Police drop Colchester MP expenses probe after January interview

Craig Mackinlay who denies any wrongdoing was interviewed for six hours Getty Images

The latest moves come amid growing anger among Conservative MPs still facing investigation by the police and the Electoral Commission in relation to spending during the 2015 election.

A second Conservative MP has been interviewed by police over his general election expenses, it has been disclosed.

The criminal offence carries a maximum penalty of a year's imprisonment and election watchdogs could overturn the result.

"We need to make sure that all parties get that through the system and actually we have a fair and satisfactory conclusion which means that those MPs who did nothing wrong, whose election expenses are absolutely as the rest of ours were, are not tarnished".

Mr Quince voluntarily attended an interview under caution with Essex Police last January.

The office of the MP, who was questioned on Saturday, said it would not be commenting.

Claims about the Conservatives' general election spending - as well as that at three parliamentary by-elections - were raised by The Daily Mirror and Channel 4 News.

The row centres on the Tories' use of the election battle bus to campaign in key seats, and whether spending on hotels and campaign material was incorrectly registered as national spending, which has much higher limits than local spending.

The commission also found that the party failed to declare a further £3,809.03 in hotel bills for the Premier Inn in the town.

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Patrick McLoughlin, the Conservative party chairman, refused to comment and batted away the camera of a Sky News reporter who chased him down the street asking for his reaction to the record £70,000 fine.

Staffordshire Police separately confirmed it had sent a file to prosecutors.

The Conservatives blamed "simple human error" but the commission said that was not a "reasonable excuse".

A Tory party spokesman said last night: 'We are cooperating with the ongoing investigations'.

The party admitted for the first time on Thursday morning also made clear it had "directed" local candidates that the battlebus spending should be recorded as national, not local spending.

Seventeen police forces across the country are looking into whether some MPs' agents should have filed costs associated with battle bus visits to their constituencies in their local expenses.

The Conservative party said it accepted the Electoral Commission findings but attempted to downplay them as a "reporting error" and claimed "political parties of all colours have made reporting mistakes from time to time".

The Conservatives said they had complied fully with the commission's investigation and would pay the fine that has been imposed.

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