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

12.  Letter to the Commissioner from Rt Hon Andrew Mackay, 21 January 2010

As agreed I am responding to your inquiries concerning the complaint made by a Mr Goggins. You asked seven specific questions which I have answered below. However let me first make four brief factual points which I hope will assist with your deliberations.

Firstly after I married Julie Kirkbride I sought advice from the then Head of the Fees Office [...] about our ACA. He asked about our homes and was told we jointly owned a family house in Westminster and a large apartment in a listed building in Julie's constituency. I explained that I never had a home in my constituency. [The Head of the Fees Office] then advised that as we had two proper homes with a joint mortgage and where we were both on the electoral roll either could be deemed a main home. He recommended that I nominate [the Bromsgrove property] as my main home and claim ACA on [the London property].

Secondly this arrangement was put on file in the Fees Office and ACA payments were made accordingly. At all times we declared our second and main home addresses to the Fees Office in a totally transparent way. This was never queried.

Thirdly [the Bromsgrove property] was a natural main home for me as I had close links to the Bromsgrove area where my family and friends still live. I was born and brought up in the next door constituencies and look after the interests of two close elderly relatives through our family's longstanding property portfolio based in the area.

Fourthly on 20 May last the rules were changed with immediate effect to state:

"Members who are married to each other must nominate the same main home and are limited to claiming one person's PAAE between them."

Whilst the single claim did not affect us, as I had already elected to take up the London Costs Allowance due to a rule change for the new financial year, the introduction of the rule on nominating the same main home confirms this was not previously in place.

My answers to your questions are as follows:

1.  During this period I nominated [the Bromsgrove property] as my main home and [the London property] as my second home. We bought [the London property] for £850,000 in 1998 taking out a mortgage of £200,000 which we still maintain on an interest only basis. We bought [the Bromsgrove property] in 1997 for £75,000 in a very dilapidated state and spent more than double the purchase price on restoring it. We took out an interest only mortgage of £180,000 on it in 2004. We further extended the interest-only mortgage by £50,000 in April 2008 to cover the cost of an extra bedroom to meet our family's needs.

3.  The accommodation in [the Bromsgrove property] originally comprised a sitting room, dining room, kitchen, two double bedrooms and two bathrooms. We then added a further bedroom to make it three. [The London property] is a three bedroom terraced house with three reception rooms, two bathrooms and a study. My earlier points above explain my designations.

4.  Whilst my points above largely cover this question I would just add that I rarely spend a night in my constituency as on Fridays and weekends I prefer to commute between there and my main home which are linked by motorways or dual carriageways for virtually the whole journey. I also regularly visit my constituency from London during the week. As a result, I spend most Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights (I attend to previously mentioned family business on Monday morning) as well as most recesses at my main home.

As you point out, the figures for where I spend my nights are likely to be estimates, particularly as I do not have an electronic diary or written records for the years in question. However, I can give a best estimate for the last calendar year which I believe would also broadly reflect my sleeping patterns in the financial years in question. This estimate would indicate that I spent 155 nights at [the Bromsgrove property], 139 nights at [the London property], 54 nights on holiday, nine nights on parliamentary business abroad and eight nights in the constituency.

5.  I did not inform the Fees Office that I was sharing a property with another Member who was my wife. I made the reasonable assumption that this rule was to identify non-related MPs who had come to private agreements to share properties and did not apply to those Members where it was public knowledge that they were married to each other.

6.  The mortgage has always been interest only and I attach a breakdown of my ACA claims which is a best estimate as information provided by the Fees Office is somewhat confusing.[184]

7.  I refer you to points two and three in my initial comments above.

I conclude by hoping you will agree this is a vexatious complaint, lodged late in the day after Sir Thomas Legg's inquiries were near conclusion and there is no case to answer.

21 January 2010

184   Not included in the written evidence. The information given by Mr Mackay about his mortgage interest claims is reproduced at WE 13 below. Back

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