Saturday, February 20, 2010

Revive our high streets

Nick Clegg, Leader of the Liberal Democrats, joined by Ed Fordham, PPC for Hampstead and Kilburn, yesterday set out plans to revitalise Britain's high streets, ensure the future of the Post Office, and help small businesses establish and grow in a fairer marketplace. Read more.

Friday, February 19, 2010

ONS figures underline importance of a credible plan to tackle the deficit – Cable

Commenting on the news that the UK’s public finances deteriorated further in January, Liberal Democrat Shadow Chancellor, Vince Cable said:

“This is worrying news for the state of the public finances.

“The weakness of the economy is having an inevitable impact on tax receipts.

“These figures underline the importance of having a credible plan to tackle the deficit and stimulate growth and jobs to strengthen future tax receipts.

“Simply slashing spending now regardless of the economic circumstances is not only a fruitless labour but a damaging one. If we cut too soon, the economy will be pushed back into recession, lowering tax revenues even further and negating the effect of the cuts.

“Only the Liberal Democrats have a clear and concise plan for dealing with the deficit and for promoting the long-term growth and security of our economy.”

Darling must order full independent valuation of Asset Protection Scheme – Cable

Following the disclosure of correspondence between the Chancellor and Treasury Permanent Secretary Nicholas Macpherson relating to RBS’ toxic loans, Liberal Democrat Shadow Chancellor, Vince Cable has written to Alistair Darling and FSA Chair Adair Turner to ask for a full independent valuation of the Asset Protection Scheme to be carried out.

He commented: “From the outset the Liberal Democrats have consistently raised concerns about the Asset Protection Scheme.

“Not only is this a massive fraud on the taxpayer but it seems that we are now underwriting some potentially illegal assets.

“The Chancellor must now order a full independent valuation of all assets in the Asset Protection Scheme. Having previously raised concerns about corporate governance at RBS and received no substantive reply from the FSA, it is now essential that the FSA review its procedures covering corporate governance."

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Ministers playing down effects of underemployment

Commenting on today’s figures from the Office for National Statistics showing a sharp rise in underemployment during the recession, Liberal Democrat Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, Steve Webb said:

“Ministers are guilty of playing down the impact of the recession on working people by ignoring underemployment.

“While labour market flexibility has prevented an explosion in unemployment during this recession, one in 10 people who want more hours can’t find enough work. This can have a devastating financial impact on them and their families.

“We need to invest in a green jobs package which will support the economy now and build our infrastructure for the long-term. Cutting spending while the economy remains fragile would be a big mistake.”

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Tories abandon environment as a priority

The Conservative general election machine today published a list of ‘Ten reasons to vote Conservative’ which did not include any reference to the environment or climate change.

This is despite David Cameron’s claim that he has ‘sought to push the environment up to the top of the political agenda’, and his own Shadow Climate Change Secretary Greg Clark’s assertion that Cameron ‘wanted the environment to be a very important part of the proposition we put to the public at the General Election.’

It follows the recent revelation that reducing Britain’s carbon footprint was at the bottom of Tory PPCs’ priorities.

Commenting, Liberal Democrat Shadow Climate Change Secretary, Simon Hughes said:

For those of us who really care about the environment and the future of our planet the Tories have demonstrated once again that there is no reason to vote for them.

“Cameron the PR man likes having his picture taken with huskies, but when it comes to governing this country the Tories have never made the climate one of their priorities.”

Tories should join us in the real world – Alexander

Commenting on the Tories’ mistaken claim that 54% of teenagers in deprived areas fall pregnant before their 18th birthday, Nick Clegg’s Chief of Staff, Danny Alexander said:

“The Tories seem to think that half our teenagers are pregnant, our cities are like The Wire and that people will get married for a few extra quid.

“If they really believe Britain is like this, it’s remarkable that Conservative MPs can pluck up the courage to leave their houses.

“They should lower their drawbridges, spend less time tending their moats and duck houses, and join the rest of us in the real world.”


Banks must make good on commitment to increase lending

Data from the Institute of Directors shows that nearly 60% of businesses seeking bank finance in 2009/10 were rejected by their bank, and that 20% are financing their businesses to some extent with credit cards.

Liberal Democrat Shadow Chancellor, Vince Cable said:“There is a huge gap between what the banks tell us and the experience of companies on the ground.

“This evidence confirms that large numbers of small and medium sized businesses are still having difficulty in getting credit on reasonable terms. The nationalised and semi nationalised banks owe their existence to us, the taxpayer and they must make good on their commitments to increase lending at reasonable rates.

“Instead of paying themselves large bonuses, the money should instead be used to strengthen balance sheets and to provide commercial lending to sound and solvent British companies who have a vital role to play in our economic recovery.”

On today's news that Barclays kicked off the results season for UK banks by reporting a forecast-beating £11.64bn annual pre-tax profit, almost double the £6.08bn it reported for 2008, Vince renewed his call for the big banks to be broken up.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

£1bn lost through benefits error staggeringly unfair – Webb

A report by the House of Commons Work and Pensions Select Committee, "Decision Making and Appeals in the Benefits System", has found that overpayments due to error had soared from £400 million in 2000 to £800 million by the end of the decade.

Liberal Democrat Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, Steve Webb commented: 

“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 almost £1bn just because officials are unable to administer a system of their own creation.  

“These blunders cause hardship and stress for many vulnerable people.  

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


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

At least Wales does better than Rwanda

Peter Hain believes that compensates for having the worst child poverty in Britain.

Overtime bill shows need for more police

Government figures show that spending on overtime for police officers went up by nearly 50% in just five years. Liberal Democrat Shadow Home Secretary, Chris Huhne said: 
“Spurious and unnecessary overtime must end but not at the expense of front-line policing. 

“Three quarters of forces have made it clear that large overtime expenditure is due to a lack of police.

“That is why the Liberal Democrats are the only party committed to putting 3,000 more police on the street.”

FSA has an important role to play

Commenting on the resignation of Hector Sants, Chief Executive of the Financial Services Authority, Liberal Democrat Shadow Chancellor, Vince Cable said: 

“We are still in the middle of a crisis and the FSA has an important part to play in effecting far reaching and lasting change.  

“There were failures in the past but the resignation of Hector Sants will plunge the FSA into a great deal of uncertainty.  

“We don’t know if this decision is a direct result of the Tories’ stance on the FSA’s future but what we can say is that their proposals are creating uncertainty for an organisation that has a vital role to play.” 

LibDems call for democratic scrutiny of BBC accounts

The BBC has disclosed that it paid £229m to performers. Liberal Democrat Shadow Culture, Media and Sport Secretary, Don Foster reacted: 

“These are eye-watering figures. Licence fee payers have a right to know if they represent good value for money. 

“We need a public body to look at the BBC’s full accounts to see if the public interest is being best served. Scrutiny of this kind is a job for the National Audit Office, not commercial accountants. 

“While we all want to know how much stars are being paid, public disclosure is likely to be ruled illegal. It could also lead to a bidding war, pushing salaries and hence BBC costs up, not down.” 


Conservatives put neo-con ideology above national interest on defence

Commenting on Liam Fox's call for the UK to fight alone, without allies, Liberal Democrat Shadow Defence Secretary, Nick Harvey said: 

"These are desperately undiplomatic comments on the eve of a major allied operation in Afghanistan. 

"Liam Fox's brand of neo-con, anti-European thinking puts ideology above the national interest. 

"His views on defence look hopelessly unrealistic when he refuses to say where the money will come from. Just like Labour, the Tories' refusal to consider the renewal of Trident in a future defence review makes a mockery of the whole process."


Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Second day speeches from Conference has speeches from President Ros Scott, Cardiff Central MP Jenny Willott and Montgomery MP-cum-airline-magnate, Lembit Öpik.

All worth watching, writes Frank Little, but Ros Scott's in particular nails what the federal party is about, as we enter general election campaigning. 

A warning from the English NHS

Figures released today by the Liberal Democrats have revealed that the NHS in England is facing a £63bn bill for PFI hospitals which are only worth £11bn. The figures also reveal that:

  • The first payments for hospital PFIs began in 1999 and the NHS still owes £58bn on 106 PFI contracts over the next three decades
  • The NHS will have to pay back £7.3bn in PFI payments over the next Parliament alone (2010-2015)
  • The most expensive PFI contract was for Wythenshawe Hospital where the NHS will pay back 16 times the original capital value

Commenting, Liberal Democrat Shadow Health Secretary, Norman Lamb, said: “These figures reveal the disastrous reality of Labour’s stewardship of the NHS.

“We’re entering into one of the most difficult financial periods in the NHS’s history and this Government’s legacy will be a mountain of debt.

“Despite the enormous amounts of money we owe for these hospitals, many of them will never end up in public ownership. Hospitals all over the country are mortgaged to the hilt and there are serious concerns that these repayments will lead to cuts in vital services.

“We need a new approach to public services in this country. By setting up an infrastructure bank the Liberal Democrats will ensure that key projects get access to the funding they need to revitalise our economy.”

There is a warning for councils and other statutory bodies in Wales which are being pressured into adopting public-private partnerships (PPP) which are merely Labour's version of PFI.

Electoral Reform Bill must give voters real choice – Howarth

The Liberal Democrats have tabled amendments to the Government’s proposals for a referendum on electoral reform that would:

· Offer voters a real choice between first-past-the-post and a truly proportional system (Single Transferable Vote), rather than AV

· Bring forward the date of the referendum to next May

· Close a loophole allowing the next Government to kill the proposals without an Act of Parliament

Commenting, Liberal Democrat Shadow Justice Secretary, David Howarth said: “Voters deserve a real choice – between the discredited status quo and a system where every vote matters and there are no safe seats.

“The Alternative Vote system is a very small step in the right direction, but it is not proportional and it does not give voters enough power over the party and the person elected as MP.

“It is also unacceptable that Labour’s amendments would make it childishly easy for the next Government to kill a referendum without further legislation.

“By acting purely out of naked self-interest, the Conservative Party has long been a roadblock to electoral reform.

“It would be far too easy for them to abandon a referendum if they win an election, which is why the Liberal Democrats have taken steps to Tory-proof the Bill.”

Lack of exit checks is the biggest hole in the student visa system

Commenting on the announcement by Alan Johnson on the student visa system, Liberal Democrat Shadow Home Secretary, Chris Huhne said:

“The biggest hole in the student visa system is caused by the Tory and Labour abolition of exit checks, which means we do not know if someone has left once their visa runs out.

“We need to restore immediate control of our borders.”

Monday, February 08, 2010

Broadcast media bias

Question Time panels are not at all unbalanced, says A.BBC-Spokesman, according to the Love and Liberty blog.

Seriously, if you have a complaint about bias on BBC, fill in the form at

For ITV, the complaints webpage says:
Tel. 0844 88 14150
(Calls cost 5p per minute from a BT landline. Calls from other
networks may be higher, and from mobiles will be considerably
more. The Viewer Services team are available Monday - Friday
8.00am to 7.00pm and Saturdays 10.00am to 7.00pm. They are closed
on Sundays, Bank holidays and Bank Holiday weekends).
You can also email us at:
Alternatively, you can write to us at:
Viewer Services
Gas Street
B1 2JT

Channel 4 welcomes feedback from our viewers. If you are unhappy
with any aspect of Channel 4, you can use the online 'Contact Us'
form or you can call us on 0845 076 0191 (lo-call number)
We’re open from 9am – 9pm Monday to Friday, 10am – 7pm on
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or write to:
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Sunday, February 07, 2010

Non-elected state sucking up more tax money under Brown

Commenting on Government figures published on Friday showing that the cost of running quangos has risen by almost £10bn since Gordon Brown became Prime Minister, to £46.5bn, Liberal Democrat Shadow Cabinet Office Minister, Jenny Willott said:

“Gordon Brown has taken Labour’s obsession with unelected and unaccountable quangos to a new extreme.

“This is an obscene amount of money to spend on bodies that lack transparency and effective democratic control.

“The Liberal Democrats are the only party truly committed to bringing in a better politics for less.

“As a start, we would scrap 90 quangos and cap the salaries of senior management. This alone would help save nearly £1.2bn a year in taxpayers’ money at a stroke.”

British Gas price cut no substitute for fair fuel bills all year round – Hughes

Commenting on British Gas’ decision to cut gas bills by an average of 7%, Liberal Democrat Shadow Energy and Climate Change Secretary, Simon Hughes said: 

“A price cut from one supplier in February is no substitute for fair fuel bills all the year round. 

“It is unfair that customers were forced to shiver through the recent cold snap.

“Energy companies have been taking advantage of their customers for too long. What we really need are fair fuel bills that are easy to understand.” 

2010 Spring Conference Vids

On Freedom Central:

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Welsh Liberal Democrat spring conference

On the opening day there will be speeches by Peter May, PPC for Swansea West, Roger Williams MP, Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader Kirsty Williams and the Federal Leader, Nick Clegg.

Subjects discussed will include The Future of Social Care, A Fair Deal for All Our Children, Fairer Taxes and Making Private Sector Housing Work.

There is a full programme of fringe events and exhibitions. For more details, see the Conference Guides on LibDem Today.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Expenses of Welsh MPs

Average expense payback of a Welsh Conservative MP - £2095 Average expense payback of a Welsh Labour MP - £2080 Average expense payback of a Plaid MP - £398.20 Expense payback of Wales's Independent MP - £110 Average expense payback of a Welsh Liberal Democrat MP - £38.50

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Legg report on MPs' expenses available

Download it as a pdf or browse it from here.

Four main planks to 2010 election campaign

Party President Ros Scott reports the broad outlines of our general election campaign:

* Reform of the tax system to create a fairer base,
* introducing the pupil premium to give all children a fairer start in life,
* creating sustainable housing and jobs and
* political reform to bring in a fairer voting system, and the power for citizens to recall an MP.

It remains to be seen how the middle two subject areas, which are devolved in Wales, figure in Welsh candidates' campaigns.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Labour’s feed-in tariff plans too little too late

Liberal Democrat Shadow Energy and Climate Change Secretary, Simon Hughes said about today's Government announcement of details of its feed-in tariff scheme:

“This will disappoint anyone looking to do their bit to contribute towards our energy supply.

“Another opportunity has been squandered. While dozens of countries already support home energy generation, Labour’s plans are too little too late.

“The Government has given in to the nuclear lobby at the expense of community-led power generation.

“People who supply green energy should get a better deal if we want to cut energy bills, create green jobs and help cut emissions.”

Welsh Liberal Democrats have long supported stronger measures to encourage micro-generation and solar heating.

Government recklessly endangered lives of UK forces

Commenting on Sir Jock Stirrup’s evidence to the Iraq Inquiry, Liberal Democrat Shadow Defence Secretary, Nick Harvey said:

This is yet more evidence that the Government’s pursuit of this disastrous war recklessly endangered the lives of our service men and women.

“The invasion of Iraq should never have gone ahead. But having done so, the least the Government could have done was ensure that our troops were properly equipped. Instead, they ignored the warnings of military commanders.

“Sir Jock Stirrup’s comments demonstrate that Labour irresponsibly overstretched our forces and endangered the mission in Afghanistan by trying to fight in Iraq at the same time.”

Liberal Democrats will fight for proportional representation

Commenting on BBC reports that the Government intends to put forward a referendum on the Alternative Vote for the House of Commons, Liberal Democrat Shadow Home Secretary, Chris Huhne said:

“If this is confirmed then it is a deathbed conversion to electoral reform from a party facing an historic defeat, which is why scepticism is warranted.

“The Alternative Vote is a small step in the right direction, but it is not a proportional system and it does not give voters real power over both the party and the person elected as MP.

“Only the Single Transferable Vote in multi-member seats would abolish MPs’ meal tickets for life, and we will fight to amend this proposal to give people a real choice for a more significant change.”

Frank Little, prospective candidate for Neath, added: "Blair went back on a promise to give the British people a choice of a new voting system. He ignored the recommendations in a report by Roy Jenkins, which he had commissioned. Now Brown is proposing a different, non-proportional, system. AV kept the unpopular Howard government in power in Australia for a term longer than it should have had. I note that current Neath Labour MP, Peter Hain, is a long-term fan of AV."

Monday, February 01, 2010

Cameron and Osborne at sixes and sevens over deficit plans – Cable

Commenting on today’s remarks by David Cameron and George Osborne on dealing with the deficit, Liberal Democrat Shadow Chancellor, Vince Cable said:

“George Osborne and David Cameron seem to be at sixes and sevens on the crucial question of how the deficit should be addressed.

“The Liberal Democrats have been arguing for some time that there should be five tests on when and how we start to cut. This must reflect the position of the economy rather than political expediency.

“The public must understand that we take the deficit very seriously. But it has to be addressed in a way that doesn’t put us back into another round of recession, resulting in job losses and an even larger deficit.

“The time to cut the deficit is when the private sector is ready to take the lead in growth and job creation. We are clearly not at that point yet.”

Brown must explain failure to stop Blair going to war in Iraq – Davey

After former Foreign Office minister Clare Short’s remarks that in the build-up to the Iraq War, Gordon Brown was ‘marginalised’ and ‘preoccupied by other things’, Liberal Democrat Shadow Foreign Secretary, Edward Davey said:

“As Chancellor, Gordon Brown had the power and the opportunity to intervene to stop Tony Blair invading Iraq. Instead he signed the cheques for this foreign policy disaster.

“Gordon Brown had an effective veto – he must explain his failure to use it.”

2/3 of key helicopters for Afghanistan unavailable – Rennie

Almost 2/3 of the RAF’s Merlin helicopters, which the Government has hailed as a key part of increasing capacity and ‘ideally suited’ to Afghanistan, are incapable of carrying out their planned missions, according to figures obtained by the Liberal Democrats.

Answers to Parliamentary Questions have shown that of the 19 RAF Merlins in the ‘Forward Fleet’ (those aircraft which frontline commands are meant to be able to use), just seven – or 37% – are classed as ‘available’ (defined as ‘considered capable of carrying out their planned missions on a given date’).

The answers also showed that only half (23 out of 46) of the Army’s Apache attack helicopters which were meant to be available to frontline commands actually were available.

Commenting, Liberal Democrat Defence Spokesperson, Willie Rennie said:

“These alarming figures undermine the Government’s claim to have hugely increased helicopter capacity in Afghanistan.

“Bob Ainsworth has praised the capability and importance of the Merlin helicopters sent to Afghanistan. But now we find that two thirds of those helicopters which are supposed to be available to front line commanders simply are not.

“Labour has short-changed our troops for too long. They should focus on properly supporting our brave men and women on the front line instead of spinning on the number of helicopters available. We need a fair deal for our troops.”