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

63.  Letter to the Commissioner from Ms Julie Kirkbride, 11 February 2010

I write in response to your letter of 26th January and would offer the following response to your further questions.

1.  I never kept notes in my diary as to who looked after my son whilst I was in Bromsgrove. As I said before, I would have someone resident in [the Bromsgrove property] to provide care for my son at the weekends and during House of Commons recesses so that I was free to carry out my parliamentary duties. This person was normally my brother, but I have no record of the nights he spent there, nor records of when another person fulfilled his child caring role.

2.  My brother's main residence is [address]. My brother jointly owns this property and since 2000 has been elected, by the residents, onto the board of management for the flat complex.

3.  I do not have records for this and refer you to my answer to point one. As a normal rule, I would spend every weekend in [the Bromsgrove property] whilst the House is sitting and would spend parliamentary recesses there except for the time when we would be away on holiday.

4.  My brother is registered to vote in Bromsgrove. I am sure that you will be well aware that any member of the public is eligible to register to vote anywhere in the country with the obvious restriction that they would need a postal address in that area to receive their polling cards. My brother registered to vote in Bromsgrove because he provided considerable voluntary support for me as the Member of Parliament (in the form of maintaining my website and other computer related services) and therefore wished to enjoy voting for his sister in parliamentary elections. Mr Goggins is wrong to suggest that voter registration denotes someone's main address (although it may do so). In the case of my brother there are obvious reasons why he might wish to register in a place that was not his main home, but where he did spend some of his time.

Let me also address the issue you raise about the registration at Companies House. My brother returned to the UK after living many years in the USA shortly before my son was born. He started working as a lecturer for a high tech computer company which offered residential courses across the country. He offered to cover childcare for me at the weekends. In 2001 his accountant suggested that he set up a company in the UK and without consulting me he put [the Bromsgrove property] as the address of this company so that he would see any urgent paperwork at the weekend. I accept this should not have happened, but the reason is entirely innocent. No money whatsoever was traded through the company, it was never used, it never had any employees and never had a liability for tax. It remained completely dormant and was closed in 2005.

5.  My brother will have spent occasional time, including nights, in [the Bromsgrove property] without the presence of myself or my son. This is because he offered computer services to me and my staff in Bromsgrove on a voluntary basis. He maintained my website and he offered training and support to my office staff on an ad hoc basis. There will have been occasions when it was convenient for him to use [the Bromsgrove property] as a base—as I maintain an office in my home there. It seems to me that in providing computer support services as a volunteer my brother was saving the taxpayer a considerable amount of money. However, as I noted in my previous correspondence, my brother has other responsibilities to take care of during the week and I would therefore stress that this would be an occasional occurrence.

6.  As I have explained above, my husband and I spent the parliamentary recesses in [the Bromsgrove property] and due to the unpredictable nature of our jobs we liked to have someone to cover childcare whilst we were there.

7.  I claimed the full mortgage interest from the ACA.

I hope that the above answers satisfactorily resolve the complaint. I recognise that you have conducted previous inquiries where a non dependent person stayed at the second home of an MP. However, I would hope that you will accept that my case involves a completely different principle, insofar as the person was staying at the property entirely for the purposes of enabling me to carry out my parliamentary duties. Moreover, to raise an official inquiry on the issue of childcare arrangements would have profound and unfortunate implications for the next generation of women MPs who we all hope will be entering parliament at the next election.

On a further note, I recognise that you have been given a job to do by Parliament, but you will also have seen the verdict of Sir Thomas Legg's Inquiry and the appeal conducted by Sir Paul Kennedy into my expenses. As such, I hope you will accept that I have spent the last nine months being investigated on precisely this issue—which finally concluded in my favour—and that to face yet another inquiry would result in my being exposed to triple jeopardy. I was delighted when Sir Paul accepted my explanation and I hope that for my own peace of mind I can now look forward to your doing the same.

11 February 2010

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