Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Nick Clegg states position on paying MPs

Nick Clegg has written to Gordon Brown and David Cameron to continue to seek a cross-party solution to the issues of MPs pay and expenses.

In his letter, Nick Clegg proposes to ban MPs from making any profit from the selling of properties whose mortgages have been paid for by the tax payer. Nick Clegg also reiterates his opposition to a system of daily allowances. The full text is here.

Call for Gurkha justice

Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg tabled the following motion for debate in the House of Commons today:
That this House condemns the Government's recent statement outlining the eligibility criteria for Gurkhas to reside in the United Kingdom; recognises the contribution the Gurkhas have made to the safety and freedom of the United Kingdom for the past 200 years; notes that more Gurkhas have laid down their lives for the United Kingdom than are estimated to want to live here; believes that Gurkhas who retired before 1997 should be treated fairly and in the same way as those who have retired since; is concerned that the Government's new guidelines will permit only a small minority of Gurkhas and their families to settle whilst preventing the vast majority; further believes that people who are prepared to fight and die for the United Kingdom should be entitled to live here; and calls upon the Government to withdraw its new guidelines immediately and bring forward revised proposals that extend an equal right of residence to all Gurkhas.

Frank Little writes:
On behalf of the local party, and as parliamentary candidate for Neath, I wrote to both our local MPs pointing out the disparity between Labour's commitment to even-handedness in race relations and Borders and Immigration Minister Phil Woolas's apparently discriminatory action. Fijian and Jamaican servicemen are given rights of residence in the UK denied to Gurkhas.

Their replies are broadly sympathetic, but without any commitment to challenge the decision. I hope that they will attend at least part of the debate and put conscience ahead of party loyalty when it comes to the vote.

** Update ** The Liberal Democrat motion won by 21. Aberavon MP Dr Hywel Francis and Neath's Peter Hain voted against it. Labour members who voted for the motion included Dianne Abbott, Andrew Mackinlay and Bob Marshall-Andrews.

Chris Huhne led for the party. His speech is in Hansard here (column 890).

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Blaenau Gwent Labour candidate quits party

Martin Shipton in the Western Mail has confirmed that John Hopkins, who was defeated by Trish Law, the widow of Peter Law, in the Blaenau Gwent by-election, has resigned from the Labour Party after 44 years as a member.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

You lose some, you win some

A LibDem prospective parliamentary candidate defects to the Conservatives in London.

However, Chris Huhne's position in what was once seen as a very marginal seat has been strengthened by his prospective Labour opponent in Eastleigh resigning the party and deciding to vote for Chris instead. He says: "Time and again, I have found myself thinking that Chris Huhne is right on issues as varied as Trident, climate change, the economy and civil liberties whilst the government is wrong on them."

Friday, April 24, 2009

"Titan Prisons" abandoned

Although there has as yet been no government confirmation, BBC News has heard whispers that the super-prison programme has been abandoned.

We are glad that sense has been seen. Prisons to be effective in reforming criminals must be local and well-staffed.

Only one hundred Gurkhas will benefit from new rules

Gurkha representatives condemned today's government announcement.

It is significant that the announcement was made by Phil Woolas, Immigration Minister. It seems that Labour has done the bare minimum which they estimate would satisfy the recent High Court judgement in order to appease the BNP and its sympathisers.

Update: the BBC story is here.

See also "Clegg will lead attack ... in Parliament".

Update 2009-4-25 - Gareth Epps, Liberal Democrat candidate for Reading East added: "'It's staggering that any Minister from a party that claims to believe in equality can sign up to such a decicion.

"The Labour Government is now allowing settlement rights to former soldiers from Jamaica or Fiji, but treats Gurkha veterans as somehow less worthy. This is a shameful decision and I will do everything in my power to back the ongoing campaign for Gurkha justice."

The Gurkha Justice campaign site is at and you can also follow @gurkhajustice at Twitter.

Clegg: "a pick-and-mix budget"

The Liberal Democrat leader described Wednesday's Budget as "a pick and mix Budget of recycled announcements from a government skilled in raising people’s hopes but incompetent at actually delivering help."
His full text, and links to comments by Steve Webb, David Laws, Simon Hughes and Norman Baker are here.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Nick Clegg's budget response: a BBC excerpt

You can read the full text over at the party’s website HERE.

Former Tory A-lister defects to the Liberal Democrats

A West Midlands businesswoman, who had been placed on the Conservative party's list of preferred parliamentary candidates, has decided that her future is with the Liberal Democrats. More at Liberal Democrat Voice.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Liberal Democrat spring conference

Affordable housing speech, Nick Clegg and Kirsty Williams videos are all on Peter Black's blog.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Sir Clement Freud dies

Sir Clement died last Wednesday evening at the age of 84. There is a BBC tribute here, which naturally concentrates on his contributions to Radio 4. However, his career as a Liberal MP is also significant, from winning Isle of Ely in a by-election against the odds in 1973, to his part in the downfall of the Callaghan government six years later. I have the impression that cash-strapped Liberal HQ would not or could not give any assistance in that 1973 campaign, preferring to concentrate on the by-election in Ripon on the same day, which makes Freud's success all the more remarkable. Freud also survived boundary reorganisation in 1983 and served as MP for North-East Cambridgeshire until 1987.

Frank Little

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Kirsty Williams let down by Ieuan Air

Liberal Democrat News reports that Kirsty Williams was the honoured guest at an all-party charity ball hosted by Anglesey Chairman Aled Morris Jones at the beginning of this month. Unfortunately, her flight north was cancelled at short notice. LDN goes on: "She decided to act like Lloyd George and enlisted the help of two women passengers to commandeer a taxi and catch the train. She finally arrived just in time to make her speech, but missed the delicious, gourmet dinner."

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Putting MPs' travel expenses in perspective

We are grateful to Liberal Democrat Voice for drawing attention to a useful map* which is a great example of how you can use maps to make statistics clearer. Mark Pack of LDV writes: "In this case, the big issue is that MPs do have genuinely different legitimate travel needs depending on where they live. It’s only reasonable for an MP from Scotland to have much higher travel expenses than one who lives in London, for example.

"Putting the sums on a map helps show the patterns which are reasonable. And it also highlights those which are a bit more surprising, such as Margaret Moran, Labour MP for Luton South who has claimed £80,000 more in expenses than another Labour MP living in the same street. She is the green blob in a sea of blue and purple just north of London.

"The other one that particularly caught my eye was Conservative MP Chris Grayling, a frequent Conservative Party attack dog, who also stands out as a green blob in a sea of blue and purple - in his case, just south west of London.

"The map doesn’t reveal everything by any means. For example, it doesn’t pick up the issue of Malcolm Rifkind (constituency: in London, location of Parliament: in London) claiming regular travel expenses for going back and forth between London and Scotland. But it is a useful extra perspective on what is and isn’t reasonable to claim."

One might also point out the abstemiousness of Labour's Alan Williams (Swansea West, £3711) compared with some fellow Labour Privy Councillors further east, and therefore closer to London. However, Liberal Democrat member for Cardiff Central, Jenny Willott, must take a prize for not claiming any travel expenses for 2007/8.

*Warning - it's not so useful if you have only a dial-up or other slow internet connection.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Calling Time on Tax Havens

I was intrigued to hear that one of the outcomes of this weeks G20 meeting was that all those Tax Havens are now to be named and shamed. More interesting to note is that the Liberal Democrats have been calling for this for some time. Moreover, the Liberal Democrats went a stage further than this well before the G20 Summit and challenged the Government over this issue in the House of Lords on 30 March 2009.

Click here for more.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Preamble to the Liberal Democrat Constitution

Not the most conventional of posts, i agree, but I don't think enough is made of this "Ethos" let alone publicised. After all, it encompasses the overarching principles which guide our policy making and which seeks to define what the Liberal Democrats stand for - it is also what convinced me to join the Liberal Democrats.

Time and again, I hear from people on the doorsteps "Well, what are the Lib Dems for?" "What do you represent?"

So, here it is......

The Liberal Democrats exist to build and safeguard a fair, free and open society, in which we seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community, and in which no-one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity. We champion the freedom, dignity and well-being of individuals, we acknowledge and respect their right to freedom of conscience and their right to develop their talents to the full. We aim to disperse power, to foster diversity and to nurture creativity. We believe that the role of the state is to enable all citizens to attain these ideals, to contribute fully to their communities and to take part in the decisions which affect their lives.

We look forward to a world in which all people share the same basic rights, in which they live together in peace and in which their different cultures will be able to develop freely. We believe that each generation is responsible for the fate of our planet and, by safeguarding the balance of nature and the environment, for the long term continuity of life in all its forms.

Upholding these values of individual and social justice, we reject all prejudice and discrimination based upon race, colour, religion, age, disability, sex or sexual orientation and oppose all forms of entrenched privilege and inequality. Recognising that the quest for freedom and justice can never end, we promote human rights and open government, a sustainable economy which serves genuine need, public services of the highest quality, international action based on a recognition of the interdependence of all the world's peoples and responsible stewardship of the earth and its resources.

We believe that people should be involved in running their communities. We are determined to strengthen the democratic process and ensure that there is a just and representative system of government with effective Parliamentary institutions, freedom of information, decisions taken at the lowest practicable level and a fair voting system for all elections. We will at all times defend the right to speak, write, worship, associate and vote freely, and we will protect the right of citizens to enjoy privacy in their own lives and homes. We believe that sovereignty rests with the people and that authority in a democracy derives from the people. We therefore acknowledge their right to determine the form of government best suited to their needs and commit ourselves to the promotion of a democratic federal framework within which as much power as feasible is exercised by the nations and regions of the United Kingdom. We similarly commit ourselves to the promotion of a flourishing system of democratic local government in which decisions are taken and services delivered at the most local level which is viable.

We will foster a strong and sustainable economy which encourages the necessary wealth creating processes, develops and uses the skills of the people and works to the benefit of all, with a just distribution of the rewards of success. We want to see democracy, participation and the co-operative principle in industry and commerce within a competitive environment in which the state allows the market to operate freely where possible but intervenes where necessary. We will promote scientific research and innovation and will harness technological change to human advantage.

We will work for a sense of partnership and community in all areas of life. We recognise that the independence of individuals is safeguarded by their personal ownership of property, but that the market alone does not distribute wealth or income fairly. We support the widest possible distribution of wealth and promote the rights of all citizens to social provision and cultural activity. We seek to make public services responsive to the people they serve, to encourage variety and innovation within them and to make them available on equal terms to all.

Our responsibility for justice and liberty cannot be confined by national boundaries; we are committed to fight poverty, oppression, hunger, ignorance, disease and aggression wherever they occur and to promote the free movement of ideas, people, goods and services. Setting aside national sovereignty when necessary, we will work with other countries towards an equitable and peaceful international order and a durable system of common security. Within the European Community we affirm the values of federalism and integration and work for unity based on these principles. We will contribute to the process of peace and disarmament, the elimination of world poverty and the collective safeguarding of democracy by playing a full and constructive role in international organisations which share similar aims and objectives.

These are the conditions of liberty and social justice which it is the responsibility of each citizen and the duty of the state to protect and enlarge. The Liberal Democrats consist of women and men working together for the achievement of these aims.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Prison administration in a mess

On top of the release of figures by Welsh Liberal Democrats which show that the prison population of Wales is rising, even though increasing numbers of convicts are being released early, comes news that inspectors have criticised Parc in Bridgend for not having enough resources to carry out its role as the only training prison for Wales.