- Office of climate change secretary Ed Davey has secret company
- ‘Berrylands Printers’ is owned by his wife and office manager
- Legislation affecting election printing published this week
Cabinet minister Ed Davey has a secret printing company operating from his constituency office, Political Scrapbook can reveal. Electoral filings obtained by this blog suggest that the vehicle may have been used to hide the true cost of election expenses in what would constitute a breach of electoral law.
The news comes as the government prepares to publish its lobbying and third party funding bill, which it is expected to place restrictions on political funding and ‘donations in kind’ — including printing costs.
Berryland Printers Ltd, which is based within Ed Davey’s constituency office in south west London (above) provides services exclusively to Liberal Democrats. Established in 2011, the company is owned by the climate change secretary’s wife, Emily Davey, and his office manager, Elizabeth Mayes-Reid, while the president of the local party is listed as a director.
With existing electoral laws placing strict limits on spending, services provided at a discount of more than 10% from market rates must recorded as ‘notional expenditure’ — which counts towards spending caps. But analysis of spending returns (full PDF) for a recent by-election — spun as a show of Lib Dem resilience in the media – show that the company operating from Davey’s office offered the local party discounts of up to 85% on those provided by commercial firms.
4,500 A3 copies of a leaflet were billed at £122.30, a discount of over £400 on quotes sourced by this blog; while 4,200 blue C6 envelopes were itemised at £30 — around £170 less expensive than the cheapest quote Scrapbook could find online.
Lib Dem agent Derek Osbourne — who quit as the local council leader after his arrest on child porn allegations last month – told the Electoral Commission that the notional spending for the by-election was £35.10.
The determination of the Ed Davey to hang onto the seat cannot be underestimated, as paid organiser and by-election manager Roisin Miller has set out:
“Berrylands is symbolic for Edward Davey; it is right in the centre of his constituency and is where the office is located.”
Provided with the full documentation, Miller refused to offer a detailed explanation of how her campaign could account for the official returns to the Electoral Commission, saying simply:
“The party complies with all relevant regulations regarding these issues, as set out in the appropriate legislation and administered by the Electoral Commission and other relevant bodies.”
With a network of similar Lib Dem ‘printing societies’ across the country — operating at various levels of transparency — local campaign organisers may not be thanking Nick Clegg’s office for this bill.