Harpenden MP Peter Lilley resigns as patron of Herts Aid three weeks after dismissing petition
- Credit: Archant
Hitchin and Harpenden MP Peter Lilley has resigned as a patron of sexual health charity Herts Aid – only three weeks after dismissing a petition calling for him to do so.
The online petition was launched on March 15 after Mr Lilley voted for a £30-per-week cut to ESA payments for people in the Work-Related Activity Group, which it was argued would affect Herts Aid clients, thus making his patronage ‘untenable’.
Mr Lilley had dismissed calls for him to step down as ‘clearly party political’ and ‘a sad example of the increasing intolerance of the left in this country’ – but on Wednesday (6) the charity has received his letter of resignation.
It is not clear if the petition, which now has more than 340 signatures, played any role in his decision.
Suzanne Bannister, executive director of Herts Aid, told our sister paper the Comet: “Our trustees were concerned about what would seem to be a conflict between our charity and the ESA vote.
“We wrote to him about it and today have received his resignation.”
Mr Lilley wrote in his resignation letter that he had voted for the cuts after exchanging letters with the then-Secretary of State Iain Duncan Smith in February, and had been persuaded by his response.
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He attached a copy of Mr Duncan Smith’s reply to the letter of resignation ‘so that you can see the rationale behind the policy’.
He wrote: “I have been happy to serve as a patron of Herts Aid. Above all, I wanted to help raise awareness of the need for testing in view of my nephew’s tragic death from Aids.
“However, I cannot accept the idea implicit in your final paragraph that I should vote in parliament on lines that you or your committee approve. So, sadly, I herewith resign as patron.”
Ms Bannister said: “We accept this is party political and that he needs to be able to make his own decisions, but I think on this issue we are coming from very different positions.
“In the future I think we will keep politics out of patronage.
“Obviously we thank Mr Lilley for all his support over the years – he has given us a lot of support.”