MP hits back after petition reaches 65k

MP Mark Simmonds has been criticised for claiming back the costs of advertising his contact details
MP Mark Simmonds has been criticised for claiming back the costs of advertising his contact details

MP Mark Simmonds has hit back at a 65,000 signature petition calling for him to apologise for claiming back £10,000 spent on sponsorship and advertising on expenses.

The petition follows a story in the Daily Mirror which stated that the Conservative Member of Parliament has been reimbursed more than £10,000 by the taxpayer to cover the cost of advertising hoardings at Boston United and Skegness Town football clubs, plus regular slots on Pilgrim Hospital Radio, and a poster at Boston Rugby Club, since becoming an MP in 2001.

Mr Simmonds called the story ‘ridiculous’ - arguing that this advertising acts as a crucial part of his role in the community.

He said: “It is utterly ridiculous. A significant number of vulnerable people have rightly contacted me using the information detailed.

“Next I will be asked to refund the postage and paper I use to resolve their cases.

“There is absolutely no point having an expensive independent parliamentary expenses authority if their judgment is going to be ignored.”

The petition was set up by Freiston Shore resident John Ravenscroft and gained the 65,000 signatures in six days – gaining 50,000 after three.

Mr Ravenscroft said he accepted Mr Simmonds had not done anything against the rules but set the petition up ‘on principal’ after several stories about MPs.

He said he was mainly focussed on the Pilgrim Hospital sponsorship.

He said: “The word ‘sponsorship’ makes it sound like he’s giving out of his own pocket.”

“I do see the argument that MPs have got to let people know how to contact them, but there are other ways of doing that now than advertising on hospital radios.”

He said he would like Mr Simmonds to at least pay the amount for the sponsorship back and would like to further see a change in the rules.

The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) told The Standard that Mr Simmonds had acted ‘within the spirit of the rules’.