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Simon Hughes MP

Lib Dem deputy leader

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Stories involving Simon Hughes

Lib Dems vote in favour of health bill

The Liberal Democrats, at their annual party conference in Gateshead, voted against discussing the Health and Social Care Bill in an emergency motion tomorrow, which would have aimed to get it withdrawn. Under the party's alternative voting system Baroness Williams's rival motion to support the bill was instead accepted and will be debated tomorrow, rather than a motion to "kill the bill".

Nick Clegg had urged his party to get behind the NHS reforms, saying the Health and Social Care Bill had "changed considerably" and "deserves the support of the whole party".

Deputy leader Simon Hughes earlier defended the Liberal Democrats' record in Government, and insisted he was "not worried" about the future of the party.

Speaking to the BBC's Today programme, Mr Hughes said: "Of course I am worried when people are concerned in the community that we are not doing the right thing, and I have concerns about that, but I am not worried about the future of the party and our ability to achieve in government the sort of changes that would not have been delivered if the Tories were there on their own."

Nick Clegg yesterday stressed the Health and Social Care Bill had been changed beyond "all recognition" since its first publication thanks to Liberal Democrat amendments.

He insisted that Liberal Democrat peers had mad "absolutely sure" competition would always be the servant of the NHS and "not its master".

Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander, echoed the words of his party leader and welcomed th news that Shirley Williams's motion had been chosen instead of discussing whether to drop the bill.

Speaking to Sky News he said: "Shirley has played a key role along with other Liberal Democrat peers in the House of Lords in terms of improving the bill, improving the bill with a view to passing it into law. I think that’s the right thing for the NHS, I think it’s the right thing for the country and so if that’s the debate we’re going to have tomorrow then I welcome that."

Baroness Williams added that after the changes made she is now prepared to support the bill.

Speaking on Sky News she said: "We’ve done everything we can to support the NHS including dealing with health inequalities and therefore I’m prepared to stand up for those reforms but not the original bill which I think was very ill-judged and very ill-conceived.”


Hughes warning on housing benefit caps

The Liberal Democrats are expected to intensify the divisions within the Coalition over housing benefit caps when deputy leader Simon Hughes makes a speech expressing his concerns over the caps.

Mr Hughes is expected to say that the limits will "break up families" and ask: "Is this really how we want to treat now the adults of the next generation?"

Liberal Democrat sources insist that Mr Hughes supports the idea of a cap in principle, but has been left "deeply concerned" about the consequences of the reforms in central London.


Keeping it together

The fourth day of the Liberal Democrat party conference in Liverpool was marked by pleadges of loyalty to the coalition by senior party figures and disquiet over cuts by MPs and party members. Simon Hughes said he backed the government, while MP Bob Russell said cuts could not be fair.


Laws: Tax cuts could end austerity

David Laws has put the pressure on George Osborne to raise personal tax allowances in next month's Budget, saying such a move could “end the austerity on household budgets”.

In an interview with Newsnight, the Lib Dem MP followed Simon Hughes and Ed Balls in calling for the tax cuts:

“We have to distinguish between the period of austerity for public spending and for public services, which is clearly going to go on for a period of time, from the austerity that we’ve seen in household budgets… now that we have completed most of the tax increases, now that we’re seeing inflation this year on a firm downward track, that gives us the opportunity, if we can make these other reductions in taxation by increasing the income tax thresholds - as Nick Clegg has suggested - that gives us the opportunity of ending the austerity on households budgets.”


Hughes: Spending reviews will have postivies

Deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats Simon Hughes has said in an interview with the Guardian that he hoped the spending review would delay the decision to replace Trident, axe tutition fees and allow councils to build more housing.


Pugh condemns Lansley reforms

John Pugh has accused Andrew Lansley of taking Labour's "NHS experiment" to "its logical, ultimate and slightly disturbing conclusion".

Speaking during an emergency motion discussion at the Lib Dem conference, he said: "Some thanks are due to Andrew Lansley, and you may ask why.

"I have a very simple reason for this: he has woken the country to the ultimate absurdity of a 20-year experiment with the NHS. Because what he has endeavoured to do is take the Blairite model for the NHS to its logical, ultimate and slightly disturbing conclusion."

Mr Pugh was supported by Andrew George, who said: "The NHS is more important to the public than the fate of any political party. Yes, Labour paved the way, with Tory support, but this is primarily a Tory plan with our grudging support or possible acquiescence. It’s often said ‘it’s the economy, stupid’.

"Well, I think that the future fate of both this party and this Coalition Government needs to take heed of the concept that actually: ‘it’s the NHS, stupid’."

Liberal Democrat Deputy Leader Simon Hughes admitted that the party did not “have a procedure” in place to effectively scrutinise the Government’s Health and Social Care Bill in its initial form.


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