Lancashire MP cleared after election spending investigation

Cleared: MP Cat Smith
Cleared: MP Cat Smith
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A LANCASHIRE MP has spoken out after being cleared following a six-month police probe into her reporting of election spending.

Cat Smith, the Labour MP for Lancaster and Fleetwood, was accused by political blog site Guido Fawkes of spending thousands of pounds more than she declared in the fight to get elected.

I believe in free speech, I don’t have an issue with people asking questions

Lancashire Police then launched an inquiry into the matter in May, one of several similar probes across the county, after receiving an anonymous complaint about Ms Smith.

But this week the MP spoke after getting the all clear from police.

She said: “I believe in free speech, I don’t have an issue with people asking questions.

“It might have been personally upsetting at being accused of doing something I didn’t do, but I had done nothing wrong so I had no fears.

“It wasn’t actually hanging over me because I always knew I would be cleared.

“Some of my constituents did ask me about it but now I have been fully exonerated.”

Ms Smith, the shadow minister for voter engagement and youth affairs, praised the police for their “professional and diligent investigation.”

A Lancashire Police spokesman said: “Following an investigation into the 2015 election spending of Lancaster and Fleetwood MP, Cat Smith, we can now confirm no offences have taken place. Ms Smith has been cleared of any wrongdoing in this matter.”

Ms Smith earlier said in a statement: “I was always open, honest and transparent offering the police access to all my paperwork relating to the 2015 General Election.

“I am pleased that the police have concluded that there was no wrongdoing whatsoever and that the truth is now clear that I fought my election fairly completely within the law.

“I came into politics to help local people and communities. I was immensely proud to be elected the MP Lancaster and Fleetwood in May 2015 and I will continue to strive to make sure local people’s voices are heard and to support my community which I am proud to represent as their MP.”

Campaign expenditure rules are covered by the Representation of the People’s Act 1983 and are aimed at presenting a level playing field for candidates. The Guido Fawkes website, set up and overseen by blogger Paul Staines, has predominantly targeted politicians over expenses.

Ms Smith had stated that her expenditure was £2,000 below the maximum allowed.

But the Guido Fawkes blog suggested her claims were low and accused the MP of acting fraudulently, citing the cost of her Fleetwood office rent.

It stated: “The office was listed online with an annual rent price of £8,950.

“Yet throughout the 
campaign, more than four months, Ms Smith declared just £1,544.60 in office rent.”

And on staff, it was claimed: “In the long campaign Ms Smith declared £692.25 in staffing costs, in the short campaign she declared another £576.88.

“Yet the job advert for the Fleetwood organiser stated that the salary was £22,547 per annum.”

But the MP said of the claims in the blog: “My election expenses were filed accurately and within the law by my election agent Dr James Groves, they were on display for public scrutiny after the election in Lancaster Town Hall and I stand by them.”