Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Alistair Cooke after Lockerbie

This is from the Letter From America of 15th March 1996, and has some pertinent things to say about responses to terrorist acts. The reference to the World Trade Center of course comes before the devastating attacks by air five years later.

About the Scottish obscenity, the one certain thing I think we can say, which I admit offers bleak comfort to the parents and friends, is that absolutely nothing can be done about such sporadic horrors which are happening all across the globe. They always did, but to know about them you had to take a daily paper interested in news from China, Siberia, Tibet, Chile, France, Germany, wherever, and dig the lurid item out of the inner pages and the fine print.
One of the many burdens television has loaded us with, is the certainty that every multiple crime, massive accident, big fire, small assassination, can be known about, can be seen that same day, by everyone alive with a television set. What I'm saying is that there's no way of taking precautions against the sudden brainstorm of a man with a gun, anywhere on earth. No magic formula, no psychiatrist, no detective, no witch doctor. The Romans thought they had portents of trouble to come. They didn't, and nobody has had since, except frivolous astrologers who pretend to.
But about terrorism organised, certainly this country's pretty steamed up after the appalling bombing of the World Trade Centre in this city and the more recent explosion of Oklahoma City's federal building. By the way, one of the conspirators in the World Trade Centre disaster is said to have been foiled in a plan, carefully worked out, to explode eight or nine American commercial air flights on the same day. Last summer the United States Senate passed what it called a Terrorism Protection Act. It increased the staff of the FBI and loosened the law that made tracing explosive devices an invasion of privacy.
But there've been lots of objections and there will be more to other parts of the act that give more power to the police and in some emergencies, the military, to trail suspects and to keep a closer watch on aliens, which is quite an undertaking when you consider that about 400,000 aliens, legal and illegal, pour into this country every week. The objections will be, as always, based on two phrases in the First Amendment to the Constitution: Freedom of speech and the right of the people peaceably to assemble. That last right can cover a multitude of gatherings.
As we learned in the heyday of the gangster era – I mean when gangsters were recognisable on the street and in nightclubs, not as now, well-groomed members of the Mafia who deny there is such a thing as the Mafia and who, when arrested in a meeting of their brethren or family, can always protest the invasion of the police, the FBI or whoever, into an innocent get-together of Friday night chums or a business meeting, involved entirely in making better and cheaper doughnuts or mousetraps or whatever business they pretend to be in. And you can see also how trigger-happy cops could intrude on any meeting of the newly arrived or old arrived aliens, under suspicion of being spies or nowadays, terrorists. Since the Oklahoma City bombing, the Islamic population of that state has been intimidated and in some places, bullied. Not because they took any part in the plot, but because, after the arrest of the Islamic suspects in the New York World Centre bombing, all members of an Islamic sect even the most decent and law-abiding families, lived, moved and worked under a cloud of suspicion.
Now assuming, which is a mighty, a miraculous assumption, that both houses of Congress will come to devise and agree on an effective bill to combat terrorism, there will remain the most American of stumbling blocks: the admirable concern for the liberty of the subject and the hysterical interpretation of the First Amendment by well-meaning groups that believe every child is innocent of swiping anything from the kitchen until they see the jam smeared on his face. Or, as one newspaper here put it, Congress is right to give federal law enforcement agencies more money and manpower but diminishing American liberties is not the solution to terrorism. What the solution can be, while still preserving everyone's right to say anything on his or her mind and to gather for innocent or villainous purposes, what the solution might be, it does not say.

Monday, May 22, 2017

50 top business figures back Lib Dems over support for single market

50 top business figures back Lib Dems over support for single market
Over 50 of Britain's leading business figures and entrepreneurs - including the founder of Ebookers, Dinesh Dhamija, co-founder of Innocent Drinks Richard Reed and businesswoman Nicola Horlick - have backed the Liberal Democrats today as the only UK party campaigning to stay in single market.

In a letter to The Times, the business figures write that leaving the single market would be "destructive to the British economy," and that the Liberal Democrats are "the only party speaking for business and the majority of Britons on the key issue at this election."

Liberal Democrat Shadow Chancellor Vince Cable commented:

“The Liberal Democrats now have support from a large number of serious figures in the business community, showing that we are rapidly emerging as the party of business, both big and small.

“Theresa May’s determination to take us out of the single market would devastate the financial sector, while taking us out of the customs union would cause incalculable disruption to manufacturing .

“Theresa May herself warned of the Brexit dangers to our exports in a speech at Goldman Sachs. Since then she has taken on the agenda of Nigel Farage, who has understandably declared himself delighted with her.

“That is scary. It is vital that the next parliament contains enough Liberal Democrat voices to argue for Britain’s future in the world’s most lucrative single market. The more Liberal Democrat MPs, the better the deal we can secure on Europe."

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Local candidates pledge support for local pubs and brewers




Cen Phillips and Frank Little, local Welsh Liberal Democrat candidates standing in the General Election for Aberavon and Neath, have pledged their support for pub-goers and beer drinkers in Wales by backing CAMRA’s Election Manifesto.

CAMRA’s 187,000 members are asking candidates to promote and celebrate Britain’s 1,540 breweries and over 50,000 pubs by considering a range of measures to help make pub-going and beer drinking more affordable for UK consumers.

Cen and Frank have committed to:
  • Celebrate and promote Britain’s breweries
  • Support action to help pubs thrive
  • Represent the interest of pub-goers, beer and cider drinkers if elected into the next Parliament

Beer, brewing and pubs support nearly 900,000 jobs and contribute £23.1bn to the UK economy annually. Candidates are therefore being urged to ensure the sector is not left behind in the Brexit negotiations due to take place in the coming years.

Colin Valentine, CAMRA’s National Chairman says: “We are delighted that Cen and Frank have pledged their support for beer and pubs. Pubs are a uniquely British institution which showcase our nation’s brewing tradition while providing an essential community facility for those that use them. It is therefore critical that pub-goers and beer drinkers are not left behind when it comes to negotiating Britain’s future over the coming years.”


Senior NHS figure tears apart May on NHS pay and right to remain

Norman Lamb has criticised the government following revelations by Niall Dickson, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, that staff were set to leave the health service due to the government's pay freeze and failure to guarantee the right to remain of EU citizens.

Norman Lamb, a former health minister, said:
 
“This is a powerful indictment of Conservative under-funding of the NHS. A very senior NHS figure has told Theresa May to face up to the pay crisis, but Theresa May just doesn’t seem to care.

“Liberal Democrats have committed to end the pay freeze that is driving dedicated staff out of the NHS and care system.

“We have also called for an ‘NHS passport’ to guarantee the right to remain of much valued EU citizens who are leaving the health service because of Theresa May’s cold-hearted refusal to assure those staff that they will be free to remain."

Frank Little, Welsh Liberal Democrat candidate for Neath, added:

"Though Health is a devolved issue, Mrs May's attitude to foreigners affects staffing in Wales as well as in England. As to pay, First Minister Carwyn Jones is always blaming the Westminster government's starving Wales of funds for low wages in the Welsh NHS. A vote for Liberal Democrats and an increase of £300m per year for Wales for Health would leave him with no excuses."

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Tories in meltdown over social care

The Liberal Democrats have reacted after a day in which the upper echelons of the Conservative Party were in lock-down, apparently in panic after their social care policy backfired. The Institute for Fiscal Studies analysed Theresa May's plans and concluded that “the Conservative plan makes no attempt to deal with the fundamental challenge of social care funding.”

The Conservatives are now pushing different cabinet ministers out to Sunday newspapers in an attempt to "move the conversation on" from social care.

Norman Lamb, Liberal Democrat health spokesperson, said:

"The Tory high command is now in meltdown. It realises it has misjudged the British people, who don't like this cold, mean-spirited Conservative approach to our most vulnerable citizens.

"First Theresa May was revealed as the lunch-snatcher. Now she is pushing a Dementia tax. This will go down as her poll tax - not only a colossal political miscalculation, but also cruel, showing that she just doesn't care.

"No wonder the Tories are panicking. The Liberal Democrats will continue to campaign to give social care the extra funding it needs, properly funded with a penny on income tax to pay for it, and to give Britain a brighter future."

Public support Lib Dem clean air policies

Commenting on reports that the public back the Liberal Democrat policy of banning the most-polluting cars from city centres Liberal Democrat Shadow Transport Secretary Jenny Randerson said:

"The air we allow our children to breathe is toxic and is leading to a national health crisis.

"If our water was as contaminated as the air we breathe the Tories would have been forced to take this seriously. Instead they are plying more dirt into the air and pushing through Heathrow expansion with no serious attempts to address the illegal emissions that are endangering people.
 
"Only the Liberal Democrats are committed to phasing out diesel vehicles and compensating drivers.  We want to give all our children a brighter future in a fairer Britain, cleaning up our air will be a move in the right direction."

Friday, May 19, 2017

Conservatives strike at care for old people in their own homes


The Conservatives are proposing to make older people pay for social care costs from the value of their own homes when they die. This means on average, families in Wales would expect to see 32.3% of the value of their home spent on care costs.

Welsh Liberal Democrat Frank Little (candidate for Neath) commented:

"I guessed early on that when Mrs May made her famous speech about the Conservatives' being seen as the 'nasty party', she was more concerned about appearances than reforming the party from within. Since taking office as prime minister she has delivered a lot of warm words, but this Conservative manifesto reveals that the nastiness is still there.

"Liberal Democrats will stand up to Theresa May’s cold, mean-spirited Britain, protecting those that need the most help and fighting for more funding for our schools and hospitals."

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Lib Dems: The more you need, the more you pay with May


The Liberal Democrats have responded to proposals in the Conservative manifesto to abandon a cap on care costs and take away free school meals for infant children, saying this shows the "nasty party is back."

Liberal Democrat Election Campaign Spokesperson Ed Davey commented:

"It is clear the more you need, the more you pay with May. Theresa May is betraying working families by snatching school lunches from their children and their homes when they die. The nasty party is back - hitting families from cradle to grave.

"The choices she's made in her manifesto will hurt over half a million frail elderly people and almost 2 million children.

"The Liberal Democrats will stand up to Theresa May’s cold, mean-spirited Britain, protecting those that need the most help and fighting for more funding for our schools and hospitals."

Liberal Democrat Shadow Health Secretary Norman Lamb, who secured a commitment to a cap on care costs as Care Minister, commented:

"Elderly people the length of Britain will shudder at these care cost proposals.

“Many elderly people currently will face the cruel situation of having to sell their home when they die to fund residential care home costs.

"Now the frail and elderly receiving care in their own home will face what is a ‘Personal Death Tax’ charged against their home. And the more help you need, the more Theresa May will snatch away when you die.

‘The cost of at home care currently met by the state will now be clawed back from estates after death, hitting over half a million vulnerable people. It’s clear that if you get old and frail, the costs are down to you and you alone.’

Nick Clegg commented: 

"By snatching those meals away and forcing families to pay hundreds of pounds per year for school lunches Theresa May will hit low-income working families the hardest.

"So much for helping the 'just about managing.' MPs will need to vote in the next Parliament to undo the legislation we passed to provide infants with free meals under the Coalition.

"Every Conservative candidate in every constituency must now come clean: will they troop through the lobbies to take away free lunches from the children of hard-pressed families? Or will they have the decency and courage to stop the Conservatives from becoming the party of lunch snatchers?"

Benefit rejection targets reveals May's cold, mean-spirit

Responding to reports that the Department for Work and Pensions has set staff a target of rejecting 80% of benefits appeals, Liberal Democrat Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Cathy Bakewell, said:

“The Conservatives have become obsessed with targets, targets that are harsh and damaging and targets that they will never meet.

“Theresa May is forcing fabricated targets upon real people, risking the wrecking of lives to meet a number plucked out of thin air.

“Have no doubt that Theresa May’s cold, mean-spirited Britain is in full swing.

“This election is about your choice over your future. A vote for the Liberal Democrats can change Britain's future.”
 

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Lib Dems launch manifesto with policies to give young people a brighter future

The Liberal Democrats will launch their manifesto for a brighter future tomorrow (Wednesday). Change Britain’s Future is a plan for a fairer Britain where people are decent to each other, with good schools and hospitals, a clean environment and an innovative economy.
Nothing is more important to our children’s future than Brexit. A bad Brexit deal, with Britain outside the single market, will wreck the future for our children, our economy and our schools and hospitals. That’s why at the heart of the manifesto is a commitment to give the people the final say on the Brexit deal in a referendum.  
In advance of the publication of their manifesto, the Liberal Democrats are unveiling a raft of policies to give our children and young people a brighter future. These include:
  • Helping people buy their first home for the same cost as renting, with a new model of ‘Rent to Own’ homes
  • Restoring housing benefit for young people
  • Creating a discounted bus pass for 16-21 year olds, giving a 66% discount
  • Introducing votes at 16 for elections and referendums across the UK
As well as:
  • Investing almost £7bn in our schools and colleges
  • Doubling the number of businesses that take apprenticeships
  • Tripling the early years pupil premium
  • Extending free school meals to all primary school students
Liberal Democrat Leader Tim Farron said:
“Imagine a brighter future. You don't have to accept Theresa May and Nigel Farage’s extreme version of Brexit that will wreck the future for you, your family, your schools and hospitals.
"In the biggest fight for the future of our country in a generation, Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour has let you down by voting with Theresa May on Brexit – not against her.
“The Liberal Democrats want you to have a choice over your future. You should have your say on the Brexit deal in a referendum. And if you don't like the deal you should be able to reject it and choose to remain in Europe.
“We want to give all our children a brighter future in a fairer Britain where people are decent to each other, with good schools and hospitals, a clean environment and an innovative economy. Not Theresa May’s cold, mean-spirited Britain.
“A vote for the Liberal Democrats can change Britain's future.”

May meets real voter at last - and misses point

Responding to one of Theresa May's first interactions of the campaign with a real voter, in which she was confronted by a woman in Abingdon over cuts to disability benefits, Liberal Democrat Leader Tim Farron said:
 

“Theresa May has shown she just doesn’t care about people like Cathy who are seeing their benefits slashed and prices rise.
 
“Instead of addressing concerns over learning disabilities – she tried to change the subject to mental health.
 
“Theresa May isn’t listening and is taking people for granted.
 
“People don’t have to settle for this cold, mean-spirited vision of Britain.
 
“A better future is available. The Liberal Democrats will stand up against a bad Brexit deal that will cost jobs and push up prices, and we will reverse Conservative cuts to benefits for people not fit for work.”

How can we take Theresa May seriously on clamping down on inequality and discrimination?


Commenting on Theresa May’s announcement that the Conservatives are set to include a manifesto commitment to publish the ethnicity pay gap, former Lib Dem Business Minister Jo Swinson said:

“In Coalition, I was successful in fighting an uphill struggle against the Conservatives to get gender pay gap reporting into law. To see the Conservatives first buckle under Lib Dem pressure in government to introduce gender reporting and now copy our manifesto commitment to close the ethnicity pay gap shows Theresa May is taking the Lib Dem threat seriously.

“The bigger question is how can we take Theresa May seriously on clamping down on inequality and discrimination based on ethnicity given her record on these issues? She 
authorised the ‘Go Home Vans’ whilst at the Home Office and as Prime Minister is pursuing the hardest and most divisive form of Brexit while adopting the language of Nigel Farage in the pursuit of votes.

“The Liberal Democrats are the only party that can challenge Theresa May and stand up for the rights of those who face discrimination.”

Lib Dems would give South Wales police an extra £3million a year



Liberal Democrats have announced they would boost investment in police forces by £300m a year. This is in stark contrast to the Conservatives who have overseen devastating cuts to community policing. Theresa May as Home Secretary and now Prime Minister has cut policing budgets by over £2bn, eroding the very fabric of community policing.

Under the Liberal Democrats, South Wales would see a funding increase of £3,070,000 a year. This could be used to restore a visible policing presence in the community and ensure the police have the training and tools to deal with the changing nature of crime.
 
Welsh Liberal Democrat candidate for Neath, Frank Little commented:
 
“This investment in our police is absolutely vital. Under Theresa May – first as Home Secretary and now as Prime Minister, our police have had to deal with the most brutal of cuts. These are now cutting into the bone.

“Our police work tirelessly to keep us safe and this Government has completely betrayed them.

“Only the Liberal Democrats have a credible plan to reverse the increase in violent crime, boost community confidence and ensure the police have the resources they need to keep us safe.”


Sunday, May 14, 2017

May refuses to lower voting age

Responding to Theresa May ruling out giving 16-year-olds the vote today on Radio 4's Westminster Hour, Liberal Democrat Shadow Foreign Secretary Tom Brake said:

"Theresa May is robbing young people of future opportunities through her damaging hard Brexit agenda, it's no surprise she is now refusing to give 16 and 17-year-olds the vote.

"Young people have the largest stake in our future, they deserve a say over what happens next.

"The evidence is clear that voting at sixteen gets people into the habit of voting early and increases turnout in the long-term.

"The Liberal Democrats believe everyone, including 16 and 17-year-olds, should have the final say on Brexit with the option to stay in if they don't like the deal on offer."
 

Michael Fallon caught fibbing over cuts to troop numbers

Michael Fallon was challenged on the Andrew Marr Show today for breaking a Conservative promise not to reduce the size of the Army below 82,000.

Fallon today admitted the size of the army has fallen to 79,000, but tried to claim that the Conservatives had only said they would build the Army up to 82,000 by 2020.

This is despite the Conservative's 2015 manifesto clearly stating "we will not reduce the army to below 82,000."

Paddy Ashdown, former Royal Marine and ex-Liberal Democrats Leader commented:

“Fallon’s fibs are a desperate attempt to try and hide the fact his government has slashed troop numbers, breaking a Conservative promise.

“It’s no surprise Britain's top generals have accused the Tories of deceiving the public over defence cuts.

“The Conservatives have cut the number of Royal Marines and left our troops on the front line without basic equipment.

“Britain needs a strong opposition to stand up for our armed forces and hold this government to account.”

Lib Dems commit to £780 pay rise for public sector workers

Liberal Democrats have announced they would end years of pay restraint for nurses, teachers and police by lifting the 1% cap on public sector pay and up-rating wages in line with inflation. The plans would lead to an estimated pay rise of £780 for the average public sector worker by 2021.

In contrast, the Conservative's public sector pay cap combined with rising inflation since the Brexit vote will mean that by 2021 a new nurse will be £530 a year worse off, a primary school teacher £550 and an army sergeant £830.

Liberal Democrat Shadow Chancellor Vince Cable commented:

“Public sector workers are facing a double blow at the hands of this Conservative government, with years of pitiful increases to pay combined with a Brexit squeeze caused by soaring inflation.

“Our NHS and schools are already struggling to recruit the staff they need.

"Living standards are falling, prices are rising and nurses are going to food banks – but Theresa May doesn’t care.

“A better future is available. We will stand up for our schools and hospitals and give hard-working nurses, teachers and police the pay rise they deserve.

"Within our carefully costed commitments, we believe government can and must lift the cap on public sector pay.”

Paddy Ashdown steps up bid to save the Royal Marines as Lib Dems commit to 2% NATO defence spending

On the same day that the Liberal Democrats have announced a manifesto commitment to the NATO 2% defence spending target, former party Leader Paddy Ashdown has launched a petition to stop further cuts to the Royal Marines in which he served.

Lib Dem leader Tim Farron said,
 
‘In an uncertain and volatile world, it’s our Armed Forces that keep us safe and allow us to play our part in creating a more stable international community.
 
“Our service personnel are the best in the world. And it’s right that we reward them fairly and make sure that they have the right equipment to do the job. 

“So today, our party is proud to commit to NATO’s defence spending target. For all their rhetoric, the crisis in recruitment and their botched defence review show that the Conservatives have let our Armed Forces down.

“The Liberal Democrats are the only party that can challenge the Conservatives and stand up for strong Armed Forces, fit for the 21st century.” 
 
Former Royal Marine and Lib Dem peer Paddy Ashdown said,
 
“In an unpredictable age, we need forces that are fast, flexible and mobile. That's what the Royal Marines do at a world-class level. But the government has just announced damaging cuts of 200 marines, with no assurance that there won’t be more cuts in the future.
"The Royal Marines have carried the greatest burden in the defence of our country over the last decade - they have fought in more theatres and won more battles than any other British unit. They are also the crucial manpower pool from which we draw many of our Special Forces. We need them as never before.
 
“I urge everyone who cares about this proud and illustrious unit and the nation’s defence to add their voice to my call for 'NO FURTHER CUTS TO THE ROYAL MARINES' at www.saveroyalmarines.org."
 

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Lib Dems: We need “Careers for Heroes”

Liberal Democrats have today announced a package of measures aimed at tackling recruitment and retention challenges across the Armed Forces.  

These measures include cash incentives for new STEM graduates who join up, and a new “careers for heroes” scheme to pay for the full cost of further and higher education for Armed Forces personnel who have served for twelve or more years.

These ambitious policies have been announced on the same day that the Liberal Democrats have committed to the NATO target of 2% defence spending.

Liberal Democrat Leader, Tim Farron said: 

“Liberal Democrats believe in a strong, credible UK Armed Forces which is properly equipped and trained for the challenges and threats we face in the 21stcentury.

“This relies on proper investment in the men and women who serve our country, people who have been shamefully overlooked by the Conservative government for too many years. A Conservative party who would rather buy big ticket platforms than invest in the people needed to run them.

“A recent independent report was a damning indictment of armed forces recruitment and retention, with some units facing 14% shortfalls in manpower.

“That’s why the Liberal Democrat manifesto will set out a bold set of measures to support personnel and address the critical skills shortfalls. We will incentivise STEM graduates to join the Armed Forces with a £10,000 golden handshake for those who sign up. Alongside this, we will fund further and higher education for those who leave the services with a ‘Careers for Heroes’ scheme.

“Our Army, Navy and Airforce deserve the best and the brightest serving in them, and we must not stand by as those who have served face disadvantages.

“The Liberal Democrats are the only party that can challenge Theresa May and stand up for the rights of those brave men and women who serve.”   

Lib Dems demand inquiry into why Tories cut cyber security support

The Liberal Democrats have demanded an inquiry into why the Conservatives cut cyber-security support a year ago when it axed a £5.5m deal with Microsoft.

Liberal Democrat Shadow Home Secretary Brian Paddick said:

“We need to get to the bottom of why the government thought cyber-attacks were not a risk, when a combination of warnings and plain common sense should have told ministers that there is a growing and dangerous threat to our cyber-security.

“It is worrying that in Amber Rudd we have a Home Secretary in the digital age more suited to the era of analogue. This is not the first time she has looked lost in cyber-space. The government likes to look tough but this is an example of where it has left Britain defenceless. We demand to be told why.”

Lib Dems tell developers: if you won’t build the houses, we will

Tim Farron has laid down the law to developers, warning that unless they build the homes Britain needs, the government will.
Tim has made house building one of his very top manifesto commitments, having campaigned to increase Britain’s housing supply throughout his career. The Liberal Democrat manifesto will commit to ensuring 300,000 homes a year are built for sale and rent by the end of the parliament.
Leader of the Liberal Democrats Tim Farron said:
“If developers won’t deliver the homes Britain needs, we will. The government will become a house-builder itself, bringing in the contractors to actually construct the homes and then selling them into the market. The only way to get a grip on the housing crisis is by firm government action. The market is broken and has failed to deliver.
“This is personal for me. As a teenager, I got into politics after I watched a repeat of Cathy Come Home, a heartbreaking film about a couple who were made homeless, and I joined the housing charity Shelter as a result. As an MP, I have seen first-hand the misery caused by people not having a proper home.
“Getting a place of my own and then making a home for my family was one of the proudest moments of my life. But for many people in the next generation, it is virtually impossible to get on the housing ladder. They deserve a helping hand.
 “If we have to penalise developers for land-banking and let local authorities hike up council tax on empty or un-built homes, so be it. We will set up a Housing and Infrastructure Development Bank to provide long-term capital for new settlements.”

Lib Dem Manifesto Commitment To Regulate the Cannabis Market

Liberal Democrats will take back control from criminal gangs, take ‘skunk’ off the streets, and protect young people by introducing a legal, regulated market for cannabis.
The Lib Dems have unveiled a manifesto commitment to bring the sale of cannabis under a system of strict legal regulation.
Commenting, Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate for Cambridge and former Home Affairs Select Committee member Julian Huppert said:
“Cannabis is freely available and widely used. It generates significant health problems and vast profits for organised crime.
“The current approach is a disaster for young people, whose mental and physical health is being harmed by an increasingly potent product. There are no age checks, and no controls on quality or strength. ‘Skunk’ is widespread and the only ID you need to buy it is a £20 note.
“Successive governments have ceded total control of a significant public health problem to organised crime.
“The honest and pragmatic response is to take responsibility for this situation and regulate the market.
“Liberal Democrats will take back control from the criminal gangs and protect young people by introducing a legal, regulated market for cannabis.
“We will restrict the market to over-18s. We will make cannabis safer by limiting THC content and requiring all products to contain CBD, which has been bred out of ‘skunk’ and counteracts the harmful effects of THC. And we will invest tax revenues of up to £1bn in education and treatment.”

Friday, May 12, 2017

Lib Dems to May: sort your own computer security first

The Liberal Democrats have questioned plans by the Conservatives to hand powers to the government that would enable ministers to censor social media content.

Alistair Carmichael, Liberal Democrat shadow first secretary of state, said:

“It is certainly bold of the Conservatives to boast how they can protect people on the internet the day after the NHS has been hacked with a loophole apparently built by the US government.

“Government and technology companies must do more to find a real solution to problematic content online – but having a government agency deciding what constitutes acceptable free speech isn’t it.

“We need to be working with technology companies to address the problem of hate speech – not pretending it’s an easy problem that can be solved with a press release.”

Frank Little, candidate for Neath

Frank was brought up in an army family and had a much-travelled childhood. He remembers trouble in Egypt and seeing poverty in the back streets of Benghazi, as well as the rejuvenation of the region of the Ruhr in Germany after the devastation of the world war. Settled briefly in Wallasey on Merseyside, he attended Oldershaw Grammar School where two visiting lecturers made an impression.

The first was Emlyn Williams, who performed his recreation of Charles Dickens’ readings from his own work, a rare honour for the school. The second was a man whose name I unforgivably soon forgot, but who described the strides which were being made in the creation of the European Community and the benefits it was already bringing. A seed must have been planted then.

Oldershaw was a great little school and I enjoyed my time there, but from personal experience I became conscious of the great divide which was created by the 11-plus exam. Boys of only slightly varying intellectual ability were arbitrarily consigned to very different paths in life. I am glad that Wales adopted and has stuck to comprehensive principles.”

Asthma handicapped his educational development. He left school with several undistinguished ‘O’ and a couple of ‘A’ level GCEs and started work as a clerical officer at the Ministry of Transport. Retraining as a systems analyst/programmer, he moved to Swansea with the Driver & Vehicle Licensing IT project. Already married with one daughter, he added another in Ynysforgan - “both are now doing very well for themselves.”

Developments in medicine relieved him from crippling asthma attacks. He is grateful to the NHS. He says: “I sometimes wonder what further sacrifices my parents would have had to make for the sake of my health if it had not been for the NHS. The first Welsh partnership government made the progressive step of abolishing prescription charges, which has freed young asthmatics and diabetics (to cite just two chronic conditions) on lower incomes to lead full lives.”

When fit, he enjoyed playing cricket, though only as a tail-end batsman and occasional leg-spin bowler. He has been a long-time member of Glamorgan CCC, though is wary of the emphasis on limited-overs cricket. If you know his name or face, it may be because of appearances on broadcast general knowledge programmes. He is a member of several charities with an ecological slant as well as the Campaign for Real Ale.

He was constrained by civil service rules from open political activity, but leaving the Department for Transport to set up as a freelance programmer freed him to become one of the founder members of the Social and Liberal Democrats in Wales. After several house moves, including residence in Alltwen and Gelligron in the Neath constituency, he has been settled for nearly twenty years in Skewen - “which is in Neath, whatever the Boundaries Commission may say!”.


He adds: “I see myself as being swept up in the great Liberal tradition of Wales, adorned by the great Samuel Thomas Evans, who was born in Skewen and the centenary of whose death we will be commemorating next year. So many of the reforms begun by Lloyd George, Beveridge and the young Churchill, which led to a welfare state once the envy of the world, have been unwound by successive governments, including - shamefully - a Labour administration. I see a major task of the next MP for Neath as fighting to restore those cuts to social security which are creating hardship for local people, while helping to create a fair taxation system and a buoyant and balanced economy.”

Cen Phillips, candidate for Aberavon


Cable: PM dropping business letter shows Tories are no longer party of business

Responding to reports Theresa May will not seek the endorsement of prominent business figures in the campaign, Liberal Democrat Shadow Chancellor Vince Cable said:

"The Conservatives are making a virtue of necessity, because very few respectable business people are likely to endorse the party in its current form.

"They have buried any claim to be the party of business. Theresa May has adopted UKIP's job-destroying agenda wholesale, choosing to quit the single market no matter what damage is done to British businesses.

"People don't have to settle for a bad Brexit deal that will cost jobs and push up prices.

"There is another way. The Liberal Democrats will fight for membership of the single market and customs union, and to give people the final say over whether Theresa May's Brexit deal is right for them."

Lib Dems offer ‘Fathers' Month’ of paid parental leave for new dads

The Liberal Democrats will introduce an additional month of paid parental leave for fathers to encourage greater sharing of parental responsibilities.

The policy will build on our achievement of introducing Shared Parental Leave which ensured new parents could make decisions which work best for their family.

Many fathers would prefer to spend more time with their children in the period after they are born. The Liberal Democrats want to make that a real possibility giving opportunities for new fathers to spend quality time with their newborn children. 

Jo Swinson, who introduced the original Shared Parental Leave in the Coalition Government, said:
 
“The Liberal Democrat introduction of Shared Parental Leave was a massive step towards more equal parenting, and recognising the vital role that fathers play. Parents across the UK have already benefitted from greater flexibility and freedom in how they share the care for their new baby.
 
“But more needs to be done in order to encourage men to take leave when they become a dad, to bond with their child during the early weeks and months of their life.  Research shows that fathers being more involved in their children's lives is good for children's development and good for the health and happiness of the whole family.
 
“That is why the Liberal Democrats want to give dads across the country the chance to spend more time with their children.

“A vote for the Liberal Democrats is a vote to change the direction of this country. If you want an open, tolerant and united Britain, this is your chance.”


Susan Kramer, Liberal Democrat Shadow Business Secretary, said:

“Creating a fair system for parents everywhere not only benefits new mums and dads but also helps our business sector.

“Having a workforce that is both more flexible and more motivated will benefit UK businesses greatly.

“It is the Liberal Democrats who are standing up for fairness and flexibility for parents. Theresa May has never cared.” 

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Candidates announced for Aberavon and Neath

It is confirmed that the local Liberal Democrat candidates in the general election to be decided on June 8th are:

Aberavon:  Cen Phillips

Neath: Frank Little


Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Conservative defence chicanery

Responding to the Conservatives' announcement on defence spending, former Liberal Democrat leader and ex-Royal Marine Paddy Ashdown said:
  
“This Conservative government has slashed funding on defence, cut our Royal Marines and left our troops on the front line without basic equipment.

"Billions has been spent on big ticket items that we may not even have enough troops to use. 

"Of course adequate spending on defence is welcome and necessary, but this is a piece of last-minute chicanery to cover up the Conservative's dismal record. 

"No wonder Britain's top generals have accused the Tories of trying to deceive the public over defence cuts.

"It shows why Britain needs a strong opposition to hold the Conservatives to account."

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Farron: We must reinstate post-study work visas for STEM graduates

The Liberal Democrats have made a commitment to reinstate post-study work visas for graduates in STEM subjects who find suitable employment within six months of graduating. The manifesto commitment aims to tackle Britain’s chronic shortage of workers in the fields of science, technology, engineering and maths. The current system has driven away talent with global students choosing to study in America, Australia and Canada who have programmes to retain talent post-study.

Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron said:

“It is ludicrous that we take in international students, train them, and then as soon as they are skilled and ready to work, the Conservatives boot them out of the country.

“British universities are world leaders that attract some of the most talented individuals from around the globe to the benefit of the UK economy. But instead of encouraging them to stay here and contribute to keeping Britain at the forefront of cutting-edge research, this Conservative Brexit Government forces them out. And all in a vain attempt to meet an artificial and unachievable immigration target.

“The Liberal Democrats want to build a Britain that is open, tolerant and united. This means bringing in and fostering talent, helping to boost our economy and keep Britain an attractive destination to study. This is your chance to change Britain's future. ”
 

Brake slams May for Calais border U-turn


Responding to an admission yesterday by Theresa May that she would have to renegotiate the Le Touquet border treaty with newly elected French President Emmanuel Macron, Lib Dem Shadow Foreign Secretary Tom Brake said: 

“Theresa May has adopted UKIP’s rhetoric, and now she is adopting their incompetence too.

“The Conservatives have repeatedly claimed that Brexit will have no impact on border agreements with France, but now the Prime Minister has admitted that they are up for negotiation.

"Changes to Le Touquet will mean an upheaval for people travelling across the Channel, and risk making our country less secure.”

Theresa May’s plan to fine ferry companies if they let illegal immigrants slip on board their ships was dismissed by the Liberal Democrats as a “shambles”.

Tom Brake said:

“Theresa May has already acknowledged that thanks to her version of Brexit Britain’s border could move from Calais back to Dover. Now ministers are reportedly contracting out border controls, demanding that ferry companies will be responsible for screening vast numbers passengers, some of whom may turn out to be illegal immigrants.

“The result will be ferry companies hiking prices for consumers or going out of business. This is a shambles. Ferry companies are not border guards. They cannot be expected to control what large numbers of police and immigration officials already struggle to.”

Monday, May 08, 2017

Lib Dems set out plans to close the ethnicity pay gap


Today, Liberal Democrats set out plans to introduce mandatory reporting on the ethnicity pay gap for organisations with 250 employees or more.

Employee ethnicity data is currently patchy at best and there is no uniform way to collect it making monitoring and analysis difficult.

The Liberal Democrats believe that every person, regardless of their ethnicity, should be allowed to reach their full potential in the workplace.

Announcing the policy, Tim Farron said:

“Jo Swinson fought an uphill struggle against the Conservatives in Coalition to get gender pay gap reporting into law, but the fight doesn’t stop there. It is shocking that in 21st Century Britain inequality that comes down to race still persists.

"Sunlight is always the best disinfectant and by bringing these gaps out into the open we can start to address the issue and speed up progress to create a more equal and fair workplace.”

Jo Swinson, Liberal Democrat Campaign Spokesperson and former Business Minister added:

“The gender pay gap and the BAME pay gap are a sign that we are failing to make the most of talent in the workplace, which is bad for our economy.

"Information is powerful, but while organisations are allowed to get away with keeping patchy records, we'll never know the full extent of the gap. Gender pay gap reporting is already making employers look again at how they attract, retain, promote and pay women and men.

"Transparent data on the BAME pay gap will help employers focus on what they need to do to ensure equal opportunities at work for people of all ethnic backgrounds.

"The Liberal Democrats believe that in order to grow the economy we can leave no one behind, it is not only morally just but good business-sense to close the gap.”