Kennedy asks watchdog to rule on earnings

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Charles Kennedy, the Liberal Democrat leader, was seeking advice from the MPs' standards watchdog last night after it was claimed he failed to register payments of up to £4,000 for speeches.

Charles Kennedy, the Liberal Democrat leader, was seeking advice from the MPs' standards watchdog last night after it was claimed he failed to register payments of up to £4,000 for speeches.

A spokesman for the Liberal Democrats said Mr Kennedy would ask for clarification from Elizabeth Filkin, the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, after a Sunday newspaper said he had broken the Commons rules.

Mr Kennedy offered his services through three speaker bureaux and despite declaring "fees from writing, broadcasting and speechmaking" in the Register of Members' Interests, he did not list engagements individually.

Ms Filkin has advised MPs should lodge employment contracts with her if they provide regular services to the same organisation. MPs have also been told to register speaking engagements individually if they are paid more than £500 for them.

Ken Livingstone was forced to apologise to fellow MPs during the Mayoral election campaign earlier this year after Ms Filkin ruled he should have individually listed income from speeches and articles.

John Major also faced a similar complaint but was not criticised because he asked for advice and was told he did not need to register.

Mr Kennedy was paid £3,000 in June to open an Institute of Waste Management conference in Paignton, Devon, and made another speech in Newcastle in April. He reportedly plans to make another speech in October.

Angela Browning, the Shadow Trade and Industry Secretary, said she would ask Mrs Filkin to launch an inquiry.

She said: "This is a matter of grave concern, especially as he is a party leader."

In a statement, the Liberal Democrats said Mr Kennedy made occasional speeches for which he received a fee. He would ask Ms Filkin for advice, it added.

"In this financial year he has made three and is due to make one more in the autumn. Unlike William Hague he receives no extra salary as a party leader.

"He has declared income from speeches in the Register of Members' Interests and he always is meticulous about registering all his outside interests," the statement said.

Mr Kennedy has been dubbed "Chatshow Charlie" by some Conservatives because of his appearances on radio and television shows. He is said to pepper his speeches with witty comments about his fellow MPs and life at Westminster.

His party spokesman said the speeches took up only a "modest" amount of his time.

He said: "He makes speeches for money as do a lot of MPs at all levels. He gets the going rate, probably no more than a couple of thousand a go.

"But he hasn't got a whole industry going like Ken Livingstone had."

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