Conservative Party under investigation over £2.6m EU election spending

The Conservatives and Green Party are under investigation over their spending during the European Parliament elections last May.

The Electoral Commission announced on Friday that it had opened investigations into the two parties "as a result of their incomplete spending returns".

It also published the amount spent by the eight parties who reported spending of more than £250,000 during the regulated period between 23 January 2019 until polling day on 23 May 2019.

The Brexit Party, who won last year’s EU elections, reported the most spending with £2,609,834 spent.

This meant they marginally outspent the Tories, who spent £2,600,026 on the elections they once promised not to hold.

Prime Minister Theresa May was forced to hold the EU elections after she delayed Brexit from the original deadline of 31 March last year.

This was despite her having repeatedly promised to take the UK out of the EU before April last year.

She was forced into the delay after MPs three times refused to support her Brexit deal in the House of Commons.

Mrs May resigned as prime minister shortly after the EU elections, in which her Conservative Party finished fifth – their worst ever result in a national poll.

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The Liberal Democrats spent £2,468,148 on the EU elections, Labour spent £1,556,028, the now defunct Independent Group for Change spent £886,681, UKIP spent £643,100, the Green Party spent £450,260, and the SNP spent £257,005.

Of the eight parties who spent more than £250,000 on the EU elections, the Electoral Commission said it was looking at five of them for "submitting spending reports which are missing information that would give voters a complete picture of their campaign spending".

It did not name the other parties, but added that "further investigations relating to other returns may follow".

Parties are required by law to provide complete lists of all campaign payments and supporting invoices or receipts for payments of more than £200.

Louise Edwards, the Electoral Commission’s director of regulation, said: "It is vital that voters are given the opportunity to see clearly and accurately how money is spent on influencing them at elections.

"Where parties deliver returns that are not complete, we seek to get correct information before publication.

"We cannot delay publication for this, though. In five cases on this occasion we have had to publish information that we are not satisfied is completely correct.

"We are, as usual, considering those cases for further action in line with our enforcement policy."

Fines ranging from £200 to a maximum of £20,000 per offence are among the options available to the commission if it deems enforcement action to be appropriate.

A Conservative Party spokesman said: "We are aware of a small number of administrative issues with our return, and we have already been working with the Electoral Commission to correct these.

"We are confident these technical matters will be resolved quickly and we are cooperating fully with the Electoral Commission."

(c) Sky News 2020: Conservative Party under investigation over £2.6m EU election spending


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