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

Rt Hon Andrew Mackay

6.  Letter to Rt Hon Andrew Mackay from the Commissioner, 5 November 2009

I would welcome your help on a complaint I have received from Mr Michael Goggins about the identification of your main home for the purposes of your claims against the Additional Costs Allowance.

I attach a copy of the relevant parts of letters of 23 and 30 October from the complainant, together with the relevant press cuttings appended. I enclose also a copy of the Registrar's letter of 28 October to which the complainant refers.[183]

In essence, the complaint is that you have wrongly identified your main home for the purposes of claims against the Additional Costs Allowance, contrary to the rules of the House. I take the period of the complaint to cover the financial years from 2004-05 to 2008-09 inclusive. You will see that the complainant has also raised a complaint against Ms Julie Kirkbride MP.

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 and services."

The rules in relation to the Additional Costs Allowance which appear to be relevant to the main period covered by this complaint are set out in Section 3 of the Green Book published in July 2006.

In his introduction to that edition of the Green Book, the 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."

The rules in relation to the Additional Costs Allowance are set out in Section 3. The scope of the allowance is provided in Section 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."

Eligibility is set out in Section 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."

The principles include the following in Sections 3.3.1 and 3.3.2:

"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.

"You must avoid any arrangement which may give rise to an accusation that you are, or someone close to you is, obtaining an immediate benefit or subsidy from public funds or that public money is being diverted for the benefit of a political organisation.

Section 3.4.1 deals with the location of overnight stays as follows:

"If your main home is in the constituency, you can claim ACA for overnight stays in London—or 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 ACA.

"If on your journey to London or your main home you cannot practicably reach your destination on the same day as your day of departure, you may claim the cost of an overnight stay en route to your destination. Any such arrangements must be cleared in advance with the Department of Finance and Administration.

"See section 3.10.1. for definition of your main home."

Section 3.5.3 provides as follows:

"You must inform the Department if you are claiming ACA in respect of a property which you share with another Member."

Section 3.11.1 provides the following definitions:

"Main home

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.


For the purpose of the ACA, overnight stays within 20 miles of your constituency boundary are regarded as overnight stays within your constituency.


Similarly, for the purposes of the ACA, overnight stays within 20 miles of the Palace of Westminster are deemed to be overnight stays within London."

Similar provisions were set out in the Green Book for June 2003, except that the principles set out in paragraphs 3.3.1 and 3.3.2 of the July 2006 Green Book were not included, nor were the references to the boundary provisions for a constituency and London home as provided in paragraph 3.11.1 of the July 2006 Green Book.

I would welcome your comments on this complaint in the light of this summary of the rules. In particular, it would be helpful to know:

1. Your arrangements for claiming the ACA on your second home from 2004-05 to 2008-09 inclusive—including the location of your main and second home and the dates of each designation.

2. The purchase costs of each home and the details of any mortgages which you hold or have held on your first and second homes since 2004-05.

3. The nature of the accommodation provided by your main and second homes and the reason why you identified the property in question as your main home.

4. The number of nights you spent in your designated main home in each financial year from 2004-05 to 2008-09 inclusive; the number of nights you spent in the home on which you claimed against your ACA; and the number of nights you have spent elsewhere. It would be helpful to have any documentary evidence, including diaries or travel records, which you have used to prepare these figures. I appreciate that these figures are likely to be estimates, but it would be helpful if you could give the best estimates you can, setting out the information on which they are based.

5. Whether, and if so when, you informed the Department that you were claiming ACA in respect of a property which you shared with another Member, namely Ms Julie Kirkbride MP.

6. The size of your ACA claims in each financial year from 2004-05 to 2008-09 inclusive, together with the main categories under which you claimed, identifying your mortgage interest claims and what proportion of your total mortgage they represent.

7. Whether at any time you consulted the then Department of Finance and Administration about your arrangements. If so, it would be helpful to have details of that consultation, including any documentary evidence you may have.

Any other points you may wish to make to help me with this inquiry would, of course, be most welcome.

I attach a note which sets out the procedure I follow. I am writing to the complainant to let him know that I have accepted his complaint and am writing to you about it.

It would be most helpful if you could let me have a response to this letter within the next three weeks. If there is any difficulty with this or you would like a word about any other matter, please get in touch with me at the House.

I would be very grateful for your help on this matter.

5 November 2009

183   The letters of 23 and 28 October are not included in the written evidence - see WE 1  Back

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