Reacting to the claims from George Osborne’s team in the media this morning that the Liberal Democrats have agreed to £10bn of welfare cuts, Nick Clegg has taken to the TV news channels to rebut the story:
Reporter: Well Deputy Prime Minister the Chancellor is saying that yourself and senior Lib Dems are supporting ten billion cuts in Welfare cuts, is that correct?
Nick Clegg: Nothing in detail has been agreed on further cuts or savings to, to welfare. The Conservatives, of course, entirely entitled to set out their stall about what we do as a country is we have to tighten our belts further as we, indeed, were at our party conference. My attitude has always been very simple, very straightforward – which is that as we have to make more savings as a country, as we do, you start at the top and work your way down not, not the other way round.
R: But so two weeks ago at your conference when you described the ten billion cuts as wild suggestions are they still wild suggestions?
NC: Well as I say nothing has been agreed with, within Government and on the details of any further spending, these are the kind of things that we will thrash out within Government in the months ahead.
R: The Chancellor’s ruling out a Mansion Tax are you not ruling that out then?
NC: Well I’ve always believed that it is just wrong that, I don’t know, a foreign oligarch living in a mansion worth £4 million has to pay the same Council Tax that someone in a, in a four bedroom family home. That seems to me to be wrong so I will continue to argue for a fairer tax system and that’s one of the main things, of course, the Liberal Democrats have provided, contributed to in this Government is a, is a fairer approach to taxes. For instance giving over twenty million basic rate tax payers a significant tax cut next, next April by raising the point at which people start paying income tax.
R: But if you are sort of pouring slight cold water on the welfare cuts where are the cuts going to have to come?
NC: Well as I say you need to have a combination of, as the Chancellor has quite rightly said, a combination of asking people at the top to make a greater contribution and also the contribution from public spending cuts. But where they’ve fallen exactly how you strike the balance between the two is exactly the kind of thing that the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats will be thrashing out within Government in the months ahead.
R: And finally here at the school today you’ve spoken to quite a few of the children. What have you actually got out of this visit?
NC: Well I think this visit really shows that if you’ve got youngsters who aren’t entirely sure about what they want to do later in life and if you give them the opportunity to sit with the same person week in week out, month in month out to kind of explore what they might want to do with their, with their lives in the future it has a huge, huge effect. It raises their performance at school, it makes them more motivated to get their homework done and it also means that they can plan for their own futures because it’s a very confusing world if you’re, if you’re a teenager these days and this is a great, great way of helping, helping young people understand what choices are available to them.
(Taken from today’s TV news, with slight tidying up of the language.)