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Nick Clegg faces funding claims

By Channel 4 News

Updated on 21 April 2010

Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg has faced new allegations that payments from party donors were paid straight into his bank account, as he prepares to take part in the second televised leaders' debate.

Nick Clegg (Credit: Getty)

The Daily Telegraph reported that the three donors paid up to £250 a month directly into his private bank account in 2006 before he became Lib Dem leader.

The Daily Telegraph said copies of Mr Clegg's personal bank statements submitted during 2006 to back up his expenses claims recorded "automated payments" from Ian Wright, a senior executive at drinks firm Diageo; Neil Sherlock, the head of public affairs at accountants KPMG; and Michael Young, a former gold-mining executive.

Mr Clegg declared the payments in the Register of MPs' Interests in March 2006.

All three men confirmed to the Telegraph that they had paid the money to help fund a member of staff for Mr Clegg's parliamentary office when he was Lib Dem home affairs spokesman.

Mr Clegg told the paper: "All payments were declared as a standing item on the register of members' interests and used appropriately to fund to an additional member of staff in my Parliamentary office.

"When I became leader of the Liberal Democrats, the arrangements were changed so that the money was paid through the Parliamentary Office of the Liberal Democrats."

The party denied that there was anything improper about the payments: "The donations were properly made and declared and were used to fund part of the salary of an additional member of Nick Clegg's parliamentary staff.

"The Telegraph story is wrong in fact and we regard any implication of impropriety as unacceptable."

A former chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, Sir Alistair Graham, told the Telegraph he thought that the arrangement appeared "irregular".

"Given that he's been very holier than thou about these things, it would seem he has some explaining to do to his party and the electorate," said Sir Alistair.

"It would now make sense for someone independent to check these accounts".

And former independent MP Martin Bell, elected on an anti-sleaze ticket in 1997, said: "There are clearly questions to answer here. Nick Clegg needs to show us that this arrangement was all above board and legitimate".

The revelations come just hours ahead of the second leaders' debate in Bristol, which will focus on foreign affairs.

Liberal Democrat standings in the opinion polls have soared after analysts praised Mr Clegg's performance during the first debate.

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