Cameron aide quits over claims worth tens of thousands

A Tory MP resigned as one of David Cameron's closest aides today as it emerged the taxpayer had been paying tens of thousands of pounds a year towards both of his homes.

Andrew MacKay apologised "profusely" after he was sacrificed by the Tory leader who described the claims as unacceptable.

Mr MacKay, who is married to Bromsgrove MP Julie Kirkbride, claimed more than £1,000 a month to cover mortgage interest payments on their joint flat near Westminster.

At the same time, Ms Kirkbride used her own second homes allowance to claim more than £900 a month towards the home loan on their family home in Bromsgrove.

Mr MacKay said it had never previously occurred to him there was anything wrong with the arrangement until it was taken up with him by a Conservative audit of claims this week.

He said the designation of their homes had been suggested to them by the House of Commons Fees Office. The arrangement had been in place for "eight or nine years".

"This was all transparent, it was all approved and frankly until it was drawn to my attention it did not occur to me that it didn't pass the 'reasonableness' test," he said today.

"I must say when it was drawn to my attention my first reaction was that the right thing to do was to resign my post, which I did very first thing today with David."

Until this morning he was the Tory leader's Parliamentary aide.

He added: "Looking back now, it does look strange, I have clearly made an error of judgment for which I profusely apologise and I've done what I think is the right thing."

The MP promised to pay back however much money an internal Conservative panel feels is appropriate.

Mr Cameron said the arrangement had been discovered by the party after Mr MacKay submitted his claims for examination.

He said: "The examination revealed a state of affairs which I don't think is acceptable. He will go before a scrutiny panel to determine how much of this needs to be repaid."

The Tory leader described the whole expenses affair as an "appalling scandal" and admitted the scandal had damaged his party.

"Clearly all parties have been damaged by this. We have to put our hands up," he said.

Ms Kirkbride was previously a political correspondent for the Daily Telegraph, which has sparked the latest furore over expenses by printing leaked details of claims.

In a report on its website, the Telegraph said it had been planning to disclose Mr MacKay's claims tomorrow, although the MP said he had not been contacted by the newspaper.

Last financial year, Mr MacKay claimed a total of £23,083 under the so-called Additional Costs Allowance, while Ms Kirkbride claimed £22,575.

According to Parliamentary records, they also claimed for each other's travel costs. Ms Kirkbride took £1,392 under the allowance to meet spouse travel, while Mr MacKay claimed £408.

He said today he no longer claimed for a second home.

From this financial year, he had taken up the much cheaper London allowance instead, given his constituency's proximity to the Commons.

Ms Kirkbride said today her own expenses claims were "permissible and reasonable" and that she understood the public's anger.

In a statement, she said her husband's resignation as an aide to Mr Cameron had been "the right and honourable thing".

"For my part, I believe that my own expenses are both permissible and reasonable and I will make my expense details available for scrutiny by my constituents as soon as possible," she said.

"Parliament is quite rightly coming under intense scrutiny on this issue.

"As Bromsgrove MP for 12 years I want to assure my constituents that I understand the public anger and I hope Andrew's prompt action today demonstrates to people how seriously the Conservative Party and its MPs take these matters."

As Mr Cameron's senior Parliamentary adviser, it was Mr MacKay who was despatched to Strasbourg last year to deliver the party leader's tough new demands for transparency over their expenses.

Earlier this year, Ms Kirkbride backed a controversial attempt in the Commons to keep MPs' home addresses a secret by removing the requirement for election candidates to publish them.

In March, she told the Birmingham Post: "There are people who might have a grievance or a fixation. I'd feel a lot happier not making my home address freely available.

"That seems perfectly reasonable to me, in terms of personal safety and well-being."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
newsAnother week, another dress controversy on the internet
Life and Style
Scientist have developed a test which predicts whether you'll live for another ten years
health
Life and Style
Marie had fake ID, in the name of Johanna Koch, after she evaded capture by the Nazis in wartime Berlin
historyOne woman's secret life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
News
news... and what your reaction to the creatures above says about you
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Telesales & Customer Service Executive - Call Centre Jobs

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Ashdown Group: Finance Manager - Covent Garden, central London - £45k - £55k

£45000 - £55000 per annum + 30 days holiday: Ashdown Group: Finance Manager - ...

Ashdown Group: Systems Administrator - Lancashire - £30,000

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: 3rd Line Support Engineer / Network ...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Web Developer

£26000 - £33000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Web Developer is required to ...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn