Second in our set of four political interviews Is Stephen Lloyd the MP for Eastbourne and member of the Liberal Democrats…
As with UKIP, the process of getting hold of the Liberal Democrat Spokesperson was somewhat confusing…
Them: “Hello, Liberal Democrat press office.”
Me: Hello, my name is Joe Reddington and I run a disability blog, I’m interviewing the disability spokespeople from each of the main parties and I’d wondered if you could put me in touch with your spokesperson?
Them: “Let me have a look, I think you want X”
Me: “are you sure? X isn’t an MP… I think your spokesman is probably an MP…”
Them: “hang on…”
Them: “you want Stephen Lloyd”
Me: “thank you”
All of which would have been fine, except that, as Stephen is shortly about to tell you – he’s NOT the spokesman. He knows his stuff and steps up to the plate when asked, but he’s actually just a bright man that the Press Office have down as the ‘man to comment on issue’. I have to say that I was fairly impressed with Stephen overall. He knows his stuff, he didn’t duck the nasty question I chucked him at the end and overall came across as the sort affable, smart, and pleasantly combative fellow that I’d enjoy chatting to in the future.
So… with that out of the way… let’s do the questions…
Me: I’m just back from a very international meeting of disability bloggers and it was fascinating to see how differently (often worse) disability is treated internationally. Do you think that the UK is setting a high standard in terms of disability policy or are the innovations you’d like to bring in from other countries?
SL: I believe that in many areas the UK is leading the way in terms of disability policy. For example our ‘Access to Work’ scheme and ‘Work Choice’ are key examples of how UK governments have, for the last 20 years, tried to set the highest of standards. The ‘Work Choice’ programme supports disabled people find jobs and ‘Access to Work’ helps disabled people in work and to secure employment. Probably the most important international influence was the ADA (American’s with Disabilities Act) which our own DDA closely mirrored. I believe that any discussions on an international level are welcome, as it is important to share experiences as well as educate us about disability.
Me: You will doubtless be aware that Care.data has caused some controversy about its release programme. This is a deep concern for many disabled people because they are obviously much more easily identifiable from medical records than other ‘data subjects’. Can you reassure us that this is an issue that has been looked into by your office?
SL: Yes the topic of Care.Data has been considered carefully by me and my office. I understand why many may be concerned with the proposal to share information anonymously, which is why the programme has now been suspended for six months. However, it is important for the NHS to get a better picture of health and social care in England, it could lead to potential medical research.
In March 2014 the government amended the Care Bill to strengthen patient privacy rights. Any individual who tells their GP that they do not want their information shared will have their wishes respected. Beyond doubt, the information would never be sold for purely commercial purposes. I understand that in the next few months NHS England will work to consider what further steps they can take to make people aware of their rights under the Care.Data programme, and how people can opt out if they wish.
Me: So you have a long association with, and personal experience of disability (trustee of the Royal National Institute for Deaf People for example) – when you became disability spokesperson for the Liberal democrats did this feel like you’d found a place where you could really leave a mark on issues you care about?
SL: My experiences of disability go back many years, I was hard of hearing from a young age and lost my eye-sight for six months when I was in my twenties. However, I am not the specific spokesman for the Lib Dems on disability. It is just one of the areas I feel strongly about and am involved closely across a range of disability topics but because of my personal experiences, I always resist the party from pigeon-holing me.
Me: I’m afraid I have to ask – you haven’t brought up disability in the house since October (http://www.theyworkforyou.com/search/?q=disability+OR+disabled+OR+autism&pid=24754), can we assume that this is because you’ve been concentrating on your work behind the scenes on things like the All Party Parliamentary Group for Multiple Sclerosis?
SL: I have spoken about a range of disability issues this year, I believe if you searched for a phrase such as ‘hearing loss’, you will find I’ve raised numerous questions on hearing disability in the House of Commons. You may also be interested to know, that in March 2014, I lead the initiative to ensure the government declared a moratorium on their recent changes to ‘Access to Work’. I will continue to be involved with numerous disability APPGs.