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

29.  Letter to former Head of the Fees Office from the Commissioner, 10 June 2010

I would be very grateful for any help you can give me in providing your recollection of a meeting which you reportedly held with the Rt Hon Andrew Mackay in about September 1997 when Mr Mackay was the Member for Bracknell.

I need to ask for your help on this in the course of an inquiry I am conducting into a complaint against Mr Mackay. I enclose a note which sets out the procedure I follow in taking evidence from witnesses. As you will know, my inquiries are subject to parliamentary privilege and I ask, therefore, that you do not disclose this letter or your response to anyone else. I expect to show your response to Mr Mackay in the course of this inquiry and you can expect it to be published with the other evidence I have collected and with the memorandum which I may submit to the Committee on Standards and Privileges.

In essence, the complaint which I am inquiring into is that Mr Mackay wrongly identified his main home for the purpose of his claims against his Additional Costs Allowance, contrary to the rules of the House.

Mr Mackay's evidence to me is as follows:

1.  He had a meeting with you shortly after he married Ms Julie Kirkbride, who was then the Member of Parliament for Bromsgrove. He dates this meeting in about September 1997. He reports that he asked you for advice. He explained that his circumstances had changed; he was now married to an MP; and he had no idea about what to do with his second home allowance. Mr Mackay recalls that you asked if he had a property in his own constituency, and about the size of their properties. He told you that they jointly owned a family home in Westminster and that they had an apartment in a listed building in his wife's constituency. He described the accommodation each offered. Mr Mackay explained that he had never had a home in his constituency [Bracknell]. Mr Mackay says that you then advised that as the couple had two "proper" homes with a joint mortgage and where they were both on the electoral roll, either could be deemed a main home.

2.  Mr Mackay's clear recollection is that you then recommended that Mr Mackay should nominate the home in his wife's constituency [address] as Mr Mackay's main home and claim ACA on his Westminster property. Mr Mackay believes that this arrangement was put on the file in the Fees Office, but the Department's evidence is that there is no current record of that.

3.  Mr Mackay's evidence is that Ms Kirkbride was not present at this meeting. He says that nevertheless, you advised that Ms Kirkbride should nominate the couple's Westminster property as her main home and so claim ACA on her constituency property [address], which was to be his own main home.

4.  Mr Mackay's evidence is that at all times he and his wife declared their main and second homes to the Fees Office in a totally transparent way.

The effect of this arrangement was that the Members were able to claim against parliamentary allowances for both of their homes.

I appreciate that this is now quite a long time ago and you will have had many meetings with Members at that time. But in view of the emphasis that Mr Mackay has put on his meeting with you and the advice you reportedly gave, it would be very helpful if you could confirm or otherwise modify Mr Mackay's recollection of the meeting, as recorded above.

It would be very helpful if you could let me have a response to this letter within the next two weeks. If you would like a word about any of this, please contact me or my office at the House. I would be most grateful for your assistance on this matter.

10 June 2010

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