Manchester police chief suggests multiple allegations made against Rayner

Greater Manchester Police chief Stephen Watson said the force will ‘get to the bottom’ of the claims

Holly Evans
Wednesday 17 April 2024 10:34 BST
MP who made Rayner complaint unable to explain what offence he thinks she committed

Police investigating Angela Rayner have suggested there are multiple allegations which may extend beyond her housing arrangements.

Greater Manchester Police had previously announced they are investigating the Labour deputy leader over the sale of her council house in Stockport and whether she broke electoral law by giving false information of her address during the 2010s.

(Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire)

During an appearance on BBC Radio Manchester, the city’s police chief Stephen Watson said: “All I would say in line with what we’ve put out publicly is there are a number of assertions knocking about, I don’t need to tell people that.

“We on an initial assessment made a determination that it was unlikely we would pursue an investigation. On the provision of further investigation or further information, we have reassessed that decision and we have announced we will launch a formal investigation.

Greater Manchester Police Chief Constable Stephen Watson made the remarks on BBC Radio Manchester (James Speakman/PA) (PA Archive)

“That is a neutral act, it does not imply that information gives us any hard or fast evidence in which to base anything at this stage. It is simply that we have an allegation, these allegations are all over the news, we are going to get to the bottom of what has happened.”

It comes as The Times reports that police are investigating “tax matters and other issues” in connection with her housing affairs. A source told the newspaper: “It’s very well resourced, it’s not a single issue. There is a volume of material and a clear public interest to fully investigate.”

Greater Manchester Police has been approached for comment.

Ms Rayner has promised to resign if she is found to have committed a crime but has stated that she is confident that she has done nothing wrong.

It comes after James Daly, deputy chairman of the Conservative Party, made Greater Manchester Police (GMP) aware of neighbours contradicting Ms Rayner’s statement that her property, separate from her husband’s, was her main residence.

Ms Rayner continued with her public duties with a visit to Woodgate housing development on Tuesday (Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire)

GMP previously said it would not be investigating the allegations, but following a complaint from Mr Daly, the police confirmed it had reassessed information and launched a probe.

The Labour Party said it remains confident Ms Rayner has complied with the rules, and the Ashton-under-Lyne MP “welcomes the chance to set out the facts with the police”.

A spokesperson for the force said: “We’re investigating whether any offences have been committed.

“This follows a reassessment of the information provided to us by Mr Daly.”

Ms Rayner has faced scrutiny about whether she paid the right amount of tax on the 2015 sale of her council house because of confusion over whether it was her principal residence.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer welcomed the police investigation into Ms Rayner’s council house sale and said it will allow a “line to be drawn” on the issue.

He said: “We welcome this investigation because it will allow a line to be drawn in relation to this matter.

She has said she will resign if she is found to have committed a crime (Jordan Pettitt/PA) (PA Wire)

“I am fully confident that Angela Rayner has not broken the rules. She will co-operate with the investigation as you would expect and it is really a matter for the police.”

She has rejected suggestions in a book by former Tory deputy chairman Lord Ashcroft that she failed to properly declare her main home.

The unauthorised biography alleges that she bought her former council house, in Vicarage Road in Stockport, Greater Manchester, with a 25% discount in 2007 under the right-to-buy scheme.

The former carer is said to have made a £48,500 profit when selling the house eight years later.

Government guidance says that a tenant can apply to buy their council home through the right-to-buy scheme if it is their “only or main home”.

Her husband was listed at another address in Lowndes Lane, about a mile away, which had also been bought under the right-to-buy scheme.

Sir Keir Starmer said he is ‘fully confident’ in Ms Rayner (Jordan Pettitt/PA Wire)

In the same year as her wedding, Ms Rayner is said to have re-registered the births of her two youngest children, giving her address as where her husband resided.

Ms Rayner has insisted that Vicarage Road was her “principal property” despite her husband living elsewhere at the time.

But neighbours have reportedly disputed her claim that she lived apart from her husband.

Sir Keir has previously said the Conservatives are “chasing a smear” in raising questions about the deputy leader and people were more interested in “problems caused by this Government”.

He said: “Angela Rayner has been asked no end of questions about this. She’s answered them all. She said she’s very happy to answer any further questions from the police or from any of the authorities.

“I don’t need to see the legal advice. My team has seen it.”

In response to the allegations, Ms Rayner said she would “welcome the chance to sit down with the appropriate authorities” and said she was “completely confident” that there had been no wrongdoing.

In a statement she said: “I have always said that integrity and accountability are important in politics. That’s why it’s important that this is urgently looked at, independently and without political interference.

“I make no apologies for having held Conservative ministers to account in the past. Indeed, the public would rightly expect me to do so as a Deputy Leader of the Opposition.

“We have seen the Tory Party use this playbook before – reporting political opponents to the police during election campaigns to distract from their record. I will say as I did before - if I committed a criminal offence, I would of course do the right thing and step down.

The British public deserves politicians who know the rules apply to them. The questions raised relate to a time before I was an MP and I have set out my family’s circumstances and taken expert tax and legal advice. I look forward to setting out the facts with the relevant authorities at the earliest opportunity.”

A Labour spokesperson said to the announcement of the police investigation: “Angela welcomes the chance to set out the facts with the police.

“We remain completely confident that Angela has complied with the rules at all times and it’s now appropriate to let the police do its work.”

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