Tories 'facing police probes into election spending breaches'
The Conservatives face a series of police investigations into allegations they breached election spending rules.
Eight forces are reported to be investigating the claims surrounding the 2015 general election campaign, but senior Tories have insisted the party did nothing wrong.
The party has faced claims that the costs of activists bussed into key constituencies around the country should have been recorded under individual candidates' limits, rather than as part of the national campaign.
The Electoral Commission met with police and prosecutors on Wednesday in a bid to ensure they do not run out of time to launch possible criminal investigations into Tory funding of the 2015 general election campaign.
The Commission believes its ongoing probe into alleged breaches of reporting obligations will take at least another month - potentially taking it past the one-year time limit for launching criminal proceedings.
A series of forces have said they will now consider applying for an extension to the time limit.
Gloucestershire Police said an "investigation has been launched" into an allegation of electoral fraud and "we are considering an application for extension on time to investigate".
A Devon and Cornwall Police spokesman said: "We are fully aware that there is a 12-month limitation of proceedings for certain offences, which would mean that no criminal action could be taken in relation to these offences past this point without the police applying for an extension - the limitation period expires in Devon and Cornwall in early June 2016.
"Devon and Cornwall Police are awaiting further guidance and legal advice in relation to the specific points relevant to election legislation."
A Cheshire Police spokeswoman said: " As a result of media interest, some members of the public have contacted us to raise their concerns in relation to this matter. Officers are investigating these reports and following lines of inquiry.
"Based on the information we receive, we will consider the appropriate course of action and if an application to the extension of the time limit is required."
A West Yorkshire Police spokeswoman said: "The force has received allegations of electoral fraud in relation to one West Yorkshire constituency in 2015. We will be seeking a time limit extension to investigate these allegations."
The BBC reported that Derbyshire Police, Greater Manchester Police, Northamptonshire Police and Staffordshire Police were also actively investigating allegations.
Cabinet minister Greg Clark claimed investigations into elections were a regular occurrence.
The Communities Secretary told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "For elections, there are often investigations as to how things have been conducted.
"I have every reason to suppose that the arrangements that we had and all parties had with national battle buses, they get reported in the required way.
"The Electoral Commission oversee these matters, it's right for them to make their own assessment."
The claims relating to Conservative spending covering the general election and three parliamentary by-elections were first raised by the Daily Mirror and Channel 4 News.
The party has blamed an "administrative error" for failing to register some accommodation costs.
But David Cameron has insisted it was right to include such expenditure as part of the national campaign.
Tory anti-corruption "tsar" Sir Eric Pickles, a former party chairman, said the Conservatives were confident that everything during the 2015 election was "above board" and said he had "complete confidence" in the team who organised the submission of expenses.
"I'm told that the party is confident that it will be able to successfully demonstrate that everything was above board but I have no inside knowledge inside the party on this," the former Cabinet minister told BBC Radio 4's The World At One.
"These are matters that are quite normal in politics, I don't have any inside knowledge, I don't know, I haven't seen how the forms were filled in, but I know the people that did this and they are very professional and I've got complete confidence in them."
A Greater Manchester Police spokeswoman said the force has received an allegation of electoral fraud and an investigation has been launched.
"Officers have been liaising with the Electoral Commission and Crown Prosecution Service and have this week made an application to the court under the Representations of the People Act 1983 to extend the time allowed to bring a prosecution," a spokeswoman said. "This extension will be reviewed by the courts in May 2017."
The Conservatives have already acknowledged that the accommodation costs from the Battlebus campaign had not been properly recorded.
The party insists that the bus tour was part of the national campaign organised by Conservative campaign headquarters (CCHQ) and as such did not fall to be recorded in individual constituency spending limits.
A spokesman said: "CCHQ campaigned across the country for the return of a Conservative Government.
"Such campaigning would be part of the national return, not local return, as the Electoral Commission has said.
"As is apparent from our national return, the party declared expenditure related to our CCHQ-organised Battlebus. However, due to administrative error it omitted to declare the accommodation costs of those using the vehicles.
"This is something we have already brought to the attention of the Electoral Commission in order to amend the return. The party always took the view that our national Battlebus, a highly-publicised campaign activity, was part of the national return - and we would have no reason not to declare it as such, given that the Party was some millions below the national spending threshold.
"O ther political parties ran similar vehicles which visited different Parliamentary constituencies as part of their national campaigning."