Friday, December 14, 2018

Lib Dems demand MPs' holidays are cancelled to vote on Brexit


Liberal Democrat Brexit Spokesperson Tom Brake has written to the Leader of the House demanding Parliament doesn’t rise for Christmas unless MPs get a vote on Theresa May’s Brexit deal.

The call follows the publication today of the business in the House of Commons for next week. The business confirms the Conservative Government has no intention of moving a vote on the Brexit deal before Christmas. 

Liberal Democrat MP Tom Brake said: 
 
“At a time of so much uncertainty caused by this Brexit mess, it is an insult to the British people that Theresa May is happy for MPs to go on holiday without voting on the biggest issue in generations. People deserve better, and the Liberal Democrats demand better.

"Liberal Democrats do not believe Parliament should rise for the Christmas recess until Theresa May does what the people expect and give MPs a vote on her deal. Now more than ever MPs should be working to help their constituents, not least by giving them a final say on Brexit with the option to remain in the EU.”

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Cable: May running scared of meaningful vote

In Brussels today, Vince Cable met with leaders from other liberal parties across Europe, including prime ministers, where he led a briefing on Brexit.

Updating them on the changing political mood in the UK, the growing support for a people's vote, and the Government's failure to bring forward a meaningful vote in parliament on her deal.

Commenting on the meeting in Brussels, leader of the Liberal Democrats Vince Cable said:

"From meeting with liberal leaders and prime ministers today it is clear Theresa May needs to change course.

"Substantial changes are not going to be on the table and she is running scared of giving parliament a meaningful vote.

"The only way forward is to offer the public a people's vote with the option to remain."

Local government finance hits poorer communities the hardest


Responding to the English Local Government Finance Settlement announced in parliament today, Liberal Democrat Local Government Spokesperson Wera Hobhouse said:

“This settlement does nothing to address the growing inequalities across our country. The highly regressive council tax system means that, as the Conservative Government continue to underfund local government, subsequent council tax rises hit poorer communities the hardest.

“There must be a reform of council tax to prevent the places with the highest demand for services for vulnerable people, struggling the most to fund it.

“Liberal Democrats demand better than the sticking plaster that has been presented today. The Tories are once again kicking the can down the road, instead of setting out a long term financial package that provides security for our local services."

Liberal Democrat Local Government Spokesperson for the House of Lords, Baroness Pinnock added:

“The local government funding settlement that was released today is a drop in the ocean. The offer of £650 million for social care in 2019-20 falls drastically short when the funding gap is expected to reach £3.5 billion by 2025.

“Social care should not be a post code lottery.”

Local Liberal Democrat Frank Little commented:
"This does not bode well for the Welsh consequentials."

Agreement Reached Between new First Minister and Kirsty Williams

The Welsh Liberal Democrats have announced that an agreement has been reached between Education Secretary Kirsty Williams and new First Minister Mark Drakeford.

The agreement affirms both parties’ commitment to the 2016 Progressive Agreement and its shared priorities. Alongside noting the significant progress made since Kirsty Williams became Education Secretary, the agreement also unveils new education policies and reforms that will be implemented over the coming years.

The agreement recognises the distinct identities and policies of each party, while allowing each party to on occasion express different positions on reserved matters.

For more detail, go to http://www.welshlibdems.wales/agreement_reached_between_new_first_minister_and_kirsty_williams.


Wednesday, December 12, 2018

PM must now change course and offer people the final say

Responding to the 1922 Committee's confidence vote on Theresa May, Leader of the Liberal Democrats Vince Cable said:

 “Having seen the Conservative backbenches will not support her deal the Prime Minister must change course.

"Her deal is doomed to defeat in the Commons, so she should show real leadership by putting this question back to the public in a People’s Vote.
 
“The EU is clear that there is no more negotiating to do, so it’s this deal or No Brexit. That is the choice on which every voter should now have a final say – and Liberal Democrats will campaign vigorously for the UK to remain a full member of the EU.”

Lamb: It is shameful that we continue to criminalise cannabis users

 

Responding to the narrow defeat of his Ten Minute Rule Bill that sought to legalise and regulate the use of cannabis in the UK, former Health Minister Norman Lamb said:

“Its depressing that rational, evidence-based reform was opposed by Conservative MPs.

"It is total hypocrisy that the most dangerous drug of all, in terms of harm to yourself and others, alcohol, is consumed in large quantities right here in our national Parliament, whilst we criminalise others for using a less dangerous drug - with many using it for the relief of pain.

"It is shameful that we continue to criminalise people who use cannabis for the relief of pain. It is equally shameful that we criminalise many young people for using cannabis, when many people in Government will have themselves used cannabis at some stage of their lives.”

Tories have a lot to answer for over failure of energy market

Responding to the news that OneSelect have gone bust, the seventh household energy supplier of the year to do so, leaving 36,000 customers without a supplier, Ed Davey, former Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change said:

“This is a deeply worrying trend for consumers. Four energy supplier have gone in just a month. Not only does this create major uncertainty for customers, but also undermines competition in the market. People will not switch if they think their new supplier will go under.
 
“The Tories have a lot to answer for. Rather than trying to shore up competition in the market. they’ve pursued their price cap folly, which clearly has had a negative affect on the small suppliers as the costs rise. Liberal Democrats demand better.
 
“We would scrap the Tories' price cap and instead bring in measures to effectively boost competition, strengthening the rules to ensure smaller suppliers can stand on their own two feet and provide a decent service to customers, while offering cheaper deals.”

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

'Gold-plated’ visa chaos shows Home Office can’t take back control



Responding to today’s U-turn on suspending ‘gold-plated’ visas, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson Ed Davey has attacked the Government’s immigration plans as “simply unworkable”.

Last week, Immigration Minister Caroline Nokes announced that tier 1 (investor) visas would be suspended from midnight last Friday, due to concerns that they were being used for money laundering. However, the Home Office Migration Policy Department confirmed today that the scheme “is not currently suspended”.

Ed Davey said:

“The Home Office can’t even take action on one small part of the immigration system without creating chaos and confusion. How do the Tories expect it to cope with a whole new system for millions of European workers if we leave the EU?

“The truth is that Theresa May’s plans are simply unworkable. That’s why she has refused to publish her immigration white paper for more than a year – because she knows it will expose the hollowness of her promise to ‘take back control’.

“The Liberal Democrats demand better. Now that Theresa May has delayed the meaningful vote on her Brexit deal, there’s no excuse for her not to publish the white paper beforehand, so that MPs can properly scrutinise the proposals.”

Lib Dems demand more action on ‘dangerous’ short prison sentences


 
Responding to the Prisons Minister’s appearance before the Justice Select Committee today, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson Ed Davey has called on the Government to introduce “a presumption against short prison sentences and greater use of community sentences”.

The Prisons Minister, Rory Stewart, told the committee that the “wrong kind of short sentences actually endangers the public” because they increase re-offending and destabilise prisons. He also announced that the Ministry of Justice now has a new GPS tagging system that allows it to monitor offenders in the community.

 Ed Davey said:
 
“It is good to hear Tory Ministers finally admit what the Liberal Democrats have long been arguing: short prison sentences don’t cut crime.
 
“But despite the evidence, the Government is trying to create even more short sentences. Even worse, some of these are mandatory sentences, which will tie judges’ hands and worsen prison overcrowding while failing to actually prevent crime.
 
“The Liberal Democrats demand better. We need a little less talk from Ministers about ending short sentences, and a little more action.
 
“That’s why we are opposing the Government’s new mandatory sentences, and calling for a presumption against short prison sentences and greater use of tough community sentences, which have been shown to be more effective at reducing reoffending.”

Monday, December 10, 2018

ECJ ruling means "no deal" can be ruled out and Brexit can be halted


Responding to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruling the UK can halt Brexit by unilaterally revoking Article 50, Liberal Democrat Brexit spokesperson and one of the MPs who brought the case Tom Brake said:

"Liberal Democrats have fought tooth and nail to give the people the final say on Brexit. We are now closer than ever before. 

"The ECJ has made clear that the UK can stop Brexit unilaterally. The Government can therefore prevent a chaotic no-deal. For the sake of people's livelihoods, the Prime Minister must end the uncertainty and rule out a no-deal.

"It is clear any Brexit will make people poorer and reduce the UK's standing in the world. MPs should not only vote down Theresa May's deal, but back a People's Vote with the option to remain in the EU."

Sunday, December 09, 2018

Brexit would put the brakes on Britain, F1 bosses warn


Following concerns from Formula 1 team bosses, reported by Autosport magazine, Liberal Democrat Brexit Spokesperson Tom Brake has warned that Brexit would “put Britain into the gravel trap”.

Seven of the ten current F1 teams, including world champions Mercedes, are based in the UK.

Jonathan Neale, Chief Operating Officer of the Woking-based McLaren team, told Autosport that after Brexit “It would cost us more time and be more difficult to recruit” and that border restrictions will mean higher costs, as well as “more paperwork, more administration”.

Toto Wolff, team principal of Mercedes, which has its F1 factories in Northamptonshire, described Brexit as “not a very pleasant development”.

Meanwhile, Ferrari boss Maurizio Arrivabene has suggested that his team will gain as EU staff leave the UK. “I suspect in the near future we will find a lot of people that are knocking on the door of Maranello,” he said, referring to the team’s factory in northern Italy.

Liberal Democrat Brexit Spokesperson Tom Brake said:

“Right now Britain is leading the race, but Brexit would put us into the gravel trap.

“Our homegrown F1 teams rely on European talent to build winning cars and rely on our frictionless border to get them to the track. New restrictions will only hold them back.

“Liberal Democrats demand better. We demand that the people get the final say, with the option of an Exit from Brexit.

“It’s time to put the brakes on Brexit and get the UK back on pole position.”

Friday, December 07, 2018

Brexit gambling with UK's safety and security


Responding to the Home Affairs Select Committee Report on the Home Office and Brexit, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson Ed Davey said:

“Security co-operation with the EU – from Europol to the European Arrest Warrant – helps to put criminals behind bars and keep our communities safe. Brexit would throw all that away.

“Theresa May is asking us to bet the safety and security of the British people on her ability to negotiate a brand-new treaty within the next two years. Based on the evidence of the last two years, that’s not a gamble anyone should be prepared to take.

“And on immigration, Ministers keep repeating their mantra of ending free movement, but still refuse to spell out what they will actually do.

“The Liberal Democrats demand better. The Government must publish its immigration white paper now, before MPs vote on the Brexit deal. And the people must have the final say, with the option of an Exit from Brexit.”

Thursday, December 06, 2018

Asylum seekers need action, not a review of rights


 
In the Commons chamber this week, Home Secretary Sajid Javid was asked about lifting the ban on asylum seekers working in the UK. 

He said “We currently have no plans to change that arrangement but it is one of the areas that I would like to review.”

Responding to these comments, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs spokesperson Ed Davey said: 
 
“I’m pleased to hear that the Home Secretary is open to lifting the ban, but asylum seekers don’t need a review. They need action now.
 
“Along with employers, charities and refugees, the Liberal Democrats are demanding better for asylum seekers. We are calling on the Government to give them the right to work while their cases are decided.
 
“This would give asylum seekers a sense of dignity and more money, as well as enabling them to contribute to the Exchequer and saving taxpayers money.”

Tuesday, December 04, 2018

Lib Dems demand urgent action on prisons crisis


Responding to the Chief Inspector of Prisons’ report on the crisis at HMP Birmingham, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson Ed Davey has called for urgent action to reduce overcrowding in prisons and recruit more prison officers.
 
The inspection report, published today found that violence and drug-taking were rife at HMP Birmingham, with many staff working in fear and unable to maintain control.
 
In August, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons issued an “urgent notification” letter alerting the Government to the appalling conditions in the prison. He has also issued urgent notifications this year in respect of three other prisons: Nottingham, Exeter and Bedford.
 
Although the Government has reduced HMP Birmingham’s population since stepping in, the latest official figures show that it was still over-capacity by more than 200 prisoners at the end of October.
 
Figures obtained by the Liberal Democrats under a Freedom of Information request show that, as of 31st March, 182 prisoners at HMP Birmingham were serving short-term sentences of less than 12 months. The President of the Prison Governors Association said last year that such sentences “don’t work and are pointless”, and the Justice Secretary has admitted that they are ineffective at reducing re-offending.
 
Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson Ed Davey said:
 
“Ministers need to get a grip on the crisis in our prisons. The violence and chaos isn’t confined to HMP Birmingham – we keep hearing similar reports from across the country.
 
“Prisons are stuffed full of people on short-term sentences, which cost millions and don’t work to prevent crime. Overwhelmed staff are simply unable to cope, leading to riots, widespread drug use and violence against staff.
 
“The Liberal Democrats demand better. The Government must urgently recruit more prison officers and bring forward legislation to end pointless short-term sentences and reduce overcrowding.
 
“Our goal must be to transform prisons into places of rehabilitation and recovery, to cut re-offending and make our communities safer.”
 

Monday, December 03, 2018

Lib Dem peers defeat Government on civil liberties


 Liberal Democrat peers have defeated the Government on a key vote on the Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill.

Amendment 15, tabled jointly by Liberal Democrat frontbench spokesperson Brian Paddick and two Labour peers, creates exemptions to the new offence of “entering or remaining in a designated area” so that it doesn’t apply to aid workers, journalists, people visiting ill relatives or those attending funerals.

The amendment passed by 220 votes to 191.

Liberal Democrat peers also voted for another amendment, tabled jointly by Lord Paddick and Baroness Jones, to limit the Bill’s impact on freedom of speech. However, Labour abstained and Tory peers voted against the amendment, so it failed by 93 votes to 198.

Liberal Democrat MPs had previously voted against the Bill in the House of Commons, joined only by Caroline Lucas, but Labour voted with the Tories to pass it 376–10.

Brian Paddick, Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson for Home Affairs, said:

“Through our opposition to these unnecessary, illiberal new laws, we have secured important changes that will reduce the risk of innocent people being wrongly convicted.

“However, we are still fundamentally opposed to much of the Bill, most of which is based on the discredited ‘conveyor belt’ theory: that simply expressing extreme views inevitably leads to radicalisation and terrorist violence.

“Completely innocent people could be arrested and detained simply for expressing an opinion or for undertaking legitimate research.

“It would also allow people to be detained at ports, airports and the border area between Northern Ireland and the Republic, have the contents of their phones and computers gone through, even if they had no intention of committing any offence.

“We must do all we can to protect our country, but not at the cost of losing our own liberty.”

Government must publish Brexit legal advice


Responding to the announcement that the Speaker of the House has granted a debate on the cross-party contempt motion over the Government's refusal to fully publish the Brexit legal advice, cosignatory Liberal Democrat Brexit Spokesperson, Tom Brake said:

"Parliament is finally taking back control from this chaotic government.

"The Attorney General put on a good show, but the House did not want TV drama. MPs expect the publication of the full legal Brexit advice before the debates on the withdrawal deal begin.

"The government must not be allowed to use this chaotic situation to take focus away from the mess they are making of Brexit."

Saturday, December 01, 2018

Lib Dem victory on tackling 'Sex for Rent'


After pressure from Liberal Democrat MP, Wera Hobhouse, the Crown Prosecution Service have confirmed they will be conducting a review to update their guidelines on 'sex for rent'.

After speaking in the Westminster Hall Debate on the issue, Wera Hobhouse said:

"It is great to see progress is being made on such an important issue. This crime is vile and illegal, and the Government must do everything it can to stop perpetrators taking advantage of vulnerable individuals affected by the housing crisis.

“It is crucial we ensure police have the tools and guidance to tackle 'sex for rent'. I hope to see the update ensure that the CPS guidelines are robust and fit for the modern era.

“Today marks a big win for vulnerable people up and down the country, and I'm glad the Government have listened. However, I urge Ministers and MPs from across the house to keep working with me on this issue, to ensure we eradicate this crime for good."

Note: There is a fuller description of her campaign by Wera Hobhouse on Liberal Democrat Voice

PM leaving us in the dark on immigration


Theresa May has refused to confirm when the immigration White Paper will be published. She was asked by Liberal Democrat MP Norman Lamb after Ministers originally promised to publish the White Paper last year, but that deadline has been repeatedly postponed.

Responding to the Prime Minister’s failure to answer his question, Norman Lamb said:

“It is unacceptable that Theresa May is still refusing to answer this question. She has spent years talking of ending free movement, but today has once again refused to tell us when we will find out what this means.

“The continual delays arising from cabinet splits are clearly because they know her proposals are dangerous for our public services and for business. There is already a shortage of workers in the NHS and social care and her proposals would only exacerbate them.

This failure to produce the White Paper is leaving everyone in the dark. It is vital the Conservative Government either publishes the paper or comes clean and admits their plans are simply unworkable.”

Government has let down victims over second Leveson Inquiry


Responding to the announcement that the second Leveson Inquiry will not go ahead after victims lost a High Court fight against the Government, Liberal Democrat MP Christine Jardine said:

"The Conservative Government has let down those families who had their privacy invaded and their lives turned upside down by some of the press who behaved appallingly.

"A commitment was made during the coalition that the Leveson Inquiry would be completed and that justice would be sought.

"It’s not acceptable that this issue has been kicked into the long grass for so long, in an attempt to get us to forget it. But for the families that were affected by this intrusion, it will never be forgotten. They deserve better and the Liberal Democrats demand better for them."

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Government failure to publish immigration plans an affront to parliamentary democracy


Responding to the Home Secretary’s admission yesterday that the Government’s plans for post-Brexit immigration might not be published before the meaningful vote on the Brexit deal, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson Ed Davey described the continued delay as “completely unacceptable”.
 
Appearing before the Home Affairs Select Committee, Sajid Javid admitted that he couldn’t say that the long-awaited immigration white paper would be published before MPs vote on Theresa May’s deal on 11th December.
 
Ministers originally promised to publish the white paper last year, but that deadline has been repeatedly postponed. Ed Davey has written to both the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary demanding that they publish the white paper without any further delay.
 
Liberal Democrat MP Ed Davey said:
 
“When it comes to publishing their immigration plans, the Tories seem to be taking the phrase ‘white paper’ far too literally. After years spent talking about ending free movement, they still can’t give us any details of what that really means. This continued delay is completely unacceptable.
 
“From the reports of Cabinet splits, it seems Theresa May’s own Ministers understand that her obsession with the arbitrary net migration target is disastrous for our economy and our public services. Her proposals would create a huge amount of bureaucracy for British businesses and make the shortage of workers in the NHS and social care a lot worse.
 
“The Liberal Democrats demand better. Theresa May must either publish her immigration proposals now, or admit the truth: that they are simply unworkable.”
 

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Ed Davey challenges May on human rights

Following the publication of the political declaration on the UK’s future relationship with the EU, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs spokesperson Ed Davey has written to the Prime Minister, urging her to commit to retaining the European Convention on Human Rights in UK law.

In the letter, Davey raises concerns over new language in paragraph 7 of the political declaration, which states that “The future relationship should incorporate the United Kingdom's continued commitment to respect the framework of the European Convention on Human Rights”. He argues that this is not sufficient, and asks the Prime Minister to clarify whether this could mean the UK leaving the ECHR.

Ed Davey commented:

“If Theresa May is once again threatening to withdraw the UK from the European Convention on Human Rights, she must come clean with Parliament and the people.

“She has no mandate to allow people’s individual freedoms to be curbed, yet her political declaration appears to suggest she might withdraw us from the ECHR after Brexit, even though it is totally separate from the EU.

“The Liberal Democrats demand better. We will continue to lead the fight against attempts to withdraw the UK from the ECHR, and to fight to give the people the final say on Theresa May’s deal, with the option of an Exit from Brexit.”

The full text of Ed Davey’s letter to the Prime Minister:

Dear Theresa,

The outline of the political declaration setting out the framework for the future relationship between the European Union and the United Kingdom published by the Government last week (on 14th November) included as one of the initial provisions:
“Reaffirmation of the United Kingdom's commitment to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR)”.

However, the draft political declaration published today (22nd November) merely states that:
“The future relationship should incorporate the United Kingdom's continued commitment to respect the framework of the European Convention on Human Rights”.

This is deeply concerning. The Liberal Democrats believe that the ECHR’s guarantee of individual freedoms is essential for keeping our society free and democratic. The UK must remain a party to the ECHR, and we do not believe that a commitment merely to “respect its framework” is sufficient.

Can you please explain the reasons for this change of wording and explain what effect it would have. Specifically, do you believe it would be possible to “respect the framework” of the ECHR without remaining a party to it under the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights

Can you also please clarify what the Government’s policy is on the ECHR. Will you commit to the UK remaining a party to it in the future, even if we leave the EU?

Yours sincerely,

Ed