Electoral Commission takes Tories to High Court over election expenses information
The elections watchdog has made an application to the High Court to force the Conservative party to provide documents and information relating to its election expenses.
The Electoral Commission has made the application after the Tory party provided “limited disclosure of material” in response to a statutory notice issued in February, and no material to a second in March.
After allegations by Channel 4 News, the watchdog is investigating spending returns for a number of seats in the general election and three by-elections in 2014.
Rules dictate that a recipient of a statutory notice from the commission is legally obliged to provide the required material under the Political Parties Elections and Referendums Act 2000.
The Electoral Commission has now made an application to the High Court to ensure the Tory party discloses requested documents and information, after notices issued on 18 February and 23 March.
“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,” it said in a statement.
Bob Posner, Director of Party and Election Finance & Legal Counsel at the Electoral Commission, 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."
The Commission’s inquiries will not themselves lead to criminal charges, but the watchdog last month called on the police to request an extension pending the outcomes.
In April, the Conservatives admitted spending tens of thousands of pounds without it being declared properly.
An investigation by Channel 4 News revealed that the party spent more than £38,000 on accommodation for activists touring the country on its BattleBus 2015 campaign.
The BattleBus campaign visited 29 seats, with the Conservatives going on to win 22 of them.
According to Channel 4 News, if the money spent in each seat them had been declared by the local candidate, it would have exceeded the legal limit in 24 constituencies.
A Conservative spokesman blamed an "administrative error" for the failure to declare the money nationally, but insisted it should not have been part of the local candidates' spending returns.