Tory Senedd member under investigation over alleged inflated expenses claims

<span>Laura Anne Jones MS is reportedly under investigation by South Wales police over the claims.</span><span>Photograph: Ben Evans/Huw Evans/Shutterstock</span>
Laura Anne Jones MS is reportedly under investigation by South Wales police over the claims.Photograph: Ben Evans/Huw Evans/Shutterstock

Texts reportedly sent from the phone of a Conservative Senedd member, appearing to ask a member of staff to inflate her expenses claims, have been seen by BBC Wales.

South Wales police had received information from the Senedd Commissioner for Standards, which remains under investigation, the force said.

The BBC published screenshot messages, including one allegedly sent by Laura Anne Jones to a staff member, reading: “When doing petrol thing – always make more than I did – add in stuff please ok.”

When the staff member asks, “Like visits to constituency office?”, a response says: “Yes – stuff like that.”

Lawyers acting on behalf of Jones said: “Ms Jones is satisfied that any allegations in relation to impropriety surrounding expenses are entirely misconceived.”

BBC Wales reported that it had seen WhatsApp messages sent to a member of staff in response to them asking whether to make expenses claims for days when Jones was off sick. There was no direct response to that, but the screenshot appears to show a chart of proposed expenses sent by the staff member to the politician’s phone.

A reply from Jones’s phone said: “If you could always do more than it says, that’d be fab, thanks.”

Amid the investigation, the leader of the Welsh Conservatives, Andrew RT Davies, said: “I have asked Laura Anne Jones to step back from the Welsh Conservative shadow cabinet while investigations take place.

“We will not be making any comments on any active investigations being carried out.”

BBC Wales said it was unable to verify the context in which the messages were sent, or whether her messages represented the entire conversations between the people involved. The Guardian has not seen the messages, other than the screenshots published by the broadcaster.

A spokesperson for the Senedd Commissioner for Standards said the commissioner was prohibited from “disclosing any information about any complaint that may, or may not, have been received”.

Jones was originally reported to the standards commissioner in relation to her handling of allegations of bullying by a senior member of staff, the BBC said it had been told.

Lawyers acting on behalf of Jones told the Guardian in a statement: “Ms Jones did not receive any formal bullying complaint in relation to any of her staff members.”

On the expenses claims, they added, “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 Guardian/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.

“Any publication which contains any statement or innuendo bearing a defamatory meaning will result in the commencement of libel proceedings.”