Gainsborough MP Sir Edward Leigh has strongly refuted claims that he ‘spent more than £20,000 of taxpayers’ money asking parliamentary questions about a planned memorial near his London home’.
Since June 2017, the Conservative MP has asked 125 questions about the National Holocaust Memorial Centre and Learning Service – and just three written questions about his constituency, according to reports in the national press.
Sir Edward – who has publicly spoken out against the £50million project – addressed his questions to the Government’s Communities Department, which is responsible for the scheme.
According to the House of Commons, each written question costs £164, with 125 questions totalling £20,500.
Sir Edward’s London home is a short walk from the proposed memorial site in Victoria Tower Gardens, next to the Houses of Parliament. The Holocaust memorial was announced by former Prime Minister David Cameron and is due to be completed in 2021.
Its proposed location on the River Thames has caused some controversy, with some experts warning it will obstruct views of the Palace of Westminster.
In a letter to the press two years ago, Sir Edward said: “This site is already a heavily-trafficked area.
“The traffic and access pressure will overwhelm Millbank at a location not capable of accommodating such a volume of people and vehicles, especially coaches.
“The Palace and Abbey of Westminster are recognised by Unesco as a World Heritage Site and there is some danger that such a large project in Victoria Tower Gardens might threaten that designation.
“In addition, the plans call on building downwards beneath the ground of the park at a riverside location.”
Sir Edward told the Market Rasen Mail: “Written questions are a useful way of finding out information from central government, whereas local issues that require government action are much better highlighted on the floor of the House or in letters to, and meetings with, ministers. That’s why, for example, I have organised debates on the future of RAF Scampton and the Red Arrows, and met with ministers to discuss better funding for our Lincolnshire police.”
“The allegation that these questions cost £20,000 is totally bogus. Such an estimate would be based on an average including other MPs’ questions that would involve the collation of heaps and reams of information.
“The questions I asked would have been cheap to respond to because they were very simple and it would have taken civil servants mere minutes to find the correct answers.
“Most of the information requested should have been publicly available anyhow, and it is the job of MPs to hold central government to account on issues like protecting open spaces that have national resonance.”