14. Letter to the Commissioner from
Ms Nadine Dorries MP, 25 January 2010|
Please find enclosed an easier to understand marked
print out of my diaries.
It was clear by the points raised in your letter
that I had "overcomplicated"
the method by which I identified my overnight
I have now made it easier by removing my travel arrangements
and simply highlighting the nights I believe I have slept at my
main home. The night of April 8th 2008 was marked in green in
error. Please ignore that night.
The campaign orchestrated by the Daily
Telegraph has been very unpleasant. It
did not begin with this enquiry. It began with my defending the
role of MPs. As someone who had never claimed a mortgage, flipped,
claimed for furniture, cleaners, gardeners, food, petty cash or
similar and had operated within the letter of the rules and taken
frequent advice, at all times, I felt that I was in a strong position
to do so.
It has come to my attention that a Daily
Telegraph journalist has been telephoning
people who live in proximity to my constituency house asking very
loaded questions. 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. This particular
neighbour has referred to me as "it,
the Tory MP" since I rented the property
in [the constituency]. The last time I saw this neighbour was
in June last year and the time before that during the snow last
February. They have never on any occasion greeted me pleasantly.
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. I can provide a photograph of this
if that helps.
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.
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 enquiry when it has been
published and is in the public domain before the enquiry has been
Does the fact that the public are aware of the letter
place an additional pressure upon you? Can you help but be prejudiced
by the Telegraph
reporting? Is it still possible for you to remain objective?
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?
I arrived at the constituency house this morning
to find a number of letters and notes on the mat. I apologise
for opening the buff envelope which contains a letter addressed
It is from [neighbour 3], my next door neighbour.
Our front doors are next to each other. He [...] has a full view
of everyone who approaches my front door and sees me each and
every time I enter and leave the property. My office can obtain
his telephone number if you would like to confirm the letter and
I can provide a photograph of how close his front door is to mine.
Although I am grateful and touched he has written
the letter, I am not totally convinced that his letter should
be given any more regard than the one from [neighbour 1]; I would
only point out that from the perspective of his letter, he does
actually see me and the properties do adjoin each other and he
does at least live in this country all of the time.
I have also asked for and given permission to [name
of doctor], my GP, who I met on Saturday to write to you in support
of my submission. I have not seen his letter which I assume is
being sent directly to you.
Even though my diaries quite clearly state that I
spend far more time at home than I do in my constituency and given
that I do not have a camera above each door to count me in and
out and therefore cannot prove how many nights I spend in each
location, I would like to make the following points:
You ask me in your letter how I came to establish
detailed estimates given that my work diary does not provide the
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] ... the transporting between three
locations, [family requirements], and the needs of my other two,
still living at home, elder daughters 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
I am very aware that without the full picture you
may not have enough information to make a decision which truthfully
reflects my situation, my reputation and integrity are at stake,
not to mention the ammunition which could be handed to my political
Having highlighted the diary nights spent at home
you will note that when I did not have a rented property in the
constituency and used the ACA to pay for hotel accommodation in
London, that the number of nights I spent in hotels were also
very few with the majority of my nights being spent at home.
When I became an MP in 2005 I had two daughters attending
[a school in Gloucestershire].
It was necessary given my domestic situation and
[family circumstances] for me to travel home as much as possible
to care for my home and daughters. 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.
My youngest now attends [a school] in the constituency
two and a half days a week during term time ...
She has a Saturday/Sunday/school holiday job ...
in the Cotswolds. I am at home every Friday, Saturday and Sunday
night as I have to drop her off at work on a Saturday and sometimes
Sunday morning and during the holiday/recess period as she doesn't
Maintaining her life in as normal a routine as possible
has been the dominating aspect of my life for the past three years.
Due to [family circumstances], I was absent with
permission from the Whips from late night voting completely throughout
October, November and December as my voting record will confirm.
I managed to maintain my normal constituency and non-voting Parliamentary
duties from my main home. This is one of the reasons I have not
been able to focus on this submission to you. My voting record
will also show that for all of the last two years [my family circumstances]
[have] had an impact upon my voting record.
Historically, following the ... separation from my
husband, the family home, [the first Gloucestershire address],
was placed on the market. However, things did not happen as quickly
as I had thought they may ... our settlement was delayed.
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 as we had left the
family home where he remained until the sale completed.
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.
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
Throughout this process the Fees Office were fully
aware of the situation and I explained what was happening every
single step of the way.
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.
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. I am also acutely aware that details regarding my personal
situation would also now have been in the hands of the Daily
Telegraph and maybe even in the public
Our rental properties in Stratford-upon-Avon were
substantial, expensive properties with a garden.
Telegraph journalist informed me that
the fact the main house was temporarily rented and not bought
deemed it as modest. Who says that houses have to be bought and
not rented? Half of the population live in rented accommodation.
To tell someone that because their home is rented and not bought
makes it "modest"
and not a home is an elitist and offensive assumption. My situation
was quite clear. My constituency house was an extremely modest,
rented, mostly un-furnished or carpeted mid terraced property
as photographed in last Saturday's paper and 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. I 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. I would describe that house as modest. It 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.
I often posted comments on my blog relating to [name
of town] in my constituency. 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. 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. His lack of time in the constituency
contributed to his de-selection. The fact that it took me two
years to move was becoming an issue which I had to address. I
did consider buying using the allowance, but took the decision
that it just didn't "feel"
rightas the Estate 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". There are websites set up to
this effect. 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.
In conclusion, 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. As a new MP who
had worked as a main board director of BUPA, as well as having
run a successful business for ten yearsI found the whole
expenses system ambiguous and it smelt from day one like a man
trap. I had absolutely no idea how to navigate around such an
expense/allowances process and sought advice every step of the
way. I remember having a conversation on the phone with a member
of the Fees Office who was renting having sold whilst trying to
find another property and who was very sympathetic as we discussed
the horror of not remembering where everything is. 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.
To answer your questions, I did not spend any nights
in my constituency in 2005-2006.
I did not spend any nights in my constituency in
2006-2007. My PA completed the box and I think she may have misunderstood
what I said.
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
I have provided a diary print out for 2008-2009.
I have clearly marked in pink the nights I know I definitely slept
at my main home.
For 2005-2006 I entered Parliament for my first day
on May 10 2005. According to my expenses, that year I spent 31
nights in London. The remainder of the time I slept at my main
home apart from 16 days elsewhere. I spent 0 nights in the constituency.
On closer examination of my 08-09 diary I have also
revised my estimates for this year. I have revised other years
to include the nights I stay in London, however, I emphasise these
are paid for at my own expense.
06-07 Home 208 London 112 constituency 0 elsewhere 45
07-08 Home 223 London 10 constituency 89 elsewhere 44
08-09 Home 235 London 9 constituency 97 elsewhere 24
09-10 Home 218 London 3 constituency 37 elsewhere 42
2009-2010. 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
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
...I moved the location of the constituency home
a few weeks ago and chose a cheaper isolated property in the middle
of a woodcutting yard ...
From October this year onwards I hope my youngest
daughter will be able to attend university and I will be spending
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and sometimes Thursday when Parliament
sits in the constituency.
If you have any further queries please do not hesitate
to contact me.
... I do hope that given how close we are to a General
Election that this can be resolved quickly.
25 January 2010
223 WE 25. This was the letter from Neighbour 3. Back
Not included in the written evidence Back