Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Jane Dodds highlights the three Es



In an inspiring speech in Caewern boosting Sheila Kingston-Jones' by-election campaign in Bryncoch South [polling on Thursday 23rd November], the newly-elected Welsh Liberal Democrat party leader spoke movingly about her Welshness and the other passions in her life.

She highlighted the environment, Europe and equality as key concerns. More had to be done to combat climate change and she singled out the Trump administration for its retreat from Obama’s pro-environment policies. She felt that Wales could show the way.

She criticised the Conservative government, with the support of the Labour opposition, for embarking on the Article 50 process on the basis of what was, at bottom, a protest vote. Something had to be done about those people who felt they had no future. There had been a failure to inform them about what the European Union had done and could do for them, and the party had a duty to fill that gap.

As a social worker, she daily saw the effects of Conservative government policies, in particular the way that Universal Credit had been applied. There was an increase in what she thought we had once seen the back of, the “working poor” - people stuck in poorly-paid dead end jobs - which, thanks to zero-hours contracts, may not be permanent anyway. We should not be afraid to talk of the use of tax to foster equality – to take more people out of tax at the lower end and increase it on the wealthiest. We should be ashamed that the gap between rich and poor was widening again for the first time since the Thatcher era.


Jane also spoke feelingly about her dedication to Wales, regretting the failure to provide the infrastructure to enable the whole of the nation to fulfil its potential. 

Monday, November 20, 2017

Hammond so out of touch on unemployment - Cable


Following claims on Marr by the Chancellor that "there are no unemployed people", Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable said it showed the Conservative government was hopelessly out of touch with huge numbers of people in Britain today.
Vince Cable said:
"As Chancellor, Philip Hammond needs to be on top of the numbers, and as he should know very well, there are actually 1.425m people unemployed. Worse, a large number of them are second or third generation out of work, suggesting that all that a large number of people are inheriting in Britain today is poverty.
"It underlines just how out of touch the Conservatives are with millions of Britons who are living on the breadline.
"Philip Hammond is right that we should embrace automation, but we should also be mindful that it can also put people out of work in the short term. This underlines why we need greater investment in infrastructure, training and education to help a large number of people who miss out even when the economy is growing far more strongly than it is today."

Home Office to recruit Eastern Europeans to register EU citizens


The Liberal Democrats have responded with incredulity to reports that the Home Office will have to recruit staff from Eastern Europe to administer Brexit. According to The Guardian, the Home Office cannot recruit enough staff to process newly required registration papers for as many as 3m European citizens.

Liberal Democrat Brexit spokesperson Tom Brake said:

"Oh the irony! The Home Office having to recruit Eastern European workers to manage Brexit which was billed by the Brexiteers as the way to reduce immigration.

"And what a monumental waste of time and money it will be to register all these EU citizens. They are clearly vital to Britain's workforce, reflected in the fact that the Home Office will now have to recruit many of them to process registration forms from their countrymen.

"This is an utter farce presided over by a government that doesn't have a clue what it is even trying to do.

"The government should simply guarantee the right to remain of all EU citizens already here and protect free movement."
 

Friday, November 17, 2017

McDonnell budget asks don't add up


Labour's Budget ask has been attacked by Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable, who said:

“Labour’s spending plans were pulled apart by the Institute for Fiscal Studies during the general election and it appears the shadow chancellor is still not properly costing his ideas. Over-assumptions of tax take are a feature of Corbyn and McDonnell’s Labour and would pile debt on future generations.”

New Universal Credit claimants will go hungry this Christmas


Children will go hungry and be made homeless this Christmas due to the government imposed time-lag before Universal Credit claimants receive their first payment, the Liberal Democrats have said. This follows a report by the Peabody Trust into Universal Credit that says 60,000 families will not receive payment this side of the Festive season.

Liberal Democrat Work and Pensions spokesperson Stephen Lloyd MP said:

“If the government doesn’t step in there will be families facing hunger and homelessness this Christmas, it is that simple. This will hit 40,000 children living in many of our most vulnerable households.

“The government must reduce the cruel 42 day waiting time urgently, and use next week’s budget to lift the benefits freeze that is expected to push hundreds of thousands into poverty. If not, it will be painfully clear that the spirit of Scrooge is alive and well.”
 

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Brake wins support for debate on Russian interference


Liberal Democrat Brexit spokesperson Tom Brake has accused Theresa May of “extraordinary naivety” over Russian interference in the EU referendum. He today submitted a bid to the Backbench Business Committee supported by all political parties for a debate on Russian Interference in UK Politics and Society. He has the backing of over 25 MPs.

Tom Brake said:

“I was the first to call for Russian interference in the EU referendum to be referred to an urgently reconstituted Intelligence and Security Committee and now the evidence of Russian involvement is overwhelming, this must be done immediately.

“Theresa May has shown extraordinary naivety in saying that Russia has interfered in the elections of other countries but not elections in this country.

“But then on Brexit, Theresa May and Vladimir Putin are in a fairly similar place – both seem to support an extreme and damaging Brexit.”
 

Falling retail sales - Cable responds


Following news that annual retail sales have fallen for the first time since 2013, Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable said:

“High inflation is hitting people’s pockets. With food prices soaring, the weekly shop has become a source of trepidation for families across the country. The uncertainty caused by Brexit is hurting the economy and British businesses.

“Strained finances mean the Chancellor has little room for manoeuvre in next week’s Budget, but he can ease the burden on the most vulnerable through implementing our plans, such as reversing cuts to Universal Credit and ending the public sector pay cap, so wages increase in line with inflation.”
 

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

General Barrons warns cuts could tip armed forces into "institutional failure"


General Sir Richard Barrons has warned that the government will be "responsible for tipping the armed forces into institutional failure" unless it reverses cuts to defence spending.

In evidence given to the House of Commons Defence Committee today, the ex-Defence Chief also warned that Britain's armed forces are "20 years out of date," and described proposals to cut the number of Royal Marines as "folly."

Sir Menzies Campbell, Liberal Democrat Defence Spokesperson, commented:

“This scathing criticism from a top former general emphasises the increasingly fragile nature of Britain’s defence capabilities.

“The government must listen to this stark warning.

“If ministers aren’t willing to properly fund our armed forces, Britain’s ability to contribute to NATO and other joint operations will be severely diminished.”

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe: a way forward

Following the response of Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, to an Urgent Question on the case of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, Liberal Democrat Foreign Affairs spokesperson Jo Swinson MP said:

“Johnson should agree to Richard Ratcliffe’s offer to travel to Iran together and visit Nazanin in prison, as this seems one of the best hopes to get her out by Christmas.

“No family should have to go through what the Ratcliffe’s have, and the Foreign Secretary must make up for his mistakes and do what it takes to end their plight.”

Liberal Democrat defence spokesperson Menzies Campbell, Lord Campbell of Pittenweem, said: 

"The Foreign Secretary is clearly not up to his responsibilities, and the Prime Minister knew this when she appointed him.  

"The Prime Minister must now take personal responsibility for Nazanin’s case and ensure that she returns home safely to her family." 
 

Friday, November 10, 2017

Mordaunt must immediately distance herself from her predecessor


Commenting on the appointment of Portsmouth MP Penny Mordaunt to the Department for International Development, Jo Swinson, Liberal Democrat Foreign Affairs Spokesperson, said:

“Development aid is vital to saving lives, removing people from abject poverty, and improving the lives of others across the globe. The UK should be proud of the role we play.

“Having an International Development Secretary who does not dismiss the entire concept of international aid must be the first qualification for the job.

“Penny Mordaunt must immediately distance herself from her predecessor in this regard.”
 

Prevent's flaws have been revealed; it must be replaced



Commenting on new data which reveals the numbers of individuals referred to the Prevent Programme, Ed Davey, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson, said:

“Prevent is being dangerously overused. This data reveals exactly why Prevent has become so toxic.

“The Liberal Democrats believe that Prevent has too many flaws and should be scrapped and replaced with a new system that fixes its shortcomings and has community engagement at its heart. In the meantime we need to ensure there is proper training for those who have a statutory duty to refer to ensure it is used properly.

“Because of its many weaknesses Prevent is damaging community cohesion and fostering distrust. These figures lay bare Prevent’s flaws, it is time for it to end.”
 

Lord Kerr confirms exit from Brexit still possible

Commenting on reports that Lord Kerr, the author of Article 50, will reveal in a speech later today that the Brexit process is reversible, Vince Cable, Leader of the Liberal Democrats, said:

“The author of article 50 revealing that the process can be revoked is a significant development.

“There is no longer any refuge for brexiteers who argue that this whole process can’t be revoked.

“The possibility of an exit from Brexit is still very much on the cards."

Thursday, November 09, 2017

May right to send Patel packing


 

Commenting following the firing of Priti Patel as International Development Secretary, Jo Swinson, Liberal Democrat Foreign Affairs Spokesperson said:

“Priti Patel has rightly been forced to step down  for her cover up of meetings with foreign officials and the inappropriate requests for aid to be sent to the Israeli military in the Golan Heights.

“This was an appalling error of judgement and is nothing short of a major failure by the British government.

“Number 10 must answer questions about their complicity in this scandal. Someone has been deceived, either the British people or the Prime Minister’s office. Whichever it is someone must be held to account.

“It is right that Patel has gone but Theresa May’s office now needs to reveal honestly what they knew and when.”

Shas Sheehan, Liberal Democrat International Development Spokesperson added:

"The Secretary of State clearly and comprehensively broke the ministerial code multiple times.

"In normal circumstances the Prime Minister would have sacked her days ago.

“One thing is clear, whoever replaces her, unlike their predecessor, should have an understanding that development aid is a force for good in the world.”
 

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Vote of confidence in local officers

At last night's AGM of the Aberavon and Neath Liberal Democrats, all the major office-holders were re-elected. They are: Chair, Cen Phillips; Vice-chair, Helen Ceri Clarke; Secretary, Frank Little; Treasurer, Marilyn Harris.

Adrian Kingston-Jones was added to the Media team.

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Cabinet cancellation reveals government gone beyond meltdown - Carmichael


Commenting following reports that Theresa May has cancelled this morning's Cabinet meeting, Alistair Carmichael, Liberal Democrat Chief Whip, said:

“When the Prime Minister lacks the authority to bring her ministers together  for ninety minutes on a Tuesday morning then you have a government that has gone beyond meltdown.

“It is time she used whatever clout she has left to get her house in order and fire those Ministers bogged by scandal.

“Unfortunately we have a Prime Minister unable and unwilling to take action. This is no way to run a country.”

Monday, November 06, 2017

Lib Dem leaders report back on Pestminster talks

Vince Cable and Jo Swinson have attended a joint meeting with the Prime Minister, Leader of the Opposition and other party leaders to address sexual harassment in Westminster. 

The Liberal Democrats have agreed to cross party proposals which will see an independent grievance process, improved HR support, and the establishment of a cross party working group to implement these changes.
 
Following the meeting Vince Cable, Leader of the Liberal Democrats, said:

"These are the right first cross party steps to address harassment and abuse in Westminster. There needs to be a robust, independent complaints system across Parliament that offers victims a safe, non-partisan procedure.”

Jo Swinson, Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats, added:

“Sexual harassment has sadly been a problem for far too long. We must now make sure these initial proposals are a positive catalyst for change.
 
“The cross-party talks today will hopefully mark the start of that change in Westminster.”
 

Patel must resign, or be fired



Commenting on reports that Priti Patel has been forced to apologise by Theresa May for holding undisclosed meetings in Israel, Shas Sheehan, Liberal Democrat International Development Spokesperson, said:

“It is now apparent that Patel knowingly ignored ministerial rules, and that makes her position untenable.

“Just because May’s government is in meltdown doesn’t give the Prime Minister an excuse to ignore this serious infraction.

“Patel must resign, or be fired. Either way, she cannot remain Secretary of State for International Development.”
 

"Paradise Papers": investigation needed into Cameron decision


Liberal Democrat leader and former Business Secretary Vince Cable has revealed that then prime minister David Cameron went back on a plan to clamp down on off-shore tax havens. It comes as international controversy grows over the publication of the so-called "Paradise Papers".

Vince Cable said:

“Tax should not be an optional extra for the global elite. Citizens who dutifully pay their taxes need confidence that the system is fair. But the Paradise Papers suggest that a small number of wealthy individuals have been able, entirely legally, to put their money beyond the reach of the Exchequer.

“In the coalition government I introduced the Register of Beneficial Ownership, which established who owns British companies, and sought to extend that to British Overseas Territories. This was to clamp down on tax havens operating under the British flag. David Cameron was initially attracted to the idea, but when the Overseas Territories said on a visit to London that they were against it, he backed down.

“Given these revelations, including news that Conservative donors benefited from these arrangements, we need a parliamentary select committee to investigate fully who decided what and why. In particular, we need the release of all government papers dealing with the decision not to clamp down on off-shore tax havens. Only in this way can we ensure there is full public confidence in the tax system.”
 

Sunday, November 05, 2017

It's rich for Brown to blame America for Iraq, says Ming


Former Liberal Democrat leader Menzies Campbell - who along with Charles Kennedy led opposition to the Iraq war - has responded to fresh claims by Gordon Brown that the rush to war was in large part the fault of America for not sharing enough intelligence with the UK.

Liberal Democrat defence spokesperson Menzies Campbell said: 

"None of this should come as a revelation.

"It was abundantly clear that the Bush administration was hell bent on regime change, and that Tony Blair was equally determined to support this regardless of the evidence.

"If members of the Blair cabinet had not been so supine and had fulfilled their responsibilities by properly questioning Tony Blair's decision then the tragedy of Iraq might have been averted."
 

Saturday, November 04, 2017

Tory cunning immigration plan - crash the economy

Responding to reports that the government has quietly shelved plans to reduce the rights of fresh EU arrivals because so few are now coming to the UK, Liberal Democrat Brexit spokesperson Tom Brake MP said:
"The government did say their priority was to curb immigration. What they didn't tell the public was that their cunning plan to reduce the number of EU nationals coming to the UK was to crash the economy.
"Ministers have quietly conceded they don't need to reduce the rights of fresh arrivals from the EU27 because so few are now coming anyway. Ministers have already managed to decrease the attractiveness of Britain as a place for the brightest and the best to work - by their catastrophic economic mismanagement in pursuit of an extreme Brexit which has seen the pound and growth fall and inflation and interest rates rise.
"Nobody voted to become poorer - but making every British citizen more hard up turns out to be the government's immigration strategy. If it weren't so sadly serious, this would be quite some joke."

Councils warn homelessness to rise unless housing benefit cuts reverse


96% of councils are concerned that homelessness will increase if the freeze on Local Housing Allowance (LHA) is not lifted, a survey by the Local Government Association has found.

It comes after a report by the National Audit Office last month found that the freeze on housing benefit is “likely” driving the increase in homelessness.

The Liberal Democrats have called on the Government to end the freeze on in the coming Budget.

Wera Hobhouse MP, Liberal Democrat Local Government Spokesperson, commented:

"The Conservative's cruel welfare cuts are making it impossible for some families to find an affordable home to rent.

“Homelessness is already rising at an alarming rate, and as we head towards winter this will only get worse.

"The Government must unfreeze housing benefit before more hard-pressed families are pushed over the edge.

"The Budget is a good opportunity to put this right.”

Friday, November 03, 2017

Conservative MPs block Votes at 16 by talking out debate


The Liberal Democrats have criticised Conservative MPs for blocking proposals to give 16 and 17-year-olds the vote today.

A parliamentary vote on the issue today was shelved due to a lack of time, after several Conservative MPs made lengthy speeches on the previous topic of debate.

Liberal Democrat MP Christine Jardine commented:

“Conservative MPs have shamefully talked out this attempt to give 16 and 17 year olds the vote.

“It’s ironic that a debate about expanding democracy should end in such an undemocratic way.

“The Conservatives claim that young people don’t have the political maturity to vote, but have acted themselves in a deeply immature way.

“In Scotland we’ve seen 16 and 17-year-olds bring a fresh, enthusiastic approach which has invigorated the elections they’ve been involved in.

“We will keep fighting for Votes at 16 to give young people a say over their future, including this government’s extreme Brexit plans.”

Priti Patel putting personal ambition ahead of ministerial duty



Commenting on reports that Priti Patel held undisclosed meetings in Israel, Shas Sheehan, Liberal Democrat International Development Spokesperson, said:

"Priti Patel has made a grave error of judgement, which goes against the openness, accountability and scrutiny the work of a government minister demands.

"The Department for International Development is facing a litany of disasters around the world in which UK aid will play a key role in recovery and rebuilding. Shockingly, in the face of that responsibility, the Secretary of State has seemingly swanned off to Israel to pursue her personal career. 

"It is objectionable that Priti Patel chooses to use her position of influence to inappropriately foster her own political ambition, disregarding both common courtesy due to the Foreign Secretary and government procedures.

"Priti Patel now must answer questions over whether she has broken the ministerial code of conduct. If she has, her position as Secretary of State is untenable."
 

May and Hammond must stop PIP cuts that balance the books on most vulnerable



Commenting on the latest guidelines for Personal Independence Payment recipients, Norman Lamb, former Liberal Democrat Care Minister, said:

“While I am pleased that the Government has budged slightly on giving disabled people the money they need to live with dignity, these changes leave much to be desired.

“These concessions ignore several other major tribunal rulings earlier this year, which ruled that people should receive greater amounts of PIP if they have difficulties traveling alone or monitoring a health condition. Instead, the Government chose to restrict eligibility criteria in order to save money, effectively balancing the books on the backs of the vulnerable.

“With complaints about the PIP assessment process up by almost 900% in a year, the government must urgently review the entire scheme to ensure that the needs of disabled people are being properly met.”
 

Delay to NICs 2 tax cut is "slap in the face for self-employed workers"


The government has quietly announced it will be delaying a planned tax cut for self-employed workers by a year.

In a ministerial statement yesterday, it was announced that changes to National Insurance including the abolition of Class 2 NICs will be delayed until April 2019.

The planned tax cut would have led to savings for most self-employed workers of around £148 next year.

Liberal Democrat Leader Vince Cable commented:

"This is a slap in the face for self-employed workers.

"The Treasury is trying to bury bad news.

"Small business owners are already being hit with a double whammy of rising prices and higher borrowing costs.

"Now they’re being told that a planned tax cut will be delayed by another year.

"Once again the government is letting down the strivers who form the backbone of our economy."
 

Welsh Lib Dem election announcements

The new leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats is Jane Dodds of the Montgomery party.

Congratulations to Aberavon and Neath chairman Cen Phillips on being elected to the National Executive Committee.

Thursday, November 02, 2017

Interest rate rise - Cable responds


Commenting on the heavily-trailed doubling of the Bank of England interest rate, Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable, a former Business Secretary, said:

“This marks a significant change of direction towards a world of higher interest rates after almost a decade on the life support of ultra-cheap money.

“The move comes amid growing signs of economic weakness, particularly the uncertainty of Brexit. This will present a serious problem as many individuals, families and companies rely increasingly on borrowing to get by.

"We are already seeing signs that consumers are losing confidence. If consumers get the idea that interest rates are going to rise further, pushing up the cost of servicing their debts, this will kick one of the few parts of the economy that was working."
 

Ming Campbell advice to new Defence Secretary


Commenting on the appointment of Gavin Williamson as the new Defence Secretary, Menzies Campbell, Liberal Democrat Defence Spokesperson, said:

“The surprise new Defence Secretary has a mountain to climb, and quickly.

“There are persistent reports of proposals with the Ministry of Defence to cut the number of Royal Marines, to sell off warships, and to reduce the number of helicopters.

“Gavin Williamson’s first phone call should be to the Chancellor of the Exchequer urging him not to propose any reduction in defence spending in the coming budget.”

[The BBC has announced that Gavin Williamson, MP for South Staffordshire, has replaced Michael Fallon as Secretary for Defence after the latter resigned over admitted sexual misconduct.]

Brexodus of EU nurses risks bringing NHS to its knees

 

The number of nurses and midwives coming to work in Britain from Europe has plunged by 89% since Brexit, figures from the Nursing and Midwifery Council’s (NMC) have revealed.

The figures also show a 67% rise in the number of EU nurses leaving the NMC's register: from 2,435 in 2015-16 to 4,067 in the last year.

Jeremy Hunt recently said he was "confident" EU staff in the NHS would be able to stay, but could not give a firm guarantee.

Liberal Democrat Health Spokesperson Judith Jolly commented:

“This is yet more evidence of a deeply worrying Brexodus of EU nurses from the NHS.

“Our health service is already overstretched and understaffed, it cannot afford to lose this many nurses especially as we approach another winter crisis.

“It is not good enough for the government to say it is confident NHS staff from the EU will be able to stay.

“Ministers must give a cast-iron guarantee that the European nurses and doctors who keep our health service afloat can stay here no matter what."

Local Liberal Democrat party official Frank Little added:
"This is another case of a Westminster policy over which we have no control impacting a major devolved matter in Wales. In addition to the uncertainty caused by Mrs May's decision to trigger Article 50 talks, there are also the economic barriers to much-needed professionals from the Commonwealth coming to the aid of our health service, barriers which Mrs May presided over when she was Home Secretary.

"It would help of course if Labour's Jeremy Corbyn and Carwyn Jones put up a robust defence of our membership of the EU and of the Commonwealth instead of appeasing the xenophobic element of their vote."

Rudd ignoring the facts on police funding and putting country in danger


Amber Rudd has told police she does not want to see them “asking for more money” from the Government, despite a major increase in recorded crime and an unprecedented terror threat.

Ed Davey MP, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson, commented:

"To ignore the advice of Britain's most senior police officers is reckless and deeply irresponsible.

"The Conservatives are planning major cuts to police budgets when crime is rising and the terrorist threat has never been so high.

"If the Home Secretary continues to ignore the facts, she will be putting our country and communities in serious danger."

Institute for Fiscal Studies on benefits cuts - Lib Dems respond


Responding to the IFS research, Stephen Lloyd MP, Liberal Democrat Work and Pensions Spokesman said:
"These figures from the respected IFS hammer home just how damaging this government's welfare policies will be for millions of families. It is particularly heartbreaking to learn that child poverty will increase in every single part of the country, harming the future prospects of over half a million children. 
"Cruel and senseless Conservative policies, such as freezing working-age benefits while prices soar and slashing funding for Universal Credit just as it rolls out across the country, will worsen inequality by harming the living standards of the most vulnerable and reducing incentives to work. And as the authors of the study point out, the impact of these policies could be far worse if our economy takes a turn for the worse. 
"The Liberal Democrats are the only major party committed to reversing the worst of the Conservatives' welfare reforms, including the benefits freeze, the two-child limit and the deep cuts to Universal Credit. During the last election, analysis from the IFS itself showed our welfare plans to be the most progressive. 
"I am therefore calling on this Government to listen to the weight of the evidence and immediately change course, using this Autumn's Budget as an opportunity to support the most vulnerable in our society. "

Government gives into pressure over coffee cup charge

Environment Minister Therese Coffey has said the government will consider introducing a coffee cup charge charge to tackle the 2.5 billion disposable cups thrown away each year.

It comes despite the same minister last year rejecting Liberal Democrat calls for a charge to be introduced, claiming that coffee shop chains are already taking enough action to cut down on waste.

Liberal Democrat Environment Spokesperson Tim Farron commented:

“It is good to see the government is now giving into growing pressure, after having rejected our proposal for a coffee cup charge last year.

“Ministers must stop burying their their heads in the sand and address the scandal of unnecessary litter polluting our streets, rivers and countryside.

“As we know from the 5p charge on plastic bags pushed for the Liberal Democrats, a small change can make a huge difference in protecting our environment.

“The public have embraced the plastic bag charge and know it is making a difference, this is the next logical step.”

Ban on letting fees must not leave any loopholes for landlords to exploit


The government has introduced draft legislation to ban letting agent fees in a victory for the Liberal Democrats, who called for the change in a Private Members' Bill last year.

Wera Hobhouse MP, Liberal Democrat Communities and Local Government Spokesperson, commented:
"I very much welcome the ban on lettings fees and the cap on deposits, which Liberal Democrats have long been campaigning for. 
"The detail of this legislation must now be looked at closely to ensure that there are no loopholes which unscrupulous letting agents could exploit.

"The ban must include all types of fees, so that they can't simply be renamed and still charged to tenants.
"The next steps are to address the instability of renting by introducing longer tenancies and making it easier for renters to get on the property ladder."