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


Ms Julie Kirkbride

57.  Letter to Ms Julie Kirkbride from the Commissioner, 5 November 2009

I would welcome your help on a complaint I have received from Mr Michael Goggins about the claims you made against the Additional Costs Allowance for your constituency home.

I attach a copy of the relevant extracts from the complainant's letters of 23 and 30 October, together with a copy of the relevant press reports he has appended. I enclose also a copy of the Registrar's letter of 28 October to which the complainant refers. [196]

In essence, the complaint is that you made claims against your Additional Costs Allowance for costs which were not wholly, exclusively and necessarily incurred for the purpose of performing your parliamentary duties. I take the period of the complaint to cover the financial years from 2004-05 to 2008-09 inclusive. You will see that the complainant has also raised a complaint against Rt Hon Andrew Mackay MP.

The Code of Conduct for Members of Parliament sets out in paragraph 14:

"Members shall at all times ensure that their use of expenses, allowances, facilities and services provided from the public purse is strictly in accordance with the rules laid down on these matters, and that they observe any limits placed by the House on the use of such expenses, allowances, facilities and services."

The provisions in relation to the Additional Costs Allowance which appear to be of most relevance to the period of this complaint were set out in the Green Book published in July 2006.

In his introduction, the Speaker wrote:

"Members themselves are responsible for ensuring that their use of allowances is above reproach. They should seek advice in cases of doubt and read the Green Book with care. In cases of doubt or difficulty about any aspect of the allowances or how they can be used, please contact the Department of Finance and Administration. The Members Estimate Committee, which I chair, has recently restated the Department's authority to interpret and enforce these rules."

The provisions in relation to the Additional Costs Allowance are set out in Section 3 of that Green Book. Paragraph 3.1.1 sets out the scope of the allowance as follows:

"The Additional Costs Allowance (ACA) reimburses Members of Parliament for expenses wholly, exclusively and necessarily incurred when staying overnight away from their main UK residence (referred to below as their main home) for the purpose of performing Parliamentary duties. This excludes expenses that have been incurred for purely personal or political purposes."

Paragraph 3.2.1 sets out eligibility as follows:

"You can claim ACA if:

a You have stayed overnight in the UK away from your only or main home, and

b This was for the purpose of performing your Parliamentary duties, and

c You have necessarily incurred additional costs in so doing, and

d You represent a constituency in outer London or outside London."

Paragraphs 3.3.1 and 3.3.2 set out the following principles:

"You must ensure that arrangements for your ACA claims are above reproach and that there can be no grounds for a suggestion of misuse of public money. Members should bear in mind the need to obtain value for money from accommodation, goods or services funded from the allowances.

"You must avoid any arrangement which may give rise to an accusation that you are, or someone close to you is, obtaining an immediate benefit or subsidy from public funds or that public money is being diverted for the benefit of a political organisation."

Paragraph 3.5.3 provides:

"You must inform the Department if you are claiming ACA in respect of a property which you share with another Member."

Paragraph 3.6.1 deals with subletting, lodgers and paying guests as follows:

"You are strongly advised to avoid subletting or renting out any part of a property for which you claim the additional costs allowance. However, if you have such an arrangement you should send a copy of the agreement with your tenant or lodger to the Department. We will reduce the ceiling on your claims for that year by the rental income for that year."

Paragraph 3.7.3 deals with re-mortgaging as follows:

"Re-mortgaging is permissible if moving to different accommodation or if repairing or improving your existing ACA home.

"Members should consult the DFA before making any major commitments."

Paragraph 3.11.1 provides the following definitions:

"Main home

When you enter Parliament we will ask you to give the address of your main UK home on form ACA1 for the purposes of ACA and travel entitlements. Members are expected to locate their main homes in the UK. It is your responsibility to tell us if your main home changes. This will remain your main home unless you tell us otherwise.

"The location of your main home will normally be a matter of fact. If you have more than one home, your main home will normally be the one where you spend more nights than any other. If there is any doubt about which is your main home, please consult the Department of Finance and Administration.

"Constituency

For the purpose of the ACA, overnight stays within 20 miles of your constituency boundary are regarded as overnight stays within your constituency.

"London

Similarly, for the purposes of the ACA, overnight stays within 20 miles of the Palace of Westminster are deemed to be overnight stays within London."

Paragraph 3.13.1 gives examples of expenditure allowable under the ACA, including:

  • "Maintenance & service agreements
  • necessary repairs to make good dilapidations
  • decoration"

Paragraph 3.14.1 lists expenditure which is not allowable, including the following:

  • "Living costs for anyone other than yourself

  • The capital cost of repairs which go beyond making good dilapidations and enhance the property."

The Green Book for June 2003, which covers some of the period of this complaint, is broadly similar to the July 2006 version, except that it does not include the principles provided in paragraphs 3.3.1 and 3.3.2 of the July 2006 Green Book, nor were there boundary provisions for a constituency and London home provided in paragraph 3.11.1 of the July 2006 Green Book.

I would welcome your comments on this complaint in the light of this summary of the rules. In particular, it would be helpful to know:

1. Which home you identified as your main home, and which home as your second home for each financial year from 2004-05 to 2008-09, together with the relevant dates.

2. The purchase costs of each home and the details of any mortgages which you hold or have held on your first and second homes since 2004-05.

3. The nature of your accommodation in your second home in your constituency, and who has lived there during the period in question, together with dates.

4. What accommodation is available to anyone living at the property who is not your partner or your dependent children.

5. What arrangements were made for your brother to live at the property, the reasons for doing so, and whether you have reflected the costs of his accommodation in the claims you have made against the Additional Costs Allowance.

6. Whether you have lodged with the Department any agreement with your brother as your tenant or lodger.

7. The ACA claims you have made for each financial year from 2004-05 to 2008-09 inclusive, together with the main categories against which you have claimed, identifying your mortgage interest claims and what proportion of your total mortgage they represent.

8. Whether, and if so why, you have extended the property; whether this was on account of the presence of your brother living in the property; the total cost of this work and whether you claimed for any of this from the Additional Costs Allowance and, if so, how much.

9. Whether, and if so when, you informed the Department that you were claiming ACA in respect of a property which you shared with another Member, namely the Rt Hon Andrew Mackay MP.

10. Whether you consulted the then Department of Finance and Administration about any aspect of your arrangements. If so, it would be helpful to have details of that consultation, together with any documentary evidence you may have.

Any other points you may wish to make would, of course, be very welcome.

I enclose a note which sets out the procedure I follow. I have informed the complainant that I have accepted his complaint and am writing to you about it.

It would be very helpful if you could let me have a response to this letter within the next three weeks. If there is any difficulty about this, or you would like a word about any other matter relating to this complaint, please get in touch with me at the House.

I would be very grateful for your help on this matter.

5 November 2009


196   Not included in the written evidence Back


 
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