1. We have received from the Parliamentary Commissioner
for Standards the report of his investigation of a complaint made
in June 2009 against Nadine Dorries, the Member for Mid Bedfordshire.
The complainant, Mr Michael Barnbrook, who at the time was a law
and order spokesman for the British National Party, told the Commissioner
that in his view Ms Dorries had breached the rules of the Additional
Cost Allowance by claiming second home expenses in respect of
her constituency home, which Mr Barnbrook said was in fact her
main home. In support
of his complaint, Mr Barnbrook drew the Commissioner's attention
to an article published in the Daily Telegraph of 26 June
2009, in which Ms Dorries was described as having said that she
spent only spare weekends and holidays away from her constituency
2. The Commissioner's report of his investigation
was submitted to the Committee in the form of a memorandum, which
is published at Appendix 1 to this Report. In accordance with
the Committee's usual procedure, we supplied Ms Dorries with a
copy of the Commissioner's memorandum and invited her to give
evidence, in person or in writing. Ms Dorries chose to submit
written evidence, which is published at Appendix 2.
The Commissioner's findings
3. The complainant told the Commissioner that
Ms Dorries had breached the rules by claiming expenses for her
constituency home. In the complainant's view, comments she had
made in the press showed that this constituency home was the one
where she spent most of her time, and was in fact her main home.
The Commissioner found that the constituency home was not Ms Dorries'
main home, and did not uphold the complaint.
Whilst investigating the complaint, the Commissioner also found
that Ms Dorries had breached the rules by failing to notify the
Department of Resources of two changes to the address of her main
home. The Commissioner
does not regard this breach as serious.
4. The rules relating to the claiming of second
home expenses by Members are set out in the Commissioner's memorandum.
In essence, during the relevant period, a Member could claim an
allowance for a home which was not his or her main home. Members
were required to notify the Department of Resources of any change
in the address of either their main or additional home. Until
March 2009, the location of a main home would, according to the
Green Book, "normally be a matter of fact" and would
normally be the place in which the Member spent "more nights
than any other." From 1 April 2009, the location of the main
home was "for a Member to determine."
5. According to a best estimate produced by the
Commissioner, and based on information Ms Dorries supplied to
him, Ms Dorries spent the great majority of her nights in her
main home in the Cotswolds.
Ms Dorries did not confirm that she agreed with the Commissioner's
best estimate, but told him that, during the period in question,
she had spent most nights of the week when the House of Commons
was sitting, and almost every night when it was not sitting, at
her main home. In addition,
Ms Dorries told the Commissioner that the Cotswolds was the place
that she and her family regarded as home.
The area had always been the centre of their family life.
She told the Commissioner that the constituency home was used
"as a means of maintaining a base in my constituency in order
to assist with my duties as an MP".
6. That picture of Ms Dorries' pattern of use
of her two homes was broadly confirmed by the evidence of four
neighbours who lived near to Ms Dorries' constituency home. One
constituency neighbour told the Commissioner that she "only
occasionally" saw Ms Dorries or her car at the house;
 another told
the Commissioner Ms Dorries was "hardly ever" at the
A third neighbour confirmed the picture, saying that he had seen
Ms Dorries "on a maximum of 20 occasions over the last two
years", and that she spent "weekends and holidays elsewhere."
7. Two people who knew Ms Dorries in the Cotswolds
also corresponded with the Commissioner. One witness, who helped
Ms Dorries with moving house and with transporting her children
and pets whilst she was away, told the Commissioner that Ms Dorries
would spend a few nights a week at the constituency house, and
had never asked him for help over the weekend or during the summersuggesting
she was at her main home at those times. 
Ms Dorries' general practitioner, who had been her family doctor
since 1996, told the Commissioner that Ms Dorries and her family
spent most of her time in the area; he saw her and her family
regularly and could say "with certainty that their lives
are very much based in and around this area."
8. The evidence of one neighbour from Ms Dorries'
constituency differs markedly from that of all the other witnesses.
This neighbour, called neighbour 1 in the Commissioner's memorandum,
told the Commissioner that the constituency house was "very
much the 'family' home where [she] lived with her daughter/daughters
and the family pets." He estimated that Ms Dorries spent
about 80% of her time at the constituency house.
9. Ms Dorries told the Commissioner that neighbour
1 had "apparently spent the last six months living in France",
meaning that he had limited opportunity to observe her use of
the constituency house.
Two of her constituency neighbours confirmed this point.
Neighbour 1, however, told the Commissioner he had only recently
purchased a house abroad and that during the period being investigated
he had been well placed to notice how much Ms Dorries used the
In addition, Ms Dorries suggested that neighbour 1 might have
been paid by the Daily Telegraph or influenced by a representative
of the newspaper in his comments.
That suggestion was firmly denied by neighbour 1.
10. The evidence of Ms Dorries and her other
neighbours and that of neighbour 1 could not be reconciled. Whilst
he does not question the good faith of the witness, the Commissioner
notes that personal observation is "bound to give no more
than an impression" of the way in which a neighbour uses
a property. The Commissioner records that he therefore decided
to accept the evidence of all the other witnesses in preference
to that of neighbour 1.
He concludes that Ms Dorries "has established that she spent
more nights in her Cotswold homes than anywhere else, including
in her constituency home."
He also finds no other reason not to regard the Cotswolds as Ms
Dorries' main home.
11. Comments made by Ms Dorries on her blog suggested
that she spent the majority of her weekends in the constituency,
whilst she had told the Commissioner that nearly all weekends
were spent in her main home.
Ms Dorries explained to the Commissioner that her blog contained
fiction and "poetic licence" as well as fact, and that
she used it to reassure her constituents of her absolute commitment
to the constituency.
She had also been concerned to maintain "some degree of a
private life". She stated that, although she was often in
the constituency at weekends, as she had said on her blog, that
did not mean she slept there.
12. During the course of his investigation, the
Commissioner found that Ms Dorries had not declared to the Department
of Resources two changes to the address of her main home. She
had left her original main home in January 2007 when she separated
from her then husband. After that, she rented properties in Stratford-on-Avon,
spending time in three different rented properties before buying
a home in the Cotswolds, some two years and nine months after
leaving her initial main home. Only the second of the three rental
properties was formally declared to the Department of Resources.
13. Ms Dorries told the Commissioner that she
had kept the Department informed at all times, and that she had
taken advice from the Department "every single step of the
way". She said the Department had advised her that she did
not need to change her designated main address until she knew
where her new permanent home would be. 
The Department informed the Commissioner that it was "entirely
possible" that Ms Dorries had been advised in that way, but
that it would have regarded that situation as "strictly temporary".
It was only after a request from the Department that Ms Dorries
informed it of the second of her three addresses.
14. Ms Dorries told the Commissioner that she
had initially regarded the move to the rented home as temporary.
She also explained that the omission had happened at a time when
she had to deal with "massive upheaval" in her family
life, and had been under considerable work pressure in her Parliamentary
role. She had launched a major campaign to change abortion law,
"which took over almost every day of my life." She had
also been "one of the four MPs mentioned in the No 10 Smeargate
e-mails [...] which resulted in an extraordinary amount of invasive
media attention, adding more stress to what was already a very
tense and difficult situation." There had also been health
problems in her close family.
15. The Commissioner comments:
I agree with the Department that it would be unreasonable
to expect Members to notify the Department of a change in the
designation of their main home in the immediate aftermath of a
domestic upheaval which required them to leave that home. [...]
The length of that initial period [after which a declaration should
be made] depends on personal circumstances. In Ms Dorries' case
it seems to me that that initial period should have ended soon
after the signing of the rental agreement for her first property
in Stratford-upon-Avon in January 2007. [...] Of course, like
any person, her personal circumstances could have changed during
any of those years, as they did for the final rental. But the
prospect of such a possible change should not absolve a Member
from the responsibility of keeping up to date the formal notification
to the Department of the location of their main home.
The Commissioner concludes that Ms Dorries breached
the rules by failing to notify the Department of either her first
or third rented main home. He finds no evidence that her omissions
had any effect on the claims which Ms Dorries made against her
He does not regard the breach as serious.
16. The Commissioner comments in his memorandum
on the length of time Ms Dorries took to provide some information
he requested. He notes that it took her fourteen weeks to supply
an estimate of the number of nights she spent in each of her properties
after his initial request, and six months to supply a consistent
estimate. He records his disappointment at the fact Ms Dorries
did not recognise that such estimates were necessary to his investigation.
The Commissioner expresses the view that Ms Dorries was unrealistic
in expecting her right to privacy to extend to concealing the
"broad details" of her accommodation arrangements, whilst
claiming the Parliamentary accommodation allowance to which she
was entitled. The
Commissioner accepts Ms Dorries' explanation of the comments she
made on her blog, but notes that they "provided a misleading
impression of her arrangements", as did her comments about
her use of the constituency home reported in the newspaper article
which was referred to in the original complaint.
The Commissioner also states that his inquiries were "complicated
and extended" by Ms Dorries' criticisms of neighbour 1.
17. The Commissioner records that he has submitted
a memorandum to the Committee on this case "principally so
as to reinforce the importance I attach to Members responding
promptly, fully and openly to the questions which I necessarily
ask of them so that I can judge a Member's conduct on the basis
of the best evidence available".
Ms Dorries' evidence
18. Ms Dorries wrote to the Committee clerks
and has confirmed that she would like her letter to be treated
as evidence to the Committee. With regard to her failure to declare
the two changes of rented main home address, she writes:
[the Commissioner] has described this breach as not
serious; however, it is a breach. At the time I was in the midst
of dealing with a number of very serious personal issues. My prime
concern at this time was the management of my case load and maintaining
my constituency and Parliamentary duties. I regret that certain
elements of paperwork did not receive due attention and I would
like to wholeheartedly and most sincerely apologise for this breach
of House rules.
19. Ms Dorries goes on to note that the memorandum
from the Commissioner states that her main home is "apparently"
still in the Cotswolds. She asks for that wording to be removed,
as it "suggests doubt ... of which there is none."
20. Ms Dorries also takes issue with the comments
made by the Commissioner about the length of time she took to
supply the information he requested. She asks for these comments
to be removed, saying that:
[the Commissioner] did not ask for information regarding
a neighbour at my main home location until a considerable time
l into the inquiry. I was incredibly frustrated at the length
the inquiry took [...] fifteen months is much too long a time
period to sustain without personal ill effect. I did inform the
Standards Commissioner some three months ago that I was going
to raise with the Committee my concern that this inquiry had taken
so long, however, it appears many inquires take this length of
21. Finally, Ms Dorries takes issue with the
Commissioner's comments about her use of her blog, where he says
that it "gave information to its readers, including Ms Dorries'
constituents and party supporters, which provided a misleading
impression of her arrangements as the Member of Parliament for
Ms Dorries says that the comments are "strongly worded and
22. We agree with the Commissioner that Ms Dorries
has shown that her constituency home was indeed her second home,
and we believe he is therefore correct in deciding not to uphold
the original complaint.
23. We agree with the Commissioner that Ms Dorries
did breach the rules of the House when she failed to declare the
addresses of her first and third rented main homes to the Department
of Resources. We understand that at such a difficult time, the
completion of a declaration form would not have been foremost
in anybody's mind; however, once Ms Dorries had signed a rental
agreement for a year, she ought to have declared her new address.
She should also have declared her third rented main home. The
rules of the Green Book are clear on this requirement. We note
that the Commissioner found no evidence that those omissions had
had any effect on Ms Dorries' claims against her Parliamentary
allowances. We agree with him that this breach of the rules was
not a serious one, and we are pleased that Ms Dorries has apologised
for it "wholeheartedly and sincerely". We make no recommendation
on this point.
24. Ms Dorries does not agree with the comments
made by the Commissioner about her use of her blog. She states
that his description of comments made on the blog as "misleading"
is "strongly worded and incorrect." We accept that Ms
Dorries used the blog to reassure her constituents of her commitment
to them, and also to protect her own privacy. We do not feel,
however, that the Commissioner's comment is unfair. There are
discrepancies between some of the information that appeared on
Ms Dorries' blog and the information she supplied to the Commissioner
during the investigation. The Commissioner was quite correct in
seeking an explanation of the differences, in order to form a
judgement about the complaint. It is right that he sets out in
his memorandum his conclusions about which information he could
25. We understand that Ms Dorries feels that
some of the information in the Commissioner's memorandum about
her family breaches their right to privacy. We are sympathetic
to this concern and we respect the right of Ms Dorries and her
family to a private life. However, we consider that all the information
which the Commissioner records in his memorandum is necessary
to explain why he reached the conclusion he did. We also note
that, when the Commissioner wrote to Ms Dorries at the start of
his inquiry, he included a copy of a note of guidance. The note
includes the following explanation:
The Commissioner will include in his report the Member's
version of events and views, both in the body of the report and
as annexes. Any evidence which a Member supplies can therefore
be expected to become public, although the Committee is normally
sympathetic to requests for the deletion of confidential and personal
information where it can protect privacy without jeopardising
the public interest in knowing the facts on which the Committee
has based its conclusions.
Ms Dorries should, therefore, have been aware that
information she sent to the Commissioner would probably become
26. Finally, we note that Ms Dorries feels that
the Commissioner's comments about the length of time it took her
to supply information she requested are unfair. However, we agree
with the Commissioner that fourteen weeks was too long to provide
initial estimates of the number of nights Ms Dorries spent at
each home. We also note that it took Ms Dorries some time to resolve
conflicts and lack of clarity in the answers she provided. The
Commissioner states that he has submitted his memorandum to the
Committee "principally so as to reinforce the importance
I attach to Members responding promptly, fully and openly to the
questions which I necessarily ask of them so that I can judge
a Member's conduct on the basis of the best evidence available."
We agree with the Commissioner that prompt, full and open responses
to the Commissioner's inquiries are of great importance and we
take this opportunity to remind Members of that fact.
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Appendix 2 Back
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Appendix 2 Back
See www.parliament.uk/documents/pcfs/pcfsprocednote3.pdf, paragraph
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