New information has come to light which reveals a total of £61,460 has been spent after the remarks made by Michelle Donelan when she falsely accused an academic of supporting Hamas.

UK taxpayers have paid out more than £34,000 of this cost, according to an exclusive report by the Guardian, which is more than double the sum the government had previously admitted.

The Chippenham MP and Secretary of State for Science, Innovation and Technology called for an investigation into Prof Kate Sang of Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, in October last year after she accused her of expressing support for Hamas.

Ms Donelan withdrew her comments on Tuesday, March 5, saying she fully accepted Prof Sang was "not an extremist, a supporter of Hamas or other proscribed organisation."

The Department for Science, Innovation and Technology initially disclosed that a “nominal” sum had been paid, and on Wednesday, March 6, it was reported the total cost was £15,000.

However, the Guardian has now confirmed that a letter from a department official, Sarah Munby, to the shadow science secretary, Peter Kyle, has revealed a much higher bill.

In addition to the £15,000 libel settlement, taxpayers covered £7,785 for internal legal advice as well as £11,600 for external private legal counsel.

According to PA, it was Ms Donelan’s intervention which triggered the investigation by UKRI, which had appointed the academics to its advisory group on equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI).

Details obtained under freedom of information rules by website Research Professional News found the UKRI investigation had cost £23,280, including VAT, putting the total cost to the taxpayer of Ms Donelan’s letter at almost £60,000.

Last month, a spokesperson for Ms Donelan said: “There is an established precedent under multiple administrations that Ministers are provided with legal support and representation where matters relate to their conduct and responsibilities as a Minister, as was the case here.

"The Secretary of State received the appropriate advice from relevant officials at all times.

"A sum of £15,000 was paid without admitting any liability.

"This approach is intended to reduce the overall costs to the taxpayer that could result from protracted legal action, no matter what the result would have been."

Labour and the Liberal Democrats have called for the MP to pay the bill for the damages and legal costs herself.

Two Liberal Democrat prospective party candidates in Wiltshire, Brian Mathew and Sarah Gibson, have demanded a public inquiry into the use of taxpayers’ money.

They have also called for the Chippenham MP to resign.

Ms Donelan’s team has been approached for further comment.