UK Politics

Prime Minister's Questions: Nick Clegg 'heckled by both sides'

Commons speaker John Bercow battled to keep MPs quiet as Nick Clegg stood in for David Cameron at a noisy Prime Minister's Questions.

Mr Bercow repeatedly stopped the session to tell MPs to calm down, noting that the Lib Dem leader was being "heckled by both sides".

Mr Clegg - who clashed with Labour deputy leader Harriet Harman on cuts to child tax credits and police cuts - said he was "used to it".

Mr Cameron is visiting the Middle East.

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Media captionHarriet Harman and Nick Clegg on Nadine Dorries in the jungle

The session was lower profile than usual, with the US presidential election dominating the political agenda on Wednesday.

Earlier, the PM had been among the first world leaders to congratulate US President Barack Obama on his re-election - sentiments echoed by Mr Clegg and Ms Harman in the Commons.

Mr Clegg said he was looking forward to working with Mr Obama to create a more free and stable world, while Ms Harman added her support to the president's aim of creating more jobs and tackling the "scourge of inequality".

'Noisily and stupidly'

But the Labour deputy leader wasted no time in attacking Mr Clegg over cuts to tax credits for child care, saying parents would be forced to quit work and go on benefits as a result of them and accusing the deputy PM of being "out of touch" with their concerns.

Mr Clegg said the coalition had helped low paid families by taking many of them out of income tax and increasing the number of pre-school children getting free childcare.

With noise levels rising, Mr Clegg hit back at Ms Harman's claim his pre-election promise to increase police numbers was not being fulfilled. She said it was "tuition fees all over again" and voters could not trust Mr Clegg's party.

"At least they can trust this side of the house with the economy," said Mr Clegg before again being shouted down by MPs.

Speaker Bercow appealed for quiet, saying Mr Clegg was "being heckled, rather noisily and stupidly, by both sides".

"I'm used to getting it from both sides," added the deputy PM, before continuing.

But he did get a boost from an unexpected quarter towards the end of the session when Peter Bone, one of his most trenchant critics on the Tory benches, praised his commitment to the coalition.

Ms Harman also quizzed Mr Clegg about the Leveson Inquiry into media standards.

Mr Clegg backed a cross-party approach to setting up a new system of press regulation, saying "business as usual" was not acceptable.

He told MPs: "The status quo has failed and it has failed over and over again. The model of self-regulation we have seen over the last seven years has not worked when things have gone awry.

"We must do everything to ensure that we maintain a free, raucous, independent press. It's what makes our democracy and the country what it is.

"But also make sure that the vulnerable are protected from abuse by the powerful.

"That happened on an unacceptable scale on too many occasions.

"We need to be able to look the parents of Milly Dowler in the eye and say in the future there will be independent forms of recourse, sanction and accountability when things go wrong in the future."

Mr Clegg also confirmed that he had no interest in the upcoming vacancy for a European Commissioner.