UK Politics

Labour MP sorry for placing Tunbridge Wells in wrong county

Labour MP Steve Reed
Image caption Mr Reed said he had enjoyed many happy trips to Tunbridge Wells

A Labour MP has acknowledged that he "made a slip" when he suggested Tunbridge Wells was in Surrey.

Local government spokesman Steve Reed got his geography mixed up in a debate on the allocation of English council funding for the next four years.

He later told the BBC that he had had "many happy trips" to the Kent town in the past and had simply made a mistake.

Communities Secretary Greg Clark joked that if Mr Reed aspired to be a minister a "bit of geography may help".

The light-hearted exchange came during a heated debate on the government's proposed financial settlement for councils in England, announced by Mr Clark, the MP for Tunbridge Wells.

Responding to Mr Clark's statement, Mr Reed said Surrey was the council receiving the largest slice of a £300m hardship fund to ameliorate the impact of spending cuts, adding mistakenly that this "is where the secretary of state just happens to be an MP".

Mr Reed corrected himself following prompting by Conservative MPs.

Reflecting on the error afterwards, Mr Reed said it was one of those things that occasionally happened.

"I wrongly said it was in Surrey. It is in Kent. I know it is in Kent. I have been down there before. I just got that one wrong, I'm afraid."

The MP for Croydon North, who grew up in Hertfordshire before moving to south London, said he did not believe the comments were symbolic of Labour's problems to make headway in the south of England, outside of London.

"I go camping and on day trips around the south of England. My family all live there. I love the area and feel part of it. Every now and then you make a slip."

MPs approved the government's plans for 2016 to 2020 by 315 votes to 209 despite opposition claims that proposed spending cuts of more than 6% a year would "rip the heart out of communities" and that Tory councils have been prioritised for "transitional help" ahead of May's elections.