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

66.  Letter to Mr Ian Kirkbride from the Commissioner, 17 February 2010

I would welcome your help on a complaint I have received against Ms Julie Kirkbride MP in respect of certain claims she made against parliamentary allowances for the extension of her constituency property in Bromsgrove.

I enclose a note which sets out the procedure I follow in inviting evidence from witnesses. As you will see, my inquiries are subject to parliamentary privilege and I would be grateful, therefore, if you did not disclose this letter, or its contents, or your response to anyone else. I am likely to show your response to Ms Kirkbride for any comments she may wish to make. Your response is likely to form part of the evidence I have received for this inquiry and once my inquiries are concluded, it may be published. In any publication, I would identify your name and your relationship to Ms Kirkbride, but not your address.

In essence, the complaint I have received against Ms Kirkbride is that she made claims against her Additional Costs Allowance for costs which were not wholly, exclusively and necessarily incurred for the purpose of performing her parliamentary duties. The complaint is that the Bromsgrove property was, in effect, your main residence, that you lived there rent free, and that additional claims were made by Ms Kirkbride to cover the costs of a mortgage loan which was necessary to provide you with your own bedroom at the property.

In her evidence to me, Ms Kirkbride has said that you did not live at her Bromsgrove property all the time, but were there at the same time as she and her husband were there for the express purpose of providing childcare for their son. When you are not needed to provide childcare, you have other responsibilities elsewhere, including looking after your mother in [name of town]. Ms Kirkbride has said that when her son was very little, you shared a bedroom with him. She and her husband felt that that arrangement was inappropriate as their son got older. As they still needed childcare, they created a third bedroom in Ms Kirkbride's constituency property.

Ms Kirkbride has told me you jointly own your [name of town] property and since 2000 you have been elected by the residents on to the board of management for the complex. You are registered to vote in Bromsgrove because you provided voluntary support to Ms Kirkbride and wished to vote for your sister in parliamentary elections. Your accountant suggested in 2001 that you set up a company in the United Kingdom and, without consulting Ms Kirkbride, you put her constituency property as the address of this company so that you could see any urgent paperwork at the weekends. Ms Kirkbride has said that no money was traded through the company, it was never used, it never had any employees and never had any liability for tax. It remained completely dormant and was closed in 2005.

Ms Kirkbride has said that she had someone resident (normally you) in her Bromsgrove property to provide care for her son at the weekend and during House of Commons recesses. Ms Kirkbride has also said that you have spent occasional time, including nights, in the constituency property without the presence of either herself or her son. This is because you offered computer services to her in her capacity as a Member of Parliament and to her staff on a voluntary basis. You maintained a website and offered training support to her office staff. There were occasions when it was convenient for you to use the constituency property as a base as she maintains an office in her home there. She has stressed that this would have been an "occasional occurrence."

I would be grateful to know whether you can confirm, or whether you would wish to modify in any way the evidence which Ms Kirkbride has given me about your use of her homes. It would also be helpful to have:

1.  your estimate of the number of nights you normally spend in the constituency property. Ms Kirkbride has said she has no record of these, but I hope that you will be able to help me with this. I appreciate that you may not have detailed records, but it would be most helpful to have an estimate of the normal pattern of your overnight stays in the constituency property over the course of each financial year from 2004-05 to 2008-09;

2.  your estimate of how many nights you spent in the property over the course of each financial year in the same period, when Ms Kirkbride and her son were not there—and if you could confirm why you spent those nights there;

3.  an explanation of why you identified Ms Kirkbride's constituency property as your usual residential address in completing the forms for Companies House, if that was not your usual address (I believe the form requires you to identify your usual residential address);

4.  information about whether you spent any nights in Ms Kirkbride's London home and whether you did so to look after her son. If so, could you give me an estimate of the normal pattern of your overnight stays in the London property over the course of each financial year between 2004-05 to 2008-09 (Ms Kirkbride has not so far referred to you undertaking childcare duties in London, but is quoted in the press as saying that you stayed there from time to time to look after her son. I am checking the position also with her);

5.  your view on whether you regard your [Gloucestershire] home to which this letter is addressed, as your main home and whether there is any basis for the allegation that your main home was any time from 2004 to 2009 inclusive Ms Kirkbride's constituency property in Bromsgrove;

6.  a description of how the arrangement for planning your overnight stays at the constituency property worked out in practice. Did you make a standing arrangement to be there on the same nights a week and if so, did this vary between sitting weeks and parliamentary recesses; or did you arrange with Ms Kirkbride ad hoc each week the nights when you would need to be in the constituency property to look after her son?

Any other points you would like to make to help me with this inquiry would be very welcome.

I know that Ms Kirkbride would like this inquiry to be concluded as soon as possible, so if you could let me have a response within the next two weeks, I would very much appreciate it.

Thank you for your help.

17 February 2010

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