MP to apologise over party survey on Commons paper

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A leading Blairite MP is to apologise to the House of Commons authorities after it emerged she had used public money to send a Labour party circular to her constituents.

Siobhan McDonagh, sister of Labour's general secretary Margaret McDonagh, sent out letters on Commons notepaper to residents in her Mitcham and Morden seat. The MP's office had included a Labour questionnaire asking how well the Government was doing on a range of issues including schools, the NHS and crime.

Constituents, who were also asked if they thought Tony Blair was a strong or weak leader and which party they would support at the next general election, were asked to reply to the Mitcham and Morden Labour Party via its freepost address in south London.

The Conservatives claimed the affair was embarrassing to the party as a whole as Ms McDonagh had broken strict Commons rules forbidding the use of Parliamentary stationery and post-paid envelopes for party political purposes.

Under Commons rules, policed by the Serjeant at Arms, MPs are forbidden from sending circulars which are unsolicited. The House rules also state that no letters can be sent which have any connection with "advocating the membership of a political party or supporting the return of any person to public office".

John Redwood, former Tory minister and MP for Wokingham, said that Ms McDonagh's office ought to have known the rules about use of official stationery and postage.

"We know that Blair's babes don't like the House of Commons and don't do very much in it, but she should have found out by now that free post is not there for self-promotion," he said. "I hope she will be reimbursing the taxpayer."

When contacted by The Independent, Ms McDonagh's Commons office admitted that an error had been made and the MP would make amends. A maximum of 200 such circulars would have been sent out.

A spokesman for Ms McDonagh said: "It is clearly a mistake. This was done from the constituency offices. Siobhan will be contacting the Serjeant at Arms as soon as the recess is over to offer an apology and to offer recompense for envelope use."