Mr Andrew Mackay and Ms Julie Kirkbride - Standards and Privileges Committee Contents

Oral and Written evidence received by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards

1.  Letter to the Commissioner from Mr Michael Goggins, 30 October 2009

Further to my letter of 23 October[177] regarding the Right Honourable Andrew Mackay, Member of Parliament for Bracknell, and his wife the Right Honourable Julie Kirkbride, Member of Parliament for Bromsgrove, and their respective claims under the Additional Costs Allowance.

For the purposes of claiming Additional Costs Allowance towards their family home in Westminster Andrew Mackay registered their residence in Bromsgrove as his main home, while at the same time Julie Kirkbride claimed Additional Costs Allowance towards the same Bromsgrove property, the same being in her constituency, and registered as her main home their family home in Westminster. I refer your attention to the attached article published by the Guardian newspaper dated 14 May 2009.[178]

For the purposes of claiming the Additional Costs Allowance the Parliamentary Green Book, I refer your attention to the same as published in July 2006 which applied at the time and which I'm sure you have at your disposal, states under Section 3.3.1. Principles that:

"Members must ensure that arrangements for their ACA claims are above reproach and that there can 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.

3.3.2. Members must avoid any arrangement which may give rise to an accusation that they are, or someone close to you is, obtaining an immediate benefit or subsidy from public funds...

3.11.1. Definitions

Main Home. That a Member must register a main home which will be a matter of fact or in cases of doubt a place where a Member spends most nights."

The introduction by the Speaker of the House Michael Martin reminds Members that it is their responsibility for ensuring that their use of allowances is above reproach.

It would appear the rationale behind Andrew Mackay registering their residence in Bromsgrove as his main home was because "he was brought up in the Midlands and has strong connections in the area" and furthermore he alleges he was advised to do so and not by reason of the fact that it was in reality his main home as required by the rules. That Andrew Mackay spent more time at their Westminster home as opposed to their Bromsgrove residence is evidenced by the fact that not only is Westminster the principal family home and from where their child attends school (see article from the Birmingham Post dated May 25th 2009[179]) but also Andrew Mackay has admitted to spending most weekends and a considerable amount of parliamentary recess time in his constituency of Bracknell (see article ... from a newspaper getbracknell dated May 14th 2009[180]) thereby severely restricting the remaining amount of time which he would have available to spend at their Bromsgrove residence. In declaring the family home in Westminster as her main home for the purposes of claiming ACA Julie Kirkbride has to all intents and purposes admitted that the main family home is in fact Westminster and not Bromsgrove and it would be prove strange indeed if when taking account of how much time Andrew Mackay spends at his family home in Westminster and his constituency of Bracknell he is nevertheless in a position to satisfy the requirements contained in the rules for claiming allowances that his main home was in fact their residence in his wife's constituency of Bromsgrove.

Contained in the same article [from getbracknell] is an apparent admission by Andrew Mackay that his claim for expenses were unreasonable and therefore not beyond reproach and although Andrew Mackay goes on to state that he intended to pay the money back there is as far as I'm aware no media coverage of him actually paying the money back.

In relation to Julie Kirkbride claiming Additional Costs Allowance for her constituency home in Bromsgrove the question arises as to what if any account should be given to the fact that since 2004 her brother Ian lived at the same address rent free. See an article from the Telegraph dated 28th May 2009.[181]

That the same property was to all intents and purposes Ian Kirkbride's main residence is evidenced by the fact that not only did his name appear on Bromsgrove electoral roll since 2004 but that he also ran a business from the same address. Furthermore there is apparently evidence that he spent most of his time there even when Julie Kirkbride wasn't staying there. Unfortunately I am no longer in possession of the newspaper article.

The rule book for claiming Additional Costs Allowance states that allowances claimed must be wholly, exclusively and necessary for a Member to carry out their duties and that close family members should not financially gain from any arrangement whereby such an allowance is claimed.

No account appears to be given by Julie Kirkbride in claiming her allowances for the fact that her brother was staying at the same property rent free and that she was in fact subsidising his cost of living at the expense of the public purse; the Commissioner for Standards having recently stated in the case of Tony McNulty that the cost of living necessarily includes mortgage interest payments.[182]

In addition Julie Kirkbride has recently taken out a loan of some £50,000 part funded through the public purse by means of Additional Costs Allowance in order to build a third bedroom at her constituency home so as her son and her brother no longer have to share the same bedroom when Julie Kirkbride and her family stay over.

Julie Kirkbride's constituency home is two bedroomed and therefore sufficiently large enough to accommodate her needs and that of her son. It is not incumbent on the taxpayer to provide for the needs of her brother and the same is contrary to the principles contained in the Green Book for the claiming of Additional Costs Allowance.

Although Julie Kirkbride insists that her brother stays at her Bromsgrove home in order to look after her son it should be noted that the provision of childcare is not claimable against allowances.

30 November 2009

177  Mr Goggins had initially written to me about this matter on 23 October, and had been asked by my Office on 28 October to provide sufficient evidence to justify at least a preliminary inquiry. That exchange is not included in the written evidence.  Back

178   WE 2 Back

179   WE 3  Back

180   WE 4 Back

181   WE 5 Back

182   Standards and Privileges Committee, Tenth Report of Session 2008-09, HC 1070 Back

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