Electoral Commission announces investigation into 'Vote Leave' campaign spending

By agency reporter
November 21, 2017

The Electoral Commission yesterday (20 November 2017) announced it has opened an investigation to establish whether Vote Leave Limited, Mr Darren Grimes and/or Veterans for Britain breached campaign finance rules in relation to spending at the 2016 EU referendum.

The rules around spending by permitted participants at the EU referendum are set out in the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 (PPERA) and the European Union Referendum Act 2015 (EURA) ( Sections 111 to 124 of PPERA (as applied and modified by EURA), and Schedule 1 to EURA, set out the controls applying to expenses by, and donations to, permitted participants at the EU Referendum.)

The opening of this investigation follows a review of previous assessments that the Electoral Commission conducted in February and March 2017 which, at the time, resulted in no further action being taken. Since that time, new information has come to light which, when considered alongside the information obtained previously, has given the Commission reasonable grounds to suspect an offence may have been committed.

The investigation will look at:

  • whether or not Mr Grimes may have delivered a return that was incorrect in relation to a donation he received from Vote Leave and related campaign spending;
  • whether or not Veterans for Britain delivered a return that was incorrect in relation to a donation it received from Vote Leave and related campaign spending;
  • whether or not Vote Leave delivered a return that was incorrect in relation to campaign spending;
  • whether or not Vote Leave exceeded its spending limit in the referendum.

It is possible that during the course of the investigation, the Commission will identify potential contraventions and/or offences under PPERA other than those set out above.

Vote Leave, Mr Grimes and Veterans for Britain were all permitted participants in the EU referendum.

Bob Posner, the Electoral Commission’s Director of Political Finance and Regulation and Legal Counsel, said: “There is significant public interest in being satisfied that the facts are known about Vote Leave’s spending on the campaign, particularly as it was a lead campaigner with a greater spending limit than any other campaigners on the ‘leave’ side. Legitimate questions over the funding provided to campaigners risks causing harm to voters’ confidence in the referendum and it is therefore right that we investigate.”

* The Electoral Commission https://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/

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