A LABOUR AM yesterday called for some of this year’s National Assembly election results to be investigated following a ruling that Plaid Cymru’s three MPs misused public money for campaigning purposes.
Last week the Standards and Privileges Committee of the House of Commons issued a report saying Plaid MPs Elfyn Llwyd, Adam Price and Hywel Williams should not have used their communications allowances to take out newspaper advertisements during the run-up to May’s election campaign.
In a letter to Glyn Mathias, the electoral commissioner for Wales, Alun Davies, a regional AM for Mid and West Wales, said, “The Standards and Privileges Committee have found that the adverts were effectively political campaigning.
“While I understand that Plaid Cymru will now be forced to repay the taxpayers’ money and apologise to the House of Commons, I also believe that this raises several wider and more fundamental issues. It has undermined the integrity of the Assembly elections in May and will impact public confidence in the results of those elections.
“This decision of the parliamentary authorities follows the Electoral Commission’s own ruling that Plaid Cymru did not declare this expenditure as a part of their financial returns. This position is strengthened by the finding that the timing of these adverts, ‘was clearly related to the Assembly elections, and any attempt to pretend otherwise is disingenuous’.
“I hope that Plaid Cymru will now be compelled to submit full and accurate financial returns for last May’sAssembly elections.”
Mr Davies went on to refer to the Electoral Commission’s concern about the use by Plaid of slogans on the ballot paper. A number of Plaid candidates included statements like “Save Withybush Hospital” in their ballot paper descriptions. According to Mr Davies, this was, “designed, in my view, to mislead the electorate – or at the very least to campaign within the confines of the polling station which is contrary to electoral law.
“Taken together I believe that these issues – the misuse of public money, the failure to provide full and accurate financial returns and the abuse of the ballot paper – establish a pattern of behaviour which is contrary to both the letter and spirit of the law.
“It also raises real questions as to the outcome of the election in those constituencies where these issues may have affected the result of the election. I am therefore asking you to urgently investigate the outcome of the Assembly election in a number of Welsh seats where these illegal activities may have had a bearing on the outcome of those elections.
“I believe that the Electoral Commission should establish a full review of the results of the election with a view to declaring the results in constituency and regional seats null and void if there is any evidence that this has had a material impact on the result of the poll.
“Without this investigation I do not believe that we can restore public trust in the political and electoral process.
“I share the very real concerns of many people that this election may have been stolen from the people of Wales by the illegitimate activities of Plaid Cymru.”
Mr Davies told the Western Mail he believed results in about six seats in West and North Wales could have been affected by the advertisements.
Asked how he reconciled his call for elections to be declared null and void with his party’s involvement in a coalition government with Plaid, Mr Davies said, “This is about the election itself – it’s not about the coalition. I support the One Wales agreement. I voted for it and argued for it.
“But I don’t think we should censor ourselves when we believe that irregularities have occurred.”
Mr Davies said he realised that if anything came of his complaint, he could lose his own seat. Labour won two regional seats in Mid and West Wales to compensate for losing all three of its constituency seats in the region.
A Plaid Cymru spokesman said, “We accept the ruling of the Standards Committee and will fully comply with its findings. During the production and commissioning of our parliamentary reports we acted in good faith and on the advice provided by the parliamentary authorities. As far as we are concerned the matter is now closed.”
Kay Jenkins, who heads the Electoral Commission in Wales, said, “We have asked Plaid Cymru to amend their national election expenses return, and the revised return will be published next week.
“Plaid Cymru is well within the overall campaign spending limit, and there is no question of anything illegal having occurred, so far as we are concerned.
“We do not have the power to disqualify elected members. That can only be done in a court, and objections have to be lodged within 21 days of an election result.”