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Nick Clegg denies 'knocking off' early

Nick Clegg has denied charges of "knocking off" early from work following reports of early deadlines for his ministerial red box.

The Deputy Prime Minister insisted he works into the night - and even his "staunchest critics" could not accuse him of failing to work hard enough.

His remarks follow a Sunday Telegraph report that officials working for him have issued a memo to other Whitehall departments declaring that Mr Clegg's "red box" - used to hold his paperwork - "closes at 15.00 on Monday-Thursday and 12.00 on Friday".

The newspaper said normally a minister's box "closes" when he or she leaves the office.

Speaking on BBC Breakfast, Mr Clegg said his department was following standard practice across Whitehall.

"This is all about, apparently, what my office asks other Whitehall departments - the deadline that they provide papers so that my team can look at these things, provide advice to me, and I usually read these papers at night, usually fairly late at night," Mr Clegg told BBC Breakfast.

"This is standard practice across Whitehall. I may have many flaws but not working hard enough - I think even my staunchest critics would not say that."

He added: "What this is about is routine submissions, this is the age of emails and telephone calls, I am constantly being kept up-to-date with things as they happen.

"In terms of routine submissions within Government, I think it is quite right that my team have said we want to see these things in the afternoon, so that we can look at them and provide advice to me, so that I can then take my own decisions in the evening, which is the system that works."

Asked "So you are not knocking off early?", Mr Clegg joked: "I wish, I wish..."