Tory Welsh Secretary puts 'on record' that he did not place bet on election date

The Conservative Welsh secretary has "put on record" that he did not place a bet on the date of the general election as Rishi Sunak continues to face questions about a growing scandal.

David TC Davies told Sky News he had not bet on the date of the election after two Conservative candidates were placed under investigation by the Gambling Commission for allegedly doing so.

Mr Davies said the news that two candidates were being investigated came as a "complete surprise to me".

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Laura Saunders, the Tory candidate for Bristol North West, is being investigated by the Gambling Commission alongside her husband, Tony Lee, the party's director of campaigns.

Ms Saunders said she "will be co-operating with the Gambling Commission" probe, while her husband "took a leave of absence" from his role on Wednesday night, a Conservative Party spokesman told Sky News.

It comes a week after the prime minister's close parliamentary aide Craig Williams, the Tory candidate in Montgomeryshire and Glyndwr, admitted to putting a "flutter" on the election, saying this has resulted in "some routine inquiries" which he was co-operating with "fully".

Mr Sunak's close protection officer has also been arrested and suspended over alleged bets about the timing of the election.

A gambling industry source told Sky News that "more names" are being looked at, though police "are not involved" in those cases.

But Mr Davies said he had "absolutely no idea" whether more names were going to emerge as part of the commission's investigation.

"The news of those two is a complete surprise to me," he said.

"I just want to put on record - I certainly haven't bet myself and in fact I haven't made any bets on anything for many years.

"I didn't know the election was coming until probably the morning. I had an inclination, I wasn't absolutely certain even then, and I've no idea who - if anyone - has placed any bets and what further investigation is going on."

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Mr Davies added: "What I will say, I will repeat the prime minister's words - it's totally unacceptable if people have broken the rules in any way, there is an investigation going on by the Gambling Commission and I welcome that, and anyone who is found to have broken the rules will be kicked out of the Conservative Party."

The prime minister told the BBC Question Time leader's special on Thursday he was "incredibly angry" to learn of the allegations, calling it a "really serious matter".

Pressed on why those under suspicion haven't been suspended, Mr Sunak said an investigation had to take place first - but anyone guilty would be "booted out" of the party.

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The Labour Party has called on Mr Sunak to suspend those involved immediately.

Shadow science secretary Peter Kyle told Sky News: "Keir Starmer said very clearly yesterday that had this been anything involving in a Labour candidate, then their feet wouldn't have touched the ground. They'd be out."

Put to him that the prime minister believed the investigation should be allowed to progress, Mr Kyle said: "We are in the general election campaign. In two weeks' time, the country will go to the voting booths and they will cast their vote.

"And Rishi Sunak is quite clear... quite comfortable campaigning alongside MPs... allowing members of staff to be putting to the country a prospectus for the future, which is a message being carried by people who are under investigation."

The full list of candidates in Bristol North West:

• Caroline Gooch - Liberal Democrats
• Darren Jones - Labour Party
• Scarlett O'Connor - Reform UK
• Mary Page - Green Party
• Laura Saunders - Conservative and Unionist Party
• Ben Smith - Social Democratic Party

The full list of candidates in Montgomeryshire and Glyndwr:

• Jeremy Brignell-Thorp - Green Party
• Oliver Lewis - Reform UK
• Glyn Preston - Liberal Democrats
• Elwyn Vaughan - Plaid Cymru (The Party Of Wales)
• Craig Williams - Conservative and Unionist Party
• Steve Witherden - Labour Party