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The Conservative party has been fined £70,000 for failing to accurately report its campaign spending at the 2015 general election and three by-elections in 2014.

The Electoral Commission said the Tories’ spending returns were missing payments worth at least £104, 765, while separate payments of £118,124 were either not reported or incorrectly reported.

Sir John Holmes, chairman of the Electoral Commission, said:

Our investigation uncovered numerous failures by a large, well-resourced and experienced party to ensure that accurate records of spending were maintained and that all of the party’s spending was reported correctly.

He said this was the third such investigation where one or other of the big parties had failed to report large spending amounts. He added:

There is a risk that some political parties might come to view the payment of these fines as a cost of doing business; the Commission therefore needs to be able to impose sanctions that are proportionate to the levels of spending now routinely handled by parties and campaigners.

Separately the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) says MPs will be banned from hiring their children and spouses after the next election. About a quarter of MPs employ relatives.

Under the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 (PPERA) it is the responsibility of a political party’s registered treasurer to ensure that an accurate and complete campaign spending return is submitted to the Electoral Commission by the statutory deadline following national elections.

Following the publication of the Conservative Party’s 2015 UK Parliamentary general election spending return on 20 January 2016, Channel 4 News raised concerns – which fed into the Commission’s own investigations – that the Conservative Party’s spending return may have been incomplete. Their allegations also indicated that the Party’s spending return for the 2014 European Parliamentary elections also may not have been complete.

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