Clegg hits back at the Tories: I never agreed to new childcare ratios

The Deputy PM says it is "flatly wrong" to say he approved the changes and that the coalition only agreed to a consultation.

It is less the fact of Nick Clegg's decision to veto looser childcare ratios and more the manner of it that has enraged the Conservatives. The Tories are briefing that Clegg signed off on the changes back in January only to reverse his position in order to curry favour with his party. As in the case of the NHS reorganisation and the boundary changes, this was another Lib Dem U-turn. 

But on his weekly LBC phone-in show, Call Clegg, the Deputy PM said it was "flatly wrong" to claim that he had ever approved the changes. "What we agreed at the time was that we would consult on these proposals," he said. 

"If you have an idea, which is controversial, listen to what the people involved say and then make a decision on it. What's the point of making policy if we don't listen to people it will affect?"

Since the consultation found that most parents' groups thought "this was a bad idea" and that there was "no real evidence" that this would cut childcare costs, Clegg argued that his response was the only appropriate one. 

It is one thing for the Tories and the Lib Dems to disagree over policy, as they do in the case of Europe, a mansion tax and the snooper's charter, but that they are now at odds over process, too, shows how dysfunctional the coalition has become. 

David Cameron and Nick Clegg visit Wandsworth Day Nursery on 19 March 2013 in London. Photograph: Getty Images.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Parliament debate could go ahead as petition to accept more asylum seekers reaches over 100,000 signatures

Parliament considers all petitions that get more than 100,000 signatures for a debate.

A petition to allow more asylum seekers into the UK has reached over 100,000 signatures. This is the figure petitions require for parliament to consider a debate on the subject.

The petition was launched by Katie Whyte, and gained almost 70,000 backers overnight following the publication of photos on 2 September of a three-year-old Syrian boy who had drowned.

The petition reads:

There is a global refugee crisis. The UK is not offering proportional asylum in comparison with European counterparts. We can't allow refugees who have risked their lives to escape horrendous conflict and violence to be left living in dire, unsafe and inhumane conditions in Europe. We must help.

With an estimated 173,100 asylum applications, Germany was the largest recipient of new asylum claims in 2014. The USA was 2nd with 121,200 asylum applications, followed by Turkey (87,800), Sweden (75,100), and Italy (63,700). By comparison, the UK received 31,300 new applications for asylum by the end of 2014. 
(Source: UNHCR 2014 Asylum Trends Report)

David Cameron has so far refused to accept further refugees into Britain, in spite of calls from campaigners and Labour frontbenchers to at least discuss the issue in the Commons.

> Read the petition here.

Anoosh Chakelian is deputy web editor at the New Statesman.