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

16.  Extract from ACA Repayment Appeals by Sir Paul Kennedy, January 2010: Rt Hon Andrew Mackay [187]

The ACA Review points out that you are married to another MP, Julie Kirkbride. You designated your London flat as your second home. She nominated it as her main home, and the constituency home, which you also shared, as her second home. For you it was designated as your main home. That enabled you, as a married couple, to claim the expenses relating to both properties against ACA, and you did so. Your claims being at or close to the full annual allowance. The Review describes this "a financial benefit for the couple which appears unintended under the Green Book rules, and as such contrary to the principles governing it". It is said that had you made different designations each of you might have reasonably claimed up to 2/3 of the full allowance on a shared second home. The Review has therefore concluded that each of you was overpaid by 1/3 of the maximum ACA for each year of the review period, a total of £29,243.

The Review also states that you were paid £9,950 for cleaning over the 4 years April 2004 to April 2008, thus exceeding the maximum of £2,000 per annum set by the Review by a total of £1,950.

You are therefore recommended to repay a total of £31,193.

In your Grounds of Appeal to me you emphasise the position of the Fees Office as a source of advice, especially where circumstances are unusual. It has, and throughout the relevant period has always had, authority to interpret and enforce the rules. Thus far I agree with you, but the conclusions which you seek to draw seem to me to be, in certain respects, mistaken. I accept that Members were and are entitled to rely on advice given by the Fees Office and its officials, but only if they have no reason to believe that it is wrong. If they do rely on such advice in good faith they cannot be said to have acted improperly even if, in the end, the advice tendered turns out to be mistaken. But all of this has nothing to do with the law of agency, or Estoppel. We are concerned here with admissible claims against public funds, and, as the Speaker wrote in his introduction to the Green Book (April 2005 edition), "Members themselves are responsible for ensuring that their use of allowances is above reproach". You say that the way in which you and your wife designated your homes was in accordance with advice given by the Fees Office. If so it seems to me that the advice was plainly mistaken, and indeed that you should have recognised it to be mistaken.

As I have said in my letter to your wife, the fundamental reason why the arrangements which you made cannot be regarded as acceptable is that they lost sight of the purpose of ACA, which was to assist Members to fund the cost of accommodation when they needed a second home in order to fulfil their duties. It was never intended to relieve them of the costs of their main home, and you operated it in such a way as to achieve that result.

I agree that the basis of the overall approach adopted by the Review to calculate what you and your wife might reasonably have claimed on a shared second home is difficult to discern, but if anything it seems to me to be generous, and you do not contend otherwise. I therefore find no special reasons in your individual case showing that it would not be fair and equitable to require repayment of £29,243.

I turn to the costs of cleaning. I agree that the limit of £2,000 per annum was not in place when the costs were incurred, and that is unfortunate. But I am sure that you would agree that anyone considering what sum it would be reasonable to ask the public to pay towards the cost of cleaning a second home would have to draw a line somewhere. The Review has drawn it at £2,000 per annum for all Members. My Terms of Reference (a copy of which I enclose)[188] only permit me to intervene if I can find special reasons in your individual case showing that it would not be fair and equitable to require repayment either at all, or at the level recommended. I can find no such reasons.

I would therefore dismiss both parts of your appeal.

187   Published as Appendix 2 to the First Report of the Members Estimate Committee, Session 2009-10 (HC 348)


188   Not reproduced here. Back

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