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Electoral Commission statement on application to the High Court for the Conservative and Unionist Party to disclose documents and information

Published: 12 May 2016

The Electoral Commission has today (12 May) announced that as part of its investigation launched on 18 February 2016 into Conservative Party campaign spending returns, it has made an application to the High Court for a document and information disclosure order. The application, which names the Conservative and Unionist Party as the Respondent, is made under paragraphs 4 and 5 of Schedule 19B to the Political Parties Elections and Referendums Act (PPERA) 2000.

Why the Commission is taking this action

Using its powers under PPERA, and in line with its Enforcement Policy, the Electoral Commission may issue a statutory notice requiring any person, including a registered party, to provide us with specific documents and/or information as part of an investigation. This places the recipient under a legal obligation to provide the required material. However, if the recipient does not comply with this statutory notice, the Commission may apply to the High Court for a disclosure order which if granted would be the court compelling the Respondent to release the required documents and information to the Commission.

The Commission issued the Conservative and Unionist Party with two statutory notices requiring the provision of material relevant to its investigation. However, the Party has only provided limited disclosure of material in response to the first notice (issued on 18 February 2016) and no material in response to the second notice (issued on 23 March 2016). That follows the Commission granting extensions of time to comply.

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. 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.”

The Commission will make no further comment on the investigation, in line with our Enforcement Policy.

Ends

For further information, contact the Electoral Commission press office on 020 7271 0704 or press@electoralcommission.org.uk Out of office hours 07789 920 414

Notes to editors
1. The Electoral Commission is an independent body set up by the UK Parliament. Our aim is integrity and public confidence in the UK’s democratic process. We regulate party and election finance and set standards for well-run elections and are responsible for the conduct and regulation of referendum held under the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act (2000).
2. On 18 February 2016 the Commission announced that it had opened an investigation into allegations regarding the Conservative and Unionist Party spending return at the 2015 UK Parliamentary General Election.
3. On 1 March 2016 the Commission announced that it had extended the scope of its investigation in Conservative Party campaign spending returns to consider spending at by-elections held in Newark, Clacton and Rochester and Strood, which all took place during the regulated period for the General Election.

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