Clegg denies ‘smear’ over charity support

By staff

Nick Clegg faces accusations of impropriety after it emerged he helped a charity receive government funding.

An aide to the deputy prime minister was shown to have lobbied in favour of funding for Booktrust, which gives books to babies, toddlers and children, over other charities competing for government money.

Clegg's wife, Miriam Gonzalez Durantez, is a leading supporter of the charit,y which confirmed last week it will receive £12 million from the Department for Education over the next two years.

"There was unease at the way that it appeared Mr Clegg wanted special
treatment for Booktrust, and the fact that Miriam's name came up," a Whitehall insider told the Mail on Sunday.

One Conservative backbencher, Clegg's prominent Commons enemy Peter Bone, is writing to Cabinet secretary Jeremy Heywood demanding an inquiry.

"If there was undue influence over the award of this money, Mr Clegg will have very serious questions to answer," Bone told the newspaper.

"No one is questioning the good work of this charity but I would be very concerned if communications from his office have been used to influence the award of public money."

Sources close to Clegg said there had been no wrongdoing and dismissed the story as "smears and innuendo".

"The decision to continue the funding for Booktrust was made by the prime minister and the education secretary because it is the only organisation capable of delivering children's books and literacy support on this scale, on this budget," an aide told the Sunday Telegraph.

"Any suggestion that Miriam's support for the charity influenced that decision is obviously without foundation."

As well as the universal Bookstart scheme, ministers have asked the charity to develop and deliver a new programme that will target the most disadvantaged two-year-olds, the charity announced last week.

Booktrust chief executive Viv Bird said: "We look forward to the challenge of delivering a successful scheme – especially as this proposal fits with our wider vision of giving every child the chance to discover the joy of reading, and the lifelong benefits that it brings."