David Cameron (left) with Chris Davies (centre) at the Royal Welsh Showground in 2014. How much benefit did Mr Davies gain from Cameron's visit during the general election campaigning period the following year?

David Cameron (left) with Chris Davies (centre) at the Royal Welsh Showground in 2014. How much benefit did Mr Davies gain from Cameron’s visit during the general election campaigning period the following year?

Dyfed Powys Police isn’t interested in election expenses fraud by local MPs.

The force won’t investigate allegations and appears to be lying about its reasons for doing so.

This Writer made a complaint to the force’s Financial Crime Unit about Brecon and Radnorshire MP Chris Davies on May 19, after uncovering serious omissions in his 2015 general election expenses statement a few days previously.

I was aware that the period in which an investigation may be launched is time-limited to one year after the statement is filed. In this case, that meant police would have until June 3 this year – unless they sought permission from the courts for an extension. So time was tight. I had received the information that had prompted me to investigate only a few days previously.

I had to submit follow-up inquiries to Dyfed Powys police twice, and eventually emailed the new Police and Crime Commissioner, Dafydd Llewelyn, before receiving a response.

It came from an officer calling himself Paul Callard, and ran as follows: ” have considered the matters referred to and have sought clarification from the Electoral Commission. In consultation with them I have concluded that none of the issues highlighted by you would constitute a criminal offence under the Representation of People Act and also that your complaint does not warrant a criminal investigation. Should you require clarification on the expenses rules please contact the Electoral Commission.”

I have a few doubts about that. For one, I doubt he discussed the matter with the Electoral Commission because it had been the Electoral Commission who had urged me to contact the police.

Why would anybody have done that if they could have simply stated that I had misunderstood the law?

As it happens, my understanding of the law is just fine. Check it yourself:

The spending limit for candidates in Brecon and Radnorshire during the election campaign last year was £13,599.69. Mr Davies declared a total of £12,202.96 – but this did not include a four-page “wraparound” advert on the front of local newspaper the Brecon and Radnor Express, on April 30, 2015, addressing the voters of the constituency and urging them to vote ‘Conservative’. The cost of such an advert is likely to have been between £3,000 and £4,000 – probably more, considering it was on the front and back of the newspaper itself, the most prominent place it could possibly be.

It seems the Conservative Party is keen to claim the cost of this “wraparound” as national party expenditure, rather than that of the local candidate, but this is a mistake.

Electoral Commission guidance makes it very clear that “party campaign spending is authorised by a party to promote the party and its policies generally. For example, national newspaper adverts for the party, or leaflets explaining party policy”.

This is a four-page advert for the Conservative Party, wrapped around an edition of a local newspaper and bearing that newspaper’s masthead. It is clearly intended to influence voters in Brecon and Radnorshire who know the candidate’s name, even though it is not mentioned in the text.

This is certainly the way readers of the newspaper interpreted the advert – as the letters pages
of the paper’s May 7 and May 14 editions attested.

Then there is the matter of the Welsh Conservative manifesto launch in the Royal Welsh Showground on April 17.

The Prime Minister, David Cameron, visited the BSW timber mill in Brecon and Radnorshire, which is a large employer for the area. He launched the party’s Welsh manifesto at the Royal Welsh showground in nearby Llanelwedd, Builth Wells – also in Brecon and Radnorshire.

One of the now-infamous ‘battle buses’ was present at both events.

Electoral Commission guidelines http://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/i-am-a/party-or-campaigner/guidance-for-political-parties/election-campaign-spending state that “You may need to split your costs between activities and materials that count as campaign spending and those that don’t.

“For example, you might hire a car for a staff member who spends some of their time working on the party’s regional campaign, and the rest working for a candidate in a particular constituency.

“In all cases you should make an honest assessment, based on the facts, of the proportion of expenditure that can fairly be attributed to your campaign spending.”

How many Conservative activists were bussed into Brecon and Radnorshire with David Cameron? At what cost? And how much did Chris Davies benefit from the exposure given to him and his campaign?

Neither event was mentioned on Mr Davies’s expenses declaration.

Other police forces around the UK are investigating Conservative candidates in the 2015 election for omissions just like these – yet Dyfed Powys Police, and Mr Calland in particular, want This Writer to believe that they do not warrant a criminal investigation.

Do you believe it?

I have already written to inform him of his mistake and to tell him that, if he can’t see that there is a case to answer, plenty of other forces can and he should turn the investigation over to them while there is still time.

I am concerned that, whatever the response, these shenanigans will delay any investigation to such an extent that Mr Davies will face no investigation at all.

That’s not good enough and, by the time you read this, I will have already written another complaint to the new Police and Crime Commissioner, who can be contacted by emailing
[email protected]

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