Adur, West & East Worthing Party including East Arun

Government Minister Professor Steve Webb MP joins local Lib Dems for Dinner at Worthing’s Beachwood Hall Hotel

Government Minister Professor Steve Webb MP joins local Lib Dems for Dinner at Worthing's Beachwood Hall Hotel

The Pensions Minister Steve Webb MP returned to Worthing to join local party members and supporters on Wednesday evening to celebrate the commitment of long standing party member Dorothy Till to the party and the town as local Magistrate for many years and as a Liberal since 1949.

During the annual dinner at Beachwood Hall Hotel Steve Webb MP presented Dorothy with a small gift to acknowledge her dedication to the ‘liberal’ cause for so many years.

Dorothy recalled the early meetings of the Worthing Liberals based in the cellar of the Beachwood Hall Hotel.

On Wednesday evening local Liberal Democrats were served by the management and staff with a delicious and excellently presented three course meal, which was thought by Steve, to be better than a meal he had been served at a London venue!

Professor Steve Webb MP for Thornbury & Yate near Bristol and Minister of State for Pensions on his second visit to the constituency having previously attended our annual dinner a few years ago was ‘grilled’ himself about the governments latest actions.

Steve used to work for the Institute of Fiscal Studies and gained his Professorship through researching Social Policy, covering the Benefits system and Pensions. He was therefore very well equipped to answer difficult questions from party activists about the changes the Coalition Government was making.

His responses and sense of humour left us in no doubt that he and fellow Liberal Democrat Ministers were working behind the scenes making a real difference to improve Britain for the better and to make our society a fairer one.

He let us in on some of the strategies, which resembled a game of Chess where the Bishop had some power but not ultimate power but highlighted the differences the party was making in Government for the first time in many years.

He also recalled the time Lib Dem MP’s were locked in Local Government House during negotiations on the Coalition agreement while the campaign group ‘Unlock Democracy’ were outside campaigning for a change to the voting system.

Steve also told of his first day as Minister driving around London waiting for the top Civil Servant in the Department to come out of meeting so he could greet his new Pensions Minister.

Steve told members that those residents at the sharp end of the cuts, would still have their allowances in place if they were needed for health reasons and some groups such as pensioners would be at least £5 a week better off because of restoring the link between pensions and earnings reversing the decision of previous Labour and Conservative Governments and he assured members that pensions would rise in value not fall.

This was first championed in Worthing by former Government Minister David Laws MP when he visited Guild Care some years ago.

Notes to Editors

Steve Webb was born in Birmingham in July 1965 where he lived with his parents and older brother and attended the local comprehensive school until 18 before going on to Hertford College, Oxford to study Philosophy, Politics & Economics. He dropped politics after a year, because he wasn’t very good at it!

At the age of 21 Steve left college and began work in London with the Institute for Fiscal Studies, a non-party think-tank and soon specialised in researching into poverty, taxes and benefits -interests which have continued to this day.

Whilst working for the IFS I was often called on to offer independent commentary on political issues such as budgets, manifestos etc. and became a specialist adviser to Frank Field’s Social Security Committee. During his time at the IFS he also spent some time in the Ukraine on a “technical assistance” mission with the IMF, advising on long-term pension and welfare reform. During his time at the IFS he met Helen, now his wife, who was then a curate at his local church in Clapham.

They were married in 1993 and moved to the Bristol area in 1994 when Helen took up a post as a hospital chaplain at Southmead Hospital.

By about this time Steve was starting to get more interested in party politics, having joined the Lib Dems a couple of years earlier. In 1995 Steve was successful in getting chosen as the Lib Dem candidate for the Northavon constituency, just North of Bristol. However, as this had been a Conservative seat for decades with a majority of over 11,000 votes in 1992, it didn’t seem like he was set for an immediate career change.

Because he was now a party political candidate he had to leave the independent IFS and was pleased to be appointed as Professor of Social Policy at Bath University in 1995. Steve was even more pleased to become a father for the first time when his daughter was born at the end of that year.

For the following two years Steve campaigned hard in the constituency on a whole range of issues, from the NHS to schools, pensions to protecting the countryside.

In May 1997 the General Election arrived, the votes were counted, and – to almost everyone’s astonishment – Steve was duly elected to serve the Northavon constituency with a majority of 2,137 votes!

Since being elected to Parliament Steve has pursued interests in pensions and benefits issues, as well as other things that concern him such as the problems of Third World debt. I also became a father for the second time, as my son was born in 1998.

In the 2001 General Election Steve was re-elected as MP for Northavon with a majority of 9,877 votes, and continued as the party’s lead spokesperson on “Work and Pensions” issues.

In the 2005 General Election, Steve was re-elected again with a majority of 11,033 and was appointed by Charles Kennedy as the Liberal Democrats’ lead spokesman on Health.

In late 2006, Steve stepped aside from the Health role and was appointed to head the group writing the party’s next General Election manifesto.

After the election of Nick Clegg MP to Lib Dem party leader in December 2007, Steve became the party’s Shadow Secretary of State for the Environment, Energy, Food and Rural Affairs, and moved to shadow the new Department for Energy and Climate Change when it was created in October 2008.

In January 2009, Steve was appointed once again to shadow the Department of Work and Pensions, already the largest spending Government department and set to become a key focus during the present economic downturn.  Steve was also invited to join a small group of advisors on economic issues who met on a regular basis with party leader Nick Clegg to consider the best policy response to the recession.

In May 2010, following boundary changes, Steve was elected as the first MP for the new Thornbury and Yate constituency, which comprises most of the old Northavon constituency.  Following the change of government at the election, Steve was appointed to serve as Minister of State for Pensions in the Coalition.

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