Kirkbride vows to fight to hold on to her seat
Thursday 28 May 2009
Julie Kirkbride, the Tory MP battling to save her political career over her expense claims, faced fresh accusations last night that taxpayers funded a £50,000 extension to her constituency flat to enable her brother to live with her.
The Bromsgrove MP insisted she would not be bowing to demands to step down and would fight to hold on to her seat at the next election.
But the pressure on her intensifies today with the disclosure by The Daily Telegraph that she was given permission to extend her property – adding £250 a month to her expense claims – to allow her brother Ian, who paid no rent, to carry on living in the home. She has said he acted as a carer to her young son. The relentless focus on her complicated expenses claims has dismayed senior Tories, although they have so far given her full backing.
The party was also hit by allegations last night that a senior MP lodged claims under the second home allowance for his six-bedroom country house, complete with swimming pool, receiving £17,000 towards servants' quarters alone. According to The Telegraph, Sir John Butterfill, the long-serving Tory MP for Bournemouth West, paid no capital gains tax on a £600,000 profit from the taxpayer-funded property.
Ms Kirkbride has been forced to fend off a series of allegations over her use of expenses, including the revelation that she pays her sister more than £12,000 to carry out office work from her home 140 miles from her constituency. Her husband and fellow Tory MP, Andrew MacKay, has already been forced to stand down after claiming a second home allowance of £23,000 a year, despite not having a main home in his Bracknell constituency.
Ms Kirkbride last night said plans for the extension had been cleared with the Commons authorities. She said: "It's inappropriate that my eight-year-old son shares a bedroom with his carer, whoever that might be. I therefore chose, rather than leaving my property, to move to another one, to extend the one that I had, in order that myself, my son and the person I need to look after him can have separate bedrooms."
Ms Kirkbride admitted last night that she had known about her husband's expenses arrangements and accepted he had made an "error of judgement" in making the claims. However, she maintained her claims were "quite different" from those of her husband, an opinion shared by the Tory leader, David Cameron.
Sir John Butterfill reportedly designated his country house as his second home, enabling him to claim expenses on it. At the time he designated a small flat in his constituency, bought for £56,000, as his "main residence" for the purposes of Commons expenses. But when he sold the country house for £1.2m in 2005, he informed HM Revenue & Customs that it was his main home, meaning he was exempt from capital gains tax.
Sir John, treasurer of the 1922 committee of Tory backbenchers, told The Telegraph he had spent up to £500,000 of his own money transforming the house "from a wreck". His profit from selling it was therefore more like £100,000 than £600,000, he said.
But Sir John is now expected to pay at least £40,000 in capital gains tax, and has apparently agreed to refund more than £20,000 for the claims he made for his staff annex and repairs on the Bournemouth flat.
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