Page last updated at 13:33 GMT, Wednesday, 30 April 2008 14:33 UK

PM 'in denial' over poor - Clegg

Nick Clegg challenges Brown to halt Post Office closures

Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg has accused the prime minister of "living in denial" over his support for the poor, while closing 5,000 post offices.

He added that millions had been hit by rising fuel prices and new tax rates.

During prime minister's questions, Mr Clegg told Gordon Brown: "If you want people to believe you care for the poor, you should act as though you do."

Mr Brown accused Mr Clegg of promising "huge sums" of extra money without "any recognisable means of paying for them".

The government says 2,500 post offices are earmarked for closure this year because the network is losing 4m a week - largely due to falling numbers of customers.

'In denial'

Mr Clegg asked why any low earner should support the government, when their tax rate had been "doubled" - a reference to the abolition of the 10p tax rate - and 4.5 million people had been left "in fuel poverty".

The prime minister said his government had taken a million pensioners out of poverty and was "on the road" to doing the same for one million children. He said the Liberal Democrats had opposed his plans for the New Deal, to get people back into work.

Once again the Liberal party are proposing to spend huge sums of extra money without having any recognisable way of paying for them
Gordon Brown

But Mr Clegg said: "The prime minister's living in denial. If he want people to believe that he cares for the poor, he should act as though he does."

In a reference to former Labour leader Neil Kinnock's 1985 party conference speech, he said: "Is he not ashamed at the grotesque chaos, to quote Neil Kinnock, of a Labour government scuttling around the country, handing out closure notices to over five thousand local post offices?"

He urged Mr Brown to say he would stop all further post office closures "right now".

But the prime minister said four million fewer people were using the post offices than a few years ago, and said he had given the network 1.7bn.

"Once again the Liberal party are proposing to spend huge sums of extra money without having any recognisable way of paying for them.

"And that's why his shadow home secretary called him calamity Clegg," Mr Brown replied.





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