CHIPPENHAM MP Michelle Donelan and former-Chippenham MP Duncan Haines will be investigated by Wiltshire Police regarding their election expenses.
The investigation comes following claims that MPs across the country failed to declare thousands of pounds worth of expenses regarding 'battle bus' campaigns in the local elections last year.
A Channel 4 investigation claims that the Conservative Party battle bus deliberately focused on local candidates fighting for marginal seats, suggesting that these expenses should have been declared on local candidate spending returns as opposed to national ones.
If found guilty, it would constitute a criminal offence with the person in question being suspended and prevented from re-election for five years.
Today, Wiltshire Police were successful in applying for an application to extend the time they are allowed to investigate the claims made against Ms Donelan and Mr Hames, who both stood for election last year.
Speaking at Chippenham Magistrates’ Court today, Judge Simon Cooper, who granted the application, said: “It’s essential that the public retain confidence in the election process.”
Speaking after the hearing, detective sergeant Jonathan Lee, from Wiltshire Police's Fraud Department, said: “Wiltshire Police have been successful in front of a district judge in extending an investigation in electoral expenses allegations against the MP for Chippenham, Michelle Donelan, and Duncan Hames who was the previous MP for the Liberal Democrats.
“This will allow the police to look at all the evidence used on the Channel 4 investigation, which is currently held by the Electoral Commission.”
In a statement, Ms Donelan said:“I would like to be absolutely clear that the BattleBus did not visit my constituency.
"The Prime Minister did visit the constituency in a Leader’s bus, significantly, this is not the bus in question.
"The battlebus filled with activists toured constituencies in the last 10 days - a simple fact check shows that it never came to Chippenham.
"Whilst in one way I welcome the investigation that I know will show these claims to be entirely false, it is a shame that police resources are being wasted in such a way.
"Given that the battlebus never visited my constituency I expect the police’s investigations to be concluded swiftly.
"I am in the process of seeking retractions about false media claims made in reference to the bus coming and will take legal action against any such further claims.”
Ms Donelan went on to claim the Chippenham seat by 10,076 votes from Mr Hames.
Accusations have been made that Mr Hames was visited by the LibDem election battle bus on April 29, 2015, yet did not declare transport costs as part of his election spending.
Breaching election spending limits is a criminal offence and could lead to calls for by-elections.
- More to follow in next week’s Gazette and Herald and Wiltshire Times newspapers.