overpayments of mortgage interest) plus £252 (council tax) = £2,570.90. However, I am aware that you have made 2 payments totalling £2,627.08 (£984 plus £1,643.08). I do not therefore recommend any further repayment, and to the extent I have indicated I would allow your appeal.

My report to the MEC will be in the form of an introductory section, followed by copies of my replies to the individual appellants, so this reply will form part of my report.

Mr James Gray MP

The ACA Review says that you were paid £687.35 for newspapers between April 2004 and March 2007, which is not an expenditure recoverable under the ACA.

The Review also says that you were overpaid for rent by £638.10 in 2005-06, and by £417.46 in 2006-07, a total of £1,055.56, so it recommends repayment of £1,742.01.

In your appeal to me you say that the newspapers were delivered to your constituency office and should have been claimed as Incidental Expenses rather than ACA. Every claim was supported by receipts and passed by the Fees Office. I accept that if properly claimed the expenses would have been paid as Incidental Expenses, so I am satisfied that there are special reasons in your case showing that it would not be fair and equitable to require repayment of £687.35.

As to the alleged overpayments for rent, you say to me that you are unable to recognise the figures, which caused me to make enquiries. It appears that the ACA calculation failed to take account of the payment of arrears. The total rent paid over the two fiscal years was £30,963.72, plus arrears of £763.72, a total of £31,727.44. You claimed £32,052.28, so the overclaim over the two years was £324.84. I hope that gives you as much information as you need.

I would therefore allow your appeal in part, and recommend repayment limited to £324.84.

My report to the MEC will be in the form of an introductory section, followed by copies of my replies to the individual appellants, so this reply will form part of my report.

Mr John Greenway PM

The ACA Review says that you were paid £537.47 for garden plants in the period April 2004 - June 2005, and that this is not an allowable expense under Green Book rules. You are therefore recommended to repay £537.47.

In your Grounds of Appeal to me you say that the sum claimed was the total of 5 receipts, and were the only gardening claim you ever made. As you point out, claims for garden maintenance were allowed, the Green Book which was current at the time said nothing about plants, and you contend that the cost of plants can properly be regarded as part of garden maintenance. I understand your argument, and it seems to me that what you did cannot be regarded as being in any way improper. The position was not entirely clear, and by presenting your claims you sought the advice of the Fees Office, but in my judgement the advice you received was wrong. There is a distinction between garden maintenance and the cost of plants. The April 2005 edition of the Green Book says that the cost of repairs which go beyond making good dilapidations and enhance the property is not recoverable. I know that the analogy is not exact, but it seems to me that, given the nature of ACA, the Review was entitled to decide as it did.

I would therefore dismiss your appeal.

My report to the MEC will be in the form of an introductory section, followed by copies of my replies to the individual appellants, so this reply will form part of my report.

Mr Mike Hall MP

The ACA Review says that you were paid £10,364.28 during the 4 year period April 2004 to April 2008 for cleaning, laundry, dry cleaning and ironing, which exceeded by £2,364.28 the £2,000 annual limit set by the Review.

The Review also says that you were paid (1) £250 per month for petty cash from April to August 2004, which is not allowable under Green Book rules, the total being £1,250. (2) £250 per month for incidental expenses in September and October 2004, incidental expenses not being recoverable under Green Book rules, the total being £500, and (3) £250 per month for household sundries during the period November 2004 to March 2008, a total of £8,289 without providing receipts.

The Review therefore recommends that you repay £12,639.28.

In your Grounds of Appeal to me you complain that the £2,000 limit in relation to cleaning costs has been set retrospectively, and that you only exceeded it because your claims for laundry, ironing and dry cleaning, totalling £4,067.51 over 4 years, were treated as part of your cleaning costs. To the limited extent that laundry, ironing and dry cleaning expenses can properly be regarded as additional costs attributable to the need to maintain a second home, and therefore recoverable under the provisions of the ACA, it seems clear to me that they can properly be described as cleaning costs. I accept that the £2,000 annual limit was set retrospectively, and that its application has caused embarrassment, but I am sure that you accept that there had to be some limit on the extent to which cleaning costs could be recovered from public funds. The Review having now set the limit at £2,000, and applied it to all Members, I cannot interfere. My carefully restricted Terms of Reference (a copy of which I enclose) only permit me to interfere if I find special reasons in your individual case showing that it would not be fair and equitable to require repayment of £2,364.28. I can find no such reasons.

Turning to your claims for petty cash, incidental expenses and household sundries, I understand that you accept that claims were made and met as alleged and that the period in respect of household sundries extended to March 2009, without any alteration to the total recovered. I accept that for relatively small items of expenditure within the scope of ACA, the Fees Office did not require production of receipts, the Green Book stating in terms that Members should supply -

"invoices/receipts for all items of expenditure of £250 or more..."

But that did not mean that Members were entitled to claim for petty cash, or anything of that kind. They could only claim to be reimbursed for expenditure properly incurred within the scope of the ACA. In your case the total claimed, as petty cash, incidental expenses and household sundries over the Review period was high, so you were asked to justify it. I recognise the difficulty of producing receipts etc. many years after the expenditure has been incurred, but you had claimed reimbursement from public funds, and in the absence of evidence to show that the claims were for expenses within the scope of the ACA it seems to me that the Review was entitled to conclude that the sums claimed should be repaid. Certainly my Terms of Reference do not permit me to decide otherwise. I can only interfere if I find special reasons in your case showing that it would not be fair and equitable to require repayment. I find no such reasons. The fact that your claims when made were accepted by the Fees Office is of limited relevance, and I am not impressed by your assertion that you should have been interviewed by the Review Team. You had ample opportunity to put your case.

I would therefore dismiss your appeal.

My report to the MEC will be in the form of an introductory section, followed by copies of my replies to the individual appellants, so this reply will form part of my report.

Mr Patrick Hall MP

The ACA Review states that for 2008-2009 you were overpaid £266.10 for mortgage interest, and recommends repayment of that sum.

In your Grounds of Appeal to me you explain, with the assistance of relevant documentation from Cheltenham & Gloucester, your mortgage lender, that when you secured a new fixed interest arrangement there was a short period during which the mortgage lender continued to claim interest by direct debit at the pre-existing higher rate. That affected the calculation at the end of the Review period, the changeover having occurred in May 2008, so that at 31 March 2009 you had received £266.10 more from public funds than you had incurred in mortgage interest, but no more than your mortgage lender had taken from your bank account. As you say, over time the mortgage lender would have ensured that the monthly direct debit roughly equated to the mortgage interest due, so there is no question here of any improper claim. Indeed, as you also point out, moving to a fixed interest rate was prudent and reduced your ACA claim.

All of that satisfies me that there are special reasons in your individual case showing that it would not be fair and equitable to require repayment of any sum. You never sought to claim more by way of mortgage interest than you were paying. You were never likely in the long term to get more, and you took commendable steps to keep your claim as low as possible.

I would therefore allow your appeal.

My report to the MEC will be in the form of an introductory section, followed by copies of my replies to the individual appellants, so this reply will form part of my report.

Mr Fabian Hamilton MP

The ACA Review states that you were paid £980 for the redecoration of the hall, stairs and kitchen of your second home in February 2006, which was less than 1 month before you moved house. You were also paid £7,060.81 twice on duplicate claims in April and May 2006, which included the cost of a new kitchen installation and a bed. Finally it is said that you were overpaid by £819.61 for mortgage interest in June 2008 when the mortgage provider was changed and the period of interest overlapped. You are therefore recommended to repay £8,860.42 (£980 + £7,060.81 + £819.61).

In your Grounds of Appeal to me, and in information given to the Review, you explain that the £980 was payment for decoration of parts of your Leeds home. The work was done between 18 and 24 February 2006, when, it would seem, you were negotiating to purchase a flat in London. I do not know when contracts were exchanged, but the purchase was completed on 10 March 2006. You then designated that flat as your second home, moved into it on 11 June, and did not claim for its redecoration. You say that when the work was done in Leeds the purchase of the London flat could well have fallen through. Maybe, but, as it seems to me, the Review was entitled to have regard to the realities. The work done in Leeds benefited you in your capacity as occupier of what was very shortly to become and to remain your primary home. I do not see why the cost of that benefit should be borne by the taxpayer.

You accept that at the beginning of the fiscal year 2006-2007, you were paid £7,060.81 twice for items installed in your newly acquired London flat, but say that you should not have to repay all of that sum because the double payment resulted in your ACA claims for that financial year exceeding the annual limit and being capped. You were unable to claim mortgage interest for the first 3 months of 2007, amounting in all to £2,194.81, and you seek to reduce the request for repayment of £7,060.81 by that sum. I see the force of that argument. In fact 3 mortgage interest payments totalling £3,187.59 were made, and were not reimbursed. My Terms of Reference only enable me to interfere if satisfied that there are special reasons in your case showing that it would not be fair and equitable to require repayment. The existence of substantiated mortgage interest payments in the same financial year which you were unable to recover does, in my judgement, constitute special reasons. £7,061.81 less £3,187.59 = £3,874.22

I now turn to the payment of £819.61. You say that in the spring of 2008, you changed your mortgage provider from Halifax to HSBC. Having obtained a settlement figure HSBC failed to redeem the Halifax mortgage within the time allowed, so the Halifax charged additional interest which you re-claimed under the ACA. I have no reason to doubt your account, but I fail to see why the burden of HSBC's error should fall on public funds.

I would therefore allow your appeal in part. I consider that you should repay -

  

1)   Redecoration costs.            £ 980.00

  2)  Repayment of double payment, offset against unpaid   £3,874.22

mortgage interest.

3)  Double payment of interest because of mistake of     £ 819.61

  mortgage provider.          

Total                £5,673.83

My report to the MEC will be in the form of an introductory section, followed by copies of my replies to the individual appellants, so this reply will form part of my report.

Rt Hon Douglas Hogg QC MP

The ACA Review says that during the five year period under review you claimed one twelfth of the maximum annual ACA allowance each month on the basis that the allowable expenses of your second home exceeded the allowance. You relied on a list of expenses, but the Review found that numerous items were not allowable, including the expenses of a full-time gardener, utilities, and repair work for buildings other than your second home. It found that over the five year period, you were overpaid by a total of £20,639.42.

The approach adopted by the Review is set out in the documents which you have seen. It looked at your claims for a housekeeper and for gardening services and worked out the expenses for each year from lists and receipts provided by you. It then applied what it described as the current guidelines for ACA expenses.

On 16 December 2009 you sent to me grounds of appeal covering 18 pages, together with an archlever file containing a number of documents. Since then you have addressed to me further correspondence, and I have taken that into account.

I consider it important to remind you at the outset that my terms of reference (a copy of which I enclose) are carefully restricted. I do not have the powers vested in a judge hearing an appeal, or an application for judicial review.

Your grounds of appeal in paragraph 5 stress that in 2003 you sought and obtained the express approval of the Head of the Fees Office in relation to the presentation of your claims. You provided particulars of categories and of amounts, and you submit that, the approval having been obtained in good faith and thereafter implemented, the Review should have accepted it as binding. You point to the authority which Parliament has given to the Fees Office, and to the way in which successive editions of the Green Book encouraged Members to seek advice from the Fees Office in cases of doubt.

All of that I understand, but the terms of reference of the Review make it clear that it had to test claims against the rules and standards in force at the time. An invalid claim could not be regarded as validated or the investigation stopped simply because it received the approval of the Fees Office. It is obviously to your credit that you did seek the advice of and negotiate with the Fees Office in the way that you have described, but many other Members from whom I have heard are in the same position, and I do not regard Fees Office approval as constituting of itself a special reason in your case showing that it would not be fair and equitable to require repayment.

In your grounds of appeal you go on to explain your need for a housekeeper and for gardening services at your constituency house. The Fees Office agreed that you should be able to recover 65% of your housekeeper's remuneration package and 100% of your gardening costs, without production of receipts or invoices, but on the basis that they would be available on demand. You kept a running schedule of all expenses (recoverable and not recoverable) which could have been produced if required. It was at the request of the Fees Office that invoices/receipts were not produced.

In paragraph 45 of your grounds of appeal you say that by only allowing £2,000 per annum for your housekeeper and £1,000 per annum for gardening costs the Review is setting aside fully authorised agreements and approvals, something which is wrong both in law and equity. I have already dealt with the position of the Fees Office in relation to the Review, and reminded you of my powers in this appeal.

I am sure that you would agree that anyone assessing the reasonableness of a claim to recover cleaning or gardening expenses from public funds would have to draw a line somewhere. The Review has drawn it at £2,000 per annum and £1,000 per annum respectively. I agree that it is unfortunate that the line was not drawn and made known before the claims were made, but it has been applied by the Review to all Members' claims, and so, in relation to its application to your annual claims, I can find no special reasons showing that it would not be fair and equitable to require repayment of any sum recommended for repayment as a result of that application.

Your grounds of appeal go on to deal with the Review's disallowance of certain expenses because they were in respect of utilities and repair work for buildings other that the second home. You say that the expenses should have been regarded as recoverable because the buildings were within the curtilage of your second home and the sums claimed were not excessive. I accept that the buildings were within the curtilage, but that does not mean that the cost of repairing an external staircase to a barn where you often worked, or of maintaining a lodge occupied by your housekeeper, should be borne by public funds.

In paragraph 46 of your grounds of appeal you make the general point that for each financial year now identified as one where there has been an overpayment to you the actual expenses of your second home far exceeded the maximum amount recoverable as ACA. I do not doubt it, and no doubt many others are in the same position. You also refer to other expenses, like subsistence, which you did not claim. I have no remit to offset overpayments against such claims, which were not made to the Fees Office and tested at the relevant time.

In paragraphs 47 to 52 you deal with a claim made before the period under Review. I see no reason to make any further reference to it.

In dealing with your grounds of appeal I have borne in mind the points made by you subsequently - in your letters of 17 December, and 11 and 25 January. I entirely accept that you were open in your dealings with the Fees Office, and that you did, year by year, incur substantial expenses attributable to your second home, but, having carefully considered the material you have supplied I can find no special reasons in your individual case showing that it would not be fair and equitable to require repayment as recommended by the Review.

I would therefore dismiss your appeal.

My report to the MEC will be in the form of an introductory section, followed by copies of my replies to the individual appellants, so this reply will form part of my report.

Rt Hon Michael Howard QC MP

The ACA Review says that over the five year period of the Review you were paid £18,058.45 for the costs of employing a gardening company. The company stated that a third of the work related to maintenance of the house, so the gardening costs amounted to £12,039, which exceeded the figure of £1,000 per annum set by the Review by £7,039. The Review recommended that you repay £7,039.

In your grounds of appeal to me you say that the figure of £1,000 per annum set by the Review was retrospective and illogical, and as such it was unfair and unjust. You point out that the claims were properly made when no limit had been set, and of course I accept that. But I am sure that you would accept that anyone assessing such claims would in the end have to decide what it was reasonable for the public to be asked to pay. The Review has set the limit at £1,000 per annum. It is most unfortunate that it was not set before your claims were made. Had it been I am sure that you would not have exceeded it, but now that it has been set my terms of reference (a copy of which I enclose) do not permit me to interfere. I can only do so if satisfied that there are special reasons in your individual case showing that it would not be fair and equitable to require repayment. I find no such reasons. The limitation applied to you has been applied to all Members who made gardening claims.

I would therefore dismiss your appeal.

My report to the MEC will be in the form of an introductory section, followed by copies of my replies to the individual appellants, so this reply will form part of my report.

Mr Gerald Howarth MP

The ACA Review says that you were paid £1,894 for gardening in 2004-05, exceeding by £894 the £1,000 per annum limit set by the Review. It also says that you were paid £284 for a barbecue and garden furniture, but your appeal is confined to the sum of £894.

In your grounds of appeal to me you say, and I accept, that in 2004-05 your gardening expenses were unusually high because you had just acquired a new house and garden, with a mini wood which had to be brought under control. So there was, for example, tree-cutting work to be done. In the four subsequent financial years covered by the Review your gardening expenses amounted in all to £499, or slightly under £125 per annum. Had you known of the £1,000 per annum limit imposed by the Review you could have spread the work over subsequent years.

I have considerable sympathy for you. Plainly it is unfortunate that the limit was not set and publicised before claims were made, but the limit applied to you has also been applied to all other Members who claimed gardening expenses, and within my terms of reference (a copy of which I enclose) I find it impossible to say that there are special reasons in your individual case showing that it would not be fair and equitable to require repayment of £894.

I would therefore dismiss your appeal.

My report to the MEC will be in the form of an introductory section, followed by copies of my replies to the individual applicants, so this reply will form part of my report.

Mr David Jamieson

The ACA Review says that in September 2004 you were paid £350 for a desk, which exceeded the guideline price of £165 by £185. It also made another finding which you do not appeal.

In your grounds of appeal to me you say that the desk was second hand, and had been well used, but was not an antique. When you bought it you were not aware of any guidelines, and I accept that. I expect that had there been published guidelines you would have restricted your claim, and you cannot be criticised in any way for what you did. However, I am sure that you would accept that anyone considering a claim such as yours has to draw a line somewhere as the limit of what it is reasonable to expect the public to pay or contribute. The Review having now drawn the line for you, as it has done for all others claiming the cost of furniture, my terms of reference (a copy of which is enclosed) only permit me to intervene if I find special reasons in your individual case showing that it would not be fair and equitable to require repayment as recommended. I find no such reasons.

I would therefore dismiss your appeal.

My report to the MEC will be in the form of an introductory section, followed by copies of my replies to the individual appellants, so this reply will form part of my report.

Mr Bernard Jenkin MP

The ACA Review says that you were paid £63,250 over the 5 year period covered by the Review for the rent of your second home from your sister in law, and it recommends that you repay that sum because this was a 'conflicted' transaction, as defined in paragraph 86 of the Review. In this context that means no more than that the premises were rented from a close relative.

In your grounds of appeal to me you rely upon submissions prepared by counsel and dated 22 December 2009, which set out the chronology, which I can summarise. The house in question belongs to your sister in law, and since 2001 has been your constituency home. Initially you carried out repairs and maintenance in lieu of rent, but by March 2003, your sister in law wanted you to pay rent, so you consulted the Fees Office, and were told that if rent was paid pursuant to a properly documented rental agreement it would be recoverable. The agreement was prepared, and was approved by the Department on 6 July 2003. It was amended in 2004 and 2007, when the rent was increased.

In the July 2006 edition of the Green Book it was stated, for the first time, at paragraph 3.3.3, that the ACA must not be used to meet the costs of leasing accommodation from a partner or family member. That change was overlooked by you, and it seems to have been overlooked by the Fees Office when it approved the change in the rental agreement in 2007-08. On 15 May 2009 (after the end of the five year period covered by the Review) a member of the Fees Office staff wrote you apologising for not having drawn your attention to the change in the Rules made in July 2006, and allowing a period of grace until the end of August 2006 for you to change your arrangements.

Plainly you were open and frank with the Fees Office, and the rent which you recovered (£1,000 per month rising ultimately to £1,250 per month) was perfectly reasonable. As it seems to me there can be no criticism whatsoever of anything that you did prior to July 2006, but you did have an obligation to keep abreast of changes in the Rules. In his Introduction to the July 2006 edition of the Green Book, the Speaker said

Members themselves are responsible for ensuring that their use of allowances is above reproach. They should seek advice in cases of doubt and read the Green Book with care.

I accept the submission that in the light of the known facts there should be no recommendation for repayment of money received to reimburse you for rent paid prior to July 2006, but thereafter the position seems to me to be different. You were being paid out of public funds money to which you were not entitled. There is no hint of bad faith, but you cannot rely on the oversight of the Fees Office, or on your own oversight, to justify retention of money which you should never have had, and I see no room whatsoever for resort to legitimate expectation.

Accordingly, I find that there are special reasons in your individual case showing that it would not be fair and equitable to require repayment at the level recommended. The repayment should be restricted to the rent you paid for occupation of the property from August 2006 to the end of the Review period, which I understand amounts to £36,250.

To that extent I would allow your appeal.

My report to the MEC will be in the form of an introductory section, followed by copies of my replies to the individual appellants, so this reply will form part of my report.

Dr Lynne Jones MP

The ACA Review says that in July and August 2005 you were paid £815 twice for heating and radiator repair costs, and recommends that you repay £815. It also asks you to produce mortgage interest statements to justify payments made for April - July 2004 and March - November 2006. You protest about that, but no doubt it can be done.

In your grounds of appeal to me you accept that the overpayment occurred. You say that you pointed it out to the Fees Office before the Review began, but you seek to offset the overpayment against some underpayments which you say have occurred. You draw my attention to some recent correspondence with the Fees Office, but I do not find in that any clear evidence of admitted underpayment. You rightly accept that you cannot claim for expenditure where you did not seek to claim at the relevant time, and it seems to me that you also had an obligation to ensure that the claims you made, and the payments made to you in response to those claims, were correct.

My terms of reference (a copy of which I enclose) only permit me to intervene if I find special reasons in your individual case showing that it would not be fair and equitable to require repayment. On the information available to me I can find no such reasons.

I would therefore dismiss your appeal.

My report to the MEC will be in the form of an introductory section, followed by copies of my replies to the individual appellants, so this reply will form part of my report.

Mr Martyn Jones MP

The ACA Review says that you were overpaid a total of £310.36 for rent (£77.02 in April 2004-February 2005, and £233.34 in April 2007-March 2008), so it recommends that you repay £310.36.

In your Grounds of Appeal to me you say that in 2004-05 the problem may have arisen because the landlord's £10.00 per month telephone rental charge was included in the rent which you claimed as ACA. That was indeed the position. The Review separated it because you also claimed separately for other telephone charges. Nevertheless, I accept that the £10.00 per month could have been recovered as telephone charges, and it eliminates the overpayment alleged (now re-calculated at £51.07) in that financial year.

In 2007-08 you are right to say that the basic rent was £1,228.50 (save for the final month when it was £1,474.20) so the total for the year was £14,987.70, but your claims did not always match your monthly rental payments, so you were paid £15,221.04, an overpayment of £233.34. If, as you say, the telephone rental element had reduced to £8.33 per month that would amount to £99.96 over a year, which could have been claimed separately, but it would still leave an overpayment of £133.38.

On the other hand, in each of the other three years covered by the Review you underclaimed, by a total of £2972.95, so the overpayment of £133.38 can be set against those underclaims. The result is that in your case there are special reasons showing that it would not be fair and equitable to require any repayment and I would allow your appeal.

My report to the MEC will be in the form of an introductory section, followed by copies of my replies to the individual appellants, so this reply will form part of my report.

Rt Hon Sir Gerald Kaufman MP

The ACA Review says that you were paid -

1)  £240.95 in 2006-07 for two Waterford grapefruit bowls purchased as replacements for breakages which, it is said, should have been claimed on household insurance, the cost of which was recoverable under ACA.

2)  £1,851 in 2007 for a rug, which exceeded the guideline price of £330 by £1,521.74.

3)  £4,791 in 2008-09 for cleaning and laundry, which exceeded the £2,000 per annum limit for cleaning set by the Review by £2,791.

You have repaid £1,851.74, so it recommends repayment of the balance, namely £2,681.95.

With your letter to me of 15 December 2009 you supplied copies of your correspondence with the ACA Review, and you protest about the failure of the Review team to respond to your letters. That is not a matter for me. From the correspondence it appears that the three items of expenditure listed above were first drawn to your attention by the Review team on 12 October 2009. You then, in your letter of 15 October, corrected the description of the bowls in item 1), and said that as to item 2), you repaid the full sum to the Fees Office on 30 June 2009. In relation to item 3) you asked for details. None seem to have been provided, but on 30 November 2009 the Review wrote to you recommending repayment of £2,681.95, for the reasons set out above.

The material you have sent to me does not address the point taken by the Review in relation to item 1), namely that the loss should have been borne by your household insurers, not by the public through the ACA. As to item 2) the figures quoted by the Review show that you did indeed repay the full cost of the rug, so it requires no further consideration. In relation to item 3) I enclose a schedule which sets out the claims you made for cleaning and laundry in 2008-09, and explains how the Review arrived at a total of £4,791. To the limited extent that laundry costs can properly be regarded as within the scope of the ACA it seems to me reasonable to treat them as cleaning costs, and, as you know the Review has applied a limit of £2,000 per annum to such costs. Obviously it would have been better if the limit had been fixed and publicised before the claims were made, but I am sure that you would accept that anyone considering the extent to which the public should pay for the cleaning costs of a second home has to fix a limit somewhere. The Review having fixed the limit, and applied it to claims by all Members I do not see how, within my terms of reference (a copy of which I enclose) I can intervene. I can only do so if I find special reasons in your individual case showing that it would not be fair and equitable to require repayment, either at all, or at the level recommended. I can find no such reasons. Indeed you may have noticed that because of the way in which the Review approached its task it has recommended that you pay £330 less than would otherwise have been the case.

I would therefore dismiss your appeal.

My report to the MEC will be in the form of an introductory section, followed by copies of my replies to the individual appellants, so this reply will form part of my report.

Miss Julie Kirkbride MP

The ACA Review points out that you are married to another MP, Andrew MacKay. You designated your constituency home as your second home. He nominated it as his main home, and the flat which you shared in London as his second home. That enabled you to claim the expenses relating both properties against ACA, and you did so, your claims being at or close to the full annual allowance. The Review describes this as "a financial benefit which appears unintended under the Green Book rules, and as such to the principles governing it". It is said that had you made different designations each of you might reasonably have claimed up to 2/3 of the full allowance on a shared second home. The Review has therefore concluded that each of you was overpaid by 1/3 of the maximum ACA for each year of the review period, a total of £29,243.

The Review goes on to point out that in May 2008 you extended the mortgage on your designated second home (your constituency home) to fund the construction of an additional bedroom, mainly for the use of your brother to provide childcare for your family. The total interest recovered under ACA in relation to the increase on the mortgage amounted to £2,584.26, and the Review states that as the accommodation was for a non-dependant family member the transaction was conflicted. It is clear from paragraph 8 of the Review that such a transaction would be regarded as conflicted because it involved a close family relative.

In your Grounds of Appeal to me you take a number of points in relation to your choice of designated home. You say, rightly, that nowhere in the Green Books during the review period was it suggested that married couples should consider their ACA claims as joint, and capped at a lower level than the maximum amount. It was only in May 2009 that the Rules were changed to require Members married to each other to nominate the same main home, and restricted them to claiming one person's Personal Additional Accommodation Expenditure (the successor to ACA) between them. You submit that it can be inferred that you and your husband were not acting contrary to the rules until that change was made. You also say that what you did was done openly and with the knowledge of the Fees Office. When you married your husband he took advice from the Head of the Fees Office, and you, as a new Member, acted on that advice. You refer to the doctrine of Estoppel, but it has nothing to do with the issues with which I am concerned. Even if the Fees Office gave bad advice, it cannot have rendered valid and acceptable an invalid claim. I accept of course that the Fees Office did know what was going on, because it authorised payments in response to your claims, and I accept that in one sense the Review decision is retrospective, but I find it a little difficult to accept your suggestion that your choice of designation represented reality because your husband's family live in or near your constituency, hence making it his natural home, whereas you are based in London as the principal carer for your child.

To my mind the fundamental reason why the arrangements which you made cannot be regarded as acceptable is that they lost sight of the purpose of ACA, which was to assist Members to fund the cost of accommodation when they needed a second home in order to fulfil their duties. It was never intended to relieve them of the costs of their main home, and you operated it in such a way that you achieved that result. Although you have challenged the approach adopted by the Review, I do not understand you to challenge the figures if that approach is found to be correct.

I turn now to your appeal in relation to mortgage interest on your extended mortgage. You explain that your second home (your constituency home) had only 2 bedrooms. By 2008 you needed an extra bedroom to accommodate your child's carer, and at that time you were lucky enough to be able normally to call upon your brother to provide that service at week-ends and in the holidays. The edition of the Green Book which was current at that time stated that ACA was not available to recover -

"interest on any additional mortgages, advances or loans secured on the same property unless required for the repair or improvement of that property".

It seems to me that in your case there was no problem, because the additional loan was used to improve the property, and you tell me that before the work was undertaken you explained to a senior Accounting Officer in the Fees Office what you proposed to do and why. He then, as you put it, "authorised the extension of the mortgage".

I accept that by 2008 there were restrictions on transactions with family members. ACA could not be used to meet the costs of a mortgage or for leasing accommodation from a partner or family member (see paragraph 3.3.3 of the Green Book), but I see no reason why that should have been extended to prevent you from recovering the costs of an additional mortgage required to enable you to provide a child carer's bedroom just because at that time it was envisaged that the child-carer would normally be your brother.

Accordingly, I am satisfied that there are special reasons in your individual case showing that it would not be fair and equitable to require repayment of £2,584.26. I find no such reasons in relation to the sum of £29,243. As you have already repaid £1,811.64 the balance now recommended for repayment is £27,431.36.

To the limited extent indicated I would allow your appeal.

My report to the MEC will be in the form of an introductory section, followed by copies of my replies to the individual appellants, so this reply will form part of my report.

Mrs Jacqui Lait

The ACA Review says that you were overpaid mortgage interest by a total of £622.94 (£606.54 in January to March 2007, and £16.40 in 2007-2008). You have made a repayment of £87.67, and are now recommended to repay the balance, namely £535.27.

Your grounds to me are dated 8 December 2009, and make it clear that what you really wanted was detailed figures to show what was owing, on examination of which you would be prepared to pay what you owed. On 5 January 2010, a member of the Review Team provided you with the figures, and with an explanation of the position taken by the review. That explanation seems to me to deal fully with the 2 periods mentioned above, namely January to March 2007, and the fiscal year 2007 to 2008. I assume that you will now repay the balance as recommended.

It follows that I find no special reasons in your individual case showing that it would not be fair and equitable to require repayment and I would therefore dismiss your appeal.

My report to the MEC will be in the form of an introductory section, followed by copies of my replies to the individual appellants, so this reply will form part of my report.

Mr Edward Leigh MP

The ACA Review says that in October 2005 you took out an additional mortgage for £100,000 for purposes not shown to be allowable under the ACA, and should repay the mortgage interest recovered by you in relation to that mortgage, a total of £5,025.94 over 3 financial years.

The Review also states that you were paid £11,700 for cleaning costs over the 5 year review period, exceeding the maximum figure of £2,000 per annum set by the review by a total of £1,700. You are therefore recommended to repay a total of £6,725.94, less £1,755 which you have already repaid, the balance being £4,970.94.

In your Grounds of Appeal to me you explain that when you increased your mortgage from £202,000 to £302,000 in October 2005 you accepted from the outset that the interest on the increased mortgage would not be recoverable as part of your ACA, so you thereafter only claimed interest on the original loan (about 2/3 of the interest you had to pay to the mortgage lender). The Review has accepted that as a proper approach, but found that you were overpaid in 3 fiscal years covered by the review to a total of £5,025.94, and underclaimed, and so were underpaid, in the other 2 years to a total of £3,614.04. The figures do not seem to be in dispute, but what you challenge is the refusal of the Review to give you credit for the underpayments on the basis that the ACA is an annual allowance. Whilst I accept that it is an annual allowance, it seems to me to be clear that when deciding what should now be repaid there are special reasons in your case showing that it would not be fair and equitable to require repayment of £5,025.94, but only of £1,411.90, which takes into account the 2 years when you underclaimed.

I turn now to what you say about cleaning costs. I accept that the limit of £2,000 per annum was imposed by the Review after the expenditure was incurred. But I am sure that you will accept that anyone assessing the reasonableness of your claims seeking recovery from public funds will have to draw a line somewhere. The Review having drawn that line at £2,000 per annum for all Members my Terms of Reference (a copy of which I enclose) do not permit me to interfere unless I find special reasons in your individual case showing that it would not be fair and equitable to require repayment. In relation to cleaning expenses I can find no such reasons. I would therefore dismiss that part of your appeal.

You say in your letter to me that "the London house has always cost me more from the available allowances which are intended to cover the running costs of this my second home".

I have no difficulty in accepting that allowances have not covered the costs, but I question whether they were ever intended to be more than a contribution to certain parts of those costs, paid from public funds.

Finally, at the end of your letter, you refer to "generic matters on which a judicial review is sought". As to those matters I make no comment, because of the carefully restricted nature of my Terms of Reference.

I therefore recommend repayment of £1,411.90 plus £1,700, less £1755 already paid = 1,356.90. To the extent indicated above I would allow your appeal.

My report to the MEC will be in the form of an introductory section, followed by copies of my replies to the individual applicants, so this reply will form part of my report.

Dr Julian Lewis MP

The ACA Review says that in July 2006 you were paid £829.85 for mortgage interest related to the previous year. You have, I understand, repaid that sum.

The Review also says that in July 2006 you were paid £789 for a washer/drier, which exceeded the guideline price of £550 by £239, so you are recommended to repay that sum.

In your Grounds of Appeal to me you explain that at the material time you were unaware of any guideline price. I accept that. You also say that all you were doing was replacing a worn out appliance in a fitted kitchen with an identical appliance which fitted in the available space. It was made by Bosch, not an unduly expensive brand, and because it fitted in the available space there were no significant extra costs for plumbing, wiring or re-ordering the kitchen. Had such costs been incurred you could have reclaimed them, so your course of action restricted the burden on public funds. Furthermore, you discussed with the Fees Office what you proposed to do, and received approval, an assertion supported to some extent by an email from the Fees Office which I have seen.

There can be no possible criticism of what you did when replacing the washer/drier. Any prudent householder would have done the same. But I am sure that you would accept that anyone assessing your claim to recover the full cost from public funds would have to draw a line somewhere. The Review has drawn that line by reference to a guideline, of which you knew nothing. No doubt had you known of it you would not have claimed more, but the guideline having now been established and applied to all Members' claims such as yours, my carefully restricted Terms of Reference (a copy of which I enclose) only permit me to interfere if I can find special reasons in your individual case showing that it would not be fair and equitable to require repayment. I can find no such reasons. The ultimate result is that (like others who purchased furniture) you have had the benefit of an appliance which fits your kitchen and the public will have contributed to its cost up to the limit of the guideline price.

I would therefore dismiss your appeal.

My report to the MEC will be in the form of an introductory section, followed by copies of my replies to the individual appellants, so this reply will form part of my report.

Mr Ian Liddell-Grainger MP

The ACA Review stated that you were paid £2,350 for cleaning costs in 2008-09, exceeding by £350 the maximum set by the Review of £2,000 per annum.

The Review also states that in 2008-09 you were overpaid in respect of mortgage interest by £2,146.23, so you are recommended to repay a total of £350 plus £2,146.23 = £2,496.23.

In your Grounds of Appeal to me, set out in your letter of 14 December 2009, you say that although the £2,000 per annum is "an arbitrary limit retrospectively imposed, without any explanation of how that figure was reached" you will repay £350. I therefore say no more about cleaning costs.

As to mortgage interest claims, a re-examination of the claims made over the 5-year period covered by the Review shows that although you did overclaim in one year you underclaimed, to a greater extent, in the other years, so I am satisfied that you should not be recommended to repay any part of the sum of £2,146.23. The overpayments constitute special reasons in your case showing that it would not be fair and equitable to require repayment in relation to mortgage interest and I would allow your appeal.

My report to the MEC will be in the form of an introductory section, followed by copies of my replies to the individual appellants, so this reply will form part of my report.

Rt Hon Peter Lilley MP

The ACA Review says that you purchased your second home in 2003 using a loan from your wife. In 2005 you replaced the loan with a mortgage, held jointly with your wife, and repaid her the original loan. Over the rest of the Review period you were paid £41,057.36 in respect of mortgage interest. "In substance", it is said by the Review "this loan appears to have released capital, which was not permitted under the ACA, other than for the purpose of improving or repairing the house". You are therefore recommended to repay £41,057.36.

In your Grounds of Appeal to me you give a little more of the history, which does not seem to be disputed. When in 2003 you found the house which became your second home, the vendor, who had moved abroad, required an immediate cash offer, not conditional upon a building society loan. You were not in a position to make such an offer, but your wife had funds she was holding, primarily to invest for her mother to help pay nursing home fees, and she reluctantly agreed to release those funds. You asked the Fees Office if it would be acceptable to obtain a loan in that way, and got approval. You thus obtained a loan of £265,000. Interest was set at a competitive market rate, of base rate plus 1.5% (less than a bank would have charged), and was declared for tax purposes, so your wife paid tax on that interest. In 2005 you discussed with HSBC obtaining a mortgage for £265,000 to enable you to repay your wife's loan, and obtained Fees Office approval for that course of action. You have recently been told by the Head of the Fees Office that had you not replaced her loan of your own volition you would soon have been asked to do so because in July 2006 the Green Book rules were changed to prevent ACA from being used to meet the costs of a mortgage (or by inference a loan) from a family member.

So the mortgage in respect of which you claimed mortgage interest was not an additional mortgage. It was a first mortgage, and your wife's loan was analogous to a bank bridging loan. Nothing in the rules required you to obtain a mortgage within a set period of time of completion, and in any event the period was not long. If it had been obtained to repay a bank bridging loan it would still, in one sense, have been obtained to release capital, and the Green Book never did prevent you from claiming interest if you replaced one mortgage with another for the same amount. All that it prevented was a claim for interest on "any additional mortgages, advances or loans secured on the same property", which was not a relevant inhibition in your case.

I find your arguments compelling. I am at a loss to understand why the Review should state that what you did was not permitted under the ACA, nor do I understand the reference to improving or repairing the home, which appears to be a reference to a relaxation in relation to additional mortgages only introduced into the Green Book in July 2006. I therefore find special reasons in your individual case showing that it would not be fair and equitable to require repayment of any part of the sum of £41,057.36 and I would allow your appeal in full.

My report to the MEC will be in the form of an introductory section, followed by copies of my replies to the individual appellants, so this reply will form part of my report.

Mr Iain Luke

The ACA Review says that in 2004 to 2005 you were paid £1,230 for petty cash, which was not allowable under Green Book rules. You are therefore recommended to repay that sum.

In your Grounds of Appeal to me you say that the Fees Office must have approved the relevant payments at that time, and that if they were wrong they should repay, not you. That is not a good argument. The Fees Office may have been wrong, but you had the money, and were under an obligation only to claim that to which you were entitled. ACA was never available to provide petty cash, but the Green Book (2004 edition paragraph 3.6.1) did not require documentary proof for items of expenditure of less than £250 (except for food). That seems to have been understood by your late wife who, I understand, prepared your claims for "out of pocket expenditure". You tell me that she died on 21 November 2009 after struggling with cancer for many years, so obviously you have been handicapped in responding to the Review, and I offer you my sympathy in your loss.

You point out that you left Parliament in 2005 and all your Parliamentary papers were shredded some time ago, so you are no longer in a position to say how the ACA claims in question were framed. In addition, because of your wife's illness, you have suffered financially, as well as physically and emotionally. Until last August you could only accept temporary contracts in education, and even now you only earn £1,860 per month net, out of which you have to fund your home and the needs of your three children, none of whom are in paid employment. One is at University, and the second hopes to go there later this year, and that all involves you accepting extra financial strain.

My Terms of Reference enable me to consider whether there are special reasons in your individual case showing that it would not be fair and equitable to require repayment either at all, or at the level recommended. I have concluded that your personal circumstances do reveal such reasons. I would therefore allow your appeal and recommend no repayment.

My report to the MEC will be in the form of an introductory section, followed by copies of my replies to the individual appellants, so this reply will form part of my report.

Rt Hon Andrew Mackay MP

The ACA Review points out that you are married to another MP, Julie Kirkbride. You designated your London flat as your second home. She nominated it as her main home, and the constituency home, which you also shared, as her second home. For you it was designated as your main home. That enabled you, as a married couple, to claim the expenses relating to both properties against ACA, and you did so. Your claims being at or close to the full annual allowance. The Review describes this "a financial benefit for the couple which appears unintended under the Green Book rules, and as such contrary to the principles governing it". It is said that had you made different designations each of you might have reasonably claimed up to 2/3 of the full allowance on a shared second home. The Review has therefore concluded that each of you was overpaid by 1/3 of the maximum ACA for each year of the review period, a total of £29,243.

The Review also states that you were paid £9,950 for cleaning over the 4 years April 2004 to April 2008, thus exceeding the maximum of £2,000 per annum set by the Review by a total of £1,950.

You are therefore recommended to repay a total of £31,193.

In your Grounds of Appeal to me you emphasise the position of the Fees Office as a source of advice, especially where circumstances are unusual. It has, and throughout the relevant period has always had, authority to interpret and enforce the rules. Thus far I agree with you, but the conclusions which you seek to draw seem to me to be, in certain respects, mistaken. I accept that Members were and are entitled to rely on advice given by the Fees Office and its officials, but only if they have no reason to believe that it is wrong. If they do rely on such advice in good faith they cannot be said to have acted improperly even if, in the end, the advice tendered turns out to be mistaken. But all of this has nothing to do with the law of agency, or Estoppel. We are concerned here with admissible claims against public funds, and, as the Speaker wrote in his introduction to the Green Book (April 2005 edition), "Members themselves are responsible for ensuring that their use of allowances is above reproach". You say that the way in which you and your wife designated your homes was in accordance with advice given by the Fees Office. If so it seems to me that the advice was plainly mistaken, and indeed that you should have recognised it to be mistaken.

As I have said in my letter to your wife, the fundamental reason why the arrangements which you made cannot be regarded as acceptable is that they lost sight of the purpose of ACA, which was to assist Members to fund the cost of accommodation when they needed a second home in order to fulfil their duties. It was never intended to relieve them of the costs of their main home, and you operated it in such a way as to achieve that result.

I agree that the basis of the overall approach adopted by the Review to calculate what you and your wife might reasonably have claimed on a shared second home is difficult to discern, but if anything it seems to me to be generous, and you do not contend otherwise. I therefore find no special reasons in your individual case showing that it would not be fair and equitable to require repayment of £29,243.

I turn to the costs of cleaning. I agree that the limit of £2,000 per annum was not in place when the costs were incurred, and that is unfortunate. But I am sure that you would agree that anyone considering what sum it would be reasonable to ask the public to pay towards the cost of cleaning a second home would have to draw a line somewhere. The Review has drawn it at £2,000 per annum for all Members. My Terms of Reference (a copy of which I enclose) only permit me to intervene if I can find special reasons in your individual case showing that it would not be fair and equitable to require repayment either at all, or at the level recommended. I can find no such reasons.

I would therefore dismiss both parts of your appeal.

My report to the MEC will be in the form of an introductory section, followed by copies of my replies to the individual appellants, so this reply will form part of my report.

Mr Denis MacShane MP

The ACA Review states that you were paid cleaning costs totaling £7,354.34 in 3 financial years (£3,000 in 2004 to 2005, £2,341.34 in 2005 to 2006, and £2,013 in 2007 to 2008), which exceeded in each year the £2,000 per annum limit set by the Review, so you are recommended to repay £1,354.34.

You are also said to have been paid £153.39 in September and October 2008 for gas, without providing sufficient evidence to show that the supply was to your second home, the only address on the bill being that of your main home, so you are recommended to repay £1,354.34 plus £153.39 = £1,507.73.

You are also asked to provide mortgage interest statements for the period April 2004 to January 2006 to support payments totaling £6,001.34.

In relation to the cleaning costs you say in your Grounds of Appeal to me that it would be difficult to keep within the £2,000 limit set by the Review and yet pay the minimum wage. You may well be right, but I am sure that you would accept that anyone assessing your claim would have to set a limit somewhere as to the amount properly recoverable from public funds. The Review has set that limit to £2,000 per annum. It is very unfortunate that it was not set before you made your cleaning claims, and of course no one could possibly criticise you for paying more, but my carefully restricted Terms of Reference (copy of which I enclose) do not permit me to interfere. I can only do so if there are special reasons in your individual case showing that it would not be fair and equitable to require repayment in accordance with the limit applied to all other Members in respect of cleaning claims. I cannot find any such reasons in your case. You have said nothing to me about the finding in relation to gas, and I understand the time set by the Review for the production of mortgage interest statements has been extended in your case.

I would therefore dismiss your appeal.

My report to the MEC will be in the form of an introductory section, followed by copies of my replies to the individual appellants, so this reply will form part of my report.

Mr Gordon Marsden MP

The ACA Review says that in 2004 to 2005 you were paid £1,135.40 for mobile phone costs which are not allowable under the Green Book. You are recommended to pay that sum.

In your Grounds of Appeal to me you explain, by reference to your letter to the Review of 29 October 2009, that in 2004 to 2005 you did not have a landline in your constituency home, and understood from the Fees Office that claims for your mobile phone which was registered at your constituency address, supported by receipts, would be acceptable for the purposes of ACA. In the following fiscal year the Fees Office advised you to submit such claims as Incidental Expenses, and you did so. Had your mobile phone claims been submitted as Incidental Expenses in 2004 to 2005 they would have been paid, because your total claim for IEP fell well short of the annual limit for that financial year.

In fact you could also have made the point that it was only in the April 2005 edition of the Green Book that it was stated, for the first time, that although telecommunication charges remained recoverable as ACA, mobile phone rental and charges were not recoverable. Accordingly, as it seems to me, what you did, guided by the Fees Office, was entirely in line with requirements which were current at the time, and it follows that there are special reasons in your individual case showing that it would not be fair and equitable to require any repayment.

I would therefore allow your appeal.

My report to the MEC will be in the form of an introductory section, followed by copies of my replies to the individual appellants, so this reply will form part of my report.

Mr Steve McCabe MP

Mr McCabe entered notice of appeal but the Review found, when it completed its calculations, that there were no issues in his case.

Ms Christine McCafferty MP

The ACA Review says that in the fiscal year 2004 to 2005, and in the period April to May 2005, you were overpaid mortgage interest to a total of £818.81. You accept that calculation and have repaid.

The report also says that in February 2008 you were paid £1,481 for a fitted wardrobe which exceeded the guideline price of £770 by £711.

In your Grounds of Appeal to me you say the claim for the fitted wardrobe included an initial survey, plus a full day's labour when it was fitted, and was the lowest quote provided to you. It was accepted by the Fees Office at a time when you were unaware, and had no reason to be aware, of any guideline price. I accept all of that, and I can understand your irritation at being asked to repay because you exceeded a guideline price of which you were unaware. But I am sure you would accept that anyone required to consider to what extent the cost of an item of furniture should be borne by public funds would have to draw a line somewhere. The Review has drawn it for you and for all other Members by reference to guideline prices, and recommended that any excess be repaid. My Terms of Reference (a copy of which I enclose) do not permit me to interfere unless I can find special reasons in your individual case showing that it would not be fair an equitable to require repayment. I can find no such reasons. I would therefore dismiss your appeal.

My report to the MEC will be in the form of an introductory section, followed by copies of my replies to the individual appellants, so this reply will form part of my report.

Mr Andrew Miller MP

The ACA Review says that you were overpaid by £316 for council tax in 2004-05, and recommends repayment of that sum.

In your Grounds of Appeal to me you accept that the overpayment did occur, but explain that at the end of that fiscal year your final monthly claim for ACA was reduced by the Fees Office by £126.74 because otherwise you would have exceeded what was then the annual maximum. You submit that the enforced reduction applied to otherwise valid claims should be taken into account when deciding how much you should now repay, with the result that the repayment should be limited to £189.26.

My Terms of Reference enable me to interfere if I consider that there are special reasons in your individual case showing that it would not be fair and equitable to require repayment either at all, or at the level recommended. I accept that, in the light of what you have said, there are such reasons, and that you should only be recommended to repay £189.26. To that extent I would allow your appeal.

My report to the MEC will be in the form of an introductory section, followed by copies of my replies to the individual appellants, so this reply will form part of my report.

Ms Kali Mountford MP

The ACA Review says that -

3)  between April 2004 and May 2005 you received £340.40 for taxis, which are not allowable under Green Book rules.

4)  in 2007 to 2008 you were overpaid by £832.97 in respect of council tax, and

5)  in 2 financial years you were overpaid a total of £792.42 for rent (£758.69 in 2005 to 2006 and £33.73 in 2008 to 2009).

You are therefore recommended to repay a total of £1,965.79.

In your Grounds of Appeal to me you deal with the matters identified above as follows -

1)  Taxis: some claims were made and some disallowed. You do not seem to contend that all claims were disallowed. In fact the record show that whilst some claims for taxis were disallowed 3 payments against invoices were made - in April 2004 £220; in May 2004 £70.40; and in June 2004 £50; totalling £340.40. I do not understand you to challenge the Review's contention that taxi fares were not within the scope of ACA.

2)  Council Tax: in essence you say that the Fees Office must have had the necessary evidence when they authorised payments. There is not currently available a council tax statement for 2007 to 2008 (perhaps because the installments were under £250 per month). It is however known that the rate of tax increased by .9% to produce the council statement for the next year, which is available, so it is possible to calculate what you paid to the council in 2007 to 2008, and compare that with the sum which you claimed. The result is the overpayment of £832.97.

3)  Rent: again you say that the Fees Office must have had the necessary evidence to support the payments made. There are available clear rental and other statements showing what you should have recovered, but you seem to have made your claims irregularly. A comparison between the rental and other statements on the one hand and the sums paid in response to your claims on the other shows the overpayments alleged.

I therefore find no special reasons in your individual case showing that it would not be fair and equitable to require repayment at the level recommended.

I would therefore dismiss your appeal.

My report to the MEC will be in the form of an introductory section, followed by copies of my replies to the individual appellants, so this reply will form part of my report.

Mr Chris Mullin MP

The ACA Review says that it in 2005 to 2006 you were paid twice for contents insurance on your second home. You accept that, and have repaid.

The Review also states that in August 2008 you were paid £899 in respect of a mortgage acceptance fee which was added to the mortgage capital balance. Your subsequent claims for mortgage interest included an element for that fee, so the payment was in effect duplicated. You are recommended to repay £899.

In your Grounds of Appeal to me you say, and I accept, that as soon as the position in relation to the mortgage acceptance fee was pointed out to you by the Review, you offered to reduce your mortgage by £899 and repay the interest you had claimed in respect of that sum since it was added to your mortgage, thus eliminating any loss to the taxpayer. The Review did not respond to your offer, so you have done what you offered to do, and I have evidence to prove it. You calculated the interest at £36.69, and to be on the safe side rounded it up to £40, the sum which you paid.

That, as it seems to me, disposes of the matter. You were entitled to claim one mortgage acceptance fee from ACA, and you are now in a position where you have nothing to which you are not entitled. A recommendation for repayment can no longer be sustained, as a result of the actions taken by you.

I would therefore allow your appeal.

My report to the MEC will be in the form of an introductory section, followed by copies of my replies to the individual appellants, so this reply will form part of my report.

Mr Dan Norris MP

The ACA Review says that you were paid cleaning costs of £9,730.19 over a 4 year period (£2,544 in 2004-05, £2,653.85 in 2005-06, £2,424.17 in 2006-07 and £2,108.17 in 2007-08) which exceeded the limit of £2,000 per annum set by the Review by £1,730.19, which sum you are recommended to repay.

In your Grounds of Appeal to me you explain, as you did previously to the Review, that your cleaning costs were higher than they would otherwise have been because, for good reasons which I need not develop, you ran your constituency office from part of your second home. As you point out, the Green Book specifically permitted you to do that, and to charge, under the heading of Incidental Expenses, for any additional costs incurred (eg telephone lines, heat, light, but not leasing or mortgage). You chose to claim all of your cleaning costs against your ACA because you were anxious to avoid any suggestion that you had double-claimed, or had used IEP to meet personal costs. You say that when applying the limit of £2,000 per annum to you, the Review failed to have regard to your unusual circumstances, and in particular the need to house your constituency office in your second home with the result that a substantial part of the cleaning costs you incurred were office cleaning costs potentially recoverable as IEP.

As it was permissible for any Member to provide space for his or her constituency office in his or her second home, I do not consider it to be of any importance for present purposes why you chose to follow that course. Equally, as it seems to me, any Member with a constituency office at home was free to decide how to deal with cleaning costs. You might have chosen differently if you had known of the £2,000 per annum limit which was to be imposed by the Review, but that, as it seems to me, only puts you in the same position as other Members, and particularly those with offices at home. As you may recall, my Terms of Reference are carefully restricted. For your convenience I enclose a copy. I can only interfere if I find special reasons in your individual case showing that it would not be fair and equitable to require repayment. I can find no such reasons, and I would therefore dismiss your appeal.

My report to the MEC will be in the form of an introductory section, followed by copies of my replies to the individual appellants, so this reply will form part of my report.

Lembit Öpik MP

The ACA Review says that between November 2004 and March 2005 you were paid £909.42 for mobile phone bills which "are not allowable under Green Book rules".

The Review also refers to payments in respect of court costs totalling £155, which are not under appeal, and allowing for repayment of £195 it recommends repayment of £869.42.

In your Grounds of Appeal to me you say that at the time when your mobile phone bills were claimed as part of your ACA there was nothing in the Green Book to indicate that such claims could not be made. I agree. It was only in the April 2005 edition of the Green Book that it was stated, for the first time, that although telecommunications charges remained recoverable ACA could not be used to recover mobile phone rental and charges.

I am therefore satisfied that there are special reasons in your individual case showing why it would not be fair and equitable to require repayment of the sum of £909.42. I would therefore allow your appeal.

My report to the MEC will be in the form of an introductory section, followed by copies of my replies to the individual appellants, so this reply will form part of my report.

Rt Hon Baroness Quin

The ACA Review says that you were paid £1,504 for new bathroom equipment, with the work done on 27 March 2005, a few days before Parliament was dissolved, you having previously announced your intention to stand down from the House of Commons. The Review recommends repayment of £1,504.

In your Grounds of Appeal to me you make it clear that you are principally concerned to challenge (1) any suggestion that the new bathroom equipment was anything other than replacement of broken equipment, and (2) any unfavourable inference that might be derived from the timing.

The item in question was a bath/shower mixer. After the work was done, you told the Fees Office that it had taken you 2 to 3 months to find and then engage a plumber to do the work. In a letter to you from the Department of Finance and Administration dated 8 March 2005 you were told that you would not be able to use ACA for expenditure incurred "after Dissolution". The work was done on 28 March 2005, and Dissolution was 6 days later. On 26 April 2005 you submitted your March claim for ACA, which included the claim for £1,504. By then a policy had been adopted restricting ACA claims made at the end of a Parliament by Members standing down. Because of the existence of that policy your claim for £1,504 was initially rejected by the Fees Office, but you claimed to have been unaware of the policy, and on 20 May 2005 your claim was allowed.

In the light of the history it seems to me that there are special reasons why in your individual case it would not now be fair and equitable to require repayment. In coming to that conclusion I accept that you were simply replacing broken or worn out equipment, that the work took some time to arrange, that before it was done you were told that you could not claim ACA for work done after Dissolution, but were not told of any policy to be applied to Members standing down. That seems to be in line with the conclusion reached by the Fees Office in May 2005.

I would therefore allow your appeal.

My report to the MEC will be in the form of an introductory section, followed by copies of my replies to the individual appellants, so this reply will form part of my report.

Rt Hon John Redwood MP

The ACA Review says that in March 2005 you were paid £112 for the cost of re-seeding your lawn, which was not allowable under Green Book rules, and it is recommended that you repay that sum.

In your Grounds of Appeal to me you say that the expenditure was incurred re-seeding worn patches, a form of garden maintenance, and that the Fees Office raised no issue in relation to it. No question has been raised in relation to scarification which was done in the same year.

I entirely understand why you submitted the claim when you did, but, as was explained to you by a member of the Review Team in her email of 3 November 2009, "the criteria used for the Review are such that only claims for basic garden maintenance are allowable (eg lawn cutting, weeding, pruning shrubs)". I am sure that you would agree that anyone who has to decide what gardening expenses should be borne by public funds has to draw a line somewhere. The point at which it has been drawn by the Review for you and for all other Members seems to me to be clear and reasonable. It does not imply any lack of integrity on your part, but my Terms of Reference (a copy of which I enclose) only enable me to interfere if I find special reasons in your individual case showing that it would not be fair and equitable to require repayment. I can find no such reasons.

I would therefore dismiss your appeal.

My report to the MEC will be in the form of an introductory section, followed by copies of my replies to the individual appellants, so this reply will form part of my report.

Mr Frank Roy MP

The ACA Review says that in 2005-2006 you were overpaid in respect of mortgage interest by £545.79, and recommends repayment of that sum.

In the Grounds of Appeal you say that a comparison of the mortgage statement from your mortgage lender, Bank of Ireland, and your ACA claims shows that you paid interest amounting to £11,911.84, and only recovered through ACA £11,087.37.

The documentation you have produced to me was not all available for the Review team, which had to make calculations without it. Having seen your copies of your ACA claims I accept that you recovered £11,087.37, your initial 2-month claim being reduced by £802.63 to allow for a period of dissolution. I also accept that you paid £11, 911.84 to your mortgage lender, but that figure also has to be reduced by £802.63 before a proper comparison can be made. It comes down to £11,109.21. Thus it becomes clear that in the relevant fiscal year you did not overclaim. You underclaimed in respect of mortgage interest by £21.84.

Accordingly, I find special reasons in your individual case showing that it would not be fair and equitable to require any repayment, and I would allow your appeal.

My report to the MEC will be in the form of an introductory section, followed by copies of my replies to the individual appellants, so this reply will form part of my report.

Ms Alison Seabeck MP

The ACA Review says that in October 2007 you were overpaid by a total of £1,167 for mortgage interest, and that in November 2005 you were paid £795.00 twice for rent. You are therefore recommended to repay £1,962.00.

In your grounds of Appeal to me you accept that mortgage interest was overpaid, and you say that you have repaid it. I accept that. As to rent, you accept that there was a double payment, but say that you spotted it yourself and corrected it by not claiming in May or June 2006, at the end of your 12-month tenancy.

I accept that you did not claim for rent in May or June 2006, but it is clear from the records, which include your ACA claims forms, that in early April 2006 you changed your designated second home to a property which you had just purchased, and from that time onwards you claimed mortgage interest repayments for that property. You were not entitled to claim for both mortgage interest repayments in respect of one property and the rent of another property, and you did not do so., but you cannot now claim credit for not having done so.

I can therefore find no special reasons in your individual case showing that it would not be fair and equitable to require repayment of £795.00, and I would therefore dismiss your appeal.

My report to the MEC will be in the form of an introductory section, followed by copies of my replies to the individual appellants, so this reply will form part of my report.

Richard Shepherd MP

The ACA Review says that in September and October 2007 you were paid £705 twice, for tree works, and that in 2005-06 you were paid £110.88 cleaning in a period of Dissolution. You accepted those findings and have repaid in full.

The Review also says that -

In 2005-06 you were paid gardening cost of £1,576, which exceeded the maximum figure of £1,000 per annum set by the Review by £576;

Over three years you were paid cleaning costs totalling £7,800 (£2,520 in 2005-06; £2,620 in 2006-07, and £2,660 in 2007-08) which exceeds the maximum figure of £2,000 per annum set by the Review by a total of £1,800.

You are therefore recommended to repay £2,376 (allowing for the repayment already made).

In your Grounds of Appeal to me you say that you maintained a constituency home in order to perform your duties as a Member. Your claims for services were open, and reasonable, and were never challenged by the Fees Office. As you are single and away a lot you need a housekeeper to service, maintain and watch over the property. You also point out that at the time when your claims were made there was no annual limit on claims for services, and suggest that the imposition of one subsequently is unfair, and may be barred by implied consent or estoppel.

I am afraid that I see no room here for arguments about implied consent or estoppel. The ACA Review was charged by Parliament with the task of examining all payments made against the rules and standards in force at the time. I can understand your irritation at your claims being measured against limits which had not been set and published when the claims were made, but I am sure that you would accept that anyone assessing such claims against public funds would have to set limits somewhere, and the Review having set the limits for all Members' claims at £1,000 per annum for gardening and £2,000 per annum for cleaning my Terms of Reference (a copy of which I enclose) only permit me to interfere if I find special reasons in your individual case showing that it would not be fair and equitable to require repayment. I can find no such reasons, and your appeal is therefore dismissed.

My report to the MEC will be in the form of an introductory section, followed by copies of my replies to the individual appellants, so this reply will form part of my report.

Sir Michael Spicer MP

The ACA Review says that -

Over the 5 year period covered by the Review you were paid a total of £15,612.87 for garden maintenance, which exceeds the maximum of £1,000 per annum set by the Review by £10,612.87;

Over three years you were paid a total of £10,179.00 for cleaning, which exceeds the maximum allowance of £2,000 per annum set by the Review by £4,179, and;

In December 2005 you were paid £730.00 for a dishwasher, which exceeds the guideline price by £317.50.

You are therefore recommended to repay a total of £15,109.37.

In your Grounds of Appeal to me you complain that the maximum annual allowances used by the Review have been "invented retrospectively", and take no account of authority given to the Fees Office, or of its practice of imposing a limit of £300 per month for gardening. You say that if you had known at the time of the annual limits now being applied you would have structured your finances and your claims differently (perhaps by taking out a mortgage, and using other unclaimed expenses). You also say that some of the gardening work, perhaps as much as 30% of it, was really indoor maintenance work, done mainly in winter, and should not be affected by any gardening cap. Finally, you say that the recommendations now made amount to a fine or a penalty, carrying the implication that the claims were inappropriate or disproportionate, and that it all amounts to a travesty of natural justice.

I can understand the sense of indignation, but I am sure that you would accept that anyone charged with deciding how much of claimed gardening or cleaning expenses should be paid out of public funds has to draw a line somewhere, at a figure they consider to be reasonable and proportionate, given the overall purposes of the ACA, and the need to protect the taxpayer. You say that the Fees Office drew the line for gardening at £300.00 per month. The evidence for that seems to me to be slender. Certainly, the letter you have produced from a fellow MP shows that in 2005 he received some advice that £300.00 per annum would be acceptable, and in early 2007 the Fees Office drew attention to the size of your claims for gardening in that financial year. You say it then gave you similar advice. But whatever the Fees Office may have decided, the Terms of Reference of the Review make it clear that the Review was not bound by Fees Office decisions, and the Review having decided to set annual limits for all Members at £1,000.00 per annum for gardening and £2,000.00 per annum for cleaning, and to use guideline figures when assessing claims for household appliances, my Terms of Reference (a copy of which I enclose) only permit me to interfere if I find special reasons in your individual case showing that it would not be fair and equitable to require repayment either at all, or at the level recommended. So far as the recommendations made by the Review in relation to cleaning expenses and the dishwasher are concerned I find no such reasons. In relation to gardening costs there might have been such reasons if you had been able to produce reliable evidence on a year-by-year basis that a definable part of what you claimed as gardening expenses was really indoor maintenance recoverable as ACA within the allowance limit available for that year, but you have produced no such evidence. The fact that if the limits had been known to you you might have presented your claims differently cannot be a relevant consideration for me at this stage.

I would therefore dismiss your appeal, but I stress that the decision of the Review which I uphold does not impose a fine or penalty. It makes a recommendation arising out of its conclusions as to the extent to which the expenses which you have claimed should continue to be borne by the public.

My report to the MEC will be in the form of an introductory section, followed by copies of my replies to the individual appellants, so this reply will form part of my report.

Mr Anthony Steen MP

The ACA Review says that you were paid -

£184.89 in May 2004 for skip hire, 23 garden plants, and a flagpole rope and binding. The plants (£39.39), it is said, were not allowable under the Green Book rules, and the skip hire (£117) and the flagpole rope and binding (£28.50) were claimed without evidence as to their necessity.

£3,774.14 twice in May 2004 and January 2005 for decorations, water supply repairs and heating.

£10,252.22 for gardening costs over three years April 2005-April 2008, exceeding by £7,252.22 the £1,000 per annum limit set by the Review.

The total repayment recommended is therefore is £11,211.75, but as you have repaid £5,946.93 the balance now recommended to be repaid is £5,264.82.

Your Grounds of Appeal to me, set out in your letter of 23 December 2009, and supplemented by your e-mail of 19 January 2010, are not always easy to relate to what is set out above.

1)  For example, in paragraph 8, page 9, you say that "the £185.39 (sic) has already been repaid", and then, on page 10, that this item, you believe, "was referred to in 28 June 2005 e-mail and specifically excluded from payment." The Review is concerned with the payment of £184.89 in May 2004, not 2005. You do not address the point made by the Review that expenditure on garden plants was not recoverable, but I note that in the e-mail to you dated 28 June 2005 (your Appendix 7) that point was made in relation to a later claim by the Fees Office. Nor do you address the point made by the Review in relation to the other items, namely that there is no evidence of necessity.

2)  I understand that you admit the double-payment of £3,774.14, but say that you should not be recommended to repay that sum, or the "£185.39" because those payments were made in the fiscal year 2004-05, a year when your ACA claims reached the annual ACA limit in December 2004, so that you had to cease making claims. The argument, as I understand it, is that the £185.39 and the £3,774.14 should be set off against valid claims that you could have made. I understand that argument, but as the claims do not seem to have been made and tested by the Fees Office I cannot be satisfied that they were valid to the extent of nearly £4,000.

3)  As to the limitation on gardening expenses you say, and I accept, that the £1,000.00 per annum was unknown to you at the time. It has been retrospectively imposed by the Review. You say that it discriminates against those representing rural constituencies, whose constituencies tend to have larger gardens. In that context I consider it important to keep firmly in mind that a limitation on recoverability of gardening costs does not prevent a Member from owning a large garden. It only limits the amount he or she can recover from public funds. You say that your garden was used for the benefit of your constituents, and that what you recovered from ACA never did cover the costs of your second home. That may well be right, but ACA did not offer an indemnity, only recoverability of certain types of expenditure.

I can well understand your frustration at having your gardening expenses claims measured against a limit of which you were unaware of at the time, but I am sure that you would accept that anyone who had to decide what part of those claims should have been charged against the public purse as being reasonable and proportionate would have to draw a line somewhere. The Review having drawn the line for all Members' claims for gardening at £1,000.00 per annum my carefully restricted Terms of Reference (a copy of which I enclose) only permit me to interfere if I find special reasons in your individual case showing that it would not be fair and equitable to require repayment, either at all, or at the level recommended. Having studies your Grounds of Appeal I find no such reasons, in relation to any of the Review's three recommendations. What you say about cleaning expenses, and the lack of limitation on claims for mortgage interest is of no real assistance in dealing with your claim, which does not involve either cleaning or mortgage interest.

I would therefore dismiss your appeal.

My report to the MEC will be in the form of an introductory section, followed by copies of my replies to the individual appellants, so this reply will form part of my report.

Mr David Stewart

The ACA Review says that you were overpaid by a total of £1,734.64 in respect of mortgage interest (£1,667.55 in 2004-2005 and £67.09 in 2005-2006). It also says that you were overpaid £192 in respect of council tax, but you accept that, and I understand that sum to have been repaid. It follows that the Review's adjusted recommendation is for repayment of £1,734.64.

In the Grounds of Appeal to me you explain that when you purchased your London home in 2002 for £220,000.00 you obtained a loan of £220,000.00 from the Nationwide Building Society, but in order to provide the lender with sufficient security there were two mortgages:-

£187,000.00 was secured on your new London property, and;

£33,000.00 was secured on your home in Inverness.

You explained the arrangement to the Fees Office, and got approval to claiming interest on both mortgages, but the Review does not seem to have accepted that all of the interest was recoverable.

It may be that you did not explain the position to the Review team as you have explained it to me. Certainly you are right in your belief that the calculations made by the Review only took into account the first mortgage, and when both mortgages are taken into account it is clear that you have not been overpaid in respect of mortgage interest.

I am therefore satisfied that there are special reasons in your case showing that it would not fair and equitable to require repayment of any part of the sum of £1,734.64, and I would allow your appeal.

My report to the MEC will be in the form of an introductory section, followed by copies of my replies to the individual appellants, so this reply will form part of my report.

Mr Simon Thomas

The ACA Review says that from April 2004-March 2005 you were overpaid for mortgage interest by £349.20, and recommends the repayment of that sum.

In your Grounds of Appeal to me you rely on earlier correspondence with the Review team and question how it has been calculated that there has been an overpayment. It seems that it was at one time suggested to you that the overpayment arose in the first three months of 2005. As you can see from the Review (and from the Review letter to you dated 9 December 2009) that is not what is now alleged. The discrepancy arises by comparing the full fiscal year figures showing what you claimed and received with what the information from your mortgage lender shows that you paid in mortgage interest. The figures are set out in a schedule which is enclosed. Your first two Grounds of Appeal in fact amount to a request for further information as to how the discrepancy is alleged to have arisen, and I have given you that. As to the third ground I accept that after nearly five years it would not be reasonable without an explanation to expect you to repay. Now that you have the explanation I see no special reason in your individual case to say that it would not be fair and equitable to require repayment, and I therefore dismiss your appeal.

My report to the MEC will be in the form of an introductory section, followed by copies of my replies to the individual appellants, so this reply will form part of my report.

Ms Kitty Ussher MP

The ACA Review says that in October 2008 you were paid £16,723.93 for a fitted kitchen, of which £4,452.48 related to re-wiring and re-plumbing work, which the Review regarded as separate. The balance of £12,271.65 exceeded the guideline price of £11,000 by £1,271.65, and the Review recommended repayment of £1,271.65.

In your Grounds of Appeal to me you explain that you were unaware of any guideline price when you made your claim. I accept that, the guideline was adopted by the Review. You say, and I accept, that had there been a published guideline price you would have adhered to it. But in the absence of such a price, and in the knowledge that the expenses of your second home exceeded what you could recover as ACA, you chose to front-load your claim, claiming for some, but not all, of the kitchen work carried out in the summer of 2008. You say that it was not a "new kitchen". Some of the work—painting walls and tiling the floor—was really work which needed doing anyway, but the impact of your claim on your annual allowance was such that you did not claim for other items such as mortgage interest, utility and other running costs in that financial year. You suggest that to require a repayment now is unfair, and that either the guideline limits used by the Review should be waived in your case, or your ACA accounts for that year should be re- opened, so that you can claim some of the other costs you incurred.

It seems to me that anyone required to decide how much of your claim for kitchen refurbishment should be borne by public funds would have to draw a line somewhere. The Review has drawn it by resort to its guideline price, and it has adopted the same approach in relation to all other Members' claims, for furnishings, domestic equipment, etc. It is, I accept, most unfortunate that you did not know of the guideline earlier, but my carefully restricted Terms of Reference (a copy of which I enclose) only permit me to interfere if I find special reasons in your individual case showing that it would not be fair and equitable to require repayment, either at all, or at the level recommended. I can find no such reasons. As you recognise, at least by implication, you cannot claim to offset the sum now recommended for repayment against claims which you did not make in the relevant year, and which have therefore never been tested, and I have no power to order that the 2008-2009 accounts be re-opened. I would therefore dismiss your appeal. At least you still have the benefit of a substantial contribution to the work that was done.

My report to the MEC will be in the form of an introductory section, followed by copies of my replies to the individual appellants, so this reply will form part of my report.

Mr Edward Vaizey MP

The ACA Review says that:-

In March 2007 you received £790.00 for a dining table, which exceeded

  the guideline price of £660.00 by £130.00;

In 2008-2009 you were overpaid for mortgage interest by £197.42; and

In 2008-2009 you were overpaid for council tax by £136.00

You are therefore recommended to repay £463.42, but since 1 April 2009 you have repaid £2449.45, and it is not suggested that any further repayment should now be made.

In your brief Grounds of Appeal to me you question only the figure of £197.42. You say that it should be £162.00. The Review's calculation was based on the interest charges set out in the statement of your mortgage lender, Cheltenham & Gloucester, rather than the amounts debited, which seem to be the figures you have used. The difference varies month by month, but the approach used buy the Review in your case is the approach which it has used with other Members whenever the relevant information has been available. If there were an effective recommendation for repayment I could not therefore, within my Terms of Reference, say that there are special reasons in your individual case showing that it would not be fair and equitable to require repayment at the level recommended, but as there is no effective recommendation for repayment I need only say that I would dismiss your appeal.

My report to the MEC will be in the form of an introductory section, followed by copies of my replies to the individual appellants, so this reply will form part of my report.

Sir Peter Viggers MP

The ACA Review explains that you had an arrangement with the Fees Office which enabled you to receive periodic payments of ACA on the basis that the costs of running your second home exceeded your annual allowance. The Review has been able to work out from the material which you provided what was recoverable each year for mortgage interest, utilities, special repairs, etc, which has led it to conclude that between April 2004 and April 2008 the balance of your claims, amounting in all to £15,293.12 was claimed for gardening. That exceeded the annual allowance for gardening of £1,000 per annum fixed by the Review by a considerable margin.

The Review also found that -

1)  In 2004-05 you were overpaid for Council Tax by £387.34;

2)  In 2005-06 you were overpaid for Council Tax by £168.26;

3)  In July 2007 you were overpaid for roof repairs by £1,637.54;

4)  In 2008-09 you were overpaid for mortgage interest by £759.54.

The Review recommended repayment of £13,464.30

In your Grounds of Appeal to me you say that as regards gardening expenses you have always consulted the Fees Office and that a retrospective cap is unreasonable.

You accept that the two overpayments were made in relation to Council Tax, and you also accept that there was an overpayment of £1,637.54 for roof repairs. As regards mortgage interest you say that you have difficulty reconciling the Review's figures and your own, but you say that in any event in each of the fiscal years covered by the Review you submitted to the Fees Office valid claims which were not met because you had reached your annual ACA limit. Therefore you seek to rely on the tested but unmet claims to such extent as may be necessary to deal with any recommended repayments. In you letter to me of 16 December 2009, you give the figures for claims submitted and tested but not met and they are set out in the table which is enclosed.

As regards gardening expenses, I can understand the irritation caused to you by their being tested against a limit not known to you when the claims were made, but I am sure that you would accept that anyone required to decide to what extent claimed gardening expenses should be borne by the public would have to draw a line somewhere. The Review has drawn it, for all Members, at £1,000.00 per annum, and my carefully restricted Terms of Reference (a copy of which I enclose) only permit me to interfere if I find special reasons in your individual case showing that it would not be fair and equitable to require repayment. Leaving aside for a moment your claim to set off any repayment against what I can describe as an un-used credit balance, I can find no special reasons in your individual case showing it would not be fair and reasonable to require repayment. The same applies to sums paid for Council Tax and roof repairs. As you accept, those sums should not have been paid.

As regards mortgage interest I have seen, as I believe that you have, the calculations which led the Review to conclude that there was an overpayment of £759.54, and you have not given me any reason to conclude that those calculations are incorrect.

I now invite your attention to the enclosed schedule, which sets out in tabular form figures supplied to you by the Review on 20 November 2009, and which explained how the Review arrived at its conclusions in your case. I have expanded the table to include, in column A, the maximum ACA available in each year, and in column G the amounts you say that you proved and could have claimed if you had not reached your ACA annual maximum. In 2008/09 the Review found, in column B, items totalling £23,224.50, which only left £781.50 to be attributed to gardening, having regard to the annual ACA limit. For the avoidance of doubt

I should explain that the figures in column C include the overclaims in respect of council tax, roof repairs and mortgage interest.

Clearly if you can now draw on the annual un-used credit balance as alleged by you, those balances exceed, year-by-year, what the Review says that you have been overpaid. In some cases where a credit balance or the equivalent has been clearly demonstrated (e.g. where a Member has simply claimed mortgage interest in the wrong financial year, or over-claimed rent in one month but under-claimed in another) I have considered that it would not be fair and equitable to require repayment. But in your case I find the evidence less compelling. I doubt if the Fees Office really tested claims they were not going to meet, and I notice from your letter that at least one reduction (from £7,654.61 to £6,902.00) was made by you to stay within an annual limit. Obviously you would not have had to prove that part of the claim which you decided not to pursue. Many Members have had claims that they could have made if they knew that the claims they did make would be reduced, and in their cases I have had to say that it is too late to claim now. It seems to me that your claim to off-set recommended repayments falls on that side of the line. The un-used credits claimed are not sufficiently firmly established to enable me to find special reasons in your individual case showing that it would not be fair and equitable to require repayment.

The only exception is in 2008-09, where the overpayment of mortgage interest reduced the figure in column C to £22,464.91 and thus enabled you to claim the full £1,000 p.a. gardening allowance in column D and E, so the mortgage interest overpayment of £759.54 can be reduced by the difference between £781.50 and £1,000, namely £218.50.

I would therefore allow your appeal only to the extent of £218.50, and uphold the recommendation for repayment of £13,464.30 less £218.50 = £13,245.80.

68. My report to the MEC will be in the form of an introductory section, followed by copies of my replies to the individual appellants, so this reply will form part of my report.

Financial Year A)  Maximum ACA Available B)  Claimed by member and paid C)  Found by Review to be substantiated (excluding gardening) D)  Balance attributed by Review to gardening E)  Review's allowable gardening F)  Recommended repayment G)  Allowance claimed by Member as proved but unpaid
2004/5
20,902
20,371.08
17,688.41
2,682.67
1,000
1,682.67
3,874.21
2005/6
21,634
19,926.84
16,907.24
3,019.60
1,000
2,019.60
3,583.45
2006/7
22,110
22,110.00
14,714.45
7,395.55
1,000
6,395.55
7,753.65
2007/8
23,086
23,083
21,669.20
1,413.80
1,000
413.80
2,423.54
2008/9
24,006
24,006
23,224.50
781.50
781.50
1,129.50
Total
10,511.62

Miss Claire Ward

The ACA Review says that in 2004 you were paid £850 for "petty cash", which was not allowable under the Green Book rules.

In your Grounds of Appeal to me you accept that in the fiscal year 2004-05 you made claims for "petty cash" totalling £850. No claim was for more than £250.00. One claim for £250 was for "petty cash-household items" the rest were simply described as petty cash. You accept that petty cash was not available from the ACA, but under the Green Book, invoices/receipts were not required for items of expenditure of £250 or less (except for food). You say that in fact the sums you claimed were to cover expenditure on a range of smaller household items such as linen, bedding and other sundry purchases following a recent move, and they should not have been described as petty cash.

Your explanation to me reflects what you said to the Review team in your letter of 26 October 2009, and I see no reason to doubt it. In normal circumstances it seems to me that the Fees Office should have challenged your claims when they were made. Had they been challenged the description of the claims would have been altered, and the claims would have been paid. It follows that there has been no loss to public funds and I find that there are special reasons in your individual case showing that it would not be fair and equitable to require repayment of any sum.

That conclusion makes it unnecessary for me to consider your further point, namely that at the end of that fiscal year you were paid by the Fees Office ACA claims amounting to £1,421.98 of which £606.45 later had to be repaid by you because you had exceeded the ACA annual limit. You therefore, you submit, had available tested claims to a total of £606.45 which could be set off against the recommendation for repayment, which itself might be reduced because one claim for petty cash was more accurately described.

I would therefore allow your appeal.

My report to the MEC will be in the form of an introductory section, followed by copies of my replies to the individual appellants, so this reply will form part of my report.

Robert Wareing MP

The ACA Review says that:

1) between April 2004 and April 2009 you were paid cleaning costs of £11,462.58 which exceeds the limit of £2,000 per annum set by the Review by £1,462.58.

2) you were paid twice for expenses incurred in the period 24 February to 17 March 2005, resulting in an overpayment of £1,346.30.

3) You overstated your payments for mortgage interest in 2004-05 by £574.31, and in 2005-06 by £558.81, resulting in a total overpayment of £1,133.12.

The Review, therefore, recommends repayment of £3,942.

In your Grounds of Appeal to me you say, in relation to cleaning costs, that you knew of no ceiling when the costs were incurred. I accept that, but I am sure that you would accept that anyone charged with deciding how much of claimed cleaning costs should be borne by public funds would have to draw a line somewhere. The Review has drawn that line for all Members at £2,000 per annum. My carefully restricted Terms of Reference (a copy of which I enclose) only permit me to interfere if I find special reasons in your individual case showing that it would not be fair and equitable to require repayment, and as far as cleaning costs are concerned I find no such reasons.

As to the double payment of expenses, you have asked the Review Team to produce documentary evidence. I enclose copies of 2 ACA Claim forms, both in respect of the same period and both signed by you. You will see that on one form the total is £1,296.30. That is not correct. It should be, as on the other form £1,346.30, so the overpayment was the lower sum. Both claims were paid in full.

You do not seem to challenge that you were overpaid mortgage interest as alleged. You say that after 2006 you claimed no interest because you thought it wrong for the taxpayer to pay interest, having regard to the fact that when you eventually sell the property any profit will be yours. Nevertheless, you now seek to set-off what the Review recommends you should repay against the interest you might have claimed from 2006 onwards, and on the claims you might have made, for example, in respect of service charges and TV licences.

I am afraid that when considering what should be repaid I cannot have regard to claims which might have been made, but which were not made and tested, whatever may have been the reason. However, as you can see, the claim for £1,296.30 mentioned above included mortgage interest of £165.86 which forms part of your overstatement of mortgage interest in 2004-05, so the overstatement figure for that year should be reduced from £574.31 to £408.45. That means that for overstated mortgage interest the total figure should be £967.26 and the overall recommendation for repayment should be £1,462.58 +£1,296.30 = £3,726.14.

I would therefore allow your appeal to a limited extent, the recommendation for repayment being reduced from £3,942 to £3,726.14.

My report to the MEC will be in the form of an introductory section, followed by copies of my replies to the individual appellants, so this reply will form part of my report.

Rt Hon Ann Widdecombe MP

The ACA Review states that in 2004-05 you were paid gardening costs of £1,230, which exceeded by £230 the maximum of £1,000 per annum laid down by the Review. It is acknowledged that you have repaid £172.80, so it is recommended that you repay the balance of £57.22.

In your Grounds of Appeal to me you explained that the repayment of £172.80 is irrelevant . It was to repay a hotel bill for which you had claimed once but had been paid twice, so if there was an overpayment for gardening it was £230.

In relation to gardening you say that for the Review to apply a rigid retrospective limit for gardening and cleaning costs was capricious. No such limits were imposed for items such as food, or mortgage interest claims. You emphasise that you only had a second home because you needed one to fulfil your parliamentary duties, and your gardening claim was wholly for basic maintenance. There was no claim for plants, etc. You submit that there should have been no rigid limit, and you explain that there were many expenses you did not claim, particularly after you moved to Devon in anticipation of retirement. You accept that a limit of some sort on gardening claims was always implicit, but say that the limit imposed was far too low, and you produce an invoice of your own gardening expenses in 2005 to support that contention.

I can understand entirely your irritation at having your gardening expenses claimed for one year measured against a limit of which you knew nothing when the claim was made, because it was only created years later by the Review, but you recognise that anyone required to measure the extent to which gardening claims should be paid out of public funds does have to draw a line somewhere, and the Review having drawn it at £1,000 per annum for all Members my carefully restricted Terms of Reference (a copy of which I enclose) only permit me to interfere if I find special reasons in your individual case showing that it would not be fair and equitable to require repayment, either at all or at the level recommended. I find no such reasons, so I dismiss your appeal. It seems to me that to apply the same limit to all Members cannot be said to be unfair, and obviously you cannot pray in aid claims for other expenses which were not made and tested at the relevant time. On the other hand, the facts speak for themselves. To have once exceeded by less than 25% a limit of which you could not have been aware is no evidence of abuse.

My report to the MEC will be in the form of an introductory section, followed by copies of my replies to the individual appellants, so this reply will form part of my report.

Mr Phil Woolas MP

The ACA Review says that in 2008-2009 you were overpaid by £3,350.86 for mortgage interest. It also says that in 2008 you were paid £180.00 for gas standing charges, which were not debited to your account. You accept the overpayment in relation to gas standing charges, and appeal only in relation to mortgage interest.

In your Grounds for Appeal to me you explain, as you did to the Review, that it was your practice, approved by the Fees Office, to claim mortgage interest each year by reference to your mortgage lender's statement of interest for the previous year, because a statement of interest for the current year was not available. Because of the fall in interest rates you did claim more in 2008-2009 than the mortgage interest that you paid in that fiscal year. But over the 5-year period 2008-2009 you say that you have underclaimed by £209.60.

I do not criticise the way in which you presented your claims to the Fees Office, but now that all of the relevant information is to hand it is possible to compare, for the 5-year period covered by the Review, what you paid to your mortgage lender and what you received in response to your claims. The annual figures are shown on the enclosed chart. They show that you underclaimed for each of the first 4 years, but overclaimed by £3,350.86 in the last year. When the underclaims are added up they amount to £2,644.70, but there is still a debit balance over the 5-year period of £706.16, and that is the sum I consider that you should now repay. I therefore find special reasons in your case showing that it would not be fair and equitable to require repayment of £3,350.86, but that it would be fair and equitable to require repayment of £706.16.

To that extent I would allow your appeal.

My report to the MEC will be in the form of an introductory section, followed by copies of my replies to the individual appellants, so this reply will form part of my report.

Mr Jeremy Wright MP

The ACA Review says that between September 2005 and March 2009 you were paid a total of £769.50 for mobile telephone costs which are not allowable under the Green Book rules. It recommends that you repay £769.50.

In your Grounds of appeal to me you concede that according to the Green Book mobile phone rental and charges have not been allowable as ACA expenses since April 2005, but you say that when elected in May 2005 you rented an unfurnished flat which had no telephone landline. Before arranging for installation you asked the Fees Office if you could claim a small proportion of your mobile telephone costs in lieu of a landline, and that was agreed. Thereafter you claimed £20 per month. The Review has conceded that it was reasonable to claim £20 per month for an initial 3 months, but not thereafter. You say that what you did spared the taxpayer the greater cost of a landline, and you point out that as your mobile phone claims were restricted they could all have been claimed as an Incidental Expenses.

I accept that what you claimed for telecommunications charges was less than you would have claimed if you had arranged for a landline, but it seems to me that, having regard to the change in the rules made in April 2005 you should have been advised in May 2005 that claims for mobile telephone charges could not be met out of ACA for long. Obviously you did not receive that advice, but on the other hand the statement in the Green Book is clear, and, as stated in the Speaker's Introduction, it was your responsibility to ensure that your use of allowances was above reproach.

I turn now to consider whether there are special reasons in you individual case showing that it would not be fair and equitable to require repayment. I consider that there are. You did not claim more than a proportion of your mobile phone charges. That proportion cannot have exceeded costs incurred on your parliamentary duties. The sums claimed were therefore recoverable as IEP and, as you point out, there was headroom each year within you IEP allowance for those claims to have been made. Finally, and significantly, there was no loss to public funds.

I would therefore allow your appeal and do not recommend any repayment.

My report to the MEC will be in the form of an introductory section, followed by copies of my replies to the individual appellants, so this reply will form part of my report.

Mr Derek Wyatt MP

The ACA Review says that:-

In 2004-2005 you were overpaid in respect of service charges by

  £776.76.

In 2005-2006 and 2008-2009 you were paid twice a total of £666.43 for

   various items (home insurance, electricity and telephone bills)

In 4 years you were overpaid a total of £1290.30 for council tax (£139.39

in 2004-2005; £99.00 in 2006-2007; £22.68 in 2007-2008 and £129.23 in 2008-2009) and

In November 2008 you were paid £160.00 twice for cleaning and ironing.

You are therefore recommended to repay a total of £2,893.49.

In your Grounds of Appeal to me you do not address the allegations made by the Review. I therefore conclude that you accept them. What you say in your e-mail of 9 December 2009 is that:-

  a)  over the past 5 years you have submitted claims worth £3,787.20 over the

    annual limit allowed by Parliament;

  b)  on 21 July 2009, being aware that you have been overpaid in relation to council tax, you went to the Fees Office to seek a reconciliation;

  c)  you were then allowed to set-off your overclaim against part of the £3,787.20 you had not previously been able to claim, and

  d)  you should now be permitted to set-off the other discrepancies identified by the Review against the balance of the £3,787.20.

Unfortunately, as you know, your recollection of what took place in July 2009 differs from the recollection of the Fees Office staff. They say, in effect, that no agreement was reached and no adjustment was made.

In your letter to the Head of Operations at the Fees Office dated 18 January 2010, which you copied to me, you draw attention to the End of Year Adjustment of £1,776.88 on your page of the ACA Report for 2008-2009, which you say was "taken from the £3,787.20". That is not how I read what appears in that page of the ACA Report. The £1,776.88 is simply a balancing adjustment to keep the total within the annual ACA allowance of £24,006.00

In some cases where, for example, a claim for monthly mortgage interest has been proved and accepted by the Fees Office but disallowed because of the existence of the annual ACA cap, I have considered it fair and equitable to treat that unpaid mortgage interest claim as a credit which can offset an overpayment in that fiscal year, but in your case I do not have sufficient proof of your claimed £3787.20 credit to enable me to operate in that way. I am therefore unable to find special reasons in your individual case showing that it would not be fair and equitable to require repayment and I would dismiss your appeal.

My report to the MEC will be in the form of an introductory section, followed by copies of my replies to the individual appellants, so this reply will form part of my report.


 
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