Part of a major police inquiry into the election expenses of the Welsh secretary first revealed by us, has now been referred to the force’s Economic Crimes unit, The Eye can disclose.
The expenses of Alun Cairns when his election agent was Ross England, are being looked into by South Wales Police.
Mr Cairns, Conservative MP for the Vale of Glamorgan, is accused of incorrect reporting of costs and donations in the 2015 General Election.
The inquiry is into alleged breaches of The Representation of the People Act.
South Wales Police had been encountering problems gaining responses, but now all missing documents and invoices have been secured.
Mr England is the Conservative assembly candidate for the Vale, but was at the time the agent for Mr Cairns.
A controversial fake Conservative newspaper called The Glamorgan Gem wrapped around the local paper The Cowbridge Gem, is also being investigated.
But the police say they have been “jumping through hoops” to get the information they need from the newspaper.
A lawyer at South Wales Police is due to look at the file.
A Detective Inspector is in charge of the case and assembling the evidence.
Official complaints about the ‘wraparound’ and the election expenses of Mr Cairns, were lodged with the police by a rival candidate in last year’s election, Steve Reed of the party, Cannabis Is Safer Than Alcohol (CISTA).
He told The Eye: “I am seeking to prove that the Representation of the People Act has been ignored and that the Conservative campaign on behalf of Cairns exceeded legal limits.
“It is bad enough one party spending way above everyone else, particularly when the funds are from sources outside the constituency.
“If the Conservatives have then exceeded the statutory limits and not declared it, this is criminal”.
It is alleged there are four key grounds for investigation under the Representation of the People Act into the growing scandal of Mr Cairns’ election expenses:
- Under-reporting of certain costs.
- Exceeding spending limits.
- Incorrect reporting of donations.
- Accepting non-permissible donation.
Mr Cairns was returned as Conservative MP for the Vale of Glamorgan in the 2015 election with an increased majority over his Labour rival of 6,880.
The turnout was high at 71.1 per cent.
But as his performance on a BBC Wales programme showed, he has long been a contentious figure.
While taking part in BBC Radio Cymru‘s weekly radio show, Dau o’r Bae, on June 13 2008, Mr Cairns was asked to apologise on air for referring to Italians as ‘greasy wops’, and immediately did so.
Yet he subsequently resigned from his post in the Welsh Conservative’s shadow cabinet.
The day afterwards he was suspended as the parliamentary candidate for the Vale of Glamorgan while the party carried out an investigation.
He was reinstated as the Conservative parliamentary candidate, and to the shadow cabinet in Wales, on 22 October 2008 on completion of the investigation.
He was Conservative AM for South Wales West from 1999 to 2011.
But when during his time as an assembly member, Mr Cairns lobbied his colleagues to carry on claiming for a second home a few miles from his constituency.
He then approached an estate agent about renting out the Cardiff bay flat at the market rate.
It was revealed how he had conducted his lobbying exercise to continue claiming expenses of up to £12,500 a year in respect of his flat, even though his main home was at Ewenny, near Bridgend.
Electoral boundary changes had transferred his house to the Vale.
This is so close to the assembly that second home allowances are not normally paid.
The then Conservative leader in the assembly, Nick Bourne, stressed at the time of the disclosure, that Mr Cairns would no longer be claiming for the flat.
Today’s revelation by The Eye will come as a severe embarrassment for The Welsh Conservative party,
It is set against a disturbing backdrop.
After he became an MP, Mr Cairns was the highest claimer of expenses among parliamentarians in Wales.
In 2014/15, he clawed back from the taxpayer £191,333.35.
It was disclosed that Mr Cairns had the greatest expenses in Wales for claims of accommodation, running his office, staffing and travel costs.
In this time when finances of politicians are coming under scrutiny as never before, this may come back to haunt him.
Mr Cairns took over from Stephen Crabb as Welsh secretary after Mr Crabb’s promotion to run the department of work and pensions.
He said at the time of his appointment as Welsh Secretary: “There is no better role for Wales than sitting around the cabinet, making sure that Wales’ voice is heard loud and clear and also in shaping UK government policy developed to Wales’ benefit.”
Welsh Conservatives leader Andrew RT Davies, who has himself been criticised for accepting EU farming grants even though he is opposed to staying in the union, welcomed Mr Cairns as a “tireless and effective voice for Wales”.
As the police might say – their investigation into this ‘tireless’ Welsh secretary is ‘proceeding in an orderly manner’.
Tomorrow on The Eye why a leading Plaid Cymru assembly member’s election literature asked voters whether his details on them should be destroyed if he does not win, and went to residents in another constituency.