Vote Leave reported to police over 'front campaigns' email

Posted On: 
17th February 2016

A Labour MP has asked the police to investigate pro-Brexit campaign Vote Leave after a senior Conservative eurosceptic suggested the group could use front organisations to get around spending limits, PoliticsHome can reveal.

EU and UK flags

Pat McFadden, the former Shadow Europe Minister, has written to the police and the chair of the Electoral Commission to highlight comments from Steve Baker about the EU referendum campaign.

The official pro-Brexit group designated by the Electoral Commission has a spending limit of £7m for the campaign, while other groups will have a ceiling of £700,000.



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As reported in The Times this morning, Conservative MP Mr Baker wrote in an email that Vote Leave would “spend as much money as is necessary to win the referendum” by creating “separate legal entities”.

In his
letter to the police, seen by PoliticsHome, Mr McFadden called for an investigation as the comments suggested Vote Leave “may breach the law with respect to spending rules”.

“I urge you to urgently investigate whether Vote Leave’s clear plan to ‘create separate legal entities’ would amount to a plan to work together with other campaigners in a way that contravenes the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000,” Mr McFadden wrote.

“Since Vote Leave’s actions may constitute a breach of the law, I believe this is a matter of public importance and interest and so I hope it will be treated as a matter of priority.”

And he asked Jenny Watson, the chair of elections watchdog the Electoral Commission, to investigate the same comments and “to consider this information” when deciding on which campaign should be handed official status.

Mr Baker's email read: "It is open to the Vote Leave family to create separate legal entities, each of which could spend £700,000: Vote Leave will be able to spend as much money as is necessary to win the referendum."

Vote Leave is vying with Grassroots Out to win the Electoral Commission's designation. 

A Vote Leave spokesman said: "We never have and never will encourage people to break the law. We will comply with the referendum rules as we always have."

A source close to Mr Baker told The Times: "Steve would never encourage anyone to break the law."

Read Mr McFadden's letters to the police and Electoral Commission in full