Appendix 2: Correspondence
between the Clerk of the Committee, Mrs Miller and the Parliamentary
Commissioner for Standards |
Letter from Mrs Miller to the Clerk
of the Committee, 3 February 2014
1. Thank you for your letter of 27 January
2014, which also enclosed a copy of the Commissioner's Memorandum
2. I am most grateful to the Committee
for the opportunity to comment on the Memorandum and 1 do also
appreciate your kindly agreeing to allow me until Monday 3 February
2014 to provide you with a response.
3. I think it is important that I am
clear from the outset that I am deeply concerned at the views
expressed in the Memorandum, The Memorandum contains a number
of serious errors and is wrong in fundamental respects. This follows
a flawed and protracted 13-month inquiry, which was conducted
without due regard for the core principles of a proper investigatory
or adjudicatory process. These failures in the inquiry have in
turn distorted the Memorandum produced. More may need to be said
about the inquiry process in due course and there is a great deal
that could be said about it and about the Memorandum. For the
present, however, I expect that the Committee will wish to focus
on the main findings contained in the Conclusions section of the
Memorandum (from paragraph 117) and at this stage I therefore
limit my comments below to these aspects.
4. To assist the Committee I propose
to deal below with the three issues identified in the Conclusions
section in the Memorandum in the same order and under the same
headings as set out in the Memorandum. Before that, I should also
address the introductory remarks to the Conclusions section in
paragraphs 117 and 118.
The introductory remarks
5. In the introductory remarks to the
Conclusions, the Memorandum suggests a difficulty of establishing
evidence. In particular, although acknowledging that this relates
to matters some time ago, the Commissioner mentions a lack of
some documents and of corroborating evidence. It is also suggested
that some of my answers to questions were "very general"
and that this added to the length of the inquiry. This is not
a fair or complete description of the position.
(i) I would emphasise that I have
of course provided the information requested of me; and I have
explained if I no longer have documents or the reasons why a document
may not exist. Similarly, I have cooperated fully and always immediately
agreed to documents held by the House authorities being provided
to the Commissioner. This has included both hard-copy documents
and a search of the electronic archives including all my electronic
diaries. It is, however, not surprising that after so long some
documents are no longer available. Thus, for example, the Commissioner
mentions the absence of notes from the Department of Finance and
Administration, but the Director General for HR and Change has
confirmed to her (his letter of 27 September 2013) that "most
of our records and correspondence have now been destroyed under
the House's Authorised Records Disposal Practice".
(ii) With regard to corroborating
evidence, it is not quite accurate to say that there is no such
evidence of my stays in the constituency. At the suggestion of
the Commissioner both the constituency chairmen who have held
that position for the period in question have given evidence confirming
that that is where I lived. Beyond that, it would be odd if anyone
outside my family kept such close tabs on me that he or she could
provide an actual count of how many nights I spent in any one
place very many years. It is true that the Commissioner sought
further evidence and for example asked in her letter of 11 November
2013 whether there was anyone who would have seen the family walking
the dog near the constituency home. But it cannot seriously be
suggested that there might be someone who could be expected to
give evidence about whether he/she remembers seeing our dog being
walked in say 2005 (some eight years ago) and which day of the
week that might have been and why we were there on that particular
(iii) With regard to my own evidence,
I have sought to provide answers to the questions as fully as
I am able. As the Committee will see, I have responded to letters
from the Commissioner on 14 occasions. To ensure that the questions
raised by the Commissioner are fully dealt with many of these
letters have been very detailed and lengthy, providing financial
information going back more than 8 years, and including personal
and sensitive information about my family. In addition, on 1 July
2013, I provided the Commissioner with a detailed report ("my
Report") setting out my response to the inquiry in very comprehensive
terms. Far from being general, my Report addressed the matters
in the inquiry in the fullest possible detail. I have done my
utmost to assist the inquiry and to provide the relevant information.
Indeed one of the reasons for providing my Report was that the
matter had already gone on too long and the inquiry appeared to
have become diffuse and confused and I thought it would assist
to provide all of the information in the fullest possible detail
in one place. Throughout the correspondence, both before and after
my Report, I have likewise sought to explain the position as fully
as I was able.
(iv) With regard to the time the
inquiry has taken, the 13 months that have been taken have not
been necessary or appropriate. They have caused me immense difficulty
and have created speculation and I have repeatedly since July
2013 expressed to the Commissioner my concern that the inquiry
had not been concluded. A point of comparison is that after my
Report, the Commissioner took the advice of the Director General
of HR and Change. She wrote to him on 12 September 2013 and it
took him only two weeks to review all the relevant facts and provide
a report dated 27 September 2013 (in which he considered that
my ACA claims and designation were fully within the applicable
rules). Despite this, the Commissioner has maintained the inquiry
for several further months. She wrote to me on 10 October 1013
to say "I believe that I now have all the information which
I need to complete my inquiry and am sorry that this first stage
has taken so long." Rather than concluding the inquiry, however,
she then wrote on 23 October 2013 to raise tangential matters
which her own letter noted "may have no relevance to my inquiry".
Having set out these introductory matters,
I will now turn to the three matters set out in the Commissioner's
Was Mrs Miller's designation of her
main and second home correct?
6. The Commissioner addresses this question
at paragraphs 120 to 127 of the Memorandum. Her findings are that
(a) she fully accepts "the matter is finely balanced"
(paragraph 126); (b) she accepts I "sought to do what was
fair and reasonable throughout"; but (c) that the designation
of my main home should have been for the London house. This last
conclusion is incorrect because:
(i) it applies the wrong test;
(ii) it considers the wrong factors
and indulges in speculation; and
(iii) it overlooks the actual evidence.
It is of course also noteworthy that
the Department of Finance and Administration at the relevant time
considered that the designation was correct and that, in his letter
of 27 September 2013, the Director General considers that the
designation was correct in accordance with the rules in place
at the time.
7. The Commissioner's view that everyone
is wrong starts from her misunderstanding of the applicable test.
In paragraph 121, the Memorandum argues that the question of nights
"only became relevant" if the location of the main home
was not a matter of fact. This is a misapprehension. The correct
approach, as was understood at the time, was that, where an MP
had more than one home, the question of the number of nights was
the primary test to determine the question of the main home. Even
if it was not an absolutely conclusive test, it was the crucial
starting point and the Commissioner is wrong to consider that
it is not relevant. On that test, the designation of my constituency
home was the main home (as the Director General considered). To
be clear, although the Commissioner now disregards that test,
that is the test that I was advised to use by the Fees Office
at the time and is the test that in good faith and accurately
8. Having disregarded the test completely,
the Commissioner then considers factors which she says meant that
the London home was the main home.The factors on which the Commissioner
relies are that we moved a number of times in the constituency,
that we lived in London before I became an MP, that my children
had their primary education in London, that under the IPSA scheme
my claims are for the constituency, and that the London home would
have been maintained even if I had not become an MP. Each of these
is relied on in error.
· The fact that we moved was
because each of the moves was to a larger property which was precisely
because the constituency was the centre of my family life.
· The fact that we lived in
London before I became an MP and that the London home might have
been where I stayed had I not become an MP misses the point. They
betray a lack of understanding of the very great changes that
becoming an MP requires. Basing the position on a Member's pre-election
position is not an appropriate test. It also ignores the actual
evidence, as I set out.
· In this regard, in paragraph
124 of the Memorandum, the Commissioner again conflates a test
and falls into error. She considers that the London home was not
established exclusively and necessarily for parliamentary duties.
This is again not the right analysis. The London home was "established"
long before I became an MP. The correct approach, based on the
applicable rules at the time, was whether I (ignoring my family
for this test) needed to maintain two homes to be able to carry
out my duties. I clearly did and was undoubtedly within the rules
to do so (and it has never been suggested otherwise). Once that
test was satisfied, one of the homes had to be designated as the
main home and this had nothing to do with whether a home was originally
established exclusively and necessarily for my duties.
· The fact that my children
had their primary education in London is not indicative. I had
to be in London for the main part of the working week, (Monday
to Thursday days, Monday to Wednesday nights) and so when young
it made sense for my children to be with me in London during the
week and so to go to school in London. As soon as they were older,
they went to school in Hampshire and otherwise lived in the constituency
and not in London.
· The fact that claims are
now different under IPSA is irrelevant and no indication of the
position at the relevant time. First of all, that is a different
scheme with different considerations and secondly I have since
become a Minister which I was not for any of the period in question.
9. As well as wrongly considering the
above factors, the Commissioner has also disregarded the actual
evidence on the issue. For example, paragraph 15(vii) of my Report
summarised my evidence as follows: "Importantly, it was a
conscious priority for Mrs Miller to maintain a family life as
much as possible and therefore for her family to move each week
with her in accordance with the demands of her responsibilities
in two places. On becoming an MP, Mrs Miller gave a great deal
of thought to how to balance her role as an MP with her family
life and her role as wife, mother and carer. The way she sought
to achieve this was to make Basingstoke the centre of family life
because that was where she needed to be on weekends and during
Parliamentary recesses. She also sent her children to school in
Hampshire as in turn they became old enough. Thus, whatever might
have been the position before the 2005 general election, for Mrs
Miller and consequently the family the best way to balance family
life was to make Basingstoke the main family home."
10. Having disregarded the appropriate
test, taken into account misplaced factors and ignored the actual
evidence, the Commissioner goes on to conclude at paragraph 125:
"1 think that it is likely that Mrs Miller's main family
home remained in London, and this was the home exerting the gravitational
pull including during the summer months." This statement
is without foundation, is not based on any evidence at all and
is contrary to what I told the Commissioner. As I said in my letter
of 9 May 2013: "The weekend and the school holidays was
when [my family and I] were able to spend time together in Basingstoke
and where I spent most downtime."Where my children went
to school has no bearing on where the children lived during the
summer holidays which was in the constituency with me.
11. In reality, the direct evidence
before the Commissioner was that my constituency home was my main
home after I became an MP. In this regard, I would also particularly
ask the Committee to consider my Report which sets out the position
on this question very fully.
12. Given the above and given the acceptance
that the matter is finely balanced and that I did what was fair
and reasonable throughout, it seems to me that the correct question
now ought to be whether my designation of my Basingstoke home
as my main home was a reasonable one in the light of the relevant
circumstances. This also appears to be the way the Committee has
approached this question in the past. In this regard, there were
compelling reasons as to why the designation of my Basingstoke
home was reasonable:
· It was where I spent the
· It was the centre of my family
· There was no financial benefit
to me in the designation.
· I received clear advice from
the Department of Finance and Administration as to which home
I should designate, and this advice has been confirmed as correct
by the Director General of HR and Change.
13. Before turning to the next question,
I would also emphasise here that the Commissioner has correctly
found that if I had designated the London house as my main home
and made ACA claims on the Basingstoke house, I would have been
entitled to make the same claims as I made and there was no financial
advantage to me or additional cost to the public purse from the
Did Mrs Miller or her parents receive
an immediate financial benefit from public funds by living in
her designated second home, and if so, did Mrs Miller reflect
this in her claim?
14. This question is the only actual
complaint made by Mr Mann MP and the only allegation that was
set out in Mr Lyon's letter to me of 12 December 2012 which initiated
the inquiry in accordance with the Procedure for Inquiries.
15. I of course welcome the Commissioner's
conclusions that I acted properly in this regard, that my parents'
living with me as a single family unit from long before I was
an MP was not contrary to Parliamentary rules, that my case was
not at all the same as Mr McNulty's (which was Mr Mann's original
complaint), and that my expenses claimed were correct and appropriate.
This was also the Director General's view who rightly concluded
that there was no inappropriate use of public money in this case.
16. In addition to the above and what
was set out in much greater detail in my Report on this issue,
I would just add a short further comment given what the Commissioner
says in paragraphs 131 to 133 of the Memorandum.
In those paragraphs, the Commissioner
refers to the cases of Mr McNulty and Mrs Main. It is important
therefore to note the different circumstances of those cases.
17. First, those cases did not involve
a single family unit living together but involved independent
adult members of an MP's wider family potentially receiving a
clear and direct benefit from Parliamentary expenses, which they
started to receive only while the relevant MP was in Parliament.
That is, however, not my case. My parents are not independent.
I have carer responsibilities for them and (like my husband and
children) they are and have for nearly 20 years and long before
I was an MP been part of my single family unit. Furthermore, as
set out in my Report, they did not receive any benefit or financial
gain at all from my being an MP or my having to move between Westminster
and the constituency. It made no financial difference to them
whatsoever, nor, unlike the McNulty case, did they (or I) receive
any subsidy or support from public funds in respect of them.
18. Secondly, in neither of those other
cases was there a reduction in claims referable to those other
family members. In Mrs Main's case, she relied on the fact that
she had reduced other of her own expenses slightly because she
knew her daughter was living with her; but the Committee found
that was not the right way to do it because an MP could not trade
off claims not made against claims which should have been reduced.
Again this is not my case. I sought throughout to act fairly and
reasonably and, as has been concluded, my claims were reduced
and were within what was appropriate.
19. With regard to transparency, I would
emphasise that I made sure I fully and clearly explained my family
arrangements to the Department of Finance and Administration.
I would have been happy to have one but was not advised that a
formally documented arrangement was needed and I never for one
second sought to obtain any additional financial advantage from
my claims. As I explained in my Report, because of my family circumstances
(regardless of my parents), being an MP and a mother and trying
to maintain some family life came at a considerable cost with
the unavoidable need to have two family homes which the ACA did
not cover and which I had to subsidise.
20. In relation to the above, paragraph
153 of the Memorandum also includes a non-sequitur. There the
Commissioner suggests that because in her view there was a lack
of formality in my arrangements, there was an inappropriate use
of public money. This is not right and does not follow. The only
issue is whether money was claimed that should not have been claimed.
Apart from the Commissioner's new case in relation to mortgage
interest which I discuss below and has nothing at all to do with
my parents, it is clear that the claims I made were appropriate
Were Mrs Miller's ACA Claims made
in accordance with the rules and guidance of the relevant period?
21. The third area of the Memorandum
addresses whether my claims (in particular in respect of mortgage
interest) were within the rules.
There are two major preliminary problems
with this area of the Memorandum. First, it seeks to substitute
the Commissioner's findings for those already made by the Legg
Inquiry. Secondly, it is an area that has never been within the
scope of this inquiry. I address both of these problems first
because they disclose significant mistakes by the Commissioner.
I then explain how the Commissioner has also misdirected herself
on this third question in any event.
22. It will be self-evident to the Members
of the Committee that the heading to this section of the Memorandum
entirely duplicates the inquiry undertaken by Sir Thomas Legg
in 2010. Sir Thomas Legg found that I had no issues in relation
to my ACA claims. In relation to this section, there is no new
material and the relevant evidence before the Commissioner is
the same as the evidence before Sir Thomas Legg. The Commissioner
is therefore inviting the Committee to look at the same material
but to form a different conclusion from that (correctly) reached
by Sir Thomas Legg. She has contended that this is open to her
based on the Mackay/Kirkbride case in which the Committee (in
one sense but in the most limited way) looked at a case which
had already been considered by the Legg Inquiry. The Commissioner
has, however, completely misunderstood this case.The Mackay/Kirkbride
case did not find that the Committee could consider a Legg matter
afresh or might wish to reach a different and irreconcilable conclusion
from the Legg Inquiry. On the contrary, in that case, the Committee
considered that the questions resolved by the Legg Inquiry were
"settled" by the Legg Inquiry. All that the Mackay/Kirkbride
case went on to consider was that, in the case of a serious breach
as found by the Legg Inquiry, the Committee could apply the same
finding because it merited sanction by the Committee. The one
thing that the Committee was clear it was not doing was "reopening
the extremely thorough audit and review process" which the
Legg Inquiry undertook. It is therefore clear from both the Legg
Inquiry and the Mackay/Kirkbride case that the Commissioner's
third area has already been considered and is settled. The Legg
Inquiry's finding in this matter was correct and unimpeachable.
There is no basis for it to be revisited.
23. As indicated above, this part of
the Memorandum is also a question which was not within the scope
of the Commissioner's inquiry. It was raised late in the day after
the Commissioner had told me in her 10 October 2013 letter (when
the investigation was already 10 months old) that she had concluded
the inquiry. Thereafter in her letter of 23 October 2013, she
asked about my mortgage interest which she accepted "may
have no relevance to my inquiry". Following my reply, the
Commissioner wrote to me by letter dated 11 November 2013 (now
11 months into the inquiry) setting out an entirely new inquiry
question and asking for financial information going back to 1996,
nearly 20 years ago and almost 10 years before I became an MP.
After 11 months of an inquiry, this seemed extraordinary. Furthermore,
the new inquiry question was not an allegation (such as the actual
allegation of wrongly housing my parents) but simply an open-ended
question as to whether all my claims were within the rules. This
is not consistent with the Procedure for Inquiries which requires
a complaint and in particular an allegation. Since that 11 November
2013 letter (starting with paragraph 3 of my letter of 26th
November 2013 in which I set
out eight reasons why it was wrong for the inquiry to be expanded
to this further questions), the Commissioner and I have been engaged
in debate as to whether this question is within the scope of the
inquiry or not. I have maintained it is not and cannot be. The
reason this remains important and I need to explain it a little
further is that (i) it is indicative of the Commissioner's approach
and undermines her conclusions and (ii) the direct consequence
of the flawed procedural approach the Commissioner has adopted
is that her report in this section is replete with errors.
24. It is straightforward to demonstrate
that the question is not within the scope of the inquiry.
· Both the letter of 12 December
2012 initiating the inquiry and the present Commissioner's letters
of 25 April and 8 August 2013 confirm in terms the actual and
correct scope of the inquiry, which does not include this third
aspect. My Report considered the inquiry in the same terms and
the Commissioner wrote to the Director General explaining that
was her inquiry in the same terms.
· As noted above, the third
aspect was raised after the Commissioner had otherwise stated
that she was ready to conclude the inquiry.
· Despite my request, the Commissioner
refused to include in the Memorandum the actual allegation as
set out by Mr Lyon in his letter of 12 December 2012 and even
though that is the founding basis for this whole process.
· When the Commissioner provided
a draft of the first half of her Memorandum, I pointed out that,
in the section of the relevant provisions, she had included a
number of provisions that had never previously been mentioned
in the inquiry. I wrote "the provisions which paragraph 8
of your draft report includes as relevant to your inquiry are
not provisions which Mr Lyon said he was considering in his letter
of 12 December 2012. Indeed, those provisions have been mentioned
for the first time in your draft report. As paragraph 20 of the
Procedure for Inquiries makes clear, the letter from the Parliamentary
Commissioner initiating the inquiry must 'set out the relevant
rules of the House'. In compliance with this clear requirement,
Mr Lyon did set out the rules of the House which were relevant
to the inquiry he was considering and which he initiated. The
rules he set out did not include the rules in paragraph 8 of your
draft report which you are apparently now considering." In
reply, the Commissioner wrote, "You are inaccurate in your
statement that the rules he set out did not include those to which
I refer in paragraphs 7 and 8 of my report" (emphasis
added). This was incorrect. It was entirely accurate of me to
state that paragraph 8 was wholly new.
· In her letter of 17 December
2013, the Commissioner's supposed basis for this question being
within the scope of the inquiry was that the first line of Mr
Mann's letter of complaint says "I wish to register a complaint
regarding Maria Miller's misuse of Parliamentary allowances between
her election to Parliament in 2005 and April 2009." The second
sentence then sets out what that complaint is, namely about my
parents. As I pointed out in reply, "...the fairness of any
investigation, including this one, requires it to be conducted
within a framework provided by a specific and expressly set out
allegation so that the exact case to be answered is clear and
so that that exact case can be met. A generalised introductory
reference is not a specific allegation and will not do to set
the scope of an inquiry. Furthermore, it is not Mr Mann's inquiry
and he has no power to specify the scope of the inquiry. Mr Lyon's
letter of 12 December 2012 formulated the actual allegation I
was required to meet".
· Since the reasoning in the
Commissioner's letter of 17 December 2013 was so untenable, the
Commissioner's Memorandum has now switched the supposed justification
to the third and fourth sentences of Mr Mann's letter. This is
no better because those sentences are no more than general background
to the complaint. They do not make an allegation and were never
understood to make one either by Mr Lyon or by the present Commissioner
when each of them put the terms of the inquiry to me. Finding
a new justification for a new inquiry at the stage of the Memorandum
is hardly an appropriate way to investigate a matter.
25. It is not only the justification
for the inquiry that is new. The matters set out in this part
of the Memorandum are also new. They include allegations that
have never been put to me and mistakes that I have never had any
opportunity to correct. By way of further example, I have never
before been shown for comment any of the tables of figures which
the Commissioner now presents. On no view is this a fair or proper
way to conduct an inquiry and it goes some way to explain why
the purported findings are so wrong. I therefore turn to the content
of this section of the Commissioner's Memorandum. The Commissioner
raises two issues under this part of the Memorandum. The first
is a £50,000 increase in my mortgage in 2007. The second
relates to my mortgage before I became an MP. I deal with these
The 2007 £50,000 increase
26. The first issue relates to the additional
mortgage I took out at the end of 2007, which increased the value
of my mortgage by £50,000. The Commissioner deals with this
from paragraph 139 onwards. Regrettably, the Commissioner's new
allegation here was not raised with me during the course of her
extensive inquiry and I only became aware of this allegation when
the Committee provided me with a copy of the Commissioner's conclusions
last week. Her conclusions here are misconceived and make a number
(i) The Commissioner appears to
find that I made a claim in respect of the interest on the £50,000
additional mortgage which was not an allowable claim. This is
incorrect. I did not make a claim for the interest on the £50,000
additional mortgage. This is clear from the figures contained
in the schedule I provided to the Commissioner under cover of
my letter of 3rd January 2013. These figures have never been questioned
by the Commissioner and have been relied upon by her during her
inquiry. In fact, at no stage did my claim for mortgage interest
exceed the amount of the mortgage when I entered Parliament. Since
I did not make a claim for this additional interest, the Commissioners'
comments in paragraph 155 are particularly inappropriate and misplaced.
(ii) Sir Thomas Legg was of course
provided with the same information for his inquiry into whether
I claimed ACA in accordance with the rules and found there were
no issues here.
(iii) The further criticisms of
the Commissioner's approach here are less important given that
there was not any claim for the interest here in the first place.
Nevertheless, her second error is that in paragraph 139 she suggests
that the claim was not (or in reality would not have been) allowable
because (a) there was no evidence I had discussed this with the
House authorities; and (b) not having discussed the additional
mortgage with the authorities made it non-allowable. Conclusion
(a) is not appropriate or open to the Commissioner because I have
never given any evidence on the point since it has never been
relevant; and the Commissioner cannot simply assume and pronounce
there is no evidence of a particular issue about which I have
never been asked. Conclusion (b) is wrong and a further misunderstanding
of the rules. The test of whether an interest claim is allowable
is not whether it was discussed but whether the claim was within
the allowable categories.
(iv) Thirdly, in paragraph 140,
the Commissioner apparently finds that the rules would not permit
interest on a loan which paid for improvements before I became
a Member. This is again a serious error because it is an assertion
without any evidence. The Commissioner is simply speculating here.
There is no evidence that the £50,000 was used to pay for
improvements before I became an MP and I would not have sought
to claim that interest on that basis, although the point is hypothetical
since I did not claim that interest at all.
(v) Finally, in paragraph 140, the
Commissioner appears to refer to evidence beyond reasonable doubt.
Unfortunately, this again betrays a misunderstanding. This is
not the standard of proof that the Commissioner is required to
apply and in reality it is a gratuitous attempt to lend weight
to a finding. It is moreover quite misguided and in breach of
the established principle that an investigatory body, especially
one before which there has been no hearing and which has not heard
live evidence, cannot properly reach a view beyond reasonable
doubt. It is also embarrassing since the findings said to be made
on this basis are incorrect and unfounded, as set out above.
My mortgage before I became an
27. The second issue relates to an interpretation
of the Green Book. The Commissioner contends that the Green Book
provided that it was not possible for a Member to claim mortgage
interest in excess of the original loan secured on the property
when it was purchased, and critically that this rule extends to
the financial arrangements by Members before they were ever elected.
She therefore argues that the fact that I had remortgaged before
I was an MP meant that my actual mortgage costs in 2005 could
not be claimed beyond the level of the original mortgage in 1996.
28. The Commissioner's contentions are
based on her novel interpretation of two rules. The first is paragraph
3.1l.1 of the 2005 Green Book which states that mortgage costs
"limited to the interest
paid on repayment or endowment mortgages, legal and other costs
associated with obtaining (and selling) that home (eg, stamp duty
valuation fees, conveyance, land search, removal expenses)"
29. It seems plain to me that the rule
sets out two categories of allowable costs: (1) mortgage interest
and (2) legal and other costs associated with buying and selling
a home. This is clear as these two categories are separated by
a comma. I am reinforced in this view because the 2003 Green Book
contains the same wording save for the fact that the word "and"
appears immediately after the comma. Save for confirming mortgage
interest is claimable, it is of no assistance to the Commissioner's
contentions. If I for one moment considered that this was the
rule then I would not have claimed any amount over the purchase
price. However, the point did not occur to me then and even now
I think it is clear that the Commissioner's contentions cannot
30. The second rule relied upon is 3.12.1
that Members could not claim for "interest on any additional
mortgages, advances or loans secured on the same property."(I
might note that these words from 3.12.1 were not mentioned in
the inquiry letter of 12 December 2012 or alleged against me prior
to the Memorandum.) This rule was amended in July 2006 but even
while it was in force the natural and ordinary meaning of this
rule was that MPs who wished to take out additional borrowing
could not claim mortgage interest in relation to that borrowing.
The Commissioner contends that this rule has a much wider meaning
to the effect that it extends to borrowing prior to an MP even
being elected. Furthermore, in her view, it makes no difference
if such borrowing was taken out to fund payments connected with
the property that would be allowable under the Green Book at least
31. This is with respect an interpretation
that is wider than the wording naturally permits and has never
previously been suggested. If the rule had that wider meaning,
it would have been worded very differently. The rule would have
simply said that a Member could not claim for an amount that is
more than the original loan secured on the purchase of the property
in respect of the original mortgage only. There are further factors
that very strongly support the fact that the Commissioner's contention
is unsustainable. These include:
1. If this was the rule then one
would expect that the Department of Finance and Administration
would have introduced procedures to ensure compliance, such as
asking a Member to confirm the initial mortgage value secured
on a property. No such procedure existed. Indeed the procedure
was to ask members for evidence of their current mortgage. I would
add that although the Commissioner did seek the guidance of the
Director-General of HR and Change on the first two issues above
she has chosen not to seek his advice in relation to this matter
even though I suggested to her that she do so in my letter of
2. I am not aware of any complaints
or investigations where the issue has been raised prior to this
point. The Commissioner does refer in her Memorandum to the cases
concerning Mr Osborne and Mr Duncan. However, both of those cases
concerned additional borrowing taken out by the respective Members
after they were elected. They are therefore of no relevance to
this point. Indeed, in both cases there was no mortgage secured
on the property at purchase and no adverse finding was made in
relation to this. It therefore appears that the Commissioner's
approach is inconsistent with the approach of her predecessor,
which in turn would also mean that a different standard was being
applied to me from that which has always been applied in the past.
3. The provisions of the Green Book
were of course carefully considered and thoroughly applied by
Sir Thomas Legg, including the specific issue of mortgage interest
claims. Sir Thomas's extensive work involved closely analysing
the provisions in the Green Book, forming an independent view
as to how they ought to be interpreted and then applying them
to the claims made by each Member. The Legg enquiry did not consider
that such a point was sustainable otherwise it would have necessarily
formed part of its work. If he had interpreted the rules in the
way the Commissioner suggests he would have had to write to every
Member, and former Member, whoever claimed mortgage interest,
seeking details of the initial loan secured on the property. He
did not do that and did not suggest that remortgages before becoming
an MP were relevant.
4. In practical terms, the rule
would cause ridiculous and anomalous results, which would also
be socially divisive. For example, a person who had purchased
a run-down house for £100,000 and improved it at a cost of
£200,000 obtained by remortgaging would have a total mortgage
cost of £300,000. A wealthier person might just buy the same
level of house already developed for £500,000. When the two
people subsequently became MPs, the former would be able to claim
interest on only £100,000 while the latter could make a claim
on interest on £500,000. Equally, the person with the £300,000
house could sell on becoming an MP and buy a much more expensive
house and claim all the interest but if she made the decision
not to do so would have to be limited to the original £100,000.
That is an absurd and entirely unnecessary approach to the rules.
The Commissioner's approach is also retroactive since it is not
an approach that has ever been applied to anyone else or at any
32. In the light of all of these matters,
I would urge the Committee not to form a view that is inconsistent
and contrary to that of the Legg Inquiry but to find that the
interpretation advanced by the Commissioner is not correct and
it is not reasonable to suggest that this contention should have
been apparent to me or any other Member at the relevant time.
Accordingly, there can be no adverse findings in relation to this
third, new, aspect on any view.
33. In addition to the above, there
is another important point to emphasise here. The Commissioner's
approach is that I should have designated London as my main home
and claimed expenses on my constituency home. She also concludes
in paragraph 145 that if I had designated in this way as she suggests,
then all of my claims would be fully allowable and I was fully
entitled to make the claims I made. Given this and given that
it must be obvious that I sought to abide by the rules entirely
honestly and without seeking to obtain any financial advantageeven
the Commissioner accepts elsewhere that I sought to do what was
fair and reasonable throughoutit cannot conceivably
be a fair or just approach to suggest that I claimed other than
correctly in accordance with the system and rules in place at
the time and as understood at that time and at all times (until
the Commissioner's new approach).
34. Because of the approach of principle
I have set out above, I have not addressed in this letter the
various purported tables of figures that the Commissioner has
put together in the Memorandum but never previously shown to me.
As explained above, I do not believe these figures arise for consideration.
If they were to do so, there are a number of further errors and
inaccuracies that it would be important to raise. Indeed, there
are a number of further factual and other concerns I have about
the Memorandum. Having set out the facts and matters above, I
am not setting all these further concerns out at this stage before
the Committee has had the opportunity to consider the above. I
would, however, wish finally to deal with one particular factual
matter. In the penultimate paragraph of the Memorandum, the Commissioner
seeks to draw an adverse inference from her view that I "abruptly
ceased to claim" in April 2009. Whilst I did provide an explanation
to the Commissioner for this it may assist if I provide an explanation
directly to the Committee.
35. Those Members of the Committee elected
before 2010 will need little reminding as to what it was like
when the expenses scandal broke. I, in common with many Members,
was particularly concerned about the impact on my immediate family.
One strand of the scandal was the suggestion that Members who
had constituencies close to London, such as Basingstoke, did not
need to claim an accommodation allowance as they could commute.
Strong feelings were expressed both in the local media and to
me directly. At the time I formed the view that the right thing
for my family and particularly my young children was to cease
claiming. I nonetheless continued to maintain two homes at my
own expense as it was the only way I could continue to carry out
my duties as a mother and Member of Parliament.
36. I have sought at all times to be
fair and reasonable in relation to my claims. I had absolutely
no reason to act contrary to the rules. I have never sought to
gain any financial advantage from the ACA.
37. I hope this letter is of assistance
to the Committee. If any further information from me would be
helpful, I will of course provide all the assistance I can.
3 February 2014
Letter from the Parliamentary Commissioner
for Standards to the Clerk of the Committee responding to Mrs
Miller's letter of 3 February 2014
I am grateful to the Committee for the
opportunity to respond to Mrs Miller's letter of 3 February 2014.For
ease of reference I have reformatted Mrs Miller's letter to add
paragraph numbers but have made no other changes. I have not responded
to every detail.
Mrs Miller's letter seeks to apply legal
principles and arguments to a process of the House which was set
up to investigate complaints. The role of the Commissioner is
to act as an independent investigator, who is able to establish
the facts, interpret the Rules and present a balanced and fair
report on the relevant issues to the Committee. My Memorandum
providesmy conclusions on whether the rules of the House have
been breached so that the Committee can reach its own view and
if necessary recommend a sanction to the House. This process must
be fair to the parties involved and use procedures which are clear
and transparent,but it is not a legal process.
The Procedure for Inquiries says,
1. "Members will be informed
about allegations against them when the Commissioner has decided
there is sufficient evidence to justify initiating an inquiry.
The Commissioner will write to the Member concerned. In this letter
the Commissioner will: tell the Member the nature of the allegation;
set out the relevant rules of the House; provide the Member with
the evidence supporting that allegation; and ask the Member for
their response. What is asked of the Member is to give a full
and truthful account of the matters which have given rise to the
2. In the course of the inquiry the
Commissioner may ask the Member follow-up questions, seek evidence
from any witnesses, including any identified by the Member, and
consult authorities such as the relevant Department of the House
of Commons, or the Registrar of Members' Financial Interests.
The Commissioner may interview the Member in the course of the
inquiry, and will always see or speak to the Member if the Member
Mrs Miller refers to paragraph 118 of
the Memorandum in which I say "many of her responses to
my questions have been very general and required repeated probing.
This has added considerably to the length of my inquiry."
She says "I have responded to letters from the Commissioner
on 14 occasions
many of these letters have been very detailed
and lengthy, providing financial information going back more than
8 years".Mrs Miller's first four letters to me (3 Jan,
18 Feb, 10 April, 9 May) do contain a great deal of information
and her fifth (4 June) contains some, but the remaining nine letters,
beginning with the letter of 1 July in which she says she has
taken "independent legal advice" are increasingly procedural,
and though many of them are lengthy and detailed, they contain
little in the way of precise information. They consist more of
arguments as to why this information should not be sought.
The following is a brief example of a "very
general" answer to a specific question:
Question (19 March):
"Finally, it appears from
the statement from the Coventry, dated 31 May 2008, that you increased
your mortgage when you remortgaged with the Coventry on 14 November
2007. Please could you tell me why you did this?"
Answer (10 April):
"The mortgage changed in
the normal course of events."
Mrs Miller implies that I have criticised
her because documents are not available. This relates to paragraph
117 of my Memorandum, where I say,"Throughout my inquiry
it has been difficult to establish information and evidence to
the standard of proof which I would have wished. This is in part
because of the length of time since some of the relevant events
took place. There is also a lack of supporting evidence."
In recognition of this, and the operation of the Department's
disposal policy, I have made no finding in relation to the absence
of the required documentation from the files of the Department
of Resources: full mortgage interest statements for 2007-08 and
2008-09; forms reporting Mrs Miller's change of main home; or
records of her conversations with staff about the designation
of her home.
Paragraph 5 (ii)
Mrs Miller says "it is not quite
accurate to say that there is no [corroborating] evidence of my
stays in the constituency". She says that two constituency
chairman wrote to me"confirming that that is where [she]lived".
This is a reference to paragraph 118
in which I say "despite sustained efforts I have not been
able to find evidence to support the information she has given
me about the number of nights she spent at each of her properties."
One chairmansaid"She was always in Basingstoke on a Friday
for her surgery meetings. I was not at home during the week, but...
I would see her most weekends at her home...."The other
chairman said, "[she] was (and is) in the Constituency
on almost every Friday and weekend on Constituency business."This
does not amount to "evidence to support the information
she has given me about the number of nights spent at each of her
I note from earlier memoranda considered
by the Committee that when an inquiry concerned a dispute about
the pattern of use of a Member's home, my predecessor sought independent
evidence of this. Many families who live in an area over a period
of years know at least one or two people who would be aware of
the general pattern of their coming and goingbut Mrs Miller has
not been able to provide any contact independent of the family
who might give even a general sense of this. I find this unusual.The
suggestion that she might regularly walk the dog on certain days
and meet others doing the same was intended only as an example
of the sort of verification which would help to establish her
Paragraph 5 (iv)
Mrs Miller comments that I "maintained
the inquiry for several further months" after the Director-General's
letter of 27 September 2013.
My practice is to collect and collate
the evidence needed before completing the analysis and coming
to conclusions in order to avoid prejudging issues. This is what
I did. On 10 October I said I thought I had the necessary evidence.
In undertaking the analysis I discovered that I had not received
all the information requested about her mortgage. Until it was
received I could not say how relevant it was.My letters were intended
to keep Mrs Miller informed of the progress of the investigation.
Was Mrs Miller's designation of her
main and second homes correct?
Mrs Miller disputes my conclusion about
the designation of her main and second homes.In her letter she
misinterprets paragraph 126 of my Memorandum; it is not the designation
of her home but "my conclusion" that is finely
Mrs Miller says that my conclusion that
her London home was her main home is incorrect because
i) It applies the wrong test
ii) It considers the wrong factors
and indulges in speculation
iii) It overlooks the actual evidence.
I consider each of these allegations
The wrong test
I do not accept any of these points.
I refer the Committee to paragraph 121 of the Memorandum and to
the reports concerning Jacqui Smith and Ed Balls & Yvette
Coopersummarised in paragraphs 12-18.
Mrs Miller says "In paragraph
121, the memorandum argues that the question of nights 'only became
relevant' if the location of the main home was not a matter of
fact. This is a misapprehension." This is however the
approach followed by my predecessor in earlier cases and one which
the Committee on Standards and Privileges did not dispute. For
example, in his Memorandum on his inquiry into Ed Balls &
my predecessor said in (paragraph 82)
"The rules provide that
when the location of the main home is not a simple matter of fact
(because the Member has more than one home) the objective test
is that it is normally the one where they spend more nights than
any other."[my emphasis]
In the same report he also says
"if you have more than one
home, your main home will normally be the one where you spend
more nights than any otheras long as this is not a rigid
that seems to me to be an acceptable guide."
The Committee agreed.
Mrs Miller relies heavily on the Director-General's
advice. He said"In her letter to you of 18 February 2013,
Mrs Miller provides information that indicates that around two-thirds
of her time was spent at her nominated main home in Basingstoke.
In addition to this, she states in her letter of 9 May 2013 that
two of her children moved their schooling to Hampshire in the
period after she was elected and that weekends and recesses were
predominantly spent at the constituency home. This would have
been sufficient information to allow my Department to agree that
it was correct for Mrs Miller to nominate her Hampshire property
as her main home, with the consequence that her London property
was her second home for ACA purposes. I agree, therefore, that
the designation of the homes was correct."
At this juncture however the Department
has an incomplete record of the information available to it in
the past, and no record of the exact advice which was given. The
Director-General's advice is, as he says, "inevitably
hypothetical". It is based on the information which was
available to him in 2013.
My investigation has brought to light
further facts which have led me to a different view. For example,
Mrs Miller cited in her letters of 9 May and 4 June, and in the
Report of 1 July, that two of her children went to school "in
Hampshire" as evidence that Basingstoke was her main
home. She omits to mention that both children went to boarding
schoolsa circumstance that greatly reduces the relevance
of the place of schooling to the location of the family home.
The wrong factors
Paragraphs 8 and 9
Mrs Miller takes issue with my conclusion
that her main home was her London property, and that her Basingstoke
homes should have been designated as her second home for the purpose
of her allowances. I came to this conclusion on the basis of the
overall picture presented by Mrs Miller's evidence. I noted that
in 2005 her Basingstoke home was not a permanent base for her
and her family; that the rental agreement for the first propertyhad
already expired and that she was to move three times in the period
from May 2005 to April 2009; that each of the Basingstoke homes
had fewer bedrooms than her five bedroomed London home; thatbefore
she first rented a home in Basingstoke in 2003, Mrs Miller's home
was in London, in the five bedroomed house which she and her husband
had bought with a mortgage in 1996, to which she had welcomed
her parents and brothers; and which had been repaired and improved
over the years and that this was again designated as her main
home under the IPSA scheme from 2010 onwards.I noted that London
was also where her husband worked and where each of her children
in turn started school.In my view all these factors pointed towards
the London property being Mrs Miller's main home as the term is
normally understood. Mrs Miller has not refuted this overall picture.
It is important to remember the purpose
for which the ACA was set up, which was "to reimburse
Members of Parliament for expenses, wholly, exclusively and necessarily
incurred when staying overnight away from their main UK residence
... for the purpose of performing Parliamentary duties...".
Mrs Miller argues that one of her homes had to be designated as
her main home and this had nothing to do with whether it was originally
established exclusively and necessarily for her parliamentary
duties. I agree with her that the purpose for which a home was
set up may not always be relevant. However, it was against the
rules to claim for the costs incurred on what was at the time
a Member's main home.
The actual evidence
Mrs Miller says that I have "disregarded
the actual evidence" on the issue of the designation of her
home. I have Mrs Miller's accounts of where she spent her time,
and of her wish to make Basingstoke the centre of family life,
but there is little independent evidence. The only other direct
pieces of evidence are letters from Mrs Miller's constituency
chairmen (which do not go to the question of where Mrs Miller
spent the majority of her nights) and the household bills which
she submitted to the Fees Office in 2008-09.I have already commented
at paragraph 125 that Mrs Miller's utility bills and invoices
for 2008-09 do not support the idea of a house that was (except
for the month of September and occasional other times) unused
during the 19 to 20 weeks of Parliamentary recess each year, and
from Friday to Sunday evenings during sitting periods. For example,
her electricity bills submitted to the Fees Office and published
online showed a usage of 1466 kWh in 39 days from October to November
2008, and 6509 kWh in three months from 15 November 2008 to 16
Mrs Miller appears now to be suggesting
(in paragraph 10) that her older children were never, or very
rarely, at the London home.
It is of course for the Committee to
decide on this issue but I remain of the opinion that on the balance
of probabilities Mrs Miller should have designated her London
house as her main home.
Mrs Miller says "I would also
emphasize that the Commissioner has correctly found that if I
had designated the London house as my main home and made ACA claims
on the Basingstoke house, I would have been entitled to make the
same claims as I made and there was no financial advantage to
me or additional cost to the public purse from the designation."
This is not accurate. In paragraph 126 of my Memorandum I said
"I have received no evidence that Mrs Miller designated
her main home other than in good faith, or that she was motivated
by financial gain. Mrs Miller has informed me, and I accept, that
the costs of the Basingstoke properties, had she designated them
as her second homes, would also have been above the ACA limits."
I have no evidence to the contrary.
Did Mrs Miller or her parents receive
an immediate financial benefit from public funds by living in
her designated second home, and if so, did Mrs Miller reflect
this in her claim?
I do not agree that this was the only
actual complaint made by Mr Mann but will return to this issue
in my response to paragraph 23.
Mrs Miller says I concluded "[Mrs
Miller] acted properly in this regard....and that [her]expenses
claimed were correct and appropriate."and that the Director-General
of HR and Change "concluded that there was no inappropriate
use of public money in this case". These statements are
both inaccurate. The Director-General's letter of 27 September
2013 expresses no such view.
It has been recognised that it could
be appropriate for family members to live with a Member in that
Member's second home. However, as I say in paragraph 133 of my
Memorandum"Should arrangements such as this be made to
accommodate members of the extended family, it was important that
they were discussed very specifically with the Fees Office and
that clear financial procedures were in place to ensure that claims
were appropriately reduced and that the Fees Office were aware
of this."Mrs Miller did not do this and this was not
acceptable.The Director-General helpfully suggested the advice
his Department might have offered to the Advisory Panel on Members'
Allowances, and what he would have regarded as an "equitable
outcome" which was "inevitably hypothetical";
a basis on which a formal arrangement for abatement could have
been made (paragraph 134). Heconcludes that because Mrs Miller's
household costs were significantly above what she could claim,
the abatement could be considered as having come from the excess
portion of the expenditure.
However, he was not aware of my concerns
that Mrs Miller might have over-claimed in respect of her mortgage
interest. Much of my concern throughout this inquiry has been
about the lack of transparency in Mrs Miller's arrangements and
communications and her misinterpretation of my Memorandum in this
and other paragraphsprovidesan example. What is beyond dispute
is that Mrs Miller claimed allowances which were at or almost
at the maximum across the period in question. She was not permitted
to claim any more.
Mrs Miller says she would have been
happy to have a formally documented agreement for the abatement
of her claims but was not advised that one was needed. However,
in the paper attached to her first letter to meMrs
Miller justifies her position saying, "The remaining question
is therefore the meaning of the statement that "living costs
for anyone other than yourself'"are not allowable. The word
"yourself" cannot mean the MP alone as MPs could and
did claim for accommodation which allowed them to claim accommodation
costs in relation to their family. Indeed, any other interpretation
would be contrary to the public interest in enabling a diverse
parliament as recognised by IPSA in its consultation paper. My
circumstances are simply that my family includes my parents for
whom I have caring responsibilities.
However, I note that in paragraph
86 of Mr Lyon's report in relation to Mr McNulty he stated as
Itmight be argued that the rules
I have identified should not apply to parents who are dependent
on a Member. After all, a Member's partner and a Member's children
are able to share the home for which a Member claims the Additional
Cost Allowance. But the relationship between an adult and their
dependent child, and between them and a dependent adult relative,
is not the same, important though those responsibilities are.
It does not, in my judgment, carry with it an expectation that
dependent parents should be able to share a property funded in
whole or in part from public funds without at least the full value
of that benefit being reflected in the Member's claims.
This report is dated before the IPSA
consultation paper that I have quoted from above. Mr Lyon was
quite rightly seeking to draw a line where the use of the word
'yourself' in the rules does not have its natural and ordinary
meaning, as it must include the MP's family. His views were expressed
in the context of an entirely different arrangement and based
upon whether there is a distinction between dependent children
and financially dependent adults. Mr Lyon was clearly not addressing
the facts that relate to my situation and of course he did not
have the benefit of the IPSA consultation paper when he wrote
his report in relation to Mr McNulty. This is no criticism of
Mr Lyon as Mr McNulty's circumstances were radically different
and did not raise the same issues.
I would suggest that the rules at
the time did permit the use of the ACA for members of the MP's
family beyond spouse and dependent children, in appropriate but
limited circumstances. These circumstances would include my position
where I had an established family life with my parents for whom
I had carer responsibilities. This is entirely consistent with
the views expressed by IPSA in their consultation paper as to
where the public interest lies and also is consistent with the
rules not inhibiting family life. It is also consistent with the
advice I received from the house authorities at the time."
Mrs Miller has developed her own rationale
for her position despite clear guidance to the contrary and misunderstands
the purpose of the ACA"to reimburse Members of Parliament
for expenses, wholly, exclusively and necessarily incurred when
staying overnight away from their main UK residence ... for the
purpose of performing Parliamentary duties..."There is
no evidence that she sought the advice of the House authorities
on this specific matter and the Director General's letter suggests
that this would have been an unusual matter which would have come
to senior attention.
Mrs Miller says that it is a "non
sequitur" that "because in [my] view there
was a lack of formality in [her] arrangements, there was
an inappropriate use of public money."I agree that this
last sentence of paragraph 153 could have been better worded.
I should have said "the lack of abatement resulted in
an inappropriate use of public money". I am happy to
revise this wording.
Were Mrs Miller's ACA claims made
in accordance with the rules and guidance of the relevant period?
Paragraphs 21and 22
Mrs Miller addresses this section of
my Memorandum, which concerns whether her claims (in particular
for mortgage interest)were within the rules. She says that it
"entirely duplicates the inquiry undertaken by Sir Thomas
Legg in 2010", and implies that I had no remit to inquire
into whether her claims were in accordance with the rules of the
House.She disputes my reliance on the Committee's decision in
the Mackay/Kirkbride case. However, Mrs Miller misquotes the Committee
when she says that they considered that the question considered
by the Legg Inquiry had been "settled". The Committee
said,"We regard the question of repayment as having
been settled by Sir Thomas Legg." (my emphasis).
My remit (see page 1 of this letter)
is different from that of the Legg Inquiry, which was "to
determine the validity of payments of the Additional Costs Allowance
(ACA) made to Members of Parliament during the period April 2004
to March 2009, andtorecommend any repayments which MPs should
can find no precedent to suggest that the Commissioner cannot
inquire into a matter already considered by Sir Thomas, or is
bound by his decisions. I note that after the conclusion and publication
of the Report of the Legg Inquiry in February 2010 my predecessor
inquired into specific claims against the Additional Costs Allowance
by Members. In some cases, (for example his inquiries into allegations
against Shahid Malik and Anthony Wright) he came to the conclusion
that certain claims not identified by the Legg Inquiry were in
contravention of the rules at the time, and these were repaid.
I have already responded to Mrs Miller's
assertion that the questions I raised about her claims for mortgage
interest were not part of the scope of the inquiry (paragraph
111 of the Memorandum). Mrs Miller says "It was raised
late in the day, after the Commissioner had told me in her 10
October 2013 letter... that she had concluded the inquiry."Without
repeating that, Mr Mann's letter clearly expresses his concern
about her claims for mortgage interest as does the Telegraph article.
My predecessor sent both of these to Mrs Miller with his first
letter.I agree that his paragraph stating
"In essence, the complaint
is that you claimed against your additional costs allowance and
personal additional accommodation expenditure from May 2005 to
April 2009 for the costs of your overnight stays away from your
main home in a property in which your parents lived, which provided
them with an immediate benefit and which did not take full account
of their living costs, contrary to the rules of the House."
is less specific, but the rules which
he goes on to cite clearly include mortgage and other costs. If
he did not intend to look at this issue he would have indicated
this both to Mrs Miller and to Mr Mann at the outset of the inquiry.
The Committee has recently considered my Memorandum concerning
the inquiry into Simon Hughes, started by my predecessor approximately
a month before this matter. It provides a contemporaneous example
of his practice of specifying the heads of complaint into which
he would not inquire.
Paragraph 24, third bullet point
This refers to Mrs Miller's comments
on my draft report when she was invited to ensure that it was
factually correct. Mrs Miller asked me to include at paragraph
3 the paragraph from my predecessor's opening letter to her in
which he explained the essence of the complaint he was inquiring
into. In fairness to her I accepted many of her suggested amendments
which were not strictly factual. However, I did not consider that
this paragraph should be separated from quotations of the Code
of Conduct or that it fitted at that point in my Memorandum.
Fourth bullet point
Mrs Miller says that I had included
in my Memorandum a number of provisions from the Green Book which
had not previously been mentioned in my inquiry. This matter is
addressed fully in WE48 and 49.I had added to my draft report
two bullet points from the Green Book rules which do not appear
in my predecessor's letter. Mrs Miller appears to be arguing that
once his original letter had been sent out, the precise rules
he had identified as being relevant could not then be changed
in anyway.This cannot be the case. During the course of an investigation
many issues may come to light and will need to be considered alongside
the original complaint. The complainant, according to the Procedural
Note, is required to give sufficient evidence to justify an inquiry,
but no more. He cannot be expected to know all the detail of the
area that concerns him and that is for the investigation to discover.
If further evidence emerges, another rule, or in this case additional
bullet points included in a rule already identified, may become
relevant.In this case the mortgage issues were not new matters
but part of the original complaint. I do not consider that my
Memorandum must mirror exactly the original letter. It would of
course be a different matter if I had suddenly introduced entirely
new issues which bore no relation to the original complaint, but
I have not done so.
With reference to her fifth and sixth
bullet points, in accordance with the Procedural Note Mrs Miller
was informed of the allegations against her, the relevant rules
were set out and she was provided with the evidence to support
the allegation (paragraph 2 of the Procedural Note). Mr Mann's
letter makes the issues clear and as I have already said, the
Commissioner did not exclude anything.I do not think Mrs Miller
could have been in any doubt about the issues or that they included
the mortgage; particularly as the Commissioner went on to ask
specific questions about the mortgage arrangements in his letter.
The 2007 £50,000 increase
(i) Mrs Miller says "the Commissioner's
new allegation here was not raised with me during the course of
her extensive inquiry..." In fact I have repeatedly asked
Mrs Miller for information about the additional mortgage in letters
of 19 March, 25 April and 23 October 2013. It is not correct to
say that she was not aware of the issue, and when the difficulty
in making an appointment became apparent, I wrote to her. Mrs
Miller has not been prepared to share any information about this
with me. It is important not to make any assumptions about the
use to which any of the additional mortgage amounts may have been
In relation to the £50,000 increase
to her mortgage, Mrs Miller says "At no stage did my claim
for mortgage interest exceed the amount of the mortgage when I
entered Parliament." In fact Mrs Miller's claims for
mortgage interest increased in each year until 2008-09. In 2005-06
they were £15,829; in 2006-07, £17,268; in 2007-08,
£17,788; and in 2008-09, £19,264.63.
Full mortgage interest statements are
not available for the period from November 2007 to April 2009,
which is the period for which Mrs Miller maintained an increased
mortgage of something over £576,000. But I accept, as I said
in my conclusions, that (bearing in mind the offset) she did not
claim the full amount of interest she paid on the extended loan.
During the period November 2007 to March 2008, mortgage interest
statements show that Mrs Miller paid £10,991.57 in mortgage
interest (to which were added the creditsmade by her lender to
reflect the interest she received on another account), and claimed
£7,335 from her allowances. For the year 2008-09 mortgage
interest statements are incomplete, but Mrs Miller says that her
mortgage costs were £21,530.She claimed £19,264.63.
However, if the months are considered
separately, the picture is different. In some months it is clear
from the available statements that Mrs Miller did claim
for the full amount of her mortgage interest on the extended loan.
In each month from January to March 2009, Mrs Miller was reimbursed
for a sum which was close to, or the same as,the full amount of
the mortgage interest she paid; a total of £1,894.71. Over
the same period the sum she paid (which includes both her own
interest payments and the offset credit from another account)
was £1,896.26. In April 2009 she claimed £164.68, which
is the sum she paid before the offset credit was added. (The statement
does not show the offset credit for that month.)
(ii)Mrs Miller says that the claims
for interest on an extended mortgage were considered by Sir Thomas
Legg who found "no issues". I am unable to say
why he found no issues. I am aware of nine cases where Members
had extended mortgages, or established additional mortgages, between
2004 and 2008, and where he took aview on whether the Members
were properly able to claim for the additional interest incurred.
(iv) Mrs Miller implies that I allege
that she claimed interest on the £50,000 increase in 2007.
She has misunderstood this paragraph, which refers to increases
to the mortgage in the years before she became a Member. (See
my comments on paragraph 26, where I explain that I accept that
she did not claim the full interest on the 2007 increase.). When
the rules were changed to allow mortgage increases to pay for
repairs or improvements, these could not have included repairs
or improvements before the Member entered the House. My interpretation
is borne out by the Committee's decision in the case of Mr George
(v) Mrs Miller says that my reference
to "beyond reasonable doubt" was a misunderstanding.
She says "This is not the standard of proof that the Commissioner
is required to apply". But the Procedural Note is clear at
"When considering allegations
against Members, the Commissioner and the Committee normally require
allegations to be proved on the balance of probabilities, namely,
that they are more likely than not to be true. Where the Commissioner
and the Committee deem the allegations to be sufficiently serious,
a higher standard of proof will be applied, namely, thatthe allegations
are significantly more likely than not to be true."
My Mortgage before I became an MP
Mrs Miller disagrees with my understanding
of the rule in the 2005 Green Book which says that Members may
claim mortgage costs limited to
"the interest paid on repayment
or endowment mortgages, legal and other costs associated with
obtaining (and selling) that home..."
It is a list, separated appropriately
by a comma between the first and second items and "and"
before the final item and all of the items are "associated
with obtaining (and selling) that home".
In contrast the word "and"
is crucial to the sense of the 2003Green Book by separating the
sentence into two parts. The effect is that it says mortgage costs
"[the interest paid on repayment
or endowment mortgages] and [other costs associated with obtaining
(and selling) that home]"(My emphasis)
It is the comma that is redundant here.
If we consider the context, we have
a situation in which the rules of 2003 are tightened in 2005,
but then in 2006 there appears to have been concern that the change
has had too harsh an effect.The rule itself does not change but
additional provision is made in 3.13.1to allow for interest on
mortgages to improve a property to be paid provided that Members
consult the House before making any commitments. This was not
permitted in 2005.
I therefore maintain that my interpretation
of the 2005 rules is the correct one and thatit did apply to the
interest on mortgages taken out before the Member entered the
House.Nor can any Member anticipate the change of rules in 2006
before they happened.
1. Mrs Miller says that she suggested
on 17 January that I should seek advice on this issue from the
Director-General of HR and Change. This is not correct.With respect
to her argument that I should not be considering her mortgage
at all and referring to my letter of 12 September, she says, "If
your enquiry was wider in scope it would have been appropriate
to raise these wider issues with the Director-General."
2. Mrs Miller says that she is not aware
of any complaints or investigations which concerned mortgages
or advances secured on the same property which were over and above
the original mortgage to purchase that property. She says that
the cases involving George Osborne and Alan Duncan are not relevant
because the additional borrowing was taken out by the Members
after they were elected.This is not accurate in the case of Mr
Osborne. The circumstances were complicated, but his initial loan
of £470,000 covered not only the £445,000 purchase costs
of the property which he bought in 2000, but also transaction
costs and initial repairs.
Mrs Miller suggests that I have said
in paragraph 145that if she had designated London as her main
home "all of my claims would be fully allowable and I
was fully entitled to make the claims I made". This is
a misrepresentation of my argument. In connection with the rough
calculations I have made I said,"The table below shows
that if she had designated her constituency homes as her second
homes from May 2005 to March 2009 and if she had reduced her claims
by 2/7 to take account of her parents' presence in the household,
she could have claimed around £54,000 for rent over the period.
I have not been able to establish the other costs associated with
these properties, but I consider it likely that if Mrs Miller
had claimed for these, also reduced by 2/7, her claims would have
been at or around the ceiling of the relevant allowance from May2005
to March 2009."
I note Mrs Miller's explanation of why
she ceased to claim in 2009. She objects to my use of the words
"abruptly ceased to claim".Mrs Miller claimed
ACA/PAAE at or near the maximum for every month over nearly four
years. She then made a very small claim for April 2009, and thereafter
no claim at all. That is what I meant by "abruptly ceased
Mrs Miller refers to "further
errors and inaccuracies" in the tables of figures in
my conclusions. It is correct that some of the figures in the
conclusion will be unfamiliar to Mrs Miller. They form part of
my analysis which was not shared with her in draft. My calculations
are based on figures supplied by Mrs Miller either directly to
me or indirectly via the statements given to the Fees Office.
The only figures from another source are the council tax figures
for the years from 2005-06 to 2007-08 which Mrs Miller said she
was unable to obtain. (My office found these available online.)
The table in paragraph 134 compares her claims to the total ACA
allowances and the figures will be familiar. The later tables
consider reductions of two-sevenths as suggested by the Director-General
in respect of her parents' living costs.I have made it clear that
I have insufficient information to be precise and that these are
very rough estimates only.
On re-examination I believe there is
an error in the table included in paragraph 142, for which I apologise.
I have used incorrect figures in the second line which in turn
have led to a final figure approximately £9,000 higher than
it should have been. I ask the Committee to accept my sincere
apology for this mistake and for permission to correct the figures
before the Memorandum is published. Paragraphs 147 and 155 are
also affected and the over-claim figure should be approximately
£44,000 rather than £51,000. I have attached the revised
section as an appendix to this letter.
The Committee has also asked me whether
there have been any particular difficulties which have arisen
in this inquiry. While there are always issues that arise when
an inquiry is begun by one person and then taken on by another,
I have already addressed the particular concern about the scope
of the inquiry. Looking at the written evidence it can be seen
that there were few gaps in responses to letters on either side.The
only significant delay occurred between July, when Mrs Miller
sent her first legal document, and September. She did not want
me to take the advice of the Director-General on the basis of
the summary of the statement of facts I had prepared and thought
instead I should conclude my investigation.The number of letters
exchanged was a concern to me and early in the inquirywas necessitated
by the vague or imprecise answers to questions, which I have already
mentioned. Much time was spent looking for evidence to support
Mrs Miller's case. Towards the end of the inquiry responding to
Mrs Miller's increasingly procedural letters took more and more
time and delayed the conclusion of my work.
This letter responds at some length
to most of the misrepresentations of my inquiry and my Memorandum
by which Mrs Miller has attempted to discredit both the Memorandum
and myself. I remain of the view that my inquiry and the Memorandum
are robust and that the conclusions are sound. I remain, of course,
happy to assist the Committee further.
13 February 2014
168 CommitteeonStandardsandPrivileges,FourteenthReportofSession2007-08,HC1044 Back
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