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Tue, 11 August 2020

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Former Labour MP Laura Pidcock ordered to pay back thousands by Commons watchdog over ‘party-political’ letters

Former Labour MP Laura Pidcock ordered to pay back thousands by Commons watchdog over ‘party-political’ letters

The former Labour MP has apoligised for the mistake

2 min read

The Commons standards watchdog has ordered former Labour MP Laura Pidcock to pay back thousands of pounds over a party-political mail campaign.

The Commissioner on Standards said Ms Pidcock, who lost her seat in the 2019 election, had breached Commons rules after she altered a letter informing people about changes for over 75's TV licenses to make it "party-political in tone".

The probe was launched after constituents in her North West Durham seat complained the correspondence, which had originally been drawn up by the Parliamentary Research Service, had been amended by the then-Labour MP to accuse the Government of "betrayal" and "sleight of hand".

The letter, which was sent to around 5,000 elderly constituents in the run-up to the 2019 election, added: "Of course, the Government is blaming the BBC... It was sleight of hand by the Government."

She added: "This Tory Government has overseen the scrapping of free TV licenses for the over-75s, despite their manifesto commitment...

"This is a betrayal of older citizens... I will be pressing the Government."

But the Commissioner concluded that the comments had "resulted in her mailing becoming party-political in tone and content, and no longer neutral or objective", and ordered her to pay back £3,835 for the use of Commons stationary and postage.

Responding to the ruling, Ms Pidcock apologised for the "honest mistake" and agreed to pay back the funds.

"I am sorry if they way in which I communicated this was not allowed under the rules and I will accept your ruling and will also pay back the House for the resources used for this communication," she said.

"This was an honest mistake and were I still in Parliament, one which would not be repeated."

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