Kingston MP James Berry has insisted he did “nothing wrong” in his 2015 General Election campaign as police step up investigations into claims Tory MPs didn’t correctly declare their spending.
The Conservative politician, elected in 2015 with a 2,834 majority, faced questions in the past over allegations the costs of a Tory ‘battlebus’ which visited the borough were not declared within the election budget.
This week, the Metropolitan Police revealed it has handed files to prosecutors over complaints made over election spending in London, but refused to say whether any sitting MPs were involved.
Mr Berry admitted he had been approached by officers and is cooperating with police, but insisted he had been told by detectives the allegation with respect to his campaign had not been referred to prosecutors.
He said: “There is an ongoing police investigation and as such I'd prefer not to comment other than to say I've done nothing wrong and I acted honestly and properly throughout my election campaign.
“I have been cooperating with the Met and am happy to continue to co-operate with the investigation."
The controversy erupted last year amid claims busloads of activists were ferried to marginal seats and put up in hotels at the national party’s expense, without costs being listed as ‘local expenses’.
This week, the Electoral Commission fined the Conservative Party a record £70,000 over the election expenses scandal, having failed to declare more than £275,000 in expenses.
The Conservative Party reiterated that the fine related to central spending by the party and that all local candidates correctly declared their election spending.
Sir John Holmes, chair of the Electoral Commission, said: “Our investigation uncovered numerous failures by a large, well-resourced and experienced party to ensure that accurate records of spending were maintained and that all of the Party’s spending was reported correctly.
“Where the rules are not followed, it undermines voters’ confidence in our democratic processes, which is why political parties need to take their responsibilities under the legislation seriously.”
Former Prime Minister David Cameron and Boris Johnson visited Tolworth's Advantage Day Nursery in support of Mr Berry’s campaign on the Tory battlebus in April 2015.
Neighbouring Sutton MP Paul Scully, who similarly ousted a sitting Liberal Democrat MP in a key marginal seat, was also visited by the battlebus in the run up to the election.
He has also spoken to Met officers and admitted his “frustration” with the Conservative Party’s error in declaring its expenses.
Mr Scully said: “This was from a single campaign about a bus. We didn’t pay for people to stay in a hotel, they stayed for an hour.
“It’s a bit frustrating because I had room to put it in the budget and I could have put it down if I knew.”
The Labour Party and the Lib Dems were both slapped with a £20,000 fine by the Electoral Commission last year having similarly failed to declare payments from their spending returns.
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