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


77.  Extract from article in the News of the World, 24 May 2009

Double dipping MPs in another dodgy deal

THE husband and wife Tory MPs who have been "double-dipping" expenses so the taxpayer funds BOTH their homes were last night caught up in a new scandal.

Julie Kirkbride and Andrew Mackay are letting her brother live rent-free in their mansion flat that WE pay for, the News of the World can reveal.

And the brother, Ian Kirkbride, is even listed as running a BUSINESS from the apartment in a stately home near Bromsgrove, Worcs.

Last night, as Mackay, 59, agreed to stand down at the next election after a talking-to from party leader David Cameron, his wife spluttered: "Ian spends a lot of time there because he's the carer of my child.

"I couldn't cope without that help."

She insisted her 59-year-old brother does not pay any rent and only uses the property when her son is home.

Rules

But a gardener at the country estate says he's there ALL the time . . . and son [name], aged nine, is at school all week 116 miles away in London.

When questioned, Ms Kirkbride, 48, admitted: "There are times when Ian's there and not looking after my son." And she revealed she also has an au pair.

Last night the MP claimed she had done nothing wrong and her brother only stayed with her from "time to time".

But in two interviews with the News of the World she failed to explain why he filed the address as his main residence on forms he submitted to Companies House for his business.

He is also listed there not as a child carer, but a director and IT consultant.

Meanwhile, Ms Kirkbride has been claiming more than £1,000 a month in mortgage payments on the apartment which she named as her second home—plus thousands more for maintenance.

Under Commons rules only an MP's direct family—spouses and children—are supposed to share the second home. Last June she wrote to Parliament's Fees Office telling them she had been forced to extend the apartment "accommodating the needs of our growing family."

Ms Kirkbride told us: "If you want more women with children to go into Parliament we can't manage without carers and that's who Ian is. He does it mainly in Bromsgrove."

There was no sign of son [name] in her [car] when she left the property yesterday morning. The schoolboy is also listed as a shareholder in his uncle's company [name].

But Mrs Kirkbride claimed: "It was a paper company, it never traded." However, she did confirm her brother had two other directorships in companies based in another county and also looked after her aged mother in [name of town].

...

The couple bought the three-bedroom apartment [address] near Bromsgrove, in 1997. Commons expenses files show that, in 2005, Ms Kirkbride declared the flat her second home and collected £21,613 in expenses.

Her husband—MP for Bracknell, Berks—told the Fees Office it was his MAIN home. Under Commons rules, MPs are supposed to pay for one home themselves, while the taxpayer picks up the tab for their second. But between 2005 and 2008 Ms Kirkbride claimed £66,763 on the exclusive [Bromsgrove] apartment.

At the same time Mr Mackay received £66,192 for their London house, claiming that as his SECOND home.

In one year alone Ms Kirkbride claimed £2,169 for cleaning, £2,466 for service charges, £1,545 on food, £501 on curtains, £639 on a bed and £828 for carpets at their converted Georgian flat.

Her husband claimed more than £1,000 a month in mortgage interest payments on their joint Westminster flat.

Ms Kirkbride used her Additional Costs Allowance to claim more than £900 a month on paying off the mortgage for their family home near her constituency. That went up last year after she increased their mortgage by £50,000 to pay for an extension.

They even claimed for each other's travel costs, with Kirkbride claiming £1,392 under the category "spouse travel" while Mackay claimed £408.

Scrutiny

Last year, the Bromsgrove MP took out another £50,000 mortgage on the property and her mortgage interest claims on the home loan increased from £900 to £1,171.

When she wrote to the Fees Office to explain her increased mortgage charges, they replied saying the letter "suggests her designated second home is in fact her primary residence." But in all her correspondence she failed to mention her brother was living there.

When initially confronted over double-dipping, Ms Kirkbride defended her expenses as "both permissible and reasonable." She added: "I believe that I was operating perfectly properly within the system."

24 May 2009


 
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