Tory MP Sir Roger Gale says he and colleagues aren't to blame for expenses scandal

Tory expenses: 'It would be wrong for this to affect misinformed MPs, says Sir Roger Gale

Sir Roger Gale insisted the onus had to be on the Conservative central office

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Veteran Tory MP Sir Roger Gale has insisted he and his colleagues shouldn't be blamed for the ongoing storm surrounding the party's election expenses.

The Electoral Commission has fined the Tories £70,000 while citing "numerous failures" in how the party reported its expenses at the 2015 General Election, as well as in three by-elections in 2014.

One of the seats the inquiry has focused on is South Thanet, the seat which was contested by Nigel Farage in 2015 but eventually went to Tory Craig McKinlay. It is claimed funding for the 'battlebus' used to ferry activists to South Thanet and other key target seats was allocated out of national rather than local spending, to get around election funding rules.

But Gale, who holds the neighbouring North Thanet seat, said the punishment has been excessive.

He told Julia Hartley-Brewer: "Certainly if mistakes were made, they have to be exposed and put right.

"The commission has clearly decided this and have imposed what I think is a rather severe fine, given the comparisons with those levelled at the Labour and Liberal parties.

"The legal advice given by Tory campaign headquarters is the battlebus was part of a national campaign, not local, and this is what this appears to hinge upon.

"If a mistake was made, the party centrally will pay a heavy price for it. It would be wrong indeed if this were to impact upon MPs because they were misinformed."