Monday, September 17, 2018

Liberal Democrats demand international treaty on plastics

The Liberal Democrats have today demanded the Government initiate negotiations within the UN for a legally binding international treaty on plastics.

The treaty, set out at the Liberal Democrat conference in Brighton, would encompass phased reductions in the production, consumption and trade of virgin feedstock.

It would also include a financial mechanism providing aid and capacity-building assistance to developing countries.

Speaking after the debate, Tim Farron said: 

 “The problem with plastics is not only on our shores. It is a problem that impacts the environment, communities and wildlife across the globe. 

"The Government therefore has a duty to lead from the front and start weaning the world off plastics. But instead of leadership on the environment, all this Conservative Government offers is empty words. 

"Liberal Democrats demand better. That is why we are calling for real international action to save our environment from the scourge of single-use plastics."

Lib Dem conference adopts plans to abolish business rates

Today at conference, Liberal Democrats have voted for a comprehensive plan for replacing the broken business rates system.

The motion based on the report – Taxing Land, Not Investment – calls for the abolition of business rates and its replacement with a tax on land values, the Commercial Landowner Levy (CLL). The levy would remove buildings and machinery from calculations and tax only the land value of commercial sites, boosting investment and cutting taxes for businesses in nine out of ten English local authorities.
Key recommendations from the motion include:
  • Business rates should be abolished and replaced by a Commercial Landowner Levy based on the value of commercial land only
  • The levy should be paid by owners rather than tenants
  • Non-residential stamp duty should be scrapped to improve the efficiency of the commercial property market
  • Commercial land should be taxed regardless of whether the buildings above it are occupied; the tax should also apply to unused and derelict commercial land
The full report can be found as a pdf here.
Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable said: 
“Business rates were a badly designed policy to begin with and have become an unacceptable drag on our economy. They are a tax on productive investment at a time of chronically weak productivity growth, and a burden on high streets struggling to adapt to the rise of online retail.

“Many of the areas around the country that voted for Brexit feel they have been left behind. In place of policies the Brexiters offer only rhetoric. Great swathes of the country demand better, and this policy offers change to the manufacturing industry and the small towns passed over by economic growth.”

Founder of the Liberal Democrat Business and Entrepreneurs Network Andrew Dixon said:

“By only taxing land and not the productive capital above it, this reform would remove a major disincentive to investment, boosting productivity and contributing to a necessary revival in UK industry. While separate action is needed to ensure online retailers pay their fair share of corporation tax, our proposals would offer a lifeline to struggling high streets.

“I am delighted to support this initiative which I believe would boost business and enterprise across the UK, and I am grateful to members of the Liberal Democrats Business & Entrepreneurs Network for their valuable contributions to this important research”

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Gove leaving the table as the rest of Europe digs in

Responding to the publication of the Government's Agriculture Bill, Tim Farron, former Lib Dem leader and Environment Spokesperson, said:
“The ambition in this bill can only be achieved if it is matched with funding, at the very least the current funding we receive from the EU – around £4 billion – must be maintained in order for Michael Gove’s aims to be achieved.

There has been no indication that the same level of funding will be matched by the Treasury after 2022. Without this spending, the farming industry will struggle to adapt to the new regime and we will see many farms going out of business. 
“It also would be far better for the environment if Mr Gove was sat round the table with 27 other countries trying to reform the Common Agricultural Policy together, rather than the UK having to leave the EU in order to achieve his aims.”

Friday, September 14, 2018

Brexit kicks London off the Top Financial spot

Responding yesterday to a report from the Z/YEN Global Financial Centres Index announcing London has been overtaken by New York as the top Financial Centre, Liberal Democrat Leader Vince Cable said: 

"There is remarkable complacency in some parts of the City of London - and among Brexiter politicians - about their future and how they can adapt to Brexit no matter what. But they face intense competition from Asia, the US, and now mainland Europe. It's going to be an uphill struggle for the City to maintain its status as a world-leading financial centre.
“The Chequers white paper, already dismissed by both the EU and the hard-Brexiters, contained no serious proposals to safeguard the future of the financial sector. Meanwhile the increasing probability of a no-deal Brexit will accelerate financial services firms’ plans to shift activity abroad.

“There is a solution to this mess. The Liberal Democrats are fighting for a final say on the deal, with the option to remain in the EU. That is the only way to ensure that London’s financial sector continues to lead the global pack.”

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Disaster could unfold in our rural areas and Gov are unprepared

Commenting on today's report by the National Audit Office which shows that the Department for Food, Environment and Rural Affairs is unprepared for a no-deal Brexit, Tim Farron, Lib Dem spokesperson for the Environment said: 

“What a shock, the National Audit Office has declared DEFRA unprepared for a possible no deal Brexit, tell us something we didn’t know. And now, we know the full scale of the disaster that could unfold.

"If we crash out without a deal the UK could well not be able to export animal products, enforce control over our fishing waters nor export chemical products to the rest of the EU.

"This is why the Government desperately need to rule out the no deal option and why the people deserve to have the final say on the deal, and an opportunity to Exit from Brexit.”

Govt must act now to stem Defence skills shortages

Commenting on today's report from the Public Accounts Committee into skills shortages within the armed forces, Liberal Democrat member of the PAC, who was one of those leading this inquiry, Layla Moran said:
“The findings of our inquiry are really shocking. Despite a huge shortfall in staff and skills, the Government hasn’t got a grip on what needs to be done to recruit more skilled specialists into the armed forces and Ministry of Defence, and to keep the ones we already have.
“To add insult to injury, the Government’s disastrous approach to Brexit threatens to make the problem worse as skilled technicians, engineers and specialists from across the EU look to work elsewhere rather than in post-Brexit Britain.
“The Government must act now to put a plan in place to recruit more skilled staff, improve conditions for existing staff and make sure people can easily come to work in our armed services after Brexit.
“Our serving armed forces personnel and the people of Britain that they serve and protect deserve better than this.”

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

We need to keep Britain safe, without destroying our freedoms

The Liberal Democrats are proud to have taken a stand against the Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill which has tonight passed through the House of Commons with a 376 - 10 majority. Commenting on the decision of the party to stand against the Bill, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson Ed Davey said:

“The Liberal Democrats are determined to combat terrorism and support action that will keep Britain safe. But the Government has failed to provide evidence that most of these new laws will help in the fight against terrorists.
”This Bill does little to fight terrorism, and a lot to destroy our freedoms.
”The Liberal Democrats demand better. We’re standing up for civil liberties and calling for a real, evidence-based response to the threat of terrorism that actually makes us safer.”

Monday, September 10, 2018

Trade Bill marks doomed voyage into the great unknown

Speaking ahead of the Trade Bill returning to the House of Lords, Liberal Democrat Leader in the House of Lords Dick Newby said:
“Brexit means the UK abandoning not only the world’s largest trading bloc but also every free trade deal that the EU has ever negotiated with other countries.
“No one voted for this. No one voted for a rise in uncertainty and a fall in economic growth. But that is what the Tories, with Labour falling in behind, are delivering.
“Liberal Democrats remain firmly opposed to this discredited Bill, not least because it doesn’t stop the Government from implementing future trade deals by the back door. It marks the start of the UK’s doomed voyage into the great unknown.
“That is why Liberal Democrats continue fighting for the public to have the final say on the Brexit deal, with the option to remain in the EU.”

Thursday, September 06, 2018

Progress still to be made on tenant rights

Speaking after the Tenant Fees Bill progressed through the House of Commons last night, Liberal Democrat Housing Spokesperson Wera Hobhouse said:
“Tenant fees are often unreasonable, lack transparency and make the upfront costs of moving extortionate. People should not be punished for moving home. That is why Liberal Democrats have long campaigned for a ban on tenant fees.

"While Government amendments did attempt to close the loopholes in this Bill, the language remains ambiguous on what constitutes a “reasonable cost”. Moreover, without sufficient funding, local authorities will struggle to enforce the ban.
“Progress can and must therefore be made on tenant rights. Liberal Democrats will continue to campaign for government-backed loans to help people afford a tenancy deposit, and for tighter regulation in the private rented sector to stop rogue landlords.”

Brexit threatens our safety

Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson Ed Davey MP has warned that Brexit will "remove the tools our police need to keep us safe" following the publication of a report today by the Institute for Government.

The report, titled ''Negotiating Brexit: policing and criminal justice', says the failure to secure a new agreement on policing and criminal justice after Brexit will make it harder to extradite dangerous criminals from the UK and reduce the number of people brought back to Britain to face justice. 

Ed Davey said: 

“The Institute for Government is absolutely right to raise the alarm about Brexit’s effect on crime and policing.

“The Liberal Democrats have long been warning that losing the European Arrest Warrant, information-sharing arrangements and leadership of Europol will make it harder to keep people safe and bring criminals to justice.

“The Conservatives like to talk tough on crime, but their pursuit of a destructive hard Brexit is jeopardising national security and playing into the hands of criminals.

“The Liberal Democrats demand better. That’s why we are fighting to give the people a say on the final deal and opportunity to Exit from a Brexit. We can’t let the Brexit ideologues throw away the tools our police need to keep us safe.”

Wednesday, September 05, 2018

Lib Dems claim victory as ‘Upskirting’ Bill progresses

Liberal Democrat MP Wera Hobhouse has tonight claimed victory as Parliament moves closer to making ‘upskirting’ a specific criminal offence.
The Voyeurism Offences Bill, introduced by the Government after the Liberal Democrat Bill was blocked by Tory MP Christopher Chope, passed its third reading in the House of Commons tonight. The Bill is now set to enter the House of Lords.
Wera said:
“I want this Bill to stop the vile practice of ‘upskirting’. It should be a successful tool for prosecution, but it should also act as a deterrent. Zero tolerance, no loopholes.
“This Bill has not only highlighted and sought to rectify a gap in the law, but resulted in further parliamentary debate. Debate on serious issues around non-consensual distribution of pornographic images and the production of deep fakes enabled by new technology.
“I look forward to working hard on these issues. Liberal Democrats continue to campaign to make sure the law protects victims of all sexually motivated malicious behaviour in this country.”

Tuesday, September 04, 2018

Javid plans: a derisory response to criminal threats

Commenting on reports that the Home Secretary is planning to extend stop and search powers, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson Ed Davey said:

"We are only going to get a grip on the rise in violent crime by investing in more community police, not by changing laws when there are too few police in the first place. 
“Thinking new stop and search powers will help ignores the evidence, is frankly a derisory response to criminal threats from hi-tech drones and lasers and is a distraction from the real challenge of rebuilding community policing. 
"Only a long term financial commitment to community policing will restore the trust in police that is so vital to fighting crime, whilst a disproportionate use of stop and search can undermine that very trust community police officers rely on.
"Liberal Democrats demand better. Instead of expanding stop and search, the Home Secretary should halt the Conservatives' police cuts, invest in community policing and put more officers on the streets."

Monday, September 03, 2018

Cable: Low manufacturing growth speaks volumes about Brexit uncertainty

Responding to the news that UK manufacturing growth has hit a two year low, Liberal Democrat Leader and former Business Secretary Vince Cable said:
“The world economy is booming. It should be a good time for UK manufacturing, particularly with a weaker pound. The fact it isn’t speaks volumes about the uncertainty being created by the Conservative Government’s incompetent handling of Brexit.
“Both the hard Brexiters – represented by Boris Johnson – and the EU have rejected the Prime Minister’s discredited Chequers compromise. It is clear the only way out of this mess is for the people to have the final say on Brexit, and an opportunity to remain in the EU.”

 The PM is rattled by our movement 

Speaking at the People's Vote rally in Cambridge yesterday, Leader of the Liberal Democrats Vince Cable said:

"The reason Theresa May came out against a final say on the deal is that the government is rattled by our movement. We are the target now.

"Government ministers are telling us that we have a 50% chance of dropping out of the EU and falling off a cliff. Meanwhile the only person who still supports the Chequers deal is the prime minister. The deal is dead.

"Over the coming weeks and months pressure will continue to grow and the government will be forced to go back to the people for a final say on the deal."

Sunday, September 02, 2018

There needs to be a “transparent explanation” for Crossrail delays

Responding to the news that London’s new Crossrail underground line has been delayed by nine months, Liberal Democrat Transport Spokesperson Jenny Randerson said: 
“The news of significant delays to London’s new Crossrail underground line is desperately disappointing. Given the project is already running almost £600m over budget, serious questions must be answered.
“It is therefore essential that the Transport Secretary sets out a full and transparent explanation. With other major projects like HS2 already in trouble, lessons must be learnt urgently.”

Cutting funding for refugees does nothing in the pursuit of peace

Responding to reports that the US will cut funding for Palestinian refugees, Liberal Democrats Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Christine Jardine said:

"Having seen the work that the UNRWA do for refugees, first hand, I am deeply concerned about the actions of Donald Trump.

"Cutting funding does nothing in the cause for peace and will only act to make the situation worse.

"The international community must continue to support the work of the UNRWA and the UN. The refugees in the West Bank live in a perilous situation. We should be working to make the Middle East safe for all citizens, not dancing to the tune of Trump and Netanyahu."

Friday, August 31, 2018

Torture revelations show immigration detention is inhumane

Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons has released a report revealing that victims of torture have been detained at Tinsley House immigration removal centre in Gatwick.

Commenting on the report, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs spokesperson Ed Davey MP said:
“These revelations are shocking but sadly not surprising. We’ve already heard far too many cases of people being held in detention centres after fleeing torture abroad.
“Locking vulnerable people up – without giving them any idea of how long they’ll be detained – can cause or exacerbate mental health problems. We’ve heard harrowing, heart-breaking stories of detainees being traumatised to the point of self-harm and even attempting suicide.
“Indefinite detention on this scale is patently inhumane. It’s also expensive and often unnecessary.
“The Liberal Democrats demand better. Detention should only be used as an absolute last resort, and the Government must develop community-based alternatives that are both more humane and more cost-effective.”

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Tories are betraying our chance for cleaner, safer future

Today's letter from the Solar Trade Association, with hundreds of stakeholder signatories, calls on Energy Minister Claire Perry to confirm the continuation of the 'export tariff', which works alongside the Feed-In Tariff to ensure that small solar generators are remunerated fairly for the energy they feed into the grid. Ed Davey, former Liberal Democrat Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, said:

“After the blistering heatwave this summer, even Conservative Ministers should have realised the urgency of rolling out more green energy, especially small scale solar power but once again they’re betraying our chance for a cleaner, safer future. 

“It’s now beyond doubt that the Conservatives have lost the plot when it comes to fighting climate change and backing the low carbon power we need.

“Solar support has already been cut drastically leading to a dramatic fall in investment. This latest Conservative assault on renewable power could be the nail in the coffin and makes no economic or environmental sense at all.

“I’m proud Liberal Democrats helped developed huge amounts of solar and wind power, and outraged that the Conservatives seem to want to kill off renewables in favour of fracked gas and nuclear.”

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Africa trip reveals government's incoherent trade policy

Responding to the Prime Minister's visit to drum up trade in Africa, Liberal Democrat Brexit Spokesperson Tom Brake said:

“The Government are clearly losing the plot, when in the same breath they both talk up trade with Africa and claim that a 'No-Deal Brexit' with our largest trading partner, the EU, would not be a catastrophe.

“The truth is that the UK within the EU could trade much more extensively than it does currently with countries around the world; Germany and France do so very successfully.

“The Government’s incoherent trade policy points to an ever more urgent need to give the people a final say on the deal and a chance to exit from Brexit."

Monday, August 27, 2018

WTO reveals true scale of no-deal crisis

Responding to warnings from the Director General of the World Trade Organisation that it is “not realistic” to believe the UK can start trading under WTO rules the day after Brexit in March, Liberal Democrat Brexit Spokesperson Tom Brake said: 
“The damage for businesses and families unveiled in the Conservative Government’s no-deal Brexit papers are clear to see.
“But the Government’s assertions were based on falling back on WTO rules and now even the WTO have warned there is no certainty the UK can follow these immediately.
“Without WTO rules, just imagine the true scale of the crisis facing the country now because of Theresa May’s incompetent Government.
“No matter what the deal, Brexit will be a disaster. Now, more than ever, the people deserve a final say on the deal and an opportunity to remain in the EU.”

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

One person wrongly deported is one person too many

Commenting on the Home Office apology to the Windrush generation, Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable said:

"The Government are right to repeat the apology to those whose lives were wrongly ruined by deportations and detention. Even if one person from the Windrush generation had their life ruined by these measures then that is one too many.

"Many thousands more beyond the Windrush generation have been arbitrarily subjected to the so-called 'hostile environment' which has created a deep, and in some cases, irreparable damage.
"Meanwhile, on the horizon we have the status of EU citizens at risk due to Brexit. Whilst I welcome Theresa May’s announcement that EU citizens will be able to stay even if there is no deal, it is very difficult to trust the processing system.

"As well as a simplified system for people to prove residency rights we need to change the whole psychology of the Home Office to prevent these injustices being repeated in the future."

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Football leaders show Brexit the red card

Liberal Democrat Brexit Spokesperson Tom Brake has responded to comments from Peter Coates, Chair of Stoke City FC, and Mike Garlick, Chair of Burnley FC, that Brexit could be "hugely damaging" to English football.

Brake said:
"Fans want to see the best footballers at their clubs, competing in the best leagues in the world. The Premier League, and sport across the UK, has flourished in recent years. However, all that could come to an end with the economic calamity that is Brexit. I am glad that leaders from high profile clubs have spoken out against a policy that could badly damage the beautiful game.
“Brexit will relegate football across the UK. I hope fans will join the Liberal Democrats in backing a final say on the deal, which will deliver an opportunity to Exit from Brexit."

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

FTSE companies still getting away with outrageous pay awards

The pay of FTSE 100 chief executives has soared by 11% in the past year, according to analysis by CIPD/High Pay Centre

This is partly inflated by a £47.1m payout for Jeff Fairburn, the chief executive at Persimmon. The housebuilding group has benefited greatly from the Government’s Help to Buy scheme, which helped trigger the enormous payout. 

Responding, Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable said: 

“Despite so many efforts, including my own legislation, to ensure there is moderation in executive pay, some companies are still getting away with unjustifiable awards. What is particularly galling and outrageous is the Persimmon payout, because the firm is profiting as a result of a government subsidy, not the performance of the company.” 

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Half of prisoners are abandoned on release

Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson Ed Davey MP has today revealed that more than 100,000 prisoners across England and Wales left prison for “unsettled” or “unknown” accommodation in the last three years, almost half of the 220,411 prisoners released in that period.

The Liberal Democrat MP said the new figures (spreadsheet here) proved “the criminal justice system is fundamentally failing when people are reoffending just to get a meal or a place to sleep.”
The Ministry of Justice figures show that 36,945 people (16.8%) were released to “unsettled accommodation” – mostly rough sleeping and other forms of homelessness – between April 2015 and March 2018. This group is much more likely to reoffend than those who have stable housing upon release.
A further 67,577 (30.7%) were released to unknown accommodation, making it much harder for them to continue to receive services to support rehabilitation.
Figures acquired by the Liberal Democrats through freedom of information reveal that HMP Norwich released 72% of its prisoners to unsettled or unknown accommodation in two-year period from April 2015 to March 2017, the highest proportion of any prison. The figures show that a total of 45 prisons released the majority of their prisoners to such accommodation in that period.
Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson Ed Davey MP said:
“To prevent reoffending, prisons should be places of rehabilitation and recovery, and that work must continue when offenders leave the prison gates.
“The thousands of people who have nowhere to go upon release are less likely to be able to get a job or have access to education or healthcare. It’s hardly surprising that some turn to stealing or even choose to go back to prison for the sake of a warm, dry bed.
“The criminal justice system is fundamentally failing when people are reoffending just to get a meal or a place to sleep.
“The Liberal Democrats have consistently argued that the Government must ensure arrangements are in place for housing, healthcare and benefits when people leave prison.”

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Case for People's Vote on Brexit strengthens

More than 100 Westminster constituencies that voted for Brexit two years ago now support staying in the EU, The Observer has reported. 

The story is based on analysis commissioned by Best for Britain and Hope Not Hate. 
Responding, Liberal Democrat Leader Vince Cable said: 

“Whether someone voted to leave or stay in the EU in 2016, nearly everyone is disillusioned by the mess the Conservatives have made of Brexit. 

“This research is yet more compelling evidence that the British people must be given the final say on any - or no - Brexit deal. The shallow argument against giving the people their say diminishes towards nothingness with every passing day.” 

Friday, August 10, 2018

Fall in the pound reflects Brexit risks

Responding to the pound falling to its lowest level against the dollar and the euro this year as worries increase that the UK will leave the EU without a trade deal, Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable said: 

“This does not reflect the underlying value of the currency. What this does show is the weakening of confidence in the UK, as well as the grave risks to the UK caused by the spectre of Brexit. 

“This is one of the reasons why we need to be clear that Brexit is not inevitable. The British people must have a final say on any deal - or, even worse, no-deal - with the option of staying in the EU.” 

Conservatives’ arbitrary net migration target is damaging

Responding to the CBI’s call for the Government to drop its net migration target, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs spokesperson Ed Davey MP said:
“The CBI is right. The Conservatives’ arbitrary net migration target is damaging our economy.
“The NHS and other employers can’t recruit the workers they need. Meanwhile, the Government’s pursuit of an unachievable target has shattered the public’s confidence in our immigration system.
“Liberal Democrats demand better. The Government must drop its absurd target and replace it with an intelligent approach that maximises the cultural and economic benefits of migration.”

Cable warns of crisis on our high streets

Responding to the news that House of Fraser went into administration before being bought out by Sports Direct, Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable said: 

“This is yet another example of the crisis in our high streets. There are many factors that appear to have contributed to this administration, some of which we can do little about. 

“But one factor is online competition - and we must create a level playing field between the high street and the big tech retailers. This means scrapping business rates - a motion that will be put to the Liberal Democrat conference next month - and making sure big tech starts paying its fair share in taxation.” 

Tuesday, August 07, 2018

Conservatives are dragging us into a cost of living crisis

Commenting as the pound hits its lowest value in eleven months, Leader of the Liberal Democrats Vince Cable said:

"We have always known that some of the most crucial evidence of the problems caused by Brexit would be the fall in the value of the pound, which leads to price rises and higher cost of living.

"The Government is sleep-walking into a disastrous no-deal Brexit, which is causing the pound to drop even further.

"The Conservatives are edging closer and closer to creating a cost of living crisis through Brexit. This is why the people must have a Final Say on the Brexit deal, with an option to remain in the EU."

Sunday, August 05, 2018

A hard break with mainland Europe looms

Responding to Liam Fox's comments that a no-deal Brexit is 'odds on', Liberal Democrat Brexit spokesperson Tom Brake said: 

"The Conservative government are making a mess of Brexit and the fact Liam Fox now sees a no deal Brexit as likely is testament to Theresa May's failure to protect British interests. After two years the fact that her team - including Liam Fox - have delivered nothing more than senseless soundbites is damning. 

"The public must be given the final say on Brexit with a vote on the final deal - this government simply can't be trusted"

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Home Office report highlights the appalling extent of slavery in the UK

Commenting on a Home Office report into "the economic and social costs of modern slavery" Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson Ed Davey said:

“Monday’s Home Office report lays bare the huge costs of modern slavery to both our society and our economy.
“The extent of slavery in the UK today rightly appals us. Theresa May once called it ‘the great human rights issue of our time’, but many of her own policies are now undermining efforts to tackle it.
“The Conservatives’ ‘hostile environment’ policies, cuts to the police and the Border Force, and their insistence on a destructive hard Brexit, all make it more difficult to protect victims and put traffickers behind bars.
“Liberal Democrats demand better in the fight against modern slavery. I call on Theresa May to abandon these harmful policies so we can end slavery in the UK once and for all.”