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.