MP denies breaking guidelines by claiming bills for beer mats voters’ information plot

A Tory MP has denied breaking rules by claiming expenses to help harvest voters’ data for the Conservative Party’s election campaign, it can be revealed.

Derek Thomas is one of dozens of Tories who have set up questionnaires, surveys and petitions on their websites – capturing personal information from the public that they can use to push out campaign ads in the future.

MPs are banned from claiming expenses for such schemes. But the Mirror has learned Mr Thomas claimed £500 in expenses to print beer mats to promote his “Pub Awards”.

He asked locals to nominate their favourite pub in his St Ives constituency – with the promotional beermats including a link and QR code directing drinkers to his Conservative Party website. Nominations for the “awards” closed in January. To date, he has not announced the winner.

Mr Thomas claims he deleted emails sourced through the survey in January, and said the campaign was to raise awareness of the organisation Pub Aid.

But Pub Aid is not mentioned on the beer mats. And Mr Thomas has frequently used similar surveys on his website, all of which use a standard format – warning users: “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.”

Mr Thomas said: “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 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.