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

58.  Letter to the Commissioner from Miss Julie Kirkbride, 21 January 2010

I write in response to your inquiries following the complaint by Mr Goggins. I answer below the ten points you raise in your letter.

1.  Since 2004 to the present day I have nominated [address] in Bromsgrove as my second home and [the London property] as my main home.

2.  We bought [the London property] for £850,000 in 1998 taking out a mortgage of £200,000 which we still maintain on an interest only basis. We bought [the Bromsgrove property] in 1997 for £75,000 in a very dilapidated state and spent more than double the purchase price on restoring it. We took out an interest only mortgage of £180,000 on it in 2004. We further extended the interest only mortgage by £50,000 in April 2008 to cover the cost of an extra bedroom to meet our family's needs.

3.  The accommodation in [the Bromsgrove property] originally comprised a sitting room, dining room, kitchen, two double bedrooms and two bathrooms. We then added a further bedroom to make it three. Since 1997 only my husband and I have lived at [the Bromsgrove property], along with our son [name] who was born in 2000.

4.  There is no separate accommodation in [the Bromsgrove property] for a tenant. We have three bedrooms, however, so that we can accommodate a child carer to allow me to carry out my parliamentary duties.

5.  My brother does not live at [the Bromsgrove property], he stays in our home for the express purpose of providing childcare for our son. When he is not needed to look after [our son] he has other responsibilities elsewhere, including looking after our ... mother in [name of town]. I considered my brother's care of [our son] entirely consistent with the Green Book's definition of a necessary function to allow me to carry out my parliamentary duties and as such I did not factor in his presence in my ACA claims—after all, he was not receiving a benefit, he was not adding to the cost of the property and I could not carry on as an MP and be a fit and proper mother without his help!

6.  In light of the above answers question six is not relevant.

7.  I confirm that we have an interest only mortgage and I attach my ACA figures.[197] These are only reliable estimates as the information provided by the Fees Office is a little confusing.

8.  As I have mentioned above, we bought the property in 1997 before [my son] was born in 2000. When [my son] was very little my brother (and other child carers who looked after [my son] when he was not available) shared a bedroom with him. My husband and I felt it was inappropriate—and particularly so for public figures who would attract interest/gossip—that our prepubescent child should continue to share his room with an adult. As we still needed childcare we thought the best course of action was to move to a bigger property—and of course, had we done so we would have attracted much less interest. However, we had the possibility of extending our existing apartment and so we did this instead, creating a third bedroom. In total we spent in excess of £60,000 on the extension and took out a mortgage of £50,000 to fund the work. I discussed the matter with [an official] in the Fees Office and explained our reasons for needing a third bedroom. As you will be aware, the House of Commons rule at the time was that mortgages could not be extended to fund extensions to a property unless there were family reasons for doing so. [The official] said that my circumstances fitted the criteria in which an extension of the mortgage could be authorised and the Fees Office duly paid the interest on my new mortgage of £230,000 from my ACA. I wrote a note to the Fees Office which is lodged with them confirming this arrangement. Can I reiterate that this third bedroom was created to enable me to accommodate a flexible child carer who happens to be my brother most of the time, but not all of the time. If my brother had stopped providing childcare, the bedroom would be used by somebody else. He did not live in the property all the time, but was there at the same time as we were there for the purposes of providing childcare. As such, I do not think it reasonable to say that this bedroom was built for my brother.

9.  I did not inform the Fees Office that I was sharing a property with another Member who was my husband. I made the reasonable assumption that this rule was to identify non-related MPs who had come to private agreements to share properties and did not apply to those Members where it was public knowledge that they were married to each other.

10.  As mentioned above, I did consult [an official in the Department of Finance and Administration] over my arrangements and dropped a note to the Fees Office confirming our conversation. I do not have a copy of the note, but I know it exists in the records as it was reproduced by the Daily Telegraph.

I hope my answers are helpful and that you will be satisfied that I have no further case to answer with regard to Mr Goggins' complaint about my brother's involvement in my childcare arrangements. I would like to add that the House of Commons spends a great deal of time agonising as to why few women, and even fewer women with children, become MPs. I can tell them that one of the reasons is that it is massively difficult to reconcile the incredibly busy (and peripatetic) demands on one's time as an MP with being a proper mother to children. In my case, I am faced with the need for six days and evenings a week childcare and as such, if my option had been to leave [my son] with bought in childcare all that time I would not have considered it fair to him to stand for Parliament. As it was, I thought that I was lucky to have Friday and Saturday covered by my own brother who would give [my son] the loving care he needed in my absence and whose desire to care for [my son] as lovingly as a father would I did not need to question whilst I was in Bromsgrove giving my constituents the attention they had the right to expect from their MP. As it has turned out, what I thought were entirely appropriate arrangements have become fodder to a baying press and vexatious complainers and I can only hope that after many months of this same issue being considered by Sir Thomas Legg that you will finally allow the matter to rest and let me get on with my new life outside Parliament.

21 January 2010

197   Not included in the written evidence. For a summary of the information relating to mortgage interest claims, see WE 59 below. Back

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