Speaking at The Grand Mawlid (Peace Conference) in Birmingham today in front of an expected 4,000 audience, Vince Cable will call on the government to change the law so that all-BAME (black and minority ethnic) short-lists are allowed for selecting Parliamentary election candidates.
Under the 2010 Equality Act, political parties may field all-women or all-disabled short-lists, but the law does not allow for all-BAME short-lists.
Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable is expected to say:
"There remains a serious lack of diversity in Parliament.
"There are just 51 BAME MPs. Despite being a record total, they represent only 7.9% of all MPs, against 14% of the British population. There are still too few opportunities for BAME people to enter British politics at all levels.
"Parliament is supposed to set an example to the rest of society. We should be showing that we are willing to tackle issues of lack of diversity head on.
"Although advances in gender balance have been made partly through all-women short-lists, we still have this loophole that all-BAME short-lists are not allowed.
"I have written to Damian Green, the de facto deputy prime minister, calling on him to close this loophole through legislation. It is time to unify the country by giving everyone the opportunity to move up in life."
Frank Little, secretary of Aberavon and Liberal Democrats, added:
"It should be noted that Vince calls for permissive, not mandatory legislation, contrary to some media speculation earlier in the week.
"In 2016 the Lib Dems became the first party to pick a prospective parliamentary candidate from an all-disabled short-list when Stephen Lloyd was selected for Eastbourne. He regained the seat at this year's general election with a majority of 1,609 and is now the party's Spokesperson for Work & Pensions. "
Responding to the news a Brexit deal has been agreed by Theresa May and the EU in Brussels this morning, Liberal Democrat Leader Vince Cable said:
"This agreement is welcome as it reduces the risk of a catastrophic No Deal Brexit. It also includes a role for the EU Court of Justice for eight years, a notable concession.
"But how long will this deal last before it is torn apart by Theresa May's own MPs? And what will happen next, seeing as the Cabinet hasn't even discussed yet what the final Brexit outcome should look like?
"There are still two opposing views in government, those who want a close arrangement with the EU and those who want to tear apart decades of work building ties with our closest trading partner.
"And there is still no solution over how to prevent a border between Ireland and Northern Ireland. The biggest obstacle to the government's Brexit plans is being kicked into the long grass.
"The government is still a long way from a final deal, and even further from delivering on what the Brexiters promised.
"At the end of this process it is the British people, not Tory MPs and the DUP, who should get to decide whether the deal is good enough."
A report from the Public Affairs Committee has warned that the UK border could be exposed from the first day of Brexit.
The report says that government assumptions about behaviour are risky and planning is too reliant on a transitional period.
Commenting, Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran, who sits on the committee, said:
“Once again we have evidence in front of us that the government are failing to prepare for Brexit.
“Mismanagement and blunder from this government is risking the future of this country. Massive new pressures to the UK border are being ignored and the whole issue is seemingly being kicked into the long grass.
“It is appalling that major issues that we know will arise from Brexit are going ignored. The people must be given a chance to escape this mess and exit from Brexit.”
Dick Newby, Leader of the Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords, has complained to the government over their 'farcical' security measures for the Brexit papers.
Lord Newby has questioned whether such measures are beyond what is necessary for a document which should be made publicly available and contains no information which is sensitive.
The documents contain no assessment whatsoever by the Government of how Brexit will affect the sectors covered, and simply repeat what they’ve been told by companies in the sector.
The current security measures include:
Booking a time slot to view the papers
Getting a pass from Parliament Street
Being escorted to the reading room
Handing in your mobile phone
Being watched over by two DExEU officials
Not being allowed to view the papers outside the hours of 10-1 and 2-5 on Monday to Thursday.
Lord Newby, Leader of the Liberal Democrats in the Lords, said:
“There is absolutely no justification for the farcical restrictions being placed on parliamentarians wishing to see these documents. The arrangements seem designed to make it as difficult as possible to access them.
"As they contain no assessment of the impacts of Brexit and no sensitive material they should be made available in parliament in the same way as all other documents.
"They should also be put online so that the public can get a better understanding of the complexities and challenges of Brexit.”
(*Leader of the House of Commons Andrea Leadsom asserted today that only 16 people had accessed the government's Brexit assessments.)
Following Chris Grayling’s claim that the UK does not need identical laws to the EU for Irish border trade, the Liberal Democrats accused the government of not knowing what it is doing.
Tom Brake said:
“If you listen to seven different cabinet ministers, you hear eight different opinions.
“Theresa May is being undermined at every turn by her own ministers in this incompetent government. Chris Grayling doesn't give a fig about trade in Northern Ireland - he only cares about trading blows with his own cabinet colleagues and pursuing an extreme Brexit. In talking up the possibility of a No Deal he is undermining the Chancellor and talking down British business.
“With the government making more of a mess of Brexit with every passing day, it is ever more vital that the people are given a vote on any deal Theresa May finally manages to negotiate.”
Vince Cable has launched a Liberal Democrat Business & Entrepreneurs Network (LDBEN) at an event in the City this morning, galvanising the business community amid the government’s shambolic handling of Brexit.
The network includes is made up of 80 leading figures from the business community, including angel investor Andrew Dixon and Chair of Allied Irish Banks Richard Pym.
Liberal Democrat Leader Vince Cable said:
“Under my leadership, I will ensure the Liberal Democrats are a strong voice for business and economic common sense.
“We will provide a sound and sensible plan to protect our economy, jobs and tax revenue from Brexit.
“Labour under Corbyn are intent on bashing business, while the Tories are pursuing an extreme version Brexit that will do permanent damage to our economy.
“We will provide a natural home for businesses and entrepreneurs.
“We would build on the industrial strategy that we introduced in government, keep Britain at the heart of the single market and pursue ambitious reforms at home that will support businesses and boost growth.”
Richard Pym, Chair Allied Irish Banks plc, Co-Chair and Founder Member of LDBEN, stated:
“The Conservatives have betrayed business with their wealth-destroying approach to Brexit. The Labour Party scare business with their anti-capitalism rhetoric.
“In contrast the values of modern businesses are liberal values.
“Business leaders and entrepreneurs are increasingly backing the Liberal Democrats because the party is now the natural party for business.”
After David Davis was accused of misleading parliament, former Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron said that the Brexit Secretary has to resign.
Tim Farron said:
“David Davis needs to go. He has misled parliament and under his leadership the Brexit department has turned incompetence into an art form.
“I am not one to call for ministerial resignations every two minutes and I've nothing against David Davis as a person but it is now clear he deceived MP. He is also writing the government’s Brexit strategy on the back of a fag packet.
“Some 18 months on, the government hasn’t worked out what the effects of Brexit will be or even what kind of Brexit it wants.
“Forget Brexit – we need Dexit: an exit from the duplicity and dither of David Davis.”
The Liberal Democrats have backed calls for a ‘fraud prevention league table’ for banks so consumers have a choice about where they put their money.
Currently banks do not give this data to the government, leaving both the government, and more importantly consumers, in the dark over how safe their money is.
The call is backed by a Report today from the House of Commons Committee of Public Accounts titled 'The growing threat of online fraud' which warns that online fraud is now the most prevalent crime in England and Wales and that banks are not doing enough to tackle online fraud and their response has not been proportionate to the scale of the problem.
The league table proposal is similar to measures utilised by the car industry, which have found success not only in informing consumers, but also prompting the car industry to deliver improvements.
Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran, who co-led the questioning on the Committee session, said:
"Clearly people have a right to know how safe their money is. When people are saving for a better future, when they are taking home their wage packet, they need to be able to make an informed decision about how safe their savings are.
“This measure has already to make cars safer, we now need to encourage a race to the top in the banking sector.
"Online fraud is now the most prevalent crime facing people in the England and Wales, yet adequate measures are not in place to protect consumers from fraud."
After the Supreme Court upheld Donald Trump's ban on people entering the United States from six mostly Muslim countries, this politics of division was attacked by the Liberal Democrats.
Leader Vince Cable said:
"This is not the signal the supposed leader of the free world should be sending out. The Muslim ban is the worst symbol of Trump’s intolerance, and we must hope this doesn’t spread even more hate at a fragile time.
“It also underlines why Liberal Democrats have told Trump that he simply is not welcome in the UK - the difference is this country won’t resort to banning him.”
Leading figures in the pharmaceutical industry have warned that diverging from EU standards could create a "nightmare scenario" for the sector and that the fall in the pound since the Brexit vote has already made it no longer viable to produce certain medicines.
Mike Thompson, Chief Executive of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI), told the Commons Business Committee that regulatory alignment with the EU is "critical" and failure to agree mutual recognition could lead to a "nightmare scenario."
Peter Ballard, Managing Director of Xiromed, warned that the fall in the pound has already meant it is no longer viable to produce certain medicines in the UK, adding that tariffs and significant regulatory changes would do "significant" damage.
Each month the UK imports 37 million medicine packs from the EU while 45 million packs are exported from Britain to the EU, according to figures form the ABPI.
The stark warning comes as Theresa May negotiates with the DUP over the issue of regulatory alignment to prevent a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland.
Liberal Democrat Brexit Spokesperson Tom Brake commented:
"Theresa May must listen to this clear warning from the pharmaceuticals industry.
"The cost of some medicines is already rising due to the fall in the pound since the referendum.
"This will only get worse if the government continues to bungle these negotiations and pursue the most extreme form of Brexit.
"British patients should not be made to pay the price for an incompetent Tory Brexit.
"Whether it is farming, the car industry or pharmaceuticals, the best option for all key sectors of our economy is to stay in the single market and customs union."
Commenting on the statement by tánaiste (Irish deputy prime minister) Simon Coveney that Brexit talks cannot move forward until the Irish border problem is overcome, Tom Brake, Liberal Democrat Brexit Spokesperson, said:
"Following the Tory Brexit U-turn on the divorce bill and (disputed) indications that a deal has been reached on citizens' rights, the Ireland - Northern Ireland border is now the major obstacle this government faces
"The government has failed to convince anyone that a frictionless border solution exists. And they have ruled out the obvious answer which is remaining in the Single Market and Customs Union.
"Their ideological obsession with a hard Brexit is putting twenty years of peace at risk.
"Only the Lib Dems are offering a chance to exit from Brexit and to maintain the peaceful status quo that currently exists in Northern Ireland."
Commenting on reports that RBS plans to close one in four of its branches, Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable said:
“We understand that RBS needs to sort out its business so it can be sold at a profit for taxpayers rather than the loss that ministers currently seem to be pushing for . “However, there is also a ‘last bank in town’ policy that all banks should be following to make sure communities are not left without banking facilities, including orderly transfer of services to local Post Offices and free-to-use cash machines.
"We need assurances from RBS that there are arrangements in place that will not leave communities isolated because of its cost-cutting measures.”