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Sunday, January 12, 2014

Clegg steps up the process of disengagement

This morning's Observer reports that Nick Clegg has once more clashed with Tory Ministers over welfare reform, in what is increasingly looking like a deliberate process of disengagement from the coalition.

They say that the Deputy Prime Minister has dismissed a proposal by Iain Duncan Smith to limit child benefit to the first two children as a "Chinese-style family policy":

Speaking on the Andrew Marr Show on BBC1, the deputy prime minister also warned that the Tories were locked in a "deathly embrace" with Ukip over Britain's membership of the EU. This would lead to a race to the bottom, he said.

Clegg opened up a new rift on a separate front with the Tories last week when he rejected a proposal by George Osborne for an extra £12bn in welfare cuts in the next parliament to help stabilise the public finances. The chancellor raised the prospect of withdrawing housing benefit from people under 25.

The deputy prime minister said he favoured eliminating the budget structural deficit by 2018 but Osborne was wrong to focus on cutting in-work benefits rather than raising taxes on the rich.

Duncan Smith, who is sceptical of Osborne's plan to withdraw housing benefit from those under 25, told the Sunday Times of a "brilliant" proposal to save £4bn by limiting child benefit to the first two children in a family. Clegg dismissed that when he told the Andrew Marr Show: "I will look at all proposals. But some of the ones I have seen floated – for instance the idea of a two-child policy. I am not in favour of penalising the young. I am not in favour of a sort of Chinese-style family policy saying the state says it is OK to have two children, it is not OK to have three children.

"Remember this is child benefit that goes to families, many of whom are working. They are working very hard, often on low incomes. My priority is a fair approach to ongoing fiscal consolidation. If you have to balance the books you mustn't balance the books only on the working-age poor."

I am very happy about the position Clegg is taking on these issues.
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