Conservative Party releases election expenses after court action

The BBC reports:

The Conservative Party has produced documents about its spending during the general election after the Electoral Commission took court action.

The watchdog applied to the High Court to force the party to disclose the documents as part of an investigation into an alleged spending rules breach.

Within hours, the commission said it had received the documents from the party and was reviewing them.

…In a statement, the Electoral Commission said: “Using its powers under the Political Parties Elections and Referendums Act (PPERA) 2000, and in line with its enforcement policy, the Electoral Commission may issue a statutory notice requiring any person, including a registered party, to provide us with specific documents and/or information as part of an investigation.

“This places the recipient under a legal obligation to provide the required material.

“However, if the recipient does not comply with this statutory notice, the commission may apply to the High Court for a disclosure order which if granted would be the court compelling the respondent to release the required documents and information to the commission.”

The commission said the Conservatives had failed to act properly on two statutory notices requiring it to produce information – providing “limited disclosure of material in response to the first notice (issued on 18 February 2016) and no material in response to the second notice (issued on 23 March 2016)” – despite being granted extensions to the original deadlines to comply.

Prior to receiving the information, the commission’s Bob Posner said: “If parties under investigation do not comply with our requirements for the disclosure of relevant material in reasonable time and after sufficient opportunity to do so, the commission can seek recourse through the courts.

“We are today asking the court to require the party to fully disclose the documents and information we regard as necessary to effectively progress our investigation into the party’s campaign spending returns.”

A Conservative Party spokeswoman said the party had advised the Electoral Commission on 29 April “that we would comply with their notices” by 13:00 on 12 May.

“There was no need for them to make this application to the High Court,” the spokeswoman added.

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  • Maybe we should all be thinking about how this might end. Suppose there are a string of forced Byelections & The Tories lose their majority ? Could a Party thats so divided run a minority Government ? Would the Tories try to call an Election & what would our atitude be ? Could some sort of Rainbow Coaltion of “Progressives” be put together on a program of Reform ?
    Of course the whole thing might fizzle out but we ought to be prepared.

  • Matt (Bristol) 13th May '16 - 1:02pm

    Before we get to the scenario you’re talking, Paul, we should be asking whether Labour will stand candidates against the Tories in any byelection in these seats, should they eventuate (which is an extreme, but possible, option).

    Just possibly, someone in Labour HQ might dimly realise that delivering to the LibDems a greater chunk of England than they can reach themselves (or at least, denying it to the Tories) might be the only way they will get near even talking about power at the next GE, on their current standing.

    I think we can assume UKIP might work them hard and the Tories would react like an angry wounded beast – does the party in these areas (particularly the rural SouthWest) have the strength to simultaneously refight a large chunk of its seats under conditions of high media scrutiny?

    The message seems to be being got over in D&C that the Tories are mightily compromised by this and not to be trusted as the independent-minded community champions they purport to be, in part due to the issues with the police commissioner – how goes it elsewhere ?

    Of course, none of this might happen and the agents just get punished, not the candidates themselves.

  • Matt (Bristol) 13th May '16 - 1:05pm

    Also, we should be hoping bl**dy hard the there are no Tory expenses errors with the referendum, or it’s an open goal for those who want a neverendum.

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