Nick Clegg intervened to help a charity linked to his wife, Miriam, obtain £12m of taxpayers' money, it was claimed last night.
Leaked emails showed that one of the Lib Dem leader's key aides lobbied for Booktrust to be given the grant, instead of competing with other charities, according to a report in The Mail on Sunday.
The organisation, which has given away 40 million books to schoolchildren in the past 20 years, announced last week that it had secured £6m for each of the next two years, while other charities will have to wait until next year – and some will get nothing.
A spokesman for Mr Clegg last night confirmed the Deputy PM had asked for Booktrust to receive the grant without having to make a special bid for it. But he denied Mrs Clegg's link to the charity had been used in any way, and said there had been "no wrongdoing".
Matt Sanders, Mr Clegg's aide, confirmed he had sent emails to the Education Department asking for the charity to get the money directly – and that he had said Mr Clegg favoured the move. He added: "I asked for a briefing from officials before attending [a] Booktrust event. But I did not mention her [Mrs Clegg's] name with regard to funding."
Labour and Tory MPs last night called for an inquiry into how the grant was made, and for all relevant emails to be published.