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Dorries pledges to hand back nearly £17,000 mistakenly received as severance pay

Former Tory MP Nadine Dorries has said she will hand back more than £16,000 she mistakenly received in severance pay for being a Cabinet minister.

Ms Dorries received the money following her tenure as culture secretary under Boris Johnson, but under current rules it should not have been paid.

A departing minister is entitled to three months’ salary in lieu of notice but only those under 65 are eligible.

Ms Dorries turned 65 several months before leaving her Cabinet role.

Speaking on the BBC’s Sunday With Laura Kuenssberg, the former minister said she had only seen an email about the error on Friday and promised to pay it back “on Monday morning”.

“That means now everybody knows I’m not 49,” she joked.

“I’ll pay it back on Monday morning, there are no details in the email on how to do that but I will, I’m sure, find out. I was gutted.”

As first reported by The Times, Government accounts show she received £16,876 as an exit payout following her tenure under Mr Johnson.

Ms Dorries was MP for Mid Bedfordshire from 2005 to 2023 before she quit in protest at her exclusion from Mr Johnson’s resignation honours list.

Labour has recently pledged to reform ministerial severance pay rules if it wins power in the election this year after it emerged nearly £1 million was spent during last year’s political turmoil.

The Opposition says it would link payouts to time spent in office so that departing ministers get a quarter of their actual earnings over the previous 12 months instead of their final annual salary.

Ministers who leave their job while under investigation for misconduct or a breach of the rules would have their severance suspended too, and quashed if the claims are upheld under the plans.

The Government did not respond to a request for comment but Cabinet Office minister Alex Burghart said earlier this month: “Such payments should not apply where a person has attained the age of 65.

“If a former minister was incorrectly given a severance payment, the relevant department will contact the individual to recover the over-payment.”

Shadow attorney general Emily Thornberry said: “It comes to something when Nadine Dorries shows more moral leadership than her former Conservative colleagues.

“Those who have benefited from abuses of the broken ministerial severance system such as Peter Bone and Johnny Mercer should consider their consciences today. And the Prime Minister should immediately follow Labour’s plan to clean up Westminster by reforming the system as we have set out.”