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MP denies Non Dom' cash for marginal seat

PUBLISHED: 14:03 11 March 2010 | UPDATED: 17:41 25 August 2010

David Evennett:

David Evennett: ""We have never had any money from Lord Ashcroft. It is nothing to do with my campaign I had no idea'

A billionaire, who has avoided paying millions of pounds in tax, funded polling in a marginal constituency but its Tory MP claims he knew nothing about it. Lord Ashcroft s report called Smell the Coffee: A wake-up call for the Conservative Party, was co

A billionaire, who has avoided paying millions of pounds in tax, funded polling in a marginal constituency but its Tory MP claims he knew nothing about it.

Lord Ashcroft's report called Smell the Coffee: A wake-up call for the Conservative Party, was compiled for the last election in 2005. It references polling in the then Labour Bexleyheath and Crayford constituency five times.

In bold type, on the front page, it has the words 'Michael A. Ashcroft' . However sitting Conservative MP for the area David Evennett pictured, claims he knew nothing of the report and did not know where Central Office got its money from.

He said: "We have never had any money from Lord Ashcroft. It is nothing to do with my campaign. I had no idea.

"All the declarations donated to our campaign have been declared to the Electoral Commission. All the money that was given with my consent had been declared. I don't want to make any comment whether the party should have accepted the money."

The Times can also reveal Conservative parliamentary candidate for Old Bexley and Sidcup and current Hornchurch MP James Brokenshire received more than £20,000 to help win his marginal seat in Essex. Lord Ashcroft announced last Monday that he had enjoyed 'non-dom' status for the last decade.

This was despite signing a written pledge to then Tory leader William Hague in 2000, promising that he would take up permanent British residence, as a condition of being made a Lord.

Parliamentary candidate for Bexleyheath and Crayford Howard Dawber said: "David Evennett should immediately release details of how much money and support Lord Ashcroft gave local Tories during the 2005 election campaign.

"If VAT was avoided, the local Conservatives should pay it back straight away. He is estimated to have used his status to avoid up to £127million in UK taxes including VAT payable on opinion polling and political research."

Since 2004 Lord Ashcroft's company, Bearwood, has made five donations to the Hornchurch Conservative Party totalling £20,140.09.

Mr Brokenshire entered parliament in 2005, snatching the Essex seat from Labour, with only 480 more votes - a mere 0.5 per cent increase in the share of their vote.

Labour previously took the seat from the Tories in the 1997 landslide and held on to it in the 2001 election.

He told the Times: "The Electoral Commission has ruled, after a lengthy and comprehensive investigation, that donations made by Bearwood were entirely legal and met all donation requirements. There was no basis to conclude there was anything inappropriate."

Conservative candidate for Eltham David Gold, who has so far not taken any money from Lord Ashcroft, did not rule out accepting some in the future.

He said: "I don't see how he could have misled the country as he always said the issue is between him and the taxman. Lord Ashcroft's money accounts for a minor amount of Conservative campaign money. Personally I don't go touting for money."

The Times has already revealed that Orpington MP John Horam received three donations from the Lord, between 2004 and 2005, as well as Gravesham MP Adam Holloway.

marina.soteriou@archant.co.uk

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