Call Clegg highlights: Housing, Bond, the Lords, errant MPs and the Rolling Stones…

Nick Clegg sounded very cheery as he introduced his weekly LBC phone-in today. Maybe it’s the thought of two weeks away from the rough and tumble of Parliament, or waking up to a basketful of chocolate eggs on Sunday, but he certainly seemed in good form.

I have a long held obsession that if politicians concentrated their minds and sorted out housing, we’d all be a lot happier. It’s one of the things people care most about, unsurprisingly. Imagine how you’d feel if the roof over your head was threatened. Imagine the uncertainty, being forced to rely on the homelessness provision in your local council which could be hostel or bed and breakfast accommodation. It could be miles away from where your daughter goes to school. If you are lucky to have a home, it might be damp or in poor repair. The environment you live in shapes your whole life, health and life chances.

Anyway, Nick was asked several questions about housing. The first was from someone who was complaining that families from abroad were given Council accommodation if they were homeless. Nick asked her, basically, what she wanted to happen to people without a roof over their head:

My question to you Sarah is what you, would you prefer the councils didn’t have the discretion to deal with homelessness in they that they do.  I think that would be a pretty dramatic step which would have of course, a knock on effect on the local community…

….  I just think there is still an issue of homelessness which is still someone needs to deal with

Then a mum  who’s going to be penalised under the “Bedroom Tax” told Nick of her horror that her Council were suggesting that families take in foster children as a way of  avoiding having to pay extra rent. Nick agreed with her that fostering is a vocation not a way of making money.

On the implementation of the change Nick said something that makes it really important that we all collect as much hard evidence as we can of how people are being affected:

I cannot stress enough we’ve provided more money, we’ve introduced a number of exemptions, we’re prepared to do more as the thing comes into effect in order to make sure the hardest cases are properly and sensitively dealt with.

A third housing question – this time from a woman whose partner was about to go and serve in Afghanistan who said that they had had trouble getting a mortgage because of their military address. There wasn’t much that Nick could do for her, but it’s good for him to know the barriers people come up against.

And then onto Abu Qatada – why couldn’t the Government just throw him out anyway?

You just can’t I’m afraid, the government is not above the law.  However frustrating these court proceedings are, and I’m a great defender of the independence of the courts, all that stuff, but I’m as frustrated as anybody.  I think we will get there, it’s important for people to remember though that the point of dispute if you like, of law is whether the assurances about the evidence that would be made available in the Jordanian courts is kind of up to scratch and that’s where the dispute lies.  We think we can resolve this and we’re determined to do so.

Lauren from Watford asked about the practicalities of nurses having to work as healthcare assistants for a year. She thought nobody would employ them just for a year. Nick’s reply was that he thought the benefits would be clear and that he was a big fan of hands-on practical experience.

Nick Ferrari took upon himself to question Nick about Mike Hancock:

…my Chief Whip has gone down to Portsmouth, has spoken to Mike Hancock’s solicitors, has written to the complainant’s solicitors offering to meet them, I hope they will do that.  So I hope you won’t imply in any way that we’re not acting very, very thoroughly and quickly in response to what of course are serious allegations which are also very vigorously denied by Mike Hancock.

And David Ward again…

I’ve spoken to David Ward, he’s apologised, I’m finalising at the moment an agreement with him such that he will commit very clearly and simply to never again used generalised, prejudicial language which is deeply offensive to communities in Britain and elsewhere.

Peers watching Skyfall to keep them in the building during the secret courts debate also came up. I was most upset that Nick wasn’t aware of that. I mean, he could have read it here. He replied:

Well sometimes what happens in the House of Lords is that actually the number of people who vote across parties depends massively on the time of day or indeed night which the votes are actually held.

He did acknowledge, though, that our lot were around and highly motivated by the debate. I can’t recall one of ours actually speaking on the Government side, but that’s by the by.

He was also given another chance to talk about what the Government is doing on childcare following a complaint from a stay at home mother, pointing out that the Government has taken measures to help all parents but in this instance:

…and I’ve met a lot of them in Sheffield, in my own constituency and elsewhere who say “Do you know what, we’d love to work, we’d  love to work but it’s just not worthwhile doing so because child costs are so high.”  Those are the parents which I think quite understandably we’re trying to help in this measure.

Two frivolous question – is Boris Johnson a nasty piece of work:

I don’t know him well enough.  Do you know what I think his not inconsiderable ego I’m sure is robust enough to have taken a gentle mauling on the BBC Sunday morning television.

And then there was a bit of banter from Nick Ferrari about whether he was going to Glastonbury to see the Rolling Stones:

Do you know I’d love to go, whether I will is a different matter.  When was I last at Glastonbury?

NF:      2009.

NC:      Gosh that is very unnerving.

NF:      Are you duly impressed?

NC:      I’m slightly unnerved by that to be honest, what else do you know?

NF:      Not enough unfortunately.

And that’s it, I presume, until after the Easter holidays.


* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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  • Jeremy Mason 28th Mar '13 - 8:26pm

    We need more foster carers. If Nick is so concerned about the shortage of social and affordable housing, every jobcentre in the country has lots of unemployed builders on their books, put them to work instead of moaning about how much in benefits we have to pay them. The waste of space bankers can use the piles of our money that they are supposed to have invested in our businesses and our industries to kick-start some not for profit schemes.

  • Helen Dudden 28th Mar '13 - 10:13pm

    I know about the housing situation, and would agree with what Nick Clegg says. It feels seems hardly fair when you are in poor accommodation and Councillors keep changing their minds, and organizing petitions on the subject of preventing building in their areas.

    Perhaps, I am thinking in a simplified way, but can’t Councillors simply work out something together, what ever Party they are?

    I am living in a very cold home, and I viewed a bungalow with 10 others on Monday. I agree with using some of the older stock in the city to make more out of social housing. This I feel is a reasonable way to look at the situation, a fairer situation for everyone, no one should be living in a property that is far superior and could be used to support housing for all.

    I have just heard there is to be some housing, on a former MOD site on the outskirts of the city, this should help the over 12,000 on our waiting lists. There are further comments now, such as nursing staff asking about housing for them too. Housing of any kind is very expensive in Bath.

  • Nick’s answer re Hancock isn’t consistent with other reports that the party dismissed these allegations in September

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