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Call Clegg 11 September

September 11, 2014 2:17 PM
Originally published by UK Liberal Democrats

Watch as Nick Clegg takes your questions live on LBC for this week's Call Clegg.


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 11 September that means it's time for Call Clegg with me, Nick Clegg here on LBC. So do get in touch in the next half an hour or so if you want to get involved. Call on 0345 6060973; email at nickclegg@lbc.co.uk and of course, as ever you can watch on the website, lbc.co.uk. So the first caller is Anthony in Kennington. Hello Anthony.

A1: Hello Nick. It's just something that I have a thought about. If an independent Scotland with the Queen as the head of state can't keep the pound I'm wondering why because other self-governing territories such as the Isle of Man, Gibraltar, Channel Islands use the pound. Even the Republic of Ireland with the... before it went to the punt, had the pound in the sterling area. So what's the problem with Scotland?

NC: I think the point that Mark Carney in particular was saying, making the other day was that, if you sort of think it through, if Scotland were to become and independent country. And needless to say, I fervently hope, with every shred of my political beliefs and values and so on that the people of Scotland will choose otherwise.

But if Scotland were to become independent you then have a separate country wanting to do separate things with its budget, with its taxes, with its, you know, public spending and so on and so forth. But it would have interest rates set somewhere else down here. And I think the point is that if you...that creates an inbuilt tension which all the evidence shows over a period of time becomes increasingly unsustainable unless you actually go full circle and having the same kind of fiscal policies and the same kind of arrangements. Which then begs the questions well why then, you know in a sense what's the point of seeking independence if in fact your economic policy you become more dependent on the decisions taken in another country. And I think there's a strong feeling that given that obviously oil revenue is running out, given that there are all sorts of benefits of being part of the United Kingdom in terms of raising the revenue to fund for the NHS and public services and so on. That independent observers like the Institute of Fiscal Studies have said there will be this huge black hole to be made up with spending cuts or tax increases, by the way none of which Alec Salmond seems acknowledge. So in other words you would need to make some pretty tough decisions pretty early on to try and balance the books. Because you'd...the cost of borrowing money for an independent Scotland would be much, much higher because people would be, the international markets and all the rest of it, would be much less willing to lend the money in the first place.

So for all of those reasons I think the feeling is look if an independent country with an independent currency that's one thing, or joining the Euro. Well you know they can sort of try their chances on that. But sort of try to have it both ways, both be independent but also basically have everything run in Threadneedle Street in London. I think most experts have looked at this and said it just doesn't make sense.

NF: Anthony quick response from you?

A1: Well I'm not an economist but I feel that if Scotland want it, why not let them have it and take the responsibility?

NC: Well it...because it...how can I put it? It's the...it's British Sterling, it's the British pound it would be, it's a pound which is underwritten if you like by the Bank of England. What you're saying is that a country which may or may not manage to balance its book, may or may not manage to borrow successfully in the international markets, may or may not be able to carry the huge liabilities and the banking system and honour its debts and so on. You know you can't, in the long run, you can't expect the English tax payers who stand behind the Bank of England to underwrite all those risks which will become far greater in an independent Scotland. And that's why I think it's quite right that the Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat parties, all of the parties have said: look the one thing we should be really clear about is, it is not going to happen. There is you know, it's just not going to happen. And I know Alec Salmond said: oh that's scaremongering. It's not actually. I think it's quite responsible to say to the people of Scotland they have the vote in this. I don't and I suspect you don't either Anthony. We don't have a vote in this but I think it's right for us to say: look if you are going to choose for independence, please be aware that this option that Alec Salmond just constantly asserts is going to happen, cannot and will not and should not happen because it would be economically very irresponsible to do so.

NF: We move on to other calls.

NC: Andy in Wembley. Hello Andy.

A2: Hello mate.

NC: Hello.

A2: Just a quick... I noticed that you went up to Scotland yesterday with the other two cronies and then went up to try and make the no vote count. All I've got to say is that I think you sort of wasted your time going up there because of what you stand for and what you do.

NC: Well look what I stand for I mean, you and I are just going to have to agree to disagree Andy. I mean I don't have a vote, I'm an English MP. I represent the people of Sheffield Hallam in the South West of Sheffield. None of my constituents have a vote. But actually I just happen to know, I'm going to be up there in my own constituency this evening. And actually I know, certainly speaking on behalf of my constituents that I represent in a great northern city like Sheffield, people might not have a vote but they really, really care. This affects everybody and I think to say Andy that just because someone doesn't have a vote they can't express an opinion that they feel, as I feel very strongly, that the United Kingdom, it may have its flaws, it may have its imbalances, but we've done extraordinary things as a family of nations. You know defeated fascism in Europe, created the NHS, create the modern welfare state, competed successfully at the Olympic Games. All the amazing things that scientists, economists, inventors and artists have done together north and south of the border. This is an amazing thing and I just think you know, I mean Andy, my view is that there are huge differences between Scotland and England and between the different parts of the United Kingdom. And those differences by the way will get bigger in future as more power is devolved to Scotland. But having different, you can rejoice in those differences without ripping the whole thing apart. That's the key message surely, is why can't we agree, and I hope people will agree, that you have these great differences, they already exist and they will exist further with the plan for further devolution of power to Scotland. But do it without severing all of the links that actually have served us very well. And one final thing say to Andy to this is look?

NF: Yes of course. Yeah.

NC: Look at the world around us Andy, and I can't think of a single major challenge that we face in the world and it's an insecure dangerous world, to which the answer is that we start turning our backs against each other. Climate change, financial instability in the international markets, extremist violence, cross border crime. All these issues, issues which every single nation around the world faces, are all faced better and we are stronger and more secure when we work together rather than fall apart. And that's why as you can hear Andy, I mean I'm not saying...I'm not pretending I've got a vote. Certainly not pretending that somehow English politicians can tell people in Scotland how to vote. But it does seem to me we're entitled to put our point of view.

NF: How was it orchestrated that the three of you all went up yesterday Deputy Prime Minister?

NC: So I think David Cameron and Ed Miliband decided they didn't, for I think very good reasons. They said look: this is such a momentous decision. And it is such a momentous... I mean I can't think of a more momentous decision during my political lifetime because this is a decision forever. I mean I have, you know, I've heard about some people who think, oh well we can vote for independence but then we can kind of change it all later. No, you know, once you walk through this door that's it.

NF: Yeah but you might well...

NC: And then so they said, they agreed earlier in the week since they're main combatants in Prime Minister's questions. They said I don't think we should do this week and immediately got in touch with me. And I said, no absolutely you know that sounds like a good idea. Everybody separately, not together, separately in their own way, in their own words in the places where we choose, should seek as I explained to Andy, to put our points of view forward.

NF: What is Devo Max? Explain it to my listeners we're confused.

NC: It's really simple. So everybody knows, I hope they know, Scotland already has its own legal system, it's own education system. We, this coalition government three years ago passed a new Scotland act which was the biggest transfer of further powers in tax raising and borrowing powers to Scotland. Actually the biggest transfer of new, what they call fiscal powers since the union was formed three hundred years ago. And what's happened is, and this is new, this is new. I mean my party, I think people who follow this know this, have been going on for generations about the need to have something that's called, something which we call 'home rule'. In other words, 'home rule' within Scotland but within the stability and security of the United Kingdom. And us Liberals have been arguing that for years. But there's what's eluded us for a long time is having all the main parties say, now let's do this. And then on August 5, David Cameron, Ed Miliband and myself came together and it was very...it was a breakthrough announcement and we said for the first time, all the parties now agree that assuming Scotland remains part of the United Kingdom as we all fervently hope, then there will be an irreversible process of further powers in addition to the ones I've already described, in tax, in borrowing in Welfare provided to Scot...

NF: But where did you get the mandate for this then?

NC: Well my party has been arguing this for years and years and years within in every single one of our...

NF: Yes but the mandate from the electorate. I mean how much will this cost?

NC: Well actually it's about giving more financial responsibility to Scotland. It's very important to remember this. A lot of...

NF: But there will be a cost attached obviously.

NC: Well I think...

NF: How much will come out of the English coffers or the UK coffers then that will go to Scotland?

NC: Actually I'd recast it in a slightly different light. What we're saying is that more of the money that is spent in Scotland should be raised in Scotland and entirely free for Scotland to decide.

NF: So how much won't come south of the border?

NC: Well that depends on the final agreement about exactly which tax...

NF: So we don't know do we?

NC: Well no, we know for instance that both the Conservative and Liberal Democrats for instance, believe that income tax powers should be devolved in full to Scotland.

NF: Right. Suppose they decide on a 20 per cent tax?

NC: Well then they're free to do that.

NF: Right well what's going to happen to our coffers?

NC: Well they then, they're free to decide whatever they want with their own taxes to spend...

NF: Yeah but presumably we get X from Scotland. Suddenly the X vanishes because they have decided to ...

NC: No, no. There's something called the Barnett formula, money...

NF: So that's where everybody £1,300 more if you live in Scotland.

NC: Money flows if you like from other parts of the United Kingdom to Scotland which is one of the reasons...

NF: But that would cease obviously?

NC: No there would still be, of course, some arrangements if Scotland remains part of the United Kingdom. Of course...

NF: Well what is the total cost of this Mr Clegg?

NC: Well as I say, you can't, I can't give you a sum until all the parties, and by the way people beyond politics, make a final decision on exactly which taxes. But all I am saying to you is what we want to see is the vast bulk of the money spent in Scotland, raised in Scotland. So far from asking more money from other parts of the United Kingdom this is about giving greater autonomy and greater responsibility to Scottish governments in the future. And I think that's what people in Scotland want. They want to be able to take decisions for themselves for the services they provide locally. Yes as part of the United Kingdom but with greater freedom to decide these things for themselves.

NF: You're nothing if not a smart man. What happens when the Welsh want something like this or the Northern Irish or the Cornish...?

NC: Well they do already. Well they do.

NF: Won't the Cornish want their own tax raising powers?

NC: Here's the thing. I think that we're on to something really, really big here and I think by the way this is going to loom massively in British politics on the...

NF: Really, what more and more devolution?

NC: Yeah, no. Can I look... We cannot, I think it's really good thing that we're devolving more to Scotland. I think it's a really good thing we're devolving more power to Wales. There's something called the Silk Commission which we... You see you're grimacing and you haven't even heard of it.

NF: I've haven't heard of it I apologise.

NC: We've actually devolved basically we've given new powers...

NF: I defer to your superior knowledge on a regular basis.

NC: We...now I want that framed and put up in this radio studio from now on.

NF: I'll see what I can do.

NC: We've already devolved significant new powers to Wales right. On the back of something called the Silk Commission which was an all party commission. There was referendum held do you remember in Wales?

NF: Yes. yes.

NC: Three years ago or so.

NF: Yeah I remember that.

NC: So there is a process already of very significant devolution taking place as power is devolved quite rightly to Edinburgh to Cardiff. The thing that you're attaching which I think is hugely important is well what about England. What about England, why doesn't Manchester, why doesn't Sheffield where I'm MP. Why not places like that, great places like that, have more say over their own affairs. And I think people are dead right. It's not, the status quo, it cannot carry on that we have this I think, very, very welcome process of devolution to the nations of the United Kingdom but somehow keep England as centralised as it is. And I think the cat is now out of the bag. That whatever happens on the 18, and even if Scotland remains part of the United Kingdom. I think we'll not only see further devolution to Scotland we'll see a massive debate and I'm going to be right up there on the...

NF: On the picket line?

NC: Yeah on the picket line arguing in favour of more power for the communities and people in England...

NF: Like Cornwall?

NC: Yes, yes, yes...

NF: I mean I don't... I mean or the West Midlands or wherever you...

NC: No, no.

NF: ...want to say?

NC: Yes absolutely. Now then the question is how you do it. I personally think the Labour approach and was doing it from the top down. Do you remember these regional quangos that didn't mean anything to anybody. I heard was it the other night that lots of Conservatives want a new body with lots of new politicians in it. I don't think frankly new politicians in English Parliament or whatever you call it is the answer. For me the answer is you give much more power and authority to the counties and the cities of our country so that they can do...

NF: But what would you and your colleagues do all day long then? We won't need a House of Commons?

NC: Well you're right, we'd spend much less time fiddling around telling people across the country what to do when it's no business of national politicians to constantly put on those. We'd be much more like a lot of other countries round the world, whether it's the United States or Germany or other countries where...

NF: It's a federal law again.

NC: ...where you have basically a much more sensible division of labour where people locally are trusted to take decisions locally. And you don't everything second guessed by busy body politicians and bureaucrats in Whitehall. And you know if there's one thing I've always been passionately, is a believer that you've got to trust people. So, yes it's great we're going trust, or not trust, we're going to transfer massive new powers to Scotland and new powers to Wales. I want to see that same zeal...

NF: That's interesting, that's very interesting.

NC: ...that same zeal for letting go of power from London for England as well.

NF: Because when I lived in the States, in New York State, Connecticut suddenly reduced it's own sales tax. So everybody when they wanted to buy anything. They'd just go into Connecticut and of course, New York so then they had to fall in line. So these sort of powers are really useful.

NC: Yeah well look , you've already got this is the interesting thing by the way, the final thing on this. Alex Salmond already had, has significant tax varying powers for Scotland...guess what, he never chose to use them. He never chose to use the powers he's got to vary, vary tax rates already. Now I think we need to go further. Now here's the curious thing...I sometimes think Alex Salmond hasn't actually admitted to the very considerable devolution that's already taken place, 'cause he somehow wants to portray the status quo as something where everything's decided in London. That's simply not the case, we now want to go even further...he, curiously, has been the roadblock for actually exercising the great Scottish powers that Scotland already has.

NF: We will move on. Final question...why is he such a wily campaigner then, because he has put together a decent campaign, you have to admit.

NC: Oh yeah, you know, he's a very good campaigner, and he's a wily politician. I think he's been living and breathing this all his life, I mean, it's his life's mission. But just 'cause something is someone's life mission doesn't mean the mission is the right thing for the people he seeks to represent. And I must say, one final word on this...I mean, it is becoming almost comic, the way that you have major, major figures raising massive alarm bells, massive alarm bells about the economic consequences about independence. Just this morning, did you hear the head of John Lewis saying that prices would go up for shoppers in...

NF: Yes, it was on this show.

NC: Yes you had...oh, and then the SNP said, oh he's exaggerating. BP, they say please don't go independent... oh they're exaggerating. Shell... oh not they're exaggerating. Standard Life... oh no, they're exaggerating. RBS...oh no they're exaggerating. Lloyds... oh no. You can't constantly shout people down when very authoritative bodies say, this is going to be bad for prices in shops, for jobs in Scotland, you can't keep saying, oh they're just talking nonsense. These are very serious people raising very serious concerns.

NF: There are other issues out there...

NC: There are.

NF: ...in the United Kingdom. Deputy Prime Minister, where do we go?

NC: Judy in Belsize Park. Hello Judy.

J: Good morning Mr Clegg. Erm, I believe you've got plans now for all 16 to 21 year olds to get a 66 per cent subsidy or discount on their bus fares.

NC: Uh-huh.

J: Which will be paid for by stopping the winter fuel allowance, and the free television licences for pensioners in the higher rate income tax bracket.

NC: Uh-huh.

J: Is that correct?

NC: Yes.

J: Yes. What I find interesting is most people of 16...'cause this is starting at 16...16, 17 year olds, particularly, still live at home with their parents.

NC: Hmm.

J: These parents could very well be, not only in the 40 per cent tax bracket, they could be in the 45 per cent tax bracket, earning over £150,000 a year. And yet they're not going to be means tested. So I would venture to suggest that boys and girls of 16 and 17 who might possibly be attending at Eton, Harrow, living in a palace, living in a stately home. Why would they automatically qualify for this subsidy, and the pensioners who are paying for it actually have a lower income than they do?

NC: I'll tell you why Judy. Because, the principle reason is because in the past, the state, the law said you didn't need to carry on in education beyond the age of 16. And what the state then did was, it quite rightly in keeping with that age, supported people, supported all youngsters up to that age to get to school, to get to education and so on. We have raised that age up to 18, so now youngsters are expected to stay in education or training up until the age of 18. But we haven't changed the rules so that we give the same support to a 17 year old that we might previously have given to a 15 year old. So I think, you know, the first and most important thing is that the government of today says that all, everybody, up to the age of 18, is from now on expected to be in education or training, then it cannot be right that you have 17 year olds in, say, Somerset, paying hundreds of pounds a year, simply to be able to get to college to discharge their duty, which is now a duty, if you like, imposed from on high, to continue in education. So that's the fundamental reason is that we as a country have always believed that if you place an expectation on youngsters to be educated up to a certain age, you also have to provide the support so that they can get that education. And we've always done that, if you like, on a universal basis.

To that extent, I think what we're doing is moving with the times. And also, look we have this debate, by the way, on this programme on a number of occasions, and this is a really interesting debate. Is when do you make an entitlement universal, and when do you make it selective? Now, so for instance, on previous times we've had, I've had people call in and say, oh so why are you giving free school meals to all small little children in school and the first three years of primary school and so on. And you, in a sense, made a similar point. Now, my answer to that is, of course you have to choose, we've chosen for instance for generations in this country that we think the entitlements to the NHS are universal, that you're not stopped at A&E and asked, you know, whip your chequebook out and tell me how much you pay. There are certain things we just think are universally entitled... and by the way, it's often much, much more straightforward and cheaper to do it that way than go through the whole rigmarole of weeding people out.

NF: Not if you've just lost your free TV licence though.

NC: No, no. But here is the point...

NF: Briefly, 'cause I must get Judy back in.

NC: I personally, Judy, cannot understand, or justify... I suspect you and I will disagree on this... that the richest, some of the richest pensioners get from other hard pressed taxpayers their TV licence and winter fuel payments paid for, and yet there are young people paying hundreds and hundreds of pounds...

NF: Hang on, some of those young people have got iPads!

NC: No, some of them do, but do you know what...

NF: But it's the same principle, surely?

NC: No, do you know what, I think a lot of grandmothers and grandfathers listening to this would understand that in this day and age, where you have to make choices, where you can't just give everything to everyone for free, it is not a bad thing that you make a choice that the people who are retired but richer and better off than others make a small sacrifice so we can help younger people at the moment who can't get to education.

NF: Lets get Judy... Judy, you're back in.

J: Mr Clegg, you have not answered my question.

NC: Well I've sought to.

J: No.

NF: What part, what's not been answered?

J: You have not answered my question.

NF: What part, Judy?

J: The part as to why people who are richer than the people who are subsidising them are getting the subsidy. You have not answered my question.

NC: Well Judy, can I reverse it then...

J: No! Just answer the question, just for once in your life, as a politician, answer the question.

NC: Judy, I have sought to answer the question by first explaining why...

J: No you haven't, you haven't answered my question.

NC: But if you give me, if you give me...

J: My question was very specific and you haven't answered it.

NC: I have sought to answer it, you haven't accepted my answer. Let me try once again. Firstly, the age of education has been raised by this government from 16 to 18, so I think it's right that we also...

NF: But it's the rich parents...I think that's what Judy is...

NC: ...and I've separately tried to explain to Judy that there are instances where we decide as a society to give universal entitlements. And where Judy and I, I suspect, disagree, is that I don't find it remotely defensible, morally or otherwise, that there are poor youngsters paying hundreds of pounds just to get to college, whilst there are very wealthy people in retirement who are having poorer taxpayers pay their winter fuel payments and TV licences for them. And I suspect many people in that category would actually agree that for the older generation coming towards the end of, or after their working life, making a small sacrifice to help youngsters at the beginning of their working life is a good thing to do to make society fairer.

NF: Alright, we move on. Judy, thank you. Where do we go now?

NC: Neil in Gatwick, hello Neil.

N: Good morning Nick.

NC: Morning.

N: And Nick.

NF: Hello.

N: What do you think about the Mayor's scrappage scheme, with, he's saying he wants to scrap 150,000 cars.

NC: Is he, has he set this up, has he?

NF: Yeah, this is the idea from Boris Johnson. Diesel car owners should be given up to £2,000 to turn the vehicles into scrap and improve air quality in London. So obviously you get your trade in price on your diesel car, plus an additional up to £2,000. This is because he believes they were falsely encouraged by some previous European research that shows that diesel cars were better...now we understand they are in fact more polluting.

NC: Well there is an issue about the fact that I think it's...I'm not an expert...I think it's particularly the nitrous oxide emissions.

NF: That's right, older diesel cars.

NC: From older diesel cars. And that, and I know that Patrick McLoughlin, the Transport Secretary, is talking to other people in Europe to make sure that...

NF: What about this sort of extra scrappage?

NC: Well that's Boris Johnson's scheme, you'd need to ask him how he's gonna run it. Because I don't, I mean this is a Boris announcement, and I never quite know with a Boris announcement whether it's actually gonna happen, or whether he's just floating the idea and he expects someone else to pick up the tab. But it's his idea, and if he can make it work, good luck to him.

NF: While we're on the subject of Boris Johnson, who is one of my other, one of the other major political forces...

NC: From your vast collection of people who now traipse into this studio.

NF: Traipse is your choice of word...I think come in with a spring in their step, in your case Mr Clegg!

NC: Yes, yes!

NF: But I've added another signing...I feel like Jose Mourinho or Arsene Wenger... Nigel Farage will be joining me as of tomorrow.

NC: Yeah! It's every...I was about to say every Tom, Dick or Harry, but it's every Tom, Dick or Harriet, isn't it, these days! Hah, there's a good one! Christmas crackers come early!

NF: In a fortnight they'll be joining me.

NC: Yes, well catch up Charlie as he's known otherwise. I look forward to hearing him, but I don't know why he's not putting a proper shift in and doing it every week, but maybe you can ask that.

NF: Because he's in Europe.

NC: Oh yes, maybe, that's right, maybe he's enjoying the lavish expenses that he does as an MEP in Europe, but I think he should do it every week.

NF: Watch this space... Nigel Farage, we'll put that to him Mr Clegg. Onto your calls for today, where do we go next?

NC: Emma in Nottingham. Hello Emma.

E: Morning.

NC: Morning.

E: Hi, I was just wondering, do you really think it's possible for people with mental health problems to be seen as a priority in the NHS?

NC: Emma, do you speak with any personal experience?

E: Yeah, yeah I do. I've been agoraphobic for a long time.

NC: Right, and have you been...how have you found the help you got from the NHS?

E: I've found the actual help I've had good, but it's more a case of getting the right help at the right time.

NC: That's right.

E: And the sooner you're seen, obviously you're dealing with a smaller problem. If it's left for a long time it's a bigger problem, both for the patient, obviously, and for the NHS.

NC: I mean, Emma, as you know from your own experience, and I've been going on about this for years. And in fact, I think it was the thing I first raised when I first became leader of my party in Prime Minister's Questions seven years ago. I think the kind of way in which mental health services have been treated as a Cinderella service in the NHS, is one of the biggest problems that we have in our health system in our country. Alongside, by the way, the fact that social care and health care don't sometimes, well often, don't work together properly. And we've done a lot of things, not least at my instigation, and that of Norman Lamb, the Lib Dem Minister who leads on this in government, to change this. So for instance, we've rewritten the, what is in effect, the kind of mandate, the constitution of the NHS, and said to NHS managers, you are now duty bound to put mental health in the same level as physical health.

Huge progress has been made to lift the kind of taboo around this. I mean, I want to live in a country where people can talk as freely about their mental health issues as they can about the fact that they've sprained their ankle. We need to get away from this idea that mental health is something you need to be a bit embarrassed about and you can't talk about. It affects one in four families in this country. Now we've put a whole lot of extra money into things called talking therapies, we've tried to deal with something you may have experienced yourself, which is this terrible cliff edge, where young people who get help for their mental health services, as soon as they turn into adulthood, they're kind of left to fend for themselves again. But there's a long, long way to go, and I was delighted, I was really delighted to see the chief medical officer...I think this might be what you're eluding to Emma...this week, in her first annual report, single this out as one of the most important things facing...

NF: Yes, how can we deliver, I think this is a delivery question, Mr Clegg.

NC: Well I think, I actually think what I call a quality of esteem, which is really starting to seep through the system, is already translating into lots and lots of individual decisions being taken by clinicians and by people who commission the care, in other words, who decide where the money goes. That they're increasingly recognising that mental health and physical health have to be treated the same. I want to move to a situation where the waiting time expectations that people have to be seen for a physical health issue apply pretty well in exactly the same way for mental health. Why should a mental health patient...

NF: Do we have the money, do we have the funding?

NC: Well that's the issue, that's where you have to cross the Ts and dot the Is. I don't think we're gonna do this overnight, I really do think we've made massive...and I want to pay tribute, you know, the people I see, you know Stephen Fry, Alastair Campbell, MPs in the House of Commons, who just talk more openly about the fact. And the moment you do that, and if people at the school gates can talk about mental health issues...because if affects so many people...just as they do about physical health. That in itself will have a dramatic effect on the way that GPs and clinicians act. But I think if we can also move, as I say, we've got these legal expectations, these kind of constitutional almost expectations now, for the mandate in the NHS, that mental health and physical health are treated in the same way. I want to now move further and make sure that people also feel that they're entitled to the same waiting time, you know, waiting times as they have enjoyed for a long time.

NF: Okay, Deputy Prime Minister...one last one, and an email perhaps. Go with that question first.

NC: Yeah, David in Mill Hill. Hello David.

D: Yeah, good morning. I'd like to know why you've reneged on the boundary arrangements you made with the Conservatives.

NC: So what happened was...this is going back some time now...was that in the coalition agreement we said there was a bunch of political reforms that we would do tougher. We would introduce funding reform for political parties, because the way that parties are funded, as you know, is pretty ropey. We would introduce elections so you've got a say, David, as much as anybody else about who makes the laws of the land in the House of Lords. We would look at boundaries, and so on and so forth. And basically what happened was, the deal fell apart because, you know, from my point of view, the Conservatives didn't honour their side of the bargain when it comes to House of Lords reform, didn't, along with the Labour Party, honour their side of the bargain on party funding. So we got less done. So what's happened on boundaries is, all that's happened is that we're missing a beat, if you like. The next boundary review, instead of taking place in 2013, will now take place in 2018. But you know...

D: But hang on a minute...surely that's gonna affect our voting rights. If we're now gonna be stuck with a Labour Government...hopefully we won't be...because of Scotland leaving us. But otherwise, we're gonna be stuck with a Labour Government because you haven't agreed to changing the boundaries. So what you're doing is in fact crawling up the bottom of the Labour Party.

NC: Oh dear, right, no I don't think I am...no, a hideous thought. No I'm not crawling anywhere near, remotely near that place. But no, David, look I'm afraid it is just as I've described. In a coalition you set out to the British people, as we did in the coalition agreement, what you're gonna do together. That obviously is a kind of, a deal, where parties bring different things to the table. And in this area, there was just a total failure of the Conservative Party...by the way, not only to deliver what was in the coalition agreement, to deliver their own commitments to the House of Lords reform. And so, you know, I'm assuming you... I don't know what line of work you're in, but it's kind of, a deal's a deal. If the deal is sort of called off by one side...

D: But you've broken the deal haven't you, you didn't do the deal. You threw your toys out the pram 'cause you couldn't get the Lord's review.

NC: No David... well anyway, look...

D: No you have.

NC: Okay, well I suspect whatever I say you're gonna make the same assertions.

NF: We are coming closer, and I need to get a couple of emails in just very quickly. One question from me, actually, before the final email. We all know how you feel, and how the Prime Minister feels, and how Mr Miliband feels, and you want it desperately to be a no vote, of course. If it goes against you, what level of preparation has been done in Whitehall for whatever needs to happen next Friday or Saturday or the following Monday?

NC: No preparation, because...

NF: Pardon!

NC: No preparation, because I think it's incredibly important that as a government, that governs for the whole of the United Kingdom, is we don't, as a government, start, you know, planning to govern for what would then become a different country.

NF: But wouldn't it just have been prudent to know a little bit of what you're doing to do on Friday afternoon?

NC: No I think people would say, well hang on a minute, you're campaigning with every, you know, with every ounce of energy you've got to retain Scotland within the United Kingdom, but actually you're somehow kind of furtively planning for something else. No, we...

NF: So what happens on Monday? Everybody scrambles around like crazy people!

NC: No, as I say...if Scotland were to, if Salmond was to get his way and Scotland were to sever its links with the United Kingdom, there would be massive consequences...by the way not least very, very serious economic ones. As you've heard from all companies, banks, retailers...

NF: Meanwhile in Whitehall, nobody even saw it coming!

NC: No it's not that. It's just, we are here, we have a mandate to govern for the country as a whole. All three parties believe that what we should be doing is devoting all our time to making that case, and that is what we're doing.

NF: But when we came into the new millennium, countries spent hundreds of thousands of pounds because it was believed that planes would drop out of the sky and traffic lights would all go out and bank accounts would be wiped out...do you remember...and companies put in all these special measures. Thank the lord, none of it was required. Meanwhile in UK plc, the possibility that part of our cherished union might wander off elsewhere, nobody's done anything.

NC: We feel so strongly that the right thing for the United Kingdom, for everybody...and by the way, as you know, this affects people not only north of the border, it affects everybody. It affects my kids, my grandchildren, future generations across the United Kingdom. So, and I think it's right that the government of the United Kingdom should be solely devoted to making the case that Scotland remains part of the United Kingdom, and not some kind of, on the side, in some secret room planning for exactly what we don't want to happen.

NF: Okay. We've got a minute left. Perry says, "Nick Clegg has been going on and on about his school meals. He said, kids cannot concentrate if they have no lunch...how do Muslim children manage not eating at all during Ramadan?"

NC: Well you know, I'm not for one moment pretending that the measures we've introduced of giving a healthy nutritious meal at lunchtime is gonna cut across Ramadan. I mean, Ramadan is a devoutly held...

NF: Have these measures worked? You know, there's only one way of telling about these school meals, Mr Clegg.

NC: How?

NF: Well, as they often say...the proof of the pudding is...

NC: Is in the eating.

NF: ...is in the eating. And under the school meal plan today, the pudding is beetroot and coco cake, with coco custard.

NC: Where?

NF: Here, I've got one... the kids, this is schools right across London from a company called Kids Lunch Co. There is a beetroot and... what is it again... beetroot... and I've got one too. Beetroot and coco cake with coco custard.

NC: It looks delicious. Are you inviting me to eat it?

NF: I'm inviting you to see if the proof of the pudding...do you know, I can't even open this packet, there we go. If the proof of the pudding is...

NC: Do you want some help!

NF: No I'm there now. Would you like...this is what children are tucking into.

NC: That's excellent.

NF: Actually, to produce that on that kind of scale is fantastic.

NC: That's fantastic. And you know...

NF: The policy clearly works.

NC: It does work.

NF: Another vote winner.

NC: It does work.

NF: And tasty too!

NC: Very good, tested here, in the laboratory that is the LBC studio.

NF: Now next week we have to do it on Wednesday, of course, because we have that major vote.

NC: Yes.

NF: A final sentence, and it has to be a sentence, for you know, reasons of balance and everything else, why should people vote the way they should next Thursday in Scotland, Deputy Prime Minister...in one sentence?

NC: Because there's a huge difference between Scotland and England and other parts of the United Kingdom, but let's not sever all these, the links that have held us together. We've been a very successful, remarkably successful family of nations. We're stronger, we're better, we're more secure, we're more prosperous together, we're weaker apart.

NF: Thanks for that. Call Clegg next Wednesday of course. News next here on LBC.