Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Home Office accused of deliberately lying to deport slavery victims


Responding to reports that the Home Office lied in order to deport victims of human trafficking and modern slavery to other EU countries, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson Ed Davey said:

“These allegations are so shocking that they’d be unbelievable if they were about anyone other than the Home Office.
“The idea that officials have been deliberately lying in order to unlawfully deport victims of trafficking and modern slavery is sickening. There must be a full and independent investigation of these allegations immediately, and any victims must be returned to the UK.
“This is yet more evidence that the Home Office is not fit for purpose. The Liberal Democrats will strip it of its powers over immigration and asylum and set up a new, arms-length body to process applications fairly and lawfully.”

Monday, July 15, 2019

US trade deal delay more evidence of Brexit false promises

Responding to the reports that Liam Fox has admitted that a post-Brexit trade arrangement with the US may take longer to agree than previously hoped, Liberal Democrat Brexit spokesperson Tom Brake said:

"Fox’s comments underline the scale of the inaccuracies spouted by the Leave campaign. Boris Johnson and the Tories had promised us that the UK would have a host of trade deals in place by Brexit day. We won’t.

"This should also serve as a reminder that the EU will always be the natural and easiest trading partner for the UK – as shown by the bureaucratic difficulties linked to settling individual agreements with each US state. The Leave campaign claimed leaving the EU would make trade easier, but now it emerges that this was also untrue.

"The Liberal Democrats believe that prioritising trade with the EU, rather than a US led by an erratic US President determined to lower our standards, is the only way to safeguard our economy and jobs going forward."

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Chancellor’s warning demands No Deal U-turn

Responding to Chancellor Philip Hammond's warning that "many of the levers" that would affect a no-deal Brexit are not in the UK's hands, Liberal Democrat Brexit spokesperson Tom Brake MP said:

“Even this Conservative Chancellor accepts a no deal, which no one voted for, would see the UK lose control over our future.

"This warning makes a mockery of the promises of the Leave campaign. It simply isn't acceptable that the Tory leadership candidates are willing to see the UK crash out of the EU to ingratiate themselves with their hard right.

"People deserve better, and the Liberal Democrats demand better. We must give the people the final say, in a people’s vote, with the option to stay in the EU. Anything else risks disaster for our future.”

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Prisons inspector reveals Tory neglect

Responding to this year's Chief Inspector of Prisons' annual report, Liberal Democrat Justice Spokesperson Wera Hobhouse said:

“This report is utterly damning of the Conservatives’ neglect of our prisons.

“With prisons so badly overcrowded and in such an appalling state, prisoners are not being properly rehabilitated. That means more reoffending and more people becoming victims of crime.

“Too many people are in prison who shouldn’t be there. We know that short prison sentences don’t work, especially for women.

“The Liberal Democrats demand better. The Government must end overcrowding in prisons by making greater use of alternatives such as community sentences, women’s centres and restorative justice.

“Our goal must be to transform prisons into places of rehabilitation and recovery, with properly-funded education, training and treatment for prisoners to build a life free from crime.”

More female and minority judges need to be appointed

The Liberal Democrats have called for clear “targets with teeth” for improving judicial diversity, as new figures show that just 7% of court judges are BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic) and 32% are women.

The statistics, published (pdf here) by the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales and the Senior President of Tribunals, show that:
  • Of the 39 Court of Appeal judges, only 9 (23%) are women and just 2 (6%) are BAME.
  • Of the 97 High Court judges, only 26 (27%) are women and just 3 (3%) are BAME.
  • Of all 3,210 court judges, only 1,013 (32%) are women and just 205 (7%) are BAME.

Responding to the figures, Liberal Democrat Justice Spokesperson Wera Hobhouse said:

“Whether it’s the disproportionate number of black people in prison or the lack of convictions for sexual assault, there are far too many examples of the justice system not working fairly for BAME people or women.

“One reason for this is that judges are overwhelmingly white men – especially in the higher courts. Progress on improving judicial diversity has been far too slow.

“The Liberal Democrats demand better. It’s about time we set clear targets for appointing female and BAME judges and give those targets real teeth, with named individuals required to make regular progress reports to Parliament.”

Friday, July 12, 2019

Pro-Trump PM could damage relations with Iran

Commenting on the escalating situation in the Gulf, Liberal Democrat Defence Spokesperson Jamie Stone MP said:

“We must not allow the next Prime Minister to blindly follow Trump into a volatile anti-Iranian coalition.
“It has become increasingly clear that Boris Johnson’s plans for a 'global Britain' are just for the UK to be the lapdog of the US.
“The EU have been principled and clear in standing firm on the Iranian nuclear deal, which Trump so petulantly tore up. Liberal Democrats will continue to urge the Conservative government, regardless of who the next PM is, to work with our EU partners and ensure that British foreign policy continues to promote our shared values.”

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Follow Kirsty's example, say Lib Dems in Westminster

Welcoming the decision by the Welsh government to make school uniforms accessible and gender neutral, Liberal Democrat Education Spokesperson Layla Moran MP said:
“It is great news that children in Wales will be able to wear affordable, gender neutral school uniforms. I am proud of the role my colleague Liberal Democrat Welsh Education Minister Kirsty Williams has played in securing this progressive change.   
“The Conservative government must now take this step into the twenty-first century. Dictating what children wear because of their gender is outdated and harmful.
“It is time to support all children to wear what they are happy, confident and comfortable in. The Conservatives must act to roll out gender neutral school uniforms and help facilitate a culture of acceptance in all our schools.”

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Liberalism has faced down bigger challenges than Putin

Following comments made by Vladimir Putin, in which the Russian President called liberalism 'obsolete', Liberal Democrat Foreign Affairs spokesperson Jo Swinson said: 

“Liberalism has faced down bigger challenges than Vladimir Putin, Boris Johnson or Viktor Orban.

“It’s survived and thrived on our continent for more than two centuries and through two World Wars. It’s not about to lay down to let nationalists and populists take over. 

“People across Europe and around the world are crying out for more open, inclusive and liberal societies, and in the UK the Liberal Democrats are at the heart of that growing liberal movement."

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Lib Dems launch plan to tackle knife crime crisis

In connection with today's debate in Parliament, Brian Paddick, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs spokesperson in the Lords, has launched a five-point plan to tackle the knife crime epidemic.

His public health approach which he has called on the Conservative Government to enact is outlined below:
  1. Enabling parents to be there for their children by tackling in-work poverty & providing the support parents and their children need.
  2. Safe and healthy alternatives to gangs: providing a positive safety net for those whose parents can’t provide the support their children need.
  3. Healing the damage caused by Adverse Childhood Experiences by addressing the psychological impact with intervention at ‘teachable moments’ and countering the normalisation of violence through compulsory sex and relationship education.
  4. Inclusive education: fewer excluded pupils, adaptable education that addresses every pupil’s needs, including teaching the realities of criminal gangs.
  5. United against knife crime: restoring community policing so police and communities can work on the same side against the knife carriers.

Following the launch of the plan, Brian Paddick said:
"Knife crime claims a new life almost every day but the Conservatives are not taking the crisis seriously. We have witnessed devastating cuts to our police force as well as a piecemeal approach which fails to make any impact.

"Knife crime is a public health emergency and therefore demands a public health response. Government departments should be working together to enact the changes we need to get a grip of this rise in violent crime.

"The knife crime epidemic needs a cohesive and joined-up approach which is what the Liberal Democrats have put forward. Not only must we address the decimation of community policing, but we must tackle other factors driving knife crime such as in work poverty and school exclusions.

"So I call on the Government to enact our plan. By doing so, we can move towards a society where young people are safe on our streets."

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Giving revenge porn victims anonymity is long overdue

Responding to reports that the Government is considering granting anonymity to victims of revenge porn in prosecutions as part of a review of image-based sexual abuse laws, Liberal Democrat Justice Spokesperson Wera Hobhouse said: 

“Revenge porn is a despicable form of abuse. Guaranteeing anonymity for victims is a change that is long overdue.

“The Liberal Democrats led the fight to outlaw revenge porn in 2015, but prosecutions are still far too low.

“That’s why the Liberal Democrats tabled legislation to extend anonymity to victims back in 2016, but the Conservatives and Labour blocked our attempts.

“The Government must bring forward this change without further delay, so that abusers can be brought to justice.”

Hannah Thompson, the Welsh Liberal Democrat who was one of the first women to raise the issue, said:
"Revenge porn is a disturbing and humiliating crime, and one that puts its victims under a great deal of stress. I'm pleased that the Law Commission are examining existing laws to ensure they're up to scratch, and I'm hopeful that automatic anonymity will be granted, easing some of the burden on victims coming forward. However, it is disappointing to see that they will not report back their findings until 2021. Given the pace of technological change, and the number of people affected by this crime - it's highly important that individuals are protected, and supported, as they seek justice."

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Liberal Democrats score victory for access to justice

The House of Lords yesterday passed a Liberal Democrat amendment to the Courts and Tribunals (Online Procedure) Bill that will protect access to justice for people at risk of being digitally excluded.

The Government Bill brings a number of court procedures online. Liberal Democrat peers, led by Justice Spokesperson Jonathan Marks, have raised concerns that moving certain proceedings online may put those who struggle to easily access digital systems at risk of being excluded from access to justice.
Lord Marks therefore tabled an amendment to the Bill to put a statutory duty on the Government to make support available for digitally excluded people. This support includes assisting them to initiate, conduct, progress or participate in the proceedings by electronic means.
Government Ministers accepted the amendment today, and it was passed by the House of Lords without a vote.
Liberal Democrat Justice Spokesperson Jonathan Marks said:
“We welcome the move from the Government to start the much-needed process of modernising the courts. We were however concerned that sufficient support was not in place to ensure full access to the new system.
“Navigating the courts is difficult enough for many as it is, and moving the system online could present problems, particularly for some older people, for those without computers or digital ability, for those who have no access to workable broadband, or those whose first language is not English.
“The decision to accept the Liberal Democrat amendment is the right one, and I’m pleased we were able to persuade the Government that modernisation must not leave the digitally excluded behind.”

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Swinson: 'Monumental' Court decision deems UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia unlawful

Congratulating the CAAT on their successful case against the Conservative government’s arms sales to Saudi Arabia, Liberal Democrat Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Jo Swinson said:

“Saudi Arabia is an enemy of British values, including human rights and the rule of law. Their repeated violation and disregard for human rights should have ruled them out as an arms trading partner long ago.

“Instead the Conservative government have continued to export arms and equipment to this brutal regime. The situation is inexcusable and cannot continue. 
“This court ruling is monumental. 
"It is now clear for all to see: the UK arms sales to the Saudi regime are unlawful. The Liberal Democrats are clear that the only acceptable course of action by the Tory Government is to suspend them immediately, rather than continuing to allow arm sales to a country which is targeting innocent civilians."

Government must back Bill to clean up our air

Today, on Clean Air Day, the Liberal Democrats have secured a victory with the Government confirming they are looking at implementing Wera Hobhouse’s bill, which would strengthen local authority powers on idling. 

The bill would allow local authorities to increase the fines for stationary vehicle idling offences, as well as increasing fines for those who repeatedly offend.
The Environment Minister, Thérèse Coffey, was asked if the Government would consider implementing the Vehicle Emissions (Idling Penalties) Bill that was presented to the Parliament last week.
Liberal Democrat Climate Change spokesperson Wera Hobhouse said:

"For far too long this Conservative Government has failed to take air pollution seriously. They have lost numerous court cases over their inability to tackle the toxic fumes that Britain breathes every day. I am delighted that the Government have woken up to the crisis and are looking at my proposal.

"This is a major emergency, with emissions from vehicles responsible for a myriad of health problems, many terminal. Research shows that 800,000 people die every year across Europe due to air pollution.

"The legislation that I have tabled is a crucial step in tackling our air pollution crisis. It will allow local authorities to clamp down on idling without the need to apply to the Government first, and it will enable them to increase fines on repeat offenders.
“I’ve done the first step for them, all the Conservative Government needs to do is back my bill and we can put an end to idling as soon as possible. It is time the Tories did much more to tackle both the climate emergency and the air pollution crisis."

Underfunding HMRC is a 'false economy'

Figures released today (20th June) show that HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) are losing tens of billions in lost tax revenue.

During 2016/17, HMRC estimated that the shortfall was approximately £33 billion. 

Commenting on these figures, which are equivalent to the entire budget for Housing and the Environment, Liberal Democrat Business and Treasury spokesperson Chuka Umunna said:  

“For every extra pound the Government invests in HMRC, tax collection, clamping down on tax avoidance and evasion, it gets many more pounds in return but HMRC is simply not being given the resources it needs by Ministers to do the job.

"Continuing to underfund HMRC is a false economy.”

Vagrancy report shows why we need to scrap the Act

Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran yesterday urged the Government to repeal the Vagrancy Act at the launch of Crisis’ report into the case for repealing.

The MP for Oxford West and Abingdon had held a debate in the House of Commons in January on her campaign to repeal the Vagrancy Act, which criminalises rough sleeping in England and Wales. Ms Moran also introduced a Bill to repeal it in February 2018.

The report says that the Act “does not tackle the problems people have, and there is evidence that it can also push people further from the help they need.”

Speaking ahead of the launch, Layla Moran MP said:

“I absolutely welcome the publication of this report. You can’t ignore the evidence and it is clear that the Government needs to repeal the Dickensian Vagrancy Act. It is making many people’s situation even worse.

“Now is the time to act. I will not stop campaigning until we have scrapped this cruel law and we take a more compassionate approach to the homelessness crisis we are facing in this country.

“Almost 600 homeless people died on our streets in 2017 alone. We need to end this ‘out of sight, out of mind’ attitude that the Act promotes and get on with fixing the problem.”

Friday, June 14, 2019

Chuka Umunna joins the Liberal Democrats

The Liberal Democrats are delighted to announce that Streatham MP Chuka Umunna has joined the party.

Chuka joins the Liberal Democrats, having held the seat since 2010. The Liberal Democrats recently topped the poll in London during the European elections and are extremely excited to gain this seat.

Commenting on his decision, Liberal Democrat MP Chuka Umunna said:

“I have chosen to join the Liberal Democrats because it is at the forefront of a renewed, progressive and internationalist movement in British politics that shares my values.  

“Labour and the Tories are committed to facilitating Brexit, and Brexit makes ending austerity virtually impossible.  The Liberal Democrats are not – they were arguing for a People’s Vote and to remain in the EU from the very start.

“I am convinced the Liberal Democrats, as the spearhead of a broader progressive movement in civil society, offer the best chance to improve the lives of those I represent as well as countless other citizens across our country.”

In addition, Leader of the Liberal Democrats Vince Cable said: 

“Chuka and I have worked together effectively for many months, campaigning for a People’s Vote and to Stop Brexit.
“I know that he will be a great asset to our party not just on Brexit, but in fighting for the liberal and social democratic values that we share.
“He joins alongside 20,000 people across the country just this month, demonstrating clearly that the Liberal Democrats are the biggest, clearest and most formidable force in the liberal centre-ground of British politics today.”

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Leaked memo confirms no-deal Brexit medicine fears

Responding to a leaked Cabinet note revealing the UK will not be ready for a no-deal Brexit by October 31st because is will take “six to eight months” to build up supplies of medicines, Liberal Democrat MP Christine Jardine said: 

“This Government document will be extremely concerning to people who rely on medicines like insulin to stay alive.

“It is unacceptable that senior Tory figures running to be leader are suggesting that we could leave on the 31 October when documents are showing the exact opposite. 

“The candidates for Tory leadership must be honest. No deal is not a reality, it has never been a reality. 

“The only options are a people’s vote with an option to remain or Theresa May’s universally disliked deal. Only by stopping Brexit can we ensure a safe supply of medicines.” 

Farron calls for new deal to fix broken social care system

Liberal Democrat MP Tim Farron used yesterday’s Prime Minister’s Questions session to call for the establishment of a new cross-party group to bring forward a new deal to fix Britain’s social care system.
Speaking on the floor of the House of Commons, Tim said: “This log-jammed and under-worked Parliament could become one of the best if we chose to work across party to fix our broken social care system. 
“Through free votes, good will and hard work, we could design and then enact a new deal for social care that could give millions hope for the future. 
“As one of her final acts as Prime Minister, will she commit to meet me and establish a cross party group so that we can bring this social care new deal to fruition?”
In response, Theresa May said that it was important that Britain’s social care system has a sustainable future and that she hopes that the Government will bring forward a social care green paper to Parliament soon which MPs of all parties would be able to contribute towards.
Speaking afterwards, Tim Farron said

“My suggestion is that we use the Local Government Association’s green paper on social care which has already been put together by councillors from parties of all colours as a good place to start.
“What I want is for MPs to work together for a couple of months to design and bring forward a bill so this Parliament, which at the moment is so rightly derided, might actually do one of the best things that’s ever been done by any Parliament.”

We must ensure next PM cannot shutdown Parliament

Yesterday the government stopped MPs from taking control of Parliamentary business on 25th June as part of the attempt to block a no-deal Brexit.

Following the vote, Liberal Democrat Brexit Spokesperson Tom Brake MP said:

“Crashing out of the EU without a deal would be catastrophic for our NHS, jobs, and the environment. That is undeniable and it is reckless and underhand to suggest otherwise.
“Liberal Democrats will continue to do everything in our power to take no-deal off the table. Whoever the next Prime Minister is, we cannot allow them to damage our country as they attempt to shut down Parliament and ride roughshod over our democracy.”

Failed Tory policies lead to nine-year knife crime high

Responding to the Ministry of Justice’s latest knife and offensive weapon sentencing statistics, published today, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson Ed Davey said:
“The UK is facing an epidemic of knife crime, but the Conservative's cack-handed response is to repeat policies that have completely failed in the past.
“Branding young people as criminals – whether by locking them up on destructive short prison sentences or giving them one of Sajid Javid’s gimmicky new knife ASBOs – traps them in a cycle of crime, creating more victims and making our streets less safe.
“To make matters worse, we now have Boris Johnson running for Prime Minister boasting about the supposed success of his Stop & Search policies in London – even though his own Government’s analysis shows they didn’t cut knife crime and were a total waste of police time.
“The Liberal Democrats demand better. We demand a public health approach that understands why young people carry knives in the first place and addresses those causes. That means more community policing to make people feel safer and more youth services to provide a positive alternative to gangs.”

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

May's hostile environment undermines fight against modern slavery


Responding to the Prime Minister's speech on modern slavery at the International Labour Organization, Leader of the Liberal Democrats, Vince Cable said:

“Critical to tackling modern slavery is scrapping the hostile environment policies the Prime Minister has pursued, which make it far too hard for victims to come forward.

“A central register of businesses’ modern slavery statements is a welcome but too-limited development. The Government must require those statements to include actual measures to deal with slavery – something the law currently doesn’t do.

“And until enforcement agencies are given the resources they need to conduct proactive inspections, far too many people will continue to be exploited.”