- Parliamentary Commissioner finds MP guilty of using public funds for political purposes
- Misleading information given by MP during investigation
- Apology demanded for two local councillors named in rule-breaking mailing
An MP has been found guilty of misusing public money for political campaigning. Maria Caulfield MP was found to have breached the rules by the Parliamentary Commissioner on Standards. The investigation followed a complaint about a mailing Ms Caulfield sent to residents in Newhaven in May in which she named two Liberal Democrat councillors.
The letter was during the consultation on the East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service's Integrated Risk Management Plan. Ms Caulfield's response to the Commissioner contains a series of false statements. This includes claiming that Newhaven was the 'only town affected' in the constituency when in fact Lewes, Seaford and Barcombe were all affected. She also wrongly claims that Newhaven is represented by 'Conservative, Labour, Green and Independent councillors' when in fact there are no Green or Labour councillors representing the town at any level.
Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Spokesperson, James MacCleary, who represents Newhaven on the District and Town Councils, said: "This is clearly very disappointing to hear. Not only has Maria Caulfield abused public money to try and score political points, but she has then attempted to mislead the Commissioner.
"We know that Ms Caulfield does not live in the constituency, but you would expect her to know that important communities like Seaford, Lewes and Barcombe are in her patch. It is also disappointing that Ms Caulfield who claims to take such an interest and has an office in our town is so unaware of its political make up and representation. This may explain why she gets her facts wrong about Newhaven.
"The least we should expect here is a public apology for misusing public funds. It is a very serious matter regardless of the scale. Unfortunately, we are more likely to get a list of excuses."
Councillor Carolyn Lambert, who represents Seaford and is Vice Chair of East Sussex Fire Authority, said: “I am pleased that the Commissioner has made this finding. Maria Caulfield has repeatedly made inaccurate comments about Liberal Democrat members of the Fire Authority. In addition, she continues to repeat her untrue comments about being asked to lobby for further funding for the Fire and Rescue Service, including at a recent briefing meeting.
"We are still waiting to hear about when we can expect funding from government to reverse years of cuts to funding for fire services across the country - including East Sussex.
"It is important that the public can trust their MP to give them accurate information and not to mislead them.
"I now look forward to receiving an apology from Ms Caulfield."
The full report from the Commissioner which includes all the evidence can be found here: https://www.parliament.uk/globalassets/documents/pcfs/rectifications/ms-maria-caulfield-mp-rectification.pdf