Stephen Lloyd MP writes… This government is working

The last six months as the new Lib Dem MP for Eastbourne have been more of a rollercoaster than I could ever have imagined they would be! I’ve been pretty much just as flat out, albeit in a different way, as an MP as I was during the 6 months frenetic run up to the General Election.

Much has gone on as you’ll all be aware but the two things I’d like to write about today show the upside of being in Government and the upside of having the privilege of influence all MPs enjoy.

The first lies around the changes to benefits, the Work Programme and pensions which have been spearheaded by Iain Duncan-Smith. I’ve no idea how this politician with such a right wing view a few years ago, came to rest where he is now, but my view is that his determination to deal with long term benefit dependency is not only right but also progressive. Most politicians, if they were being honest with the public, have known for years that there are 2 key steps necessary to move people back into work after many years unemployment:

Firstly, they have to take a substantial part of their benefit with them to make it financially rational to get a job.

Secondly, many will need mentoring for a year or two to help them stay in work.

Both of these are core components of Duncan-Smith’s plan. As a member of the Work and Pensions Select Committee, I’ve had the opportunity to take evidence from him and the Department, drill down on some specific points that I wasn’t happy about and also play a part in seeing a particular issue around housing benefit being taken on by the DWP.

One of the issues that brought me back into politics was the absolute horror of our country being prepared to simply park over six million of our citizens deemed as economically inactive. I thought this was a shocking dereliction of duty and I am delighted that a serious and liberal attempt is being made to deal with this grotesque waste of human opportunity.

My view is very simple, those who can work should and those who can’t must be protected, whilst those who for whatever reason have lost the will or expertise to work need to be supported, cajoled and encouraged back into the workplace. If this programme succeeds, Britain will be a happier and more responsible country.

The next issue is one that demonstrates just how influential even backbench MPs can be within Parliament. The last government, in its infinite wisdom, decided that all students coming to this country to study needed to have a certain level of English already in order to combat bogus colleges. What they did not think about was the negative effect that this would have on the many reputable English Language Schools that exist in my constituency and many others on the south coast whose purpose is to teach English from scratch.

I’ve heard reports of bookings being 40% down for next year as a result of the new law, which is completely nonsensical at a time when jobs are at a premium. This was a vital issue in Eastbourne and I got to work on it straight away. I led a meeting of MPs with Damian Green the Immigration Minister, asked the Prime Minister at PMQs about it (twice!) and arranged a visit for the Chief Executive of the UK Border Agency to Eastbourne to see the impact for herself. Generally making a nuisance of myself on this case paid dividends with the announcement that a loophole would be created for us from January 2011, so that students without the required English level could continue to study at properly accredited English Language Schools.

This simple piece of common sense decision making was the result of a concerted effort by a few determined MPs, and I think shows that the Coalition Government is one that is prepared to listen to those on the backbenches. The amendment will save jobs, boost local businesses and keep local economies strong. A result.

Seen from the ‘inside’ this government is working. It is taking the tough decisions rather than just throwing money at them, reforming areas that have needed sorting out for decades, and most refreshingly of all it has two parties working together in the national interest.

Happy New Year. See you in Oldham!

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32 Comments

  • ‘My view is very simple, those who can work should and those who can’t must be protected, whilst those who for whatever reason have lost the will or expertise to work need to be supported, cajoled and encouraged back into the workplace. If this programme succeeds, Britain will be a happier and more responsible country.’

    Well, this is all very nice – but as with so much this Coalition has done on welfare, great play has been made of the work-shy, but almost nothing has been said about the workless. To my mind that is far more important, and this article really does not suggest to me that there is an understanding of this very simple point.

  • “those who can work should and those who can’t must be protected”

    Something I think that everyone who voted Lib Dem will wholeheartedly agree with. However, cutting someone’s housing benefit by 10% if they have been unable to find work (and complied with all the hoops that the DWP ask them to jump through) is not protecting them it is punishing them.

    I too am suprised and at times impressed with IDS on wlefare reform. But there must be genuine care for those that need it. I agree with Geoffrey Payne above who rightly see Osbourne as a barrier to any genuine social Conservatism being achieved by IDS.

  • Dara, Geoffrey + Steve are all spot on.

    This article amounts to no more than propaganda with no substance behind it. Apologies Stephen – but you are simply writing yet more hollow words to justify your support of a terribly right-wing government.

    It comes down to actions. IDS’ reforms can look attractive – but until there is definitive action to help the work-less – it will amount to no more than Tebbit’s “Get on your bike” soundbite.

    Something IDS has similarly said not too long ago…

  • @ Stephen LLoyd
    So you agree with the attacks on the sick and disabled then? The new ESA extremely harsh medical assessment is being introduced in March.. This will enable ATOS to throw many thousands of sick and disabled onto a non existent job market. Why have you taken on this Labour policy and why are you not defending us?
    You say “My view is very simple, those who can work should and those who can’t must be protected,” You are not protecting us, you are throwing us to the wolves.

  • Just another point, ATOS who will throw the sick and disabled on to JSA are the ones who are also going to run back to work programmes. Why are you allowing this conflict of interest, they gain money for taking people off ESA and gain even more ‘clients’ and money on the work programmes. It is in their interest to find people ‘fit for work’ even when they are not.

  • Well said Anne.

    I would appreciate Stephen having the courage to come to this thread to defend his views.

  • Are Lib Dems going to discuss this issue of ATOS and the unfair ESA ‘medical’ and the dreadful affects on the sick and disabled? Is anybody going to help? Many will not go to the medicals through fear and will end up with nothing. This is pure Tory ideology. Why, Stephen are you party to the new medical being introduced?

  • Simon McGrath 3rd Jan '11 - 9:10pm

    Slighltly odd that you describe the ATOS medicals as ‘pure Tory ideology’ when they were introduced by the labour party.

  • gramsci's eyes 3rd Jan '11 - 10:31pm

    I didn’t know Roger Ramjet was a lib-dem?

  • Matthew Huntbach 3rd Jan '11 - 11:51pm


    One of the issues that brought me back into politics was the absolute horror of our country being prepared to simply park over six million of our citizens deemed as economically inactive. I thought this was a shocking dereliction of duty and I am delighted that a serious and liberal attempt is being made to deal with this grotesque waste of human opportunity

    Oh what ROT. Listen, Stephen – there are NO jobs now. I know of several skilled, hard-working, clever and good-natured people who have been unemployed for months now or even a year or two and are finding it IMPOSSIBLE to get a job. All the conversations I have had with people in the know indicate there will be even fewer jobs available in the next few years. If we are to solve this problem, we need to do something FAR more radical than this government, stuffed full of clueless millionaires, is doing.

  • David Allen 3rd Jan '11 - 11:56pm

    “This article amounts to no more than propaganda with no substance behind it. Apologies Stephen – but you are simply writing yet more hollow words to justify your support of a terribly right-wing government.”

    I don’t agree. There have been many stupid knee-jerk articles in favour of the Tory coalition on this site, but I don’t think this is one of them. Also, I am annoyed to see so much posted in response which ignores what Lloyd actually said, and instead picks up the disability assessment issue. Sure, it’s an important issue, but it’s not what this thread is about.

    However, I do think there is a problem when Lloyd writes of “the upside of being in Government and the upside of having the privilege of influence”. What he clearly means is that it is much more personally satisfying to have a productive career, and achieve things like concessions for local English language schools, than to be stuck on the backbenches in opposition with nothing to do but campaign. Yes Stephen, your career progression must feel worthwhile. But – have you achieved it at the expense of larger goals? Has the saving of a few local language schools been worthwhile, at the cost of abandoning Lib Dem principles on fairness, on equal access to health and educational opportunities, and on economic sanity?

    There are two groups of people who stand in the way of the recognition that we have lost sight of our principles. The first are the ultra-orange-bookers who usurped the leadership by fighting a stealth campaign to win it without revealing their true beliefs. The second are the careerists who come from all sides of Lib Dem opinion, but share in embracing the kudos, power, privileges and opportunities that come with membership of government. Cameron knew what he was doing when he co-opted so many Lib Dems to share these privileges and become defenders of coalition.

    We won’t change the views of the ultras. We must change the views of the careerists. “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?”

  • Matthew Huntbach 4th Jan '11 - 12:42am


    There are two groups of people who stand in the way of the recognition that we have lost sight of our principles. The first are the ultra-orange-bookers who usurped the leadership by fighting a stealth campaign to win it without revealing their true beliefs.

    David, you know full well that I spent huge amounts of my time during the leadership campaign posting to this very site messages pointing out what was happening and urging our party not to vote for Clegg as leader. I don’t think it was a stealth campaign at all. I think it was very clear what they were up to, and they made no particular moves to hide it.

  • “the upside of being in Government and the upside of having the privilege of influence all MPs enjoy.”

    You just answered your own question.

    You enjoy the privilege and influence so don’t care about what used to be Liberal Democrat principles to stick up for the poor, disabled and vulnerable. Now anyone out of work or disabled will feel the wrath and hatred of Thatcherite orange bookers and Osborne.

  • Gareth Epps 4th Jan '11 - 12:23pm

    There is a lot to commend the approach of the Coalition in seeking to make significant reforms in this area. The Party should ignore the cries of well-off whingers who have no grasp of the issues at stake or the feelings of those most actively deterred by Labour’s system, which effectively taxes those wanting to work out of being able to afford to do so.

    That’s not to say that the proposals are perfect as they stand: but they’re a huge step forward from the current system.

    There is an urgent need for the assessment processes for ESA and incapacity benefit to be reviewed, with input from the advice service bodies who are finding, arguably, higher rates of appeal than even the widely-quoted 40%. This is one area ripe for exploration by the Select Committee who could make some authoritative recommendations.

    Worklessness is a much wider challenge that the last Government completely failed to tackle, feeding resentment; Labour could have tried to tackle it when there were jobs in abundance, but failed. It will be much harder now. The 2 key steps that Stephen identifies are a good start in establishing a direction of travel that will significantly help those who want to/can work, and give a long-overdue positive alternative for others.

    There will undoubtedly be battles to be had with the Treasury and Whitehall mandarins who don’t understand the issues on the ground. I am prepared to be outspoken where criticism of the Coalition is due but am finding the approach on welfare broadly encouraging, especially if Stephen and his colleagues on the Select Committee can take the lead on the medical assessments issue.

  • David Allen 4th Jan '11 - 12:27pm

    Matthew,

    No, I didn’t know full well that you saw through Clegg during his leadership campaign in 2007. The reason is that I didn’t personally discover the LDV site until 2008!

    I have now looked back through LDV’s archives of late 2007, and yes, you and a few others did raise the spectre of the possible Tory mole. However, it is clear from the record that most people didn’t at that time believe there were many really significant differences between Clegg and (say) Ashdown or Kennedy’s politics.

    Here is a quote from the LDV archive which you posted on 7/11/07:

    “The biggest problem I have with Clegg is that most of his leadership speeches sounds to me like empty statements which make Liberal Democrats feel good.”

    That was also very much what I felt at that time. Nick came across as a nice centre-ish chap, but a bit vacuous and sometimes rather muddled. I voted for Huhne only because he looked a bit sharper, not because I paid much attention to the occasional daft-sounding conspiracy theorists who claimed that Clegg was the sleeper from Bildenberg, etcetera.

    It is pretty obvious now, I think, that back in 2007, Clegg fooled most of the (Lib Dem activist) people most of the time. And in May 2010, Clegg fooled many of the (whole electorate) people, much of the time. In 2011, we now know that you can’t fool all of the people all of the time!

  • @ Simon McGrath
    Correction, pure Labour and Tory (with Lib Dem support) ideology. i am no friend of the Labour Party but they are not in power. Slightly odd that Lib Dems are supporting it.

    @ Gareth Epps
    “…but am finding the approach on welfare broadly encouraging, especially if Stephen and his colleagues on the Select Committee can take the lead on the medical assessments issue.
    There was much criticism of the medical assessment in place now that saw many tribunal cases won at appeal. The new even harsher assessment is being introduced in March by the coalition. and there will be many more appeals and many more very frightened vulnerable people. With so many young and able bodied seeking work what chance have the sick and disabled?

  • Peter Sutton 4th Jan '11 - 6:29pm

    Is this the same Stephen Lloyd who I wrote to recently but received no answers to my questions, just generic PR-speak about how everyone, including the disabled, have to shoulder the blame to fix the deficit left by Labour? I think it is. He didn’t answer any of my questions or respond to any specific points. As a disabled person and very scared about an unsecure, uncertain future, I thought at least the Minister (or one of his staff) would try to engage with me and explain in greater detail these proposals and reassure me that I would be protected, but I got none of that. Just more boring party-political weasel words that every politician in every party now seems to speak. And to think I thought the LibDems were different. How wrong and gullible I was!

    Look, I voted LibDem because I liked their “promises” about standing up for and protecting the sick and disabled as well as other vulnerable people in this country. I used to vote Labour but switched to LibDem in 2005. It is a scandal that Labour introduced such a draconian and inhumane test, but it’s even worse that the LibDems are now going along with it…supporting it even.

    But I’m getting used to it. Since the coalition was formed, the media has printed attack upon attack directed anyone who is on benefits, even going to far to class the disabled as “scroungers” as well as the workshy. Normally the LibDems would stick up for us and try to tone the rhetoric down a bit, but now that you’re married to the Tories you seem to be encouraging it. It’s just one attack on the disabled after another, taking away mobility/DLA payments and reducing HB for those of us who are too sick to work. Making it even harder for us to enjoy life and interact with society. Our last remaining bit of dignity is being torn to shreds. It seems as if any empathy this country once had is now gone. Nobody seems to care about people like me who are too sick most days to even get out of bed. Now we’re having an even tougher and Orwellian test thrust upon us, making it near impossible for anyone to receive their benefits. Look on the forums for disabled and sick people around the internet. Thousands of people across the country now feel victimised and demoralised even more since the coalition came into power. We are being made to feel worthless and as if this whole financial crisis was our fault. While the banks and the rich get off paying billions in tax, and the cabinet of millionaires tell us we are “all in this together” when it clearly doesn’t affect them, then something is truly wrong in this country. When we can buy new aircraft carriers and bail out other countries’ banks, but can’t support our weakest citizens, then we are morally bankrupt. And as if that wasn’t enough, the NHS which we rely on is also being attacked. Looks like it’s business as usual, money and profits before people.

    We’re being told that further humiliation and “being tough” on the disabled and sick is the “only option”. There is no alternative to treating us like crap, it seems. Even Ireland, who is in much worse state than we are, is protecting their disabled better than we are. And the “clampdown” on the “unsustainable” support to the disabled is “progressive” now, or so says Mr. Lloyd.

    My life is painful and depressing. I have very few friends and no social life at all. My DLA did help me get about a bit, but now it’s being taken away. I guess people like me just aren’t worth supporting. Most days I am in so much pain I wish I was dead. I am isolated and lonely and quite often feel there’s no point anymore. Before I became disabled, I paid years of NI contributions. Which I am now being told I may no longer be entitled to. I can see where this is all heading and it scares me. These is now no major political party who will stand up for the sick and the disabled. We’re just footballs to be kicked around to gain tabloid approval and cheap poll numbers. How long until we see posters on the streets saying how much money it costs the state to keep disabled people alive? Thanks for selling us out for a nice car and salary, LibDems. I’m sure I’ll appreciate it when I am denied benefits and have to take my Oxygen tank to work and when I’m screaming in pain disturbing everyone at the office. But I’ll comfort myself in the knowledge that Mr. Lloyd gets a nice car and good salary.

  • Stephen Lloyd MP 4th Jan '11 - 7:39pm

    Thank you for the comments thus far. Pretty anti – however, I appreciate the fears and concerns around the area of benefits so will try to flesh out a little more where I was coming from.

    To address the main thrust of most of the comments. Its a fact there is no other country in the entire world that has the same proportion of economically inactive people. Why such an anomaly? There are a number of historical reasons for this which no doubt all your correspondents are aware. Mrs Thatcher moving people onto IB to massage the unmployment figures played a key role. The question is how to solve it?

    Three choices – we either park and ignore, accepting literally millions of people to a life of being stuck on benefit or we do something. The old style right wing approach has failed – I call ti slash and burn. Force people off benefit even if they are obviously unable to work. This is cruel, unfair and stupid. It also doesn’t work.

    The second choice is to, broadly speaking, do nothing and just keep handing out the benefits. This is easier and for the want of a better word, I’ll call it the standard liberal-left approach. I also happen to think this is cruel, unfair and stupid. And as the figures show – it palpably doesn’t work.

    The third approach is what the government is trying to do (interestingly enough its broadly also what Frank Field proposed when Blair asked him to ‘think the impossible on welfare’ – which he did but because Gordon Brown hated the thought of anyone coming up with spending proposals outside the Treasuary, crushed it on the spot): – the tax regime needs to be changed to allow people to carry more of the benefits with them to ensure it makes financial sense to work. Considerable support also needs to be given to those who are a long way away from work both beforfehand and to keep them in their jobs. And lastly, the funding to the providors from the DWP has to be geared very strongly toward those longest away from work, so that it makes financial sense for the co’s to focus on them rather than on those closest to work.All of these are what the government is promising to do.

    In the meantime I’ve quizzed IDS on the Select Cttee, asked questions in the House and each time been reassurred they will do what they say they will. My role, however, is to keep checking the DWP do as they say. If they don’t I will take them to task. If they do we have a chance to break the cycle.

    Meanwhiel – talking of ATOS. One of the specific questions I asked was that the WCA had to be adjusted to specifically recognsie those people with fluctuating conditions – be it mental health problems or ME etc. After a bit of perssistent lobbying I was told that ATOS staff were to be re-trained and an independent panel was to be set up to oversee; amongst its members was to be the CEO of MIND. Good. Now lets see how it is in delivery.

    There are still some issues where I have concerns; including the 10% cut if the individuals do not find work after 12 mts. I think this could be unfair and am lobbying to get it changed. I will remain vigilent that people whose disability – mental or physical utterly precludes them from work remain protected, and I believe more thinking needs to be done around the new Access to Work proposals.

    But do I want to just walk away from the issue. Not on your nelly! I’ve been around a long time. I know a lot about disability from personal experience, feel passionate about helping those who can work to get back into work whilst fighting tooth and nail to protect those who can’t. I’ve worked in business for over twenty years before coming into politics, have had my failures as well as successes and profoundly believe this is an issue in which we have a chance in a lifetime to resolve, or certainly improve for the better.

    And I’m determined to do what I can to help get it right.

    As to the English Language Schools. In Eastbourne they are a key part of my constituencies economy. £20m turnover with hundreds and hundreds of host families being paid to look after foreign students. So yes. I am delighted the enormous effort I put into nagging the gov to approach the issue more sensibly has paid off.

    Thats what I mean by appreciating the privilige of being an MP. I do not take it for granted.The advantage of getting elected at middle age is I know who I am, know what I want to do and I’m in the right place to do it. Parliament – and not a day goes by where I do not consider it an honour to be the MP for Eastbourne. Not a day!

    With best wishes,

    Stephen

  • Matthew Huntbach 4th Jan '11 - 10:56pm


    The third approach is what the government is trying to do : – the tax regime needs to be changed to allow people to carry more of the benefits with them to ensure it makes financial sense to work.

    Stephen, I’m happy enough with this, but any talk of “makes financial sense to work” sounds just SICK to people who just CANNOT find work of any sort. Can’t you and your lot see that? Don’t you live in the real world? I plead to you Stephen, please, there are many, many skilled, qualified people out there now DESPERATE to work and they cannot find jobs.

    I am writing this after the holiday season, which has given me a time to catch up with family and friends. I’m hearing the same all round – those in work are desperate and terrified they will be thrown out any time, those out of work just cannot get jobs. For so many who lost their jobs, they are just told “you are too senior”, or “you are too old” (not in those words, but that is what is meant). And nearly all my friends and family, Stephen, are in YOUR part of the world, the supposedly prosperous south-east of England.

    What you write is giving the impression there are jobs galore, and those not taking them are just lazy layabouts. Can’t you in your Westminster Ivory Tower see how insulting this is to people who have put in application after application and got nowhere, and are now finding there aren’t even any applications to put in as there aren’t ANY of their sort of job going any more? These are people – friends and family – who in the past had no problem moving from job to job, they are NOT lazy people exploiting the benefits system as you seem to imply.

  • Peter Sutton 5th Jan '11 - 1:06am

    @Stephen Lloyd MP

    I will ignore the fact that you ignored my points and basically shrugged off criticism of the disgusting way in which this government, and governments before, are treating the sick and disabled. You and your Tory partners are letting the media and the public label the disabled as scroungers and a burden on “hard-working” taxpayers. Do you not see how this can affect disabled people? Do you not believe that we are people, too, and deserve to be treated like human beings?

    I would, however, like to point your attention to this article:
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2011/jan/03/incapacity-benefit-compass-survey-dwp

    SIr, this article states that up to half a million genuinely eligible (ie., not “work-shy scroungers”) have been denied their benefits. As you say you have a vast knowledge of disability, I’m sure you can understand how such a stressful situation can adversely affect the health, mental or otherwise, of an ill or disabled claimant and even exacerbate their condition. Most appeals are won and it is becoming even more evident that ATOS are cruel and inhumane (not to mention arbitrary and inconsistent)and the entire system is not fit for purpose. You are failing the weakest people in society and calling it “progressive”. You are also ignoring the concerns of not only disabled people, but of many charities, medical experts and those who care for people like me.

    Sir, we are good people who have been affected negatively and do our best, every day, to live our lives to the best of our ability. We did not ask for our illnesses or disabilities and and most of us who are unable to work would give anything to be able to do what you take for granted. We voted for you because you promised to protect us. I don’t want to hear excuses about “compromise” and “coalition”; protecting the most vulnerable in society should always be a government’s top concern and a cross-party issue. Your party will never, ever receive another vote from me. And judging from the feelings most of my fellow disabled people, you won’t be receiving many from them, either.

  • In his brief time as MP Stephen Lloyd has shown some gumption and independence of thought at least in championing legal aid against the proposed cuts, criticising housing benefit reforms and voting against tuition fees rises – so why is he showing so little understanding of where the Tories want to go with the welfare reform agenda or the capacity of the modern highly disrcriminatory and inflexible job market to make use of the skills of disabled people. I’m not clear where Stephen is getting his figure from “that no other country in the entire world that has the same proportion of economically inactive people” – what are the comparators or definitions of economic activity being used used here? Massively expanding economic activity to engage disabled and other disadvantaged groups such as poor single mums into employment to an extent that could replace benefit dependency would require a massive shift in labour market pattterns and practices – certainly something not within the gift of a Government wedded to private sector efficiency values. Could the DWP Select Committee take a deeper look at these issues around access to work?

  • “The old style right wing approach has failed – I call ti slash and burn. Force people off benefit even if they are obviously unable to work. This is cruel, unfair and stupid. It also doesn’t work.”
    Mr Lloyd, this is exactly what you are complicit in.
    All this is about is the destruction of the welfare state. Peter Sutton is telling Stephen Lloyd what is happening to disabled people and the utter despair and fear they are in..He ignored it keeping on about getting back into work when he must know full well that this will not happen for able bodied let alone the sick and disabled and he did not address the fact that the ATOS medical assessment is flawed and unfair or explain why it is getting harsher. As for ATOS, they use the techniques of UNUM which has been banned from operating in several states in America and has been fined 30 million dollars for operating ‘disability denial factories’ so why are the same procedures being allowed in the UK?. Mr Lloyd has not explained the conflict of interest of ATOS. It may interest people to know that two ATOS representatives were on the panel that introduced the new harsher medical assessment.
    The coalition will have blood on their hands on this.

  • Unfortunately now given a chance to discuss the condem attack (following on Labour policies) on the most vulnerable there has been very little contribution from Lid Dems. What is more unfortunate is that I expected it. Not many prepared to contradict an MP perhaps? And there was no one left to speak for me.

  • The silence is deafening.

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