Appendix 1: Memorandum from the Parliamentary
Commissioner for Standards |
Complaint against Ms Nadine Dorries MP
1. This memorandum reports on my inquiries into
a complaint that Ms Nadine Dorries, the Member for Mid Bedfordshire,
claimed expenses against her Additional Costs Allowance for a
property in her constituency which was in fact her main home.
2. On 26 June 2009 Mr Michael Barnbrook wrote
to me saying that he wished to register a formal complaint against
Ms Dorries. The
complaint related to an article of the same date in the Daily
Telegraph. Mr Barnbrook enclosed a copy of the article,
which stated that Ms Dorries had admitted that she only spent
spare weekends and holidays away from her designated "second
home", a flat in her constituency on which she had claimed
£18,000 in rent. It also said that Ms Dorries had stated
that her youngest daughter and her pet dogs lived at that property.
Mr Barnbrook said that, if this were correct, Ms Dorries was
in clear breach of parliamentary rules relating to the Additional
Costs Allowance, "which state that the main residence
is the property where a Member spends more nights a week than
3. Mr Barnbrook said that this raised the question
whether Ms Dorries' designated "second home" was
her main residence, "in which case she should not be able
to use the second home allowance for its upkeep." He
said that he had not submitted evidence "because I am
not aware that Miss Dorries has repudiated the comments attributed
4. The Daily Telegraph article said that
Ms Dorries had "initially refused to state where her other
house was, but later said it was another rented property near
her former marital home in the Cotswolds. There is no reference
to such an address in any of her expenses files."
5. I replied to Mr Barnbrook on 30 June 2009.
I noted that he had told me that he had not submitted evidence
since he was not aware that Ms Dorries had repudiated the comments
attributed to her. I pointed out, however, that I was required
to consider whether the complainant had provided me with sufficient
evidence to justify at least a preliminary inquiry into whether
the Member had breached the rules. I told Mr Barnbrook that, to
meet that requirement, he needed to submit the evidence which
supported his complaint, along with an explanation of how he believed
Ms Dorries had breached the rules of the House.
6. Mr Barnbrook wrote to me on 2 July 2009.
He said that in his letter of 26 June
he should have said was that there was no need for further evidence,
as he considered that Ms Dorries was admitting to breaching the
rules in relation to the second homes allowance. Mr Barnbrook
said that Ms Dorries was quoted in the Daily Telegraph
as saying that she only spent spare weekends and holidays away
from her designated second home. He said that the rules stated
that the principal home was where a Member spent "more
nights a week than any other". He continued, "By
her own statement [Ms Dorries] is suggesting that she spends
most of her time at her designated second home, which under the
Commons rules would make it her principal home."
7. Mr Barnbrook recalled my comments in the report
relating to my investigation of Ed Balls MP and Yvette Cooper
MP, where I had said, "If a Member has his or her family
living permanently in their constituency home then it would clearly
seem to be a matter of fact that the Member's main home is in
the constituency." 
Mr Barnbrook said that Ms Dorries was quoted in the Daily
Telegraph as saying that her youngest daughter and pet dogs
lived at her second home. "By your own submission that
would make it her principal home. Taking into account the above
comments, together with the admissions made by Ms Dorries, I would
suggest that there is sufficient evidence to instigate at least
a preliminary investigation into my complaint."
8. I wrote to Mr Barnbrook on 7 July to let him
know that I had accepted his complaint.
I pointed out that the full paragraph in my report to which he
had referred was as follows:
"I do not believe that, given the particular
circumstances of these two Members, the identification of their
main home is a simple matter of fact. It is possible to imagine
circumstances when that part of the rule clearly applies. If a
Member has his or her family living permanently in their constituency
home and has modest accommodation in London big enough only for
themselves, and which they use only when Parliament is in session,
then it would clearly seem to be a matter of fact that that Member's
main home is in the constituency."
I said that, as the paragraph made clear, that statement
was of course based on the particular circumstances of the Members
whom I had investigated.
Relevant Rules of the House
9. The Code of Conduct for Members of Parliament
provides in paragraph 14 as follows:
"Members shall at all times ensure that their
use of expenses, allowances, facilities and services provided
from the public purse is strictly in accordance with the rules
laid down on these matters, and that they observe any limits placed
by the House on the use of such expenses, allowances, facilities
10. The rules in relation to parliamentary allowances
were set out in successive editions of the Green Book. The versions
relevant to this inquiry are the July 2006 and March 2009 editions.
11. In his introduction to the July 2006 edition,
the then Speaker wrote:
"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. In
cases of doubt or difficulty about any aspect of the allowances
or how they can be used, please contact the Department of Finance
and Administration. The Members Estimate Committee, which I chair,
has recently restated the Department's authority to interpret
and enforce these rules."
12. The scope of the Additional Costs Allowance,
the allowance relevant to my inquiry for the period up to 31 March
2009, is set out in paragraph 3.1.1 as follows:
"The Additional Costs Allowance (ACA) reimburses
Members of Parliament for expenses wholly, exclusively and necessarily
incurred when staying overnight away from their main UK residence
(referred to below as their main home) for the purpose of performing
Parliamentary duties. This excludes expenses that have been incurred
for purely personal or political purposes."
13. The eligibility criteria are set out in paragraph
3.2.1 as follows:
"You can claim ACA if:
a You have stayed overnight in the UK away from
your only or main home, and
b This was for the purpose of performing your
Parliamentary duties, and
c You have necessarily incurred additional costs
in so doing, and
d You represent a constituency in outer London
or outside London."
14. Some general principles applying to the Additional
Costs Allowance are set out in paragraph 3.3.1 as follows:
"You must ensure that arrangements for your
ACA claims are above reproach and that there can be no grounds
for a suggestion of misuse of public money. Members should bear
in mind the need to obtain value for money from accommodation,
goods or services funded from the allowances."
15. The rules relating to the location of overnight
stays are set out in paragraph 3.4.1 as follows:
"If your main home is in the constituency,
you can claim ACA for overnight stays in Londonor in another
part of the constituency if reasonably necessary in view of the
distance from your only or main home. Please contact the Department
of Finance and Administration for information on such arrangements.
"If your main home is in London you can claim
for overnight stays in the constituency.
"If your main home is neither in London nor
the constituency you can choose in which of these areas to claim
16. The definition of a "main home"
for the purpose of the Additional Costs Allowance is set out in
paragraph 3.11.1 as follows:
"When you enter Parliament we will ask you
to give the address of your main UK home on form ACA1 for the
purposes of ACA and travel entitlements. Members are expected
to locate their main homes in the UK. It is your responsibility
to tell us if your main home changes. This will remain your main
home unless you tell us otherwise.
"The location of your main home will normally
be a matter of fact. If you have more than one home, your main
home will normally be the one where you spend more nights than
any other. If there is any doubt about which is your main home,
please consult the Department of Finance and Administration."
17. The requirement for Members to report changes
in the location of their main or second homes is set out in paragraph
3.12.1 as follows:
"If you change the location of your main
or second home please let us know promptly, as it may affect your
ACA claim. For example, if your constituency is outside London
and you move your main home from the constituency to London, this
will mean that you can no longer claim ACA in London."
18. From April 2009, the House replaced the Additional
Costs Allowance with Personal Additional Accommodation Expenditure
(PAAE). The relevant rules for PAAE were set out in the March
2009 edition of the Green Book.
19. Section 1.3 of this Green Book sets out a
number of fundamental principles applicable to all claims against
parliamentary allowances. They included the following:
"Claims should be above reproach and must
reflect actual usage of the resources being claimed.
"Claims must only be made for expenditure
that it was necessary for a Member to incur to ensure that he
or she could properly perform his or her parliamentary duties.
"Members must ensure that claims do not give
rise to, or give the appearance of giving rise to, an improper
personal financial benefit to themselves or anyone else.
"Members are committed to openness about
what expenditure has been incurred and for what purposes.
"The requirement of ensuring value for money
is central in claiming for accommodation, goods or servicesMembers
should avoid purchases which could be seen as extravagant or luxurious."
20. The purpose of PAAE is set out in paragraph
2.1.1 as follows:
"PAAE is available to reimburse Members for
the additional expenses necessarily incurred in staying overnight
away from their main home for the purpose of performing their
21. Eligibility for PAAE is set out in paragraph
2.1.2 as follows:
"PAAE can be claimed if the principles set
out in Part 1 have been complied with, and
If your main home is in the constituency,
for overnight stays in London
If your main home is in London, for overnight
stays in the constituency
If your main home is neither in London
nor the constituency, you can choose in respect of which of these
areas to claim PAAE"
22. Paragraph 2.1.3 gives examples of expenditure
appropriate to be claimed as PAAE. Paragraph 188.8.131.52 sets out
what is appropriate in respect of rent or mortgage interest as
"In respect of one additional home in either
London or the constituency:
The cost of a deposit (although this must
be repaid when the deposit, or a proportion thereof, is returned)
Increase to mortgage costs (interest only)
to pay for refurbishments; to extend the lease; or to purchase
Legal and other costs associated with obtaining
(and selling) (for example, stamp duty, removal expenses, valuation
23. The documentation required for PAAE claims
is set out in paragraph 2.1.5 as follows:
"Members are required to provide the Department
with the address of their main home when they enter Parliament
by completing form PAAE1. Members must inform the Department if
the address of either home changes. This information is essential
to ensure the proper assessment of a Member's PAAE and travel
entitlements. Save in exceptional circumstances ... Members may
only change the respective designations of main home and additional
home once in any year."
24. Section 4 of the Green Book (Definitions)
define the expressions "main home" and "additional
home" in the following terms:
"'Main home' is the term used in the
Green Book for the term 'only or main residence' as used in the
applicable Resolutions of the House and the relevant legal provisions.
It is for a Member to determine where his or her main home is
based on his or her circumstances. It must be in the UK."
"'Additional home' means the home, not being
the Member's main home, in respect of which a Member is entitled
to claim PAAE. It must be in the UK."
25. I wrote to Ms Dorries on 7 July 2009.
I asked her in particular to identify, with dates, the location
of her main home, and her second home for ACA purposes, including
any changes to their locations, since her election to the House
in 2005. I also asked Ms Dorries to set out her reasons for identifying
those properties as her main and second homes, and the reasons
for any changes she had made to these identifications, and to
set out what advice, if any, she had taken from the House authorities
before or after she had determined the location of her main and
26. I asked Ms Dorries to estimate, drawing on
her diaries and other information as necessary, the number of
nights she had spent in her main home, in her second home and
in other locations in each financial year or part year since her
election in 2005. I also asked her to let me know the basis of
these statistics and, recognising the passage of time, how reliable
she considered them to be. I asked Ms Dorries to confirm whether
she had been accurately quoted in the Daily Telegraph of
26 June when she was reported to have "admitted that she
only spends spare weekends and holidays away from her designated
Finally I asked Ms Dorries to set out the claims she
had made against the Additional Costs Allowance for her second
home in each financial year or part year since she was elected,
together with copies of her claim forms and supporting documentation
27. Ms Dorries replied to me on 27 July.
On my questions about the Additional Costs Allowance, Ms Dorries
said she had forwarded to me her expenses "up to the date
they are available in order to assist with your inquiry."
She said that when she became an MP in 2005 she had initially
rented a room at a central London club on sitting nights and then
rented a flat in Westminster. She had "then transferred
the allowance to a rented property in [her] constituency",
the address of which she gave. She told me, "I spend
approximately 150 nights per year in my constituency home."
Ms Dorries said that her main home had been a property in
Gloucestershire, the address of which she gave, from 2005 to 2007,
and "to date" was a property in Stratford-upon-Avon,
the address of which she also gave.
In response to my question as to whether she had been accurately
quoted in the Daily Telegraph article, Ms Dorries commented,
"By free weekends, I of course mean weekends when I do
not have surgeries and official duties."
28. On 30 July I wrote again to Ms Dorries.
I said that in my letter of 7 July
I had set out five other areas on which I needed information from
her besides details of her ACA claims. I also said that the information
Ms Dorries had given me in her letter of 27 July was not sufficient
for me to decide how best to take this matter forward. I therefore
asked Ms Dorries in particular for more precise information on
the dates (as opposed to the year) between which she had her room
in the central London club and her flat in Westminster, the date
when she had taken over the rented property in her constituency,
and the date when she had moved from her first home to her current
one. I also asked why she had identified her first and second
main home as her main homes and the reason why she had initially
identified her second home as being in London and subsequently
changed her designation to her rented constituency home. I also
asked whether she had rented that home before she had started
claiming for it, and what advice, if any, she had taken from the
House authorities about these arrangements.
29. I told Ms Dorries that the number of nights
she had spent in her main home would, under the rules of the Green
Book, be an important factor in helping to resolve this complaint.
I also told her that the estimate she had given me of nights in
her constituency home was too broad and did not account for nights
she had spent in her main home. I asked her, therefore, to let
me have her estimate of how many nights she had spent in her constituency
home in each financial year since she had been elected in 2005;
the number of nights she had spent in her main home for the same
periods; and the number of nights she had spent elsewhere. I also
asked Ms Dorries to tell me the basis on which she had made these
estimates, with any documentary evidence she had to help substantiate
it. I said I assumed that she had diaries which showed her appointments,
which might be helpful in substantiating her estimates. However,
I also said I readily recognised that any documentary evidence
she might have was unlikely to be conclusive and that her response
would be her best estimates for each year, based on what she knew
of her normal pattern, diary information and her own recollection.
30. Finally, I said to Ms Dorries that I took
it from what she had said that the Daily Telegraph quotation
was accurate, subject to the clarification she had given me, and
that the implication of the quotation was that she stayed overnight
in her constituency home unless she was on holiday or did not
have a weekend surgery. I told her that once I had her estimates
of her overnight stays, I might need to ask her to explain how
that statement was consistent with the normal expectation of the
Green Book rules that Members should spend more nights in their
main home than anywhere else.
31. Ms Dorries replied to me by e-mail on 4 August.
She said that the ACA claims she had previously sent me would
"quite clearly show both the dates and the fact that only
one property was claimed for using my ACA at any time."
She said that she had only ever rented using the ACA, and had
not bought, "and therefore the reasons for changing address
do not apply in terms of 'flipping'." She said
that the address of her main home had changed because of her marriage
breakdown and the requirement for the family home to be sold.
The central London club, the Westminster flat and then the constituency
home had all been paid for using the ACA, one after the other.
She "obviously had no accommodation when I first arrived
in London as an MP and had no choice but to use an hotel."
32. Ms Dorries said that she had not rented the
constituency home before she rented it using the ACA and previously
had "no property whatsoever" in the constituency.
She commented, "I would have no reason to have had any
property in my constituency before becoming an MP as I had lived
in Gloucestershire for the previous 20 years." Ms Dorries
said she had changed her ACA address from London to her constituency,
as she "had promised my Association during my selection
that I would make a home base in the constituency, and made the
same pledge to my constituents during the general election campaign."
She said that she now resided at the constituency address "in
tandem with the parliamentary cycle, this is how I broadly estimate
my nights." She continued, "However, I do not
spend every parliamentary sitting night in the constituency. I
spend an occasional Monday and /or Tuesday evening in London,
depending upon the votes during the weeks Parliament sits. This
arrangement is private and does not involve any claim to the Fees
Office." In response to my request for more specific
information than she had given in her letter of 27 July about
the number of nights she had spent in her respective homes, Ms
Dorries said that "in 2007 and 2008 I spent many fewer
nights in the constituency home and many more nights in my main
home than my estimate" as her daughter then attended
a school in Gloucestershire. She estimated that "this
year I will spend approximately 200+ nights per year in my main
home." Ms Dorries said that she had sought advice from
the Fees Office "every step of the way ... I have always
sought advice and always remained within the guidance laid out
in the Green Book, whilst at the same time exercising my own judgment,
ie, I chose to rent and not buy in the constituency as I felt
this was easier to explain to my Association and electorate."
33. I replied to Ms Dorries on the same day,
4 August. I told
her that she had not yet provided me with all the information
I had sought in my letter of 30 July,
drawn from my letter of 7 July,
as I was sure she would recognise. I pointed out to her that I
needed as full an answer as possible in order to take forward
34. On 8 October Ms Dorries e-mailed to me an
analysis which she said had been based on her office diary, her
personal diary and her daughter's diary, of where she had spent
her nights from her election to the House in May 2005 to the end
of 2008-09. She did
not claim it to be "absolutely 100% accurate",
but said that it was "as accurate as is possible."
The information she gave is summarised in the table below:
||Nights at main home
||Nights in constituency
||Nights in London
In addition to the night count, Ms Dorries emphasised
that "to my family and I, the Cotswolds is our home".
35. Ms Dorries responded formally to my letter
of 4 August on 11
November, following reminders from and discussion with my office.
She apologised for the delay in responding, which she said had
been because "it took longer than anticipated to retrieve
some of the information required". Ms Dorries enclosed
"as much of my diary as Outlook would allow".
For the first few pages she had highlighted her journeys to and
from home, her appointments in Gloucestershire and the nights
she had slept in the constituency home. She said that her constituency
home was "there as a means of maintaining a base in my
constituency in order to assist with my duties as an MP both in
Parliament and the constituency." She continued, "If
I had intended to move my family permanently into Bedfordshire,
I would have used the ACA to buy a more comfortable house than
the sparsely furnished rented house I use at present..."
Ms Dorries also said that she had "used none of the ACA
to buy furniture for my rented constituency home other than a
very basic cooker and a kettle."
36. Ms Dorries said that the pattern of properties
in respect of which she had claimed against the Additional Costs
Allowance since she had entered the House in 2005 was as shown
in the table below:
|Period||Location of property
|May 2005-June 2005
|June 2005-December 2006
|October 2006-January 2007
|Carlton Club (including two nights in [named hotel])
||[First constituency address] (rented)
Ms Dorries commented that "The frequency
of nights I spent in the Carlton Club, when using it before renting
the constituency home, is, interestingly, consistent with the
nights I spend in the constituency house." She also said
that, as a result of a security issue with the Westminster flat,
with the knowledge and agreement of the Fees Office, she had transferred
to staying once again at the Carlton Club from October 2006 "until
I rented the constituency house from 31 January 2007".
37. Ms Dorries said that her main homes since
she had entered the House had been as shown in the table below:
| Period|| Location of property
|May 2005-January 2007
||[Gloucestershire, Address 1]
|January 2007-January 2008
||[Stratford-upon-Avon, Address 1]
|January 2008-January 2009
||[Stratford-upon-Avon, Address 2]
|January 2009-December 2009
||[Stratford-upon-Avon, Address 3]
|[Gloucestershire, Address 2]
38. Ms Dorries said that she had viewed on the
Fees Office computer the record of the conversations she had had
with the Fees Office. She commented, "I must have spoken
to [a named official] and others at least 20-25 times over
the last four years, however, there are only five records of conversations
logged". Summing up, she commented, "With regard
to the Telegraph article, I am constantly between a rock
and a hard place. With political opponents baying at my heels
telling my constituents I care nothing for Bedfordshire and spend
all of my time in Gloucestershire, and the Daily Telegraph
attempting to portray that I spend none of my time in Gloucestershire
and all of my time in Bedfordshire. The truth is that as a mother
who has three daughters still living full time with me at home,
I spend my time where my children are. To my children, their home
... is based around [first Gloucestershire village], and
will continue to be the case. Where they are, I am."
39. Having considered all the information which
Ms Dorries had provided about her overnight stays, including making
a detailed study of the information she had provided in her Outlook
diary for 2008-09 and the eight months from April to November
2009 which she had sent with her letter of 11 November,
I wrote to her again on 15 December to seek further information
on the pattern of those stays.
I told her that the diary entries were not such as to allow me
to identify with any reliability where she was likely to have
spent her overnights. I noted that there were just 11 occasions
in 2008-09 and 6 occasions in 2009-10 where she had recorded constituency
appointments either in the evening or in the morning or (on 1
occasion in each year) both. I also noted that the markings made
by her in her diary to show her estimate of her constituency nights
and journeys to and from her main home gave the following estimated
pattern of nights:
||Nights in main home
||Nights in constituency
|2009-10*||No clear number
* To November 2009
I commented that, even for 2008-09, the figures only
added to 143 nights overalljust over a third of the nights
that yearalthough they did suggest that she was spending
more nights in her constituency home than in her main home. I
also noted that there was, of course, no diary information for
any of the previous years.
40. I told Ms Dorries that I therefore concluded
that her diaries did not provide a reliable guide to the number
of overnight stays in her main home and in her constituency home.
I noted, though, that in her e-mail of 8 October,
Ms Dorries had provided the following estimates:
||Nights at main home
||Nights in constituency
||Nights in London
41. As Ms Dorries' diaries did not help in corroborating
or complementing these detailed estimates, I asked her how she
had come to establish them. I also asked her a number of specific
questions about each of the years. In respect of 2005-06, I noted
that there were 98 nights missing (taking account of the General
Election, there were 331 nights to be accounted for that year)
and asked Ms Dorries if she could complete the estimates so that
they totalled 331 nights. I also asked her, in doing so, to confirm
her initial estimate
that she had spent no overnights in her constituency. In respect
of 2006-07, I asked her whether she had spent any nights in her
London home that year as until January 2007 that had been her
second homeand the one on which she had made claims against
the Additional Costs Allowance. I also told Ms Dorries that, if
she had spent nights in her London home, she would need to adjust
her estimates for nights in her main home and in her constituency.
Finally, I asked her to reconsider her estimate of the number
of nights she had spent in her constituency home in that year,
as it was not clear to me how she could have spent 111 nights
there when she had only begun to rent it in January 2007.
42. In respect of 2007-08, I asked Ms Dorries
whether she had spent any nights in London. I pointed out that
the estimates suggested that she had spent no nights in London.
I noted, however, that she had said in her blog of 16 May 2009
that "Sometimes, on the very late week nights I stay in
" and had said in her e-mail to me of 4 August
that she spent "an occasional Monday and/or Tuesday evening
in London". I said that if she had in fact done so, she
would need to adjust her estimates of the number of nights spent
in her main home and in her constituency. In respect of 2008-09,
I asked Ms Dorries whether she had also spent no nights in London
in this year, despite what she had said in her blog and e-mail
referred to above, and that if she had indeed done so, she would
again need to revise her estimates of the number of nights she
had spent in her main home and in her constituency. In respect
of 2009-10, I asked Ms Dorries for her estimate of the number
of nights she had spent in her main home, in her constituency
home and elsewhere (including any nights in London) as she had
not so far provided me with such estimates and it was not possible
to take this information from the Outlook diary which she had
43. I also told Ms Dorries that, while I did
not propose to publish the detail in her diaries, I might need
to publish her estimates of the total number of nights she had
spent in London, the constituency, her main home and elsewhere
in each of the years in question. I said that the reason I was
asking for this information was that before I came to a view on
the complainant's allegation that she had spent "only
spare weekends and holidays" away from her second home
I needed to arrive at a reasonable estimate of the number of nights
she had spent in her main and second homes.
44. Ms Dorries replied on 25 January 2010.
She sent with her letter a further print-out of her diaries which
she said she had made easier to understand "by removing
my travel arrangements and simply highlighting the nights I believe
I have slept at my main home". She also said that it
had come to her attention that "a Daily Telegraph
journalist has been telephoning people who live in proximity
to my constituency house ... They have also had someone knocking
on doors in [the constituency, in Gloucestershire and in Stratford-upon-Avon].
I am aware that they may have persuaded a neighbour who lives
in France and only stays in [the constituency] for a short
period of time, to make a submission to you." She continued,
"The last time I saw this neighbour was in June last year
and the time before that during the snow last February...
I would like to clarify that this neighbour does not have a front
door on the same road as my house, even though they are [a
near neighbour]. Their property is at the rear, which is where
the front door is positioned and is entirely occluded by large
plants and conifers... They have no view of my front door and
cannot see me when I enter or leave the property. They could not
honestly say that they have seen me more than a handful of times
over the last two years." Ms Dorries went on to say,
"I would also like to question whether or not their submission
to you, which is also in the hands of the Telegraph, perhaps
motivated by the Telegraph, can be considered as evidence
to your inquiry when it has been published and is in the public
domain before the inquiry has been concluded ... Can you accept
a letter of evidence from someone who has apparently spent the
last six months living in France and has only seen me on two occasions
in twelve months?"
45. Ms Dorries also said that she had "asked
for and given permission to" her general practitioner
to write to me in support of her submission.
46. In response to my question as to how she
had come to establish the detailed estimates of where she had
spent her nights given that her work diary did not provide the
necessary information, Ms Dorries commented, "I am now
a single parent who works long and complicated hours with personal
commitments which are absolutely rigid. My diary planning on a
week by week basis, the organisation of my [family commitments]
means that almost every aspect of my life is planned down to the
last second. As a backbench opposition MP, my diaries are not
as specific as they would be if I were a Government Minister.
I am afraid that I have no option other than to provide you with
verifiable evidence which is personal in nature in order to make
47. Ms Dorries said that, when she did not have
a rented property in the constituency and used the ACA to pay
for hotel accommodation in London, "the number of nights
I spent in hotels were also very few with the majority of my nights
being spent at home." She also said that, when she entered
the House in 2005, she had two daughters attending school in Gloucestershire.
She commented, "It was necessary given my domestic situation
... for me to travel home as much as possible ... It was not unusual
for me to leave Westminster at 10.30 pm and arrive home at 12.15
in order to be at home for the next morning."
48. Ms Dorries went on to say that her youngest
daughter "now attends [a school] in the constituency
two and a half days a week during term time." She commented,
"I am at home every Friday, Saturday and Sunday night
as I have [family commitments] on a Saturday and sometimes
Sunday morning and during the holiday/recess period ..."
Ms Dorries also said that she "was absent with permission
from the Whips from late night voting completely throughout October,
November and December  ... I managed to maintain
my normal constituency and non-voting parliamentary duties from
my main home."
49. Ms Dorries said that, following her separation
from her husband, the family home (which was also her main home
for parliamentary allowance purposes), had been placed on the
market. Ms Dorries commented, "Whilst this process took
place, with the initial thought in mind that it would only take
a matter of months, my husband rented a house for the girls and
I ..." She
continued, "Due to the process taking much longer than
expected, we had to rent for longer than we initially thought.
This was necessary as my daughter attended the local school and
both of my other daughters who still live with me had commitments
in the areawe maintained our normal day to day lives and
routine in exactly the same way we had been doing so in the marital
home. Our local commitments remained the same and we continued
with our usual family routine." Ms Dorries continued,
"The rented homes were substantial houses.
Other family members have relocated their lives in order to live
near to us, hence my inability to move everyone and relocate to
Bedfordshire. Recently, my personal caring commitments and responsibilities
have extended beyond my children. We rented within a 12 minute
drive from my daughter's school."
50. Ms Dorries told me that "Throughout
this process the Fees Office were fully aware of the situation
and I explained what was happening every single step of the way".
She continued, "It was upon advice from the Fees Office
that [the first Gloucestershire address] remained listed
as my main home until the legal situation had sorted itself out.
Indeed, I informed them of the change of my main home address
in 2007 and 2008. The main home address has now been changed from
[the first Gloucestershire address] to [the second
Gloucestershire address]. It was upon their advice that I left
the situation as it was until I knew where our new permanent main
home address was going to be." She continued, "I
have checked with the Fees Office and asked how many of our conversations
were recordedit appears hardly any and that the only recorded
conversations were those relating to mislaid invoices etc. If
all conversations had been recorded I would be able to provide
the records as supplementary evidence to this letter."
51. Ms Dorries said that the rented properties
in Stratford-upon-Avon "were substantial, expensive properties
with a garden." She commented that her situation was
"quite clear. My constituency house was an extremely modest,
rented, mostly un-furnished or carpeted mid terraced property
... on a main high street with no garden. Only one room contained
any furniture and a requested interview with the Sunday Telegraph
meant transporting in boxes of books and ornaments and a couple
of pictures to make the place look lived in. The Sunday Telegraph
journalist saw through this and commented on the sparsity and
dustiness of the house and the fact that the post hadn't been
picked up from the mat for two weeks." Ms Dorries said
that she had "then described it as my 'post divorce
bolt hole' even though I wasn't yet divorced in order to give
the impression to my constituents that I did in fact live there
and to convince the journalist that I did." Ms Dorries
added that the property "didn't have any curtains downstairs
and I did not claim any expenses to provide any or any furniture
as I used the house only as an office and to sleep in."
52. Ms Dorries said that she "often posted
comments on my blog relating to [name of town] in my constituency."
She continued, "Since I first rented in the constituency,
I made a song and dance about being at the property. I have mentioned
it on my blog a number of times." Ms Dorries commented,
"This was done to comfort my Association. The previous
MP only visited the constituency occasionallysometimes
only as often as once every six weeksand they were keen
that I reversed that impression ... The fact that it took me
two years to move was becoming an issue which I had to address."
Ms Dorries added that she "did consider buying using
the allowance, but took the decision that it just didn't 'feel'
rightas [the landlord] has properties available
for long term rent this appeared to be an ideal solution and one
which was hassle free for me. I was selected for my constituency
the weekend the election was called in 2005 and my opponents make
much of the fact that I was 'parachuted in' ... Communicating
the fact that I was around [town in constituency] and had
made the effort to move my second home from London to the patch
and to take the commute in with my constituents was an important
process in letting my constituents know I am totally committed
to Mid Bedfordshire. Whenever I have been at church, the local
pub, or interviewed in the patch I have mentioned it on my blog."
53. In concluding her general comments, Ms Dorries
commented that "the fact remains that I have never at
any time assumed my situation of renting whilst in between selling
and buying main homes was acceptable until I had checked it with
the Fees Office and received assurance that the situation was
perfectly acceptable and within the rules". She said
that she "had absolutely no idea how to navigate around
[the] expense/allowances process and sought advice every step
of the way ... I have never acted upon my own instinct but on
the basis of very clear instructions provided to me by the Fees
Office on a very regular basis."
54. Turning to the specific questions I had asked
in my letter of 15 December,
Ms Dorries said that she had not spent any nights in her constituency
in either 2005-2006 or 2006-2007. As regards my question as to
how Ms Dorries could have spent 111 nights in the constituency
home in 2006-07 when she had only begun to rent it in January
2007, she commented, "My PA completed the box and I think
she may have misunderstood what I said." In response
to my question about the number of nights Ms Dorries had spent
in London in 2006-07, 2007-08, 2008-09 and 2009-10, Ms Dorries
commented, "If I have attended a dinner and have had an
alcoholic drink and someone is with my youngest daughter at home,
I very occasionally stay in London. This never happens on more
than 6-8 nights in a whole year and is very ad hoc. I will adjust
all years to reflect."
55. Ms Dorries reiterated that she had provided
a diary print out for 2008-2009, in which she had clearly marked
"the nights I know I definitely slept at my main home".
In respect of 2005-2006, Ms Dorries said that she had entered
Parliament for her first day on 10 May 2005 and, according to
her expenses, had spent 31 nights in London that year. She also
said that "The remainder of the time I slept at my main
home apart from 16 days elsewhere. I spent 0 nights in the constituency."
56. Ms Dorries said that "on closer examination"
of her 2008-09 diary she had "also revised my estimates
for this year". She continued, "I have revised
other years to include the nights I stay in London."
The detailed table provided by Ms Dorries in respect of the years
2006-07 to 2009-10 and reflecting all her revisions is reproduced
In respect of 2009-10, Ms Dorries commented, "I have provided
a number of nights. My time at the constituency house was focused
in May and June as I had a large number of AGM etc to attend and
my daughter had exams."
57. Ms Dorries went on to say that "The truth is that
I don't keep a record of where I sleep and when. I have a pattern.
My travel arrangements are complicated as I often travel to the
house after I have dropped my daughter off, work from the constituency
office and then leave for London. Although I sometimes spend the
day in the constituency house/office, I don't actually sleep there.
As mentioned above, I know I am always at home on a Friday, Saturday
and Sunday. If I have anything to attend in the constituency I
always drive home afterwards."
58. Ms Dorries also told me that "a few
weeks ago" she had moved her constituency home to a different
59. I replied to Ms Dorries on 2 February.
I told her that I would be working through her revised diary entries
and the supporting information she had given, and would be back
in touch with my conclusions. I also sought to clarify the apparent
discrepancy in respect of her pattern of nights in 2006-07 between
information she had given on 8 October 2009
and that given in her letter of 25 January.
I asked her for more information as to how such an error had occurred
and how she had failed to notice it before submitting the information.
60. I wrote to Ms Dorries again on 9 February,
having analysed the further information she had supplied in her
letter of 25 January, including the diary evidence. 
I told her that I needed to ensure that I had reliable information
on which to base my decision about the complaint, and therefore
asked her some further questions, particularly in relation to
the areas where her latest evidence had differed from earlier
submissions. I therefore enclosed with my letter a table
which identified the estimates of her overnight stays as given
in her e-mail of 8 October,
in her letter of 25 January
and in the highlighted days in the diary extracts she had sent
me with that letter. I asked her for the reasons for
the variations in her estimates. In particular, I reiterated the
request I had made on 2 February in respect of 2006-07 for more
information about how the error had occurred in identifying on
8 October that she had spent 111 nights in the constituency when
her letter of 25 January had identified these as, in effect, London
nights. In respect of 2007-08, I asked Ms Dorries why she had
omitted the 10 London nights from her e-mail of 8 October, and
whether these nights accounted for the 9 night reduction in the
constituency figure provided with her letter of 25 January.
61. In respect of 2008-09, I asked Ms Dorries
why the estimates in her letter of 25 January differed so apparently
markedly from those in her e-mail of 8 Octobernamely, 36
more nights in her main home, 24 fewer nights in her constituency
home, 9 nights in London where there were none before and 21 fewer
nights elsewhere. I also asked Ms Dorries how the overnight stays
highlighted in her diary could be reconciled with her own estimates
in her letter of 25 January. I noted that the diary evidence showed
214 nights in her main home, 21 fewer nights than her estimate,
and that it was unclear what 23 of the highlighted entries for
August 2008 and February 2009 signified in terms of the location
of Ms Dorries' overnight stays.
62. As to Ms Dorries' pattern of overnight stays
in her main home in 2008-09, I noted that her letter of 25 January
said that she had spent Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights in
her main home and that she had highlighted these in her diary.
However, I also noted that there were an additional 76 main home
nights on other days of the week highlighted in her diary, on
average between one and two further nights each week, and asked
if there was any pattern to these additional weekday nights. I
also asked Ms Dorries if she could explain how, according to her
diary highlights, she had spent each night in September 2008 in
her main home when, according to her blog entry of 15 May 2009,
her daughter had attended school in her constituency from September
that year. In respect of 2009-10, I asked Ms Dorries also to provide
me with diary highlights for the remaining months beyond April
2009, to set against
the estimates she had provided in her letter of 25 January.
63. I also asked Ms Dorries, in the light of
the evidence she had now given me, about statements that had been
attributed to her in a Daily Telegraph article of 18 May
2010, and in particular
about the following excerpts:
"But when questioned by the Daily
Telegraph about her second home, she posted a message on the
Internet in which she admitted her daughter goes to school in
the area, she keeps her pet dogs there and she spends many of
her weekends working there.
"[Ms Dorries] wrote, 'My children stay with
me when I am in the constituency. I keep the dogs at the constituency
address as I am often there on my own and it confuses them being
I asked Ms Dorries to assist me in reconciling these
statementsif accurately quoted with her letter of
25 January, in which she had said, "I know I am always
at home on a Friday, Saturday and Sunday. If I have anything to
attend to in the constituency I always drive home afterwards."
I also asked her whether some or all of her children and her dogs
travelled with her between homes on each occasion and, if not,
who looked after them when they were in her constituency home
64. One of Ms Dorries' constituency neighbours,
referred to in this memorandum as neighbour 1, had written to
me on 22 January 2010.
He said that "further to a recent meeting with [name
of reporter] of
the Daily Telegraph", he had "been asked
to write and confirm" three points they had discussed.
The first was that Ms Dorries had been their next door neighbour
for two and a half years "until she recently moved to
another property in [town in constituency]". The
second was that he believed that Ms Dorries' original constituency
home "was very much the 'family' home where [Ms
Dorries] lived with her daughter/daughters and her family pets".
The neighbour commented, "She spent most of her time here
with various members of the family." The third was to
quantify the amount of time Ms Dorries and her family resided
at the property. The neighbour commented that he believed this
to be "approximately 80%. This included weekdays, weekends,
school and university breaks, with the exception of four to six
weeks during the summer recess when some or all of them went abroad."
65. I replied to this neighbour on 2 February
2010. I asked
whether he could confirm whether the estimate of 80% of Ms Dorries'
time in her constituency property was an estimate of the proportion
of the nights she had spent there each year or whether this estimate
also covered her daytime use of the property. I also asked for
confirmation that, if the estimate was of the proportion of nights
which Ms Dorries had spent in the property, he believed that,
with the exception of her six-week break in the summer recess,
Ms Dorries had spent every night of the last two and a half years
in her constituency property. I also asked, if the estimate was
of Ms Dorries' daytime use of the property, for his further estimate,
if he could reliably provide it, of the proportion of her nights
which he believed Ms Dorries had spent at the property, if possible
in each relevant financial year. I also asked him to confirm the
basis on which he had formed his conclusions, including how frequently
he had been in his own property at the relevant times, together
with any supporting evidence he might be able to provide. In this
latter context, I told this neighbour that other witnesses had
suggested that he also had a home in France and was away from
the area most of the time.
Finally, I asked him to confirm the start and end dates for the
2½ year period to which he was referring.
66. The neighbour replied on 18 February.
He said that statements that he and his wife spent most of their
time in France were "untrue". The neighbour commented,
"We did not in fact purchase our holiday cottage in France
until the end of 2008 by which time [Ms Dorries] had already
been our neighbour for just over 18 months". He said
that in 2009 he had spent three weeks there in February/March,
the first visit following its purchase, five weeks in May/June
"during which I returned home twice each time for five
days", two and a half weeks in August "which
coincided with the Dorries household summer holiday",
and two weeks at Christmas. The neighbour also set out the observations
he had made when approached by the Daily Telegraph. These
were that it was "quite obvious" that Ms Dorries
and her family used their constituency home "as the main
family home". The neighbour commented, "The dogs
lived there permanently and her daughters came home regularly
from university and school frequently ... Her youngest daughter
lived there in 2009 as she attended school locally."
The neighbour also said that he was unable to quantify the exact
number of days or nights Ms Dorries had spent at the house "since
this would be impossible to do in the absence of a private investigator
or a surveillance camera". He added, "Our house
and my studio adjoins what was her property on two sides and consequently
we were acutely aware of her and her family's presence whenever
they were there. If [Ms Dorries] is supposed to have her
main home elsewhere, she most certainly did not spend much, if
any, time there!"
67. The neighbour concluded his letter by saying,
"Whilst the above is background information for your enquiry,
I do not wish to be a witness. I have only passed these
comments as an adjoining neighbour and a taxpayer deeply concerned
about the misuse of parliamentary expenses. I merely wish to be
a responsible citizen without being dragged into this government
68. I replied to the neighbour on 22 February.
In response to his statement that he did not wish to be a witness
to this inquiry, I said that I could only take account of his
information if it was given to me by him as a witness. This was
because it would not be fair for me to take into account information
which I could not disclose to the Member of Parliament and the
Committee on Standards and Privileges, or if necessary subsequently
publish after the conclusion of my inquiry. I also said that I
considered the information he had given me was relevant to my
inquiry as it addressed the question of how many nights Ms Dorries
had spent in her constituency property, which was material to
the outcome of my inquiry. I also noted that information which
he had subsequently sent me in evidence in his letter of 22 January
had already been published. I told the neighbour that I would,
therefore, be showing the correspondence to Ms Dorries for any
comments she might wish to make and, subject to any further representations
he might wish to make about confidentiality, that I would expect
his letters to be published along with the other evidence I received
in the course of my inquiry.
69. A second constituency neighbour, referred
to in this memorandum as neighbour 2, had written to me on 23
January. She said
that she lived across the road from Ms Dorries "and only
occasionally see the car parked outside or the MP going in or
out of the house. Myself and my husband walk our dog and drive
our car past our MP's house every day." She continued,
"Only one of her neighbours is permanently in residence.
The others have a house in France where they spend most of their
time. I would like to state that the comment 'she spends 80%
of her time' at the house is 'entirely untrue'. If this
was the case, I would certainly know."
70. I replied to neighbour 2 on 2 February.
I asked her if she could reliably provide me with an alternative
estimate of the number of nights which she believed Ms Dorries
had spent at this property, ideally by financial year, together
with any information about the basis of that estimate. Neighbour
2 replied on 9 February.
She explained that she walked her dog every morning between 6
and 8.30 am, and the same times in the evening. She said that
Ms Dorries had to park her car on the road, and "my husband
and I constantly comment on her car not being there, because
we had assumed she lived there all the time". She added,
"So as a percentage of a year, I would say 10%, and of
a week, 15%. We see her car most often on a Friday morning and
occasionally the odd day in the week".
71. I had also received a letter from a third
constituency neighbour, referred to in this memorandum as neighbour
3, on 25 January.
He said that he lived in a terraced row of houses, in the property
directly adjoining Ms Dorries' house. He commented that it was
"the only property which has a front door next to hers
... Her kitchen and our living room are next to each other".
He added, "Ms Dorries has no carpets and so not only do
we see her car pull up when she arrives and leaves, we can hear
her. We can hear the sound of the water running, the kettle filling
and the switch being switched on and off. We can hear almost every
word if she has her daughter with her as the walls are so thin.
We can also hear her walking up and down the stairs." He
added, "When she does arrive at the house it is often
very late at night ... When she leaves it is usually very early,
well before our children leave for school. Sometimes I see her
arriving early in the morning and then she leaves later in the
day but she doesn't return."
72. Neighbour 3 went on to say that it "would
be absolutely true for me to say that [Ms Dorries] is hardly
ever here and I hardly ever see her. If I had to put a number
on it I would say I have seen her about twenty times over the
last year. When she isn't going to be at the house for long periods
of time she lets us know so that we can keep an eye out. She was
away from the house from the beginning of July until October right
the way through but we did see her during the day sometimes. She
said she was coming to collect post and work in the office which
she has in the house." He also said that "She
often brings her dog with her and sometimes her daughter. When
she comes back late at night she always gets out of the car alone."
He added, "There are neighbours on the other side
but they have a house in France and are away most of the time.
They have only been here for about three weeks out of the last
six months that I can recall."
73. I replied to neighbour 3 on 2 February 2010.
I asked if he could provide me with a little more information
about Ms Dorries' pattern of stays, and, if he could reliably
provide it, an estimate of the number of nights which Ms Dorries
had spent at the property, ideally by financial year. He replied
on 17 February.
He said that he was the only person who could identify a pattern
"as I am the only person who could see her going in and
out of her front door". He said that Ms Dorries was "never
here at weekends but is often there during the day on a Friday.
She tends to be here mid week, often coming back late at night.
She often arrives on a Monday morning with a bag but not always,
sometimes it's on a Tuesday." He went on to say, "From
July to October she isn't here at all at night but sometimes she
is during the day. I haven't really seen her that often but when
I do it is usually on a Monday morning, Friday day time or late
on a weeknight."
74. Ms Dorries had told me in her letter of 25
January that her
general practitioner would write to me, which he did on 26 January
2010. He said
that he had been the family doctor to Ms Dorries and her family
since he had taken up practice in 1996 in the village where she
originally had her Gloucestershire home, and that they had remained
as patients of his practice there despite Ms Dorries winning her
parliamentary seat in 2005. He commented, "I am of the
opinion that Ms Dorries spends most of her time in this area as
she simply does not want to be away ... for longer than is absolutely
necessary ... I see Ms Dorries ... either in my practice or out
and about on a regular basis. I can say with certainty that [the
family's] lives are very much based in and around this area
..." He continued, "I cannot truthfully provide
you with numbers. What I can say is that knowing what I do, it
would seem very unlikely that Ms Dorries has spent the majority
of her time anywhere other than in this area since 2005, as much
as her job permits."
75. I wrote to Ms Dorries on 23 February, and
sent her copies of the witness evidence I had received from her
neighbours, and from her GP.
76. Ms Dorries replied to my letters on 1 March.
As regards the evidence of neighbour 1, Ms Dorries said that she
refuted all the claims that he had made in his letter. She commented,
"The last time I saw [neighbour 1] was at least
a year or so ago and before that I have probably seen them a handful
of times over a period of two years. They fail to mention the
most important fact that their house did not have any view of
mine and that they could not see whether I was in or not. Neither
could they hear, as the house is actually on [name of road].
With regard to the other neighbours, particularly my next door
neighbour who has a clear open view of my property and sees my
every move in and out, I assume he has not spoken to [name
and therefore his evidence can be considered as untainted, credible
and honest." She said, "I have been informed
that the Daily Telegraph have approached residents and
'aggressively' sought poor opinion of myself."
77. Turning to the specific points I had raised
in my letter of 9 February,
Ms Dorries said that the original figure she had given for constituency
nights in 2006-07 had been given because she had asked her PA
"to make and complete the table. She simply put the 111
nights in the wrong box." She continued, "As
you can see from the earlier estimate she has slipped over the
box. She completed the table from a hand-written note I gave her
with the figures written in columns." Ms Dorries commented,
"It was obviously an error as I did not have or claim
for a house in the constituency until some way into 2007 and therefore
could not possibly have claimed for 111 nights for 2006-07 as
there was no constituency property to claim against."
As to the figures for the number of nights she spent in London
after she had acquired her constituency property, Ms Dorries commented,
"I have no idea how many nights I spend in London as they
are so few and far between. I mentioned 10 as a generous estimate.
They may or may not be on nights I would normally stay in the
constituency, I have no idea."
78. With regard to my questions as to why her
successive estimates of her pattern of nights in 2008-09 had varied
so markedly, and about the apparent discrepancies in respect of
the same year between her estimates and the diary evidence, Ms
Dorries commented, "I have explained before that as a
backbench opposition MP it is absolutely impossible for
me to provide you with accurate assessment of where I stay and
when using my diaries and my work commitments; however, I can
provide you with a pattern which I did with the recent
diary print out I sent you. Any variation in numbers which has
arisen has done so via my attempt to be overly specific, which
as I have said is impossible and gives rise to unnecessary confusion."
She continued, "I know I always sleep at home on a
Friday, Saturday and Sundayalmost always on a Thursday
and often on a Monday. If it is a one line whip I will work from
home, or drive to the constituency during the day, especially
during term time over the last year or so to drop and collect
79. In response to my inquiry about an apparent
discrepancy between Ms Dorries' diary highlights, which indicated
that she had spent each night in her home in the Cotswolds in
September 2008 and her blog entry of 15 May 2009 which said her
daughter attended a school in her constituency from September
2008, she commented, "The journey to [name of school]
from my main home was one hour and 30 minutes ... However, due
to [family circumstances], [my daughter] rarely
attends school more than two days per week and when she did do
she would travel from the constituency house."
80. As to my enquiry about Ms Dorries' diary
highlights, she commented that these "are the nights I
spent on holiday away from both my main and constituency home.
I can be certain about this and therefore felt confident in identifying
81. Ms Dorries also commented on her weblog.
She said, "My blog is 70% fiction and 30% fact. It is
written as a tool to enable my constituents to know me better
and to reassure them of my commitment to Mid Bedfordshire. I rely
heavily on poetic licence and frequently replace one place name/event/fact
with another. In the light of the bullying onslaught of the Daily
Telegraph I used my blog to its best effect in reassuring my
constituents of my commitment to Mid Beds. My commitment is absolute
and is always my first consideration regardless of where I sleep
at night. However, I have always been aware that should my personal
domestic arrangements become the knowledge of my political opponents,
they would be able to exaggerate that to good effect. Hence the
reason for my blog and my need to reassure my constituents."
82. In response to my enquiry about whether some
or all of her children and her dogs travelled with her between
homes on each occasion and, if not, who looked after them when
they were in her constituency home without her, Ms Dorries commented,
"My dogs are looked after by myself and various family
members." Finally, Ms Dorries enclosed a picture which
she said was of her constituency property "as you will
have seen the picture taken of the constituency home in the Daily
83. I replied to Ms Dorries on 3 March 2010.
I included with my letter a table, reproduced below, which I believed
set out the best evidence that she could give me about her overnight
stays, and summarised the basis on which I had compiled it.
Nadine Dorries MP: analysis of overnight stays
|Year||A. Nights at main home
||B. Nights in constituency
||C. Nights in London
||C. Nights elsewhere
|2005-06 (from 10 May)
|2009-10 (to 25 January)
Note: 2005-06 figures are taken from Ms Dorries'
e-mail of 8 October, modified by her letter of 25 January 2010.
All other information is taken from her letter of 25 January 2010.
*Calculated from 10 May 2005, Ms Dorries' first day
in Parliament (see paragraph 55 above).
I asked Ms Dorries to confirm that she was content
with this. I said that I assumed that Ms Dorries' diary highlights
had been mistaken in showing her spending every night in September
2008 in her main home when she had said in her letter of 1 March
that she had taken her daughter to school from her constituency
home on two days a week. I also noted that, while Ms Dorries had
identified in her letter of 1 March who looked after her dogs
she had not answered my question about whether all of her children
and her pets travelled with her between her two homes. In view
of the allegation made against her, I asked whether her children
and the dogs normally stayed at one or other home, or normally
travelled with her between the two.
84. Ms Dorries replied on 15 March.
She first commented again on the evidence of Neighbour 1, which
she continued to refute, saying that his comments were "very
untrue". She commented, "I have learnt since
I wrote my last letter that there has been a period of time when
[neighbour 1 and his wife] have sold and re-bought in France
and that they may be stretching the facts, possibly with encouragement
from [name of reporter]. They also, apparently, spent a
long period of time in Portugal between October and December last
year when I had assumed they must be at the house in France."
85. In response to my specific enquiries, Ms
Dorries said that she "was not mistaken" in showing
that she had spent every night in her main home in September 2008.
She commented, "If I am not in Parliament, I drop my daughter
at school, work in the constituency house/office or the Shefford
office and then collect her and go home. On the odd occasion we
sleep at the constituency house in September, if I have a dinner
or evening function to attend." She said that, for her
daughter, staying in the constituency home "is not a comfortable
experience. She would much rather we spent the hour+ driving home
... School finishes at 3.20 we are usually well home for 5."
86. In response to my enquiry as to whether all
her children and her pets travelled with her between her two homes,
Ms Dorries said that her eldest daughter lived in a flat elsewhere
but often travelled home to help. She said that her second daughter
"has lived between home and [name of town] where
she attended university since 2006 ... She is now also living
in the flat at [address]." Ms Dorries added, "Neither
of the older girls ... have ever 'lived' in my constituency
house." Ms Dorries also said that "the dogs
are usually, but not always, wherever [the youngest daughter],
I, or both of us are".
87. A fourth constituency neighbour of Ms Dorries,
referred to in this memorandum as neighbour 4, wrote to me on
15 March. He said
that he had "a direct and clear view from my kitchen window
into the kitchen window and rear access of the Member's house."
He commented, "I have personally seen Nadine Dorries on
a maximum of 20 occasions over the last two years. I am aware
that she spends the weekends and holidays elsewhere." I
replied on 16 March,
and asked this neighbour how reliable he considered his estimate
to be; whether he considered that all or some of those occasions
involved overnight stays by Ms Dorries and, if so, the basis of
that conclusion; and whether he considered it possible that Ms
Dorries would have been able to use the property, and stay overnight
in it, without him having observed her presence there. The neighbour
replied on 19 March.
He commented in response to my questions, "I provide this
information in good faith. I am happy to confirm that my estimate
of 20 days is reliable, but I am unable to specify in any great
detail the length of time spent by Ms Dorries on each occasion.
It could have been possible for Ms Dorries to stay at the property
and for me to have not been aware, but unlikely."
88. A fifth constituency neighbour of Ms Dorries,
referred to in this memorandum as neighbour 5, wrote to me on
18 March. He believed
that Mrs Dorries did stay in the constituency house "on
some weekday nights". He commented, "There was
a change in the pattern of her being in [the town], as
she was not around for long periods of time including weekends,
which I think may be as a result of what I understand to be parliamentary
recess." He was "confident" of the accuracy
of his statement.
89. Ms Dorries e-mailed me on 22 March with details
of her new constituency home.
She commented that she had rented this house from 31 December
2009 because it was £2,000 per annum less expensive than
her previous constituency home. She commented, "Given
the attention to expenses I thought that would be a wise move."
She commented that the property was "in the middle of
a woodcutting yard". She also told me that she had spent
"between 15-20 nights at the property since December",
and that the Fees Office held a copy of the lease. Ms Dorries
also said that the picture she had previously sent me with her
letter of 1 March was of her current Gloucestershire home.
She commented that "The house sleeps six comfortably.
Why anyone would think I would want to spend the majority of my
nights in a house located in a woodcutters' yard and not in the
Cotswolds defeats me."
90. I wrote again to Ms Dorries on 25 March.
I sent her copies of the evidence submitted by neighbours 4 and
5, and told her that, in the light of what she had said in her
letter of 15 March
about the evidence of neighbour 1, I would shortly be putting
that allegation to him. Turning to the pattern of Ms Dorries'
overnight stays, I told her that I would need to come to a view
on the weight I could attach to the estimates she had given me.
I therefore asked her about an apparent conflict between her letters
of 1 March and
15 March in respect
of her overnight stays in her constituency house in September
2008, and to explain what the actual position was in respect of
the location of her overnight stays in that month. I also asked
Ms Dorries about her response to me in her e-mail of 22 March
to the Daily Telegraph article of 19 March.
This article had alleged that her "main home" was
a "one-bedroomed lodge-keeper's cottage in a small Cotswold
village", but she had said in her e-mail that it "sleeps
six comfortably". I therefore asked Ms Dorries to confirm
that the photograph in the Daily Telegraph article was
indeed of her Cotswold home, as the picture she had described
as showing her constituency home, and which she had enclosed with
her letter to me of 1 March,
appeared to show the same cottage. I also asked her, in view of
the allegations in the Daily Telegraph to which she had
referred, about the number of bedrooms, reception rooms and other
facilities provided by her Cotswold property. I further asked
Ms Dorries for the names and addresses of neighbours to her Cotswold
home whom I could invite to give me evidence about her pattern
of use of the property. Finally, I told her that, in view of the
fact that I needed to resolve discrepancies in the evidence I
had been given before I could complete my work on this inquiry,
I would need to resume it once the new Parliament had assembled.
91. Meanwhile, I had written on 3 March to the
Department of Resources.
I asked the Department in particular whether it held any correspondence
or records of other contacts with Ms Dorries which might be relevant
to identifying the pattern of her overnight stays in her main
home and elsewhere, and the decisions she had made about the designation
of her main and second homes. I also asked if the Department could
confirm the dates of the various designations Ms Dorries had made
over this period, and let me have any supporting documentation.
Finally, I asked the Department, on the basis of the evidence
collected, for its view on the propriety of Ms Dorries' decision
to designate her constituency properties as her second home. I
also wrote again to the Department on 25 March,
enclosing extracts from Ms Dorries' letter of 15 March
and my reply,
and copies of the evidence of neighbour 4 and neighbour 5.
92. The Director of Strategic Projects replied
to my letters of 3 and 25 March on 11 May.
He said that the Department had on file two nomination forms (ACA1)
both signed on 30 June 2005. Both nominated a property in Gloucestershire
as Ms Dorries' main home and a Westminster flat as her second
home. On one form, an official had marked "8 May to 8
June" and on the other "June until further notice".
The Director commented, "In fact, Ms Dorries claimed for
overnight stays in hotels in London from her election until 8th
June. (There were also two claims thereafter for cancelled hotel
charges.) Rent and related costs on the [Westminster] property
were then incurred, and were the subject of claims, from June
2005 until December 2006." The Director continued, "It
is not entirely clear when Ms Dorries moved out of her Westminster
property. The Department paid £9,775 rent in respect of rental
for the flat from 20th June 2006 until 19th December 2006. However,
we received a final electricity bill for £326, dated 22nd
August 2006, which suggests that Ms Dorries moved out of the property
around this time. The Department sought recovery of the cost of
rental in letters to Ms Dorries of 30th January and 1st February
2007. The amount sought (£4,877) was in respect of the last
three months of 2006. This amount was subsequently recalculated
as £3,731 to represent the cost of rental up until the day
before the first day on which she occupied hotel accommodation.
An ACA payment to her in March 2007 was reduced to take account
of this recalculated amount."
93. The Director noted that Ms Dorries had referred
to security issues in relation to the Westminster flat in a letter
to me of 11 November 2009.
He commented, "We have no record of this being raised
with the Department at the time, but there was no reason why a
Member needed to inform the Department of the reasons for a change
of address." He continued, "Ms Dorries started
claiming for temporary accommodation (in the Carlton Club) and,
initially, at [a hotel in central London] on 11th October
2006. (The House returned after the summer adjournment on 9th
October.) On her claim form of 19th October 2006, Ms Dorries stated
that her second home was now 'hotels' and the Department
acknowledged this arrangement in a letter dated 26th October 2006.
A nomination form signed on 7th November 2006 identified as her
second home '? hotel until new flat'. Her main home remained
[the first Gloucestershire address]."
94. The Director said that a new nomination form
had been submitted by Ms Dorries on 25 January 2007, changing
the location of her second home to a residence in her constituency.
Her main home had again remained in the first village in Gloucestershire.
Ms Dorries had submitted a claim on 25 January 2007 for the first
set of costs in respect of the constituency property. The Director
commented, "This claim (as well as the lease) shows that
she occupied the property from 1st February 2007." The
Director noted that, in her letter to me of 11 November 2009,
Ms Dorries had said that she had occupied three different main
homes in Stratford-upon-Avon (from January 2007 until January
2008; from January 2008 to January 2009; and from January 2009
to December 2009 respectively). He continued, "She also
tells you in her letter of 25th January 2010
that the Department was fully aware of these rental properties;
that she was advised that [her first address in Gloucestershire]
should remain her main home until the legal situation in respect
of her separation from her husband had sorted itself out; and
that she informed the Department of changes of main home address
in 2007 and 2008." The Director commented that the Department
"did receive formal notification by a form signed on 22nd
October 2007 when Ms Dorries nominated her main home as [Stratford-upon-Avon,
address 2]. A handwritten note on the form stated that this
was a temporary arrangement and in an e-mail to the Department
of the same day she said that she was in the process of purchasing
a property in [second village in Gloucestershire]. In the
e-mail she also asked for correspondence to be sent to her constituency
(ie second) home: the form again identified [first constituency
address] as the second home." The Director continued,
"We have no record of having received any formal notification
in respect either of [Stratford-upon-Avon, address 1] or
[Stratford-upon-Avon, address 3]."
95. The Director said that it was "entirely
possible" that Ms Dorries was advised soon after her
separation from her husband that she did not need to change the
designation of her main home until the situation had sorted itself
out. However, he commented, "This does mean that there
may have been a period when [her first address in Gloucestershire]
was her formally designated main home but she was not, as a matter
of fact, living there. The Department always tried to show some
flexibility when Members encountered personal difficulties, especially
when (as in this case) the issue in question was the designation
of a main home, in respect of which no claim could be made under
ACA. However, this would have only been regarded as a strictly
temporary measure, and, as I explain later, the Department was
concerned to regularise matters by October 2007 at the latest."
The Director added that it was "entirely acceptable"
for a main home to be rented.
96. The Director said that a further nomination
form had been submitted by Ms Dorries on 29 December 2009. He
said that this confirmed that her second address in Gloucestershire
had become her main home, and also identified a new additional
home in her constituency. He also said that Ms Dorries had asked
that "all written correspondence should be addressed to
her constituency home as her personal office was situated there".
The Director said that one PAAE claim had been submitted by
Ms Dorries in respect of her new additional home in her constituency,
on 6 April 2010. The Director said that this was for six months
rental for the property from 1 April to 30 September 2010. He
added that rental on the previous additional home had been paid
by the Department up to 31 March 2010.
97. The Director said that the Department also
had information about Ms Dorries' travel claims. He commented
that the information in respect of rail journeys "should
be treated as less certain than that in respect of motor mileage:
we cannot say with absolute certainty what each journey was, but
we can deduce this information from the price of the journey,
the location of purchase and the rail company used."
He said that Ms Dorries was entitled to claim for journeys between
Westminster and her constituency, between Westminster and her
main home, and between her main home and her constituency. He
continued, "Between May 2005 and January 2007, Ms Dorries
appears frequently to have used her travel allowances for journeys
between Westminster and her main home, and between her main home
and her constituency. From April 2006 to February 2007, she made
no claims for journeys between Westminster and her constituency.
No claim in respect of a journey to her main home [either
in the first village in Gloucestershire or in Stratford-upon-Avon
or in the second village in Gloucestershire] has been made
since 7th February 2007. After this date, all journeys claimed
by Ms Dorries (by both rail and car) appear to have been from
Westminster to her constituency. Ms Dorries indicated to the Department
that she would drive to Parliament and return to [her constituency
address] during parliamentary sittings."
98. Turning to my specific questions, the Director
said that the Department had "some evidence"
in respect of Ms Dorries' communications with the Department.
He continued, "We have on file a letter from her, dated
28th February 2007, in which she stated that [her first address
in Gloucestershire] would continue to be her main residence
and that she would 'continue to commute by train from [name
of station] to London, should I return to my main home during
mid week'. In addition to this letter, the Department has copies
of e-mails and other notes from October 2007. From these it appears
that the Department pressed Ms Dorries to submit ACA1 forms on
16th, 22nd and 24th October 2007. Ms Dorries was also told on
22nd October of the Department's concern that mail sent to her
main home was being returned marked 'addressee unknown'.
This resulted in the submission of a new designation form that
day. The file note records surprise that the main home designation
on the form was marked as 'temporary'. A conversation from
25th October is recorded in which Ms Dorries confirmed that the
temporary main home was her former husband and daughters' family
home until a new property was finalised." The Director
said that the activity in October 2007 "seems to have
been caused by a dispute between Ms Dorries and the Department
about the refund of a deposit Ms Dorries had paid in respect of
[first constituency address], as well as the return of
a deposit in respect of the [Westminster] property."
99. The Director continued, "I have no
reason to doubt that Ms Dorries had a number of other conversations
with departmental staff which have not been recorded. There is,
however, nothing on file to suggest that any specific correspondence
or discussion was entered into regarding Ms Dorries's various
designations, or that there was any doubt about where the main
and additional homes were located." He noted that Ms
Dorries had e-mailed the Department on 18th October 2007 to express
her concern that the Department "appears continually to
misplace my forms". The Director pointed out that the
Department "holds no records on, and sought no information
about, where Members spent their time". He continued,
"Up until January 2007, Ms Dorries was claiming regularly
for travel to [her first Gloucestershire address], and
we can therefore say from the evidence which we have that there
is corroboration that this was her main home. From February 2007,
we do not have travel claims which would provide this corroboration.
However, she may well have chosen not to claim for travel to her
main home after this date. The Department would not therefore
have questioned the main home designation because travel claims
to it had ceased."
100. The Director said that the information which
Ms Dorries had given me about her pattern of overnight stays (as
set out in the Table which I had sent him)
gave him "no reason" to query her designations
of main and additional homes, other than the points made below.
The Director's first point was that "Ms Dorries's estimate
that she spent only 31 nights in London during 2005-06a
period when the House sat on 133 daysmay seem surprising.
Since 11 of these nights were spent in hotels, then, if Ms Dorries'
estimate is correct, there could be a question about the value
for money of the rental of a flat for around £12,000 for
20 nights' usage." The Director commented, "However,
Ms Dorries has pointed out in her letter to you of 25th January
that she had caring responsibilities which often led to her making
late journeys from Westminster to her main home.
There are sometimes extenuating circumstances which mean that
second home accommodation cannot be occupied for periods when
the Member remains obliged to continue rental or mortgage payments.
This would apply to circumstances in the Member's personal life
(such as the chronic illness of a close relative) which mean that
it is not practical or opportune to occupy the accommodation for
a period." The Director's second point was that he was
"not entirely clear about the 112 nights in London in
2006-07 identified in the table which you sent to Ms Dorries and
referred to your letter to her of 9th February and her reply of
lst March (in these, referred to as 111 nights)". The
Director commented, "I assume from her letter that these
are the nights in respect of which claims were made (ie those
spent either at the [Westminster] flat, or at hotels or
the Carlton Club, or in the constituency property after it had
been acquired). If this is not the case, then Ms Dorries would
have been claiming for a constituency property for two months
(February and March 2007) without occupying it."
101. The Director said that he offered no comment
on the evidence which I had received from third parties about
Ms Dorries' patterns of residence. He attached to his letter a
gave a summary of the designations of Ms Dorries' main and additional
homes as well as a full breakdown of her ACA/PAAE costs; and a
monthly summary of travel claims. The Director commented, "We
are not able to break down the figures before March 2006 by month.
Please note my caveat about rail journeys above." He
also offered me copies of Ms Dorries' signed ACA1 nomination forms.
102. I replied to the Director on 13 May.
I sent him a schedule
I had prepared on the basis of his letter showing Ms Dorries'
formal designation of her homes from May 2005 onwards, and asked
him to confirm that the summary of the evidence from the ACA1
nomination forms was accurate. I also asked him for copies of
the Department's records of Ms Dorries' communications with it
in 2007, as referred to in his letter, and of Ms Dorries' ACA1
nomination forms from January 2007 onwards.
103. The Director replied on 17 May.
He confirmed the accuracy of my schedule, whilst noting that the
Department was unable to say whether or not Ms Dorries' use of
her Westminster flat in 2006 overlapped with her hotel use. He
commented, "What we know is that rental for the flat was
claimed for the second six months of 2006; that she used hotels
from 11th October that year; and that she repaid the rental from
the time she occupied hotels. We do not know whether she still
used the flat after she began to stay in hotels." He
also enclosed the documents I had requested.
These confirmed what the Director had said in his letters.
104. The documents supplied by the Director included
copies of ACA1 and PAAE1 forms, which confirmed the various designations
Ms Dorries had made in respect of her main and second homes. They
also included copies of correspondence about ACA claims which
pre-dated Ms Dorries' first constituency property rental, the
submission of the rental agreement for that property, difficulties
over reimbursement for the initial rent and deposit, and Ms Dorries'
main home designation. They also included a record of fourteen
contacts in October 2007 in respect of ACA matters between the
Department and Ms Dorries or someone acting on her behalf.
105. Ms Dorries replied to my letter of 25 March
on 16 May, after the new Parliament had assembled.
In response to my enquiry about where she spent her nights in
September 2008, Ms Dorries said that her daughter returned to
school in September and then left for a school trip. She commented,
"In September, Parliament is in recess, I do not work
any late nights and so I travel from home to school and back again
... The fact is that I cannot be absolutely 100% accurate about
any night, only my pattern of nights. We may have spent the odd
night in September [in the constituency] over the last
few years, however, I raise that as a possibility because I cannot
be specific." She continued, "We spend weekends,
usually from Thursday night and parliamentary recess at home and
sleep in the constituency house when Parliament sits. Sometimes,
[my youngest daughter] isn't with me at all when I am working
and staying in the constituency. I usually arrive back on a Monday
and Tuesday after midnight and leave very early the following
106. In respect of my request for the addresses
of neighbours in the second Gloucestershire village, Ms Dorries
commented, "As you are aware, I moved into [the second
Gloucestershire address] well after the submission of this
complaint." She described her neighbours' use of their
107. As to Ms Dorries' accommodation in the constituency,
she said that her current accommodation was "temporary
until I take possession of a flat in order to comply with the
new IPSA guidelines. When the appointment of IPSA was announced,
I asked the landlord for a less expensive property than the mid
terrace I rented [at the first constituency address]. The
farmhouse is £2,000 less p.a. than [the first constituency
address] for a number of reasons, not least because it is in
the middle of a working woodcutting yard." Ms Dorries
said that a fire door had been fitted "to block off part
of the internal accommodation to cut down on the heating cost".
She said that her current Gloucestershire home was built on a
hill and was on three levels. She provided details of her use
of the accommodation. Finally, she commented, "I have
emphasised a number of times the pattern of how I divide my time
between home and the constituency. I have tried to be as honest
as possible which has sometimes tied me in knots as I have also
attempted to answer specific questions, which is almost impossible."
108. I replied to Ms Dorries on 18 May.
First, I asked her to confirm my assumption, based on what she
had told me, that she had spent almost all her nights in September
2008 in her main home in Stratford-upon-Avon, although she might
have spent the "odd night" in her constituency
home. Second, I said that I took it that the property shown in
the Daily Telegraph photograph of 19 March was in fact
of her current home in Gloucestershire, and assumed that her estimate
that it "sleeps six comfortably" was achieved
by using various rooms currently used for other purposes. However,
I added that, as she had said, I understood that she had moved
into this property in September 2009, after the period covered
by my inquiry, and that I would not, therefore, be pursuing further
her use of this property. I also asked Ms Dorries for details
of neighbours or others who could provide me with witness evidence
of her pattern of overnight stays in her previous Cotswold homes,
namely, on the basis of her letter to me of 11 November 2009
the three properties she had successively occupied in Stratford-upon-Avon
from January 2007 until she had moved to her second Gloucestershire
109. I wrote again to Ms Dorries on 19 May, in
the light of the comments and other material provided by the Department
I also attached a schedule in which I summarised the information
the Director of Strategic Projects had provided about Ms Dorries'
main and second homes.
I set out in the letter some conclusions that might be drawn from
this information, and some points on which I would need to come
to a view, namely whether Ms Dorries should have notified the
Department of the changes in each of her successive main homes
when she moved from one to the other, and the timing of the designations.
I asked Ms Dorries whether she accepted my summary of the evidence
set out in the schedule and to let me know why (despite receiving
reminders in October 2007 that she had to lodge forms with the
Department) she had not ensured that the Department had fresh
and up-to-date ACA1 designation forms each time she had moved
her main home between January 2007 and December 2009.
110. I asked Ms Dorries if she accepted the suggestion
of the Director of Strategic Resources that she might not have
spent any nights in 2006-07 in the constituency property on which
she had claimed rent from 1 February 2007. I also asked her, if
so, why she had considered that it was acceptable to claim from
February 2007 for a property which she was not to use overnight
until two months later. I also asked Ms Dorries, on the basis
of the pattern of her travel claims as set out in the Director's
letter, why since February 2007 she had apparently claimed for
journeys to her constituency but not to and from her successive
main homes, given her evidence that she had spent over 200 nights
in her successive main homes in each financial year since April
2007. Finally, I told Ms Dorries that I did not propose to ask
her specifically about the rental of her Westminster flat in 2005-06
or about her travel claims between April 2006 and January 2007,
since these did not relate to the period covered by the complaint
I was inquiring into.
111. Ms Dorries replied to my letters of 18 and
19 May by e-mail on 25 May.
As to neighbours in proximity to the Stratford-upon-Avon properties,
Ms Dorries said that, because she only expected to be in each
property for a short period of time, she "didn't particularly
get to know the neighbours and besides, most of our family infrastructure
remained in [the first Gloucestershire village]."
However, she told me that, when in Westminster, she did use "the
services of a neighbour who I got to know through church to help
transport the girls backwards and forwards to [the first Gloucestershire
village] if they were stuck when I was away." Ms Dorries
gave me contact details for this person in Stratford-upon-Avon,
referred to in this memorandum as her Cotswold neighbour.
112. With regard to the other points I had raised
in my letter of 19 May,
Ms Dorries said that the same answer applied to each point. She
said that, when she left the marital home, she believed "it
would be a very temporary arrangement" and they "would
move back in". However, she said that this did not happen,
and she had explained this to an official in the Fees Office.
She commented, "Each week we thought we would be moving
back to our own home. When it became apparent that this was not
going to happen, we planned to move into [her second Gloucestershire
address]. Unfortunately ... our situation in rented homes lasted
much, much, longer than we had anticipated. At the time I was
dealing with the ... massive upheaval to our lives. ... I was
also having to cope with the demands of becoming a new MP and
working 90 hours per week in Westminster and Bedfordshire ...
In addition to this I had to cope with the demands and needs of
80,000 constituents700 local party members54 local
councillors and local party executive and officers who all wanted
time with their new MP." She continued, "I launched
a two and a half year campaign to lower the upper limit at which
abortion takes place which took over almost every single day of
my life. I was one of the four MPs mentioned in the No 10 Smeargate
e-mails ... which resulted in an extraordinary amount of invasive
media attention, adding more stress to what was already a very
tense and difficult situation."
113. Ms Dorries commented, "I am afraid
that the administrative requirement of providing the right details
on the right day pre expenses fiasco may have become a bit lost
in all of this and in terms of priorities, was very definitely
not on the top of the list. This is hardly surprising ... The
fact remains however, that although I may have provided anticipatory
answers given with the knowledge of what I thought/hoped was about
to happen at the time, I did maintain a main home for my daughters
at the addresses given until the point whereby my ... situation
... allowed us to move to a permanent address in [second Gloucestershire
114. As to my enquiry about the use she had made
of her constituency house immediately after renting it, Ms Dorries
said, "I did not think it was 'acceptable' to rent
a constituency house for two months and not use it. I also did
not think it was acceptable to sleep on the floor." She
continued, "The constituency house was completely unfurnished
and without carpets or curtains. It had no cooker or fire. I am
afraid that ... finding the money to provide a bed, curtains,
bedding, kettle, cooker etc took some time. I arranged for some
things to arrive from home, chest of drawers, desk, dishes etc
but that took organising and time. I was working flat out. Unlike
most MPs, I do not have a wife to organise things for me, I have
to do it myself. I had also paid for the deposit on the house
with my own money ... I did not furnish the house from the 'John
Lewis list' for the same reason I did not buy a house
using the ACA. The same principle applied. How could I give a
bed back to the taxpayer?" Ms Dorries went on, "Once
I had a bed, desk, curtains etc I was able to sleep over. Given
all that was happening at the time, I think I did amazingly well
to have got it organised in the time I did. I think two months
is a reasonable amount of time, given my workload and financial
circumstances to have furnished a house to a standard comfortable
enough to sleep in."
115. Ms Dorries said that the travel arrangements
from home to constituency and Westminster "provided me
with a problem". She commented, "I was presented
with a difficult tax bill which I could not pay as a result of
having claimed travel from home to the constituency. However,
I was advised that once I rented a house in the constituency,
as opposed to Westminster, that I was no longer entitled to claim
for travel from my main home."
She continued, "This suited me at the time because I did
not want political opponents to be able to use my travel pattern
against me. Establishing a house in the constituency and regularising
my travel from Mid Beds to London seemed an acceptable measure
to put in place."
116. I replied to Ms Dorries on 27 May.
I told her that I assumed from the fact that she had not commented
on the two matters I had raised in my letter of 18 May
that the assumptions I made, about where she had spent her nights
in September 2008 and the accommodation in her current home in
Gloucestershire, were accurate. I also said that I assumed that
she had annual rental agreements for each of the three properties
she had occupied in Stratford-upon Avon, and asked her to let
me know if she did not.
117. On 27 May, I also wrote to Ms Dorries' Cotswold
neighbour. I outlined
the evidence Ms Dorries had given me about where she had lived
from January 2007 in Stratford-upon-Avon, her normal pattern of
occupation of these homes, and the arrangements she had made for
her children and family pets, and the assistance she had received
from him. I asked him to confirm as far as he was able the description
Ms Dorries had given me of her homes in Stratford-upon-Avon and,
in particular, her general pattern of overnight stays there; the
use of the property by her daughters and the help he had been
able to give her in terms of transport for her children where
118. The Cotswold neighbour replied on 11 June.
He confirmed that he used to help Ms Dorries when she was away.
He said that he "ran the girls about and if she left the
dogs behind I would walk them during the day. I would put the
bins back on Tuesday and I helped her move each time until she
got into the house in [second village in Gloucestershire]."
He also said that Ms Dorries "used to ring me when she
was moving, usually on a Monday morning but sometimes on a Tuesday.
She would ring me when she got back, usually on a Thursday night
but sometimes on a Wednesday. I never did anything over the weekend
or during school holidays. In the summer she did not need me until
October." He added, "All the girls had things
in the house but I know that the two older girls have lived in
a flat in [city] for a few years now. [The youngest
daughter] ... would stay behind as often as possible."
119. I wrote to Ms Dorries on 14 June, enclosing
a copy of the evidence given by her Cotswold neighbour.
I asked her, in the light of this evidence and her own, to confirm
the normal pattern of her overnight stays in her Stratford-upon-Avon
homes between 2007 and 2009 and, in particular whether, as her
neighbour's evidence suggested, she usually left earlier after
the weekend than she had suggested, but had returned earlier in
120. Ms Dorries replied on 15 June.
She said that this neighbour had worked for her for three days
per week "sometimes Monday to Wednesday and at other times
Tuesday to Thursday." As to her pattern of nights, Ms
Dorries commented, "My work in Parliament is from Monday
until the last vote on a Thursday night at 6.30pm. If I do come
home on a Thursday night, I am still back in the constituency
on a Friday morning for my surgeries etc. I also use the constituency
house as an office. My pattern has been and still is the same.
I spend my weekends and recess at home and I spend the nights
Parliament sits in my constituency, although not every night Parliament
sits, as I have previously explained. There has been the odd occasion
on a one line whip Monday when I have worked from home and travelled
down on a Tuesday morning, however, I usually travel down on a
Monday." Ms Dorries also commented further about neighbour
1 in her constituency. She said that "they have hardly
been at the house since January. As I have previously stated,
they live in France for half of the year." I replied
to Ms Dorries on 16 June,
and said that I had noted that she believed that she had spent
slightly fewer nights in her Stratford-upon-Avon home when Parliament
was sitting than her Cotswold neighbour had suggested.
121. Meanwhile, on 18 May after the new Parliament
had assembled and I had resumed my inquiries, I also wrote once
again to neighbour 1 in the constituency, in the light of Ms Dorries'
comments on his evidence,
to show him those comments.
He replied on 9 June.
He said that he was "amazed and astonished" by
what he described as the "alarming inaccuracies"
of the comments made by Ms Dorries. He said that the "reference
to not seeing us more than a handful of times during the course
of a two year period is totally incorrect. She may not have actually
engaged in conversation more than a handful of times but she most
certainly saw us and we saw her on numerous occasions either outside
her front door, by her car or in her courtyard which adjoined
ours." He described her comment about his house not having
any view of hers as "unbelievable". He commented,
"As you will see from the enclosed plan and photos,
the properties are terraced Georgian houses. Her front door was
immediately next to our kitchen window and therefore we could
not only see her coming and going but, because of the nature in
which she and her family noisily closed the front door at all
times of the day and night we could also hear them in both our
kitchen and our bedroom which is above the kitchen."
He continued, "[Ms Dorries'] bedroom at the rear
of her property directly overlooked our front door and courtyard
and therefore we were always aware when she was in residence ...
From our courtyard we could also see into her dining room. [Address]
is in fact our studio with a guest bedroom and bathroom above.
[Ms Dorries'] master bedroom and bathroom adjoined this
and in fact her en suite bathroom was above the studio and due
to very poor sound proofing, we could hear whenever she or her
family used the bathroom." The neighbour also said that
Ms Dorries' comments regarding their French home were "totally
incorrect. We have only ever owned the one small property which,
as stated in our previous letter, we purchased at the end of 2008."
He also said that she was incorrect in having stated
that they had spent a long period of time in Portugal between
October and December 2009. He commented, "We did in fact
go to Portugal for one week from 1 to 8 October for our honeymoon!
From 8 October to just before Christmas (11 weeks to be precise)
we were in constant residence in [name of town in constituency]."
122. I replied to neighbour 1 on 15 June.
In view of the comments previously made by Ms Dorries,
one of which was a suggestion that he was "stretching
the facts" possibly with the encouragement of a journalist
from the Daily Telegraph, I asked him specifically whether
the terms of his evidence in relation to his French home, or in
relation to the main evidence he had sent me on 22 January,
had been influenced or otherwise affected by anyone else. The
neighbour replied on 24 June.
He said he could "quite categorically" assure
me that none of his comments had been influenced by any other
person. He commented, "The information I have given you
is most certainly not 'stretching the facts' as suggested
by Ms Dorries! The information I have given you with regard to
our French property and the time spent there is totally accurate."
123. In view of the evidence given by neighbour
1, I wrote again to Ms Dorries on 1 July.
I said that he had taken issue with a number of points she had
made about him and his evidence, and invited her to let me have
any comments she might want to make on his response. I added that,
subject to her response, I would then need to decide, in fairness,
whether I needed to show him her comments.
124. Meanwhile, having reviewed all the evidence
which she and other witnesses had given me during my inquiries
into this complaint, I had written to Ms Dorries once again on
28 June. I told
her that the purpose of my letter was to ensure that I had consistent
evidence in relation to the identification of her main home, and
in particular to her overnight stays, and to ask for her help
in reconciling the evidence I had received. To help achieve this,
I enclosed with my letter a paper
which included the successive estimates she had given me as to
her overnight stays for 2006-07, 2007-08, 2008-09 and the 2009-10
financial year to 25 January 2010,
and the successive patterns she had also given for these.
It also included a table setting out, in the light of the pattern
of sittings of the House, an approximate number of nights that
Ms Dorries might as a result have been expected to have spent
in her constituency home.
The paper also compared the evidence she had given with that of
125. I asked Ms Dorries to let me have a response
to each of the four specific matters I had identified at the end
of the paper. These were whether the Daily Telegraph report
of 26 June 2009
was an accurate report of statements she had made and, if so,
why she had spoken as she did; why her estimates of her overnight
stays had changed from July 2009 to January 2010; whether she
considered that the pattern of her overnight stays which she had
given me on 25 January 2010, 1 March 2010 and 15 June 2010 was
sufficiently consistent with the statistics she had given me in
her letter of 25 January 2010 that, subject to her answer to the
following point and to confirming that her constituency home was
not available to her in 2006-07 because she could not find the
time to furnish it immediately, those figures should be accepted
as the best assessments she could make of her overnight stays
in each of the relevant years; and why the number of nights she
had said on 25 January 2010 that she had spent in her constituency
home in 2009-10 was much smaller than the number predicted from
her pattern of use of that home and the sittings pattern of the
126. I wrote again to Ms Dorries on 7 July
to send her a revised version of the paper I had sent her on 28
June. This revised version corrected the omission in the original
version of a reference to the evidence of one of her constituency
also updated the evidence in the summary in a number of respects.
127. Ms Dorries replied to my letters of 28 June
and 1 July on
6 July. Dealing
first with the four specific questions I had asked in my letter
of 28 June, Ms Dorries said that she did admit to the Daily
Telegraph that she spent spare weekends and holidays away
from her second home. She commented, "All of my weekends
are 'spare' as Parliament does not sit at weekends. Therefore
the statement concurs with the evidence I have given you which
states that I spend week nights when Parliament is sitting at
my constituency home and weekends and recess at my main home."
As to why her estimates changed from July 2009 to January
2010, Ms Dorries commented that this was "because you
were asking me to be specific and I could not be so. I realised
it was more accurate to provide you with my pattern than attempt
to identify individual nights and then discover that I had got
one wrong. I was an opposition backbencher, not a minister. I
depended on and was hostage to the diaries of other family members
to provide you with the specifics you required which I realised
was not absolute, or appropriate." Ms Dorries reiterated
her statement that she did not have a constituency home in 2006.
She continued, "From recollection, I believe I rented
the house in April 2007 and then moved in a few months later once
I had furniture, cooker etc as I am sure my expenses show".
She added, "You have my statement and my pattern of nights.
You have evidence from I believe a fair number of neighbours in
addition to my own. I have nothing else to add other than on occasion,
I randomly needed to go back home for domestic reasons, however,
I cannot accurately say when or how often that was."
128. Turning to the evidence given by neighbour
1 in her constituency, Ms Dorries pointed out that he had clearly
stated in his letter of 22 January
that he had met a named Daily Telegraph journalist and
in his letter of 18 February
that he had been approached by the Daily Telegraph. She
questioned whether, if he had not been approached, the neighbour
would have written to me. Ms Dorries commented, "He clearly
states that he was approached by the Telegraph, not the
other way around. So how do we know he wasn't paid by the Telegraph?
Therefore, I believe the evidence of [neighbour 1] to have
been interfered with and influenced". She added, "Frankly,
given the Daily Telegraph reporting of the expenses issue,
it is impossible for him not to have been, payment, direct influence,
or not". Ms Dorries also said, "[Neighbour 1] also
states ... that he does not want to be a witness. No other witness
states this. I believe that is because [neighbour 1] is
comfortable with telling [untruths] to you in a letter,
but is afraid that he may formally have to give such evidence
and be challenged."
129. Ms Dorries went on to say, "I am
not going to respond in detail to his points raised not least
because [neighbour 1] had a row of trees in front of the
window to my house in order to deliberately obstruct the view
from his property into mine ... In addition to this, I never
used the dining room other than very early in the morning, long
before my neighbours were up, or late at night when most are in
bed. The window he points to on the main road and describes as
[his] kitchen window has a large table in front of it, they
can only see who walks past their window as they can't stand up
to it." She also doubted that the neighbour could know
where in the house she slept, as the curtains were almost always
drawn and she usually left before it was light. Ms Dorries also
maintained that this neighbour "did buy a house in France
in 2008. To replace the house he sold in 2007."
130. Ms Dorries continued, "I am strongly
opposed to the evidence of someone who states that they do not
want to be a witness and admits to having been visited and approached
by the Daily Telegraph being considered. I am aware that it is
impossible for you to reasonably believe [neighbour 1] and
disregard the consistent information provided by others and you
may think I am over reacting to the evidence sent by [neighbour
1], however, that is not the point. I strongly object to lies
being given any consideration whatsoever. As an MP, all I have
to offer my constituents on whose behalf I work tirelessly when
they come to see me about serious issues is my reputation. It
is everything. Nothing else is as important."
131. I replied to Ms Dorries on 8 July.
On Ms Dorries' first point in respect of where she spent her weekends,
I drew her attention to some statements from her blog, in which
she said that she spent the majority of weekends in the constituency
as her job tended to be seven days a week, and to her maiden speech
in May 2005, where she had referred to her constituency as her
home. I invited
her to add or clarify anything in relation to these or any other
statements on her blog. I also reminded her that she had not confirmed
for me whether the figures she had given me in her letter of 25
January should be accepted as the best numerical assessments she
could make of her overnight stays in each of the relevant years.
In relation to her statement that she had rented the house in
her constituency in April 2007, I pointed to the discrepancy with
the evidence of the Department of Resources on this point, which
suggested that Ms Dorries rented the property from 1 February
2007 but did not occupy it until April 2007.
As it was important for me to get these dates right, I asked Ms
Dorries either to confirm the timings she had given or provide
evidence to suggest they needed revising. I also noted that Ms
Dorries had not offered me an answer to my final question as to
why the estimate she had given me on 25 January 2010 of the number
of nights she had spent in her constituency home in 2009-10 was
much smaller than the number which might be predicted from her
pattern of use of that home and the sitting patterns of the House.
I also said that, in view of her comments about the evidence from
neighbour 1 in her constituency, I would need to put her response
132. Ms Dorries replied on 12 July.
With regard to her maiden speech, she commented, "My maiden
speech was made in June 2005. I took a constituency house in 2007.
However, as I stated on another occasion, my second home may only
be a second home, however, it is a home. It would be pretty odd
to describe somewhere as 'a place I now call my second home'
even if I had been living there at the time I made the speech.
Mid Bedfordshire is, metaphorically speaking, one of my homes."
With regard to her blog, Ms Dorries commented, "I
often made comments on my blog in order to deliberately give the
impression that I lived in the constituency. Because I didn't
in fact live in the constituency, I probably went over the top.
I was always very worried about people finding out that I lived
in the Cotswolds and deliberately put up smoke and mirrors to
prevent this happening ... I also mention in the blog that I was
not going to disclose where I lived. This was also part of my
intention to conceal my main home." Ms Dorries continued,
"In the blog, I state I am in the constituency at weekends.
I often am. That does not mean I sleep there."
She added, "My predecessor visited Mid Bedfordshire about
once every two months, it was an issue of much consternation with
many members of my association. My comments were to reassure them
of my personal commitment to Mid Beds. It was my attempt to retain
some degree of a private life."
133. Turning to the evidence of her Cotswold
the difference between her Cotswold neighbour's view of her movements
and her own to which I had drawn her attention, Ms Dorries commented
that he "worked for me for three days a week. I doubt
he kept a diary. I think that both his and my estimates are more
or less accurate, I was away most week nights when Parliament
sat. Neither of us can be specific."
134. Ms Dorries accepted that the quote I had
taken from her blog
"was the most accurate and substantiates my position".
She objected to my further consultation of neighbour 1 in the
constituency. She reiterated her view that, having been approached
by a Daily Telegraph journalist to write to me, the neighbour's
evidence must have been influenced. She commented, "it
could not [but] have been". She also reiterated
that, to her knowledge, no evidence from any other neighbour concurred
with it, that he did not wish to be a witness, and that he "lives
in France for most of the year". She commented, "I
feel very strongly about this. The question, with regard to whether
he was paid is also relevant, a point [neighbour 1] is
unlikely to confirm. The Daily Telegraph would not have
had a story if they hadn't persuaded him to write you. I understand
the principle in law that if a journalist is in pursuit of the
truth then exceptions apply; however, I do not believe that this
applies if the story is printed in advance of a case being heard."
135. Ms Dorries said that she had checked her
dates and claims and "it was April 2007 when I began to
use the constituency house, or thereabouts. I can't remember exactly
to the day how long it took me to get a bed, cooker etc in, however,
it was around eight weeks." Finally, with regard to the
2009-10 estimate she had sent me on 25 January,
Ms Dorries commented that "the normal approximate pattern
would apply. However, later in 2009, I had an additional problem
with regard to my [family circumstances] and had to travel
back home ... The autumn of 2009 was unusual."
136. I replied to Ms Dorries on 13 July.
I reminded her that she had not yet confirmed that the figures
she had given me in her letter of 25 January
were the best numerical assessment she could make of the figures
for her overnight stays. Finally, I said that I would need to
form my own view as to the weight to be attached to the evidence
given by neighbour 1, taking into account that evidence, her comments
on it, and any other relevant evidence.
137. I had written again to neighbour 1 on 8
July. I enclosed
a summary of Ms Dorries' comments on his evidence, which had been
set out in her letter to me of 6 July.
I said that, in the light of Ms Dorries' comments, I thought that
in fairness I should show these to him in case he wished to comment
further. I sent him on 13 July an extract from Ms Dorries' comments
in her letter of the same date.
138. The neighbour replied on 20 July.
He said that, following the articles in the Daily Telegraph
concerning Ms Dorries' claims regarding her constituency home,
he had telephoned the newspaper and spoke to the Political Editorial
Department. He commented, "This initial contact was purely
to ascertain who we should write to within the Government to express
our deep concerns. This telephone call prompted a request from
the Daily Telegraph to meet with [name of reporter],
as a result of which he recommended that we write to yourself."
He continued, "I can categorically claim that at no
point were we 'influenced' by the Daily
Telegraph nor has any of our evidence been 'interfered'
with as suggested by Nadine Dorries. Furthermore, there
was and never has been any suggestion of payment of any kind."
139. In response to Ms Dorries' comments regarding
whether or not he and his wife could either hear or see her when
in residence, the neighbour said, "... I feel I have already
made it quite clear in previous correspondence that we could very
clearly see and most of all hear her, her family and her dogs."
He also said that the reference to his house in France and the
replacement of a house sold in 2007 was "incorrect and
in my view totally irrelevant. The further reference to living
in France is also irrelevant. Ms Dorries moved into [first
constituency address] in February 200718 months before
we purchased our house in France." The neighbour added,
"I resent very strongly the continued accusations by Ms
Dorries that I was encouraged or persuaded by the Daily Telegraph
to write to you. To the best of my knowledge my comments to you
have not been printed in the Daily Telegraph. The only
reference to which I am aware was on 23 January which stated 'expenses
for the second home that she was living in almost all the time
according to evidence some of her neighbours are preparing to
submit to a parliamentary investigation'."
Finally, the neighbour said that, contrary to the statement he
had made in his letter of 18 February,
"as a direct result of the latest comments and reference
to 'lies' by Ms Dorries" he was now prepared to
be a witness in the inquiry.
140. I wrote again to Ms Dorries on 22 July.
I enclosed the latest evidence from constituency neighbour 1 and
invited her in the light of it to make any additional factual
points she wished. I also reiterated that I would obviously need
to weigh his evidence against her evidence and that of other witnesses
when I came to prepare my conclusions to this inquiry.
141. Ms Dorries replied on 27 July.
She commented, "The only response I can give you with
regard to your question regarding my overnight stays is as I have
maintained throughout. When Parliament is sitting I spend the
weeknights in my constituency home. I spend weekends and recess
at home ... My pattern is not absolute or always the same. I am
not prepared to give you any absolute figure in terms of numbers
regarding where I sleep as I cannot be 100% certain that it would
be truthful to do so ... I think I have almost jumped through
hoops in order to provide you with absolutes and I am afraid that
I have to say given that you know and are aware of my pattern
it is wrong of you to try and persuade me confirm a definite number.
I do realise that it would make life much easier for me to do
this, however, it is not right to do so unless I am completely
142. With regard to neighbour 1 in her constituency,
Ms Dorries commented, "he states in his first letter that
he could see me through the dining room window. When the large
hedge is pointed out [he] changes this to the fact that
he could hear me."
143. I replied to Ms Dorries on 29 July.
I noted her comments about the pattern of her overnight stays,
and her unwillingness to give me any absolute figure in terms
of where she had spent her nights, but pointed out that I had
not asked her for an absolute figure. I said that, since I had
first written to her I had asked her on a number of occasions
for an estimateand no more than an estimateof the
number of nights she had spent in her main home, and had done
so because the number of nights spent in the property was at the
time the principal qualifying test for the definition of a main
home. I told Ms Dorries that I would record the estimates for
her overnight stays which she had given me in her letter of 27
July 2009, in
her e-mails of 4 August and 8 October 2009
and in her letter of 25 January 2010.
I also said that I would note that Ms Dorries could not give me
an absolute figure and would prefer me to rely on how she had
divided her time and on the pattern of her overnight stays. In
that context, I said that, unless she told me otherwise, I would
assume that this was the pattern which she had given me in her
letter of 15 June 2010,
and would reflect this pattern in my report. I added that I would
also note that she had given me an earlier version in her letter
of 1 March 2010,
and would need to assume also that her pattern had remained largely
unchanged throughout the period in question.
Findings of Fact
144. Ms Dorries first rented a property in her
constituency in 1 February 2007. She occupied it from April 2007,
and continued to do so until December 2009, when she moved to
another property in the constituency. Ms Dorries evidence is that
she could not occupy the first property immediately because she
needed to furnish it. Ms Dorries claimed against both the ACA
and its successor, PAAE, in respect of these properties.
145. Ms Dorries also had a property in Gloucestershire
until January 2007, when she separated from her husband. Thereafter,
her evidence is that she successively occupied three rented properties
in Stratford-upon-Avon, each for a year at a time, from January
2007. She purchased a property in another village in Gloucestershire
in September 2009. The first of the Stratford properties had been
rented by her husband for her daughters and herself. Ms Dorries'
evidence is that she regarded each of these properties in turn
as her main home. Her evidence is that she informed the Department
of Resources of changes to her main home in 2007 and 2008. And
she notified the Department in December 2009 that the second Gloucestershire
property had become her main home. Ms Dorries' evidence is that
she acted throughout on very clear instructions from the Fees
Office. In particular, she says that she was advised by the Department
to maintain her nomination of her first Gloucestershire property
as her main home until she knew where her new permanent main home
was going to be, and that it had taken much longer than originally
expected for her to make permanent arrangements. It was two years
and nine months between her leaving her first Gloucestershire
home and buying and moving into the second Gloucestershire home.
146. According to the records of the Department
of Resources, Ms Dorries had nominated the first Gloucestershire
property as her main home in June 2005. In October 2007, she changed
her nomination to a property in Stratford-upon-Avon (Stratford-upon-Avon,
address 2) which, according to her own evidence, she did not in
fact occupy until January 2008. This change of nomination followed
pressure from the Department as mail addressed to her nominated
main home (the first Gloucestershire property) was being returned
marked "addressee unknown". The Department has
no record of the preceding Stratford-upon-Avon property, or the
successor property, ever being nominated by Ms Dorries as her
main home. In December 2009, Ms Dorries changed her main home
nomination to the property in Gloucestershire, three months after
she had moved into it. The Department accepts that it is entirely
possible that Ms Dorries was advised soon after her separation
from her husband that she did not need to change the designation
of her main home until her situation had sorted itself out. It
also accepts that this means that there may have been a period
when Ms Dorries was not, as a matter of fact, living at her designated
main residence. But the Department's evidence is that it would
have regarded this as a strictly temporary measure, and it was
concerned to regularise matters by October 2007 at the latest.
147. Ms Dorries is adamant that she cannot provide
a precise breakdown of where she spends her nights, because she
does not keep records of this. Her initial estimate, made in July
2009, was that she was spending 150 nights a year in her constituency
home. On 4 August 2009 she told me that she would spend 200+ nights
in her main home in 2009-10. My best estimate of her overnight
stays, based on numerical estimates provided by Ms Dorries on
8 October 2009
and 25 January 2010
and examination of the diary material she supplied, is set out
in the table below.
|Year|| Nights at main home
|| Nights in constituency
|| Nights in London
|| Nights elsewhere
|2005-06 (from 10 May)
|2009-10 (to 25 January)
148. Ms Dorries would prefer me to rely on the information
she has given me as to how she divides her time and on the general
pattern of her overnight stays. Her evidence is that, throughout
the period covered by the complaint (2007-2009) when the House
was sitting she spent Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights in her
main home in the Cotswolds, plus occasional Monday nights and
some Thursday nights. The other weekday nights she spent in her
constituency home. She spent the occasional night in London. Her
evidence is that during the recesses, when not on holiday, she
spent almost every night in her main home.
149. Ms Dorries accepts that she told the Daily
Telegraph that she only spent spare weekends and holidays
away from her constituency home. Initially, she explained that
what she described as spare (or free) weekends meant weekends
when she did not have surgeries and official duties. Subsequently,
she said that all her weekends were "spare" as
Parliament did not sit at weekends, and the statement was therefore
consistent with her evidence that she spent weekends at her main
150. The evidence of the Cotswold neighbour,
whom Ms Dorries employed in Stratford-upon-Avon to help her with
family commitments, is broadly in line with Ms Dorries' own evidence
about her overnight stays in her homes there. The evidence of
Ms Dorries' family GP, who is based in the village where Ms Dorries
had her first Gloucestershire home, is that he believed that her
life was very much based in the area, and that it was very unlikely
that Ms Dorries had spent the majority of her time anywhere other
than in the area since 2005.
151. The evidence from all but one of the five
witnesses from Ms Dorries' constituency broadly confirms Ms Dorries'
evidence: indeed, they suggest she spent fewer nights in her constituency
home than she has suggested in her evidence. None of these four
witnesses said that they saw Ms Dorries at weekends.
152. Constituency neighbour 1 gives different
evidence, suggesting Ms Dorries spent so much time there that
it must be her main home. He believes, from personal observation
over a period of some two and a half years, that Ms Dorries spent
about 80% of her time there (including weekends) but with the
exception of 4 to 6 weeks of the summer recess. He accepts, however,
that he cannot quantify the exact number of days or nights spent
by Ms Dorries in the property as he has no means of doing so.
153. Ms Dorries strongly disputes this neighbour's
evidence. She does not believe that he is in a position to form
a reliable estimate of her use of the property. She says he has
seen her only infrequently. She says he cannot from his property
see into her property or hear her, and that he is there only infrequently
as he spends half the year at his house in France and also spent
a long period in Portugal between October and December 2009. Other
also given evidence that this neighbour spends most of his time
154. Ms Dorries also believes that the neighbour
approached the Daily Telegraph and that the newspaper had
influenced his evidence, for which it may have paid him. She believes
he might not have given evidence without the encouragement of
155. Neighbour 1 maintains that Ms Dorries' recollection
of the number of times she had seen him and his wife is inaccurate
and that they have seen each other on numerous occasions. He is
certain that he was aware whenever Ms Dorries and her family were
present. His French property had not been purchased until the
end of 2008. He did not spend long periods there, and he had only
spent the first week in Portugal, in October 2009, and had been
in constant residence since then till just before Christmas. He
had approached the Daily Telegraph to find out who in Government
to write to about expenses, has not been influenced in his evidence,
and has not been paid for it.
156. The evidence of the Department of Resources
is that all travel claims made by Ms Dorries since February 2007
appear to have been for travel between Westminster and her constituency.
She has made no claim in respect of a journey to her main home
since then. Ms Dorries' evidence is that she was advised that,
once she rented a house in the constituency, as opposed to Westminster,
she was no longer entitled to claim for travel from her main home.
157. Some material on Ms Dorries' weblog appears
to suggest a pattern of use of her constituency property in some
respects at variance with the evidence she has given, in that
it implies she has a more permanent presence in the constituency.
Ms Dorries' evidence is that she gave prominence on the blog to
her use of her constituency property both to comfort her constituency
association and to demonstrate to her constituents the degree
of her personal commitment to her Mid Bedfordshire constituency.
Her evidence as to the reliance to be placed on material on her
blog is that it is in fact 70% fiction and 30% fact, and relies
heavily on poetic licence. She frequently replaces place-names,
events and facts with others. She is conscious of the potential
for political opponents to exploit her personal domestic circumstances.
According to Ms Dorries, this, and the need to reassure her constituents
of her commitment, was the reason behind the blog entries. It
was also an attempt by her to retain some degree of a private
158. Ms Dorries maintains that the pattern of
where she spends her nights has been materially influenced by
her family circumstances, which have led her to seek to spend
as much time as possible in her family home rather than her constituency
home, which she sees solely as a means of maintaining a base in
her constituency to assist her in performing her duties as the
Member of Parliament. She also wished to maintain a high degree
of privacy about the location of her family home. She accepts
that the administrative requirements of providing the right details
on the right day in respect of the location of her main homes
may have got lost in her other priorities. She also accepts that
she may on occasion have provided anticipatory answers given with
the knowledge of what she thought or hoped was about to happen
at the time. Her situation in rented family homes had lasted much
longer than she had anticipated, and she was also at the time
under severe domestic pressures as well as handling a very demanding
parliamentary and constituency workload. Ms Dorries likewise accepts
that some of the comments she made on her blog exaggerated the
extent to which she lived in the constituency, both for political
reasons and to protect her privacy. Overall, Ms Dorries' strong
historic and continuing family ties to the Cotswolds, the pattern
of her overnight stays in her successive properties there, and
the fact that everything she does away from her parliamentary
duties is based there, leave her in no doubt that this is where
her main home is and will continue to be.
159. The question I am to resolve is whether,
from February 2007 to June 2009, Ms Dorries was in breach of the
rules of the House in identifying a property she rented in her
constituency as her second home, and telling the House authorities
that her main home was in the Cotswolds, when in fact her constituency
property was her main home.
160. There is an ancillary question about whether
Ms Dorries was in breach of the rules in not notifying the House
authorities of all the various changes to her Cotswold accommodation
between 2007 and 2009.
THE LOCATION OF MS DORRIES' MAIN
161. The rules until 1 April 2009 stated that
a Member's main home was normally a matter of fact. Where the
Member had more than one home, their main home was normally where
they spent more nights than any other.
162. After an extensive inquiry, I consider that
the weight of the evidence points to the clear conclusion that
Ms Dorries' main home was indeed in the Cotswolds. Her main home
was initially her family home, but, following the breakdown in
her marriage, her main home then became each of the three properties
she rented for a year at a time in Stratford-upon-Avon. I do not,
therefore, uphold the complaint that her main home was in fact
in her constituency. It was not. It was (and apparently still
is) in the Cotswolds.
163. I consider that Ms Dorries has established
that she spent more nights in her Cotswold homes than anywhere
else, including in her constituency home. This is borne out by
the estimates she made of the number of nights she spent in each
of the locations from 2005-06 to 2009-10, although she declined
to confirm that she accepts these best estimates given by her
during the course of this inquiry. These estimates are broadly
reinforced by Ms Dorries' evidence on the general pattern of her
overnight stays during this period. I am satisfied that, while
the numerical estimates cannot be taken as 100% accurate, they
provide a reasonable estimate of her overnight stays and they
show a sufficiently substantial difference between nights spent
in the constituency home and nights in the main home to provide
a wide range for estimating error. Ms Dorries' evidence is also
corroborated by her neighbour in Stratford-upon-Avon, who in my
judgement is likely to have the most accurate understanding of
her overnight stays, since he was responsible for supporting her
family in the Cotswolds when Ms Dorries was staying in the constituency
or elsewhere. Her evidence is also consistent with evidence from
her GP in the Cotswolds. And it is consistent with the evidence
given by all but one of the witnesses in Ms Dorries' constituency.
164. The one witness in the constituency who
has given markedly different evidence from the other witnesses,
suggested that Ms Dorries spent 80% of her time in the constituency.
While I do not question the good faith of that witness, or his
account of his contacts with a newspaper and its reporter, evidence
from witnesses about where someone spends their time, which relies
only on personal observation, is bound to give no more than an
impression: neighbours can give evidence about when and how often
they see the person, but it would be most unusual for a neighbour
to know how often a person stayed overnight in their neighbouring
property, and none of the constituency witnesses has identified
such circumstances. The constituency witness himself has recognised
this in his evidence. As well as the weight of the other witnesses
being against him, I think it highly improbable that Ms Dorries
could have spent as much as 80% of her nights in her constituency
home. I therefore accept in preference the evidence of all the
other witnesses in her constituency and in the Cotswolds.
165. I have considered whether there are any
grounds for setting aside the objective test of where a Member
spends their nights because of other exceptional circumstances
affecting the Member's choice of their main home. In this case,
there is none. The weight of Ms Dorries' evidence to me points
to the Cotswold properties as her main homes: the Cotswolds are
where she lived before becoming a Member, where her children have
grown up, where she had a substantial property and where she has
one now. She appears to use her rented constituency home principally
to fulfil her parliamentary duties in her constituency. It is
true that her daughter started to go to school in her constituency
for some of the week, but Ms Dorries' evidence is that, on most
of these occasions, she returned with her daughter after school
to her Cotswold home. I conclude that the Cotswolds are where
Ms Dorries had and has her main home. Her constituency home is
her second home, whose costs were therefore eligible for claims
against parliamentary resources.
166. It has taken far too long to draw together
the evidence which enables me to come to this clear conclusion.
I note that, despite requests, Ms Dorries did not provide me with
an estimate of the number of nights which she spent in each of
her properties until 8 October 2009. This was some fourteen weeks
after my initial request of her. Even then, the figures were internally
inconsistent, and she did not produce consistent figures until
25 January 2010, some six months after my inquiry had started.
It is disappointing that Ms Dorries was not in the end prepared
to confirm that she had provided me with her best estimatesas
she told me she had on 8 October last yearand that she
did not recognise that estimates (not absolute figures) were necessary
in order to check the application of her arrangements against
the Green Book rules.
167. Ms Dorries' evidence to me was also inconsistent
with statements she had previously made on her weblog and in the
press, where she seemed to go out of her way to emphasise that
she lived in the constituency. I needed to resolve the apparent
conflict between what she was telling me and what she had put
on her weblog and had told the press. I accept her explanation
that the weblog was not accurate but was intended to give her
constituents the impression that she was living in the constituency.
I therefore consider that Ms Dorries' evidence to me, reinforced
by much of the other evidence I have received, is to be preferred
over the impression given in her weblog references. But I note
that the result of these references is that the weblog gave information
to its readers, including Ms Dorries' constituents and party supporters,
which provided a misleading impression of her arrangements as
the Member of Parliament for the constituency.
168. I note too that Ms Dorries gave at least
a misleading impression in the information she gave to the Daily
Telegraph, which initiated the complaint against her, where
she said that she only spent "spare weekends and holidays"
away from her constituency home. Her explanation to me that all
weekends were spare because Parliament was not sitting was not
169. I recognise Ms Dorries' wish for privacy,
both in respect of her personal and private life, and because
of the personal pressures she may come under on account of her
views on social policy, in particular on abortion. She is fully
entitled to maintain her privacy. She is fully entitled to her
views on social policy and to express them as she sees fit. She
should not have to fear harassment or intimidation because of
these views. I appreciate that she feels under pressure from her
critics and the media. But where a Member claims for their accommodation
from parliamentary resources, as they are entitled to, then they
should expect that the broad details of the arrangements for their
accommodation will become public knowledge. It was unrealistic
of Ms Dorries to expect to keep secret the general location of
her main home. And it was unrealistic for Ms Dorries to expect
me to conduct this inquiry with the sparse information she initially
provided. I regret that it took some months before Ms Dorries
decided to give me sufficient information about her circumstances
for me to be able to take forward this inquiry. As provided in
paragraph 18 of the Code of Conduct, Members do need to co-operate
with me in my inquiries. I look to Members to provide promptly
full and accurate information and explanations. Co-operation is
necessary if I am to be able to resolve complaints in a timely
way on the basis of convincing and consistent evidence. I am always
careful about unnecessarily disclosing details of a Member's private
life, or that of their family, in the evidence I publish, and
am sympathetic to Members' requests that such information should
be protected. I know that the Committee, too, would be sympathetic
to such matters. But failure to provide the necessary details
to the Commissioner when he requests them can only unnecessarily
complicate my task and prolong my investigations.
170. My inquiries were also complicated and extended
by Ms Dorries' criticism of the one witness who gave evidence
against her. There is no doubt that the witness's evidence was
first reported in a national newspaper. And it was entirely open
to Ms Dorries to question the evidence and whether the witness
was acting at the prompting of that newspaper. But I regret the
tone and intensity of some of Ms Dorries' comments on the witness
(not all of which I have included in the published evidence) and
her attempts to persuade me not to consider that evidence. I consider
that the evidence was relevant to my inquiry, that I took all
proper steps to ensure that Ms Dorries had a full opportunity
to comment on it, and that that witness had the same opportunity
to comment on her responses. It should then be for me to weigh
that evidence and its credibility against all the other evidence
I have received. I have sought to do that in this report. I do
not believe it would have been just or fair to have taken the
action suggested by Ms Dorries and refused to have accepted that
neighbour's evidence on account of the fact that he had discussed
it with a newspaper reporter.
MS DORRIES' DESIGNATION OF HER MAIN
171. During the period covered by this complaint,
Members were required to notify the Department whenever they changed
their main or second home designation, by completing a form. Ms
Dorries did not do so. She failed to notify the Department of
Resources of some of the changes in the designation of her main
home in the Cotswolds from 2007 to 2009. She did not provide a
new designation form to the Department until October 2007, some
nine months after she had left the family home, and then only
in response to pressure from them. Even then, she made no reference
to the property in which she had been living for nine months,
and instead designated the rented home she was to move to in January
the following year. Despite the Department's pressure in October
2007, she never told them of the move to her third rented property
in Stratford-upon-Avon in January 2009. And it took three months
before she notified them of her move to her current property.
I agree with the Department that it would be unreasonable to expect
Members to notify the Department of a change in the designation
of their main home in the immediate aftermath of a domestic upheaval
which required them to leave that home. Any person would understandably
be concentrating on their domestic problems. Their options are
likely to be muddled and uncertain. They may be hoping to return
to the main home. The completion of a new designation form is
understandably not going to be top of their agenda.
172. The length of that initial period depends
on personal circumstances. In Ms Dorries' case it seems to me
that that initial period should have ended soon after the signing
of the rental agreement for her first property in Stratford-upon-Avon
in January 2007. The agreement was for her to take that property
for a year. She then benefited from two successive rental agreements
on different properties, each of them lasting a year, although
she moved during the currency of the third period. I consider
that it is reasonable to have expected Ms Dorries to have signed
a new designation form identifying each new main home at the same
time as the yearly rental agreement was made. In the event, she
failed to identify the first and third of her annually rented
homes in Stratford-upon-Avon. Of course, like any person, her
personal circumstances could have changed during any of those
years, as they did for the final rental. But the prospect of such
a possible change should not absolve a Member from the responsibility
of keeping up to date the formal notification to the Department
of the location of their main home.
173. I find therefore that Ms Dorries was in
breach of the rules of the House in not notifying the Department
of Resources of her move to her first rented main home in Stratford-upon-Avon
in July 2007 or of her move to her third rented main home there
in January 2009. I do not consider that she was in breach of the
rules in the timing of the notification she gave the Department
of her moves to her other main homes: her second home in Stratford-upon-Avon,
which she moved to in January 2008, and her current main home
which she moved to in September 2009. But the result of her failure
to keep the Department up to date with her moves was that it held
inaccurate information about the location of Ms Dorries' main
home for two of the three years from 2007 to 2009 inclusive. That
was not acceptable.
174. My overall conclusion is that Ms Dorries
was not in breach of the rules of the House in claiming against
parliamentary allowances for her constituency home, on the basis
that her main home was in the Cotswolds. I do not, therefore,
uphold this complaint.
175. I have found, however, that Ms Dorries was
in breach of the rules in not notifying the Department on the
requisite designation form (ACA1) of the changes in the location
of her main home in the Cotswolds in January 2007 and January
2009. I have no evidence that this had any effect on the claims
which Ms Dorries made against parliamentary allowances. Overall,
I do not regard this breach as serious.
176. I am disappointed Ms Dorries took as long
as she did in providing me with consistent evidence to enable
me to resolve this complaint. While I respect her wish for privacy,
I do not believe that that wish can extend to the information
which a Member is reasonably asked to provide to the Commissioner
to enable him to secure the evidence on which to base an authoritative
conclusion. As a result, what should have been a relatively straightforward
inquiry, stretched over much too long a period. I have submitted
this memorandum to the Committee principally so as to reinforce
the importance I attach to Members responding promptly, fully
and openly to the questions which I necessarily ask of them so
that I can judge a Member's conduct on the basis of the best evidence
14 October 2010John Lyon CB
49 WE 1 Back
WE 2 Back
WE 3 Back
WE 4 Back
WE 1 Back
Committee on Standards and Privileges, Fourteenth Report of Session
2007-08, Conduct of Ed Balls and Yvette Cooper, HC 1044,
paragraph 78 Back
WE 5 Back
WE 6 Back
WE 2 Back
WE 7 Back
Not included in the written evidence. The information provided
by Ms Dorries was a series of spreadsheets which summarised briefly
her ACA claims for hotels, rent and premises costs from 2005-06
to 2007-08. Back
In later evidence, Ms Dorries said that she had also previously
occupied two other properties in Stratford-upon-Avon. I refer
to all three properties at paragraph 37 below. The property Ms
Dorries referred to here is the property identified in that paragraph
as Address 3 in Stratford-upon-Avon. Back
WE 8 Back
WE 6 Back
WE 9 Back
See also paragraph 37 and footnote 11 above for a summary of the
material Ms Dorries sent. Back
WE 10 Back
WE 8 Back
WE 6 Back
WE 11 Back
WE 10 Back
WE 12 Back
Not included in the written evidence Back
WE 12 Back
WE 13 Back
WE 11. See also paragraph 34 above. Back
Reckoned from Thursday 5 May 2005, the date of the General Election. Back
WE 11 Back
Not included in the written evidence. Ms Dorries' blog may be
accessed at http://blog.dorries.org/ Back
WE 9 Back
WE 14 Back
I summarise the initial evidence given by this neighbour at paragraph
64 below. Back
See WE 28. This evidence is summarised at paragraph 74 below. Back
Ms Dorries said that she ceased to occupy the family home in Gloucestershire
in January 2007-see paragraph 37 above. Back
These properties were in Stratford-upon-Avon-see paragraph 37
above for the details. Back
WE 13 Back
See also paragraph 56 below. Back
WE 15 Back
In the table which I sent Ms Dorries with my letter of 15 December
2009 (WE 13), I had identified from her e-mail of 8 October (WE
11) that she had in 2006-07 spent 111 nights in her constituency.
The information given in the table in her letter of 25 January
(WE 14) in effect transposed this to London. Ms Dorries had told
me that her PA, who completed the box, may have misunderstood
what she had said (see paragraph 54 above). Back
WE 14 Back
WE 16 Back
WE 17 Back
WE 11 Back
WE 14 Back
Ms Dorries' blog may be accessed at http://blog.dorries.org/ Back
Ms Dorries had included diary highlights for April 2009 in the
marked print-out she had sent me. Back
WE 14 Back
Not included in the written evidence Back
WE 14 Back
WE 18 Back
This is the reporter Ms Dorries subsequently referred to by name
in her letters to me of 1 March and 15 March. See WE 30 and WE
32 and paragraphs 76 and 84 below. Back
WE 19 Back
See the evidence of neighbour 2 (WE 22) and neighbour 3 (WE 25).
The relevant evidence is summarised at paragraphs 69 and 71 below. Back
WE 20 Back
WE 21 Back
WE 18 Back
WE 22 Back
WE 23 Back
WE 24 Back
WE 25 Back
WE 26 Back
WE 27 Back
WE 14 Back
WE 28 Back
WE 29 Back
WE 30 Back
This is the reporter referred to in paragraph 64 above. Back
WE 16 Back
Not included in the written evidence. Ms Dorries said in her e-mail
of 22 March (WE 37) that this was in fact a picture of her current
property in Gloucestershire-see paragraph 89 below. Back
WE 31 Back
WE 30 Back
WE 32 Back
WE 33 Back
WE 34 Back
WE 35 Back
WE 36 Back
WE 37 Back
WE 30. In that letter, she had described it as a picture of her
constituency home-see paragraph 82 above. Back
WE 38 Back
WE 32 Back
WE 30 Back
WE 32 Back
WE 37 Back
Not included in the written evidence Back
WE 30 Back
WE 39 Back
Not included in the written evidence Back
WE 32 Back
WE 38 Back
WE 33, 35 and 36 Back
WE 40 Back
WE 12 Back
WE 12 Back
WE 14 Back
This was a copy of the table I had sent to Ms Dorries on 3 March
(see WE 31). It is also reproduced at paragraph 83 above. Back
WE 14 Back
Not included in the written evidence Back
WE 41 Back
Not included in the written evidence. For a revised version, see
WE 46 below. Back
WE 42 Back
Not included in the written evidence Back
WE 38 Back
WE 43 Back
WE 44 Back
WE 12 Back
In September 2009 Back
WE 45 Back
WE 46 Back
WE 47 Back
WE 45 Back
In fact, as the Director of Strategic Projects said in his letter
of 11 May [WE 40], Ms Dorries was entitled to claim for journeys
between Westminster and her constituency, between Westminster
and her main home, and between her main home and her constituency.
See paragraph 97 above. Back
WE 48 Back
WE 44 Back
WE 49 Back
WE 50 Back
WE 51 Back
WE 52 Back
WE 53 Back
These were set out in her letters to me of 1 March (WE 30) and
15 March (WE 32). Back
WE 54 Back
WE 55 Back
Not included in the written evidence Back
WE 32 Back
WE 56 Back
WE 32 Back
WE 18 Back
WE 57 Back
WE 59 Back
WE 58 Back
Not included in the written evidence. For a revised version, see
WE 61 below. Back
These are set out in paragraphs 40 and 56 above. A consolidated
version, reflecting what I take to be Ms Dorries' best estimates,
is set out at paragraph 83 above. Back
See WE 9, WE 11 and WE 14 Back
See WE 61 Back
WE 2 Back
WE 60 Back
I was grateful to Ms Dorries for identifying this omission. Back
WE 58 Back
WE 59 Back
WE 62 Back
WE 18 Back
WE 20 Back
WE 63 Back
WE 64, WE 65 Back
Ms Dorries had said in her letter of 6 July (WE 62) that, from
recollection, she believed she rented the house in April 2007
and moved in a few months later. Back
WE 67 Back
WE 50 Back
See paragraph 131 above and WE 64. Back
WE 14 Back
WE 68 Back
WE 14 Back
WE 66 Back
WE 62 Back
WE 69 Back
WE 70 Back
This is the same person as referred to at paragraphs 64, 76, and
84 above. Back
The Daily Telegraph article of 23 January 2010 included
this quotation. It also included the following: "But some
of her neighbours are set to allege to Mr Lyon that the MP spent
almost all of her time there. They claimed in a written statement:
'We can confirm that she used her constituency house as her main
residence, spending 80% plus of her time here ... We were aware
of her presence at all times.'" Back
WE 20 Back
WE 71 Back
WE 72 Back
WE 73 Back
WE 7 Back
WE 9 and WE 11 respectively Back
WE 14 Back
WE 52 Back
WE 30 Back
See paragraph 40 above. Back
See paragraph 56 above. Back
Neighbours 2 and 3. Back