Saturday, July 31, 2010

Ming: Trident must be included in Strategic Defence Review

Commenting on George Osborne’s announcement that the Ministry of Defence will be responsible for the cost of replacing Trident, Liberal Democrat MP, Sir Menzies Campbell said:

“This confirmation of what had already been predicted makes it essential that the case for like-for-like replacement of Trident should, as the Liberal Democrats have agreed, be part of the Strategic Defence Review.

“How can you possibly take on such a large financial commitment as Trident without considering the military and political implications?

“If fierce cuts are to be made in Britain’s conventional forces, surely we have to consider whether replacing Trident can be justified.”

Employment Minister announces end of the default retirement age

Last Thursday, Employment Relations Minister Ed Davey announced the end of the default retirement age. This will give people the freedom to choose their own retirement date rather than being forced to stop working when they reach the age of 65.

Commenting, Ed Davey said: “With more and more people wanting to extend their working lives we should not stop them just because they have reached a particular age. We want to give individuals greater choice and are moving swiftly to end discrimination of this kind.

“Older workers bring with them a wealth of talent and experience as employees and entrepreneurs. They have a vital contribution to make to our economic recovery and long-term prosperity.”

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Interesting council by-election result

Torbay (Unitary Authority), St Mary's with Summercombe
LD Andrew Baldrey 801 (52.7%;+16.4)
Con 365 (24.0%;-23.9)
Lab 195 (12.8%;+12.8)
UKIP 159 (10.5%;+10.5)
[BNP 0 (0.0%;-15.8)]
Majority 436
Turnout 26.2%
LD gain from Con
Percentage change is since May 2007

This is within the constituency of Liberal Democrat MP Adrian Sanders. The Conservative group leader's excuse for losing a Torbay Council seat to the Lib Dems on a 20% swing: it was the fault of the coalition Government rather than local politics!

Friday, July 23, 2010

New responsibilities for LibDem AMs

Mike German's departure for the House of Lords has seen his replacement by Veronica German and as a result the Welsh Liberal Democrat Shadow Cabinet has had a re-shuffle:

Kirsty Williams:
Group Leader and Spokesperson for Environment and Rural Affairs, Chair of the Sustainability Committee

Peter Black:
Spokesperson for Housing and Finance

Eleanor Burnham:
Spokesperson for Communities, Culture and Social Justice and European Affairs

Veronica German:
Spokesperson for Health & Local Government and Equal Opportunities.

Jenny Randerson:
Spokesperson for the Economy and Education, Chair of Legislation Committee No.4

Coalition has done more for Equitable Life victims in 10 weeks than Labour did in 10 years – Williams

Commenting on the Coalition Government’s announcement that it has introduced a Bill to compensate Equitable Life policyholders, Co-Chair of the Liberal Democrat Treasury Policy Committee, Stephen Williams said:

“The Labour Government had 10 years to help the those who had their lives ruined by the collapse of Equitable Life and did nothing.

“In just 10 weeks the Coalition Government has taken real action to ensure that those who saw their pensions and life savings hit hard get the compensation they deserve.

“Liberal Democrats have long campaigned for proper compensation for Equitable Life policyholders and committed to it in our election manifesto. This announcement is further proof of our influence in Government.”

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Floella Benjamin on her induction as a peer

Liberal Democrat Voice has Floella Benjamin's own account. Note that the video referred to at the end of the report requires Silverlight software.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Labour misled Britain over Iraq role in terror threat – Farron

Commenting on Eliza Manningham-Buller’s evidence to the Chilcot Inquiry, in which she said the conflict in Iraq ‘substantially’ increased the threat to the UK from international terrorism, Co-Chair of the Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence, Tim Farron said:

“This is a shattering blow for Labour’s claim that the Iraq war did not increase the terrorist threat to Britain.

“We already knew that this was a disastrous war for our own brave service personnel and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians. Now we have the head of MI5 at the time saying it increased the threat to Britain – the precise opposite of what Labour claimed it would do.

“As Foreign Secretary in the last Government, David Miliband must come clean on why his administration misled the British people on this issue for so long.”

Monday, July 19, 2010

Mike German's maiden speech in the Lords

Courtesy of Liberal Democrat Voice:

Lord German: My Lords, you took a very brave step in allowing a German to be introduced into your Lordships’ House just a few days after England’s defeat in the World Cup. The extremely generous-hearted way in which I have been received has, however, received a few knocks in my first week or so. Just last Friday, my noble friend Lord Lester, in his Defamation Bill, talked of the German ad hoc balancing law. I know the Liberal Democrats favour fair representation, but it made me wonder who I was to be balanced with. Then this week, in questions about your Lordships’ murals, there was a request for the German specialist to be brought in.

I realise that I am to be very careful indeed to observe the frequent exhortations coming my way, but I can tell noble Lords that this German is not German, and neither is he English. The name derives from a 5th century bishop called Germanus, who came from Auxerre; he was dispatched by the Pope to the western parts of this country to return the people to the authentic Christian fold whose followers took on his name. Spelling was not a strong feature of 5th century Britain, so many derivations of the name survive today. There is a street in London named after one of them-Jermyn -and there are Jermin, Germaine and the like. It is reported that the bishop Germanus won the people over to the Augustinian teachings of divine grace by using his superior rhetoric, so no pressure there.

I am privileged to join the growing number of Members of your Lordships’ House who have been Members of the devolved Assemblies and Parliaments. I am the first Member of the National Assembly for Wales not to have been to the other place, and I look forward to using that experience to help the Assembly to develop and to questioning my noble friend Lord Wallace of Tankerness on his new responsibilities for my country.

I wish to say something about my experience of prisoner education and the problems with it. There are two prisons close to my home. They are in the area that I represented until just a few weeks ago. One, at Usk, is a secure Victorian building that was built on the monastic level, which the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Liverpool talked about earlier. It houses many medium and long-term sentence offenders. The other, in nearby countryside, is an open prison. Both have the same management team, and both represent different ends of the spectrum of prisons in our country.

A few years ago I received a request from the head of training and skills at these prisons to assist them with the qualification structure of the training programmes that they could offer offenders, and to see whether they could be made more appropriate to the world of work. This was my first introduction to the link between reoffending and reintegration, and the importance of skills to that link. It soon became clear to me that much needed to be done to improve both reoffending rates and the level of ex-offender reintegration into the community.

For those who seek level 2 vocational qualifications and beyond, it is nigh on impossible to achieve them while in prison. The NVQ requires an element of work-based on-the-job experience that cannot be provided in a closed prison environment. These NVQs are needed to provide a ticket to a place of work. City and Guilds-type qualifications are used as a route to the NVQ, but no matter how well a prison can simulate the workplace, this will be insufficient to provide the necessary qualification.

On a visit to a very large prison in Doncaster, I saw a two-storey house that had been completely built from scratch by offenders inside a former aircraft hangar. It had fully functioning plumbing and central heating and a fully fitted kitchen, and it was tastefully decorated. After it had been built, it was completely demolished. Even the construction of the finished object was insufficient to gain an NVQ in any of the craft skills needed such as plumbing, plastering, carpentry, construction, electricals and so on. The examining bodies will not accept a fully constructed building in an aircraft hangar as appropriate on-the-job training.

The only solution to gaining these types of qualification is to get an appropriate work placement following release, and these are not easy to come by. As a report last year from the Prisoners’ Education Trust revealed, 87 per cent of offenders surveyed believed that few employers recruit ex-offenders, although there are notable examples of good practice such as National Grid Transco, which employs ex-offenders and takes them on on training programmes. The evidence from employers is clear; core skills are a very much needed element in the mix of skills to be learnt on the job, even though a start can be made in simulated surroundings. Punctuality, working with others, literacy and numeracy are key to success in holding down a job.

There is much research now on the nature of the support that is needed on release to lead to possible successful reintegration into society. In essence, it can be summed up in four words: family, roof, job, and cash-reintegration into some form of family life, a secure home, a job or work placement, and help to manage on a limited income. A Select Committee in the other place recommended:

“If the purpose of providing education and training in prisons is to reduce reoffending by enabling prisoners to gain secure employment, then the continuation of support and programmes on release is essential. The Government needs to: produce an overarching resettlement strategy for prisoners; commit to the continuity of provision of education and training on release”.

My experience was that much more needs to be done if we are to succeed in resettling ex-offenders effectively. For some, perhaps many, prison is not the right solution for reintegration. We are told that reoffending costs the taxpayer £10 billion a year, that there are no robust statistics on those who are successfully reintegrated into society, and that an overarching resettlement strategy will be expensive. This leads me to conclude that we must punish the wrongdoers, but we must also ensure that we help them to get on to the straight and narrow. Not doing so will contribute further to the fracturing of the social fabric of our country.

Finally, I thank all the officials, colleagues and Members of this House for the great kindness that I have been shown in the past few weeks. There is so much to learn, and everyone has gone out of their way to introduce me to the work and operation of this very kind and friendly place.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Lib Dem MPs nominated to serve on Commons Select Committees

The party yesterday announced the list of Liberal Democrat MPs who have been nominated to serve on Select Committees: 

Business, Innovation and Skills – David Ward

Communities and Local Government – Stephen Gilbert

Culture, Media & Sport – Adrian Sanders

Defence – Mike Hancock

Education – Tessa Munt

Energy and Climate Change – Sir Robert Smith

Environmental Audit Committee – Simon Wright

Environment Food and Rural Affairs – Dan Rogerson

Foreign Affairs – Menzies Campbell

Health – Andrew George

Home Affairs – Julian Huppert

International Development [Chair] – Malcolm Bruce

Justice [Chair] – Sir Alan Beith

Procedure Committee – John Hemming

Political and Constitutional Reform – Stephen Williams

Public Accounts – Ian Swales

Public Administration – Greg Mulholland

Science and Technology – Roger Williams

Scottish Affairs – Alan Reid

Statutory Instruments (Joint Committee) – John Hemming

Transport – John Leech

Treasury – John Thurso

Welsh Affairs – Mark Williams

Work and Pensions – Stephen Lloyd

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Aberavon MP's office on the move

As from 1st August, the constituency office of Aberavon's Labour MP, Dr Hywel Francis, will be at:

Water Street Business Centre

Gwyn Terrace

Port Talbot

SA12 6LG

Telephone and fax numbers will be the same.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Clegg: Labour leadership contenders in a comfort zone of collective bile and vitriol

In an interview in the Guardian yesterday, deputy prime minister Nick Clegg urged Labour to ask some searching questions about what has happened to itself, and why it is appearing as a backstop to progress in so many issues of progress.

He expressed deepening disillusion with Labour and asserted that the coalition government is advancing more liberal-progressive policies than Labour achieved in its heyday. "Civil liberties, political renewal, devolution of power, green sustainability: all are being achieved at a pace, and with a radicalism, that Labour did not manage in 13 years," he said.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Details of Liberal Democrat ministers

The Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government has just published its full list of ministers - complete with details of portfolios etc.

The full document is at

The LibDem ministers' (apart from whips) details follow:

Chief Secretary to the Treasury
Leads on:
- Responsibility for public expenditure including:
o Spending reviews and strategic planning;
o In-year spending control;
o Public sector pay and pensions;
o Annually Managed Expenditure (AME) and welfare reform;
o Efficiency and value for money in public service;
o Procurement; and
o Capital investment. Treasury interest in devolution.

Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Dept of Transport
Leads on:
- Regional and Local Transport
- Buses and Taxis – including concessionary fares
- Walking and Cycling Accessibility and Equalities
- Alternatives to travel
- Natural environment
- Parking
- Traffic Management

Minister of State, Dept Foreign & Commonwealth Office
Leads on:
- South East Asia and Far East; Shanghai Expo
- Caribbean
- Central America
- South America (including Argentina / Falklands)
- Australasia and Pacific
- Olympics
- Public Diplomacy
- Human Rights
- Consular Policy
- Migration
- Drugs and International Crime

Minister of State, Dept of Health
(Minister for Care Services)
Leads on:
- Long Term Care Reform, including:
o Independent Commission
o Subsequent Legislation
- Adult Social Care
- Social Care Finance
- Social Care Workforce
- Social Care Professional Regulation
- Social Care System Regulation & Inspection
- Personal Health Budgets
- Reablement
- Continuing Care
- Joint Commissioning with Local Govt
- Safeguarding Vulnerable Adults
- Care for the Elderly
- End of Life Care
- Long Term Conditions, including:
o Cancer
o Diabetes
- Audiology
- Dementia
- Mental Health, including Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services
- Physical Disabilities
- Autism
- Learning Disabilities
- Third Sector, including S.64 & Social Enterprise
- Carers
- Prison Health Services
- Equality & Human Rights

Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills and President of
the Board of Trade.
Leads on:
- Overall responsibility for the department, strategy and all policies
- Overall responsibility for BIS budget
Particular focus on business and banking issues
Lead Cabinet Minister for reducing regulatory burdens across Government

Deputy Prime Minister
The Deputy Prime Minister, the Lord President of the Council, is the deputy head of Government with special responsibility for political and constitutional reform:
- Introducing fixed term Parliaments
- Legislating to hold a referendum on the Alternative Vote system for the House of Commons and to create fewer and more equal sized constituencies
- Supporting people with disabilities to become MPs
- Introducing a power for people to recall their MP
- Developing proposals for a wholly or mainly elected second chamber
- Speeding up implementation of individual voter registration
- Considering the ‘West Lothian question’
- Introducing a statutory register of lobbyists
- Reforming party funding
- Supporting all postal primaries
The Deputy Prime Minister also has policy responsibility for the Electoral Commission, Boundary Commission and Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority.

Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Dept Business, Innovation and Skills (responsible for Employment Relations, Consumer and Postal Affairs)
Leads on:
- Postal affairs (Royal Mail and Post Office Limited)
- Employment relations (incl. ACAS)
- Consumer policy and consumer affairs
- Competition policy
- Corporate governance
- Company law (incl. Companies House)
- Social enterprise
- Insolvency service (incl. company investigations)
- General oversight of Shareholder Executive and its portfolios
- Coordination of European business
- Export Credits
- Guarantee Department Trade Policy

Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office
Leads on:
- Responsibility within government for equality strategy and legislation and issues relating to gender, sexual orientation and transgender equality issues.
- Support to Minister of State on abolition of Identity Cards Bill
- Policy on criminal information including:
o Vetting and barring
o Security Industry Authority
o Criminal Records Bureau
o Asset recovery
o Animal licensing
o Statistics and research
o Freedom of information
o Support on violence against women work from the equalities perspective

Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Minister for the Armed Forces)
Leads on:
- Operations and operational policy, including operational legal issues
- Force generation, including readiness, recuperation, key enablers, deployed operational logistic delivery, operational training exercises

Parliamentary Secretary (Deputy Leader of the House of Commons)
Leads on:
- Supports the Leader in handling Government’s business in the House
- Monitoring the legislative programme
- Minister with internal responsibility for Correspondence, FOI and Green Issues

Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change
The Secretary of State holds overall responsibility for the business of the Department and its policies.
Leads on:
- DECC strategy and budgets
- Energy market reform
- Carbon price
- Annual Energy Statement
- Energy Security
- National Security DECC
- Delivery Landscape
- Devolved Administrations

Minister of State, Ministry of Justice
Leads on:
- Departmental business in the Lords
- Civil liberties
- Freedom of Information, data protection and data sharing
- Legislation and law reform
- Public law and public legal issues
- Support to the Secretary of State on EU and international business
- Crown Dependencies
- Delegated Royal, Church & Hereditary Issues and Lord Lieutenants issues
- Land Registry
- National Archives
- Law Commission
- Support to Secretary of State on Constitutional matters

Secretary of State for Scotland
Leads on:
- Economic Affairs
- Scottish Budget
- Scottish Fiscal position
- Calman Finance Implementation
- UK economic policy
- Defence
- MOD in Scotland
- Nuclear Deterrent
- Industry
- Fisheries
- Food and Drinks Industry
- Agriculture
- Manufacturing
- Life sciences
- Constitutional Affairs
- Calman/Scotland Bill
- Primary Legislation (including Queen’s Speech)
- Libya
- Foreign Affairs
- International Development
- Corporate Services
- National Security
- Counter Terrorism
- Military assistance to civil powers
- Civil Contingencies and Emergency Powers
- Broadcasting
- Crown Estate

Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Dept Communities & Local
Leads on:
- Community cohesion (including future of Prevent)
- Race equality
- Building regulations
- Big Society, housing and regeneration

Minister of State, Dept of Education
(Minister for Children and Families)
Leads on:
- Children’s centres
- Childcare
- Early learning and development, curriculum 0-5
- Voluntary and community sector
- United Nations Convention on Human Rights of the Child
- Families
- Health issues (obesity, drugs and alcohol, teenage pregnancy)
- Child poverty
- Children’s services commissioning and market development
- Local authority funding/local government policy
- Government offices and field forces
- School food/Healthy Schools
- Special Educational Needs and disabled children
- Young carers

HM Advocate General for Scotland
The Advocate General for Scotland is a Minister and one of the three UK Law Officers. He is the UK Government’s principal legal adviser on Scots law and represents the UK Government before the Scottish Courts. His principal statutory functions are in relation to devolution issues raised under the Scotland Act 1998.

Minister of State (Pensions), Dept of Work & Pensions.
Leads on:
- Pensions Reform
- The Pension, Disability and Carers Service
- Auto-enrolment into work-place pensions, including delivery options
- State Pension, Second State Pension and Pension Credit
- Winter Fuel Payments
- Ageing, social care and extending working lives.
- Private pensions and saving
- Pensions Regulator
- Pensions Protection Fund
- Financial Assistance Scheme
- Pensions Advisory Service & Ombudsman
- Method of Payment Policy
- Financial Inclusion
- Social Fund