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DPMQs: Clegg shows his passion on a range of issues

November 18, 2011 11:32 AM
By Paul Walter in Liberal Democrat Voice
Originally published by East Midlands Liberal Democrats

As usual, questions to the Deputy Prime Minister this week covered a large variety of subjects. Nick Clegg was on passionate form on several issues.

Harriet Harman asked if he would "admit that he urgently needs to take further action to help the young unemployed?". Refreshingly, Nick Clegg did admit this, adding:

…it would be a real dereliction of duty if we did not do more to try to make sure that young people are given a real pathway into training, further and higher education or the labour market. As the right hon. and learned Lady will know, youth unemployment has increased pretty remorselessly since 2004, so it increased during the second part of the Labour Government's time in office. Indeed, it increased by about 40% under Labour. There are some very big structural problems in the labour market that we need to address. I am leading some work on that in government, and we hope to make announcements on it very shortly, before the autumn statement.

In response to a question from Karl McCartney (Con), the DPM said that he was not expecting the European Commission staff based in London to engineer a coup to depose the UK's Prime Minister and government. Well, that's a relief then….

A question which repeatedly came up was whether or not to introduce an offence not to register to vote. Liberals will be pleased that Nick Clegg replied with increasing scepticism to such calls from the Labour party, culminating passionately with this response to Kevin Brennan (Lab):

Only the hon. Gentleman thinks that you are a democrat by criminalising lots of people. Only the Labour party thinks that the solution to everything is to put more crimes on to the statute book. As I explained to him, the civic duty remains. It is not an offence at the moment not to register; it is an offence not to provide information where requested to do so…That offence will remain on the statute book.

Further passion came in his answer to Philip Hollobone (Con) on the repatriation of powers from Brussels:

No Front Bencher in the coalition is talking about the unilateral repatriation of powers from the European Union. Why? Because it simply is not possible-it does not work like that. We have to seek agreement with 26 other countries to get that repatriation. The idea that one could simply get on to the Eurostar, go over to Brussels and come back with a bag load of powers simply is not feasible. Yes, let us examine the balance of powers, as we committed to do in the coalition agreement. I am a pro-European, but I believe in reforming the European Union. I do not believe the status quo is right, but I also believe that we need to act smart and move sensibly.

Lisa Nandy (Lab) implied that Nick Clegg has not kept his promise on ending child detention. That elicited this emphatic response:

Compared with the previous Government's record of thousands of young people being detained-yes, immorally-behind bars when they were entirely innocent, the new arrangements are a complete, humane, liberal revolution, of which I am very proud indeed.

Anorakwatch: Mark Durkan's (SDLP) voice is brilliant. His accent is so strong, his voice so basso profundo that you could carve it up and serve it with gravy and horseradish sauce. Wonderful. But it was even more wonderful to hear him this week saying this:

Has the Deputy Prime Minister appraised the impact of that on the distribution of seats to the territorial boundary commissions under the Sainte-Laguë formula?

I have a very low Poli-anorak tog rating, so I was then sent careering towards Google to find out what the Sam Hill the Sainte-Laguë formula is. Answer from Wikipedia: The Sainte-Laguë method is one way of allocating seats approximately proportional to the number of votes of a party to a party list used in many voting systems.