As it happened: Wednesday at the Lib Dem conference 2012

Key points

  • Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg urges the party to show "courage" as he closes the conference in Brighton
  • Clegg described the Liberal Democrats as a "party of government", and called for a "fair, free and open society"
  • Delegates have backed a motion calling on the government to scrap plans to relax planning laws

Live text

Reporting:

  • Ed Lowther 
  • Pippa Simm 
  • Alasdair Rendall 

Last updated 26 September 2012

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Tension is mounting as Lib Dem delegates stride inexorably towards their conference climax: a speech by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, due at 2.30pm. Advance extracts indicate that he will deliver a troop-rallying message to prepare for several more years of austerity and vitriol.

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But Mr Clegg might struggle to deflect attention from yesterday's revelation that Lib Dems would look at curbing all age-related universal benefits - such as winter fuel allowances, free TV licences and bus passes - for pensioners with assets of more than £1m. The front-page headline on the Telegraph write-up reads: "Pensioners must give up benefits, says Clegg".

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It remains to be seen whether he will respond directly to the bloody nose delivered to the party leadership by its rank and file yesterday, when Lib Dem delegates dismissed the arguments in favour of the "secret courts" provisions in the Justice and Security Bill.

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But in the meantime, there are debates on mental health provision and housing for the conference to contend with.

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We're also expecting an "emergency" debate on planning laws at 9.45am and a speech from Employment Relations Minister Jo Swinson at 12.20pm.

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The vote yesterday on secret courts was "humiliating" for Mr Clegg, says the Daily Mail. Having thrown the plans into "disarray", the decision will force senior Lib Dems to see if any further compromises can be extracted from the government, reports the Guardian.

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In the debate on mental health, delegate Alice Thomas from London speaks passionately about the importance of ensuring people with mental health conditions are diagnosed and given the correct treatment as early as possible.

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People still feel ashamed about mental illness, Care Services Minister Norman Lamb regrets. He says mental illness accounts for about half of all ill health in under 65s, an "extraordinary statistic".

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The minister says "tangible" steps are needed to give mental health "parity of esteem". He assures delegates: "So long as I am in this job I will do everything I can to champion this cause. This is central to what we are about as Liberal Democrats. It is a call for action. Let's really pursue it."

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Delegates in conference hall Delegates applaud a speech during the mental health debate