Labour refusing to publish documents in Angela Rayner housing row

Angela Rayner
The MP is facing growing scrutiny over her former property in Stockport

Labour is refusing to publish documents which would reveal where Angela Rayner claimed to be living when she applied to be a parliamentary candidate.

The party will not reveal which address she put down on internal selection papers in 2014 or whether the documents still exist, citing the police investigation into its deputy leader.

Officers are investigating claims she wrongly declared which house was her permanent address on the electoral register, which is a criminal offence.

Ms Rayner says her former home on Vicarage Road in Stockport, which she purchased through the Right to Buy scheme at a discount for £79,000 in 2007, was her “principal property” until she sold it in 2015.

She was registered at the property for five years after she married Mark Rayner in 2010, while he was listed at a different address in Lowndes Lane a mile away.

However, neighbours claim she was living with her husband at Lowndes Lane.

Ms Rayner has also faced questions about whether she should have paid capital gains tax for the £48,500 profit she made on the sale of the former council house, owing to the confusion over whether it was her principal residency.

While nomination papers lodged with the returning officer for her election campaign have been destroyed, Labour could still hold internal documents from when she applied to be a candidate which would have included her main address.

If she had listed her husband’s address it would cast fresh doubts on her claim she was living in her own home.

However, if she put down the Vicarage Road property it may help her defend herself against claims she was actually living at Lowndes Lane.

Neighbours have claimed she is lying about only moving to her then husband’s property after selling her house for £127,500 in March 2015, two months before the election.

Ms Rayner was selected as the Labour candidate for Ashton-Under-Lyne in September 2014 after putting herself forward for the nomination in July that year.

Mounting pressure

The documents Labour is refusing to release were one of two sets of papers she would have submitted before becoming an MP - one form to become the party candidate and another application with the returning officer appointed by Tameside Council to stand at the general election.

The official nomination papers may only be inspected when they are delivered, and only by candidates, their election agent, their proposer and their seconder.

After 12 months all election documents held by the Electoral Registration Officer are destroyed, unless a court order directs otherwise.

It means that unless Ms Rayner or her team kept a copy of her nomination papers, it will never be possible to check which address she put down.

Angela Rayner and Andy Burnham, pictured campaigning together in Birmingham last month
Andy Burnham said he will not get involved in the police investigation into Angela Rayner - James Manning/PA

However, the internal party papers may still be held by Labour officials and could reveal which address she said she was living at.

Police opened their investigation after mounting pressure from Tory MPs and, as of last week, had failed to contact the neighbours who said Ms Rayner was lying about where she was living.

Providing a false address on the electoral roll is an offence under the Representation of the People Act 1983 but there is a time limit of one year, or two in exceptional circumstances, for launching a prosecution.

Fresh questions

Greater Manchester Police was set to hold a meeting chaired by an assistant chief constable on Monday to discuss the case after launching an investigation last Friday.

Andy Burnham, who has political oversight for the force, has insisted he will not be involved in the inquiry, amid concerns about a potential conflict of interest.

The Labour mayor of Greater Manchester confirmed his stance on Sunday after he was urged not to take a public position.

Ms Rayner also faced fresh questions over her story at the weekend after it emerged a former adviser had told police she was living at her husband’s home.

Matt Finnegan, who also wrote a novel about a smart, northerner “diva” MP, said in a letter to officers he visited her at the Lowndes Lane address in the summer of 2014.

“There was no doubt in my mind that this was Ms Rayner’s family home, where she lived with her then husband, Mark,” his letter states.

Ms Rayner is due to front a major new announcement on council housing on Tuesday despite the questions swirling around her position.

She is set to attack the Tories’ record on affordable housing and pledge to “council housing at the heart of Labour’s secure homes plan”.

On a visit with Rachel Reeves, the shadow chancellor, she will unveil plans for a “fiscal lock” to stop governments taking actions that would hike mortgage rates.

But the launch of the policy is set to be low-key, with Ms Rayner not expected to take questions from the national media as the row over her ex council home rages on.

In a defiant statement on Friday, Ms Rayner said she was “completely confident” that she had followed the rules at all times but said she would resign if found to have committed a criminal offence.

“I will say, as I did before, if I committed a criminal offence, I would of course do the right thing and step down,” she said. “The British public deserves politicians who know the rules apply to them.

“The questions raised relate to a time before I was an MP, and I have set out my family’s circumstances and taken expert tax and legal advice. I look forward to setting out the facts with the relevant authorities at the earliest opportunity.”

Labour declined to comment.