Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Huhne condemns police DNA "fishing expeditions"

Commenting on the Human Genetics Commission’s review of the Government’s DNA database, Liberal Democrat Shadow Home Secretary, Chris Huhne said:

“The Government’s cavalier attitude towards DNA retention has put us in the ridiculous situation where people are being arrested just to have their DNA harvested.

“Ministers make no distinction between innocence and guilt and as a result everyone is treated like a suspect.

“Innocent people should be removed from the database and there should be a frank discussion about its effectiveness.”

Nick Clegg did not say he preferred the Conservatives

The Lib Dems’ director of election communications, Jonny Oates, states categorically that Nick Clegg did not express a preference for dealing with the Tories over Labour. In rebutting yesterday’s inaccurate press reports, all Jonny had to do was to reproduce the transcript of what Nick actually said:

"In view of today’s press reports about a balanced parliament, I thought it would be useful to provide the text of what Nick said on the Andrew Marr show on Sunday. As you will see, these comments do not indicate any preference between the other two parties in the event of no party having an overall majority:

'I think it is an inevitable fact, it is just stating the obvious, the party which has got the strongest mandate from the British people will have the first right to seek to govern.

'I start from a very simple first principle – it is not Gordon Brown or David Cameron or Nick Clegg who are kingmakers in British politics – it’s the British people.

'So the votes of the British people are what should determine what happens afterwards.

'Whichever party have the strongest mandate from the British people, it seems to me obvious in a democracy they have the first right to seek to try and govern, either on their own or with others.'"

Those in a position to know also rebut the assertion by Mr Hain's office that Nick Clegg has been talking to the Conservative leadership about post-election arrangements. If Mr Hain has evidence to back up his claims, then let him produce it.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Government must reinstate funds for small charities – Willott

Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Charities, Cardiff Central MP Jenny Willott, has called for the Government to reinstate the £750,000 it has diverted from a fund for small charities. She will be tabling an Early Day Motion on the subject. She explained:

“This decision is a major blow to many small charities who had been promised the money and made plans based on those promises.

“What is so appalling is the manner in which this has been done, with no warning or consultation. How does the Government expect to convince other public bodies to abide by the Compact when they treat charities in this way?

“The charity sector warned the Government that the Hardship Fund was too small when it was first set up. But to increase funding for one set of charities, by such a small amount, at the expense of so many other charities is shameful.

“The Government should reinstate these funds immediately.”

Friday, November 20, 2009

Valleys Plaid leader switches to "party of principle"

Mike Powell and the Pontypridd Liberal Democrats welcome Chris Rosser, town councillor and former chair of the local Plaid Cymru branch, to the party.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Prison officer strikes a failure of Government – Howarth

 Commenting on the wildcat prison officer strikes taking place at several prisons, Liberal Democrat Shadow Justice Secretary, David Howarth said: 

“Because of the unique position prison officers are in, the Government has a responsibility to ensure serious grievances are dealt with before officers feel they have no choice but to strike.

"Whatever the rights and wrongs of a particular strike action, the very fact that it has reached this point is a failure of Government.”

Welsh Liberal Democrats lead Assembly into cross party consensus on Copenhagen

Mick Bates, Assembly Member for Montgomery, relates how cross-party resolution was obtained over Wales' commitment to reduce our impact on climate change.

Kirsty calls for referendum action now

Kirsty Williams, leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats, says that the sooner the decision is taken to hold a referendum on the basis of the Report of the All Wales Convention, the better. Full story on Freedom Central.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Government has failed to audit state-owned banks' investments

Liberal Democrat Shadow Energy and Climate Change Secretary, Simon Hughes will today host a meeting in Parliament with campaigners against the extraction of oil from tar sands in Western Canada.

He will reveal documents showing that the Government has made no attempt to carry out any form of environmental or social audit into its investments in the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS).

Commenting ahead of the meeting, Simon Hughes said:

“The Government’s failure to assess the social and environmental impacts of its investments in RBS demonstrates stunning negligence.

“As a majority shareholder the Government should use its power to ensure destructive environmental investments are not made.

“World leaders must work towards a treaty that will outlaw tar sands extraction, in the same way they came together to ban land mines, blood diamonds and cluster bombs.”

Shameful selling of personal mobile phone data

Commenting on the news that one of the UK’s major mobile phone companies has sold on millions of customer records, Liberal Democrat Shadow Home Secretary, Chris Huhne said:

“This shameful incident shows the disdain with which some companies treat sensitive personal data.

“Stiffer penalties for those involved in serious data breaches, whether in the public or private sector, cannot be introduced soon enough.

“This sorry episode questions the Government’s wisdom in getting communications providers to hoard increasing amounts of information about us.”

Welsh Lib Dem challenges nationalists over council tax

Government figures show that local authorities have more than doubled the amount of money raised from Council Tax in the past decade.

Frank Little, prospective Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate for Neath, challenged Plaid Cymru to say whether they still supported the move to fair local taxation, or whether they had abandoned the policy with which they entered the last two elections. "Is keeping on the right side of Labour, and therefore ministerial seats in Cardiff, more important than axeing a regressive tax?" he asked.

Liberal Democrat Shadow Communities and Local Government Secretary, Julia Goldsworthy said:

“Millions of families have struggled with Council Tax bills that have soared while Labour has tinkered at the edges.

“Both the Tories and Labour offer no serious alternative to a tax that has skyrocketed this decade.

“The Liberal Democrats would move to a fair system of local taxation based on people’s ability to pay.”

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Spare us from preposterous ID cards promotion – Huhne

Commenting on the Government’s announcement that people from Manchester can now apply for an ID card as part of the pilot scheme, Liberal Democrat Shadow Home Secretary, Chris Huhne said:

“Where once we were told ID cards would fight terrorism, crime and illegal immigration, they are now being touted as a billion pound way of helping students get into bars.

“The discredited ID cards scheme should be scrapped immediately and ministers spared from having to come up with ever more preposterous ways to promote them.”

Vince Cable says a banking levy would produce a fair deal for the taxpayer

The UK banks owe their very existence to the British taxpayer with the Governor of the Bank of England estimating that they have received the equivalent of £1 trillion in taxpayer support.

But it does not stop there. The banking industry is unique in having the taxpayer acting as a safety net. Until the banks can be successfully broken up, the Liberal Democrats believe that they should pay for the explicit guarantee that they receive.

Liberal Democrat Shadow Chancellor, Vince Cable has today proposed creating a new levy on bank profits at a rate of 10%, with all the revenue raised (estimated next year to be around £2bn) going towards tackling the structural deficit.

Commenting, Vince Cable said:

"One trillion pounds worth of taxpayer support has gone into keeping the British banking industry afloat.

"We must find a way to split the banks so that the British public no longer props up ‘casino’ banking.

"Meanwhile, it is only right for the taxpayer to get a fair deal for the guarantee that they provide to the banking industry.

"A 10% levy on bank profits would be used to pay down the structural deficit that they are partly responsible for creating.

"The Government should use next month’s pre budget report to put forward this proposal so that banks recognise the explicit guarantee that they currently enjoy.

The draft budget

The budget settlement is being debated in the Assembly this afternoon. Freeview Channel 81 is showing the proceedings live until 18:30, with presumably a repeat at the weekend.

Welsh Liberal Democrats have published their outline budget, aimed at helping, not hindering, Wales during the recession.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Clegg calls for abolIition of pointless Queen's Speech

Speaking to the Independent, the Liberal Democrat leader called for an end to the charade of a Queen's Speech at the beginning of a "rump" parliament, which can last no more than 70 days before a general election is called, and has no chance of passing any worthwhile legislation.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Roger Roberts calls for fair voting rights for servicemen

Lord Roberts of Llandudno has drawn attention to the long-standing electoral discrimination against personnel serving in HM Forces. It has been calculated that as many as one-third of HM forces are not registered to vote.

The government has known about this problem for a long time, but has declined to do anything about it.

Johnson must apologise for misleading the Commons over Nutt sacking – Harris

The Liberal Democrats have formally asked the Home Secretary to apologise to the Commons for misleading statements concerning Professor David Nutt and the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs and to apologise to Professor Nutt for the unfair damage done to his reputation for the incorrect and unjustified allegations made about him.

In a formal complaint to the Home Secretary, Liberal Democrat Science Spokesperson, Dr Evan Harris accuses him of misleading the Commons and calls for him to make a quick apology and correction.

Commenting, Evan Harris said:

“Lord Drayson, the science minister, has now publicly criticised the Home Secretary for not consulting him over the matter and signalled that the Government would endorse a Code of Practice for ministers under which Professor Nutt would still be in his position.

“Yet three days after writing neither Professor Nutt nor I have had a sniff of retraction or apology from the Home Secretary.

“I will now be raising this in the House tomorrow.”

Liberal Democrat Shadow Home Secretary, Chris Huhne said:

“This letter sets out a series of errors that the Home Secretary made in his statement to the House on Monday. He needs urgently now to address those.”

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Olympic contracts must be spread across regions – Foster

Commenting on the news that organisers of the 2012 Olympics are putting £700m of contracts out to tender, Liberal Democrat Shadow Sport Secretary, Don Foster said:

“Increasing opportunities for businesses from across the UK is a key part of the Government’s Olympic Legacy plan.

“The information released today shows that so far a disproportionate number of contracts have been awarded to businesses based in London and the South East.

“It is great that so many contracts are still up for grabs but officials need to make sure that more is done so that all areas of the country benefit.”

Billions lost through benefits fraud and error staggeringly unfair – Webb

Commenting on Government figures showing that £3bn in benefit expenditure last year was overpaid because of fraud and error, Liberal Democrat Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, Steve Webb said:

“The Government’s failure to get to grips with the over-complex benefits system is appalling, especially when so much is down to official error.

“It is staggeringly unfair that the taxpayer is forced to stump up billions of pounds just because officials are unable to administer a system of their own creation.

“The benefits system is crucial to help people in a recession. It cannot afford to lose money because of poor administration.

“The benefits system needs to be much simpler, not least so officials can understand it properly.”

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

£1,000 for a UK train journey is scandalous

Commenting on the first £1,000 train fare in Britain being revealed in a survey by the Evening Standard, Liberal Democrat Shadow Transport Secretary, Norman Baker said:

“This is a very unwelcome landmark and will do nothing to encourage people to travel by train.

“When you can fly half way across Europe for £30, the idea that you can end up paying £1,000 for a train journey in Britain is absolutely scandalous.

“Not only are passengers being encouraged off the trains and into their cars, some considering this journey may decide they’d rather fly to Australia and back for half the price.”

(It was revealed that a walk-on first-class return from Cornwall to the Scottish Highlands by Cross-Country now costs over £1000)

Monday, November 02, 2009

Government should not rush to sell off banks

Commenting on Government plans to break up state-owned banks, Liberal Democrat Shadow Chancellor, Vince Cable said: 

“It is obviously right that British retail banking becomes more competitive in order to stop the continual ripping off of customers.

“But there’s no justification for a rapid sell off of state assets in the current depressed environment when the taxpayer will get a very poor deal.

“This is a long-term project and the most important priorities are to make sure banks lend to good customers, especially businesses, in order to stave off deepening recession and growing unemployment and that the taxpayer gets value for money.

“What is particularly worrying is the indication that Lloyds is trying to wriggle out of its agreement to maintain lending to good business customers. If it achieves its objectives this would be an appalling example of the short-term interests of banks being put ahead of national interests.”

It should be noted that the Swiss government made a profit of over 20% when it returned its shares in UBS to the private sector.

Johnson risks undermining Government science advice – Huhne

Commenting on the further resignations of Government drug advisers following the sacking of Professor David Nutt, Liberal Democrat Shadow Home Secretary, Chris Huhne said: 

“These are high profile and damaging resignations. If Alan Johnson does not backtrack quickly, he runs the risk not only of destroying his own Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs but also of undermining the integrity of scientific advice across Government.

“It is absurdly thin-skinned to suggest that a critical editorial in a peer-reviewed learned journal involves campaigning against Government policy. If ministers behave like this, no self-respecting academic will want to advise them.

“The most convincing recipe for bad policy-making – in the drugs area as in mad cow disease – is for politicians to insist on scientific advice that meets their prejudices rather than the facts. If Churchill had taken that view when listening to Lord Cherwell, we would have lost the war. Scientists must be able to tell truth to power.”