A chocolatier was left questioning MPs’ commitment to supporting small businesses after being asked to give away chocolates at a Westminster event.

County Durham confectioner Zoë Rutter was excited to be invited by local MP Richard Holden to attend an event promoting small businesses at the Houses of Parliament next month.

But she was soon left questioning the event when she found out she’d not be able to sell her chocolates and would be left out of pocket by attending.

Zoë, 31, told the Echo: “At first, I was excited at the thought of taking my chocolates to the Houses of Parliament.

“But then I thought about it and I’d have to make 300 chocolates to give way, travel to London and probably have to stay overnight. It was going to cost me over £500.

The Northern Echo: Zoe runs her business from Coxhoe in County Durham.Zoe runs her business from Coxhoe in County Durham. (Image: SARAH CALDECOTT)

“I was told there weren’t any expenses. 

"When I said no and I explained I couldn't afford to do this, they asked if I could send the samples down with someone else.

“Then I asked if I could sell my chocolates and was told it was just a taster event.

“My problem isn’t the freebies, we have freebies in the shop. I just don’t understand how I’d benefit from it. The argument seems to be that it’s good for exposure.

“We hear everything about MPs having this expenses budget and everything, but I’d be expected to give away my stock.

“I’d really welcome the opportunity to talk to MPs about the different things they could do to support small businesses.”

The Coxhoe-based businesswoman opened shop in 2019 and now employs a small team making her handmade chocolates.

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She initially posted a video on TikTok asking customers for advice and was bombarded by those saying she shouldn’t attend.

@la.choc Replying to @FinaleFaye update🥰 tag your local and best small buisnesses! #smallbusiness #smallbusinesscheck #smallbusinessowner #supportasmallbusiness #foryoupage #fypシ゚viral #fyp #viral #mps #goverment ♬ original sound - La Chocolatrice

"All of the comments that I've read seem to be saying the same thing - that this is really out of touch and not at all in support of small businesses," she added.

The event is set to take place next month.

The Northern Echo contacted Richard Holden for comment.