Having dropped the tedious “Mrs Bone” shtick, Tory MP Peter Bone is looking to redeem himself with this preamble to a question at PMQs, where Nick Clegg is deputising:
“Mr Speaker, hasn’t the acting prime minister been outstanding today? I think if you were listening at the dispatch box you would have thought it was the honourable member for Witney [David Cameron] at the despatch box.”
“I think he is turning into a Tory.”
Shouldn’t that be “turning back into a Tory”? He was a member at university.
The Liberal Democrats have backed the so-called ‘crack cocaine’ of high street gambling, fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) which allow players to bet £100 per spin every 20 seconds — that’s £18,000 per hour. The vote on the obscure secondary legislation took place quietly in Committee Room 9 earlier today — despite promises from senior Lib Dems to crack down on the machines.
Calling for betting to be capped at £2 per spin — in line with bingo halls and casinos — the Lib Dem’s deputy chief whip Don Foster hailed a “real victory” when the government agreed to a review of the maximum stakes and spin rates on machines he described as “an aberration”:
“There’s no doubt this is ruining people’s lives. Fixed odds betting terminals have incredibly high stakes and prizes. People chase their losses. These machines are getting more and more sophisticated.”
Senior Lib Dems, including Nick Clegg, David Laws and Danny Alexander, were aldo photographed alongside materials campaigning against fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs). But this morning they caved into the gambling industry.
How do you know when a Lib Dem minister is lying? Their lips are moving (boom boom)!
New proposals on income tax naturally dominated early exchanges between Nick Clegg and journalists at his monthly press conference, after which hacks asked about Scottish independence, those big bad horrible trade unions, the Bedroom Tax, UKIP, Royal Mail privatisation and taxes on foreign nationals buying UK property.
Despite the ‘new expenses scandal’, including manifold outstanding questions regarding arrangements between Sheffield Hallam Liberal Democrats and the deputy prime minister, however, not one journalist asked Nick Clegg about his office expenses.
Slow hand clap.
With Scrapbook setting the pace on the investigation of Nick Clegg’s office expenses, the deputy prime minister has been forced to defend his arrangements. BBC Sheffield hack James Vincent reports on an interview for the Rony Robinson show:
If that is the case, he’ll surely be happy to release the relevant documents into the public domain, starting with the surveyor’s report assessing the rent and itemised invoices from Sheffield Liberal Democrats.
We’ve just asked Lib Dem press office for the documents and other key info.
UPDATE: Here’s the full audio.
Clegg emphasises that the rent charged has been authorised by a third party before being challenged on the money going directly to the Lib Dems, rather than to a normal landlord:
“Look, I’m not the only MP where the MP and the local party [laughs] because the MP comes and goes. This was a system I inherited from my predecessor Richard Allan.”
He followed up with a complete red herring:
“It’s actually quite difficult to get the kind of office space that I need to be able to service my constituents in south west Sheffield … It’s a very residential area, there isn’t a lot of office space. I’ve actually looked around.”
The scarcity of office space in Sheffield Hallam is irrelevant. No one would be complaining about this if he was renting directly from the owners of the building.
As controversy over MPs’ office arrangements – already dubbed a ‘new expenses scandal’ — increases, Nick Clegg’s local party may be creaming off a profit from public funds by charging the taxpayer over the odds for rent, research by Political Scrapbook suggests.
As this blog set out earlier today, Sheffield Hallam Liberal Democrats do not own an office but act as a ‘middle man’ by subletting a portion of their rented facilities to Nick Clegg, who pays them through his MPs’ expenses. Given that a substantial portion of the property is still occupied by the party — who even run a printing operation from the address — it would be expected that they would still make a net loss on rental activity.
But accounts filed with the Electoral Commission raise the possibility that the local Lib Dems are not only covering their own costs — totalling some £40,000 in the period for which figures are available – but making a small profit through arrangements which include Clegg’s expenses:
An analysis of the Sheffield office letting market (FULL FIGURES) raises yet more questions.
Figures from Rightmove suggest that average rents per square foot in the city are around £8.70 per year. Records held by the Valuation Office Agency tell us that the Lib Dem office has a floor space of 946 square feet. Despite its suburban setting and barely-visible frontage, a rent of £8,700 (£9.20/sq foot/year) might be credible for the whole premises. But the parliamentary office of Nick Clegg MP is only occupying a smaller proportion of this space — meaning the rent being paid by taxpayers could be substantially less competitive and may go some way to explaining the apparent profits being made by the party.
So here are six questions which Sheffield Hallam Liberal Democrats (SHLD) and Nick Clegg must answer:
- How much are SHLD paying the owners (DEED EXTRACT) for the whole premises?
- Which rooms shown on the VOA report are being used by SHLD and Nick Clegg respectively?
- Aside from access to the building, what else included in Nick Clegg’s rent?
- Given that SHLD do not own any property, why is Nick Clegg sub-letting through them rather than renting directly with a private landlord?
- Will SHLD release copies of the letting agreements with both the owners and Nick Clegg?
- Will SHLD release a copy of the rental valuation report, which they are obligated to file with IPSA?
The inclusion of expenses such as utility bill in Clegg’s rent could skew the figures back in his favour — but it’s up to him and his local party to explain their convoluted arrangements.
DO YOU KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT NICK CLEGG’S OFFICE ARRANGEMENTS? LET US KNOW.
Politicians spending £3.6 million on renting their offices from local parties who own property is one thing (regular readers will be familiar with Ed Davey’s office expenses). But the contrived arrangement of a party renting a building they do not own to sub-let to the MP at the taxpayers’ expense – rather than the MP renting directly — is a cash merry go round that Scrapbook predicts will end in tears.
Step forward Sheffield Liberal Democrats, who rent their offices from a private third party before sub-letting it to Nick Clegg — who then bills the taxpayer £8,700 per year. Land Registry documents obtained by Scrapbook reveal that Clegg’s office at 85 Nethergreen Road, Sheffield is owned by a John and Ann Richard, who are the proprietors of a plumbing business next door:
The arrangement will inevitably lead to questions as to how the sections of the office are apportioned between the party and Nick Clegg’s parliamentary office — not to mention the level of rent paid by Sheffield Lib Dems to the Richards.
Clegg had better hope he has his house in order vis-a-vis documents. Clause 6.12 of the expenses scheme states that:
“Where the constituency office is to be rented from a political party or constituency association … the MP must provide a valuation of the market rate for the contract prepared by a valuer regulated by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors”
Scrapbook’s FOI to IPSA is in the post.
Hypocrite Nick Clegg has accused Jeremy Paxman of “sneering” at politics — having run scared of an interview with the Newsnight anchor for his entire term as Deputy Prime Minister. The last televised exchange between the pair took place before the general election on 13 April 2010 — 28 days before he entered government.
He told listeners to his Call Clegg show on LBC:
“He lives off politics and he spends all his time sneering at politics.”
“At the end of the day I have got this old fashioned view that if you want to improve something, get stuck in and get your hands dirty.
“Don’t somehow pretend that you can turn your back on it.”
But Clegg has turned his back on Paxman and Newsnight cameras.
He prefer a nice sofa chat with Andrew Marr.
Nick Clegg to Lib Dem conference:
“So I have a message for Labour today: you can’t just duck responsibility for the past – refuse to spell out what you’d do in the future – and expect people to give you a blank cheque.”
The Lib Dems won’t give you a blank cheque but you can currently buy one from their conference stands instead: