COLUMNIST: Conservative Grantham MP Nick Boles: ‘My decision to take Hebrew lessons was entirely proper’

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MP Nick Boles writes:

Some of the Grantham Journal’s readers have expressed their dismay at the report that I took advantage of the language instruction service offered to Members of Parliament to take Hebrew lessons at taxpayers’ expense and the suggestion that I only did so because my partner is Israeli.

I have been interested in the Middle East for a long time. As director of Policy Exchange from 2002-2007, I commissioned research and published reports on the worldwide threat of Islamic extremism. I have been a member of the Conservative Friends of Israel for nearly 10 years. I work closely with the British Israel Communications and Research Centre to further better understanding of Israel in the UK and I meet regularly with senior members of the Israeli government when they visit London. Since being elected, I have spoken in Parliament about the importance of Israel as a bastion of democracy and freedom in the Middle East and a vital ally of the UK. On my return to Westminster earlier this week, I checked with the authorities who regulate the use of the language service and they confirmed their view that my decision to take Hebrew lessons was entirely proper.

As an MP, I try to be frugal with taxpayers’ money.  I do not make use of the public funds offered for a constituency office because I do not need one for my regular surgeries and am happy to visit constituents in their homes if they prefer. Nor have I undertaken any foreign travel at taxpayers’ expense, although parliamentary rules would have allowed me to do so. But I recognise that some people feel that it was wrong for me to use taxpayers’ money to learn a language which will also benefit me personally – though I should point out that my partner speaks fluent English.

I do not want the fair-minded people that I have the honour to represent in Parliament to have any doubts about my integrity. To reassure them that I have not saved any money personally by using this publicly funded service, I have today made donations with a value of £2,115 (which is the total cost of my Hebrew lessons last year and this) to three outstanding local charities including Home-Start here in Grantham. And if I do find time for further lessons I will pay for them myself.

I know that this response will not satisfy all my critics but I hope that most of the Journal’s readers will be reassured by it. I would be happy to talk to anyone who continues to have concerns.