Today an open letter, signed by well over forty of our parliamentary candidates from 2010, will be sent to Nick Clegg. And, on Monday, a meeting, organised by the Social Liberal Forum, will take place in the Palace of Westminster in Committee Room 18 (made infamous by the story about Sir Bob Russell MP allegedly pulling the door off of its hinges).
The subject of both the letter and the meeting will be the recent voting record of our peers on aspects of the Welfare Reform Bill ranging from sickness and disability benefits, to the household benefit cap and child benefits.
The meeting in particular will be a chance for our MPs and peers to hear from representatives of organisations such as Liberal Youth, the Social Liberal Forum, the Liberal Democrat Disability Association, the Welfare Reform Consortium, the Children’s Commissioner Office and others. Both the letter and the meeting will allow voices within the party and wider society to explain to our parliamentarians our concern over the way they have voted on the Welfare Reform Bill.
In particular, three weeks ago 51 Lib Dem peers voted for a one year time limit to ESA, directly opposite the request of a motion passed last conference, and the government’s benefits cap, as currently planned, is at odds with policy made at conference on reducing child poverty and safeguarding universal child benefit. More important than raising concerns, however, is to discuss productive ways of moving forward.
Above all, the organisers of the meeting and the letter hope to ensure that voices within the wider party are listened to on future votes on the Welfare Reform Bill in order to guarantee that the final welfare reforms implemented by the government are in keeping with not only party policy made by conference, but also with the spirit and fundamental values of the Liberal Democrats as described in our constitution and as felt by ordinary party members up and down the country.
* George Potter is the Secretary of Guildford Liberal Democrats, writing in a personal capacity.