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Call Clegg 17 September

September 17, 2014 3:16 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 Wednesday 17 September. And obviously because of the Scottish referendum vote tomorrow we're bringing the Nick Clegg on LBC, Call Clegg programme today on Wednesday rather than Thursday. So I'm taking your questions for the next half an hour or so, do get in touch on 0345 6060973 or email at and of course, as ever you can watch on the website, First caller Jo in Cheshunt. Hello Jo.

J: Good morning Mr Clegg.

NC: Morning.

J: How are you this morning?

NC: I'm alright how are you?

J: I'm getting more angry as the week goes on.

NC: Oh right.

J: I was discussing, I make the children listen to LBC on the way to school in the mornings so they understand there is more to life than music.

NC: How old are they Jo?

J: My daughter is 15 tomorrow on Election Day.

NC: Right.

J: On referendum day and my son is 12. So they're at a very crucial age.

NC: Oh right. And they enjoy listening?

J: They do enjoy listening but they are very confused. They asked me yesterday what should happen. I said, I hope that Scotland vote yes. We're English. The reason being I cannot believe how many concessions you guys at Westminster already give Scotland and appear to be piling on more and more and more for a country. It leaves England as complete second-class citizens. We don't live in Westminster. I have an 80-year-old mother living with me who would social care for free if we lived in Scotland. I have a 15-year-old daughter as I mentioned. If she wanted to go to university in Scotland as it stands already, I would have to pay or she would have to pay because we're English yet European people are allowed to go to university in Scotland for free. Could you please explain?

NC: Sure, sure.

J: ...why all these concessions are being given to try to keep Scotland with us when they don't want to be with us and where do English people stand in all this because at the moment we've got nothing.

NC: Yeah, yeah. Jo to say you have captured the issue of the moment is an understatement and also I think you have put your finger on the debate which by the way I think will kind of unfold in a big way after tomorrow's vote.

Do you know almost regardless of what the result is, in other words, even if Scotland vote, as I very much unlike you Jo, very much hope the people Scotland will to remain part of the very successful family of nations that makes up the United Kingdom. Even then I think the point you're making is that the status quo is not good enough anymore. Everybody knows we the walk through a door, where of course more powers are flowing to Scotland. And the point I would make to you just on that Jo is that Scotland has always had lots of...we've always had a devolved settlement. Scotland has its own education system, always has done. Its legal system always has done. We've given it just actually three years ago new powers to borrow money on its own account. But we've also given extra powers to Wales. So there has been a process of devolution to Wales and of course Northern Ireland has its own devolved settlement.

The point you are making and it's interesting that your children are kind of asking questions about this is right well hang on a minute what does that mean for if you like, the missing bit of the jigsaw. What does it mean for people taking on more power and responsibility having more autonomy in the various parts of England and whilst I disagree with you Jo about you know, you feel it would be better if the United Kingdom falls apart. I think it would be an absolute tragedy because in this day and age Jo, I have to say to you I can't think of a major issue that we have to deal with as a country that to which the answer is you know people falling apart. I mean from the environment degradation to terrorism to cross border crime, to globalisation, to the banking system to our pension system all the big things we face, we face better when we are together and we're weaker when we are apart is my view.

But having said so, while we might disagree on that Jo, I think you're on to something when you say look, we need also a debate about we can... If Whitehall and Westminster in a sense letting go and giving more freedoms and powers to Scotland and indeed as I say to other parts of the United Kingdom. Surely Whitehall and Westminster should do so for the communities of England. And I basically agree with that and that's why I think what you will see in the coming months if not in years is not only a process of devolution to the countries or the nations that make up the United Kingdom but also further decentralisation to the constituent parts of... I'm an MP in Sheffield and what you have just said I hear over and over again in the communities that I represent in South West Sheffield. People saying well hang on a minute we in Sheffield want to take on more responsibility for our own affairs just as much as anybody else does.

NF: Jo let's bring you back in a comment to the Deputy Prime Minister Jo.

J: I do not want the country to fall apart at all Mr Clegg. I want equality for everybody.

NC: Yeah.

J: We are all, according to you; you want to stay in Europe. We are all Europeans but we're not. The English people aren't as European as the European people when it comes to going to university in Scotland already because of this Barnett formula that they can afford to offer concessions to everyone apart from us. If the UK, if England got split up into different governing bodies we'd miss out as well because I live in Hertfordshire. I don't come under good old London. I come under a county two miles from my front door. You know London is over the line. So we don't get London Weighting. It just seems that I all want is for everybody to have an equal chance and my kinds at the moment they don't.

NC: Yeah no Jo look...

NF: And also the university education is a key point Mr Clegg.

NC: Yeah, no, no. But listen... But do remember you have different education systems and I said different legal systems north and south of the border, you know, for ages. From that, that in a sense is not new. And by the way just because I'm obviously very familiar with this controversial subject Jo you do not need to pay penny for your sons and daughters to go to university. Not a single penny. They only have to pay it back themselves many, many years after they have left university and only if they can afford to do it. Anyway...

NF: It's a superior system in Scotland of course Mr Clegg.

NC: Well hang, but you know let's look in the long run about how you...there's a big question that everybody faces. Not just by the way in the United Kingdom, not just in Scotland, not just in England and Wales but across the developed world. And Jo you have raised these big issues. Is how do we make sure we've got a decent way of supporting people who need social care later on in life? How do we make sure we have decent pensions? How do we make sure that anyone who wants to go to university can do? How you fund all of that is not something that anyone can suddenly just sort of ignore or turn their backs on.

And Scotland remaining as I hope it will, part of the United Kingdom, we're still going to have to grapple with those issues. What we're saying though to, what myself and Ed Miliband and David Cameron, and this is really important Jo is, we're not saying look, we're going to... We're not going to say, Westminster is going to write out great new cheques. What we're saying actually is the way in which the cake if you like of tax revenues across the United Kingdom the way that's divvied up, something called the Barnett formula remains. But what we are saying is that Scotland should in the future, because that is what many people in Scotland say they want, take more responsibility themselves for raising their own money and spending it. But in a sense saying that Scotland for instance, have new tax raising freedoms means that they'll take more responsibility for their own finances rather than less Jo.

NF: Jo thank you we must move on. Just one point, you were one of the signatories on a letter on the front page of the Scottish Daily Record earlier this week Mr Clegg. David Cameron and Ed Miliband joined you in this letter. Part of which says we can state categorically the final say on how much is spent on the NHS in Scotland will be a matter for the Scottish Parliament. But it will be funded by British tax payers.

NC: Well it'll be funded...

NF: So if they want to make all, just spend extraordinary amounts of money we'll have to pay the bill?

NC: No that's the whole point is we're going to give more powers...

NC: Well....

NC: Let me finish then. What we're saying is that if Scotland wants to raise more money, spend more money on this public service or that public service, Scotland is and will be entirely free to do so. It's not for anyone else to tell Scotland...

NF: How will they fund it?

NC: Well they can... That's the whole point. They've got...they've already got more borrowing and they will have more borrowing and tax raising powers. But the formula by which the overall pot of money if you like that is gathered together by taxes across the United Kingdom, the way that is divvied up. And by the way the Barnett formula is just if you like a formula which applies in spirit across the whole of the United Kingdom including in England. So in England for instance you'll have a...

NF: Just a reminder for you. It's £1,623 more is spent on a Scottish citizen than is on an English citizen per head.

NC: Yes but more or a different amount is spent on a household in Newcastle compared to a household in Buckinghamshire. That happens, we do that across the whole of the United Kingdom. It's really important people shouldn't believe that somehow this is something that is out of the ordinary. Across the United Kingdom and within England, we quite rightly, have done for years, and will continue to do so. We divvy up the cake so that people who need the most support get it.

NF: But should they, Scottish Parliament, decide that they want a massive new NHS hospital in every city and town in Scotland it would be paid for by British tax payers?

NC: No, no. it's really important to know. The Barnett formula is how you...

NF: No, no. These new powers you talked about on the front page of the Record yesterday.

NC: What we're saying is that we're going to give new tax raising powers. So if a future Scottish government wants to spend more money and wants to pay for that through increased taxation or indeed through, if it wants to invest in new buildings through borrowing money for capital investment it will be free to do so. But it will have to be responsible for its own finances in a way which you know to a much greater degree than is currently the case. And I think it's incredibly important that no one thinks that somehow you know that cheques are being written before this has all been properly thrashed out in the coming months.

NF: And those Scottish MPs would still vote on the English NHS would they?

NC: No that's something that's been looked at by something called the McKay Commission. And it's, I mean in the jargon it's called the West Lothian Question which has been hanging around for generations. And clearly that needs to settled along with this new...

NF: Well does that mean they shouldn't be allowed to vote on English NHS matters?

NC: So I think that when the decision is made in the coming months and legislation is passed to give these new significant powers on welfare, on borrowing, on tax raising powers to Scotland that should be accompanied by a decision about how the votes are organised in Westminster. Because clearly when you have that degree of devolution, saying that, let's say a Scottish MP has precisely the same say over matters in English as an English MP doesn't make any sense. And that's why you then decide how you divvy votes in the House of Commons. And there's been a proposal from Lord McKay. He produced his report what was it, a couple of years ago. And that's got some sensible ideas. I just think, I've always felt you decide that at the same time as you take the next big step in devolution. Because I don't think people would find it... It's not logical. It's just simply not fair to say, okay we have a more devolved of nations that makes up the United Kingdom but somehow that new devolution settlement isn't reflected in any way in changes in Westminster. That doesn't make any sense. You have to make changes in Westminster as well.

NF: We must get to other callers Mr Clegg.

NC: Yes. Bob in Sheffield. Hello Bob.

B: Hello. So just so you know where I'm coming from. I have an English mother and a Scottish father. So I don't really mind which way it goes.

NC: And just out of curiosity Bob, where do you live in Sheffield?

B: Ecclesall.

NC: Oh right.

B: I'm one of your constituents.

NC: Yes. Hello.

NF: Yes.

NC: Where in Ecclesall?

B: I do want to... I really [unclear 00:11:43]

NC: No it's alright I'm not being nosey I'm just...

NF: Are you that keen to find a voter Mr Clegg you actually need the name of the street?

NC: I'm up in Sheffield tomorrow night I'll come....

NF: Are you feeling a bit unloved?

NC: ...I'll turn up at your door if you're not careful. No sorry go on.

B: I might turn up tomorrow night.

NC: Alright very good.

B: I wanted to stick with the Barnett formula because all three party leaders did talk about maintaining it as it is. And even Joel Barnett has admitted that the scheme deeds revision. Now if we are still going to be divvying out to the Scots as said to the tune of the extra £1,623 a year, I understand perfectly that it varies across the regions of England as well as across the countries of the United Kingdom. If you are promising more devolved tax powers to the Scottish government I fail to understand why the formula has to stay as it is. I understand at the moment all the income tax as I see it goes into a mattress under the Chancellor's bed and then gets divvied up by the Barnett formula. Under the new devolved powers the Scottish Chancellor is going to have his own pot or her own pot under the mattress on her bed.

NF: Alright let Deputy Prime Minister explain.

NC: Let me try and explain. It's a very good question. So you're right in categorising the Barnett formula as in a sense the formula by which the cake once the cake has been established, the cake being all the revenues across the country. How that's then divvied up in the various parts of the United Kingdom. And as you have quite rightly also alluded to, we do that anyway across England as well. In other words at all levels we divvy up the cake in the fairest way possible. Now then you say well, surely there's a difference in the way in which... I'm going to mix my metaphors terribly... the way in which the cake is created in the first place if you're devolving tax raising powers more. And you are right. So for instance the extra tax raising freedoms and indeed borrowing powers that already have been included in the Scotland Act which we passed three year ago which is coming into force shortly has an effect on what's called the kind of block grant. But the formula, the sort of mathematical formula by which the cake however big or small it is, is divided remains the same. So that's the distinction that you need to make. And it technically if you like it's between the block grant which of course is affected by tax division and already is as I say by the measures included in the Scotland Act recently passed and then the formula by which any cake however large or small it is divided. Does that make sense?

NF: Bob? Bob?

NC: Oh Bob's gone.

B: Yeah. Yeah.

NF: The Deputy Prime Minister asked does that make... Is it clearer for you Bob?

B: Well actually no. That hasn't explained something...anything that I didn't already understand. Under the present even Joel Barnett says the formula needs to be revisited.

NC: But that's...

B: So I am concerned that the three major parties, this isn't just Nick's problem with the English, Welsh and Northern Irish taxpayers even with the devolved powers, and the extra revenue raising powers that the Scottish Government are going to be given, they have apparently pledged that the formula will stay as it is.

NC: But Bob, let me...whether you have views on whether Barnett should be changed or not, in a sense that happens independently on whether you have extra tax and borrowing powers for Scotland or not. And you're quite right to point out that there's been a running party's had lengthy debates about the Barnett formula, and have constantly looked for the kind of, you know, the sort of land of milk and honey, where we have a formula that is absolutely perfect and beyond controversy. But I think what people have come to the view is that of course you can have an endless debate about whether you use different formula, whether you use different criteria, whether you use different mathematical formulations and so on and so forth. But this is the one that has stood the test of time. It doesn't, for instance, mean...I mean, this is a completely separate issue...that you know, that there are particular issues on the arrangements for's a separate issue. Which I think you can deal with that separately, and provide a kind of bespoke solution for Wales, which is quite separate. But there are some particular problems there that need to be addressed as far as the funding formula for Wales is concerned. But I just...we're not gonna start re-opening a formula, which yes of course has its critics and it's commentary, and people have said it needs to be changed. But at the end of the day, it seems to be the most sensible way to proceed. So in other words, we proceed with the status quo as far as that funding formula is concerned.

NF: Bob, thank you. We must move on...and bearing in mind, the Deputy Prime Minister does not take sugar in his tea when he comes round tomorrow evening to your house in Sheffield. Some emails coming in on other matters, there are other stories. Greg in Kingston...I'm due to be travelling to Thailand next week as part of my gap year, is the government issuing any advice in relation to that country, in the light of the recent murders. What is the situation?

NC: Greg, keep an eye on the Foreign Office website, it's constantly updated on travel advice. But my understanding is that there is no change to travel advice at the moment.

NF: But keep an eye on that.

NC: Yes, keep an eye on that.

NF: Okay. Anna in you think the resignation of the Police and Crime Commissioner, which you supported, is really going to sort out the problem of child abuse...didn't we need him in place to sort this mess out...hounding him out has not been helpful, says Anna.

NC: Of course, the registration of one person does not do anything for the victims who still haven't got justice, and doesn't do anything about the outrage that people feel, not only in Rotherham but across the country, that the perpetrators of these horrendous, grotesque crimes, are still walking free. But, you cannot have people who are supposed to be serving the public, and are accountable to the public, ignoring those basic principles of responsibility and accountability. That is why I've come to the view that the PCC experiment...and it was an experiment, it was an experiment that the Conservatives, quite understandably, wanted to try out. I just don't think it's working, because...I remember vividly at the beginning of the Government, and the Conservatives...fair enough, that's the way coalitions work, you know, both parties bring different ideas to the table. And they said, look PCC is a really good idea, this is the way to hold police to a greater account. I remember saying, well it might work if you get genuinely independent people, people from normal walks of life actually coming forward. In fact what's happened... and Shaun Wright is just one example of just get a lot...I think three quarters, is it, or the vast majority of PCCs are basically retread politicians from the political parties. So I think, you know, we should scrap PCCs once their present term is over, and come up with a better way.

NF: So that's been an expensive fiasco then, hasn't it?

NC: Well there is an issue...

NF: Did you support it, initially?

NC: No, I've always been very open about the fact this is a Conservative policy, it's totally legitimate, I've got no quibble with is a coalition.

NF: It didn't work, did it...I mean, only 10 per cent [unclear 00:18:36].

NC: As I said, I remember talking to the Conservatives about it, and I said, look it's not our policy, it's yours, that's fair enough, you know, that's how a coalition is formed. But for heaven's sake, make sure that it really does lead to people from outside politics coming in, it doesn't just become...and to see, and particularly across the north of England, like Shaun Wright, they are all recycled, or failed Labour politicians. And that doesn't really add anything. So I think we need to look at a different system, 'cause you do need to have improved accountability for the police, that is a totally legitimate aspiration. And I think you could maybe do it more effectively through some new reconstituted board, which provides accountability for the police.

NF: Right. Back to the calls please, Mr Clegg.

NC: Yeah, Peetrie...Peetrie is it, in Fife.

P: Yes, good morning Nick.

NC: Hello.

P: Nice to speak to you.

NC: Hello.

P: Erm, Nick, you and the other two leaders have promised us in the last few days, you've managed to conjure up all sorts of things, with wee bits and pieces. But what I'd like to ask you is, who's giving you the mandate for this? Because you know, you cannot give us any of that 'till it's been brought up in the Westminster Parliament. And therefore, what I'd like to say is, all these promises that's come on the go the last few days...where's the White Paper? I mean, I would like to say, it's not worth the paper it's written on, but it isn't written on any paper. So really, you can't promise anything, because you've got to put it through Parliament.

NC: Okay Peetrie, fair point. I mean, firstly, of course, what you're saying is wrong, when you say it's just full of the last few days. Firstly, I, of course, am the leader of a party that's been going on about greater powers for Scotland...Gladstone was campaigning for Home Rule back in the 1880s. And actually the breakthrough moment...though I know it's convenient for the SNP and others to forget this...the breakthrough moment was when, in my view, is when the Conservative Party published, some many months ago now, a report by Lord Strathclyde on the Conservative Party's new ideas on further devolution of powers. And that really broke the log [unclear 00:20:35], because traditionally the Conservative Party was reluctant to really see it, and suddenly the Conservative Party, I think, rightly, to move with the times, recognised we needed a new devolution settlement. And that was actually reflected in a statement...and this was the key statement...made by David Cameron, Ed Milliband and myself. Not within the last few days, but actually on August 5th. And we said very clearly then, based on the Conservative blueprint for further devolution, the Strathclyde report, based on the two reports that Menzies Campbell has drafted for the Liberal Democrats, setting out our ideas on what Home Rule looks like in modern Scotland, and the Labour Party proposals, there is now for the first time ever, absolute rock solid, cross party consensus in favour of further devolution, particularly in welfare, tax and borrowing areas.

And that comes on top, Peetrie...and this is the other thing that I think, dare I say it, and not directing this at you personally, but I think has been rather conveniently forgotten by the Nationalists. Is that we passed a law three years ago, the Scotland Act, which is the biggest Act of devolution, particularly fiscal devolution, that the Union has seen in 300 years. And guess what...Alex Salmond, far from, you know, straining at every bit to deeply those powers, basically sort of, has left them largely unused, which I find very revealing. So even when new powers were granted in this very bold, new devolution of powers in the Scotland Act three years ago, Alex Salmond, I think, has always been keener to make sort of, slightly species points rather than use those new powers for the benefit of the Scottish people.

NF: Mr Clegg, you have been to Scotland on a number of occasions.

NC: Yes.

NF: And obviously we all celebrate the passion, and the verve, and the excitement with which this referendum debate has been joined by everybody. But it does seem to have spilled over in some quarters...Ed Milliband, whatever you might think of him, was subjected to some pretty ugly barracking and some foul language yesterday.

NC: Yes.

NF: Have you noticed any form of bullying or intimidation, have you been made aware of it, and what do you make of these reports?

NC: Look, I think...I think it's really important that everybody remembers that, however passionate they feel, however strongly they feel...and of course, people feel, quite rightly, quite understandably very, very strongly about their country, their community, their identity. You know, first, just because you disagree with someone doesn't mean they don't have the right to say what they believe. Because they believe what they think as firmly as you do...that's the first thing. And the second thing, is really important, this...Scotland, you know, Scotland will need to rediscover a sense of community and togetherness and solidarity. Where people who are divided in their opinions about this referendum need to work together, live together, you know, live side by side together, after tomorrow. And it is very important that things are not said and done now, which make that, you know, if you like that community wide need to act and live and work together, harder later. And that's why I very much hope people won't do and say things that they really will come to regret later.

NF: Have you sensed any hostility, or have you had any, indeed, expressed towards you...I mean, all politicians get heckled.

NC: Yeah, of course they do...

NF: But more than you might have expected?

NC: Not myself, so much. I mean, when I was there in Selkirk, there was lots of kind of shouting and heckling, but it was, not in any way that I found untoward. Clearly, things have been said, and I obviously remember, the Liberal Democrats...the two members of the Cabinet that actually have Scottish seats... the only Liberal Democrats, Alistair Carmichael and Charles Kennedy and Danny Alexander and Menzies Campbell and so on. We have some of key campaigners. And they tell me, 'cause I speak to them every day, that you know, there's some pretty nasty incident things, and some pretty extraordinary tings said. But all I would say is, you know, any country, any community has to move on quickly from a moment like this. And it's made all the more difficult if people in the heat of the moment say things or do things that they really, really shouldn't.

NF: We go to another question.

NC: Lawrence in Cobham.

L: Hello.

NC: Hello Lawrence.

L: Hello Nick. I'd like to ask the question, we have two immigration policies in this country, two which are completely different to each other. And I wanted to know which one you support?

NC: What are you talking about Lawrence, can you...?

L: I'm talking about the immigration policies we have in this country. We have one immigration policy which says anyone from the EU can come in...

NF: Oh I see.

L: ...regardless of who they are, as long as they're from the European Union.

NC: Right.

L: And we have one that says if you're outside the European Union...

NC: Yes.

L: Then...

NC: Got it.

L: ...there's a lot of restrictions.

NF: Lets hear from Mr Clegg...stay where you are.

NC: Yeah got it Lawrence, that's absolutely right. There's a very significant difference made between the right to move across the European Union...which, by the way, Brits enjoy, I think there are roughly as many Brits living and working outside the United Kingdom elsewhere in the European Union, as there are people from elsewhere in the European Union working here. So that is a kind of, a freedom that we enjoy, and that we all got when the freedom to move, when we joined the then European community. That's quite different, as you say, who are not part of that club, so that's absolutely true. Having said all of that, of course, let's remember...and we've done more than any previous government to tighten this up...the freedom to move is not the same as the freedom to claim. And we're the first government to make it absolutely crystal clear, yes you may have the freedom to come here and look for work, pay your taxes, play by the rules. You cannot come here and just, you know, and just take benefits paid for by British taxpayers, on the first day, no questions asked. And as you know, we've also taken on new powers to make sure that people who end up living on the streets are sent back elsewhere in Europe, and can't come back.

So we've tightened up the system considerable, particularly as far as benefits are concerned. Because it's wholly wrong, as you say, for the kind of the freedom to move, which is something we've enjoyed across the European Union, to be, basically become synonymous with, and become the same thing as the freedom to claim. And that is, you know, so that's, to that extent, we have benefits as Brits, as part of this big European community, which you don't get if you're living in another part of the world.

NF: Alright, Lawrence, thank you. Can I go to an email. Dan in Hastings...we now hear there's a second British hostage held by ISIL, how many hostages would it take to be beheaded until the government sent in the troops?

NC: Well...I mean, we cannot have our strategy determined by the grotesque, evil acts by this group. We've got to be tough, we've got to be smart, we've got to be uncompromising. These people will be hunted down. ISIL will lose. ISIL will be squeezed out of existence.

NF: How?

NC: Well how, is exactly what will be the major point of discussion, in other words, putting the sort of finishing touches to this, at the United Nations General Assembly next week. But we already have some of the key building blocks. The Americans are already taking military action from the air. A very significant new coalition of countries is being assembled. Crucially, and this is so crucial, including the countries in the frontline themselves. Whether it is the Iraqi Government, whether it's the Jordanians, whether it's the Turks. You know, we cannot afford, because it would be a disaster to do so, to allow ourselves to be lured into the trap that ISIL want to set for us, which is to turn this into a...what they will describe as a sort of west versus the rest conflict...some kind of religious war. It is not. They are a menace, they are a threat to devout Muslims, more than almost anyone else in the international community. So, coalition being assembled, Americans taking action...we, as you already know, provide a lot of support, we are very, very active in the humanitarian appeal. The United Nations will be debating this next week. And I think we will then, given that Obama and ourselves, the French, the Australians, have all been quite open about the fact that we will do whatever we need to hunt these people down, and to squeeze ISIL out of will happen. But...I forgot who it was who said...

NF: Dan in Hastings.

NC: I mean, I'm like Dan, I'm like see this grotesque, evil act, and you say, we must do something about it now. And that's the bit that I accept is difficult, but sometimes you deliver a bigger punch, and you deliver a more, you know, fatal blow, against ISIL, by getting all the components right before you do so.

NF: How would you characterise the performance by the Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond...last week he was ruling out air strikes, four hours later Number 10 said nothing had been ruled out. He's also said, we can't rescue the British hostage 'cause we don't know where he is...that's been criticised by a number of military leaders. He's not having a good one, is he?

NC: No I think it's always very difficult for a Foreign Secretary in this situation.

NF: But that's what they're in the job for, respectfully, Deputy Prime Minister.

NC: Okay, okay, but it is difficult when you're being asked to make a running commentary on (a) a lot of information that you can't and shouldn't reveal in public, and (b) of course, as I explained...and he spoke when he was meeting with all those other countries in Paris...when you're assembling a vast coalition of other countries...

NF: He shouldn't have ruled it out in the first place then, should he?

NC: Well look, as I say, the Prime Minister has been clear, I've been clear, and this will of course have to be debated and voted on in Parliament, if Britain is ever asked to actually participate in military action, even air strikes. We will then have that debate when we know exactly what is being proposed to us. At the moment, nothing specific and concrete has been put to us.

NF: Yes, but why would we say we don't know where that poor soul is?

NC: Well we don't, of course we don't comment on...

NF: Well he did, he said, we don't know where he is!

NC: Well, I really think...I would urge you not to be too harsh on Philip Hammond, because as I say, to provide a running commentary and be asked a thousand questions on a very fluid, fast moving situation, much of which, quite rightly, needs to be cloaked in secrecy...which I think most people would accept...we never comment on, you know, the special forces and all the rest of it, and the efforts are made. Other than being absolutely clear, as we discussed last week, that we don't pay ransoms, 'cause we don't want to put other people in danger's way.

NF: Okay. Can we go...

NC: Yeah, final one. Sheila in Potters Bar...hello Sheila.

S: Hello.

NC: Hello.

S: Can you give question is in two parts.

NC: Right.

S: First, why is it so abhorrent to you that England should have parity with the rest of the UK, or Britain? Secondly, who has given you the right to tell me that my country should be regionalised?

NC: Right, I think I can help you with both, Sheila, 'cause I absolutely...

S: Well you should do, you've had the answer prepared.

NC: Well no I haven't Sheila, I've only just heard it.

NF: That's not really fair, Sheila, 'cause he had no idea of this question...I want to make that quite plain. Deputy Prime Minister...

NC: I, I don't know why you think I'm anything other than...I'm very much at the forefront of the debate saying that the missing bit of the jigsaw in terms of a kind of constitutional settlement in our country. Is England, or rather other over centralisation of things in England, I think I was discussing with Joe, a caller later...I totally understand.

S: Can I come back?

NF: Briefly.

NC: Well, can I finish.

NF: Yes, sorry Mr Clegg, carry on.

NC: And secondly, I actually adamantly, I've always opposed these great regional quangos. I think we should work with the kind of building blocks of the things that people understand and feel loyal to in our political landscape...counties, city regions. I don't, you know, it failed under Labour creating these new regional bureaucracies. So I'm afraid, Sheila, I just don't accept either of the suggestions you make about my own opinions on either.

NF: It has to be quick...I'm sorry Sheila...quick response, if you would.

S: Yes, I have got a quick response.

NF: Yes, Sheila.

S: I can see no reason why we cannot have an English Parliament. There's too many people in the Lords, there's too many people in the House of Commons.

NC: Right, yeah. Very quickly...I strongly agree with you Sheila, that the House of Lords is an acronym and needs to be reformed completely, but I'm afraid you'll have to talk to Ed Milliband and David Cameron about why on earth they didn't let you have a say in who goes to the House of Lords. On the English Parliament, I tell you what I don't think we need, 'cause actually funnily enough, Sheila, it goes back to your point about regional quangos. We don't need just to create another talking shop for politicians, another institution, another English Parliament, to solve this issue. I think the absolute heart of this is forcing Whitehall and Westminster to let go, to stop this busybody, patronising attitude where everything in England, everything that moves, is decided by people in Whitehall and Westminster. I don't know live in Potter's Bar, Sheila...I think whether it's in Potter's Bar, or Peterborough, whether it's in...I don't know.

NF: Pontefract!

NC: Pontefract or wherever...

NF: Or Powys.

NC: Or Powys! I think every part of the country needs to have greater freedoms, more autonomy. And that, I think, is a better way of proceeding rather than creating a new talking shop for politicians.

NF: Now, Deputy Prime Minister, while you might be concerned about tomorrow's vote, I would imagine you would welcome the news that's just dropped...the number of unemployed is down by 146,000 between May and July...are these figures correct, is it 2.02 million, a further drop of 146,000...that news has reached us in the last two or three minutes. Policies...

NC: I am absolutely delighted. You know, we are now a country where we are seeing more women going into work at a higher rate than almost any other country in the developed world. I am particularly pleased that the latest figures have just come out now, a few minutes ago, to show that youth unemployment has dropped, by the biggest drop in many, many, many years. And that's something I've been particularly working on. So look, there's a long way to go to make sure this recovery is fully felt. There are lots of people working very, very hard, who wish they were earning more. I get...that's why I've been at the forefront of giving people money back, by taking people on low pay out of paying income tax. But the fact that we have so many people in work, and so many young people in particular, finally having opportunities to get their feet on the first rung of the jobs ladder, I think is really good news.

NF: As ever, thank you for your time. Look forward to Call Clegg moving back to its regular berth on a Thursday. Call Clegg with Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg. Thank you Mr Clegg. News is next on LBC.