Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Nick Clegg launches plans for businesses

The rules governing corporate takeovers must change in the wake of Kraft’s takeover of Cadbury to ensure that they serve the UK economy, Liberal Democrat Leader Nick Clegg announced today.

Launching ‘Enterprise in a Fair Society’, Nick Clegg set out details of the Liberal Democrats’ manifesto pledges for business. The proposals include:

· Restoring a public interest test for regulatory authorities to consider when takeovers are proposed and changing the rules on which shareholders can vote on takeover proposals

· Ensuring affordable access to credit for businesses by creating new mechanisms to provide equity finance to smaller businesses

· Incorporating a ‘sunset’ clause into every new business regulation so that it is time limited unless renewed by Parliament

The document also sets out how the Liberal Democrats would create an education system that provides skilled workers, a stable economy that reduces the public deficit and a fair and stable tax platform on which businesses can operate.

Launching the document while visiting start-up businesses in Warrington, Liberal Democrat Leader Nick Clegg said:

“For too long, Labour and Conservative governments have focused solely on the firms in one square mile in the City of London, while failing to support businesses across the country.

“The Government has failed to force the banks to lend to viable British businesses and won’t face up to the need to break up the big banks to protect the economy.

“Who would have thought that when the taxpayer stepped in to rescue the banks, we would now be funding takeovers like that of Cadbury by Kraft?

“The Liberal Democrats will stand up for strong British businesses by changing the takeover rules to protect them from the short-term speculation of hedge funds and restoring a public interest test.”

Liberal Democrat Shadow Business Secretary John Thurso said:

“Following the banking collapse and the worst recession since the 1930s, the Liberal Democrats want to rebuild the economy very differently.

“We will create the conditions for a thriving, balanced and environmentally sustainable economy with jobs that last.

“Britain depends on successful profitable businesses to create the nation’s wealth. Only the Liberal Democrats will give businesses the tools to get on with the job.”

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Government emissions up despite recession

Commenting on provisional Government figures showing that public sector carbon emissions in 2009 were up on 2007 levels in spite of the recession, Liberal Democrat Shadow Energy and Climate Change Secretary, Simon Hughes said:

“It’s a travesty that while businesses and others are trying to pull their weight, Government and public sector emissions have actually increased in spite of the recession.

“No-one believes Labour will make the sustained emissions cuts we need when it’s taken a severe recession to cause real reductions.

“It is time to seriously invest in protecting our future. Only the Liberal Democrats have the bold plans we need to rebalance the economy and create green jobs, putting us on a path to a zero carbon Britain.”

Businesses let down by a Government asleep at the wheel – Thurso

Commenting on today’s [Friday] National Audit Office report on support provided to business during the recession, Liberal Democrat Shadow Business Secretary, John Thurso said:

“Businesses have been let down by Labour. This report shows that they got less than £1 for every six that ministers announced.

“The Government was asleep at the wheel just as the economy was driven off a cliff.

“There weren’t even any plans on the table to help business until October 2008 despite clear signs of the credit crisis in the summer of 2007.

“Ministers were left playing catch-up and it’s no wonder that schemes like the trade credit insurance top up were abject failures.”

Friday, March 26, 2010

Chancellors' Debate Night

Vince Cable Chancellors  Debate

This coming Monday will see the first of the televised election debates. Vince Cable will face Alistair Darling and George Osborne at 8pm on Channel 4.

We want you to be part of it, there is still time for you to post a question which could be asked during the live debate.

Find out more here >

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Budget was a political dodge not an economic plan – Clegg

Responding to Alistair Darling’s Budget, Liberal Democrat Leader Nick Clegg said:

“This Budget was a political dodge not an economic plan.

“Britain needed a Budget that gave us honesty in spending and fairness in tax, we have got neither.

“Labour is in denial, while the Conservatives are talking tough to cover up that they only offer more of the same.

“The Chancellor is incapable of coming clean about where spending cuts will have to fall.

“Rather than being honest with people about what the Government can and cannot afford, the Chancellor would rather let others indiscriminately shave departmental budgets.

“By confirming the freeze in personal allowances the Government has ensured everyone will see a real increase in their income tax bill – when what people on low and middle incomes desperately need is an income tax cut.

“Rather than forcing the nationalised banks to lend to good British businesses they have chosen to create a feeble quango to arbitrate between bullying banks and their small business clients.

“It says something when the most substantive announcement the Government can come up with is a tax agreement with Belize, however welcome that may be.”

Labour’s Budget makes tax system even more unfair in Wales

If this Budget was the launch of the General Election campaign, then Labour candidates must be despairing. Instead of making taxation fairer for the poorest in our community, Alistair Darling chose to freeze the level of personal income tax allowance, making an already unfair system even more unfair.

The increase in fuel duty is a further blow to the rural areas of Wales. As Nick Clegg said, but as Labour fails to understand. the fundamental problem with fuel duty is that for rural areas a car is a necessity, not a luxury.

The Government has so far failed to get RBS and Lloyds HBOS lending to sound Welsh businesses – why should we believe them when they say they’re going to start now?

This Budget was an exercise in concealing the true scale of changes and cuts that are going to be necessary to get out of the economic hole in which Labour will leave us.

Vince Cable responds to the budget

"Today, Britain needed a Budget that gave us honesty in spending and fairness in tax. Alistair Darling has given us neither.

"Labour is in denial, while the Conservatives are talking tough to cover up the fact that they only offer more of the same.

"Today's budget wasn't honest.

"The Chancellor is incapable of coming clean about where spending cuts will have to fall. Rather than being honest with people about what the Government can and cannot afford, the Chancellor would rather let others indiscriminately shave departmental budgets.

"And the Budget did nothing to make Britain a fairer society.

"We're campaigning for fair taxes, lifting millions of people out of income tax altogether. But today's Budget, by confirming the freeze in personal allowances, means everyone will see a real increase in their income tax bill.

"Rather than forcing the nationalised banks to lend to good British businesses, Labour have chosen to create a feeble quango to arbitrate between bullying banks and their small business clients."

You can watch Vince's video response to the Budget here:

Vince Cable's Budget Response Video

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Barbaric detention of children at Yarl’s Wood must end – Huhne

Commenting on today’s HM Inspectorate of Prisons report into Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre, Liberal Democrat Shadow Home Secretary, Chris Huhne said:

“This report completely refutes the Government’s often repeated claims that the detention of children only happens in exceptional circumstances for short periods.

“Children who have committed no crime are being held at Yarl’s Wood for months at a time. This barbaric practice has to stop now.”

Local Liberal Democrats condemn Labour culture of secrecy‏

Aberavon & Neath Liberal Democrats say Neath Port Talbot council secrecy not conducive to good decision-making

Ahead of today's council meeting, which will confirm the budgets for 2010/11 and the forward financial plan, councillor Keith Davies, leader of the Liberal Democrat group on Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council, protested that not enough time had been given to council members to scrutinise papers. "Major cuts in spending and administration are proposed," he said, "and members had six days notice at most before examining them in scrutiny. Some had as little as three. Scrutiny committees typically had only up to an hour to argue over the details."

Deputy LibDem leader, Cadoxton councillor Frank Little, recognised that the cabinet and officers had an unenviable task. Savings had to be achieved as a result of the poor settlement from the Labour-dominated Welsh Assembly Government, and of the unexpected rise in pressures on social care and children's services. "However," he commented, "if members had been involved earlier, better solutions might have been found in many areas."

He added: "We will continue to provide constructive opposition through the coming year. This will include identifying savings which can be made without degrading services to the public."

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Labour and Tories failed to back lobbying reform

Following the Channel 4 expose (Liberal England: Liveblogging Dispatches: Politicians for Hire) of former Government ministers, among others, offering to influence policy for cash, Liberal Democrat Shadow Leader of the House, David Heath said:

“MPs should not be using their positions to further their own interests over those of the people they should be representing.

“Liberal Democrats brought forward measures to restrict the influence of lobbyists in Parliament. Sadly, Labour voted them down while the Tories failed to show up.

“Labour and the Tories claim they want to clean up politics but the reality proves different.

“Once again it seems the Government and the Tories will say one thing while the truth reveals another.”

Pensioners must be exempt from broadband tax – Foster

Commenting on the Governments announcement to increase access of superfast broadband, Liberal Democrat Shadow Secretary for Culture, Media and Sport, Don Foster said:

“It is absolutely vital that we invest in our digital infrastructure.

“Britain is already lagging behind other countries with faster internet speeds so intervention is needed.

“Investment in rural areas must start early to avoid an expanding digital divide.

“The Government must provide exemptions from the tax for pensioners and the least well off and ensure everyone is equipped with the skills to use superfast broadband.”

[NB - Conservative proposals for universal fast broadband would take money from TV licence revenue - another flat rate tax which affects people on low fixed incomes.]

Nick Clegg calls for cross-party Council of Financial Stability

Liberal Democrat Leader Nick Clegg today called for a cross-party Council of Financial Stability to agree the timetable and scale of deficit reduction.

The sheer size of the deficit will require politicians to take a different approach to the challenges in public spending to avoid Greek-style social unrest, Nick Clegg said in his speech at the London Stock Exchange which was co-hosted by the WWF and CentreForum.

Nick Clegg said:

“Government-as-usual will not, cannot, command the legitimacy to make the big decisions before us. The scale of the changes required is so great it will require a different way of taking decisions too.

“The standard model, of Governments elected with a minority of popular support, cooking up fiscal plans behind closed doors in Whitehall, imposing cuts from on high is a recipe for Greek-style social and industrial strife.

“So we need to find new ways to arrive at decisions so that politicians put the long term national interest above their own short term interests and actively involve the public in the decisions taken.

“The Liberal Democrats would establish a cross party Council for Financial Stability.

“We would invite the economic spokespeople of all the major parties, the Governor of the Bank of England, and the Head of the Financial Services Authority to join the Council.

“The purpose would be to force the politicians to put the long term national interest ahead of their own narrow political interest, and agree the basic timetable and scale of deficit reduction in the years ahead.

“Agreeing that timetable according to sound economic tests, like those Vince Cable has already set out as a means of judging when to begin the process of fiscal contraction:

“The rate of growth; the level of unemployment; credit conditions; the extent of spare capacity in the economy; and the cost of Government borrowing.

“This would not prevent political parties from arguing about what changes should be made to taxes and in public spending, or which areas of taxation and spending should be immune from any change, but it would force the whole political class to come clean and tell the people of Britain what the scale of the changes actually will be.

“With a structural deficit now estimated at £80bn, and market confidence shaken by the unwillingness of the politicians to spell out what they’re committed to achieving, it is essential that politicians of all parties demonstrate that they will no longer play games with the stability of Britain’s long term financial reputation.

“Including the monetary and banking authorities will also allow for a more coherent debate about the interaction between monetary and fiscal policy. As well as the role of the financial services sector in underpinning, not undermining, growth.

“Crucially, given that the full elimination of the structural deficit will almost certainly take more than one parliament, an agreed approach on the overall scale and timetable of fiscal consolidation will provide both the British public and the markets with the assurance that a consistent and responsible approach will not be hijacked by politics in the future.”

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Afan Lido fire a disaster waiting to happen

The Chief Fire Officer, in his annual presentation to Neath Port Talbot council last Friday, made a plea for automatic fire suppression systems to be included in all new public buildings, especially schools. He revealed that the Afan Lido, which suffered a severe fire in mid-December, was not equipped with sprinklers, which he was sure would have limited the damage.

Councillor Frank Little, deputy leader of the Liberal Democrat group on the council, commented: "There may be some excuse for not building in sprinklers to the original 1960s building. However, the benefits were well-known by the late 1990s, when there was a major refurbishment. If sprinklers had been put in then, the council and Celtic Leisure would have been spared serious embarrassment last year."

Friday, March 19, 2010

200th anniversary of common liberal identity in Cadiz

It's not a dirty word this side of the Atlantic

To mark the 200th anniversary of the first written usage of the word 'liberal' in a political document, Liberal International, the Liberal Network of Latin America (RELIAL), the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Liberty and the ALDE Group in the European Parliament are organsing the upcoming weekend in Cadiz, Spain a Conference '200 Years of Common Liberal Identity, A Liberal Agenda for Europe - Latin American Relations'. Over 50 leading liberal politicians and thinkers from the Iberian Peninsula, Latin America and Europe have confirmed their participation. Next to LI President Hans van Baalen, the event will be addressed by RELIAL Chairman Otto Guevara Guth, Nicaraguan liberal leader Eduardo Montealegre, Eurolat member Renate Weber MEP, former Argentinean Defence and Economy Minister Ricardo Lopez Murphy and Joseph Garcia, Leader of the Gibraltar Liberal Party. In the framework of the Conference, the European Liberal Forum will realise the years-long idea of the Fundacio Llibertad I Democracia (LI Catalan full member) to organise the first meeting of the Iberian Liberals.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

ID cards

The government is not giving up. They are now looking at super ID cards.

Liberal Democrats seek better treatment of refugee children

One of the most important debates at spring conference was on the first day, and we regret not mentioning it here before. There is a full report by Suzanne Fletcher, who has been one of the leaders of the campaign to stop children being transported to Yarlswood and to remedy the degrading treatment of those already there. Suzanne has some of the most distressing cases occurring in her home town of Stockton.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Digital economy bill must be debated in the Commons

By Alex Foster |

So despite conference taking our peers out for a friendly word in their shell-like, it seems the Digital Economy Bill has successfully cleared the hurdles in the House of Lords.

Some industry experts are relying on the bill passing simply because it runs out of time, the MPs fail to scrutinize it, and it gets through thanks to the wash-up.

So now is the time to write to your MP to insist the bill gets a proper hearing in the Commons. 38 Degrees have information and a campaign to help you do that.

Female MPs: how’s the party doing?

Mark Pack comments on Jo Swinson's report to conference here.

Liberal Democrats pass plans to clean up politics

Liberal Democrat Spring Conference last Sunday passed plans to clean up politics and urgently create a fairer and more local political system. The proposals include:

· A fairer voting system

· A requirement for those who stand for Parliament or sit in the House of Lords to pay tax in Britain

· A fully elected second chamber

· The right for voters to sack their MP.

Commenting, Liberal Democrat Manifesto Chair, Danny Alexander said:

Our broken political system desperately needs to be cleaned up. Public confidence in politics is at an all time low, and the way the country is governed needs urgent reform.

“The Liberal Democrats have passed plans today to make politics fairer, local and more transparent.

“Labour has had 13 years to change our broken politics, and it’s failed to do so.

“Only the Liberal Democrats would end safe seats, reform the voting system and give local people a real say over how their neighbourhoods are governed.”

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Leader's Speech to Spring Conference

How can Theresa May say that she doesn't know what the Liberal Democrats stand for?  The speech is here.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Nick Clegg's online Q&A

Nick Clegg will be holding a question-and-answer session at our federal spring conference in Birmingham this weekend, but for those who cannot make it in person, there is an opportunity to take part over the Internet.

Tories wrong on crime figures and Labour wrong to claim credit - Huhne

Commenting on the spat over crime figures between Chris Grayling and Alan Johnson, Liberal Democrat Shadow Home Secretary, Chris Huhne said:

The Conservatives are wrong to say that crime is rising, and Labour is wrong to claim the credit as crime is falling in every western European country except Belgium. Technology and demographics are doing the work.

On crime, Labour and the Tories try to make up the figures as they go along. Only the Liberal Democrats can be trusted to follow the evidence of what works to cut crime.

Tory social care "poll tax" will only help the wealthy - Lamb

Serious concerns have been raised about Conservative plans for an £8,000 payment for residential care after figures released today by the Liberal Democrats have revealed that 3.5m pensioner households (66%) do not have assets of £8,000 excluding their homes.

The figures undermine Conservative claims that their plans would enable older people to pass their homes on to their children as two-thirds of pensioner households would have to sell or release equity from their homes to pay for the private insurance scheme.

63% of pensioner couple households (1.4m) do not have non-housing assets of £16,000 (cost of insurance to cover both pensioners); 71% of single female pensioner households (1.6m) do not have non-housing assets of £8,000; and 64% of single male pensioner households (600,000) do not have non-housing assets of £8,000

Commenting, Liberal Democrat Shadow Health Secretary, Norman Lamb said:

The reality is that Conservative social care plans are unworkable, unfair and unaffordable for the majority of pensioners in this country and do nothing to pay for the costs of care at home.

This is basically a poll tax and many people on modest means will be wondering how the Tories could think it's fair that they should pay the same amount for care as multi-millionaires.

David Cameron needs to start being honest with older voters. Most couples don't have a spare £16,000 to cover an insurance premium and it's incredibly dishonest to say this will stop people from having to sell their homes to pay for care.

The Tories need to explain how they're going to get the numbers to add up on this plan especially as the private insurance market has failed to get people interested. Perhaps this is yet another example where the Tories need a little help when it comes to using a calculator.

Whoever wins the next election cannot avoid the fact that we're facing a crisis in funding for care. What we need is a long-term solution which is both fair and affordable in the long-term.

Export figures are deeply alarming - Cable

Commenting on the news that UK exports took their biggest plunge in more than three years during January, Liberal Democrat Shadow Chancellor, Vince Cable said:

"These are deeply alarming figures which suggest that British exporters simply haven't been able to take advantage of the big devaluation which occurred in the last year. They suggest that the long term decline and neglect of British manufacturing has taken its toll and that an awful lot more needs to be done to rebalance the economy to make it more competitive.

"It is wrong to suggest that the British economy can escape from this recession by just relying on exports. It just isn't happening. Exports are one modest part of the national economy. We need an economy that is strong and secure across the board, and the Liberal Democrats are committed to delivering that."

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

CBI submission highlights Government’s dangerous position - Cable

Responding to the Confederation of British Industry’s submission to the Chancellor urging him to use his last Budget before the election to set out more details of spending plans for government departments in order to boost confidence in the UK’s public finances and provide economic stability, Liberal Democrat Shadow Chancellor, Vince Cable said:

“This submission highlights how dangerous the Government’s position is.

“The country can’t afford to have political parties playing politics with the public finances.

“The British people and the markets have the right to know how and when each political party will tackle the deficit.

“The Liberal Democrats have made it clear that the point at which we cut spending will be based on economics and not political dogma.

“While Labour buries its head in the sand and the Tories mire themselves in confusion, only the Liberal Democrats have produced a credible and coherent plan for dealing with the deficit.”

Nick Clegg accuses Conservatives of ‘a crude form of blackmail’

In a message to party workers yesterday, Liberal Democrat Leader Nick Clegg accused the Conservatives of ‘a crude form of blackmail’ by encouraging fears of a fall in the stock market.

Nick told us: “The Conservatives are so desperate that they have resorted to a crude form of blackmail.

“David Cameron and George Osborne are stoking up fears in the markets, actively trying to destabilise the pound and reduce the Government’s ability to borrow.

“It’s like a protection racket: vote for us or our friends in the City will lay waste to your economy, your savings and your job.

“There is nothing positive in the Conservatives’ election strategy. It’s built entirely on the hatred of Gordon Brown, stoking up fears of a broken society and now threatening economic meltdown.

“It’s a strategy that is completely negative and without hope, and it’s becoming increasingly obvious that people aren’t going to fall for it.”

Monday, March 08, 2010

Vince Cable sets out the Liberal Democrat plan for the banking sector

Vince Cable, the Liberal Democrats' Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, confirmed that the Liberal Democrats are not anti bank or anti banker. He states that his day one, hour one objective as Chancellor would be to devise a fresh and consistent mandate for the nationalised and semi nationalised banks. He argues that RBS and Lloyds are key to supporting the British economy and are currently falling well short of their lending agreements. He challenges Alistair Darling to give a full public account of these agreements on their respective anniversaries.

The Liberal Democrats are, however, committed to splitting up the banks, unilaterally if necessary. Vince Cable argues that so long as Northern Rock was re-mutualised in such a way to guarantee that it would continue to repay the Government, there is no reason at least in principle – why it could not do so as a Building Society.

IMF study backs Liberal Democrat position – Cable

Responding to the IMF study and its assertion that the weakness of growth in the British economy means that tax increases and spending cuts should be delayed until next year but that action to reduce the deficit is inevitable, Liberal Democrat Shadow Chancellor, Vince Cable said:

“This is a clear endorsement of the Liberal Democrat approach to the deficit and the re-privatisation of the state owned banks.

“Decisions of when to cut Government spending must be based on economic principles not political games.

“Both the public and the markets have a right to know how the parties plan to tackle the deficit, but gung-ho spending cuts while the economy is barely recovering is simply reckless.

“While Labour buries its head in the sand and the Tories change position according to the prevailing wind, only the Liberal Democrats have produced a credible and coherent plan for dealing with the deficit.

“The Tories must also realise that the taxpayer will have to have a stake in the state owned banks for a considerable period of time if we are to get good value for money when they are re-privatised.”

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Energy firms clobbered customers through the cold snap – Hughes

Commenting on Ofgem figures showing that energy companies are making £105 profit per customer, a 40% increase in the last three months, Liberal Democrat Shadow Energy and Climate Change Secretary, Simon Hughes said: “Energy companies clobbered households even as they struggled through the cold snap.

“Cynical price cuts now won’t disguise bumper profits made on the back of grossly unfair fuel bills.

“Energy firms should be forced to show how much profit they make on every pound they charge at the bottom of every fuel bill.”

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Battered bobbies miss 80,000 working days - Huhne

Police officers have missed nearly 80,000 days of work after being assaulted by members of the public in the last five years, according to research by the Liberal Democrats. The key points are:
- 78,276 working days have been missed by police officers due to assaults between 2004/05 and 2008/09.
- 17,055 days were lost last year alone, an 11.2% increase on the previous year. This is the equivalent of reducing the number of police officers in England and Wales by 75.
- Police staff also lost 5,398 working days to assault in the last five years (including 1,118 days last year).

Commenting, Liberal Democrat Shadow Home Secretary, Chris Huhne said:

“We want more bobbies on the beat, not bobbies being beaten.

“These startling figures show just how difficult a job being a police officer can be.

“Violence is clearly all too common on our streets when thousands of police working days are being lost as officers recover from assaults.

“Every effort must be made to try to get injured officers back to work as quickly as possible, even if that means lighter duties or paperwork.

“The Liberal Democrats are the only party committed to increasing police numbers. We will put 3,000 more bobbies on the beat.”

Friday, March 05, 2010

Nobody wants to run Ieuan Air

Jenny Randerson calls for the loss-making North-South air link to be scrapped, as no suitable bidder has emerged to take over the service.

Liberals victorious in Dutch elections

Liberal International reports:

The Dutch city council elections on Wednesday saw important liberal victories for LI Full Members VVD and D66. The Dutch liberal parties were seen as the victors of the elections, with the VVD being the second biggest party gaining 14.9% of the electoral vote (13.8% in 2006) and D66 increasing its share to 8.1% (2.8% in 2006). D66 also saw a near five-fold increase of their number of council seats from 141 to 525, while VVD increased its number from 1166 to 1385. The populist Freedom Party of Geert Wilders only ran in two cities, and got big popular support. The Freedom Party became the biggest party in the city of Almere, and was voted the second biggest party in The Hague. Liberal International President and VVD leader in the European Parliament Hans van Baalen was satisfied with the good liberal results: “VVD is back, and will play a vital role in the councils and nationally after the upcoming general elections on June 9th. I commend D66 with their excellent result, which creates a strong liberal position in the Netherlands. I recognize that Wilders had success in Almere and The Hague. There should not be a cordon sanitaire. The best way to fight populists is to force them to take responsibility in office. We can defeat them if we are prepared to fight them instead of trying to ignore or stigmatize them”.

Frank Little comments: This contrasts with the alarmist headlines in the London media, such as "Extreme right on the march in tolerant Netherlands" from the Independent.

110,000 women set to lose £10,000 each for being born too early

Around 110,000 women are each set to miss out on up to £10,400 over the next decade because they were born as little as a day too early to benefit from changes to state pension rules, Liberal Democrat research has revealed.

Government reforms mean that from 6 April this year, both men and women will need to make 30 years of National Insurance payments to be eligible for the full state pension.

The changes mean that a woman who has paid National Insurance for 30 years whose 60th birthday falls on 6 April would be entitled to a full state pension, whereas a woman who was born a day earlier and has worked just as long would only be entitled to three quarters of this – or around £75 a week in 2010-11. This could mean women retiring this year before the 6 April cut off could miss out on as much as £10,400 over the next decade.

Liberal Democrat Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, Steve Webb commented:
“The April 2010 changes to the rules on state pensions are entirely welcome and long overdue. But they create a cliff-edge for those who reach pension age immediately beforehand.

“Many of these women could lose out on up to £10,000 simply for being born a few days too early.

“Big changes like this should be phased in. Even now, the Government could look again at how it is working out pensions for women retiring in 2009/10 and consider giving them some of the benefit of the new rules.”

MoD culture of denial and deception is exasperating – Harvey

Commenting on yesterday’s Defence Committee report, Liberal Democrat Shadow Defence Secretary, Nick Harvey said:

“This report shows the shambolic state of the UK’s defence equipment programme.

“It is exasperating to learn how pervasive the culture of denial and deception among MoD officials is when it comes to acknowledging the £21 billion funding gap in defence procurement.

“The British taxpayer deserves to know the exact amount of debt he or she is expected to carry. No MoD official should be allowed to withhold or distort this knowledge.

“Only by enforcing regular independent reviews as well as routine MoD presentations to the Committee can this attitude be corrected. And I support the Committee’s recommendations towards that end.”

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Migration system mismanaged for decades – Huhne

Commenting on the recent Office for National Statistics migration figures, Liberal Democrat Shadow Home Secretary, Chris Huhne said:

“Public confidence and trust in the migration system has been shattered by decades of mismanagement.

“The abolition of exit checks by Conservative and Labour Governments means that we can only guess at the numbers coming in and out.

“People over-staying on short-term visas are probably the biggest source of illegal immigration and we still cannot say whether they are leaving when they are meant to do so.

“Exit checks must be reintroduced immediately.”

Government must get banks lending for firms to invest in recovery

Liberal Democrat Shadow Business Secretary, John Thurso, commented on last week’s figures from the Office for National Statistics, showing that investment by British businesses was 24.1% lower at the end of 2009 than at the start, the worst decline since records began:

“This dramatic slump in business investment bodes ill for economic recovery.

“Banks are failing to meet their lending commitments, starving businesses of capital needed for investment.

“The Government needs to get a grip and make sure the banks’ lending agreements are more concrete and better policed so that recovery doesn’t peter out.”

Colin Firth, Ken Macdonald, Brian Eno on why to vote Liberal Democrat

Actor Colin Firth, former Director of Public Prosecutions Sir Ken Macdonald QC and musician Brian Eno have all contributed to a book entitled ‘Why Vote Liberal Democrat’.

The book, which goes on sale on today, covers topics as varied as fair taxes, gay rights, looking after our armed forces, political reform and the fight against climate change.

Other contributors include Gurkha veteran Madan Kumar Gurung, political reform campaigner Pam Giddy and Duwayne Brooks, Stephen Lawrence’s best friend who was with him on the night he died.

Commenting Liberal Democrat Leader Nick Clegg said:

“There are hundreds of reasons to vote Liberal Democrat, but there is also just one reason: the will to create a better, fairer Britain by doing things differently. This is what unites all the contributors to this book.

“I am delighted such a great group of people from so many different backgrounds have come together to share their reasons for backing the Liberal Democrats.”

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Ashcroft: not quite a clean breast

The Liberal Democrats have called on the Revenue and Customs to assess Lord Ashcroft’s back tax payments as his commitment to permanent residence conflicts with non-dom status.

Liberal Democrat Shadow Home Secretary, Chris Huhne has written to the Chief Executive of HM Revenue and Customs to ask for an investigation of Lord Ashcroft’s back taxes for the ten years since he made his undertakings.

Lord Ashcroft is estimated to have a personal fortune of £1.1bn. His annual tax saving is conservatively estimated to be £12.76m and he has been a member of the House of Lords for a decade.

Commenting, Liberal Democrat Shadow Home Secretary, Chris Huhne said:

“Anyone who wants to pass laws in this country should pay this country’s full taxes and not hide behind the special offshore status of non-doms.

“Non-doms have to tell the taxman that their first allegiance is to another country. No-one should be a British lawmaker whose first allegiance is not to Britain.

“On even the most conservative estimates, Lord Ashcroft has avoided vast amounts of British tax by deploying the non-dom tax dodge. If he challenges our estimate of how much tax he has dodged, then there is a simple solution: publish the figure.”

BBC using 6 Music and the Asian Network as sacrificial lambs

Liberal Democrat Shadow Culture, Media and Sport Secretary, Don Foster, echoed the views of Cerys Matthews on BBC Radio Wales this morning, in his comments on the Corporation's intention to close radio station 6 Music. The BBC's strategy, published today, also includes proposals to scale back its website and close Asian Network.

Don said:

“Today’s report signals the end of the BBC roaming wherever it fancied. The decision to focus on high quality UK content is welcome.

“However, I am not convinced that using 6 Music and the Asian Network as sacrificial lambs to pay for it is the right approach.

“While the BBC has become overgrown in some areas and needs pruning, the Licence Fee payers must have their say about what’s to go.”

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Peter Black's Port Talbot advice surgery

Peter Black AM regretfully advises that he has to cancel his advice surgery, due to take place in Port Talbot Central Library on Friday 5th March from 3pm to 4pm, because of a family bereavement.

He has asked that anybody who was intending to see him either phone his office on 029 2089 8744 or e-mail him direct at

Monday, March 01, 2010

Liberal Democrats will vote against decrease in pension payments for almost 9m pensioners

The Liberal Democrats will tomorrow vote in Parliament against the decision to freeze state pension top-up payments this April, which will leave almost nine million pensioners worse off.

Last December Ministers set out plans to freeze payments of the State Earnings Related Pension and the Second State Pension, effectively cutting state pension payments by £515million next year.

Commenting, Liberal Democrat Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, Steve Webb said:

“Labour has betrayed pensioners by promising to increase their pensions when millions are actually set to receive a real-term cut this year.

“Freezing pension top-up payments will leave almost nine million older people worse off at a time when they are already struggling to make ends meet.

“Older people are already facing high fuel bills following this cold winter and rising inflation eroding their savings.

“The Liberal Democrats will vote against this latest example of the Government failing to give a fair deal to pensioners.”

Cameron will not deliver on fairness

Commenting on David Cameron’s speech at Tory spring conference Liberal Democrat Shadow Home Secretary, Chris Huhne said:

“Once again the speech was short on specifics and on the key assurance of fairness that is essential if we are to tackle our economic problems.

“We need fair taxation, new green jobs, a fair start for our children and a fair political `system that gives voters real choice to sack miscreant MPs.”