London 'will be as segregated as Paris' after cuts

Nick Clegg reacted with fury yesterday to accusations that ministers were "sociologically cleansing" the poor out of parts of London with planned cuts to housing benefit payments.

A visibly angry Deputy Prime Minister told Chris Bryant, Labour's shadow minister for constitutional reform, that his comments were "outrageous" and "deeply offensive to people who have witnessed ethnic cleansing".

Last night Mr Bryant said he stood by his remarks on the Coalition's plans to cap housing benefit at around £400 a week for a house rented in the private sector. Critics say this will force up to 80,000 families out of London and other major metropolitan areas because they will no longer be able to afford their homes. "Personally I prefer to live in cities which are not ghettos," he added.

During a heated exchange at Deputy Prime Minister's Questions, Mr Bryant said an estimated 200,000 people would be forced out of London and other cities as a result of the Government's "niggardly" proposals. This, he said, would turn London into Paris "with the poor consigned to the outer ring".

He asked Mr Clegg: "Would it not be iniquitous if on top of being socially engineered and sociologically cleansed out of London, the poor were also disenfranchised by your (Parliamentary Voting Systems and Constituencies) Bill? How do you propose to make electoral provision for these displaced people?"

Mr Clegg angrily replied: "To refer to cleansing would be deeply offensive to people who have witnessed ethnic cleansing in other parts of the world. It is an outrageous way of describing..."

Faced with loud retorts from members of the Labour front bench, he went on: "No, I'll tell you exactly what we are doing.

"What we are doing is saying that people who receive housing benefit, it is perfectly reasonable for the Government to say it won't hand out more in housing benefit than people who go out to work, pay their taxes, abide by the rules.

"We are simply suggesting there should be a cap for family homes of four bedrooms of £400 a week. That is £21,000 a year.

"Do you really think it's wrong for people who can't afford to live privately in those areas, that the state should subsidise people to the tune of more than £21,000? I don't think so."

London boroughs told a meeting of MPs last week that councils have already block-booked bed and breakfasts and other private accommodation outside the capital to house those who will be priced out of the London market.

Others have predicted protests on the scale of the poll tax as families are forcibly evicted from houses deemed "too expensive" to live in.

At the weekend Simon Hughes, the Liberal Democrat deputy leader, warned ministers that three of the proposed seven changes to housing benefit set out in last week's Spending Review were the "wrong ones" and would need to be altered if Lib Dem MPs were to support them.

The include a cut of 10 per cent in housing benefit after one year for those on jobseeker's allowance, the cap on housing benefit for private rented homes, and allowing housing associations to charge rent at close to the full market rate.

Liberal Democrat backbenchers still hope they can force concessions on the Government before detailed proposals are published later this year.

"We don't think this is a red line issue for the Government," said one. "But equally people feel very strongly and if they push ahead there is likely to be a lot of dissent."

A Downing Street spokesman said a maximum of 21,000 people would be affected by the £400 benefit cap, 17,000 of whom live in London. "The numbers [Mr Bryant] has seen bear no relation to reality. We are reforming housing benefit because it needs reform."

France's divided capital

The train ride from Paris' banlieues to the centre of the city takes only 15 minutes. But when the mostly immigrant youths from the suburbs arrive at Les Halles station, the environment they find themselves in is quite different to the one they have left.

For there is decidedly less racial diversity in the centre of Paris than there is in London. That makes for a complicated social picture. Mention the police to the city's immigrant young people, and they will often become angry. Like everyone else in authority, they seem to them to be racist – a perception only heightened by the geographical divide.

Indeed, segregation is almost built-in in France's major cities. Paris' divide is deepened by a motorway separating the centre from the suburbs. What started as a financial discrepancy has created ghettos, and the so-called quartiers chauds: areas where locals, mostly first or second generation immigrants, attack policemen and burn cars.

In a country where psychogeography was invented, academics have long railed against the way French cities shut out the rabble. Even people in the streets call wistfully for Le Corbusier's perfect, interconnected town.

Molly Guinness in Paris

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: 1st Line Technical Support Engineer

£19000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT and Telecoms company ar...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Manager - Visitor Fundraising

£23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Visitor Fundraising Team is responsi...

Recruitment Genius: Developer

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Sales Account Manager - OTE £25,000

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing, ambitious, en...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future
Berlusconi's world of sleaze: The astonishing lifestyle once enjoyed by Italy's former PM

Berlusconi's world of sleaze

The astonishing lifestyle once enjoyed by Italy's former PM
Disney plans galactic domination with endless Star Wars spin-offs

Disney plans galactic domination with endless Star Wars spin-offs

Films and theme parks are just the beginning. Disney believes its control of the now decades-old franchise can bring in merchandise and marketing millions for years to come
Could the golden age of the gaming arcade ever be revived in the era of the Xbox?

Could gaming arcades be revived?

The days when coin-ops were the only way to play the latest video games are gone. But a small band of enthusiasts are keeping the button-pushing dream alive
Edinburgh Fringe 2015: The 'tampon tax' has inspired a new wave of female comedians to reclaim period jokes

Heard the one about menstruation?

Yes, if you have been at the Fringe, where period pieces are taking centre stage