Donation to Welwyn Hatfield Conservatives ruled legal

A DONATION of �15,000 made to Welwyn Hatfield Conservatives in 2005 has been ruled legal, following an 18-month investigation by the official elections watchdog.

The news emerged this week when The Electoral Commission announced the long-awaited results of its probe into payments made to the Tories by Bearwood Corporate Services.

The company, which is owned by Conservative deputy chairman Lord Ashcroft, has handed over more than �5m to the party since February 2003.

This included a one-off payment of �15,000 to Welwyn Hatfield Conservatives in April 2005 – just weeks before the last General Election.

The Electoral Commission launched its investigation amid confusion over whether Bearwood Corporate Services actually operated in the UK.

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But speaking after the conclusion of the probe, Jenny Watson, the chairman of The Electoral Commission, said: “The law requires that to be a permissible donor, a company must be registered at Companies House, or incorporated in the EU, and carrying on business in the UK.

“The Commission has concluded that Bearwood Corporate Services met those tests.”

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Welwyn Hatfield Conservative party agent Benedict McAleenan welcomed the decision.

“We’re very glad The Electoral Commission has backed us up with this ruling,” he said.

“We’ve always been totally open and transparent with our finances and we publish our accounts online every year.”

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