A senior Tory MP last night challenged Nick Clegg to come clean over his role in obtaining funding for a charity linked to his wife Miriam – after officials blocked the release of key emails.
The Mail on Sunday revealed in December that Booktrust received a £12 million grant from the Education Department after one of the Lib Dem leader’s aides lobbied for it to be given the grant directly, rather than having to compete with other charities.
Now a request under Freedom of Information rules for emails sent between officials relating to the deal to be published has been blocked by the Cabinet Office.
It claims their publication would ‘prejudice the effective conduct of public affairs’ if the contents were revealed.
It is understood the emails show senior civil servants expressed concern at the way the bidding process had apparently been manipulated to benefit Booktrust, which gives away books to promote reading among children.
Suspicious: A request for emails between officials relating to the grant was blocked, prompting Conservative MP David Davis to say: 'This is the kind of behaviour that leads one to believe someone has something to hide'
Sources in Mr Clegg’s Cabinet Office have claimed the aide, Matt San-ders, had referred in conversation to the fact Miriam Clegg had hosted a lavish function for Booktrust weeks earlier.
Last night, former Shadow Home Secretary David Davis said: ‘This is the kind of behaviour that leads one to believe someone has something to hide. There is an old saying, “If there’s nothing to hide there’s nothing to fear”.’
The Mail on Sunday now intends to appeal to the Information Commissioner.
Freedom of Information campaigner Maurice Frankel said there were strong arguments in favour of releasing the emails.
He said: ‘There is a good chance the commissioner will say that in a case such as this where there have been claims the normal process has not been followed, then there is a strong public interest argument in favour of transparency.’
A spokesman for Mr Clegg said: ‘The Cabinet Secretary has made it clear that the award of funding to Booktrust was taken in an entirely proper way by the Secretary of State for Education.’
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2272603/Blocked-Emails-Cleggs-role-12m-boost-charity-backed-wife.html#ixzz2Jq54Bq5V
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