Cornwall MP denies breaking rules by claiming expenses for beer mats plot to collect voters' data

Derek Thomas spent £500 of taxpayers' cash getting the beermats printed
-Credit: (Image: No credit)


A Cornwall MP has refuted allegations of misusing expenses to gather voter data for the Conservativeww election drive, it has been revealed. Derek Thomas is among a number of Tory MPs who have implemented questionnaires, surveys and petitions on their official websites - a tactic that collects personal details from individuals which can later be utilised for targeted campaign advertising.

The rules explicitly prohibit MPs from claiming expenses for such activities. However, it has now emerged that Mr Thomas billed £500 in expenses for the production of beer mats that promoted his "Pub Awards" initiative.

He encouraged constituents to vote for their preferred local pub in St Ives, with the beer mats featuring a link and QR code that directed patrons to his Conservative Party-affiliated website. Although nominations for the "awards" concluded in January, no winner has been announced thus far.

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Mr Thomas, who is seeking re-election to the St Ives constituency which also covers Penzance, west Cornwall, Helston and and the Lizard, claims that he deleted emails obtained via the survey in January and said that the campaign's objective was to highlight the work of Pub Aid, the Mirror reports. Despite these claims, the beer mats make no reference to Pub Aid.

The MP has regularly employed similar surveys on his site, all formatted with a disclaimer informing participants: "By completing and submitting this survey, you agree... that Derek Thomas and the Conservative Party can use the contact information you provide to keep you updated via email and telephone on this and other issues until further notice."

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In response to the allegations, Mr Thomas stated: "This was a campaign raising awareness of PubAid, as part of my work championing local pubs. The emails were deleted following the completion of the campaign in January. This claim was submitted to IPSA (Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority) as per normal practice and processes."

It comes after fellow Tory Andrew Jones was found in breach of expenses watchdog IPSA's code of conduct, after hosting a survey on his taxpayer-funded website to support his campaign activity. The Guido Fawkes website revealed he'd hosted a "Health Survey" on his site for six months, which collected data from voters.

He was given a slap on the wrist by the watchdog and told the remove the survey immediately.

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