Text messages emerge in Tory politician expenses row

Laura Anne JonesImage source, Senedd Cymru
Image caption,

Laura Anne Jones is a Conservative Member of the Senedd representing South Wales East

  • Published

Texts from the phone of a Conservative Senedd member, which appear to ask an employee to maximise the politician's expenses claims, have been seen by BBC Wales.

Laura Anne Jones is under investigation by police over allegations concerning her expenses.

One message asked a staff member: "When doing petrol thing - always make more than I did – add in stuff please ok".

The context for the WhatsApp messages is not evident. A solicitor on her behalf has said: "Ms Jones is satisfied that any allegations in relation to impropriety surrounding expenses are entirely misconceived".

The Welsh Conservatives in the Senedd said: “We will not be commenting while this matter is being considered by the relevant authorities.”

Ms Jones, who is Conservative shadow culture minister, has previously said she will fully co-operate with "any investigation".

BBC Wales has seen messages sent to a member of staff, who had asked whether they should make expenses claims for the politicians for days when Ms Jones was off sick.

There was no direct answer to that question. However, a graph of proposed expenses then appeared to be sent to the phone of Ms Jones.

A response from Ms Jones's phone said: "If you could always do more than it says, that’d be fab, thanks". It was followed by a thumbs up emoji.

Another message from the same phone said: "When doing Petrol thing - always make more than I did - add in stuff please ok". It was followed by a thumbs up and a folded hands emoji.

When the staff member asks "like visits to constituency office?", a response says: "Yes - stuff like that [folded hands emoji]."

Mileage claims for Senedd members must be approved by the member themselves.

The BBC cannot verify whether the messages represent the whole conversations between the people involved, nor their full context.

Ms Jones is currently being investigated by the Standards Commissioner Douglas Bain and South Wales Police.

The police investigation is ongoing. No arrests have been made.

The standards commissioner, who is responsible for investigating complaints against MSs, had referred a complaint on to police, according to the force.

The BBC has been told the original complaint to Mr Bain was in relation to Ms Jones’s handling of allegations of bullying by a senior member of staff.

Claims about the South Wales East MS' expenses emerged as part of Mr Bain's investigation.

It is understood the standards commissioner’s investigation is on hold while the police inquiry is taking place, and police have spoken to at least one member of Conservative staff.

A lawyer on behalf of Ms Jones said in a statement: "Ms Jones did not receive any formal bullying complaint in relation to any of her staff members".

They added that she "is satisfied that any allegations in relation to impropriety surrounding expenses are entirely misconceived".

"Ms Jones’s belief is that these complaints being lodged with the standards commissioner are without foundation.

"As these matters are the subject of ongoing inquiries, it would be inappropriate for Ms Jones to make any further comment.

"Ms Jones has no issue with the BBC or its sources putting these allegations to the police and/or the standards commissioner, which will provide her the opportunity to respond in a formal manner as part of the inquiry should the authorities require it."