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

21.  Letter to the Commissioner from the Director of Strategic Projects, Department of Resources, 17 March 2010

Thank you for your letter to [the Director of Operations] of 10 March. I am replying on behalf of the Department of Resources.

I am afraid that we have not been able to discover any records which would cast light on Mr Mackay's discussions with the then head of the Fees Office in 1997 (that official retired in 1998). Nor do we have any records which indicate that any later consideration was given within the Department to the elections which Mr Mackay and Ms Kirkbride made as to their main and additional homes.

The Department was certainly aware of the arrangements in the sense that both Mr Mackay and Ms Kirkbride made their declarations openly. I think that it is reasonable for Mr Mackay to have inferred from this that the Department had no difficulty with the arrangements.

Mr Mackay's arrangements were subject to a story in the Telegraph in May 2009, but no action was then taken by the Department because of the impending review conducted by Sir Thomas Legg.

As you know, Sir Thomas concluded that Mr Mackay and Ms Kirkbride had obtained a financial benefit unintended under the Green Book rules and therefore had acted contrary to the principles governing it. Sir Thomas's conclusion was subject to an appeal to Sir Paul Kennedy. Sir Paul's conclusion was that, if the advice given by the Fees Office was as Mr Mackay suggests, then that advice "was plainly mistaken" and that Mr Mackay should have recognised it as mistaken. Sir Paul also suggests that Mr Mackay's arrangements had lost sight of the purpose of ACA.

I have no reason to dissent from Sir Thomas's and Sir Paul's conclusions that Mr Mackay was not within the rules in claiming second home allowance for his London home. I regret that the original advice of the Department, and its subsequent inaction, may have given Mr Mackay comfort in his claims.

17 March 2010

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