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Michelle Donelan libel fees cost taxpayer £34,000

Minister for Tech Michelle Donelan

New figures have revealed that a libel case against Science Secretary, Michelle Donelan have cost the taxpayer more than £34k.

The Department for Science, Innovation and Technology had already confirmed that it had paid out £15k in damages, but the new figures show that there were £19k in costs. That included payments to internal government legal services and external council.

Heriot Watt University’s Professor Kate Sang took the action against Donelan after the MP accused her and another academic of sharing “extremist views” and expressing sympathy for Hamas after the 7th October attacks against Israel.

It related to a Tweet in which Prof Sang had written “this is disturbing” and linked to a Guardian article, describing the response to the Hamas attacks in the UK.

Donelan sent a letter to UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), to express her “disgust and outrage” about Prof Sang – the professor sat on its advisory board – she also Tweeted the letter.

The MP later said she accepted that Prof Sang’s comment was about the article as a whole, rather than the headline. She admitted that she had “misunderstood” the post and fully accepted that Sang was “not an extremist, a supporter of Hamas or other proscribed organisations”.

During a Lords committee appearance, Donelan admitted that she should have privately raised the concerns, rather than putting them on social media.

The government has previously defended using taxpayer’s money to pay the bill because her comments were made “in the course of her ministerial duties.”

This has been criticised Labour’s Shadow Science Secretary Peter Kyle. He said it was “slap in the face to hardworking families.”

“Instead of trying to cover up the true cost of her actions, Michelle Donelan should have had the decency to pay the money back to the taxpayer.”

Daisy Cooper, Liberal Democrat’s Deputy Leader added that she should pay the money herself:

“People’s taxes should not be used to bail out disgraced Conservative ministers.”

A government spokesperson added:

“In line with the established practice under multiple administrations of all political colours, ministers are provided with legal support and representation where matters relate to their conduct and responsibilities as a minister.”

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