Nick Clegg attacks Tories over Europe and married tax breaks

Deputy PM says his party's coalition partners want to reward those who 'conform to their image of how you should conduct your life'

Political Editor

Nick Clegg criticised David Cameron’s plans for a Europe referendum and to reward marriage in the tax system yesterday as he distanced the Liberal Democrats from their coalition partners.

The Deputy Prime Minister hit back at Mr Cameron’s call for the Lib Dems to “get off the fence” on Europe and portrayed the Conservatives as backward-looking on marriage.  He was speaking at the first of his monthly news conferences, and made clear he will use them to differentiate his party from the Conservatives in the run-up to the 2015 general election.

After Mr Cameron promised Tory MPs he would honour his long-standing pledge to bring in transferable tax allowances for married couples, Mr Clegg suggested the money would be better spent on a tax break to help working families with their child care costs. He said: “This desire of the Conservative Party to hand-pick couples through the tax system who conform to their image of how you should conduct your life, I don't think it's fair.“

Europe is back on the agenda because the Conservative high command is supporting a backbench bill to guarantee an in/out referendum in 2017, which be debated by the Commons on Friday.

Mr Clegg, whose MPs are expected to abstain, argued that the Tories had repeatedly changed their position while the Lib Dems had remained consistent. ”They may increasingly be becoming the party of 'out',“ he said. ”We are unambiguously - and will remain - the party of 'in'”. He said his party would back an in/out referendum when a new EU treaty emerged but added: “They [the Tories] now want to pluck a slightly arbitrary date in the diary out of thin air to have a referendum on a very ill-defined process of so-called renegotiation.“

The Lib Dem leader said: “I have never understood the recently-altered Conservative position, which is that they are in effect threatening to leave the EU if they don't get an unspecified shopping list of repatriated powers.”

He also turned his fire on the UK Independence Party, saying: ”I think they appeal - and appeal strongly - to people who want a better yesterday, and I want a better tomorrow. That's the difference.“

Vince Cable, the Lib Dem Business Secretary, told the pro-EU Business for New Europe group that the proposed 2017 referendum was “a serious distraction.” He said: “We are recovering from the worst economic crisis for the best part of a century. The last thing we need now is massive levels of uncertainty in the business community.”

James Wharton, MP for Stockton South, who  has introduced the referendum Bill, said he is confident it will receive a second reading  on Friday because his Conservative colleagues backed it “to a man.”  He added: “The Labour Party en masse isn't going to turn up, and the Liberal Democrats will take the same route. In the longer run, we need to build up a stronger base of support.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Lou Reed distorted the truth about his upbringing, and since his death in 2013, biographers and memoirists have added to the myths
musicThe truth about Lou Reed's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths
News
people
News
Ed Miliband received a warm welcome in Chester
election 2015
Life and Style
Apple CEO Tim Cook announces the Apple Watch during an Apple special even
fashionIs the Apple Watch for you? Well, it depends if you want for the fitness tech, or the style
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own