Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Kirkbride Hangs on as Cameron Turns Up Heat

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Kirkbride Hangs on as Cameron Turns Up Heat

Article excerpt

TORY backbencher Julie Kirkbride vowed to fight on last night despite mounting pressure for her to quit over controversial expenses.

Just hours after David Cameron warned she had "questions to answer", the Bromsgrove MP broke cover to defend her second home claims and employment of relatives.

She also risked infuriating the Conservative leadership by saying she would not attend a meeting of angry constituents this weekend - even though Mr Cameron had urged her to face down critics.

The developments came amid speculation that scores more MPs could have to step down over the expenses scandal.

As Labour's new "Star Chamber" disciplinary panel began considering its first cases, GMB general secretary Paul Kenny said at least 50 Labour MPs could go, and insisted ministers must not be spared.

Ms Kirkbride said her expenses arrangements were "quite different" from those of her husband Andrew MacKay, who has said he will step down as Bracknell MP at the next general election.

Mr MacKay quit as Mr Cameron's political aide when it emerged that was claiming pounds 23,000 a year for the couple's London home, despite not having a property in his constituency.

He has since bowed to local voters' anger by announcing he will not seek re-election.

Asked whether she had known how her husband was structuring his expenses claims, Ms Kirkbride said: "He was told to do that by the Fees Office shortly after we got married, and he took that advice.

"I was aware that he had that advice, and at the time I was a new MP, taking lots of advice from him on a whole series of issues. I did not question it. We both regret that now because Andrew has given up the career that he loves because he made an error of judgment." Ms Kirkbride, who was simultaneously claiming allowances against the couple's home in her constituency, said she "understood" why people were angry.

But she went on: "I don't believe I have broken any rules at all. …

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