Channel 4 News has published evidence of what it claims to be over-spending by Conservative candidates in three by-elections which were held in 2014.
A series of invoices were published by Channel 4, who said:
“The documents appear to reveal a pattern of undisclosed spending and link directly to Conservative HQ and senior figures within the party.
Campaign spending in each by-election is subject to a legal limit of £100,000 to ensure fairness, so contests are not skewed in favour of richer political parties.
If all the receipts had been declared, the party would appear to have flouted spending limits in all three by-elections in Newark, Clacton, and Rochester & Strood during 2014.
All three by-elections were seen as crucial battles to halt the then-growing popularity of UKIP, which was increasingly threatening to steal support from the Tories.
Our investigation obtained copies of receipts for six hotels across the three by-election areas showing stays by large numbers of Conservative campaign workers, including senior party figures.
In all, the hotel bills show 1,401 nights of accommodation, with the total cost of rooms, food, and additional spending amounting to £113,030.63 across the three campaigns.
Of this 1,182 nights with costs of £94,112.19 fell within strict campaigning time limits, known as regulated periods, where spending must be declared by law.
This includes £56,866.75 undeclared hotel bills in Rochester, which would have taken them £53,659.83 over the £100,000 spending limit; £26,786.14 in Clacton, which would take them £10,835.36 over the limit; and £10,459.30 in Newark, which would mean a £6,650.28 overspend”.
A spokesman for the Conservative Party said:
“All by-election spending has been correctly recorded in accordance with the law”.