His exact words are:
"George Potter’s impassioned post, for example is understandable, but wrong. Wrong – because he is judging the peers by how they voted and not by what changes to legislation they have secured before and after votes. When you are negotiating to secure concessions and get concessions in return for votes, you should really be judged by that overall trade-off. But it’s hardly fair to criticise George or anyone else for not judging by the overall package – because given this omerta like news blackout, it’s not exactly easy to extract the necessary information."I'm afraid I have to disagree.
There's no doubt that, as he pointed out, that some considerable changes took place on the proposals to replace DLA with PIP (something that will also include a 20% cut for a benefit which has a fraud rate of only 0.35%). Now, Mark refers to Sue Marsh's piece on this and I have to agree with her. There have been some improvements. But I also agree with her that they still aren't good enough. They are a lot better than what the government originally proposed though. Whether this is down to negotiation by Lib Dem peers or due to the government wanting to placate enough crossbencher (e.g. non-affiliated) peers to avoid another defeat on the bill is impossible to say. Either or both might be correct.
So, on that basis, we can potentially excuse Lib Dem peers for overwhelmingly with the government on DLA. I still don't think it was right, but the fact is that DLA wasn't specifically mentioned in the motion passed at conference and so they have something of an excuse.
But Mark Pack is utterly wrong about ESA. The fact is that the motion specifically called for
"Liberal Democrats in Government to oppose an arbitrary time limit on how long claimants can claim contributory ESA."and for
"A presumption that ESA claimants with serious and uncontrollable life-threatening conditions should be allocated to the support group rather than the work related activity group."
The fact is that, two weeks ago, Lib Dem peers voted by a margin of 51 to 2 to back an arbitrary time limit on contributory ESA (the main benefit for people who are unable to work due to disability or illness). This means that long term sick and disabled people who are unable to work, will after one year of receiving contributory ESA, have support taken away. The DWP's own figures show that 40% of people receiving contributory ESA will lose out by the change. This is because after the year is up they will be switched to another part of the system, one which will take away all support for anyone with a household income over £16,000 - because that's clearly enough to support an entire family, including a severely disabled adult, on. And it will also take away money from people with household incomes below this level.
In fact, the only people unaffected by the time limit will be those with a household income of less than £7,500 - meaning that the majority of them will be sick and disabled people living on their own. But families where one parent is disabled and one works will be placed under financial pressure which will take away much needed support unless they have an income so low that they are actively living in poverty. In fact, it will place many families in the position where they'd be better off splitting up rather than trying to support an entire family , including the costs of sickness and disability, on one person's income or on ESA payment designed only to be capable of supporting one person.
Our peers also voted overwhelmingly in favour of subjecting cancer patients to the stressful ESA assessment process.
So I really can't see how, on either of the two points from the motion above, that our peers upheld the principle or the letter of the motion. More importantly than that, I really can't see how they can justify as in any way "liberal" changes that will put vulnerable people through significant hardship.
Our peers might have got changes to DLA or they might not. But they certainly haven't achieved anything significant on ESA when the most damaging and unnecessary proposal by the government is not only unchanged but also overwhelmingly backed in the lords by Lib Dem peers.
And, if Mark Pack is reading this, I'd like to ask him to also read this other piece by Sue Marsh. And, after reading it, I'd like to ask him if he still thinks we've won on disability benefits: