UK Politics

Election spending claims 'serious', Conservative MP says

Douglas Carswell and Nigel Farage Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The Conservatives faced a series of by-election challenges from UKIP in 2014

A Conservative MP has said he will raise what he called "serious allegations" about the party's election spending with its ruling board.

Charles Walker said claims by Channel 4 News that some bills were not included in local spending returns during three 2014 by-elections and in Thanet South in May's election should be examined.

A Labour by-election candidate has urged police to investigate.

The Tories say all their spending was recorded in accordance with the law.

Channel 4 News said it had obtained hotel bills which suggest the party broke electoral rules in the Newark, Clacton and Rochester & Strood by-elections, the first of which the Conservatives won and the other two it lost to UKIP.

Campaign spending in by-elections is limited to £100,000 for each party.

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Media captionMichael Crick explains the allegations on the BBC's Daily Politics

But Channel 4 News says it has uncovered £56,866.75 of undeclared hotel bills in Rochester, which would have taken the party £53,659.83 over the £100,000 limit.

It found bills totalling £26,786.14 in Clacton, which would have taken the party £10,835.36 over the limit, and receipts totalling £10,459.30 in Newark, which would mean an overspend of £6,650.28.

Charles Walker, the Tory MP for Broxbourne, told Channel 4 News that the matter should be examined.

"I'm going to raise it at the board but I suspect others will be raising it at the board. These are serious allegations," he said.

"I'm not diminishing the nature of these allegations. But the Conservative Party believes it has complied with election law."

'Seeking assurances'

Labour's candidate in the 2014 Newark by-election, Michael Payne, has written to his local chief constable asking for an investigation.

Image caption Charles Walker said he expected the matter to be raised with the party's ruling board

"Channel 4 appear to be in possession of documents which raise questions relating to spending by the Conservative Party during the 2014 Newark by-election; the questions raised allegedly relate to spending that appears not to have been declared," he wrote.

"I am seeking assurance this evidence and matter will be investigated, and if necessary referred to the appropriate authorities in order to reassure the residents of Newark constituency that established electoral laws and procedures, which are designed to protect our democracy have been complied with."

Nottinghamshire Police are yet to respond to the letter.

UKIP leader Nigel Farage, who lost a fiercely contested battle with the Conservatives in Thanet South last year, has said the party will not make a formal complaint but he would support any complaints made by members of the public.

A spokesman for the Electoral Commission said it was aware of the allegations.

"Alleged breaches of the rules around candidate spending at by-elections or parliamentary general elections are matters for the police to investigate under the Representation of the People Act 1983," he said.

A Conservative spokeswoman said: "All by-election spending has been correctly recorded in accordance with the law."

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