I've let a lot of people down, admits second-home MP

One of David Cameron's closest aides became the first head to roll in the scandal over MPs' expenses yesterday after admitting that he had "double claimed" for housing allowances.

Andrew MacKay admitted that for eight or nine years he claimed a full "second home" allowance on his London home while his wife, Julie Kirkbride, MP for Bromsgrove, claimed the same allowance for their house in her constituency. Although they lived together, they had no "first home" for Commons expenses but two "second homes" between them. Mr MacKay may have to repay about £140,000 he has overclaimed.

Ironically, he had been poring over expenses claims by other senior Tories who had been exposed by The Daily Telegraph, in his role as Mr Cameron's senior political and parliamentary adviser. Although his own dark secret was not about to be revealed by the newspaper, when he checked his own claims he discovered a potential problem. He decided to come clean – perhaps in the hope that he would then be able to keep his job as the Tory leader's consigliere.

He submitted his papers to Tory officials, but they judged otherwise. Mr Cameron was telephoned at home at 8pm on Wednesday night. When he spoke to Mr MacKay at 7am yesterday, he accepted his offer to resign as his aide.

Mr MacKay admitted that, with hindsight, his arrangement looked "strange" but insisted that it had been approved by Commons officials. He now realised it did not pass Mr Cameron's "reasonableness" test. "Due to an error of judgement in accepting advice from the [Commons] Fees Office, I have let a lot of people down," he said.

He admitted his mistake had damaged Parliament's reputation but said his future was up to his constituents in Bracknell. He will hold a public meeting next week so that voters can cross-examine him. Mr MacKay, who stopped "double-claiming" in April, said he had apologised to Mr Cameron for "causing any hurt or difficulties" and had offered to repay the money.

The Tory leader said yesterday his former aide's claims were not "reasonable or acceptable", adding: "It is not enough just to say the system is to blame. Consequences have to follow." Despite that, Tory sources suggested he was unlikely to remove the whip from Mr MacKay because he had promised to accept the verdict from a party scrutiny panel being set up by Mr Cameron to look at previous expenses claims.

Senior Tories do not expect to take any action against Ms Kirkbride, a former Telegraph political correspondent. They said "for the time being she is in the clear" because she had a genuine "second home" in her constituency.

Mr MacKay became the youngest MP at the age of 27 when he won a surprise victory at a 1977 by-election in Birmingham Stechford, a safe Labour seat, in a contest caused by Roy Jenkins' decision to become President of the European Commission. He lost the seat in 1979 but returned to the Commons in 1983 in Berkshire East. He rose up the ranks to become deputy chief whip in John Major's government.

After the Tories lost power, he became shadow Northern Ireland secretary. A man famous for his Savile Row suits and permatan, he was criticised for failing to cut short his summer holiday in Greece after the Omagh bombings in 1998.

In 2001, he was on the moderniser Michael Portillo's campaign team for his ill-fated bid to become Tory leader. Under Michael Howard's term as leader, Mr MacKay was made a deputy Tory chairman with a brief to modernise the party's face by ensuring that more women and ethnic minority candidates were chosen in winnable parliamentary seats. In 2005 he backed Mr Cameron, an outsider at the outset of the leadership race.

In his most recent role as consigliere, the 49-year-old MP was an influential figure, attending the 9.15am daily strategy session of the Cameron inner circle as well as Shadow Cabinet meetings. Insiders say his experience as a Westminster "mover and shaker" with friends in all parties was a great help to a relatively inexperienced Conservative leader.

"David valued his advice highly," said one Tory aide. Some Tory MPs were less flattering about Mr MacKay, describing him as "something of a Rasputin figure".

Crime & Punishment

Crime

Andrew MacKay claimed a second home allowance totalling £140,000 on a London home, while his wife, the Conservative MP Julie Kirkbride, claimed the allowance on another address.

Punishment

MacKay resigned as a key aide to David Cameron yesterday, but he is not expected to lose the party whip. Faces grassroots pressure within his constituency to stand down as an MP. Will appear before the Tory scrutiny panel, which will decide how much money must be repaid. Police investigation unlikely as the arrangement was agreed with the Fees Office.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
British musician Mark Ronson arrives for the UK premiere of the film 'Mortdecai'
music
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
Sport
footballBrighton vs Arsenal match report
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has spoken about the lack of opportunities for black British actors in the UK
film
News
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

Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Associate / Partner - Bristol

Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

Day In a Page

Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us