Cambridge: Heart's Nick Clegg Q & A

13 September 2012, 14:53 | Updated: 13 September 2012, 16:15

Deputy Prime Minister and Lib Dem party Leader Nick Clegg has faced the public at a question and answer session hosted by Heart.

Mr Clegg addressed more than 150 local people at Robinson College in Cambridge, where he had previously spent time studying.

The Deputy Prime Minister faced questions from the public about subjects including student tuition fees, benefits and sustainable energy. 

The Hillsborough Disaster.

During an interview with Heart ahead of the Q and A, Mr Clegg was asked what he makes of recent developments surrounding the Hillsborough Disaster, including potential evidence of a cover-up by emergency services to shift blame to fans: "I think it's just so shocking, just like everybody else.

I'm only just starting to absorb the enormity of the cover-up and the enormity of the injustice done to the 96 victims and their families.

It just beggars belief that people were prepared to doctor evidence to cover their tracks, that the response could have been better in a way that could have saved lives, and most grotesque of all, lies were then peddled about what the fans did.

I'm so relieved that the families in Liverpool have been vindicated, but of course it doesn't bring their loved ones back.

We must absolutely make sure that something like this never happens again.

The revelation of the truth, late though it is, is probably the best antidote to anyone's temptation to do it again.

When questioned about whether members of the emergency services, who have since been found culpable for the disaster, should be prosecuted, Mr Clegg replied: "It seems to me, at first glance, there seems to be some pretty serious allegations of what in my book is possibly criminal behaviour. 

I mean tampering with evidence - that's against the law.

I think it's important the wheels of justice are allowed to turn."

Gay Marriage.

Mr Clegg was also asked to clarify some comments released by his office surrounding gay marriage.

A hastily-recalled press release written by one of his aides included use of the word 'bigot' to describe opponents of gay marriage.

Mr Clegg explained: "My position is very simple.

I am in favour of gay marriage, so I disagree with people who oppose it.

However I would never use insulting and breathless words to describe opponents of it.

I never did, I never would.

Someone issued words which they claimed I was going to make, that I hadn't seen or approved, and would have made or indeed didn't make.

I've always believed you have some stark differences of opinion in issues like this, but it's important debate is conducted in a level-headed way.

I might disagree, but of course I respect those who hold a different opinion."

Reduction of National Debt.

Finally, Mr Clegg was asked if the government planned to abandoned its plans to target a level of debt reduction by the end of Parliament.

The Deputy Prime Minister said: "I'm not going to start second-guessing what is going to be in the Autumn Budget Statement, as these big figures shift around hugely.

What I would say is, we will continue being steadfast and consistent in trying to fill the black hole left by the economic mismanagement of the past, because I don't think it's fair to simply saddle our children and grandchildren with our debt, but we'll do it in a sensible way.

Last Autumn when we discovered that we simply weren't on track to meet one of our fiscal rules, instead of cutting more, we said we'll just take a bit longer to do it."