Conservative MP Maria Caulfield has spoken out after calls were made for her to pay back almost £8,000 in severance pay.

The MP for Lewes, who served as health minister under Boris Johnson, received £7.920 after she was removed from her post when Liz Truss became Prime Minister in September 2022.

However, the former nurse was given a new job in the Department of Health and Social Care just seven weeks later once Rishi Sunak entered Number 10.

Ms Caulfield was able to keep her severance pay, but the Liberal Democrats are calling for her to “do the decent thing” and hand the money back to taxpayers.

Wendy Chamberlain, chief whip for the Liberal Democrats, said: “This is a slap in the face for taxpayers who have had to pick up the tab for an endless revolving door of Conservative ministers.

“It may be within the rules but it is not within the spirit of them.

“Maria Caulfield should do the decent thing and hand this money back. It just shows that severance payment rules are not fit for purpose and are in urgent need of reform.”

Speaking to The Argus, Ms Caulfield said: “I was paid redundancy when I lost my job as a minister, as is the case of all ministers who are sacked.

“As constituents know, I have always given my annual pay rise to local charities since becoming an MP - the details of which I publish on my website annually.

“I have never taken a penny in personal expenses for travel or accommodation and I do not have a second home.”

An attempt to reform ministerial severance pay was rejected by the government earlier this month.

Ministers under the age of 65 are entitled to a payment amounting to a quarter of their ministerial salary if they are removed from their post and not appointed to a new position within three weeks.

Nearly £1 million was spent on ministerial severance pay during the political tumult in 2022.

Lewes, won by the Conservatives with a majority of almost 2,500 in 2019, is currently forecast to be won by the Liberal Democrats at the next general election, with the candidate James MacCleary.

Mr MacCleary said: "She really should just return the money or donate it to our local food banks."