Tories fined £10,000 for failing to accurately declare donations


The Conservatives have been fined over £10,000 by the elections watchdog for failing to accurately declare donations.

The party under-reported non-cash donations in the form of a member of staff seconded to the party by donor Richard Harpin between April 2020 and December 2023, the Electoral Commission said.

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Mr Harpin, founder of home repairs company HomeServe and review website Checkatrade, has been a long-time donor to the Conservatives, providing the party with almost £3 million in cash and non-cash donations since 2008.

The non-cash donations were under-reported by more than £200,000 when the employee went from part-time to full-time work at the party.

The Tories also reported late a single non-cash donation relating to the same seconded employee, in December 2023.

The party paid two fines totalling £10,750 on 6 March, saying it was the result of an “administrative error” and “not deliberate”.

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The fine is the largest paid by the Conservatives since December 2021, when the party was fined £17,800 for failing to deliver an accurate quarterly donation report and failing to keep accurate accounting records.
Louise Edwards, Director of Regulation and Digital Transformation, said: “Our investigation into the Conservative and Unionist Party found a number of donations inaccurately reported or reported late.

“The political finance laws we enforce are there to ensure transparency in how parties are funded and to increase public confidence in our system, so it’s important donations are fully and clearly reported.

“Where we find offences, we carefully consider the circumstances before deciding whether to impose a sanction. We take into account a range of factors before making our final decision, including proportionality.”

Hester controversy

It comes as the Conservatives attempt to draw a line under a donations row that has been dominating headlines for days – plunging the mood in the party to new lows.

The row concerns remarks made by businessman and Tory donor Frank Hester, who reportedly said in 2019 that Diane Abbott, Britain’s longest-serving black MP, made him “want to hate all black women” and that she “should be shot”.

Electoral records show Mr Hester donated £10m to the Conservatives last year.

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‘I think Hester’s money should be kept’

Rishi Sunak, who called the comments “racist and wrong”, was already under pressure to hand that cash back when it was reported that he has given the party a further £5m that has yet to be declared, as the Electoral Commission only publishes lists of donations every three months.

The government has repeatedly refused to confirm whether the money has been received.

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Sky News understands the party is still “in talks” over the additional cash.

The prime minister attempted to put the story to bed on Monday as he launched a fightback against rumours of a plot to oust him.

Asked why his party would take £5m from someone whom he had said had made racist comments, he said: “He’s already apologised for these comments.

“And my point of view is when someone apologises genuinely, expresses remorse – that should be accepted. And that’s that.”

A spokesperson for the Conservative Party said: “After becoming aware of an administrative error, the party self-reported to the Electoral Commission.

“We accept its findings and appreciate that the Electoral Commission accepts that this was not deliberate.”

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