Inquiry into donations to Tories from Lord Ashcroft’s company

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The elections watchdog has launched an inquiry into donations to the Tory Party made by the company of wealthy party backer Lord Ashcroft, it was disclosed last night. The Electoral Commission confirmed that it was mounting a formal investigation into the donations made by Bearwood Corporate Services.

Lord Ashcroft, the party’s deputy chairman, has paid millions of pounds to the party through Bearwood, a UK-registered company. However Labour MPs have long questioned whether the donations complied with strict laws banning overseas donations. Lord Ashcroft was partly brought up in Belize and he reportedly still has extensive business interests in the former British colony. The Conservative Party said last night: “Our compliance unit applies two strict tests to all company donations in accordance with Electoral Commission guidance. They are: is the company UK registered and is the company trading? The donations from Bearwood Corporate Services Ltd met those tests and were therefore legal and permissible.”

However John Mann, one of the Labour MPs pressing for an inquiry into the Bearwood donations, said: “It’s a significant first step to getting to the bottom of what is going on.”