Page last updated at 14:06 GMT, Tuesday, 26 October 2010 15:06 UK

Nick Clegg rejects social 'cleansing' claims

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has fiercely criticised a Labour frontbencher for suggesting that the coalition was "sociologically cleansing" poorer citizens out of London.

Mr Clegg said shadow justice minister Chris Bryant's comments were "outrageous" and "deeply offensive to people who have witnessed ethnic cleansing".

At Commons question time on 26 October 2010, Mr Bryant warned an estimated 200,000 people would be forced out of major metropolitan areas as a result of the government's "niggardly" proposals on welfare reform.

This would turn London into Paris, he said, "with the poor consigned to the outer ring".

Mr Bryant asked: "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 told him: "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 Labour frontbenchers, 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."

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