Poplar and Limehouse MP Jim Fitzpatrick in paper apology

AN east London MP has been forced to fork out more than �500 for an expenses blunder – which could have cost him just �24.

Poplar and Limehouse MP Jim Fitzpatrick was last week ordered to apologise and pay �557 to Parliament after using the wrong allowance to pay for stationery.

Fitzpatrick had sent out 200 letters to constituents in July 2009 inviting them to a coffee morning at a local primary school to discuss crime and anti-social behaviour with police.

The letters were printed on House of Commons stationary and pre-paid envelopes. However, under tough expenses rules, they should have been funded by the MP’s communications allowance, the Commons Standards and Privileges Committee found.

Pre-paid envelopes and stationery can only be used to reply to constituents who have already contacted the MP, with a separate, cash-limited entitlement known as Communications Expenditure used to pay for unsolicited correspondence.

At the time, a complaint about the breach was made by Conservative Councillor Peter Golds.

MP Fitzpatrick could have resolved the blunder immediately by accepting he had breached the rules, apologising and repaying �24. But he refused to do so in the weeks before the May General Election.

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In a report the committee said it was “clear... that Mr Fitzpatrick calculated that, if he accepted he had breached the rules and apologised for that breach, the information could be used against him by his political opponents in the General Election campaign which was then imminent.”

This week MP Fitzpatrick said: “I accept the conclusion of the Committee on Standards and Privileges, and I will be apologising in writing to the House of Commons through the Committee for breaching the rules on use of stationery and for delaying the resolution of the matter until after the election. I will be repaying the entire �557 cost of the misused stationery.

“I challenged the complaint made against me by a Conservative councillor as far as I could because I felt my oversight did not deserve to be classified as a ‘breach of rules’ in the same way as those of MPs who committed far more serious and now notorious transgressions.”