ELECTION 2010: Lib Dems come up empty-handed on disability


The Liberal Democrat shadow minister for disabled people has failed to lay out any of his party’s disability policies in a puzzling performance in front of a packed meeting of campaigners, activists and fellow politicians.

John Barrett MP was speaking at a meeting of the all party parliamentary disability group where he and his opposite numbers in the Conservative and Labour parties were given a platform to lay out some of their disability policies.

The trio were told that disabled people had suggested more than 80 policies that would help the next government to achieve disability equality, following a request from Baroness [Jane] Campbell and Labour MP Roger Berry, the group’s co-chairs.

The policies suggested by disabled people covered independent living, inclusion, an end to disability poverty, access and the need for enforceable rights to equality.

But when given seven minutes to lay out his party’s disability policies, Barrett – who is stepping down at the next election – said he “genuinely believed” that “no one party has all the good people and all the good ideas”.

He said the country was “still in the dark ages” when it comes to disability and there needed to be a “major step change” with government departments, the benefits system, local authorities, employers and society, while “life should not be a battle day in day out”.

He added: “Independent living is absolutely vital – being able to have control of one’s own life is the key to a fair society.”

He also said disability would “run through” his party’s policies on housing, health, education, work and pensions, with “equality and fairness” at the heart of the manifesto.

But he failed to outline a single specific disability policy, although in response to a question later in the meeting, he appeared to suggest a Liberal Democrat government would review the complexity of the benefits system and ensure that people could access the information they needed to receive the support they were entitled to.

He said: “I think that politicians have got to make sure people get what they are entitled to as quickly as possible.”

No-one from Barrett’s party was available to comment afterwards on why he had been unable to describe any Liberal Democrat disability policies at the meeting.

4 March 2010

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