The controversial police investigation into Welsh secretary Alun Cairns’ election expenses has now been referred to a professional standards department amid accusations inquiries were deliberately hampered, The Eye can disclose.
South Wales Police have been warned a private prosecution may follow.
In internal documents, a senior detective admitted there were “discrepancies” in the expenses of Mr Cairns during last year’s General Election, but went no further.
But a concerned rival candidate is deeply unhappy with the police investigation, and has now made a formal complaint.
We first revealed details of the investigation underway yet the police ruled there was “no evidence of criminal activity”.
Adding: “No further action (will) be taken”.
The official complaint about the police inquiry was lodged by Steve Reed of the party CISTA (Cannabis Is Safer Than Alcohol) after he reported concerns about the Welsh secretary’s election expenses.
He told South Wales Police: “The investigation (into worries about election expenses) has been poorly handled.
“My concern is that the police investigation has been deliberately delayed.”
Mr Cairns was returned as MP for the Vale of Glamorgan with an increased majority over his Labour rival of 6,880.
His agent at the time was Ross England, the defeated Tory candidate for the Vale of Glamorgan in the assembly elections on May 5.
We disclosed yesterday how he has been urged by the police to receive “advice” about the errors in expenses.
Yet as we reported it was Mr Cairns himself who was the focus of the police inquiry.
He was at the centre of accusations over allegedly incorrect reporting of costs and donations under The Representation of the People Act.
For the Welsh Conservatives today’s revelation will be highly embarrassing, as the police spoke to “key individuals” during their investigation.
Initially South Wales Police encountered problems securing responses, but they say they managed to see all the documents needed.
Mr Reed told The Eye at the time the police investigation was launched: “What may have happened is appalling.
“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”.
But the news comes at a difficult time for the Conservatives at a UK level.
They are at the centre of a huge developing scandal over expenses in the 2015 General Election.
The police in nine force areas are now investigating allegations that they broke the law in relation to campaign expenses following revelations by Channel Four News.
In the Vale meanwhile it was alleged there were four key grounds for investigation under the law:
- Under-reporting of certain costs.
- Exceeding spending limits.
- Incorrect reporting of donations.
- Accepting non-permissible donations.
We have also disclosed how the Conservative MP for Montgomeryshire, was under police investigation as well, relating to his election expenses.
Dyfed-Powys police say a criminal prosecution is not now being pursued.
But it is Mr Cairns who has hit the headlines.
He has long been a controversial figure.
While taking part in BBC Radio Cymru‘s weekly radio show, Dau o’r Bae, on June 13 2008, he 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, on 22 October 2008 on completion of the investigation.
Welsh Conservatives leader Andrew RT Davies, who has himself been in the headlines for allegedly 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”, when he was appointed Welsh secretary.
After taking over from Stephen Crabb as Welsh secretary, following Mr Crabb’s promotion to run the Department for Work and Pensions, Mr Cairns said: “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.”
Perhaps the police too will be loud and clear in their defence.