Wednesday, December 02, 2020

Davey: Child Trust Fund reforms do not go far enough


Responding to the Government's announcement that Child Trust Fund court fees will be waived for parents, Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey said:

“Thousands of young disabled people are finding themselves locked out of their own Child Trust Funds when they turn 18. It’s good that the Government has finally recognised this problem, but waiving the court fee falls far, far short of an acceptable solution.
 
“It will do nothing to alleviate the stress, hassle and bureaucracy involved in the current process. Ministers are displaying an appalling lack of understanding or empathy for the enormous challenges the carers face every day.
 
“The Government must urgently implement a proper solution to this problem, that allows carers to access Child Trust Funds on behalf of disabled young people who lack the mental capacity to manage their own money, without having to go to court.”
 


Debenhams collapse means more jobs wiped away on Rishi's watch

 

Responding to the news that Debenhams stores are set to close affecting up to 12,000 jobs, Liberal Democrat Treasury Spokesperson Christine Jardine said:

"The news that Debenhams will be closing its stores is yet another blow to the UK economy. With the Arcadia Group entering administration last night, thousands more jobs have been potentially wiped away on Rishi Sunak's watch.
 
"During the pandemic when so many are already struggling to get by, unemployment will have a devastating impact. This Government's failure to get a grip on the virus has seen tens of thousands of livelihoods lost, and these extra job losses means thousands more families across the UK wondering how they're going to get by.
 
“Our high streets now need urgent government action to safeguard their future. A first step must be for Ministers to overhaul the business rates system, otherwise we will see yet more livelihoods lost in our retail sector."

Sunday, November 29, 2020

Aid cut makes a mockery of ‘Global Britain’ promise

 


Responding to the Chancellor's announcement that the foreign aid budget will be cut, Liberal Democrat Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Layla Moran said:

“Today the promise of ‘Global Britain’ became hollow. Shirking away from our global responsibilities by cutting development spending during a worldwide pandemic is short-sighted and wrong.

“The Liberal Democrats enshrined the 0.7% in law precisely so it was flexible with the economic reality. By changing the law the Government is breaking its promise to the British people and to the world’s poorest.

“The Liberal Democrats will always stand up for the life-changing power of UK aid, and I will work cross-party to oppose this callous move.”


Chancellor has made some unforgivable political choices

 


Responding to the Chancellor's Spending Review, the Leader of the Liberal Democrats Ed Davey said:

"With the economic uncertainty caused by the pandemic, the Chancellor needed to ensure today that no one is left behind. That was the litmus test, and he has failed.

"Far from a radically new approach to the recovery that tackles deep-seated inequality and builds a new green economy, we have a Government that is failing to support carers, children living in poverty and everyone in need of mental health services.”

“The Chancellor has also made some unforgivable political choices today. He has chosen to continue to ignore people excluded from support and chosen to reject calls to properly extend furlough, leaving too many people facing unemployment. People deserve better.”

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Lib Dems urge PM to secure Adjustment Period with EU to give businesses breathing space


The Liberal Democrats are  calling on PM to negotiate an “Adjustment Period” as part of the deal with the EU, to ensure British businesses have enough time to prepare for the new trading relationship with Europe.

In a letter to the Prime Minister, the Liberal Democrats warn of a potentially "existential" threat to businesses if they are not given time to adjust and argue that - by phasing-in new rules, regulations and procedures - businesses would have the "breathing space" they need to prepare and adapt.

Leader of the Liberal Democrats Ed Davey said: 

"Businesses cannot afford to be hit with the double whammy of Covid and disrupted trade with Europe, our biggest trading partner. With job losses already mounting, the danger is unemployment will rise still further in the new year, unless urgent action is taken.

"Despite months of negotiations, businesses are still in the dark about the details of their future trading relationship with Europe. With just weeks to go and our economy on its knees, this is inexcusable.

"The Prime Minister must urgently recognise what's in the best interests of British businesses, and secure a time-bound adjustment period to allow firms to adapt to new trade arrangements and save jobs.”

PM's refusal to sack Home Secretary shows one rule for them and another for everyone else

 

 
Responding to the resignation of the Government's independent adviser on standards following the Prime Minister's refusal to sack Priti Patel, despite it being found she has breached the Ministerial Code, Leader of the Liberal Democrats Ed Davey said:
 
“Priti Patel has broken the Ministerial Code. Boris Johnson should have sacked her.
 
“The fact that the independent adviser on ministerial standards has felt the need to resign means that no one can have confidence in Boris Johnson’s handling of these bullying allegations.
 
“Bullying is a destructive force with devastating consequences. We must not tolerate it anywhere in our society – and certainly not at the highest levels of Government.
 
“The job of the Prime Minister is to set an example, but once again Boris Johnson has failed. He seems to believe there is one rule for him and his allies and another rule for everyone else. That is unacceptable.”
 

Friday, November 20, 2020

Report suggesting contract favours for those with "direct line to Ministers" demands inquiry

 
The Liberal Democrats have demanded a timetable for an inquiry into the Government's handling of the pandemic following the publication of an NAO report which revealed that Ministers agreed £18bn worth of supplies and services which bypassed usual standards for procurement.
 
Liberal Democrat Health Spokesperson Munira Wilson said:
 
"It is utterly galling the Government has sidestepped accountability and transparency rules. In no world is it fair that bids with a direct line to Ministers were ten times more successful.
 
"The Tories have left themselves wide open to serious and legitimate allegations that they have chosen to line the pockets of friends and donors. 
 
"The British people deserve clear, honest answers. Now more than ever we need a timetable for the inquiry into the government's handling of the pandemic.”
 

 

Cabinet Office investigation into Home Secretary must be published in full

 

 
The Liberal Democrats have written to the Prime Minister calling for the Cabinet Office’s investigation into the conduct of the Home Secretary to be published "in full and without further delay", as reports suggest that it has concluded she broke the ministerial code. 
 
Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson Alistair Carmichael MP said: 
 
"The allegations against the Home Secretary are extremely serious. Bullying is a destructive force with devastating consequences. We must not tolerate it anywhere in our society – and certainly not at the highest levels of Government.
 
"The findings of the Cabinet Office investigation must be published in full as soon as possible, without political interference.
 
"The public must have confidence that this issue is dealt with properly. There must be no stench of the Prime Minister trying to brush it under the carpet or cover up for his political ally.

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Johnson plan for Green Industrial Revolution won't undo the damage of last five years

Responding to the Government's "Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution", Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey said:

"This plan fails to undo the damage the Conservatives have done to the UK's progress on climate change over the past five years. It pledges to continue selling fossil fuel powered hybrid cars past 2030 and promises to extend the Green Homes Grant by just one year.

"We need a long term plan, backed by meaningful funding, to tackle the climate climate emergency and kickstart a green recovery from Covid-19, alongside a new Department of Climate Change to coordinate this plan and a significant devolution of powers across the UK, not more piecemeal pledges. 
 
"Liberal Democrats are calling for £150 billion in funding for a Green Economic Recovery, with investment across every sector of the UK economy to fuel sustainable growth."

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Tories' reckless brinkmanship on UK-EU trade risks livelihoods

 



Responding to George Eustice's comments on Sophy Ridge on Sunday, suggesting that next week is “a week when things need to move” for the UK and EU to agree to a trade deal, Liberal Democrat Brexit and Trade spokesperson Christine Jardine said:
 
"Up and down the country people are watching and waiting for the Conservatives to deliver the UK-EU trade deal that they have promised, and that we desperately need. The urgency of this situation could not be clearer.  
 
"Yet, with just weeks until the end of the transition period, the Tories' reckless brinkmanship continues to put people's livelihoods and vital supply chains at risk. Our economy is already in crisis due to Covid-19. We need absolute reassurance that Ministers will not take our economy over a new cliff edge.  
 
"Liberal Democrats are calling on Ministers to put the national interest first and secure the closest possible trading relationship with Europe - our largest trading partner. The Prime Minister must also restore our international reputation by permanently removing those parts of the Internal Market Bill which break international law."
 

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Economic recovery requires comprehensive strategy not last minute Johnson ripping wheeze

Responding to the latest figures showing that UK GDP grew by 15.5% in Quarter 3 (July to Sept) 2020, but that GDP is still 9.7% below where it was at the end of 2019, Liberal Democrat Treasury Spokesperson Christine Jardine said: 
 
"The growth in the last quarter is testament to the hard work of people in all sectors after the first lockdown. But our economy still has a mountain to climb and hasn't been helped by the Government's mistakes in the first wave of coronavirus.
                                                                                                                            
“With a new lockdown in place in England and strict restrictions in other parts of the UK, people are increasingly worried about their jobs and livelihoods. The support the Government has given to date has simply not been adequate. 
 
"To ensure recovery we need a comprehensive economic strategy from the Conservatives – not yet more plans made up at the last minute. This includes supporting the three million people who are still excluded from support as well as extending the furlough scheme at least until June 2021.”

Monday, November 02, 2020

Four nations meeting a welcome "first step"

Responding to news that the four Governments of the UK have met to develop a UK-wide approach to restrictions for the festive period, Leader of the Liberal Democrats Ed Davey said:


"People across our family of nations will be reassured to hear that efforts are at last underway to ensure everyone is subject to the same guidance as they plan for the festive period, as first called for by the Liberal Democrats. 

"But today's meeting can only be a first step. We need to see results, not just platitudes. That means comprehensive, uniform guidance for family gatherings across the UK, as well as a common approach to transport, student return and asymptomatic testing. This must happen urgently.

"If we are to both keep people safe and ensure families have any chance of spending holidays such as Diwali, Hanukkah and Christmas together, then Ministers across these isles must now get a grip on the failing test, trace and isolate trace system."

Friday, October 23, 2020

Lib Dems push for expansion of Hong Kong citizenship offer

 

A Liberal Democrat Bill to grant all Hong Kong Citizens a pathway to UK citizenship and “strengthen the UK’s historic bond with the people of Hong Kong” is scheduled to have its Second Reading debate in the House of Commons today. 

The Bill, tabled by Liberal Democrat MP Alistair Carmichael, Chair of the APPG on Hong Kong and Patron of Hong Kong Watch, would create a route to UK citizenship for all Hong Kongers.

By expanding British National Overseas (BNO) status to all Hong Kongers, the Bill goes well beyond the Conservative Government’s current citizenship commitments, which extend only to specific groups currently eligible to claim BNO status. 

The Liberal Democrats have condemned the Home Office’s “deceptive” claim that the cost of a five-year visa for Hong Kongers will be just £250, as the true figure will be well over £3000 once the Immigration Health Surcharge is taken into account. 

Ahead of the Bill’s scheduled calling, Alistair Carmichael, Liberal Democrat MP, Chair of the APPG on Hong Kong and Patron of Hong Kong Watch said: 

“Many Hong Kongers have suffered grave persecution at the hands of the Chinese Regime. We have a moral duty to act. 

“By providing a clear route to citizenship for all Hong Kongers, my Bill will strengthen the UK’s historic bond with the people of Hong Kong and show our continued commitment to the Joint Declaration, something that the Chinese regime has utterly betrayed.  

“We also need to make sure that the citizenship offer is affordable. The Home Office’s claim that it will only cost £250 is deceptive given the upfront costs of the Immigration Health Surcharge. 

“I urge the Conservatives to do the right thing for all of the people of Hong Kong and back this Bill today. In addition, we need to see measures to put in place an international lifeboat system as a matter of urgency, should the situation deteriorate further.”


Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Lib Dems ensure test and trace agreement with police will be published

 

Today, Liberal Democrat Peer Paul Scriven has secured a commitment from Health Minister Lord Bethell to publish the agreement between the Government and police chiefs over the decision to share test and trace data. 

This follows the Health Secretary's refusal to make the Memorandum of Understanding public when Liberal Democrat Health and Care Spokesperson Munira Wilson asked him to just yesterday.

Following the exchange, Liberal Democrat peer Lord Scriven said:

"An effective test, trace and isolate system to keep people safe will only work if the public have faith in it and this means the Government must be open and honest about how it uses people’s data.

"It is absolutely crucial that the Government publishes its Memorandum of Understanding with police chiefs on sharing of Test and Trace data in full, otherwise they risk further undermining public trust in the system and discouraging people from getting tested.

"I’m glad to have secured this commitment from the Minister, but he must now make sure the document is published for public scrutiny as soon as possible. The Liberal Democrats are clear that transparency over the use of personal data is essential to build public confidence in Test and Trace.”

Johnson and Cummings face first defeat in the Lords over Internal Market Bill


Responding to the vote on Lord Judge's motion to the Internal Market Bill in the House of Lords, with the Government being defeated by 395 votes to 169 votes, Leader of the Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords Dick Newby said:

"For a long time now we have known that Boris Johnson and his Ministers have little regard for the rule of law, but this Bill goes far beyond what any Prime Minister should even contemplate – let alone pursue.

"How can this Government seriously expect to condemn other countries, like Russia and China, for failing to respect international law if they plan to flout it themselves when it comes to the Withdrawal Agreement?

"However, there is still time to ditch the Bill and prevent it from becoming law. The Government must row back and do what it can to salvage the UK’s international reputation.

"Breaking the law has consequences – and this resounding loss in the House of Lords is one of them. Liberal Democrats will always stand up for the rule of law – and plan to continue to stand up to those who think they’re above it."

Reversing Lib Dem Immigration Bill amendments risks "new Windrush-style Scandal"


The Liberal Democrats have warned that the Conservatives are risking a new Windrush-style scandal, as the Government overturned the Party's amendments to end indefinite immigration detention and protect the rights of British nationals living in the EU and EU citizens in the UK.

Yesterday evening, Conservative MPs rejected all 10 cross-party amendments to the Government’s Immigration Bill, passed by the House of Lords earlier this month, including three from the Liberal Democrats.

Amendment 5 – tabled by Liberal Democrat Lord Oates – would force the Government to provide EU citizens in the UK who are granted Settled or Pre-Settled Status with physical proof of their migration status, instead of the digital-only proof under the Government’s current system. It was rejected by 331 votes to 260.

The 28-day time limit on immigration detention (Amendment 6) – introduced by Baroness Hamwee in the House of Lords – was defeated by 328 votes to 264.

The Bill will now return to the Lords to continue “ping-pong” tomorrow.

Following the votes, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson Alistair Carmichael said:

“The Conservatives’ decision to overturn these Liberal Democrat amendments shows how empty their promises to guarantee citizens’ rights after Brexit and to fix the broken immigration system really are. Their Hostile Environment is, sadly, alive and well.

“Indefinite detention is inhumane, expensive and unnecessary. The Tories may have blocked a time limit today, but Liberal Democrats will continue the fight to save money and prevent misery.

“Meanwhile, the Windrush Scandal showed the devastating impact of the Hostile Environment on people who cannot easily prove their rights. By denying EU citizens physical proof of Settled Status, the Government risks making them the victims of a new Windrush-style Scandal.”


Inaction failing survivors of sexual violence


Responding to the Victims Commissioner’s report on rape survivors and the criminal justice system, Liberal Democrat Justice Spokesperson Wera Hobhouse said:
 
“Survivors deserve justice. They must be properly supported to come forward and be listened to when they do.
 
“However, as this report shows, far too many survivors are put off reporting the crime for fear of being disbelieved, and far too many who do come forward find the whole process traumatic. Government inaction is failing survivors of sexual violence and allowing too many criminals to walk free.
 
“It is incomprehensible that the Government’s review of rape cases is doing so little to engage with survivors – especially given the clear evidence that the system simply isn’t working for them.
 
“Ministers must listen to survivors, complete the review as soon as possible, and urgently make improvements across the whole justice system. Survivors mustn’t be left waiting any longer for the justice they need.”
 

Friday, October 16, 2020

Lib Dems vote against “dangerous” Crimes Bill


The Liberal Democrats yesterday led cross-party opposition to the Government’s Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Bill, calling a vote against the legislation in the House of Commons.

The Bill, which would create a legal basis for certain government bodies to authorise undercover agents to commit crimes in the UK, has given rise to major concerns among MPs and human rights organisations for its breadth and the lack of sufficient limits, safeguards and oversight.

The Liberal Democrats voted against Third Reading this afternoon, but most Conservative MPs backed it and Labour abstained, so the Bill passed by 313 votes to 98.

A Liberal Democrat amendment (Amendment 16) would have restricted the powers in the Bill to the police, the intelligence services, the National Crime Agency and the Serious Fraud Office – in contrast to the Government’s plans to extend them to a much longer list of public bodies including the Environment Agency, the Food Standards Agency, the Gambling Commission and three government departments.

The amendment received cross-party backing from Labour, SNP, Green and Alliance MPs, as well as the Conservatives’ David Davis. However, most Conservative MPs voted against, defeating it 65-311 as Labour abstained.

Following the vote, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson Alistair Carmichael said:

"This is a dangerous Bill from a Conservative Government that is careless with our rights and freedoms.

"We all understand the need for MI5 and the police to authorise undercover agents to do things that would, in normal circumstances, be illegal. If the Government had restricted itself to that, it would have resounding cross-party support.

“Instead, the Tories are using their majority to ram through things that no responsible Government should do. They are trying to award far too broad powers to far too many parts of government, with virtually no safeguards.

"That’s why the Liberal Democrats worked cross-party to try and fix this law. With the Government blocking our amendments, we had no choice but to vote against the Bill."


PM's no deal comments further reveal his incompetence


Responding to reports that the Prime Minister has said it's time to 'get ready' for no deal, Liberal Democrat Brexit spokesperson Christine Jardine said:

"Boris Johnson’s handling of Brexit has been disastrous and these reckless comments are just further evidence of the Prime Minister's incompetence. It has been more than four years since the referendum and yet here we are with a potential no deal and less than three months until the transition period ends.

"At a time when the UK is already facing the biggest crisis in generations as a result of coronavirus, we cannot afford to crash out of the EU without a deal in place or to accept a rushed, bad deal. The Government cannot allow people's livelihoods to be put further at risk, when so many are already struggling to get by.

"The Liberal Democrats will continue to hold the Conservative Government to account as Ministers fail to deliver what they promised, and try and ensure we get the best deal available."

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Edinburgh Woollen Mill Group at risk of collapse shows need for furlough extension

Responding to reports that Edinburgh Woollen Mill Group, which incorporates the Cardiff-based Peacocks, is at risk of collapsing after it filed a notice to appoint administrators, Liberal Democrat Treasury Spokesperson Christine Jardine said:


"The fact that thousands of jobs are at risk as Edinburgh Woollen Mill Group faces collapse clearly underlines the extent of the challenge to businesses across the UK and to all of those struggling to get by.

"Rishi Sunak cannot simply dismiss those struggling as not viable, and pretend that somehow the economy is on anything like a path to reopening. 

"The Chancellor must announce today a guarantee of more support for those who desperately need it, including extending furlough until next June and broadening it to support everyone. If the Government doesn't roll out more support these job losses will just be the beginning of what's yet to come."

Friday, October 09, 2020

Slow economic growth reinforces need for furlough extension

 

The Liberal Democrats are calling on the Government to extend furlough as new figures (GDP monthly estimate, UK: August 2020) reveal growth in August was slower than the expansion seen in both June and July. Liberal Democrat Treasury Spokesperson Christine Jardine said:


“These figures make it clear that despite the massive effort people have made to fight this virus and its economic implications, the road to recovery is going to be rockier than we feared.

“The Chancellor has to recognise that people, businesses and the economy need more support than he is currently offering. Furlough has to be extended until next June and broadened to support everyone.

“It’s not good enough for the Chancellor to say dismissively that he can’t protect every job, because frankly it’s his job to try to do exactly that and make sure nobody is left behind.”


Lib Dems: Govt must grant EU citizens proof of settled status

The Liberal Democrats are calling on the Government to grant EU citizens the automatic right to stay in the UK, with the physical proof they need, as new Home Office figures reveal thousands are being refused and 1.8 million have not been granted the right to stay permanently.

The latest EU Settlement Scheme statistics, which were published yesterday, revealed 16,600 people have been refused Settled Status – including 5,700 in September alone.  They also revealed that 1.6 million have only been granted temporary ‘Pre-Settled Status’ and 180,000 are still waiting for a decision.

On Monday, the House of Lords passed a Liberal Democrat amendment to the Government’s Immigration Bill which would require the Government to provide EU citizens with physical proof of their Settled Status. The party is urging Conservative MPs not to overturn that amendment when the Bill returns to the Commons.

Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson Alistair Carmichael said:

"EU citizens in the UK – our families and friends – have been living under a cloud of uncertainty for far too long. They must have the right to stay.

"Boris Johnson and the Conservatives promised to automatically guarantee the rights of EU citizens to stay, but they have broken that promise, as they have with so many others.

"This Government's botched scheme is anything but automatic and, without physical proof of their rights, EU citizens will be at the mercy of the Conservatives’ Hostile Environment.

"To prevent a new Windrush-style scandal, Liberal Democrats are fighting for EU citizens to be given the automatic right to stay in the UK, with the physical proof they need."

Tuesday, October 06, 2020

Prime Minister "not ambitious enough" when it comes to renewables


The Liberal Democrats are calling for an investment of £150 billion over the next three years to drive a green economic recovery. The call comes as the Prime Minister is set to unveil plans to invest just £160 million in wind turbines in a speech at the Conservative Party Conference. 

Ed Davey, Leader of the Liberal Democrats, said:

"People across the UK are worried about the planet and for their children's futures. We need a Government that leads from the front when it comes to tackling the climate emergency. But just a few years ago Boris Johnson claimed a wind turbine "couldn't blow the skin off a rice pudding". 

"He is now late to the table and, regrettably, still not ambitious enough. If the Prime Minister really wants to deliver a groundbreaking Green Recovery, he would be talking about investing billions, not millions, in offshore wind and other renewables. £160 million is a tiny fraction of the investment needed. 

"Thanks to Liberal Democrat policies, the UK has become the world leader in offshore wind. Now we want to see £150 billion invested over the next three years in a green economic recovery plan. From real ambition in renewable energy to restoring vital habitats, this is about securing sustainable growth to benefit future generations."

Lords defeat Immigration Bill

 


The Government has been defeated on the Immigration Bill, including amendments from the Liberal Democrats to protect the rights of British nationals living in the EU and EU citizens in the UK.

An amendment from Baroness Hamwee to preserve the right of UK nationals living in the EU to bring non-British family members with them if they return to the UK was passed yesterday afternoon.

Another amendment passed last night, tabled by Liberal Democrat peer Jonny Oates, to force the Government to provide EU citizens in the UK who are granted Settled or Pre-Settled Status with physical proof of their migration status – instead of the digital-only proof under the Government’s current system. 

Following the votes, Liberal Democrat peer Baroness Sally Hamwee said:

"The UK’s immigration system is broken, and it is hurting everyone. By making it harder for employers to recruit the workers they need and exposing more people to the discriminatory Hostile Environment, the Conservatives’ plans to end free movement will make things much worse.

"Liberal Democrats are also standing up for Brits in Europe and EU citizens in the UK. The Prime Minister promised that their rights would not be diminished by Brexit, and our amendments are crucial to upholding that promise.

"I hope the Government will now accept the common sense amendments that we have passed today, and not seek to overturn them in the Commons. These changes are badly needed to help restore public confidence in our immigration system."