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Pressure Mounts On Electoral Commission To Publish Ashcroft Report

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Responding to earlier this week - which came just - Peter Mandelson accused the billionaire Belizean of yesterday, and called on the Conservative Party to repay all money donated by him.

Mr. Mandelson also renewed his demand for an inquiry by the Lords Appointments Commission into the "" undertaking made by the Conservative Party deputy chairman in 2000 to become a "" of the UK as a pre-condition to receiving a seat in the House of Lords.

claims shortly after his peerage was announced the civil service agreed that he need only become a "long-term resident" of the UK to sit in the Lords.  That deal allowed him to remain non-domiciled for tax purposes and avoid paying an estimated £127m in UK taxes.

"However, this cannot be the condition he was required to meet in 2000," Mr. Mandelson said, "because the 'long-term resident' rule was only introduced in April 2008 - eight years after he made his promise."

The Lords Appointments Commission refuses to countenance a "retrospective investigation", however, since it did not exist when Mr. Ashcroft was ennobled - at that time the (now-defunct) Political Honours Scrutiny Committee held sway.

But Mr. Mandelson said: "It is not acceptable for the authority simply to say, 'We are an independent commission now.  We didn't exist then.  We don't have the papers.'  Those papers exist.  Somewhere, someone along the line made a deal with Lord Ashcroft the terms of which he has chosen to dodge for 10 years."

Mr. Mandelson also called on the Electoral Commission to hurry up and publish the results of its inquiry into donations made to the Tories by .  Mr. Ashcroft has been "spending [money] in countless marginal seats across the country trying to buy seats in order to steal the election," Mr. Mandelson said.

"The public is entitled to know.  This is a matter of democracy, how we function, the rights we have, and what we need to know about how someone like Ashcroft has operated in the dark for so long, manipulating our electoral system in order to gain advantage for one party."

In 2005 Mr. Ashcroft admitted he had already donated "" to the Tories.  Since that date he and  have provided .

In addition to calls for the Electoral Commission to publish its report and the Lords Appointments Commission to commence an inquiry, Liberal Democrat Chris Huhne has called on .

Meanwhile, .  When pressed for details, Mr. Cameron replied: "I admire people who try to flog a dead horse.  But the horse is dead and should no longer be flogged."

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