Teesside Tory MPs make complaint against Labour’s Alex Cunningham

A row has erupted in Parliament between North East politicians which has led to an official complaint being made against one local MP.

Conservative MPs Simon Clarke of Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, and Jacob Young of Redcar, have jointly lodged an official complaint with the Speaker of the House of Commons in response to comments made in the chamber yesterday by Labour’s Stockton North MP Alex Cunningham.

The dispute has come as the result of Mr Cunningham’s question to Rishi Sunak during yesterday’s Prime Minister’s Questions, in which he asked if an inquiry would be set up to investigate the transfer of ownership of the shares of the Teesworks freeport company from public ownership to two businessmen.

Read more: Tees freeport: Call for transparency on Teesworks site ownership

“Taxpayers are set to lose tens of millions of pounds” as a result of the transfer of public assets, claimed Mr Cunningham, “all without a full and transparent procurement process.”

But Mr Clarke and Mr Young accused Mr Cunningham of using parliamentary privilege to make a series of “damaging insinuations”.

In response, the Labour MP said the North East Tories were ‘deflecting the issue of lack of transparency’ on the site and instead should be ‘supporting calls for greater openness about the workings of the site’.

Parliamentary privilege is a legal immunity for politicians to say whatever they like in the House of Commons chamber without fear of being sued for slander or libel. In 2011 parliamentary privilege was used to name Ryan Giggs as the holder of a super-injunction that prevented newspapers from reporting on an affair that he had had.

In response to Mr Cunningham’s comments yesterday, Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen told The Northern Echo: “I’d urge the member to park petty party politics and welcome the positive investments that is [sic] creating good quality well paid jobs that the people he is meant to represent will benefit from, instead of trying to smear with cheap political attacks that he wouldn’t dare say outside the Houses of Parliament.”

Mr Houchen is chair of the South Tees Development Corporation, the public body which transferred 90% of its shares in Teesworks to companies owned by businessmen Chris Musgrave and Martin Corney, at the end of 2021.

It’s understood that the transfer of the publicly-owned stake in the company which owns the former steelworks site was contingent on conditions being met by the property developers.

Read more: Plans for new hotel, shops and petrol station complex at North East industrial site​

In a statement last night, Mr Clarke said: “Together with Jacob Young, I have complained about his insinuations to the Speaker of the House of Commons. Indeed, I would challenge him to repeat what he said outside the protection of Parliamentary privilege because it would open him up to be sued.”

In their complaint to the Speaker, whose role includes maintaining order and punishing members who break rules, Mr Clarke and Mr Young said “all appropriate procurement processes were followed at the Teesworks site”.

Mr Cunningham said: “Rather than deflect on the issue of lack of transparency at the Teesworks site these Tory MPs should be supporting calls for greater openness about the workings of the site.”


If you want to read more great stories, why not subscribe to your Northern Echo for as little as £1.25 a week. Click here


#Teesside #Tory #MPs #complaint #Labours #Alex #Cunningham

Leave a Comment