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Government urged to say whether expenses probe influenced election decision

Ministers must urgently explain whether or not the police investigation into Conservative MPs' election expenses swayed a decision for a snap election, the SNP has said.

Parliament is expected to conclude its business on April 27 with dissolution following as campaigning for the June 8 general election kicks into gear.

But SNP Commons Leader Pete Wishart said an urgent statement is required from the Government given that "up to two dozen" Tory MPs face the possibility of being prosecuted during the campaign.

He insisted voters need to know whether a candidate can continue campaigning should the police decide to take action.

Cabinet minister David Lidington echoed the words of Prime Minister Theresa May in defending his fellow Tory MPs, adding: "We are confident individual colleagues acted properly."

Some 14 police forces have sent files to the Crown Prosecution Service, which are understood to refer to more than 30 individuals, in relation to allegations of breaching spending limits in the 2015 general election.

Speaking after Mr Lidington informed MPs that he expects parliamentary business to be completed by next Thursday, Mr Wishart said: "Before we rise we have to have an urgent statement on the status of all these Conservative Members of Parliament currently under police investigation for electoral fraud.

"It seems there might be up to two dozen Conservative MPs facing the possibility of being prosecuted probably in the middle of an election campaign.

"The public, I believe, deserves to know what will happen under these circumstances and will it be possible for them to continue as candidates in this general election if that was to pass.

"There are a lot of people who suspect that with the first charging decision to be made on May 20 that this is the real reason for the snap election, and we need to hear from the Government if this played any feature in its deciding and determining of this date of election.

"I'd like to hear from the Leader of the House on this issue."

Commons Leader Mr Lidington replied: "I want to reiterate what the Prime Minister said yesterday that we stand behind all our candidates at the forthcoming election who will be out campaigning for a strong and stable government in the national interest.

"A number of police forces conducted investigations, many have been dropped.

"It's right matters are investigated properly but the battle bus was directed by the national party - as was the case with other political parties - and we are confident individual colleagues acted properly."

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