Call Clegg 17th July

July 17, 2014 12:43 PM
Originally published by UK Liberal Democrats

Nick Clegg takes your questions every Thursday from 9am on live LBC.

Watch the latest episode here.

Transcript

This is LBC Call Clegg, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg takes your calls with Nick Ferrari at Breakfast. Call 0345 6060973 tweet at lbc973 text 84850. This is Call Clegg on LBC.

NC: It's 9 o'clock, on Thursday, 17 July. That means it's time for Call Clegg with me Nick Clegg here on LBC with Nick Ferrari. I'll be taking your questions as ever for next half an hour or so. So get in touch on 0345 6060973 or email at nickclegg@lbc.co.uk or you can watch of course you on the website, lbc.co.uk. So let's go straight to the first caller who is Alex. Alex in Edgware. Hello Alex.

A: Morning Nick.

NC: Hello.

A: It's good to have you on. Yeah I'm calling about the bedroom tax.

NC: Yeah.

A: I called you a couple of weeks ago and spoke to you on your show.

NC: Yeah.

A: About this tax and emphasised how unfair I thought it was because the difference the private sector, as the government was arguing, and the public sector was that people who were in housing association or council property, couldn't choose their property. It was given to them by council or housing association.

NC: Oh yeah I remember you ringing.

A: If you're property... And I just made that point. It didn't make sense.

NC: Yeah.

A: And I said it was... that's why you... we perceived it as more as a cut than something that was really intended to do good.

NC: Right.

A: And I know your party supported as part of the Coalition. But I think it was fundamentally flawed. I'm proud to hear today that your party is now opposing it. But isn't it too little too late?

NC: Right. So Alex we're not binning the whole thing. We're actually going to say that it has to apply to new tenants. So new tenants in the social rented sector will still only get the housing benefit that they need for the number of rooms they need. So that's clear. The big difference between us and the Labour and the Conservative parties, unlike Labour we're not sticking our head in the sand.

Of course you have to do something about housing benefit reform. Of course you have to do something about overcrowding. But unlike the Conservatives we want to do it as fairly as possible. And the evidence has been and this was... and the real trigger for this week was that we published a report commissioned by the government itself which simply showed it wasn't working in the way that it was intended. And I'm a practical man I think, when something isn't working in the way that you planned for it work, you fix it. And so what we're going to do is we're going to change it in the following way so that: if you have been offered a smaller property and you have said no, then you will have to pay the extra. If you however you want to move and you haven't been offered a place to go, a smaller place, then of course you won't be penalised. That's the big change and also we're going to treat disabled adults the same way that we treat disabled children.

This is something my party has been saying for a long time. We first as a party said this was the approach we wanted to take publicly last year. It's something that a cross party committee in the House of Commons with both the way, with Liberal Democratic and with Labour and Conservative MPs, they said this is the change we should make. We then wanted to wait for the evidence. I'm an old fashioned person when it comes to policy. I think you should be led by the evidence. The evidence this week was quite clear that it's not working as it was intended and that's why we're going to make these changes. And I think what that will do is strike the right balance between reform, which is something of course which is necessary, that Labour denies. And fairness which is of course is also necessary, but the Conservatives deny. And that's what we will pushing for.

A: But what evidence have you found? What was the evidence that you actually...?

NC: The evidence was this report.

A: You know.

NC: You can look it up if you like.

A: Yes.

NC: It was a report commissioned by the Department for Work and Pensions that we published I think it was the day before yesterday.

A: Yeah.

NC: And that showed that there were a number of people who wanted to move but couldn't...

A: Yes [unclear 00:03:44]

NC: And then were having to face that extra charge. And I think that's unfair and I think we've now seen the evidence...

A: Yes.

NC: ...clearly enough that that doesn't work. However for people...

A: But the only think that worries me Nick.

NC: Yeah.

A: The only thing that worries me is that you sound so convincing and I think you were fantastically convincing at the time of the 2010 Election in a lot of what you said. And I'm not saying that you don't still have that ability, contrary to anybody in your party who might think otherwise. But I think the difficulty is...

NC: Yeah.

A: ...it's credibility.

NC: Sure.

A: Because this, for me, I'm somebody who's been teaching for a number of years.

NC: Yeah.

A: And I also worked in the law. Straightaway as soon as that policy is announced.

NC: Yeah.

A: To me it looks like something that hasn't been researched properly.

NC: Right.

A: Because you have to think about impact. Like when I first graduated and I advised in welfare rights.

NC: Yeah.

A: Straightaway you know who is going to be impacted by this policy.

NC: Yeah.

A: And this is the problem with our politicians, because you guys are so out of touch, because you don't experience what ordinary people go through, you can't relate to the basics, the fundamentals. The type of research you should do, if you do it at the start, you wouldn't make these policy gaffs because this is a policy gaff.

NC: Well Alex, you make a fair point of course about making sure that every time you introduce a policy you should try and be led by the evidence, research it as much as possible, pilot things as much as possible. Actually to be fair Alex, I'm doing exactly what you recommend is the evidence is now clear and I was going to wait for the evidence. I wasn't just going to confirm the stance, the reforms that we want, that we announced last year. I wasn't going to do so until I saw the evidence for myself objectively done, done by academics, done by researchers and also, look Alex, politics is a bit like life. Sometimes things in practice don't work quite in the way that you might expect and I just have a very simple view that if something is not working as you had hoped, you fix it and the big difference here is that I want to fix this. The Conservatives apparently don't. They just want to carry on making the same mistakes. Labour just don't even want to deal with the problem. There is a problem. There's a problem of thousands of families in overcrowded properties with other people...

NF: 1.8 million I think it is.

NC: No, no actually it's the number of overcrowded properties this morning. But 1.8 million people is the people on the housing waiting list...

NF: 1.8 million.

NC: ...which is a slightly different issue.

NF: But now we don 't worry about them so much?

NC: No we do. It's what I've said its...

NF: Well how is this going to... because you once said the problem is you cannot duck that we have 1.8 million people...

NC: Correct.

NF: ...who are waiting to get social housing provision. Well it's not going to help them your u-turn is it?

NC: I think you're misunderstanding it Nick. So tenants will not be able to get...

NF: Yes.

NC: ...housing benefit for rooms which they don't need and don't occupy right?

NF: Right.

NC: Point 1. Point 2: the principle that people in the private rented sector and the socially rented sector...

NF: Yeah.

NC: ...are treated similarly is one that of course, I believe in. What I don't think is fair, because it is not working in practice, is to say to an individual who has said to their local authority I want to move to a smaller property so that I do not have to pay if you like...

NF: Yes.

NC: ...the penalty of having a bedroom which I don't use. That person volunteers and is then not given the opportunity to downsize, I don't think it is fair that they are...

NF: But how are we helping the 1.8 million people who are struggling to get some housing provision to move on?

NC: Because in having a fairer more effective system in the way that Danny Alexander set out in the Daily Mirror today, means that over time you will encourage more people to downsize where they can. All they're saying which is very sensible is that for those people who want to downsize but simply can't are not given the opportunity to do so, it is not fair to ask them to pay an extra levy.

NF: So what about...

NC: However... Can I just be very clear?

NF: Sorry Deputy Prime Minister.

NC: For people who have been offered the opportunity to move to a smaller property and refuse that, they will have to the extra amount as is the case applied...

NF: Yes.

NC: ...across the piece right now.

NF: So what did David Cameron say when you told him this?

NC: So... by the way I've read somewhere that the Conservations say they are not aware of this. They really... that is such complete bologny. We said as a party, collectively, we felt that this policy needed an adjustment last year. So unless someone was just completely ignorant and I've been constantly badgering away within government with the DWP to try and make sure that we really stress test this properly and to be fair...

NF: But you were defending it on this programme as late as November last year.

NC: But not in any way altering my view that you need to do something to reform housing benefit. All I'm saying is that when...

NF: You've taken a lot of calls on this, on your show haven't you, on Call Clegg?

NC: Yeah.

NF: And you've supported it ceaselessly.

NC: And I'm supporting the application to new tenants. I'm saying for people who are offered to go to a smaller property but say no it applies to them.

NF: So what did Mr Cameron say when you said, honestly we're going to have to rework this David, I just don't see it, what did he say?

NC: As I said the report...

NF: Did he say, are you nuts? What did he say?

NC: ...in the same way that I have been completely blindsided today by the way by hearing that the Conservatives extraordinarily enough want to line up with Vladimir Putin and other sort of tyrants around the world by tearing up our long tradition of human rights. I have not actually unlike that, I have not in any way hidden the fact that the Liberal Democrats since we debated this collectively [unclear cross talk 00:08:54]

NF: You haven't told Mr Cameron then have you?

NC: Absolutely, we've...

NF: Oh you have? Right.

NC: We've constantly said that we want to look at this policy is working in practice. That's what I insisted amongst others that we have this report published this week to look at whether it's working or not in practice. Now I don't about you Nick, when something doesn't work in practice you have two choices. You can stick your head in the sand and say there's not a problem. I think when something's not working properly, fix it and fix it fairly.

NF: Yes.

NC: And that's what we're doing. So here's the big difference...

NF: Or you get a divorce.

NC: [unclear cross talk 00:09:21].

NF: Now how are two of you getting at the moment?

NC: No, no. Very, very well. Very well as ever.

NF: You and David?

NC: But this is, you've got...

NF: I worry about you sometimes.

NC: Oh Nick. You're...

NF: No honestly, you had that joint press conference the other week, you didn't look happy the two of you.

NC: You sound like a marriage guidance counsellor.

NF: The body language was not good.

NC: Was it not?

NF: No you were avoiding eye contact. I had a body language expert watch the two of you and they were very concerned about you.

NC: I'm sure they know more than I do...

NF: Yeah as long...

NC: ...about how we're getting on.

NF: As long things are. Now what's this about tyrants? What have the Conservatives introduced without telling you?

NC: I don't know... It's just that you were asking about whether...

NF: Well I want to know. What have they done without telling you?

NC: ...different members of the Coalition. They apparently have come out, it's of course shows what the real significance of this week's Conservative Party reshuffle was. Nothing to do with sort of gender balance it's all to do with the death knell of the reasonable internationalism of people like Ken Clarke. Basically what's happened is I think the head bangers have now one. They're now in effect saying that the Conservative Party will turn its back on a long, long British tradition of upholding human rights across the world. What on Earth are we going to say to the dictators in Belarus, to Vladimir Putin, if we do what the Conservatives now appear to recommend which is we basically say, we're going to stamp our little feet and abide by binding international human rights practices and conventions. Ones by the way which were designed drafted by British lawyers, human rights lawyers in the aftermath of the Second World War. I think it is really said to see a mainstream party like that turning its back on a great long standing British tradition of standing up internationally for human rights. And it's just very revealing that's the, apparently in the reports this morning... That's the most immediate knock on effect of removing people like Dominic Grieve and Ken Clarke, is that you've now got a much more extreme view taking root in the heart of the Conservative Party.

NF: We move on to other calls Deputy Prime Minister.

NC: Tee in Kingston.

T: Good morning.

NC: Morning Tee how are you?

T: Morning Nick. Morning Nick.

NF: Good morning Tee.

T: Not too bad it's a nice sunny day.

NC: Yes.

T: Question from [unclear cross talk 00:11:23]

NC: Mind the heat Tee there are lots of heat wave warnings.

T: Yes. I've got a lot of sunscreen on and a lot of water.

NC: Yeah, yeah.

T: Talking about the cabinet reshuffle.

NC: Yeah.

T: Given the fact, we're supposed to be working towards more equality generally in everything that we do.

NC: Yeah.

T: Do you think discrimination positive or otherwise is the way to go to move things forward?

NC: Good question Tee. And it's a question I ask myself by the way as leader of the Liberal Democrats as much as anything else because as you know, we do not have enough women amongst our MPs, we don't even MPs of black minority ethnic backgrounds. And I often ask myself what's the way to fix this? Now, there's quite a long standing debate, Tee, as you probably know, in politics about, do you fix this by, kind of, imposing quotas, or reserved seats, or women only lists, whatever you call it, whatever mechanism, it's still got the same principle, this idea that you, kind of, reserve certain positions for women, say. Or, do you try and, which is what my Party has been doing for some time now, support women, you keep everything open and meritocratic, and the best person wins, but you give extra support, training, mentoring, financial support, and all the rest of it, to women to get ahead.

Now, that's the approach that my Party is taking. I have to say to you that I have come to the view, that if that approach for us, and I'm just talking now about the Lim Dems, because we've got to fix this, if that approach does not work at the next General Election, then I personally think we've got to move to, what some people regard as, a more illiberal solution. Which is, that you, perhaps for a temporary period of time say, look there are going to be certain positions, certain seats, reserved for women only. Because, the kind of incremental approach, if I can put it that way, at least in my Party, isn't make progress as quickly as I would like.

I mean, without getting into lots of the ins and outs of this, Tee, it's slightly more difficult for a Party of my size, just because we don't have scores of constituencies which have always voted Lib Dem, which you can, sort of, hand around like prizes to different people, everyone has to fight for years, and years, and years, to get where they get to. But, you're right, it's a big debate, and it's certainly one that's very alive and current in my Party.

NF: Tee?

T: But, surely discrimination is still discrimination, and if a woman is good enough she's good enough, if she isn't, she isn't.

NC: No, sure.

T: I don't really agree with this idea of reserving places for women. You probably aren't going to have as many women in politics anyway because you're not. There are some jobs where there are going to be more men than women, and there are some jobs where there are going to be more women than men, that's just the way it is. I think this idea…

NC: You say that, why do you as a woman think…you seem to imply there just won't ever be as many women in politics as there are men.

T: Because, you know…and, if a man said this it would probably be sexist, but the fact is generally speaking women take care of the home, take care of the children more so than men. And, while you're busy doing that politics really isn't going to be at the top of your agenda. It will be for some women, good for them, you know, I've got no issues with women being in politics, I'm really proud of women that do well in politics. However, the fact is, most women don't have the time to commit to politics because most women are busy doing other things. If you're going to work full time and look after a family, it's really, really tough.

NC: Sure, but there are lots of men increasingly, aren't there, who have got caring commitments. There are lots of young dads who want to get much more involved with their kids compared to previous generations. There are lots of women who are the principle breadwinners in their homes compared to their husbands. So, I think it's changing. I'll tell you what I think I agree with my implication is that the way we do politics, I mean, this awful, clapped out, testosterone driven, chest beating, machismo that you see at Prime Minister's Questions every week, I think it's off putting to any normal person. And, in my experience, it's particularly off putting to women, because it just seems to be lots of red faced blokes shouting at each other.

NF: Talking about women, it's been described as very bold, the Prime Minister's decision earlier this week to bring in so many women at the top tier. How did you respond, how do you react to it, is it bold?

NC: Yes, I think it's a big change for the Conservatives. As I said earlier, I actually think in terms of policy, in terms of things that actually change, rather than the faces that change, it seems to me the big change has been the removal of some of the more moderate, internationalist voices, like Dominic Reeve, like Ken Clarke, from the Conservative Party. And, I think it's very revealing that literally 24 hours later it appears to come out that the Conservative Party have now cleared the way through this reshuffle, to a much more extreme approach, for instance, against human rights issues.

NF: Sir Jeremy Wright you're talking about, who's a head banger.

NC: No, I'm not saying he's a head banger. I think there's been a long debate within the Conservative Party…

NF: You did call them head bangers.

NC: I think the head bangers have won the argument in favour of basically tearing up a long cross-Party consensus that this country should stand up for the international human rights conventions. Which, by the way, British politicians, and British lawyers, first drafted in the aftermath of the Second World War, and that we use constantly to reproach tyrants around the world. And, the moment you basically say, which is what the Conservatives appear to say…they're going to get themselves into a terrible twist, by the way, by trying to do it in a, sort of, clever way. The principle remains the same, the moment you say that the Government of the day, with a significant majority in Parliament, can drive through Parliament a rewriting of human rights disciplines, you are basically accepting that human rights provisions are not universal, that they are pick and choose. And, I have this…I just have this visceral view that human rights are not there as a, sort of, pick and choose menu. You either believe in human rights, or you don't, human rights are not in the eye of the beholder, they are fundamental rights that belong to all human beings, that's why they're called human rights.

NF: So, untouchable, not to be touched in any way, shape or form?

NC: Well, we made a coalition agreement commitment, and I insisted on this personally, that yes of course, let's look at reform of the court in Strasburg, the European Court on Human Rights. Make it more efficient, make sure that there are fewer cases clogging it up, make sure that where cases can be dealt with nationally they're dealt with nationally. But, at the end of the day, the principle and it's a really important principle to defend, that human rights are not the play thing of national governments, because that's basically what the Conservatives are saying. They'll dress it up, by the way, and say, oh it should be Parliament and not judges. Don't be fooled by that, because actually, of course, under the system here, if you have a future Conservative Government, with a thumping great big majority they can tell Parliament whatever they want. So, it's about the Government of the day basically saying, we are going to rewrite human rights as we want, not as people for decades have said should be internationally recognised as human rights.

NF: And, lastly, on the reshuffle. How did you feel when you heard the news that Michael Gove was moving on?

NC: I wish him luck.

NF: Why are you smiling?

NC: Well, because it's well known that Michael Gove and I had our difference, but profound difference, as you know.

NF: That's politics isn't it?

NC: That is politics, sure. I'll tell you what I think, I think it is an opportunity for us to…and, I'm assuming in a quiet moment he can see this, it's a good moment for us to turn the page on what I think had become a really destructive relationship between the Department for Education and many, many teachers across the country. I meet many teachers across the country, really good teachers, teachers who want to do well for the children in their care, in their classrooms, who felt really, sort of, quite offended by the way in which Michael Gove, or maybe it was his team, appeared to just brand all teachers as…remember what they said, a blob, that all teachers somehow weren't doing a proper job, all teachers were resistant to change, all teachers were resistant to reform. And, I thought that was a, sort of, divide and rule approach to teaching, which doesn't get the best out of our teachers.

I've got kids in school, anyone who has got kids in school, you want to get the best out of your teachers. There are good teachers, there are bad teachers, there are teachers up for change, and there are teachers who aren't. But, you don't get the best out of teachers by simply just branding them all as folk who don't want to try and do their best. And, that's why I would like to think that, with a change of personnel, we can now turn the page, and instead of denigrating teachers we can celebrate what many, many teachers across the country do.

NF: And, it is a promotion for Mr Gove is it?

NC: That is apparently, yes, what was said.

NC: Do you see it as a promotion?

NC: I think it's a move to a more political position, and Michael Gove is a talented guy, I mean, he and I may disagree on a bunch of things, but he's a talented guy, he's a colourful guy, he's a bright guy, he's a fervent Conservative. If I understand it correctly the move, according to the Conservatives, is to give him more of a seat at the, kind of, top table on how the Conservative Party is going to seek to do well in the election next year, and I wish him luck in that. But, all I'm saying is, I think it is actually quite a good time now, and I'm very keen to do this because we're doing some really good things in education, the Pupil Premium is something I've been championing for years. The free school meals we're going to be introducing across the country in September, really good bold progressive policy. All these things are positive things, and I'd like teachers, or more teachers than is currently the case to feel positive about who they are, to feel valued for what they do, and to feel excited about some of the policies we're implementing.

NF: We must move on to other calls, Deputy Prime Minister.

NC: Ayisha in Hounslow, hello Ayisha.

A: Hello.

NC: Hello.

A: I've got a bit of a long question. My question is, considering Ofsted monitor schools, and you know the Trojan horse situation has come, what will be done about it now? And also, can you assure those British Muslims, who are law abiding, that we won't be scrutinised by the radical Muslims in the country for showing our loyalty to the country?

NC: Yes. Are you Muslim?

A: I am.

NC: And, do you feel…because, I think it's implied in your question, it's very important this, we've talked about this on this show before, do you feel that you've been, kind of, how can I put it, stereotyped, or painted in a similar corner with people with more extreme views that you don't share?

A: I do feel like I have.

NC: Ayisha, I have a massive amount of sympathy for you, because we need to work with people like you, sort of, mainstream, law abiding, patriotic, British Muslims who are, and I'm assuming you feel this, who are as appalled by extremism, and particularly violent extremism, as anybody else. We need to work with you, because you are the role model, if you like, of the kind of British Muslim beliefs and values that everybody can share. And, I do worry that sometimes some of the rhetoric around this can stereotype all Muslims as if everybody, from every part of this country, somehow holds extreme and undesirable views.

That is clearly not the case, Islam, as you know better than I do, Ayisha, is a peace loving religion. Islam does not believe in violence, it abhors violence, and we need people like you to come on shows like this to say, I as a Muslim, I have nothing to do with people who advocate division, and hate, and violence. Much as, by the way, you know, everybody should abhor violence and extremism hate, whether it comes from other communities, or other ideologies, or other religions.

So, I agree with you, and that's why I am very anxious that, as we deal with this difficult issue in Birmingham, we don't stereotype a whole community. Because, it is only by working hand in glove with the many, many millions of patriotic, peace loving, tolerant British Muslims, that we can make sure that extremist ideologies, and particularly violent extremist ideologies do not take root.

NF: Quick response from you, Ayisha.

A: My response is just, thank you for answering, and I completely agree that something needs to be done…okay.

NF: Alright, that's good. As it's such accord I must move on, because that's great, and let's hope that happens, but we've got so many people that want to get involved. Ayisha, good luck, back to you, Deputy Prime Minister.

NC: Nadia in Ilford, hello Nadia.

N: Hi Nick, hello Nick, hello, hi. My question, and I'll try and make it as brief as possible, relates to the Islam Palestine situation. We all know that the conflict has ambled on for now over ten days, and in that time over 200 Palestinians have been killed. The UN has said that 80% of those were innocent civilians, half of them were women and children, and we've all seen the horrendous footage that's coming across from Gaza on the ground. I've seen such traumatic footage of children, you know, mutilated and hurt in ways that we would never…it really does hurt seeing that footage. Also, yesterday we all heard on the news about those four young boys who were shelled on the beach whilst playing football, or something, in Gaza.

All this is really upsetting…

NF: I've got to move you to your question, Nadia.

N: …it's tantamount to war crime. What I want to know, my question in particular is, the Prime Minister has remained strangely silent up to now on the issue, there's been no condemnation. In his place should it not be, or could you not then issue a statement condemning this as war crime?

NC: So, Nadia, to be fair to the Prime Minister he was at a European Union summit just last night, which actually did issue a pretty clear condemnation of the levels of violence, and the truly unimaginable humanitarian suffering in Gaza. I mean, frankly, regardless of what side you are on this ancient bloody conflict, no one can feel indifferent to the spectacle of this overcrowded, desperate, sliver of land, Gaza, where so many thousands of people are suffering.

I will always defend, and I've done it on this programme before, Israel's right to respond, and to defend itself in the face of violence that is designed to terrorise Israeli citizens. I've spoken out repeatedly about Israel's very legitimate demands that Hamas and others recognise Israel's right to exist, and to exist peacefully within its own borders, and provide security to its own citizens. I have to say though, I really do think now the Israeli response appears to be deliberately disproportionate, it is amounting now to a disproportionate form of collective punishment. It is leading to a humanitarian crisis in Gaza, which is just unacceptable. And, I really would now call on the Israel Government to stop. They've proved their point…

NF: Do you think Hamas would continue thought?

NC: No, Israel of course retails the right to react. But, I just say, you cannot see the humanitarian suffering in Gaza now without concluding that…and, the very many numbers of deaths in Gaza, without concluding that there is not much more going to be served in Israel's own interests. And, this is the point I keep wanting to make, because every time, of course, any politician speaks out, I can guarantee you will get lots of people, kind of, getting quite understandably quite passionate about this from one side. All I would say is, as someone who is a long standing defender of Israel's right to defend itself, of Israel's right to defend its values and its own citizens, it is not in the long run Israel's own interests to see this festering humanitarian crisis get ever worse in Gaza. Because, all it does, of course, in the long run, is act as a, kind of, almost as a sort of incubation, if you like, it incubates the next generation of violent extremists who want to do harm to Israel.

NF: They might argue though that Hamas would just carry on shelling, Deputy Prime Minister.

NC: Well, if Hamas does that, then of course Israel reserves the right to respond. All I'm saying is, today we have the glimmer of hope that a five hour humanitarian cease fire has been entered into by both sides. And, my plea today to both sides, is please build on that, because further deaths, more violence begetting more violence, is not in anybody's interests, and it's not going to help deliver. The only way, the only way in which Israelis will be able to live in security and peace in the long run, which is a negotiation two state at peace settlement. It is the only way and there's just no…I know it's very easy as an outsider to pronounce on these things, but I really do think that the level of humanitarian suffering in Gaza now, the number of deaths, and the disproportionate, apparently almost deliberate use of disproportionate response, now needs to come to an end.

NF: We move on, time hopefully for one call and one email.

NC: Heather in Battersea.

H: Hiya Nick.

NC: Hello Heather.

H: I spoke to you last year about the bedroom tax.

NC: Hello Heather, yes, yes.

H: I just basically want to know why the U-turn. Back in February Labour tabled a Bill to scrap the bedroom tax. The Lib Dems were nowhere to be seen. Now, all of a sudden you're there, what is because of the elections that are coming up next year?

NC: No, it's as I explained earlier…were you listening earlier, Heather, because I don't want repeat, were you listening half an hour ago?

H: Yes.

NC: Yes, as I said then, we published earlier this week a report, produced objectively, commissioned by the Department for Work and Pensions, to look at how it's working practice, and it's clearly just not working in practice in the way…

H: They knew it wasn't going to work from the beginning, all along they knew it wasn't going to work, they looked into it before they even brought it out.

NC: Well, Heather, you may feel that you knew what that report was going to say before it said it, but I'm afraid I have to be led by the evidence and the evidence, as I say, yes you're right there were lots of claims and counter claims, but I wanted to see what the evidence was, as published in that government report. As I said earlier, we've been saying as a Party for some time, we want to see reforms. I think it is right to apply these rule changes to new tenants, I think it is right to apply those rule changes to people who have been offered a smaller property but haven't taken up the opportunity to move to that smaller property. But, we conclude that it is wrong, because it is just not working in practice, to impose that extra charge on people who want to move but haven't been given the opportunity to do so. And, we must treat disabled adults, where an extra room is needed for their needs, in the same way that we treat disabled children.

So, those are the change we want. And, as I said before, Heather, you know, there are three options now in British politics on this vexed issue. You've got the Conservatives basically saying they just want to plough on with a policy, which our own Government commissioned report shows is not working, and I think that's unfair. You've got the Labour Party who are saying, well we deny there's a problem at all, when clearly there is a problem, because we need to reform housing benefit. And then, there's the Liberal Democrats saying, we've got to reform it, so new tenants, for instance, will not be given housing benefit to occupy, or to have a home with more rooms than they actually need. But, we want these rooms' changes to be applied fairly. And, I think that the more people just look at it calmly, and in view of the evidence, will see that the approach we're taking is a really sensible approach.

NF: Just briefly, Heather, does this affect you personally? Briefly if you would, Heather.

H: Yes, I phoned up last year. I'm £500 in arrears now.

NF: Not solely down to the spare room subsidy?

H: Yes, I am.

NF: £500!

NC: Have you been offered, Heather, were you offered any…

H: We went all through this last time, yes you got me discretionary housing payment, that got stopped last year, and I'm £500 in arrears.

NC: So, you were given discretionary housing payments for a while?

H: Yes, I spoke to you last year, I'm disabled, and I got given it and then it was stopped in December last year, and I haven't been able to get it since.

NC: Were you ever offered a different property to move to?

H: No, there is no properties, I've never ever been offered…I'm trying to…

NC: Well, then our change would apply to people like you.

NF: Heather, thank you very much for that, at least…I'm terribly sorry to hear about the arrears that you find yourself in, I hope something can be resolved, as you say, the changes, the Deputy Prime Minister is confident, would prevent that in the future. I have to get one email in before I let you go, and then one question from me. This is from Kenneth in Kent: 'Is it right that supermarket workers can refuse to serve people food and alcohol?' This is a story from a Tesco Metro, that a Muslim in Ramadan this week refused to serve a woman a packet of ham and a bottle of white wine. He said she had to go and use the self-checkout. The manager initially supported his worker, the worker is now going to be spoken to and disciplined.

NC: Yes, I have to say to you, and my conversation earlier with Aisha showed that I'm always very outspoken and wanting to stand up for people's rights to express their religious identities in whatever way they want as long as it doesn't affect or harm others and so on, and I believe in those principles. But, I have to say to you, I do think, you know, where Tesco's have eventually got to is the right place. Is that every customer going to a supermarket is entitled to expect they will be able to buy the products that they've chosen. And, Tesco's really do need to sort things out, if there are issues for one reason or another, for one cashier or another, then deal with that, try and redeploy them for a temporary period of time. But, I really don't think you can expect customers to suddenly be told, no we'll check through that item, but not that item, that's not reasonable.

NF: And, my question, from the front page of one of the newspapers today, 'Parents will not be able to claim child benefit for more than four children, under plans expected to appear in the Conservative manifesto.'

NC: Right okay, we should ask the Conservatives.

NF: How would you feel, do you think that child benefit needs to be addressed?

NC: Oh, sure, you can always look at the benefit system, there needs to be further reforms of the benefit system. I mean, I can't remember in the past have the Conservatives said there wouldn't be more than two children, now you say the report was four, it keeps chopping and changing.

NF: Also, the payments would go down after the second child, the amount of money paid.

NF: Well, look, I mean, I'm very happy to continue to look at these things, I just don't like the whiff of Chinese style policy that says, the state shall give you support for one child, but not for two children, or whatever the numbers that are now coming up with. So, you need to ask the Conservatives what their own policies are, and we'll come up with our own in the months to come for our own manifesto as well.

NF: Now, Call Clegg is having a couple of weeks off, because we're both…

NC: Because, you're off, slacker Ferrari is off to the sun.

NF: For security reasons I can't tell you where I'm going, Mr Clegg is in a caravan in Rhyl. We return the first week in August…not really. News comes next here on LBC.