Crawley MP accused of 'cowardice' over union cash claims

The leader of Crawley Borough Council has accused the town’s MP of cowardice after he made allegations of wrongdoing while speaking in Parliament.

Addressing the House of Commons on Thursday (May 12), Conservative Henry Smith said he had evidence that Labour’s Peter Lamb had changed a council contract in return for financial support from the union Unite when he stood as a parliamentary candidate in 2018.

Mr Lamb said he entirely refuted the accusation.

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Mr Smith told fellow MPs: “The current leader of Crawley Borough Council, when he was a parliamentary candidate, arranged for a housing contract that did not include Unite the Union.

“Unite the Union then said that it was going to withhold funding from his parliamentary campaign.

“That resulted – at a cost of over £150,000 to the taxpayer – in the council having to renegotiate the housing contract to include Unite the Union in it.”

While Mr Smith said he would be referring the matter to the district auditor, Mr Lamb challenged him to produce his evidence.

In a statement published under the council’s logo, he said: “Making unsubstantiated allegations about political opponents while hiding behind parliamentary privilege isn’t public service, it’s cowardice.”

Henry Smith speaking in the House of Commons

Parliamentary privilege allows MPs to essentially say whatever they like in the halls of power, without fear of legal comeback.

So they can make damaging allegations that would usually be classed as defamatory, no matter how flimsy their proof.

Mr Lamb added: “You have produced none of the evidence you claim to have been sent.

“There can be no evidence because at no time would I ever have agreed to change a contract in return for union funding.

“Yet, despite this fact, you have abused your position to drag my name through the mud.”

Both Mr Smith and Mr Lamb were approached for further comment, with the latter saying: “Let’s see if he’s prepared to repeat the same claim outside of the Commons or produce whatever it is he thinks he has.”

Last week Labour secured a slender majority at CBC, finishing with 18 seats compared to the Conservatives’ 17. Mr Lamb announced he was standing down.