Tonight, as Ukip is holding its selection meeting for the constituency of Basildon South, a letter from the Ukip finance committee querying expenses claims made by the former Tory MP Neil Hamilton has been seen by Channel 4 News
The fact this letter was written on the day that Neil Hamilton was due to appear at the selection meeting in Basildon reflects the deep concerns within the Ukip high command about him becoming the party’s candidate in one of Ukip’s most promising seats.
Previously the Ukip hierarchy barred Mr Hamilton from the party lists for the European elections last May and from the selection contest in Boston and Skegness.
With less than an hour to go before the selection meeting, Mr Hamilton described the leaking of the letter as “a dirty trick” to deliberately destabilise the hustings, saying some of the queries it contained had already been answered.
Given that he had only just seen it, no point-by-point response to the issues raised has yet been forthcoming from Mr Hamilton.
The letter begins:
Dear Neil Hamilton,
To assist you in focusing your mind on Ukip’s simple and not unreasonable request that you explain your expenses claims. Would you please provide details of the following to the F&RC Committee;
1. In the case of each and every mileage claim, detail where you went, who you saw and why you had to make this trip.
2. Provide the invoice for each disbursement that you say you have incurred, detailing why this disbursement was incurred, and in the case of a lunch for example, whom you were having lunch with and for what purpose.
3. Provide an explanation of each stay that has been charged for your wife’s flat detailing why it was more convenient for you to stay there, rather than at your house.
4. State who agreed that you were able to charge for staying in your wife’s flat post the European elections.
The letter also provides confirmation that Mr Hamilton was deposed from his paid job as Ukip campaign manager for the European elections:
5. Prior to the European elections, please confirm who agreed that you would be able to charge for your stay in your wife’s flat , and obviously at the same time set out why, and where you were that required that you utilise this flat on a specific day.
– More particularly what interested the committee is why, after you were removed from the job that you were originally allocated prior to the European elections, you continued to use this flat as you were no longer performing that role.
6. To assist you, [Redacted] has specifically told us that he did not agree for you to charge VAT on the salary you received prior to the European Election. We have seen the email trail and would like an explanation as to why you did not go back to those who agreed this salary and why you did not make it known that you intended to charge VAT on your salary by charging Ukip through a company for your services as this incurred Ukip in extra costs. It is accepted that Ukip would have had to pay employer’s NI which is substantially less than VAT.
– What is wrong here, is that you failed to go back to the management committee to clear the arrangement knowing that Ukip was at all times during this campaign short of money.
7. To further assist you, in respect of expenses claimed with your new role, (Deputy Chairman Regions) [Redacted] has specifically told us that you could claim expenses for any tasks that he requested you to carry out. Accordingly can you please provide, for each item of work, confirmation that this was specifically done at [Redacted]‘s behest.
We note that you have withdrawn your claim for attendance and stay at the Doncaster Conference as you now say that it was wrongly put in due to a “fit of pique” – whatever that means.
We further note that you are no longer proceeding with this claim at all. We find this somewhat surprising particularly as, if the expenses can be substantiated, as set out above, there no reason for Ukip not to pay it or for you to withdraw the claim!
We need to place on record that we knew nothing of any expense claims you had put into Ukip until [Redacted] brought the expense claim that you have now withdrawn to my attention because [Redacted] had been asked on a couple of occasions by your wife to pay this invoice and [Redacted] felt that we ought to see it to confirm that payment was in order. In addition, prior to this, the NEC had asked for greater information to be provided to them on Ukip’s finances and expenses and no doubt this is what prompted [Redacted] to mention this to us as he was concerned by it.
We hope the above will assist you in providing the information that is required to substantiate your claims. You have already had over a month to assemble this information and the F& RC committee should be obliged to receive this information by close of business Friday 19th December, particularly, as [Redacted] has pointed out to us, Ukip’s year end is 31stDecember.
Please do bear in mind that we receive at Lexdrum House handwritten letters from pensioners enclosing a £5 or a £10 note which they have managed to save so as to send it to Ukip and hence we need to make sure that all expenses are fully explainable.
Mr Hamilton became a hugely controversial figure whilst serving as a Tory MP over allegations that he took cash in brown envelopes for asking parliamentary questions, which he has always denied.
Whatever the outcome of the allegations, this is yet more evidence of discord within Ukip.
Neil Hamilton questioned by UKIP over expense claims he has made while deputy chairman of the party as he steps down from selection in Basildon SouthPosted: December 28, 2014
Former Tory MP is under scrutiny from the Ukip finance committee
He allegedly claimed expenses for staying at wife Christine’s London flat
Details emerged in leaked letter, which Hamilton described as ‘dirty tricks’
Calls for party’s national executive committee to take action
Says Channel Four saw leaked letter before he did
Details of claims emerged before Hamilton pulled out of Essex vote
Tells party members he only stood as a local councillor was excluded
Gave his backing to Kerry Smith, who was later selected for the seat
Neil Hamilton stepped down from Ukip selection tonight as it emerged he was facing questions over expenses claims he made as deputy chairman of the party.
The former Tory MP is under scrutiny from the Ukip finance committee over expenses he allegedly claimed for staying at his wife Christine’s London flat.
Details of the expenses claims emerged in a leaked letter before Mr Hamilton told party members at a hustings meeting in Essex that he would not be standing for election there.
He had been one of five candidates in the running to become Ukip’s candidate for the seat of South Basildon and East Thurrock.
Mr Hamilton made the announcement before hustings began at the meeting, saying he had only stood because a local councillor, Kerry Smith, had been deselected as the party’s prospective parliamentary candidate for the seat in October, only to be later reinstated.
Announcing his decision to step aside and backing of Mr Smith, Mr Hamilton told the BBC: ‘He should never has been deselected in the first place, in my opinion, and he will make an excellent member of parliament for Basildon.’
‘I would not have put my hat into the ring if I’d known that Kerry was going to be a candidate.
‘I didn’t know until I got here that his name was included in the ballot paper.’
Mr Smith was later selected for the seat.
Last month, Mr Hamilton withdrew from the race to become UKIP’s candidate for Boston and Skegness.
In response to the leaked letter, Mr Hamilton lashed out at party insiders over a ‘dirty tricks’ campaign being run against him.
And he called for the party’s national executive committee (NEC) to take action against those involved in the ‘black arts of selective briefing, misrepresentation and outright lies’.
Tonight, Channel 4 News political correspondent Michael Crick revealed that Mr Hamilton had been sent a letter asking him to explain ‘each and ever mileage claim’ he has made, as well as details on lunches.
He was also asked to provide ‘an explanation of each stay that has been charged for your wife’s flat detailing why it was more convenient for you to stay there, rather than at your house’.
Mr Hamilton was also asked to state why he charged VAT on his salary from the party during his time as campaign manager in the run-up to the European elections, a job the letter said he was subsequently ‘removed’ from.
The letter, leaked to Channel 4 News, said the committee had been told that the arrangement had not been agreed.
‘We have seen the email trail and would like an explanation as to why you did not go back to those who agreed this salary and why you did not make it known that you intended to charge VAT on your salary by charging Ukip through a company for your services as this incurred Ukip in extra costs.
‘It is accepted that Ukip would have had to pay employer’s NI which is substantially less than VAT.
‘What is wrong here, is that you failed to go back to the management committee to clear the arrangement knowing that Ukip was at all times during this campaign short of money.’
The letter, which was sent today, signed off by telling Mr Hamilton: ‘Please do bear in mind that we receive at Lexdrum House handwritten letters from pensioners enclosing a £5 or a £10 note which they have managed to save so as to send it to Ukip and hence we need to make sure that all expenses are fully explainable.’
Mr Hamilton said tonight that Mr Crick had seen the letter before he had.
‘It is sad that some people in UKIP have adopted the black arts of selective briefing, misrepresentation and outright lies which Ukip rightly excoriates in the LibLabCon,’ he said.
‘It is time for the NEC, directly elected by the Party’s hard-working members, to cut out this cancer at the heart of Ukip which undermines its integrity.’
Mr Hamilton said he had predicted the correspondence about his expenses would be leaked and insisted he had been given assurances the inquiry into claims was a general one, rather than targeted at him.
He said: ‘Andrew Reid’s letter was written this afternoon and leaked to C4’s Michael Crick before I had even seen it.
The correspondence of which it is part, and which explains my position, has not been leaked and, therefore, a deliberately misleading view has been created, calculated to inflict maximum damage on me.’
He added: ‘The assistant treasurer of Ukip explicitly said to me at the outset that the expenses inquiry is general and not specific to me, arises because Ukip is short of funds and that there was no suggestion of any impropriety on my part.
‘The demand now for receipts, when I was explicitly told they were not necessary, may have been in included in this letter to convey an impression of malpractice on my part.
‘There are no grounds whatsoever of suspecting me of any impropriety.
‘Certain individuals have axes to grind against me and this is part of their continuing dirty tricks campaign.
‘Only a small handful of people could have leaked this letter and a glance at the names should make it perfectly obvious who the culprit or culprits are likely to be.
‘I have worked selflessly to advance UKIP’s interest for 12 years, entirely at my own expense until I became a party employee as European campaign director on September 1, 2013, an appointment which ceased on May 31, 2014 since when I have been unpaid but entitled to my expenses.’
Mr Hamilton’s bid to stand for Ukip in South Basildon and East Thurrock followed the withdrawal of Natasha Bolter from the race.
She had been embroiled in a row over claims of sexual harassment against a senior Ukip official, who has subsequently been suspended.
General secretary Roger Bird insisted he was not a ‘predator’ and was confident a full party inquiry would clear his name.
He published a file of personal messages which he says show he was in a relationship with Ms Bolter.
She says she felt pressured to sleep with the man overseeing candidate approvals in order to further her potential career in the Eurosceptic outfit.
Ms Bolter – who defected from Labour in a blaze of publicity and was introduced on stage at this year’s Ukip conference by Mr Bird – said that although he propositioned her, he was a ‘gentleman’ when she declined.
Mr Bird, who is single, insists however that they enjoyed a six-week consensual, sexual relationship that began a week after she had been approved to join the approved candidates list.
The former Conservative councillor, who quit the Tories in 2009 and switched to Ukip the following year, released part of what he said was a large collection of emails, texts and photographs which backed his side of the story.
He said the liaison began ‘some time after’ the candidate assessment and was ended by him on November 2.
Among the messages he said were received from Ms Bolter, one read: ‘But I love u and miss u and think u r sort of perfect.’
Another, apparently referring to the close of the Ukip conference in Doncaster, read: ‘R u still cool with me leaving suitcase here and coming home with u? Xx.’
Others expressed sentiments such as ‘really missing u bird’, ‘U r not coming back and accordingly my life will go back to a meaningless void” and “U r a really great mentor bird’.
‘Natasha Bolter and I were in a consensual relationship. This took place some time after her candidate assessment,’ Mr Bird said. ‘All of the suggestions that I was being some kind of predator and all the rest of it is entirely unsubstantiated by the facts.’
Ms Bolter agreed that she had sent a series of messages but told BBC2’s Newsnight: ‘None of them changes my story.’
‘I did not sleep with Roger Bird, end of,’ she said.
In an interview for the programme, she said: ‘When I said no, nothing happened. He’s a gentleman.
‘I never felt scared of him, I just felt pressured maybe, that if I did the right thing my career would go faster and further.”
‘He wasn’t taking me seriously as a candidate; he was looking at me as a sex object.’
She said the issue could have been dealt with by way of a ‘tap on the wrist’ if the party had acted more swiftly, and both parties continued.
But she suggested it was part of a wider issue.
‘We need to look at it in the greater picture: if they are not looking after a candidate that is going to stand in one of their target seats who is bringing forward serious allegations of sexism and racism and misogyny, are they really going to look after our electorate.’
Mr Bird said he ‘really could not even hazard a guess’ at why she might wish to invent a claim against him.
‘I suspect that perhaps she’s fallen out of love with Ukip for reasons unconnected to me,’ he said.
Solihull politician will appear before magistrates in Birmingham to face allegations over travel expenses
Former West Midlands MEP Nikki Sinclaire is set to appear in court accused of making false expenses claims and money laundering following a lengthy police investigation.
Ms Sinclaire is due to appear at Birmingham Magistrates Court on 17 September to face allegations that she made false and dishonest submissions for travelling expenses and transferred the proceeds of fraud through a bank account in her name.
The offences are alleged to have taken place between October 2009 and July 2010 when Ms Sinclaire was a serving Member of the European Parliament.
The 45-year-old, of Velsheda Road, Shirley, was originally arrested on in February 2012 and has since been on police bail. Three other members of the public were also arrested but will face no further action.
Throughout the investigation West Midlands Police has been working jointly with officers from the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF).
Simon Orme, lawyer with the Crown Prosecution Service special crime division, said: “The CPS has authorised West Midlands Police to charge Ms Nicole Sinclaire, former MEP for the West Midlands, with the offences of money laundering and misconduct in public office.
“It is alleged that between October 2009 and July 2010, whilst serving as an MEP, Ms Sinclaire used funds paid into her bank account by the European Parliament in respect of false travelling expenses claims.
“Ms Sinclaire has also been charged with Misconduct in a Public Office with regard to her actions.
“The decision to prosecute was taken in accordance with the Code for Crown Prosecutors. We have determined that there is a realistic prospect of conviction and that a prosecution is in the public interest.
“Criminal proceedings have now commenced and Ms Sinclaire has the right to a fair trial. It is extremely important that there should be no reporting, commentary or sharing of information online which could in any way prejudice these proceedings.”
When contacted by the Mail Ms Sinclaire said: “That’s the first I’ve heard about money laundering. The charge is misconduct in a public office.
“I will make a comment at a later time.”
The ex-MEP lost her seat in the May elections for the European parliament.
She was elected MEP in June 2009 as a UKIP candidate but later resigned from the Europe of Freedom and Democracy group in which UKIP is part of in the European Parliament, citing the alleged extreme right-wing views of some of the group’s members.
Subsequently Sinclaire sat as an Independent MEP from January 2010 until in September 2012 she set up the We Demand a Referendum party.
Although mainly known for her Eurosceptic views, Sinclaire has campaigned on other issues affecting West Midlands people, from jobs and the environment to human rights.
Nigel Farage aide disrupts interview amid racism and expenses claims
Ukip’s director of communications tried to haul the party’s leader, Nigel Farage, off a radio interview on Friday lunchtime after he came under sustained attack over his attitudes to immigrants and his expenses.
Farage was being interviewed by one of his long-term critics on LBC when Patrick O’Flynn intervened to say the interview had run over its agreed time. The interview had lasted just over 20 minutes.
The Ukip leader was accused of “reverse-ferretting” by the interviewer, James O’Brien, over a promise to have his expenses independently audited – an offer Ukip made on the BBC’s Today programme and subsequently withdrew in a Guardian interview, saying he would not be subject to a stricter audit than other MEPs.
When it was pointed out that other MEPs – including those from the Labour party – had their expenses audited O’Flynn intervened, surprising even Farage.
Asked about other MEPs’ auditing arrangement, Farage said: “What they have is an auditor to make sure they spend the money in accordance with the rules. There are no expenses. There are fixed-rate allowances that I have spent in accordance with the rules.”
Pressed to say if he would agree to the same audit, he said: “We will make a decision en masse. I am very suspicious of the word audit used in that context.” He made no commitment to an audit of his previous allowances.
Farage was also asked why he said he felt discomfort when travelling on a train and not hearing the English language. He insisted he had not said he objected, but that he did not feel comfortable.
O’Brien asked if he objected to the fact that his wife and his children could speak German, and replied that they could also speak English, adding he “had a distinct feeling English was not the language of choice” of those people that he heard on a train. He added he did not think his wife spoke German on a train.
Farage was also challenged about his claim that there were schools in east London where a majority of pupils did not speak English,” with the interviewer asserting such surveys only showed whether English was the child’s first language.
O’Brien pointed out his own bilingual children would be qualified as non-English speakers on this definition. Farage agreed the definition might need reworking.
O’Brien then asked about Farage’s claim that people would feel uncomfortable if a group of Romanian men moved in next door, pressing him to say whether he “would feel the same about a group of German children”.
Farage replied: “I think you know the difference. We want an immigration policy that is not just based on controlling not just quantity but quality”.
He added: “I am making one very simple point in this election. We cannot have any form of managed migration into Britain and remain a member of the European Union because we have an open door to nearly half a billion people.
“We would be far better off if the policy that did not discriminate against doctors from New Zealand or engineers from India in favour of anybody regardless of background and skills coming from southern and eastern Europe and that is the great debate.”
Explaining his claim that Romanians were more likely to be criminals, he said: “We have a problem; unfortunately, those communist countries which I visited and I’ve seen the real poverty that people live in.
“We talk about exclusion in society … go and see, since the fall in communism, what has happened to the Roma communities in those countries; they don’t get jobs, they’ve got nowhere to live and they have been forced, in many cases, to a life of crime.
“And what has happened to that open door? It has been an open invitation to the traffickers and the Metropolitan police have produced their statistics and they’re eye-watering and I’m saying let’s get a grip on it.”
Farage accepted there were “idiots” in his party after news of more Islamophobic comments made by Ukip candidates.
“Firstly, people saying silly things; yes of course we’ve had more of it than we’d have liked, but what is going on in the other parties? Nobody ever does ask them? I’m perfectly happy to have a debate about our idiots and people who are offensive.
Ukip leader Nigel Farage is facing questions over the £15,500 in expenses he claims annually for office costs after it emerged he pays no rent on the small Bognor Regis property where he works.
A former manager of the West Sussex office told the Times that upkeep of the converted grain store in terms of bills and other non-rental costs only amounts to £3,000 a year. That leaves £12,000 a year apparently unaccounted for.
Ukip said Farage, a European parliament member, was “confident he has abided by European parliamentary rules at all times when spending allowances.”
Farage said: “I don’t pay rent on the office but I obviously pay for everything else. Whether it’s the burglar alarm or electricity.”
He added: “About £1,000 a month is roughly what it is. Exceptionally I put more money in as and when it’s needed.”
However, the Times reported he has been referred to the European expenses watchdog by a former Ukip official over how he has spent about £60,000 of office expenses since transparency declarations about expenses began in 2009.
MEPs are not required to provide receipts proving how they spend their expenses, with the EU saying it is a “matter of honour” that the money is spent correctly.
The allegations emerged with Ukip riding high in the polls at around 20% as the Conservatives appeared to have taken a hit over former culture secretary Maria Miller’s wrongly-claimed expenses.
Last week, Farage said Miller had “taken the mickey out of the system” and called for David Cameron to allow the public to sack MPs who perpetrated serious wrongdoing.
Challenged about Ukip’s own expenses scandals among MEPs, he said: “In the cases of the two individuals who behaved badly, I removed the whip and kicked them out of the party a long time before they were found guilty of anything.”
The party’s grasping MEPs billed taxpayers £370,000 for office costs and got nearly £420,000 subsistence allowances for meals and hotels.
And they boosted UKIP coffers with more than £400,000 donations of their own money ahead of May’s Euro elections.
MEP and deputy party leader Paul Nuttall employed 12 members of staff at public expense. Mr Farage and East Midlands MEP Roger Helmer even put their wives on the Brussels payroll. The UKIP leader’s German wife Kirsten earned up to £30,000 while Sara Helmer pocketed up to £20,000.
A source said: “Farage makes a big thing of pretending UKIP are different from other parties. But this shows they’re even worse.”
Papers seen by the Sunday Mirror show UKIP MEPs claimed an average of £35,635 each in “general expenditure allowances” in 2012.
Officials say the cash should cover “office management costs”.
The allowances came on top of their £79,000 salaries, first class travel expenses and “daily subsistence allowance”.
UKIP MEPs claimed the daily allowance for an average of 86 days each, in accordance with EU rules. Labour MEPs claimed around 128 days each, suggesting they were in Parliament more often.
Mr Nuttall, North West MEP, claimed the daily subsistence allowance just 30 times in 2012 and has donated £12,400 to UKIP since election in 2009, according to the Electoral Commission. His allowances claims last year ran to £40,436. He was among seven MEPs who gave UKIP a total of £425,978 in cash and other benefits after election.
The others are: Derek Clark, East Midlands, £56,822 general and subsistence allowances, £187,000 party donations since 2004; Stuart Agnew, East of England, £78,486 allowances, £31,000 donations since 2009; Mike Nattrass, West Midlands, £59,845 allowances, £96,000 donations since 2004, resigned in September; Godfrey Bloom, Yorkshire and Humber, £46,722 allowances, £72,000 donations since 2004. He quit the UKIP Euro MPs group after saying British aid went to “bongo bongo land”.
MEPs who made no donations but claimed allowances include: Gerard Batten, London, £51,977; John Bufton, Wales, £49,550; William Legge, South West, £53,813 and Roger Helmer, East Midlands, £67,410.
Mr Farage’s allowances of £61,065 only includes subsistence for the last six months. In 2009, he said his MEPs would “provide a quarterly expenses statement”. We found they have not published any for more than a year. Campaign group European Movement UK said: “UKIP’s position is hypocritical.”
UKIP said: “Our MEPs claim allowances like other MEPs. Mr Farage employs his wife because his office is in his home for which he doesn’t charge the taxpayer.”