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

30.  Agreed Note of evidence from former Head of Fees Office, 17 June 2010

I am responding to the letter of 10 June 2010 from the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards.

Regarding Mr Mackay's evidence to you, I shall comment thereon on the points listed seriatim.

1.  I can confirm that Mr Mackay sought my advice concerning his changed circumstances after his marriage to Ms Kirkbride in August 1997. Our meeting could have been early in September because I was out of the country from 15 September to 10 October, but I have no diary reference for Mr Mackay for 1997.

I do, however, recall advising him as to requirements for claiming ACA were dependent on which home was deemed to be the main home. Where a Member had more than one home, this is entirely based on the facts as to the nights spent in one home more than another, and then claiming for the other home on expenses incurred "wholly, exclusively and necessarily" on overnight stays away from the main home i.e. de facto.

Mr Mackay had always deemed his main home as London (Westminster) and could therefore claim for expenditure incurred in his constituency (Bracknell). The reference to being on the electoral roll would normally determine the main home designation.

2.  I do not recall Mr Mackay informing me that he should nominate the home in his wife's constituency because I do not believe that they had set up their home in [Bromsgrove] that early in their marriage. Therefore I could not have advised him to claim Additional Costs Allowance for London (Westminster).

3.  Ms Kirkbride was not present at any meeting I had with Mr Mackay.

I interviewed Ms Kirkbride on the morning of 2 June 1997 after her becoming an MP at the General Election of 1 May 1997. Ms Kirkbride informed me that she would be marrying Mr Andrew Mackay in early August 1997. I emphasized, particularly, the requirements for the Additional Costs Allowance and if her home was to be in London then she could claim for expenditure incurred in her constituency (Bromsgrove). I recall highlighting the requirements of defining exactly what was to be the main home. I do not recall Ms Kirkbride even mentioning [the Bromsgrove property].

4.  Mr Mackay asserts that he and Ms Kirkbride declared their main and second home to the Fees Office in a totally transparent way.

I am in no position now to say whether or not that happened as I retired from the House of Commons Fees Office on 31 October 1998.

I know that Ms Kirkbride's induction interview paper was filed in her personal file signed by me on 2 June 1997.

I also know that it was my habit to insert notes in Members' personal files whenever I had had meetings with Members, either in my office in 3 Dean's Yard, in their own offices, or anywhere in the House, or had advised them during a telephone conversation as to whether or not a Member could change recorded information on any allowance he or she was claiming.

Unfortunately Members' files were destroyed during the move from [one office to another] on the orders of the Director of Finance and Administration so my assertions cannot be confirmed.

May I suggest that references to Members' changes of addresses should be held somewhere in Members' records as Members are duty bound to inform the Resources Department—in the absence of the Fees Office since 2006—of any changes.

My feeling is that some time, perhaps as early as 1998, Mr. and Mrs Mackay set up homes in both Westminster and [Bromsgrove] (in Ms Kirkbride's constituency). Either then, or indeed subsequently, their main homes may well have changed, but nonetheless, requirements for Additional Costs Allowance would need to be correctly stated: that is wherever they spent most nights, either in London or Bromsgrove. (Mr Mackay stated that it was indeed his main residence in this decade.)

I cannot imagine that they would have different main homes and so Ms Kirkbride's main home would also be [the Bromsgrove property] in her constituency, hence both would be entitled to claim for Additional Costs Allowance but for London, not each home separately.

As you can see from my above comments, my recollection of advice given to Mr Mackay, and Ms Kirkbride for that matter, does not concur with Mr Mackay's as stated in his evidence to you, referred to in your letter to me of 10 June 2010.

May I just add that when the debacle of Members' expenses broke last year, Mr Mackay rang me at home at 9.15am on the very day he gave an interview to the television (Sky I believe). He wanted me to provide authority (retrospectively) stating that I personally as Accountant (Head of the Fees Office) had advised him on his Parliamentary allowances and that I had agreed with all his actions as being within the rules. I advised him that I was unable to do so and that I had retired in October 1998.

I hope that I haven't been too long but I have written fully of my memory of events of 1997 and 1998 in the light of the General Election of 1997. If you do need any more information please do not hesitate to contact me.

Signed 18 June 2010

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