Relief for Huhne as watchdog rules out election expenses inquiry

Under-pressure Cabinet Minister Chris Huhne was granted some relief yesterday when a watchdog said it would not investigate a complaint about his election expenses.

The Electoral Commission said there was insufficient evidence to substantiate the allegations made against the Liberal Democrat Energy Secretary.

But it is still examining a second similar complaint against Mr Huhne, who is also the subject of a police inquiry into claims he dodged punishment for speeding.

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Allegations Mr Huhne made a “false declaration” of his election expenses were referred to the Commission last week by two former Liberal Democrat councillors in his Eastleigh constituency.

The allegation was based on a recording of a local party meeting where treasurer Anne Winstanley is heard saying that the elections “have cost more than we declared”. Mr Huhne insisted his expenses were in order and local party chiefs said the comments were made about overall spending by the party in the area, not specifically on his re-election push.

In a letter to Ms Winstanley, the Commission said the allegation “did not provide any specific evidence that Mr Huhne’s campaign expenditure was under-reported” and would not be probed.

Mr Huhne said: “I am grateful to the Electoral Commission for dealing with this matter quickly and thoroughly. I am confident that the returns were completed properly in accordance with the law, and I am pleased that the Commission has decided against this new complaint.”

Commission investigators will decide within the next few days whether to proceed with a related complaint over the MP’s declared election expenses.