MP defends voting rate

Hartlepool MP Iain Wright
Hartlepool MP Iain Wright

HARTLEPOOL MP Iain Wright has defended having the second lowest voting attendance out of 31 North East MPs.

Mr Wright responded to 59 per cent of votes in the Houses of Parliament since the new Government came into force last May, which is the second lowest in the region ahead of Middlesbrough MP Sir Stuart Bell’s 42 per cent.

But Mr Wright said being a politician is “not all about voting” and that as the front-bench spokesperson on education he does not have a say on issues around the subject.

He said: “Voting is not all a member of Parliament does.

“As a front bench spokesperson on education, that lowers the average due to a policy of not voting on those issues.

“In terms of speaking in the chamber, I am higher than average and I take my role very seriously. I believe I am at the higher end of those asking questions in Parliament.”

New details also reveal how some MPs are making thousands of pounds doing work outside of their office – but local MPs are not among them.

Mr Wright was paid £225 for answering surveys, when agencies ask politicians their views on various topics, but donated the full amount to charity, saying he will always put extra money “back into the constituency”.

His fellow Labour MP Grahame Morris, for Easington, also made £300 in surveys that he donated to charity and was given £1,000 by Sir Joseph Hotung to pay for a trip to the West Bank, in Palestine.

Mr Morris, who has a vote attendance of 80 per cent, said: “I went to the West Bank and East Jerusalem as part of an all-party organisation to see what was happening there, and it was all paid for by Sir Joseph, who is a bit of a philanthropist.

“It’s very difficult anyway for an MP to give 100 per cent and hold people to account if they have outside interests. Anything I do aside from being an MP I try and do for free or working on behalf of the constituency.”

Phil Wilson, Labour MP for Sedgefield, recorded £7,500 in political donations but said he never directly received the cash as it went straight to the local party to fight election campaigns.

Mr Wilson, who took part in 80.5 per cent of votes, added: “I have always just wanted to focus on being an MP, that’s what I get paid to do. It’s up to others if they want to do other things and as long as they declare it, I am fine with that.”

Stockton South MP Alex Cunningham made £855 from surveys that were donated to charity and the Labour Party.

He also accepted a £2,490 political donation from the Unison trade union and is director of Tees Valley Communicators.

Mr Cunningham, who made 78 per cent of votes, was unavailable to comment when the Mail tried to contact him.

Mr Wright, Mr Morris and Mr Cunningham also declared first class Grand Central train passes, which help them get to and from the capital at no expense to the taxpayer.