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Press Release – MP challenged over ‘smear’ campaign

Chesterfield MP Paul Holmes has been challenged to come clean over his expenses in a public debate after an extraordinary letter in which the MP made unsubstantiated claims that his family had been the target of a smear campaign.
Toby Perkins, Labour’s Parliamentary candidate for Chesterfield has written an open letter to Mr Holmes calling for answers to a series of questions that Mr Holmes has so far declined to answer.
In the letter, which is reproduced in full, Mr Holmes is asked to clarify the full facts surrounding the £9,500 payment he received which allegedly resulted in an increased bill for the taxpayer; about the employment arrangements that resulted in both Mr Holmes wife and daughter being employed at the taxpayers expense; and about his controversial claims for cameras and repair work to his taxpayer funded office.
The storm erupted after Mr Holmes sent a letter to residents in Chesterfield and Staveley falsely claiming that his wife had been the victim of a smear campaign, allegedly conducted ‘verbally by ‘persons unknown’.
Toby Perkins said: “I have written to Mr Holmes in an effort to finally discover the truth about his expenses. Public money is a public matter.
Rather than come clean he is attacking us for trying to get to the truth. it is not a smear to say that he is one of the very few MP’s to employ more than one member of their own family, it is a fact.
He appears to be trying to erect a smokescreen to keep his dealings hidden, in contrast to other local members who have been entirely transparent. He then made a series of bogus claims about the Labour Party campaign that were offensive and hurtful in an attempt to avoid answering the questions that we posed. Now I am calling on the local media to facilitate a question and answer session so that Chesterfield people can finally discover the truth about the claims their MP has made, and I hope that Mr Holmes will not shirk  this challenge.
ENDS
OPEN LETTER TO PAUL HOLMES MP
Paul Holmes MP
Liberal Democrats
69 West Bars
CHESTERFIELD
S40 3BR
Dear Mr Holmes,
I was horrified to be shown a copy of a letter that you are sending to people in Chesterfield and Staveley claiming that I had run a ‘smear campaign’ against you and your family, and that I would be pleased to hear that your wife was retiring due to ill health.
I wish your wife well in her retirement and in any future health battles she has to fight.  To suggest otherwise is deeply offensive, hurtful, and you know it to be untrue. You appear to be continuing to muddy the waters surrounding your own expenses by making ludicrous and unfounded claims about my campaign. You also seem to be answering your own questions rather than those that we have actually asked.
All we have ever wanted is for you to demonstrate transparency to the people of Chesterfield about this issue.
Let me be clear about the questions that you have still failed to answer on your so–called ‘fact sheet’:
  1. You admit receiving a cash payment of about £9,500 from the owners of your taxpayer funded flat in London. Did this result in the taxpayer paying ‘substantially more for [your] second home’ as claimed in the Daily Telegraph? Can you confirm the total rent bill paid by the taxpayer in 2005 and 2009?
  2. Did you report this payment to the parliamentary authorities before the expenses scandal and if not, why not? Why do you need the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards to tell you whether or not a cash payment for you that leads to a higher tax bill for the taxpayer is wrong? Why have you not already repaid this money as a matter of principle?
  3. If the taxpayer pays your rent isn’t it obvious that the payment should also go back to the taxpayer?
  4. You say that it has never been a secret that you were one of the very few Members of Parliament to employ more than one member of your family. Can you tell me where you publicised this prior to the expenses scandal? Can you also explain where the jobs were advertised that your family members were successful in securing?
  5. Why did the taxpayer pay for the repair to your rented office after flood damage. Surely, this should be covered by insurance or by the landlord?
  6. How do you justify the taxpayer paying for four cameras?
  7. If elected to Parliament, I have pledged to publish my expenses each month and to publish my tax return annually, so that all the payments I receive are transparent, why will you not do the same?
The forthcoming General Election is one of the most important since the second world war. People deserve to know the truth about the people who hope to represent them.
We have spent the opening weeks of 2010 delivering a newspaper detailing Chesterfield people’s experience of the NHS, crime and pensioner payments. You have resorted to dishonest and unsubstantiated claims and a deliberate attempt to mislead the public under the cloak of transparency.
These attacks are clearly libellous. However instead of resorting to legal redress, I challenge you to a debate on your expense claims, to be witnessed, covered and reported on by our local media. This will allow Chesterfield people to finally learn the truth about your expenses and make up their own minds.
You have for eight years held a privileged position as MP for our great town, I hope that for the rest of the campaign you will act in a manner befitting that great honour.
Yours sincerely,
Toby Perkins
Parliamentary Candidate, Chesterfield Labour Party

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I am Toby Perkins, Labour's Member of Parliament for Chesterfield. If you would like to get in touch with me, my office is open and can be reached by phone on 01246 386 286. I also hold regular surgeries so that constituents can meet me and I can take up their concerns. If you would like to make an appointment then please do contact my office. Thank you for visiting.

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