Row builds over 'Car Club' whip

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THE Government's deputy Chief Whip, Greg Knight, is to be reported to the Speaker for an alleged breach of parliamentary rules over his involvement with the mysterious House of Commons Classic Car Club, whose hitherto unsuspected existence was revealed by the Independent on Sunday last week.

Separate press releases featured two different "hon secretaries" of the club, Mrs T Sothcott and Miss C Seymour. They gave extravagant praise, in identical words, to Mr Knight's role in securing budget tax concessions for cars more than 25 years old.

It has now emerged that both women are on Mr Knight's personal staff and that other MPs have never heard of the club. But Mr Knight, who has five classic cars of his own, denied he had sent the faxes himself and said he had "no idea" who had.

Now Paddy Tipping, Labour MP for Sherwood, is to raise the issue with Betty Boothroyd, the House of Commons Speaker.

He said last night: "I am very concerned that a club that clearly doesn't exist is issuing press releases on official House of Commons paper. I know that the Speaker takes abuses of this kind very seriously, and I would expect her to reprimand Mr Knight."

Mr Tipping has also written to Michael Martin MP, chairman of the powerful Commons administration committee. "The group is not registered," he writes, "and unlike the vehicles it represents, its vintage and parentage seem shrouded in mystery."

Last week Mr Knight claimed the confusion concerning the club's principal officer was a secretarial blunder caused by his part-time secretarial assistant, Chloe Seymour.

"She typed the releases on headed notepaper which had the name of my secretary on it, who has nothing to do with the club any more, though she was secretary for a while. This got mixed up with another one, and without my authority she put out a press release as well," Mr Knight said.

Inquiries at his Derby North constituency office as to the whereabouts of Theresa Sothcott drew a puzzling response.

Adrian Wood, Mr Knight's agent, said: "She is not employed by the constituency, and I do not know her whereabouts. She is on Mr Knight's personal staff. She does not live in Derby and I suggest you try the House of Commons." There is no record of a secretary called Theresa Sothcott ever having worked at the House.

n The last time Betty Boothroyd rebuked an MP for improper use of the House of Commons logo, Mr Knight's fellow Derby MP Edwina Currie was on the receiving end. Mrs Currie, MP for Derby South, was admonished for using the exclusive portcullis emblem on the cover of her first novel, a political thriller charting the sex lives of politicians.

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