Lib Dem Peers rebel as Government defeated on Welfare Reform

The Government has suffered a series of defeats in the House of Lords tonight on various aspects of the Welfare Reform Bill.

The House of Lords was discussing amendments relating to the Employment and Support Allowance.

The Guardian reports that 3 Liberal Democrats, Jenny Tonge, Matthew Taylor and Roger Roberts voted for an amendment which protected young people’s right to claim Employment and Support Allowance.

The Government was also defeated on their one year time limit for claiming Contributory ESA. This was increased to two years by the amendment. The Liberal Democrat rebels were Dee Doocey and Jenny Tonge.

The third defeat was to exempt Cancer patients from this limit. I will update details of Liberal Democrat rebels when they are available.

Update: 5 Liberal Democrats rebelled on this vote: Eric Avebury, Dee Doocey, Shirley Williams, Jenny Tonge and Tim Clement-Jones.

Details of all 3 votes are available here.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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44 Comments

  • Keep it coming, this is what the Lords are for. Household benefit cap next please.

  • Thank goodness there is at least one chamber representing the people of this country that still holds good, decent and moral values.

    Now lets hope that the Liberal Democrat MP’s including those with Government jobs will also do the right thing and reject the Governments plans if brought back to the House of Commons.

  • Absolutely disgusting that 61 LIbdem peers voted with the government, in favour of the cuts. As Lord Patel said, “If you are going to rob the poor to pay the rich we have entered a different form of morality.”

    Shame on you!

  • re: the headline…. but presumably many Lib Dem peers voted in faour. Shame

  • gerry mcgregor 11th Jan '12 - 9:29pm

    Why have you not said that between 51 & 61 voted with the government.

  • simon

    On the first vote the Guardian said 61 voted ‘not content’ and 3 voted ‘content’. I presume the others will be similar.

    The headline seems a bit overoptimistic – it was predominantly Labour and, more importantly, the cross-benchers who supported the amendment. Looking at the majorities the LD rebellion was irrelevant, although well played to those involved – just hope it wasn’t staged

  • 5 was the most votes against the government for an amendment, and am I right in saying they weren’t whipped for that one? What’s happened to this party?

  • Norman Fraser 11th Jan '12 - 9:35pm

    Here’s the breakdown of that government defeat on ESA eligibility for disabled young people. The “contents” are those peers who voted in favour of the amendment.

    Contents Total: 260
    Bishops 4
    Crossbench 68
    Labour 178
    Liberal Democrat 3
    Other 7

    Not Contents Total: 216
    Conservative 144
    Crossbench 10
    Liberal Democrat 61
    Other 1

    The crossbenchers clearly came out in force on this. I’m told the three Lib Dem peers who rebelled were: Lord Taylor of Goss Moor, Lord Roberts of Llandudno, and Baroness Tong.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2012/jan/11/disability-welfare?fb=native

  • Tony Greaves 11th Jan '12 - 11:07pm

    I would normally expect 65-70 Liberal Democrats to vote on a two-line whip such as this. This suggests that in addition to those who voted for the amendments, 5-10 abstained on the first one, 15 or more on the second and 20 or more on the third. By “abstain” I mean “were around and could have voted but did not” – either by sitting in their seats, staying away from the chamber, or going home early.

    The rest of us (the missing number up to 91 or 92 which are how many peers we have) would not have been present today. Like me (still recovering from shingles which laid me low over Christmas, I’m sorry to say).

    I am rather surprised (and a little ashamed) that more LDs did not vote for the second amendment.

    Tony Greaves

  • It also looks that Labour turned out well, and the Tories rather poorly.

  • Simon Bamonte 11th Jan '12 - 11:35pm

    Indeed, @Gareth Epps, indeed.

    At conference our party voted to oppose time limiting ESA. Most of our Lib Dem peers voted against this very party policy today.

    It is a disgrace and I believe we deserve to know why.

  • Well done to all rebels on this – hope you regain health soon, Tony, to bolster the ranks!

  • Quite a hood group of rebels, though.

  • Nick Perry Caron Lindsay 12th Jan '12 - 7:48am

    I’d certainly be interested in hearing the reasons why people felt they had to support this especially in the light of the Conference motion. On the time limit, the motion said that Lib Dems in Government were to oppose arbitrary time limits. They may have felt that two years was as arbitrary as one. That’s not an analysis that I agree with, but it may be where they were coming from.

    This may not be over yet – we don’t know how the Government will react to the votes last night. If they reinstate these clauses to the Bill, the Lords will have to vote again. For those of us who oppose these measures, it’s important to keep the lines of communication open with them and persuade them to take a different view.

  • In the Lord’s Lord Patel, (a crossbencher and former president of the Royal College of Obstetricians) described this bill as an immoral attack on the sick, the vulnerable and the poor. “If we are going to rob the poor to pay the rich, then we enter into a different form of morality”
    However, with a few exceptions, the Liberal Democrats voted with the government as they generally have throughout the divisions in the Lords on the welfare bill, but their support was overwhelmed by a big turnout from Labour and crossbenchers.

    Sadly, the minister said, this morning on the ‘Today’ programme that they would ‘Push ahead with this bill despite the Lords’ defeat”(for which he ‘blamed’ Labour peers). He added that this would be with the FULL support of LibDem MPs.
    Baroness Meacher (a Crossbencher) repeated Liam Byrne’s words that “”The government has been defeated because quite simply they tried to cross the basic line of British decency.”

    As an aside might I ask why my post last night, in which I described this headline “Lib Dems rebel” as ‘shamefully misleading’, was removed after moderation? The facts of last night’s vote speak for themselves; it was in no way thanks to the vast majority of LibDem peers, who ignored the Conference decisions, that this was defeated.

    [Ed – because your comment broke our ‘no personal insults’ rule.]

  • As a former Lib Dem, I am fascinated as to how this will play out in the House of Commons.

    Will Lib Dem MPs vote to accept the compromise amendments from the Lords (even if the Conservatives do not), or will they meekly fall into line and vote with the Government to take away vital support from cancer patients and disabled people?

    If they decide to go with the first option, could they perhaps be persuaded to rediscover their principles on other issues too, say, not dismantling the NHS?

  • Voting against the government on all amendments might have made the peers (many of whom are well known advocates on behalf of people who might claim ESA, DLA, etc) feel better, but wouldn’t necessarily help. Where is the money meant to come from? They have to work within the reality of governing (unlike Labour or the Crossbenchers, who can vote for a policy and not think how to make it happen or pay for it). It’s the Tories who are loading so many of the cuts onto the welfare budget. Lib Dems have power in the Coalition, and there are many examples of where we’ve won major policy gains. But we can’t overturn the fundamental arithmetic. It’s the Tories who have refused (for example) to cut pension tax relief for high earners, but think it’s OK to slash disability benefits, who deserve our anger, not the Lib Dems who are doing their best *within very difficult circumstances* to mitigate the effects.

    As Caron Lindsay suggests, condemning our peers for betrayal (as George Potter has done in distasteful style) isn’t likely to make them open to working constructively with you.

  • Why, whenever there is an attack on the weakest in society,. must we keep repeating the Tory mantra “There’s no alternative?”. There is!

    How to pay for these amendments? On another thread we are welcoming the spending of £Umpteen Billions on the London/Birmingham HS2 link. Does anyone seriously believe that the inevitable overspend will not be many times the cost of these amendments? Will the government throw up its hands and say, “Sorry work must stop, there’s no money”. There is always money for wars, for keeping ‘Trident’, etc. It’s just a matter of priorities and, if LibDems can’t speak out and vote for what they believe, then the whole coalition is a sham.

  • AndrewM…..As for what happens next….Sadly, the minister said, this morning on the ‘Today’ programme that they would ‘Push ahead with this bill despite the Lords’ defeat”(for which he ‘blamed’ Labour peers). He added that this would be with the FULL support of LibDem MPs.
    Baroness Meacher (a Crossbencher) repeated Liam Byrne’s words that “”The government has been defeated because quite simply they tried to cross the basic line of British decency

  • Ben: “Where is the money meant to come from?”

    As Lord Patel pointed out, that is NOT a sound arguement. The money doesn’t need to come from some other budget. They aren’t talking about increasing funding, just reducing the amount that is going to be cut.

    “If you are going to rob the poor to pay the rich we have entered a different form of morality.”

    Read that sentence out and take a look in the mirror please. Deary me.

  • George – not sure whether it is my software, but cannot read anything you have linked to your blog. Could you copy over your lists of those LD peers who supported the Govt lines?

    Ben – your contention that oppositions can vote whichever way they like because “they don’t have responsibility for governing” is cynical and contentious at best. A reminder of Nick Clegg’s comments about why the Lib Dems did volte faces on the deficit issue and tuition fees. Yes, we may not accept assumptions made by senior civil servants etc, but that should not mean those opposing Govt lines or economics are not deadly serious.

  • Ben

    do you see the Tory peers rebelling against the government? No – that is because the balance of what Lib Dems are getting out of this coalition versus what the Tories are getting is well over in the Tories favour and its clear to almost everyone. Because of the numbers Clegg needs good judgement about which battles to pick. He has failed here.

  • James Sandbach 12th Jan '12 - 11:30am

    Well done to George and Caron for hell-raising about this policy, and for the LD Peers who voted for or abstained on the cross-benchers’ amendments – the ESA time limit as constructed would unjustly deny support to people with serious degenerative conditions and incapacities and who have little realistic prospect of re-engaging in the job market in the short-term and will not be able to make ends meet without this support.

    However, it is disappointing that our key protagonists on the Bill like Archy and Celia did not join the rebellion – my understanding is that they were brought of by unspecified and vague “assurances” from DWP ministers that the problem will be dealt with. Such assurances from IDS, Freud and Grayling are really worth very little as they are determined to implement the time limit unchanged. This is becoming a bit of a pattern with contentious Government Bills over which we have serious issues – our spokesmen put up objections and arguments at Committee stage (giving many people hope that there will be changes), but back down when it comes to voting at report stage (even if they are offerred a free vote) on the basis of little chit-chats with disembling Ministers.

    Of course us humble party folk appreciate that the Parliamentarians are in tight spot and are obliged to support Government whips on most big issues – but on specific Bill changes and targetted amendments that would meet the concerns both Conference opinion and obvious standards of natural justice, do our people always have to follow the Tory lead so slavishly? What about sticking with the coalition agreement – it doesn’t say anywhere in that that Lib Dems will legislate to abolish support for this vulnerable group. It’s time that the Party set much clearer parameters about how far we’re prepared to see our Parliamentarians go on the policy specifics of welfare reform, legal aid cuts, education costs, social housing rents and HB, private sector provision in the NHS etc – we’re seeing far to many measures introduced in the name of decficit reduction that are very poorly targetted or worked out and and hit the poorest and most vulnerable the hardest.

    I hope that at least following this vote on Welfare Reform Bill, we can draw a line in the sand – there is in fact another non-legislative way of dealing with the ESA problem by changing DWP guidance so there’s a presumtion that those with more serious or degenerative disabilties or illnesses are allocated to the “support group” (to which the time limit does not apply) rather than the “work related activity group” (to which the time limit does apply on the presumtion that applicant will be fit again and re-entering the job market within 12 months)..at the moment the guidance is drafted in a way that ensures people with serious cancers, strokes, motor-nuerone disease etc are pre-suposed to have some work capacity even if all the medical evidence says they don’t. A good position would be that unless the DWP change this, we will not support the Government in reversing the amendments.

  • Backing Gareth’s suggestion that those who voted with the government on this should come and explain themselves here.

    As for cost – we’ve just approved high speed rail. Lord knows I’m a huge fan of public transport investment (leaving aside the arguments as to where in the rail network the money’s best spent). But ensuring a decent and civilised deal for disabled people tops everything. I’d happily live in a smaller state, but ensuring proper disability benefits, unlike many many other things, is something that really can’t be handled by the private sector or the Big Society.

    I’m ashamed that there were more people making a fuss about tuition fees. Sure, we didn’t make any overt promises to maintain decent rules on disability benefits, but I think that’s because no one in their wildest dreams thought we’d be doing this to disability benefits, despite our acknowledgement of the need to drastically cut the welfare bill.

  • Tony Greaves 12th Jan '12 - 3:09pm

    Specifically at http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/business-papers/lords/lords-divisions/
    (not so easy to find otherwise, at least for old fogies like me).

    I don’t know what discussions had taken place, how the Amendment at Divison 4 may be related to at least one of these votes, and (at least without reading Hansard) what assurances have been given. So to be honest I can’t tell you with complete certainty how I would have voted (or not) on any of these amendments. My comment on them all is that they seem to be lowest-common-denominator amendments aimed at getting a majority in the House.

    There is a real dilemma in our present position. We can help to vote down proposals we do not like. Or we can work behind the scenes, in discussions directly with Ministers and their civil servants, to ameliorate them. If we make progress with such discussions the result will usually be a compromise. Having done that there is a strong pressure to resist further amendments from Labour etc – otherwise why would MInisters bother dealing with us in the future?

    My view, well known, is that we often do not push for enough – which requires help from high places, not just in the Lords – and we do not co-ordinate enough with LD MPs. But don’t pretend it is easy.

    Two more points. The party is useless at telling people what it is doing and why and what has been achieved, so it gets the worst of all publicity whatever the outcome. And as for the deficit, I personally simply do not accept that (assuming for this argument that the government’s economic strategy is the right one) we have to accept it in detail. It is too easy to seem bullied into supporting very illiberal proposals on the basis of dealing with the deficit.

    Tony Greaves

  • Tony Greaves 12th Jan '12 - 3:22pm

    In view or some comments here I should make it clear that all these votes were on a 2-line whip (the usual LD strong whip in the Lords – 3-liners are rare). Government business is always whipped.

    Tony Greaves

  • “There is a real dilemma in our present position. We can help to vote down proposals we do not like. Or we can work behind the scenes, in discussions directly with Ministers and their civil servants, to ameliorate them. If we make progress with such discussions the result will usually be a compromise. Having done that there is a strong pressure to resist further amendments from Labour etc – otherwise why would MInisters bother dealing with us in the future?”

    But aren’t there some things you shouldn’t be willing to “compromise” on?

    If there’s something that really is unacceptable, you have the power to block it in the Commons.

  • Tony Dawson 12th Jan '12 - 4:54pm

    @Tony Greaves:

    “The party is useless at telling people what it is doing and why and what has been achieved, so it gets the worst of all publicity whatever the outcome.”

    This is part of the mindbogglingly cunning strategy of confusing the opposition into believing that the Lib Dems think they are immune to the effects of electoral opinion movements? To quote David Coleman: “Quite remarkable!”

  • David Allen 12th Jan '12 - 6:43pm

    Tony Greaves said:

    “We can help to vote down proposals we do not like. Or we can work behind the scenes, in discussions directly with Ministers and their civil servants, to ameliorate them. If we make progress with such discussions the result will usually be a compromise. Having done that there is a strong pressure to resist further amendments from Labour etc – otherwise why would MInisters bother dealing with us in the future?”

    “My view… is that we often do not push for enough …. But don’t pretend it is easy.”

    “The party is useless at telling people what it is doing and why and what has been achieved, so it gets the worst of all publicity whatever the outcome.”

    All very well said. Now, how could the party do better?

    Presumably, the sort of thing that can happen (NB, the made-up example I’m about to give is pure speculative invention for illustration only) is that the Tories come along with a plan to stop ESA after 6 months. They then raise their offer to 12 months, provided the Lib Dems agree to keep completely schtum about the concession they gained, and to vote in favour . The Tories also apply bluff, and tell the Lib Dems that if they go public about the discussions, 6 months will be railroaded through.

    So one can construct a plausible excuse for what looks like supine behaviour by Lib Dems. However, the end result is that nobody obtains any evidence that Lib Dems have had any beneficial influence whatsoever. All the Tories have to do is to start with some proposals which are a bit more draconian than they really intend to implement, row back on them in discussion with the Lib Dems, tell the Lib Dems what brilliant negotiators and colleagues they are, and win everything they wanted.

    The answer has to be that Lib Dems must, some of the time, call that bluff. Fight their fights in public. Make setllements with the Tories in public. No doubt, win some and lose quite a lot more. But…. show that they have a backbone!

  • Tony Greaves 12th Jan '12 - 7:23pm

    Yes, something like that. But don’t for one moment think that the Tories do that – the Bills as they are introduced in Parliament are already a compromise in many cases, in others just what the Tories want and the filtering processes in high regions in the LDs have not worked (often in my view because they are left to people (staff) who don’t understand what it means). Do not imagine that the processes within government are all slick or efficient or even workable. This is not unique to this coalition it is the way government works or often does not.

    And don ‘t imagine that the Tories generally lay down secrecy clauses on deals that are done. The fault here lies on our side.

    Tony Greaves

  • Tony Greaves 12th Jan '12 - 9:25pm

    There were 71 Liberal Democrats present at the House yesterday. Some may have gone home before the later vote(s) – but that may in some cases have been deliberate to avoid being present for them!

    Tony Greaves

  • martin sweetland 12th Jan '12 - 11:39pm

    Stretching the time limit on contributory E.S.A. from one year to two years has done my wife (and myself ) no favours , as she is three years from having had a stroke. Perhaps one of our honourable Lords who either voted with the government , or just went walkabout would care to answer me this . She will never be able to work again . She will receive no income until 2015 when she will be 62 1/2 . In the meantime , a shortfall of circa £400 per month will result in being unable to meet our outgoings . Our mortgage runs until we are 65 , and as i earn over £150 a week we will not qualify for means – tested E.S.A. How then , as payers of Tax & National Insurance for many years , are we now supposed to survive? And why have there not been a raft of Libdem peers on this forum to explain why they have gone against their own party principles ? Lets be perfectly clear about this , I for one do not believe there would have been such poor support for amendments if Lords were voted in for a set term.

  • martin sweetland 12th Jan '12 - 11:47pm

    A question for the forum . Does anybody know which/how much other E.U. countries pay their disabled? It would be interesting to see how our European cousins value their less fortunate citizens , and whether in fact our government is about to contravene any European laws. And whether there is a collective way of the disabled suing the government for discrimination.

  • David Allen said:
    “…6 months will be railroaded through.”

    This misconception comes up again and again, but just to state the bleedin’ obvious one more time because some Lib Dems seem to forget it:

    The Tories cannot railroad anything through Parliament, just like the Lib Dems cannot railroad anything through; neither party has a majority.

    We are seeing a cut in corporation tax because the Lib Dems decided to go along with that Tory policy; why couldn’t the Tories agree to a Lib Dem policy of not cutting welfare benefits for disabled people?

  • Ceia Thomas, contribution to the debate put the dilemma regarding the Lords’ vote.

    ” Is the answer Amendment 38 tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Patel, to allow two years in the WRAG instead of one-another arbitrary time limit? I understand that this would be prohibitively expensive. The figure of £1 billion over the next few years has been mentioned. If this amendment is successful, the House of Commons will almost certainly claim financial privilege, which will mean that this House cannot even debate it again. A vote for Amendment 38 might lead to ping-pong, if it were to be won, but only to ping, not to pong. It would therefore be a merely Pyrrhic victory as the amendment would not go any further”.

    Some peers might now be considering a vote against the whole Welfare Reform Bill especially if clauses re. Benefit Caps are allowed to stand .Could the Welfare Reform Bill be the straw that breaks the Coalition’s back ?

  • AndrewM…….We are seeing a cut in corporation tax because the Lib Dems decided to go along with that Tory policy; why couldn’t the Tories agree to a Lib Dem policy of not cutting welfare benefits for disabled people…..

    After the Conference vote Sue Marsh wrote, “Liberal Democrat Lords enter the committee stage of the Welfare Reform Bill with a much stronger hand to bargain with”.
    The LibDem peers do not have to worry about re-selection, the majority decided to vote against the amendment…I’d love to have read the headline..”LibDem peer xxxx said, “If you are going to rob the poor to pay the rich we have entered a different form of morality.”
    Let’s stop turning somersaults to look for excuses….Has any LibDem peer ‘put their head above the parapet’ to explain why? If so I missed it.

  • I know many Conservatives see this as a net vote-winner for them, but I think it’s interesting that the worm of public opinion may be turning. There have been two pieces in the Mail recently attacking the government over the disability reforms. Are the Tories going to be able to get away with their “let’s just drop a few scrounger stories in the press” methods much longer?

    And I don’t often agree with Polly Toynbee, but she strikes me as very right in this article: http://bit.ly/wm2y1D
    “Cameron is about to be reminded that most people are nicer than he thinks.”

  • Tony Dawson 13th Jan '12 - 8:17pm

    “I don’t often agree with Polly Toynbee, but she strikes me as very right in this article:”

    She strikes me as very Right with a delusion that she is more than slightly Left. 🙁

    sham pain socialists ‘R’ Us.

  • Since when did you have to be a socialist to oppose disability benefit cuts? I’m pretty much on the right of centre myself, but I just can’t see that this particular issue is something for the private sector.
    All we’ve heard from ministers in defence of the changes is that “we want to help people back into work” (who doesn’t?) and misleading stuff about inheritances (q.v. Grayling’s abysmal performance on Newsnight). They are NOT making their case, and there’s no reason why we should go along with these pathetic arguments.

  • Valerie T – You don’t have to be right of centre either to be allowed to state an opinion that I should have thought would be mainstream here. I suppose you can expect a facetious comment about champagne socialism from street-fighters who are inadvertently annihilating this party once in a while, but the point you make is a good one: when right is on our side even a Mail columnist and most of its respondents seem to agree with those who rebelled that night. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-2084706/David-Camerons-Welfare-Reform-Bill-Hiding-truth-way-achieve-it.html

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