Monday, June 26, 2017

Lib Dems: Labour must come off the fence on benefits freeze


The Liberal Democrats have called on Labour to come off the fence and make clear whether they would end the benefits freeze that will see the incomes of millions of families slashed in the coming years.

Labour Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Debbie Abrahams on Sunday said she was "looking" into the issue but admitted ending the freeze had not been costed in the Labour manifesto.

It comes as research by the charity Shelter has warned over a million households living in private rented accommodation are at risk of becoming homeless by 2020 because of the benefits freeze, rising rents and a lack of social housing.

Under current proposals, an average working family on tax and child credits would be around £780 worse off a year by 2021 due to the benefits freeze.

The Liberal Democrats have committed to unfreezing benefits and up-rating them in line with inflation.

Liberal Democrat Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Stephen Lloyd commented:

"Labour have failed to commit to helping struggling families by unfreezing benefits. After Debbie Abraham's comments yesterday,  their position remains as clear as mud.

"It's time for Labour to come off the fence and tell us whether they support slashing the incomes of the poorest in society or not.

"Millions of working households across the country will see their incomes cut by hundreds of pounds in the years ahead.

"We need to ensure that families who are already struggling to get by are not pushed over the edge."

Friday, June 23, 2017

Lib Dems table amendment on Single Market to Queen's Speech


The Liberal Democrats have tabled an amendment to the Queen's Speech calling for Britain to stay the single market and customs union.

The party is now calling on both Labour and Conservative MPs to support the amendment and inflict a historic defeat on the government, forcing Theresa May to soften her extreme approach to Brexit.

An amendment to the Queen's speech last year was accepted by the government after it received cross-party support.

Liberal Democrat Brexit Spokesperson Tom Brake commented:

"We've already seen living standards fall and prices rise since last year's Brexit vote.

"But this is nothing compared to the pain that would be caused by Theresa May's extreme version of Brexit.

"Tearing up Britain's membership of the world's largest market would mean fewer jobs, higher prices in the shops and a long-term blow to our prosperity.

"We will not give up the fight to protect our economy by staying in the Single Market and Customs Union.

"I am urging all like-minded Labour and Conservative MPs to be on the right side of history and back this amendment."

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Prisons and Courts Bill dropped from Queen’s Speech – Lib Dem response


Following the failure of the government to put forward a Prisons and Courts Bill, Liberal Democrat Justice spokesperson Jonathan Marks has seized on an open letter by the Justice Secretary today which made no mention of the bill being axed.

Jonathan Marks, who will continue to call for prison improvement and reform, said:

“The Prisons and Courts Bill was a flagship piece of legislation for the last government but has been unceremoniously dropped from this Queen’s Speech. The crisis in our prisons may have dropped out of headlines but remains a huge problem.

"Our prisons are hangovers from the Victorian era in need of urgent upgrading and we must get a grip on the numbers being sent to prison. Overcrowding has lead to violence, self-harm and deaths – this cannot be allowed to continue.

"This was a key piece of legislation that would have made our prisons and courts fit for the 21st century but it is clear that this Conservative Government is too hobbled to introduce any radical legislation. The lack of ambition shown is likely to be a hallmark of this government, the only question is how long it will survive.”

Liberal Democrats secure commitment from Home Secretary on Commission for Countering Extremism


 
Today in the House of Commons the Rt Hon Ed Davey secured a commitment from the Home Secretary that the Commission for Countering Extremism would listen to voices from all communities who are willing to work with the Government to defeat extremism.

Commenting after the statement in the chamber Ed Davey, the Liberal Democrat Shadow Home Secretary said:

“It is absolutely vital that the Government works with the communities most likely to be affected by counter extremism and de-radicalisation programmes. For all the good the Prevent strategy may have achieved it has been fatally wounded by the lack of trust the Muslim community has in it and the toxicity surrounding the brand.

If we are determined to defeat violent extremism then we must be sure to work in partnerships with all communities who share our vision and not alienate the very communities that are likely to be able to offer the best intelligence and the strongest counter-narratives.

The Liberal Democrats will follow the process of the establishment on the Commission for Countering Extremism to ensure it is inclusive and avoids making the same mistakes as the Prevent strategy.”
 

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Jo Swinson is new Lib Dem Deputy Leader


Jo Swinson has been elected unanimously as Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats.

The result was announced on Tuesday evening at the Liberal Democrat parliamentary party meeting.

Jo will continue in her role as Liberal Democrat Shadow Foreign Secretary.

Jo Swinson said:

"I am very proud to have been elected by a newly energised and strengthened parliamentary party.

"The government has no majority and no mandate for its extreme version of Brexit, which would do such damage to the health of our economy and the fabric of our society.

"In this balanced parliament the Liberal Democrats will be a powerful influence and a strong voice for people who want to see an open, welcoming and tolerant United Kingdom."

Leader of the Liberal Democrats Tim Farron said:

“Jo Swinson is a brilliant campaigner and someone I am proud to call a friend. I am in no doubt she will be a fantastic Deputy Leader of our party.

“Jo is the future of the Liberal Democrats and will make a massive difference laying out a liberal alternative to this divisive Brexit government. Her hard work as a local MP and impressive record as a minister leave us in no doubt that she will be a powerful voice for our party.”
ENDS
Jo Swinson has been elected unanimously as Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats.

The result was announced on Tuesday evening at the Liberal Democrat parliamentary party meeting.

Jo will continue in her role as Liberal Democrat Shadow Foreign Secretary.

Jo Swinson said:

"I am very proud to have been elected by a newly energised and strengthened parliamentary party.

"The government has no majority and no mandate for its extreme version of Brexit, which would do such damage to the health of our economy and the fabric of our society.

"In this balanced parliament the Liberal Democrats will be a powerful influence and a strong voice for people who want to see an open, welcoming and tolerant United Kingdom."

Leader of the Liberal Democrats Tim Farron said:

“Jo Swinson is a brilliant campaigner and someone I am proud to call a friend. I am in no doubt she will be a fantastic Deputy Leader of our party.

“Jo is the future of the Liberal Democrats and will make a massive difference laying out a liberal alternative to this divisive Brexit government. Her hard work as a local MP and impressive record as a minister leave us in no doubt that she will be a powerful voice for our party.”

Monday, June 19, 2017

Firefighting heroes pay plummets due to austerity – Cable


Sir Vince Cable has seized on Philip Hammond’s admitting that the public are “weary” of austerity by calling for an end to the public sector wage cap – which will see fire fighters an estimated £1,423 worse off in real terms by 2020/1.

Liberal Democrat shadow chancellor Sir Vince Cable said: 

“The public pay cap was necessary to tackle the massive deficit but firefighters such as the heroes of the Grenfell Tower disaster cannot be expected to suffer real falls in living standards indefinitely.

“They are already suffering a Brexit squeeze with rising prices and a falling pound. The challenge of public sector pay is an example of why Philip Hammond must win the battle within government to remain in the single market and customs union or the fall in tax revenue will make it impossible to give public sector workers the pay rises they deserve. You can't have an extreme Brexit and decent public sector pay.”
 

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Gove has betrayed consumers on cheap food – Farron


Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron has attacked new Environment Secretary Michael Gove for U-turning on cheap food.  During the referendum campaign Gove promised British consumers they would enjoy cut-price groceries due to there being more imports from outside the EU. However, with the government’s extreme Brexit under threat as the Conservatives split over the single market and customs union, Gove has rowed back from his promise.

Tim Farron said:

“This is yet another Brexit lie, to go with the £350m a week extra Michael Gove promised the NHS. He has only had his feet back under the cabinet table a few days and he has already broken another major promise. He told voters that after Brexit there would be honey for tea, but now reality is starting to bite he is offering British consumers nothing but thin gruel.

“The public are already suffering a Brexit squeeze of higher prices and shrinking product sizes due to the devastating devaluation of the pound caused by Theresa May’s extreme Brexit. Meanwhile, farmers are still waiting to hear if the Conservatives will continue as part of any post-Brexit arrangements to give them the subsidies they currently receive from the EU.

“It is clear the government has no clue, no strategy and no shame. It is falling apart before our eyes, and it is the British public paying the price.”

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Liberal Democrat councillor and founder AM Peter Black is honoured by the Queen

Aberavon and Neath Liberal Democrats heartily congratulate Peter Black, for so long our regional AM, on the CBE awarded in Her Majesty's birthday honours.

The BBC reports:
recognised in the birthday honours list is Swansea councillor Peter Black who will be appointed CBE for services to politics and public life in Wales.
Mr Black was a Liberal Democrat AM between 1999 and 2016 and has represented the Cwmbwrla ward as a councillor since 1984.
Peter Black
Image captionPeter Black lost his assembly seat in 2016

Friday, June 16, 2017

Flammable cladding used on Grenfell Tower must be banned


The Liberal Democrats have called for the type of cladding used on Grenfell Tower to be banned in the UK, after it emerged the material is currently banned in US buildings over 40 feet for fire safety reasons and is classed as flammable in Germany.

The damning revelations in The Times also found it would have cost just £5000 more to use fire-resistant panels instead of flammable ones.

The government committed to reviewing building regulations on fire safety several years ago but the review has still not begun.

Liberal Democrat MP Tom Brake commented:

"It is simply beyond belief to think that if just £5,000 more had been spent, these tragic deaths could have been prevented.

"The government must urgently bring UK fire safety standards into line with those abroad.

"It seems people's homes were turned into death traps because they were fitted on the cheap.

"It is utterly unacceptable and must never be allowed to happen again.

"We must invest in safe, adequate homes for all and ensure strict fire safety standards are in place and fully implemented."

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Vince Cable: Fall in retail sales shows brutal reality of Brexit hitting consumers


Retail sales fell by 1.2% between April and May, worse than economists had expected, figures from the Office for National Statistics have shown.

The ONS said that average store prices have risen by 2.8% over the year, which has been a significant factor in slowing growth.

Liberal Democrat MP Vince Cable commented:

“The economy has been kept going for a year on the basis of consumer debt, which was always artificial and unsustainable.

“The brutal reality of a hard Brexit is now starting to hit businesses and consumers.

“Unless the government takes a cross-party approach to Brexit, reflecting the need for compromise, we will inevitably see a continuing slowdown and possible slump in the economy.”

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Farron resigns as Lib Dem leader


This afternoon Tim Farron resigned as Liberal Democrat leader. At party HQ in London he gave the following speech to party staff:  

This last two years have seen the Liberal Democrats recover since the devastation of the 2015 election.

That recovery was never inevitable but we have seen the doubling of our party membership, growth in council elections, our first parliamentary by-election win for more than a decade, and most recently our growth at the 2017 general election.

Most importantly the Liberal Democrats have established ourselves with a significant and distinctive role - passionate about Europe, free trade, strong well-funded public services underpinned by a growing market economy.

No one else occupies that space.  Against all the odds, the Liberal Democrats matter again.

We can be proud of the progress we have made together, although there is much more we need to do.

From the very first day of my leadership, I have faced questions about my Christian faith.  I've tried to answer with grace and patience.  Sometimes my answers could have been wiser.

At the start of this election, I found myself under scrutiny again - asked about matters to do with my faith.  I felt guilty that this focus was distracting attention from our campaign, obscuring our message.

Journalists have every right to ask what they see fit.  The consequences of the focus on my faith is that I have found myself torn between living as a faithful Christian and serving as a political leader.

A better, wiser person than me may have been able to deal with this more successfully, to have remained faithful to Christ while leading a political party in the current environment.

To be a political leader - especially of a progressive, liberal party in 2017 - and to live as a committed Christian, to hold faithfully to the Bible's teaching, has felt impossible for me.

I'm a liberal to my finger tips, and that liberalism means that I am passionate about defending the rights and liberties of people who believe different things to me.

There are Christians in politics who take the view that they should impose the tenets of faith on society, but I have not taken that approach because I disagree with it - it's not liberal and it is counterproductive when it comes to advancing the gospel.

Even so, I seem to be the subject of suspicion because of what I believe and who my faith is in.

In which case we are kidding ourselves if we think we yet live in a tolerant, liberal society.

That's why I have chosen to step down as leader of the Liberal Democrats.

I intend to serve until the parliamentary recess begins next month, at which point there will be a leadership election according to the party’s rules.

This is a historic time in British politics. What happens in the next months and years will shape our country for generations.

My successor will inherit a party that is needed now more than ever before. Our future as an open, tolerant and united country is at stake.

The cause of British liberalism has never been needed more. People who will fight for a Britain that is confident, generous and compassionate are needed more than ever before.

That is the challenge our party and my successor faces and the opportunity I am certain that they will rise to.

I want to say one more thing: I joined our party when I was 16, it is in my blood, I love our history, our people, I thoroughly love my party.

Imagine how proud I am to lead this party.  And then imagine what would lead me to voluntarily relinquish that honour.

In the words of Isaac Watts it would have to be something 'so amazing, so divine, (it) demands my heart, my life, my all'.
This afternoon Tim Farron resigned as Liberal Democrat leader. At party HQ in London he gave the following speech to party staff:  

This last two years have seen the Liberal Democrats recover since the devastation of the 2015 election.

That recovery was never inevitable but we have seen the doubling of our party membership, growth in council elections, our first parliamentary by-election win for more than a decade, and most recently our growth at the 2017 general election.

Most importantly the Liberal Democrats have established ourselves with a significant and distinctive role - passionate about Europe, free trade, strong well-funded public services underpinned by a growing market economy.

No one else occupies that space.  Against all the odds, the Liberal Democrats matter again.

We can be proud of the progress we have made together, although there is much more we need to do.

From the very first day of my leadership, I have faced questions about my Christian faith.  I've tried to answer with grace and patience.  Sometimes my answers could have been wiser.

At the start of this election, I found myself under scrutiny again - asked about matters to do with my faith.  I felt guilty that this focus was distracting attention from our campaign, obscuring our message.

Journalists have every right to ask what they see fit.  The consequences of the focus on my faith is that I have found myself torn between living as a faithful Christian and serving as a political leader.

A better, wiser person than me may have been able to deal with this more successfully, to have remained faithful to Christ while leading a political party in the current environment.

To be a political leader - especially of a progressive, liberal party in 2017 - and to live as a committed Christian, to hold faithfully to the Bible's teaching, has felt impossible for me.

I'm a liberal to my finger tips, and that liberalism means that I am passionate about defending the rights and liberties of people who believe different things to me.

There are Christians in politics who take the view that they should impose the tenets of faith on society, but I have not taken that approach because I disagree with it - it's not liberal and it is counterproductive when it comes to advancing the gospel.

Even so, I seem to be the subject of suspicion because of what I believe and who my faith is in.

In which case we are kidding ourselves if we think we yet live in a tolerant, liberal society.

That's why I have chosen to step down as leader of the Liberal Democrats.

I intend to serve until the parliamentary recess begins next month, at which point there will be a leadership election according to the party’s rules.

This is a historic time in British politics. What happens in the next months and years will shape our country for generations.

My successor will inherit a party that is needed now more than ever before. Our future as an open, tolerant and united country is at stake.

The cause of British liberalism has never been needed more. People who will fight for a Britain that is confident, generous and compassionate are needed more than ever before.

That is the challenge our party and my successor faces and the opportunity I am certain that they will rise to.

I want to say one more thing: I joined our party when I was 16, it is in my blood, I love our history, our people, I thoroughly love my party.

Imagine how proud I am to lead this party.  And then imagine what would lead me to voluntarily relinquish that honour.

In the words of Isaac Watts it would have to be something 'so amazing, so divine, (it) demands my heart, my life, my all'.

Liberal Democrats say that government must end public sector pay freeze


The amount of money workers are taking home continues to fall as inflation rises, according to data released by the Office of National Statistics today.

Average wages grew by just 2.1% in the three months to April, well below the 2.7% rate of inflation in that month, according to the Office for National Statistics. This means that, after adjusting for inflation, wages fell by 0.6%

Commenting on the news, Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron said:

“For a government that used to bang on about the Just About Managing, they are doing diddly squat to help them. This represents the biggest fall in real wages since August 2014.

"Staff are working more hours, for less pay and with higher levels of stress. More people are living pay cheque to pay cheque and having to struggle at the end of every month to get by.

“Britain needs a pay rise and it is time the government delivered it, especially for the public sector.

"Our nurses, care workers, teachers and soldiers have bared the brunt of the economic crisis and seen their pay capped and wages squeezed. Enough is enough. We need to raise the wages of our public sector workers.”

Financial sector fast becoming latest casualty of Brexit - Cable


Commenting on reports that London could lose its EU euro clearing role, former Business Secretary Vince Cable said:

“Our financial sector is fast becoming the latest casualty in Theresa May’s pursuit of an extreme Brexit.

“Thousands of British jobs are now on the line because Theresa May wants to drag us out of the single market.

“She has lost any mandate she claimed to have, the people have voted against her extreme vision for Brexit.”
 

Monday, June 12, 2017

May's ephemeral government is almost done

Commenting on the news that the Queen’s Speech is delayed as Theresa May tries to hammer out a Tory-DUP deal Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron said:
“This is an utter humiliation for Theresa May, it is time to stop trying to cling to power and time to admit enough is enough.  This is the biggest embarrassment that a Prime Minister can face, she cannot announce her agenda because she has no idea what she can actually get through.
“The Tories are hanging onto office desperate for a deal from the DUP, turning them into the MayDUP government.  This MayDUP coalition has fallen at the first hurdle.
“Theresa May can squat in Number 10 as long as she wants but the message is stark – she has no power, no influence and her game is up.”

Friday, June 09, 2017

Another step back into the 19th century

Commenting on the Prime Minister's statement on forming a government relying on the support of the Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland, Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron said:

"It is clear that the Prime Minister has done a deal with the DUP. She must now make clear what the terms of that deal are. The British people have a right to know.

"The sort of government she forms will have profound implications for the Brexit negotiations and the future of the country, especially if it means she is taking sides in the peace process in Northern Ireland.
 
"Theresa May has taken the British people for granted long enough. She made the election about her own leadership and she lost. Theresa May shouldn't be stitching up a new deal in secret, she should be resigning."
 

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Lib Dems: Board of Trade proposals straight out of 17th century

Responding to Conservative proposals for a so called 'board of trade', Liberal Democrat Shadow First Secretary for Scotland Alistair Carmichael said:

“If we needed any further proof that the Conservatives have no new ideas, it's this desperate attempt to apply 17th century solutions to 21st century challenges.

“This plan is so outdated it's probably been written on parchment by Jacob Rees-Mogg.

“Just 48 hours from an election, the Conservatives have run out of things to say on policing, our crumbling schools and the NHS crisis.
“No number of fancy trade commissioners jetting around the world will save us from crippling tariffs when we leave the single market.
“This is a yet another pointless, ill-considered policy thought up in Tory HQ to hide from the fact they are running out of ideas and out of time.”

Lib Dems: May must admit cuts to armed police

The Liberal Democrats have called on the Conservatives to "level with the British people" after Culture Secretary Karen Bradley refused to answer whether armed officer numbers have been cut on their watch.

The Liberal Democrats have also reiterated calls for a long-awaited government report on foreign funding of extremism to be published, after Karen Bradley refused to answer whether it will be made public and said it was important to “work with our partners and our allies.”
Liberal Democrat Leader Tim Farron said:
“Theresa May must level with the British people and accept that on her watch armed officer numbers were cut. She asks us to trust her on security but the truth is as Home Secretary she cut armed officers and cut community police numbers.

"The Liberal Democrats would provide our police with £300m extra funding a year and would do what is needed to tackle the scourge of violent extremism.”

Liberal Democrat Shadow Home Secretary Brian Paddick said:
"We must tackle violent extremism wherever we find it.

"It is astonishing that Theresa May refuses to publish a report on foreign funding of extremism, choosing to protect her allies in Saudi Arabia instead.

"Theresa May is asking us to trust her in the Brexit negotiations but it is clear that she is not putting Britain’s interests first."

Monday, June 05, 2017

Farron: May has made the wrong choices on security

Liberal Democrat Leader Tim Farron has criticised Theresa May's approach to security, accusing her of making the wrong choices on police cuts, mass surveillance and the fight against extremism.

Writing for the Guardian, Tim Farron said:

On police cuts

"In the choice between cuts to corporation tax and properly funding our police, we should fund our police.

"Let's be clear: fewer police on the beat means fewer conversations, less information being passed on and less knowledge about who’s who and who needs to be kept under surveillance."

On mass surveillance

"Instead of posturing, politicians need to work with technology companies like Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp, and with other countries, to develop solutions that work to keep people safe.

"The alternative is a government that monitors and controls the internet in the way that China or North Korea do. If we turn the internet into a tool for censorship and surveillance, the terrorists will have won. We won’t make ourselves safer by making ourselves less free.”  

On the fight against extremism

"When we lent our support to the government for extending air strikes against so-called Islamic State in Syria, one of the Liberal Democrats' key demands was a report into foreign funding of extremism here in Britain.

"The then Prime Minister, David Cameron agreed to that demand. Theresa May now has a choice. Does she publish that report, or keep it hidden? Theresa May talks of the need to have some difficult and sometimes embarrassing conversations.

"That should include exposing and rooting out the source funding of terror, even it means difficult and embarrassing conversations with those like Saudi Arabia that the government claims are our allies.”

In conclusion

“In the choices we make, we should provide the resources necessary for those who keep us safe to do their jobs with the powers they have been given. We should also jealously guard the hard-won liberties that define us as a country. If we make the wrong choices, those who seek to change our way of life have won.”

Sunday, June 04, 2017

Cable: Conservative manifesto has no numbers beyond the page numbers


Michael Fallon has told the Telegraph that income tax will not rise under a Conservative government. This comes after the Conservative manifesto failed to clarify their policy on tax rises in their manifesto which gave only a vague commitment to keep tax "as low as possible".

Responding to these comments, the Liberal Democrat Shadow Chancellor, Vince Cable said:

"Michael Fallon’s comments raise the obvious question as to where the Conservatives will raise the money that their Chancellor knows will be needed if promised funding for schools, the NHS, the police and defence is to materialise.

"The Conservative manifesto has no numbers beyond the page numbers: an arrogant misjudgement that the public does not need to be told what will happen after the election.  Since they are ruling out increases in income, corporate tax and VAT we must assume that there will be an increase in National Insurance and in various ‘stealth taxes’ yet to be specified. It undoubtedly raises suspicions.

"The Liberal Democrats are being honest with the people, to save our NHS and social care we will put 1p on income tax, raising £6bn a year."

Friday, June 02, 2017

Lib Dem offer three times as good for Wales as Labour's

Frank Little, candidate for Neath, writes:

"I have just had through my door a Labour leaflet (presumably accounted for in 'national' expenditure, and thus not subject to the constituency cap) implicitly promising to restore £1bn of cuts to the Welsh budget if Jeremy Corbyn comes to power.

"Liberal Democrats would more than treble that. Tim Farron's manifesto promises at least £1.5bn for health, a similar amount for policing and £300m for education coming to Wales over the period of the next parliament.

"Moreover, Liberal Democrats' proposals are fully-costed, whereas the independent IFS doubts the credibility of Mr Corbyn's manifesto costings."

May challenged to publish report on Saudi funding of extremism in UK

The Liberal Democrats have challenged Theresa May to publish a report looking into foreign funding of extremism in the UK that she sat on as Home Secretary, and continues to do so as Prime Minister.

In December 2015, David Cameron announced there would be a comprehensive review of foreign funding of extremism due to be published the following spring. However, the review is yet to be published.

Tom Brake, Liberal Democrat Shadow Foreign Secretary, has written to Theresa May reminding her that Saudi Arabia in particular provides funding to hundreds of mosques in the UK, often espousing a hard-line version of Islam.

It comes following comments from Amber Rudd in Wednesday's BBC debate in which she defended UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia by claiming they are good for industry.

Liberal Democrat Shadow Foreign Secretary Tom Brake said:

“The Conservatives have broken their pledge to investigate funding of violent Islamist groups in the UK, seemingly because they were worried about upsetting their dodgy allies in the Middle East.

“This short-sighted approach needs to change. It is critical that these extreme, hardline views are confronted head on, and that those who fund them are called out publicly.
“If the Conservatives are serious about stopping terrorism on our shores, they must stop stalling and reopen investigations into foreign funding of violent extremism in the UK.”

Thursday, June 01, 2017

Ed Davey: May must challenge Trump over climate change agreement

The Liberal Democrats have called on Theresa May to urgently speak out and challenge Donald Trump following reports he is set to withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement on tackling climate change.

Sir Ed Davey, who played a key role in negotiating the agreement as Liberal Democrat Energy and Climate Change Secretary, commented:

"It's an utter disgrace that Trump is showing such disregard for the threat posed by climate change by preparing to withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement.

"This deal was the result of two decades of international negotiations and is now on the brink of unravelling, which would be a disaster for our environment and a betrayal of future generations.

“It's time for Theresa May to speak out and join the Liberal Democrats and others in condemning President Trump publicly. This is too important for Britain to pull our punches.

"It's vital that politicians unite with scientists in the US and across the world in condemning Mr Trump and explaining to the public that this decision would threaten our children's future."

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Conservative failure on accessible manifestos

Commenting on the fact that the Conservatives have failed to publish their manifesto in a single accessible format just 10 days before polling day, former Liberal Democrat Equalities Minister Jo Swinson said:
 “Theresa May has shown she just isn’t addressing concerns over disabilities and is continually taking people for granted. “People don’t have to settle for this cold, mean-spirited vision of Britain. A better future is available. The Liberal Democrats will stand up against a bad Brexit deal that will cost jobs and push up prices, and we will reverse Conservative cuts to benefits for people not fit for work.”

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

New visa rules will restrict tourists and skilled immigration - Kramer


Commenting on the newly announced rules for visa application, Susan Kramer, Liberal Democrat Shadow Business Secretary, said:

“Britain should be trying to attract more tourists and highly-skilled workers, these new rules make it less likely they will apply.

"The Conservatives manifesto pledge to reduce immigration to the tens of thousands is at best delusional but at worst experts have warned that trying to achieve it could cost us £6bn.

"Theresa May is putting party politics ahead of the country’s well being and she should be ashamed.”

Liberal Democrats' questions to Mrs May

Frank Little, Welsh Liberal Democrat candidate for Neath, writes:

Yesterday, Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron laid down 15 questions for prime minister Theresa May to answer on the big issues of national security, schools, health and social care, welfare and their manifesto. He has attacked the Conservatives for "hiding their real agenda from the public." About the questions, Tim said:

“The Tories seem to think – if we ignore any difficult question – we don’t have to tell the public the truth. If they cannot tell us even the most basic things why should we trust them at all.

“Theresa May seems to be hiding their real agenda from the public.

“The Tories cannot tell us anything about their plans and they are doing it on purpose. They hope to secure a colossal majority and then to take the country for a ride. We cannot let this happen – our schools, hospitals and social care are at risk

“After the debacle on the Dementia Tax, the only policy they gave us detail on, it is no wonder they are trying to hide things from us. They need to come clean and tell us the truth.”

The questions for the Conservatives relating to schools and social care do not apply directly to Wales, but of course Treasury decisions about overall funding for education, health and social care have implications for the Welsh budget settlement. These are the questions which Tim says Mrs May can not or will not answer:

Security

1. Why are the Conservatives insisting on a Brexit negotiation strategy that will automatically prevent access to the vital EU Schengen Information System - used 16 times a second by UK police forces to track terrorists and criminals?

2. Why has only one individual out of hundreds who have travelled to fight for ISIS in Syria been subject to the Temporary Exclusion Order powers introduced by the Coalition?

3. How will the Conservatives "ban encryption" without weakening internet banking security for millions of British citizens?

Schools

4. How many children will lose their free school lunches?

5. How much money will the Conservatives spend on providing free school breakfasts instead of lunches?

6. Exactly how much money will the Conservatives give to schools to plug the the hole in their budgets, and why is their pledge unfunded?

Health and social care

7. How many people risk losing their house as a result of their social care policy?

8. At what level will losses be capped for people with long-term degenerative conditions like dementia?

9. How will the NHS cope with the loss of 26,000 EU staff who are planning to leave because of Brexit? (NB - this is a Westminster decision which affects public services in Wales - FHL)

Welfare

10. How many people will lose their winter fuel payments?

11. How many lives will be lost as a result?

12. Will the coldest areas of England and Wales be exempted, as Scotland has been?

How will they pay for their manifesto policies?

13. Why should anyone vote for a manifesto without costings? (My emphasis - FHL)

14. How many billions will be lost to the public finances as a result of the Conservatives’ plan to reduce net immigration to the tens of thousands?

15. How much will they raise taxes and national insurance by in order to pay for their pledges?

Monday, May 29, 2017

After BA débâcle Tories must agree to keep EU flight compensation scheme

The chief executive of British Airways, Alex Cruz, today said he is "profusely" sorry for an IT meltdown he revealed has disrupted 75,000 passengers' flights.  But the Liberal Democrats are pointing out the scheme that allows passengers to claim compensation could be put at risk due to the Tory extreme Brexit.

Currently, if you're delayed by more than three hours or your flight's cancelled, under EU rule 261/2004 you are often entitled to between £110 and £520 in compensation

What happens next all hinges on the terms of the Great Repeal Bill which was being introduced before the election to overturn the European Communities Act, which took Britain into what was then the Common Market.

It would be open for MPs to either accept EU 261 as it stands or rewrite the regulations.

In October 2016 a spokesman for Bott & Co solicitors said: "A lot of the protection under the regulation comes from ECJ case law which courts in England and Wales must follow. Should the ECJ no longer have jurisdiction there is a real risk that passengers may have the cover of the regulation, but not the cover of some of the very important case law – the right to compensation after three hours comes from case law rather than the regulation for example/"

Commenting, Liberal Democrat Transport spokesperson Jenny Randerson said:  

"These compensation schemes that many people take for granted are now at risk.  What is worse is that the government could end up watering these safeguards down.

"If the government decides to adapt the regulations or create our own version of it then that could well trigger a whole new series of legal challenges by airlines as the law is clarified once more.

"The decisions the Tories are making on Brexit will hit people in the pocket and will erode their rights and protections."
 

Clegg: May's approach to Brexit is a threat to national security


Nick Clegg has accused Theresa May of putting national security at risk by pursuing an extreme Brexit that will see Britain locked out of an EU police database used by UK police and security services 16 times a second.

The Schengen Information System (SIS II) is an EU-wide database on organised criminal and terrorist suspects across 28 countries, including 35,000 people wanted under a European Arrest Warrant. It includes alerts on suspected ‘foreign fighters’ - people who have travelled to Syria and elsewhere to fight for ISIS.
  • UK police and security services queried the database over half a billion times in 2016 - equivalent to 16 checks a second.
     
  • 53 people are detained and questioned under anti-terrorism laws at ports and airports every day, where they can be checked against the database by UK Border Force officers.
     
  • In April 2016, the UK received 25 hits on alerts issued by other participating countries in relation to individuals who could pose a risk to national security.
     
  • The UK would lose access to the database under Theresa May's plans to leave the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. Unless this position changes, UK authorities will see their access to the database cut off on 29th March 2019.
Nick Clegg has challenged Theresa May to answer three vital questions:
  1. How will we maintain access to SIS II without accepting the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice?
     
  2. What contingency plans has she put in place to mitigate the loss of this information on the movement of terrorist suspects across the continent?
     
  3. How will we issue instructions to other EU countries to stop and question terror suspects if we are no longer part of this system?
Nick Clegg commented:
“Theresa May’s extreme approach to Brexit will have the direct consequence of severing our ties to a fantastically useful weapon in our armoury against terrorism.

“By refusing to accept a role for the European Court of Justice in policing this European-wide database, she has ruled out our future participation it.

“It is hard to overstate the importance of this database. We check it 16 times a second, looking for security threats that have been flagged to us by other European countries. And we use it to tell other countries to stop and question people who we think are potential terrorists.

“This is euroscepticism gone mad. If she fails to back down, Theresa May’s approach to Brexit poses a direct threat to our national security.”
 

Friday, May 26, 2017

Cable: IFS analysis shows Conservatives and Labour are hiding impact of their plans from the public

The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) has published a damning analysis of the Labour and Conservative manifestos, saying that neither party “has set out an honest set of choices.” 

It says plans in the Conservative manifesto could do "serious damage" to the quality of public services such as the NHS and schools, while Labour's tax rises may not raise anything like the tax revenues they have claimed.

The IFS has also previously stated that the revenue raised by the Liberal Democrats’ income tax rises, at around £6bn per year, is "more certain" than the revenue raised by Labour.

Liberal Democrat Shadow Chancellor Vince Cable said:

"Both the Conservatives and Labour are hiding the real impact of their plans from the public.

"Theresa May's plans would decimate our public services while Jeremy Corbyn's plans would decimate household finances.

"On top of that Labour has voted for Theresa May's Brexit plans that will damage the economy and mean billions of pounds less funding for our schools and hospitals.

“The British people don’t have to accept this dismal choice, a brighter future is possible.

"The Liberal Democrats will put a penny on income tax to rescue the NHS and social care, and protect our economy and public services by fighting to stay in the single market and customs union."

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Alistair Cooke after Lockerbie

This is from the Letter From America of 15th March 1996, and has some pertinent things to say about responses to terrorist acts. The reference to the World Trade Center of course comes before the devastating attacks by air five years later.

About the Scottish obscenity, the one certain thing I think we can say, which I admit offers bleak comfort to the parents and friends, is that absolutely nothing can be done about such sporadic horrors which are happening all across the globe. They always did, but to know about them you had to take a daily paper interested in news from China, Siberia, Tibet, Chile, France, Germany, wherever, and dig the lurid item out of the inner pages and the fine print.
One of the many burdens television has loaded us with, is the certainty that every multiple crime, massive accident, big fire, small assassination, can be known about, can be seen that same day, by everyone alive with a television set. What I'm saying is that there's no way of taking precautions against the sudden brainstorm of a man with a gun, anywhere on earth. No magic formula, no psychiatrist, no detective, no witch doctor. The Romans thought they had portents of trouble to come. They didn't, and nobody has had since, except frivolous astrologers who pretend to.
But about terrorism organised, certainly this country's pretty steamed up after the appalling bombing of the World Trade Centre in this city and the more recent explosion of Oklahoma City's federal building. By the way, one of the conspirators in the World Trade Centre disaster is said to have been foiled in a plan, carefully worked out, to explode eight or nine American commercial air flights on the same day. Last summer the United States Senate passed what it called a Terrorism Protection Act. It increased the staff of the FBI and loosened the law that made tracing explosive devices an invasion of privacy.
But there've been lots of objections and there will be more to other parts of the act that give more power to the police and in some emergencies, the military, to trail suspects and to keep a closer watch on aliens, which is quite an undertaking when you consider that about 400,000 aliens, legal and illegal, pour into this country every week. The objections will be, as always, based on two phrases in the First Amendment to the Constitution: Freedom of speech and the right of the people peaceably to assemble. That last right can cover a multitude of gatherings.
As we learned in the heyday of the gangster era – I mean when gangsters were recognisable on the street and in nightclubs, not as now, well-groomed members of the Mafia who deny there is such a thing as the Mafia and who, when arrested in a meeting of their brethren or family, can always protest the invasion of the police, the FBI or whoever, into an innocent get-together of Friday night chums or a business meeting, involved entirely in making better and cheaper doughnuts or mousetraps or whatever business they pretend to be in. And you can see also how trigger-happy cops could intrude on any meeting of the newly arrived or old arrived aliens, under suspicion of being spies or nowadays, terrorists. Since the Oklahoma City bombing, the Islamic population of that state has been intimidated and in some places, bullied. Not because they took any part in the plot, but because, after the arrest of the Islamic suspects in the New York World Centre bombing, all members of an Islamic sect even the most decent and law-abiding families, lived, moved and worked under a cloud of suspicion.
Now assuming, which is a mighty, a miraculous assumption, that both houses of Congress will come to devise and agree on an effective bill to combat terrorism, there will remain the most American of stumbling blocks: the admirable concern for the liberty of the subject and the hysterical interpretation of the First Amendment by well-meaning groups that believe every child is innocent of swiping anything from the kitchen until they see the jam smeared on his face. Or, as one newspaper here put it, Congress is right to give federal law enforcement agencies more money and manpower but diminishing American liberties is not the solution to terrorism. What the solution can be, while still preserving everyone's right to say anything on his or her mind and to gather for innocent or villainous purposes, what the solution might be, it does not say.

Monday, May 22, 2017

50 top business figures back Lib Dems over support for single market

50 top business figures back Lib Dems over support for single market
Over 50 of Britain's leading business figures and entrepreneurs - including the founder of Ebookers, Dinesh Dhamija, co-founder of Innocent Drinks Richard Reed and businesswoman Nicola Horlick - have backed the Liberal Democrats today as the only UK party campaigning to stay in single market.

In a letter to The Times, the business figures write that leaving the single market would be "destructive to the British economy," and that the Liberal Democrats are "the only party speaking for business and the majority of Britons on the key issue at this election."

Liberal Democrat Shadow Chancellor Vince Cable commented:

“The Liberal Democrats now have support from a large number of serious figures in the business community, showing that we are rapidly emerging as the party of business, both big and small.

“Theresa May’s determination to take us out of the single market would devastate the financial sector, while taking us out of the customs union would cause incalculable disruption to manufacturing .

“Theresa May herself warned of the Brexit dangers to our exports in a speech at Goldman Sachs. Since then she has taken on the agenda of Nigel Farage, who has understandably declared himself delighted with her.

“That is scary. It is vital that the next parliament contains enough Liberal Democrat voices to argue for Britain’s future in the world’s most lucrative single market. The more Liberal Democrat MPs, the better the deal we can secure on Europe."