There’s a common theme to the party’s official reactions to both the Disability Living Allowance (Mobility Component) and health reform motions being passed at conference today. That is to welcome the party staking out its own views on the issues, even where they clearly contradict those of Conservative ministers, and for two reasons.
First, it more clearly sets out where the coalition partners disagree on policy. As having a relaxed, adult approach to admitting in public that people in government don’t always agree on everything is something I’ve talked about in the past, this is certainly good to see – and makes a very welcome contrast to the way the Blairite vs Brownite divisions in the last Labour government were played out via off-the-record briefing and unattributable personal spite dripped into the ears of friendly journalists.
Second, votes at Liberal Democrat conference strengthen the position of Liberal Democrat negotiators in government as it makes clear they need to secure further changes to win the party’s support. So although, for example, Norman Lamb and Paul Burstow have expressed less hostility to the use of private provision of services within an NHS framework than some of the speakers in the health debate, those views make it easier for them to secure more changes in the NHS bill as it goes through Parliament – especially considering the balance of voting power in the House of Lords.
Here’s the response to the Disability Living Allowance debate from Bob Russell MP (and put out by the party’s press office):
The Coalition’s review of the mobility component of the Disability Living Allowance for disabled people in residential care is very welcome.
It is crucial that disabled people in residential care are not prevented from enjoying the freedom of movement so many people take for granted every day. For many, the Mobility Component gives them a lifeline to the outside world and we must take this into account.
I join Conference in calling on the Government to ensure that the decision they make is fair and ensures that any reductions to the Mobility Component are based on clear evidence that the cost of that support is provided via other means.