Former PM to pay for smoking booth
Lars Løkke Rasmussen, leader of opposition party Venstre, declared on Facebook yesterday that he was prepared to pay for the smoking booth that was installed in his office by his party while he was prime minister.
Rasmussen did not say whether he or the party would be paying, but he added that the booth, which allowed him to smoke in the otherwise smoke-free indoor environment, was “very expensive. Much more expensive than I had imagined and beyond what I find reasonable”.
He added that he did not want the issue of the smoking booth to fog over more important political questions.
“That’s why I am now ensuring that the Prime Minister’s Office is reimbursed for the costs,” he wrote.
The move arrives after his party, Venstre, insisted that the current Socialdemokrat food minister Mette Gjerskov pay for her own smoking cabinet in her office.
The smoking booths – telephone booth-like structures with ventilators to draw smoke away – were installed after rules came into effect preventing smoking in private office in the parliament's Christiansborg complex. But while Gjerskov’s both cost 34,000 kroner, Løkke’s cost 154,000 kroner.
According to Rasmussen, the smoking booth was installed on the initiative of the administration of the Prime Minister's Office and suggested that guidelines for their installation in ministerial offices be written in order to avoid problems in the future.
“It is my personal policy – and also the current Danish law – that people should be allowed to smoke in offices that are the workplace for only one person,” Rasmussen wrote. “That is why I could smoke in the private side room to the prime minster’s office where guests do not have access. That is what I did – and what I hope to do again in the future.”
But the mere fact that the 154,000 kroner bill would be covered was not enough for Socialdemokraterne, whose spokesperson, Magnus Heunicke, demanded to know whether Rasmussen or his party would be paying.
“Lars Løkke needs to be open on this issue. It’s a rather precise question he has to answer: who is paying?” Heunicke said to Berlingske newspaper.
If Rasmussen’s party ends up covering the bill, it might violate regulations on the use of party funds.
Gjerskov paid out of her own pocket for her smoking booth after Venstre’s health spokesperson Sophie Løhde accused Gjerskov of “arrogance” for spending 34,000 kroner to install one in her office in the food ministry, adding that it was “strange way to behave and use taxpayers’ money”.
But when quizzed at that time about Rasmussen’s own use of public funds to install a smoking booth, Løhde responded by saying she thought the situations were not the same.