Disability Living Allowance and NHS motions: the aftermath

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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.

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15 Comments

  • Tony Dawson 12th Mar '11 - 1:11pm

    Surely, on policy matters, the Conference IS the Party? How can the Party ‘officially’ react to itself? Should not the resources of the Party’s media unit on any given motion/amendment be placed in the hands of the movers of the successful motion/amendment? Otherwise, who decides how the Party should react ‘officially’ to its own policy?

    And who decides who decides?

  • The NHS debate is heartening, but I hope the MPs realise we actually expect them to substantially alter/derail the reforms now – not just to put their disagreements on record and then milk this for spin over the next few months. A lot of people seriously don’t want the planned reforms to happen, the lib dems MP have the power to achieve this. And now the party has spoken.

  • Swathes of the White Paper, eg the abolition of PCTs, were not in the coalition agreement, and the parliamentary party should not feel bound to support these.

  • Health minister Paul Burstow said he would “quit the government” if it led to an “American-style” health system.

    A bit late waiting till we’ve actually got an “American-style” health system. Might be better if he did something to stop it happening NOW.

  • Depressed Ex 12th Mar '11 - 3:03pm

    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.

    A bizarre comment.

    These proposals weren’t in the coalition agreement. The only reason that they can be put forward at all is that first Paul Burstow agreed to them, and then they went through the procedure for approving departures from the agreement.

  • Tony Greaves 12th Mar '11 - 3:15pm

    I am delighted that Paul now seems to be shifting his ground so substantially. He now has to go back to his department and to get the necesary changes. Nick Clegg has to insist on them so they are taken seriously.

    There will now be a lot of fluttering and rushing around in the health department to work out the very minimum that they can get away with. This approach from civil servants has to be hit on the head form the start. As for the Tories they just have to be told. If it results in Lansley looking like the prat he is, so much the better.

    It is also up to the House of Lords LD party to stand firm on what the party requires, not just give in to whatever weak compromise emerges from Tory ministers.

    Tony Greaves

  • For those doubting whether the leadership would take the concerns of the membership seriously on this, Evan Harris is continuing to impress by putting out a very strong statement in response to the vote:

    It is now incumbent on Nick [Clegg] and his ministerial team to deliver the major changes to the government’s health policy and the significant amendments to the health and social care bill that the Liberal Democrats have overwhelmingly called for.

    Because the health reforms were not in the coalition agreement, today’s vote is the only view expressed by the party on the subject, and sends a very clear message through the minister and our leader to their Conservative coalition partners that we will not accept market reform of the health service, any fragmentation or destabilisation of NHS services by new private providers or the lack of accountability for the spending of public money envisaged in the model of GP commissioning promoted in the bill.

    The onus is now on the government to respond fully to the democratically expressed views of the Liberal Democrats.

    Combined with what Lord Greaves has written above, I’m much encouraged.

  • Don’t start shouting about what you want to do until you actually do it, it will make Liberal Democrats look foolish when the MPs support the government, then I suppose we will hear more spin and twisting of words….

  • The crunch will come if the Tories do not compromise. Anything short of wholesale change to this Bill must not only be abstained on, but voted against, including all ministers. These changes were not in the coalition agreement or the Lib Dem manifesto there is no obligation to support.

  • Lib Dem Titanic 12th Mar '11 - 6:25pm

    @Steve Way

    It’s perfectly obvious that Nick Clegg will be the one who folds like a cheap pack of cards.
    Cameron knows this.
    Clegg ignored the Party about tuition fees so why on earth would he start listening now?
    He is so hopelessly out of touch the only thing that will get through to him is the inevitable Leadership Challenge that will come after the Party finally realises he couldn’t care less what they and the activists say. Clegg certainly doesn’t care that he is destroying the Party as he is fast turning it into another UKIP style waste of a vote.

    All the complacency and platitudes on the NHS and DLA will be remembered by those who pick the next leader and no amount of wishful thinking about a positive GDP figure miraculously turning everything around will save Clegg.

  • Tactically, it’s a pity about that second amendment to give councillors a role on commissioning boards. Because, betcha that is where the Tories will make a concession, and, betcha that’s the only issue on which they will be prepared to make a concession. And then what will Clegg say? Betcha….

  • Andrew Suffield 13th Mar '11 - 3:20pm

    Surely, on policy matters, the Conference IS the Party? How can the Party ‘officially’ react to itself?

    An “official” reaction is a reaction by an official. An official is a person who holds an office – elected or appointed. Conference sets the rules; officials execute them.

  • Lib Dems you must vote against these Reforms if you don’t you are finished as a party also get rid of Nick Cl egg as he is destroying your party

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