Deputy Prime Minister's wife and the US firm her husband attacked in Commons
Nick Clegg's wife gave highly paid advice to a company which her husband condemned for sacking British workers, it can be revealed.
There is no suggestion Mrs Clegg, who uses her maiden name Miriam Gonzalez Durantez, did anything wrong, but the association is likely to embarrass her husband. Photo: GETTY
By Jason Lewis, Investigations Editor
21 Apr 2012
Mrs Clegg was hired by Kraft, the US food conglomerate, three weeks before Nick Clegg called its takeover of Cadbury "just plain wrong".
She provided advice on trade at the same time as the Liberal Democrats criticised Kraft for its conduct after the deal in January 2010.
There is no suggestion Mrs Clegg, who uses her maiden name Miriam Gonzalez Durantez, did anything wrong, but the association is likely to embarrass her husband.
Concerns have also grown that Mrs Clegg could use her position to lobby ministers, and the Cabinet Secretary met her to discuss "conflicts of interest or any perception of undue influence".
It is understood the couple have confirmed they will not publicly discuss her clients and that any lobbying work on their behalf will be prohibited.
Mrs Clegg earns almost £600,000 a year as a partner in a City firm which offers legal and lobbying services, far more than the £134,565 her husband takes home as Deputy Prime Minister.
Mr Clegg announced this month that he was prepared to disclose his tax return, but when asked if his wife would make her earnings public said: "Us politicians, as servants of the public, should make our own arrangements transparent.
"But I don't think we should necessarily call on other people to do that."
Mrs Clegg was a leading member of the team at law firm DLA Piper awarded a contract to work for Kraft in January 2010 to handle "day-to-day legal needs" as Kraft's "preferred provider of legal services".
One of her team described their work as a "lobbying practice" and said Mrs Clegg offered advice on "how to lobby governments".
Sources at the firm said: "Miriam did some limited work for Kraft over a couple of years on trade issues."
Kraft awarded the contract three weeks before Mr Clegg and his colleague Vince Cable, who at the time was Lib Dem economic spokesman, attacked the Cadbury takeover.
Kraft reneged on two promises after the deal, firstly not to cut jobs in Cadbury's Birmingham base, and also to keep open a factory that had been earmarked for closure.
Mr Clegg harangued Gordon Brown at prime minister's questions, saying: "British taxpayers ... would never have believed that their money would now be used to put British people of out work. Isn't that just plain wrong?"
But at the same time, DLA Piper was advising Kraft and its chief executive Irene Rosenfeld as it tried to bring in stringent cost cutting. Miss Rosenfeld, who has refused to face MPs in the House of Commons, earned £14 million after meeting the targets.
A Commons select committee report accused Kraft of acting "irresponsibly and unwisely" during the £11.6 billion takeover, and the firm was also censured by the Takeover Panel.
Mrs Clegg left DLA Piper this year and is now head of European Union trade and government affairs at the law firm Dechert LLP. Sources said her salary was around £500,000 a year, and she has also earned £140,000 over the past two years as a non-executive director of Acciona, a Spanish energy and construction firm.
Mrs Clegg's commercial activities have been discussed at the highest level of the civil service and she is banned from lobbying Government ministers.
Sir Jeremy Heywood, the Cabinet Secretary, revealed the extent to which officials had gone to avoid any conflicts of interest. Mrs Clegg had talks which with him, his predecessor Lord O'Donnell, Sue Gray the director of propriety and ethics.
"We have clear procedures in place to protect Miriam Gonzalez Durantez and the Deputy Prime Minister from any conflicts of interest or any perception of undue influence; and I am fully satisfied that these are rigorously complied with," said Sir Jeremy.
The Deputy Prime Minister's Office said these arrangements and Law Society rules barred the couple from discussing Mrs Clegg's work.
Jonathan Oates, Mr Clegg's chief of staff, said: "Miriam Gonzalez Durantez does not lobby ministers. Her only engagement with ministers is at official Government events or party/social events.
"She does not discuss her clients with her husband or any other Government minister."