Clegg slips up when pressed on Welsh referendum

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Staff reporter

DEPUTY Prime Minister Nick Clegg slipped up on his first outing at the Commons despatch box yesterday following a question from Wrexham’s MP.

The Liberal Democrat leader said the Government would campaign for a ‘yes’ vote in a referendum on additional powers for the Welsh Assembly.

In response to a challenge from Labour’s Ian Lucas, Mr Clegg said a plebiscite on further devolution would be held early next year adding that the Government would ‘support a yes vote in that referendum’.

But in a clarification later issued by the Cabinet Office a spokesman said Mr Clegg acknowledged his comments ‘did not adequately reflect the stance of the Government’.

In his first Commons speech since assuming office the Liberal Democrat leader told MPs: “Wales will get a referendum on further devolution, a decision that will be taken by the Welsh people.”

Mr Lucas asked: “Do you support a yes vote in that referendum and does the Government support a yes vote?”

Mr Clegg told him: “Yes, the Government does support a yes vote in that referendum.”

But in a statement a spokesman for Mr Clegg said: “The coalition Government fully supports a referendum for Wales on the subject of further devolution.

“It is, however, a matter for the Welsh people to decide which way to vote in this referendum and the UK Government will not take a position on it.

“The Deputy Prime Minister recognises what he said in the House today did not adequately reflect the stance of the Government.”

Speaking to the Leader last night, Mr Lucas said: “I had just been pressing Nick Clegg on the position of the UK government on the proposed referendum and he said something very different to the Prime Minister last week.

“I’m not sure what their position is but quite clearly there’s a profound level of disagreement at the top.”

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