Byline: Paul Waugh deputy Political editor
HUSBAND and wife MPs Andrew Mackay and Julie Kirkbride have been forced to repay more than [pounds sterling]60,000 as expenses watchdogs finally cracked down on their claims for public money.
Their massive payback, revealed for the first time today, follows months of criticism that the couple exploited the system even though they shared their main family home. Once known as Parliament's "golden couple", Mr Mackay was a key aide to David Cameron and Ms Kirkbride was expected to get a ministerial post before the expenses scandal erupted last year.
Both have now decided to quit the Commons. Their repayments, [pounds sterling]31,193 by Mr Mackay and [pounds sterling]29,243 by Ms Kirkbride, were among the highest disclosed in today's report by Sir Thomas Legg as MPs were hammered for overclaims and overpayments. The largest sums ordered to be repaid by sitting MPs, after appeals, were [pounds sterling]42,458 by Labour's Barbara Follett, [pounds sterling]36,250 by Tory Bernard Jenkin, [pounds sterling]29,398 by Tory John Gummer and [pounds sterling]24,878 by Tory Liam Fox.
Sir Paul Kennedy, who was put in charge of appeals by MPs, overturned a string of findings from Sir Thomas. Former cabinet minister Peter Lilley had a demand for [pounds sterling]41,057 from Sir Thomas overturned in its entirety.
Mr Mackay and Ms Kirkbride owned two properties, with each claiming one as their second home so that the couple had no main residence which was not funded by the taxpayer. The couple have a home in Vincent Square, Pimlico, and a flat in Ms Kirkbride's Bromsgrove constituency.
Mr Mackay claimed that his second home was in London, even though he had no property in his Bracknell constituency. Sir Thomas ruled that their arrangements "obtained a financial benefit for the couple which appears unintended under the Green Book rules, and as such contrary to the principles governing it".
Sir Thomas also asked Ms Kirkbride to repay [pounds sterling]2,584.26 of mortgage interest on an extension built so her brother could provide childcare, but this was overturned on appeal by Sir Paul.
The highest repayment by a minister came from Mrs Follett, a local …