A Black Country MP has called for the government to act after a claim that the leader of Sandwell Council requested that police arrest a local blogger who had criticised him.
James Morris, who represents Halesowen and Rowley Regis, made the call in Parliament in a question to the Leader of the House, Andrea Leadsom.
Council leader Steve Eling has now denied any allegations against him and said he would welcome an investigation based on factual information.
It comes almost a year after Mr Morris used his House of Commons’ privilege to demand that leader Steve Eling resign amid allegations of abuse of power, fraud and corruption at the authority.
Watch the video of the question being asked in the House of Commons
Speaking this morning (Thursday, January 10) in the Commons, Mr Morris called for a statement from the Department of Communities and Local Government on standards in the authority, saying: “Following my adjournment debate last year into Sandwell Council there are still many issues still outstanding in respect of standards and conduct of some councillors within that authority.
“Only last weekend The Times reported an email exchange between the leader of the council and West Midlands Police where Cllr Steve Eling called for the immediate arrest of a blogger who had criticised him and the council and stated that if this individual was not arrested the police would be ‘in contempt’ and it would be a matter for the Home Secretary.
“Could the Leader of the House find time for a minister for the Department of Communities and Local Government to come to the House and explain what the government is going to do to help my constituency of Rowley Regis understand what is going on within Sandwell Council?”
Andrea Leadsom MP, in response, said Mr Morris had raised ‘what sounds like a very concerning situation’ and urged him to raise the matter with the department directly.
In his question, Mr Morris referred to a report published by The Times newspaper alleging Cllr Eling had emailed police pressing for the blogger’s arrest. The request that was reportedly refused.
Cllr Eling, when contacted by the Local Democracy Reporting Service, said he would not comment on the Times story as it was subject to a formal complaint to the Independent Press Standards Organisation and he was awaiting its decision.
But he said he would welcome an investigation by a minister because it would set the record straight.
“At the end of the day people raise things on the floor of the House of Commons because they can do so with the privilege.
“If he had made those same allegations last year outside of Parliament I could have sued him.”
He added: “I would say that Morris’ allegations are wrong.
“I would expect a government minister coming back with a response to have one prepared by civil servants with proper factual information which will set the record straight.
“So if him raising this matter in the House of Commons results in a factual response being given, then that’s all to the better.”