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Political Parties: Finance

Volume 498: debated on Monday 26 October 2009

To ask the hon. Member for South West Devon, representing the Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission what recent progress the Electoral Commission has made in its investigation into the permissibility of donations by Fifth Avenue Partners Ltd; and what recent discussions the Electoral Commission has had with the City of London Police on that matter. (295487)

The Electoral Commission informs me that it aims to conclude the investigation as quickly as possible but that its priority must be to ensure that the process is fair and thorough. The Commission further informs me that it continues to liaise with the City of London Police. It would not be appropriate to provide further details of a continuing investigation.

To ask the hon. Member for South West Devon, representing the Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission how many full-time equivalent staff are working on the Electoral Commission's investigation into the permissibility of donations by Fifth Avenue Partners and Mr. Michael Brown; what the cost of that investigation has been; when that investigation began; and when that investigation was (a) suspended and (b) resumed. (295488)

The Electoral Commission informs me that it began inquiries in May 2005 into the donations from 5th Avenue Partners Ltd. to the Liberal Democrats and that those inquiries were suspended in March 2007 pending the outcome of criminal proceedings. Upon conclusion of the proceedings in November 2008, the Commission resumed its investigation. The Commission informs me that it sought access from the City of London Police to relevant documents from the proceedings, obtaining these on 14 May 2009.

The Commission further informs me that it currently has five full-time staff in its party and election finance enforcement team which is responsible for investigations and case reviews. The number of staff working on a particular case at any one time varies and members of the team may work on a number of cases concurrently. There are currently two full-time equivalent members of staff working on the case with input also being provided by senior managers and the Commission's in-house legal team.

The Electoral Commission informs me that it does not record the precise direct and indirect costs associated with any particular case.