Tories cleared over Ashcroft millions

THE Electoral Commission today cleared the Conservative Party and its deputy chairman Lord Ashcroft of breaching electoral law in relation to �5.1 million of donations from Bearwood Corporate Services.

Graham Dines

THE Electoral Commission today cleared the Conservative Party and its deputy chairman Lord Ashcroft of breaching electoral law in relation to �5.1 million of donations from Bearwood Corporate Services.

The Commission rejected allegations that Bearwood - which is controlled by Ashcroft - was not carrying on business in the UK and was therefore ineligible to donate money to political parties.

The 18-month investigation was sparked by a complaint from Labour MP John Mann, amid Labour concerns that the billionaire's money was being used to boost Conservative candidates' chances in key marginal seats in the forthcoming election.


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Bearwood (BCS) met the requirements of a permissible donor by being registered at Companies House, incorporated within the UK or another EU member state, and carrying on business in the UK at the time the donation is made.

The Commission concluded: “No breach of PPERA (Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000) has been established and... no legal action in relation to the Conservative Party should be taken.

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“The Commission has, however, asked to meet party officials to ensure that they are clear about their responsibilities for complying with the law.”

A Tory Party spokesmand said: “Following an 18-month investigation, the Electoral Commission has definitively concluded that donations made by Bearwood, the company in which Lord Ashcroft has an interest, were legal, permissible and correctly reported.

“It has now been put beyond doubt that donations from Bearwood were entirely legitimate.

“Separately, we also know that Lord Ashcroft is non-domiciled, putting him in exactly the same position as Labour and Lib Dem donors such as Lord Paul.

“This means the Conservative Party's clean bill of health with the Electoral Commission remains fully intact. It is now clear that the continuing attacks on Michael Ashcroft are part of a politically motivated campaign orchestrated by the Labour Party in advance of the general election in order to distract attention from the real issues facing this country.”

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