Saturday, July 21, 2018

Drug advisers right to recognise need for reform

Responding to calls from the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs to enable doctors to prescribe medicinal cannabis, former Liberal Democrat Health Minister Norman Lamb MP said: 

“The recommendation from the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs that doctors should be allowed to prescribe medicinal cannabis is more than welcome. The Government now has a moral duty to accept this advice and change the law without any further delay. 

“People should never be left to suffer when medicinal cannabis can safely relieve them from pain. However, there is also a mountain of evidence backing the case for legalising and regulating cannabis for recreational use as well as medicinal use.

“That is why Liberal Democrats are the only party campaigning for a regulated cannabis market in UK, with robust and responsible licensing, as opposed to a market run by criminals who have absolutely no interest in people's welfare.”

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Gove would have said anything to secure leave vote

Responding to Michael Gove's comments acknowledging that he misled voters on Turkish immigration during the EU referendum campaign, Liberal Democrat Brexit Spokesperson Tom Brake said:

“Gove’s acknowledgment of the fearmongering at the heart of the Leave campaign just goes to show that high profile leave campaigners, such as Gove and Johnson, were willing to say anything to secure a leave vote.
“Gove’s admission only strengthens the Liberal Democrats’ call for a final say on the Brexit deal and an opportunity to Exit from Brexit."

Friday, July 13, 2018

Government must safeguard our forces

Commenting on the Public Accounts Committee’s report into the Ministry of Defence’s contract with Annington Property Ltd ("Forces homes deal disastrous for taxpayers and worse could follow"), Liberal Democrat Armed Forces Spokesperson, Jamie Stone MP, said:

“The UK’s armed forces play a crucial role in the defence of the nation, and Liberal Democrats believe that it is the role of government to safeguard the interests of service personnel and veterans.

"Not only has this deal cost taxpayers billions, the lack of clarity around future negotiations adds to the uncertainty faced by many forces families who have for far too long endured poor standards of subsidised accommodation.

"The MoD needs to clarify its negotiating position and bring coherence to its strategy. The Department must treat the quality of housing it provides as a priority. The number of empty properties must be reduced and all armed forces families ought to be able to expect service family accommodation of a high quality.”

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Trump's divisive and disruptive behaviour damages NATO

Commenting after attending Donald Trump's NATO press conference Liberal Democrat spokesperson for Defence Menzies Campbell said:

"Today NATO was treated to a stream of unconsciousness from the US President. Throughout the summit Trump's behaviour has been disruptive and divisive. His determination to describe the summit as a success beggars belief.

"No US president in living memory has ever been as damaging to NATO as Trump.

"Adding insult to injury he is off to meet President Putin whose aggressive behaviour in recent times has only served to emphasise the vital importance of NATO as a defensive alliance."

Prisons Inspector's report shames government

Responding to a report from the Chief Prisons Inspector Peter Clarke on prison conditions, Home Affairs Spokesperson Ed Davey said: 

“The prison conditions described in this report should shame the Government.
“Prisons should be centres of rehabilitation, yet these inhumane conditions show prisons are purely punitive.
“The Conservatives cannot continue to treat prisoners as though they are subhuman.”

Vince says: Trump is fast becoming Britain’s enemy

Commenting on Donald Trump’s visit to the UK, Liberal Democrat Leader Vince Cable said: 

“Trump is fast becoming Britain’s enemy. He is trying to destroy the rules-based system of trade and cooperation on which we depend. 

“Trump befriends autocrats and despises democrats. He does not rate NATO; he even regards the Canadians as a threat to US national security.

"Those businesses and other leaders who fraternise with Trump should be careful of their reputations.” 

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

May's new Brexit Minister a slap in the face for our thriving university sector

Commenting on the appointment of Chris Heaton-Harris – who previously wrote to universities asking for the names of those who teach courses on Brexit and the content of their lectures – as Brexit Minister, Liberal Democrat Education spokesperson Layla Moran MP said:
“Chris Heaton Harris’ letter to British universities was straight out of a dystopian novel and an attempt to spark a witch-hunt against academics and academic freedoms.
“To learn that he has been appointed as a Brexit Minister by the Prime Minister would be laughable if it wasn’t such a slap in the face for our thriving university sector.
“It seems that Theresa May’s new Brexit strategy is to appoint ministers who will try to clamp down on anyone in society that doesn’t believe in her miserable little Chequers compromise.”

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Chequers Agreement leaves economy exposed

Figures released by the ONS this morning show that GDP growth for the three months to May was just 0.2%, with services the only positive contributor to growth, and both construction and manufacturing contracting.
Commenting on the figures, Liberal Democrat Brexit Spokesperson Tom Brake said:

“These unimpressive growth figures, with manufacturing and construction declining and services the only sector keeping the economy afloat, highlight the utter inadequacy of the so-called plan ‘agreed’ by the Cabinet last Friday.

The Chequers Agreement, by conceding lower access for services to crucial EU markets, leaves 80% of our economy exposed after Brexit.
“The only way to protect jobs and businesses is to remain in the EU. That is why the public must be given a final say on the Brexit deal, with the option to remain”.

Legal ivory trade fuelling mindless slaughter of elephants

Catherine Bearder MEP, Chair of the MEPs For Wildlife group reacts to the shocking Avaaz study on ivory released today.
Avaaz, in collaboration with Oxford University, tested 100 pieces of ivory across the EU and found 74% were from elephants killed after the 1947 CITES ban.  
Bearder said:

"These shocking results show that the supposed 'legal' ivory market is actually driving the mindless slaughter of elephants.

"It is time for all EU countries to introduce a full ivory ban with a limited number of exceptions for exceptional art works."

Sunday, July 08, 2018

May's soft fudge will satisfy nobody

Commenting on the outcome of the Chequers summit, Lib Dem Exiting the EU Spokesman Tom Brake MP said
“May’s soft fudge will satisfy nobody - Leavers, Remainers, business or the EU. It leaves the UK a rule taker on goods and agricultural produce, puts the UK services sector at great risk and could fall foul of the EU’s ‘no cherry-picking’ and deliverability rules.
“The PM may have secured a Tory truce and lip service to cabinet collective responsibility, but she does not have collective public support for her plans. That is why the public deserve a final say on the deal and a chance to exit from Brexit.”

Wednesday, July 04, 2018

Legalise recreational cannabis too

Liberal Democrat Health Spokesperson Judith Jolly has called for cannabis to be legalised for recreational use following news the Government have commissioned the second part of a review into cannabis-related medicinal products. Judith Jolly said: 
“The benefits of medicinal cannabis for those with chronic illnesses is clear, but even William Hague recognises the strong case for legalising cannabis for recreational use too.
"Only the Liberal Democrats are campaigning for radical drugs reform and a regulated cannabis market in the UK, with robust and responsible licensing, as opposed to an unregulated criminal market. 
"The war on drugs just simply isn’t working. The Tories should open their eyes to the evidence and extend this review to consider legalising cannabis for recreational use."

Tuesday, July 03, 2018

Tories have broken their promise to ban pensions cold calling

Liberal Democrat MP Stephen Lloyd has today slammed the Tory Government for failing to meet their deadline to ban cold calling by companies selling pension products.
During debates on the Financial Guidance and Claims Bill, Treasury Minister John Glen committed to “ban pensions cold calling quickly” and promised to make a statement to Parliament if he failed to do so by the end of June.
That deadline has now passed and Stephen Lloyd is demanding that a minister appears before the House of Commons to explain the reasons for the delay.
The Government commitment to ban pensions cold calling was secured by Liberal Democrat peer John Sharkey through winning key amendments in the House of Lords to ban cold calls from organisations selling various financial services.
Liberal Democrat Work and Pensions Spokesperson, Stephen Lloyd MP, said:
“A cold calling ban for pension products is urgently needed to protect the most vulnerable in our society from harassment and deception.
“The proposed ban had cross-party support, including from the Work and Pensions Select Committee, and the Government said they were committed to bringing in the ban as soon as possible. But this promise sounds increasingly hollow.
“Whilst the Treasury is hopelessly consumed by Brexit, they are standing by as vulnerable people are deprived of their financial security.
“The Tories have promised to get on with this. It is past time they did.”

Government must commit to torture and rendition inquiry

Liberal Democrat Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Christine Jardine MP has reiterated calls, ahead of President Trump’s visit to the UK next Friday, for a full public inquiry into what British Intelligence agencies knew about US kidnap and torture of suspected terrorists after 9/11.
Speaking yesterday in the House of Commons, Ms Jardine urged the Government to “ensure a judge-led inquiry takes place, in order to show that the UK stands firmly opposed to this violation of human rights.”
Sir Alan Duncan MP, Minister of State for Europe and the Americas, confirmed the Government would “maintain its integrity” on human rights.
The exchange followed the publication of two reports by the parliamentary intelligence and security committee last week into the scale of UK involvement in torture and rendition.
Ms Jardine said:
“President Trump, who is due to visit the UK next Friday, has openly endorsed torture. That is abhorrent and these practices are completely unacceptable.
“The Government must therefore be unequivocal with the President and condemn his comments on torture and recommit UK support for the absolute torture ban.
“Moreover, if it is the case that UK intelligence was aware of reprehensible behaviour by a foreign agency then there must be a full inquiry.
“That is the only way the UK can maintain its integrity on human rights.”

Sunday, July 01, 2018

Blistering implications of no deal for NHS

NHS chief executive Simon Stevens has admitted, on the Andrew Marr Show, that the NHS is now preparing for a no deal Brexit.

Responding to Stevens' interview, Liberal Democrat Brexit Spokesperson Tom Brake said:

"Stevens' admission confirms the ever-increasing probability of a no deal Brexit. It is undeniable that leaving the EU without a deal would devastate our health service. 

"Stevens, an outspoken critic of the Government, was forced to bite his tongue when Andrew Marr pushed him on the consequences of a no deal. That is because Stevens knows it would have blistering implications, from staffing levels to the availability of drugs.

"A no deal scenario must be avoided at all costs. The public need a final say on the deal and an opportunity to exit from Brexit."

Frank Little, secretary of Aberavon and Neath Liberal Democrats, points out that the same considerations - a drying-up of drug supply and a flight of trained staff - would also impact the NHS in Wales and the other devolved administrations.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Tories have neglected NHS

Responding to today's protests in London calling for an increase in funding for the NHS, Liberal Democrat Health Spokesperson Baroness Judith Jolly said:

"The Tories have consistently neglected our NHS and the anger is palpable. 

"The amount recently pledged is simply not enough to undo the systemic problems that we now face due to relentless underfunding.

"NHS workers devote their lives to saving ours. It is time they were supported by a funding deal fit for the 21st century.

"The Liberal Democrats are the only party with a concrete plan for funding the NHS in both the short and long term. The Liberal Democrats would create a ring-fenced NHS tax by putting penny on the pound of income tax,"

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Security spending essential to maintain partnerships

Commenting on the Commons Defence Committee report, which states that the defence budget should rise from 2% of GDP (£40bn) to 3% (£60bn), Liberal Democrat Armed Forces Spokesperson, Jamie Stone MP, said:
"The UK must be able to defend itself and the territories for which it has responsibility. It is unacceptable that our armed forces have been so diminished.
"Not only is an adequate budget of vital importance to our security, but so too are our key allies in NATO and the EU. Many of the security challenges the UK faces are shared by these partners. 
"If this Conservative government is serious about our security and defence capabilities then not only must they commit to an adequate budget plan, but also to strengthening our key international partnerships." 

Monday, June 25, 2018

Tories must explicitly condemn Erdogan

The Liberal Democrats are calling on May to take a stand against Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Christine Jardine said:
“Erdogan’s re-election cannot be regarded as truly democratic. Erdogan has consistently infringed on the democratic and human rights of the Turkish people in order to maintain his position of power.
“We truly sympathise with the Turkish people, who will have to endure another five years under the control of this ruthless megalomaniac. 
“The Conservative government are not doing enough to send a message that Erdogan’s actions will not be tolerated, even inviting him on a state visit only a couple of months ago.

"The Conservatives must stand up to Erdogan and explicitly condemn his authoritarian regime.”

Cancellation of the Swansea Bay tidal lagoon is a betrayal of Britain's energy and economic future

Commenting on the Government's decision to scrap the Swansea Bay tidal lagoon former Liberal Democrat Energy Secretary Ed Davey said:

"This is a betrayal of Britain's energy and economic future - and will be particularly devastating in Wales. 
"Britain is an early leader in tidal power and has the potential to become the world champion. Tidal lagoons are the smartest way to take this opportunity. Yet the Conservatives are effectively killing it.
"The Government is talking utter nonsense on the price of tidal and have failed to engage in the facts.
"Swansea Bay, as a pathfinder experiment, would add only 30p a year to people's bills and the next lagoon would be 80 times cheaper than Hinkley Point C nuclear power station.
"Liberal Democrats will continue to make the case for tidal lagoons and campaign to make sure the Conservatives pay the political price for this historic mistake."

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Radical drugs reform needed

Former Liberal Democrat Health Minister Norman Lamb has reiterated calls for cannabis to be legalised for both medicinal and recreational use following former Conservative leader William Hague voicing his support for reform. Mr Lamb said: 
“The evidence showing the benefits of medicinal cannabis for those with chronic illnesses has reached tipping point, but the Prime Minister must heed this warning from a former leader of her own party and admit the case for legalising cannabis for recreational as well as medicinal use.
“The Liberal Democrats are the only party campaigning for a regulated cannabis market in UK, with robust and responsible licensing, as opposed to a market run by criminals who have absolutely no interest in the welfare of drug users.
“It is time that Theresa May faced reality. The War on Drugs has been an unmitigated disaster and is now beyond any rational defence. We can continue to line the pockets of criminal gangs while putting drug users at continued risk, or we can follow the evidence and adopt an approach that puts the safety of drug users first.”

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Rehabilitation over retribution

Responding to reports that at least 40 children have been held in solitary confinement, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson Ed Davey said:

"It is hard to imagine any circumstance in which detaining children in solitary confinement is appropriate.

"When it comes to offenders, our emphasis must be on rehabilitation rather than retribution. Solitary confinement has been proven to be ineffective and numerous human rights groups have spoken out against the practice.

"We are traumatising the very people we should be protecting and this Conservative Government has a lot to answer for, starting with the former Home Secretary, the Prime Minister."

Windrush Day is a victory

The Liberal Democrats welcome the announcement that June 22nd will become National Windrush Day, after long campaigning for this decision.

Liberal Democrat Baroness Floella Benjamin said: 

“I am delighted that the Government are announcing a National Windrush Day. The Windrush Generation have contributed a huge amount to British society, and an annual day will help ensure this is never forgotten.
“The Liberal Democrats are the only party who have been calling for this to happen for many years, and certainly long before the recent high-profile coverage of this issue.
“National Windrush Day is more than simply symbolic event, but will be an important opportunity each year to reflect on the richness and diversity of British society.”

Victory declared for ‘upskirting’ Bill

The Liberal Democrats have declared victory in their bid to make ‘upskirting’ a specific criminal offence.
Following Tory MP Christopher Chope’s shocking move to block Wera Hobhouse’s Bill last week, the Justice Minister met Wera Hobhouse yesterday afternoon and, on behalf of the Government, agreed to take her Bill through Parliament.
Wera said: 
“I’m very happy that the law is changing, this is a huge victory for women across the country. I hope this can go through on Friday 6th July with my Bill, but my main concern now is that the law is changed as soon as possible and therefore I also welcome the Government Bill.
“It seems unfair that just one person was able to block a Bill that we had spent so long building cross party consensus behind, but reform for Private Members' Bills is for another day.

“I’d like to thank everyone who has written to me over the weekend sharing their stories, I know how much this means to so many. Thank you for your support throughout this, the law would not be changing without you.”

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Medicinal cannabis should be made available

Liberal Democrat MP Christine Jardine yesterday called for the Home Secretary to make medicinal cannabis based products available to those who need them following reports Billy Caldwell will be given back cannabis oil that was previously confiscated. 

Ms Jardine has been campaigning on behalf of her constituent Murray Gray, who is also seeking access to cannabis based treatments for seizures.

Christine Jardine said:

“Sajid Javid has done the right thing for a young boy enduring unimaginable pain.

“These treatments can have enormous benefits for patients like Billy Caldwell and my constituent Murray Gray.

“The Home Secretary should now take common sense steps to ensure that these treatments are available for all those patients who could benefit from them.”

Friday, June 15, 2018

Cable: This result sends a message to Corbyn

Commenting on the increased Liberal Democrat vote in the Lewisham East by-election Liberal Democrat Leader Vince Cable said:

“Lucy Salek and the Liberal Democrats have fought a proud, pro-European campaign and have seen former Labour and Conservative voters switching support and rallying behind our campaign. We have also focused on the issues that matter to the community - and that have been neglected by an overly confident Labour Party - and will continue to do so. 

“This result sends a message to the Labour leadership that it cannot take pro-European voters for granted.This is the largest swing from Labour to the Liberal Democrats in over a decade and the failure of Labour’s leadership to oppose the Conservatives hard Brexit cannot be hidden or forgotten. The collapse in the Conservatives’ vote is also damning.
“The Liberal Democrats are the only party standing up to Theresa May on Brexit. She is making a mess out of it, and we will keep fighting to give the people the final say on the Brexit deal.” 

Tories must sit up and listen to NAO

Responding to the NAO’s latest report on Universal Credit, Liberal Democrat DWP Spokesman Stephen Lloyd said:
“This comprehensive report from the NAO is a devastating indictment of the Conservatives’ cruel and incompetent roll-out of Universal Credit.

"Not only is UC years behind schedule and unlikely to either deliver value for money or increase employment, it is also causing severe hardship among claimants, which the Government consistently refuses to acknowledge or address.
"This awful situation is unlikely to improve, with the NAO estimating that over 300,000 new claimants will be paid late over the course of this year, inflicting further financial and psychological harm on some of society’s most vulnerable people.
“The Conservatives must pause the roll-out of Universal Credit immediately and fix the flaws identified by the NAO before it expands any further."

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Government has been shamed into doing right thing

Commenting on reports in The Telegraph that the cap on Tier 2 visas is to be lifted, Lib Dem Education and Science Spokesperson Layla Moran, who worked with the Campaign for Science and Engineering to obtain the figures on Tier 2 visa refusals, said:
“Exemptions for NHS staff - in turn freeing up places for scientists, engineers, technicians and teachers - are very welcome but long overdue. The Government should have taken this step when visa caps first started to be hit late last year.
“In the meantime NHS patients, students and cutting edge scientific research programmes have suffered as those from outside the EU wanting to work here were callously turned away. This is a Government more interested in keeping its right wingers happy than what’s in the best interests of the country.
“I’m pleased they’ve now been shamed into doing the right thing and making Britain an open and welcoming place for some of the most talented people who want to contribute to our society, economy and public services.”

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

CBI warning is a ‘wakeup call’

Responding to claims from the President of the CBI that sections of the UK car industry face extinction unless the UK stays in the EU Customs Union, Liberal Democrat Transport Spokesperson Jenny Randerson said:  

“These expert comments cannot be ignored. They should act us a wakeup call. The stark reality of Brexit is clear; it will pose a serious threat to the British car industry, including jobs and the wider supply chain.
“Neither the Tories or the Labour party get it. But Liberal Democrats do, which is why we will fight tooth and nail to protect people's livelihoods by keeping the UK in the Single Market and the Customs Union.
“The best way to achieve that, of course, if to give people the final say on the deal, and an option to Exit from Brexit.”

Pimlico Plumbers Ruling: Lib Dems call for new settlement for gig economy workers

The Liberal Democrats have welcomed today's ruling by the Supreme Court categorising Pimlico Plumbers' employees as workers rather than self-employed, meaning that they are entitled to basic employment rights such as holiday pay.

The ruling is likely to have a knock-on impact on ongoing legal battles against other prominent businesses in the gig economy such as Uber and Addison Lee.
Speaking following the ruling, Liberal Democrat Work and Pensions spokesperson, Stephen Lloyd MP, said:
“The Supreme Court has made it clear: if a company has its grip over how you work, how you are paid and who you can work for, you are not self-employed. But workers in need of protection should not have to be dragged to the highest court in the land in order to get it.
“We need a new settlement for the gig economy, building on the Taylor Report. The Government should create a new employment status of ‘dependent contractor’ and a higher minimum wage for hours not guaranteed in their contract, forcing unscrupulous companies to think again about their employment structures.
“Universal Credit and pensions products also need overhauling so that the safety net works for the gig economy too.”

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

Rewarding Atos and Capita is 'appalling'

Liberal Democrat Work and Pensions Spokesman, Stephen Lloyd, has branded Tory Government plans to extend contracts for Atos and Capita as "appalling". He said: 

“Profit should never be a consideration when determining the safety net for the most vulnerable. 

“It is appalling that this Conservative Government sees fit to reward these companies by extending their contracts despite their shocking performance figures and outcomes.

“Both the Work Capability Assessment and PIP tests should be taken out of the hands of the corporate behemoths such as Atos and Capita immediately.”

Conservatives must hold a free vote on Heathrow

Liberal Democrat Leader Vince Cable has challenged Transport Secretary Chris Grayling to allow the Conservatives a free vote over the expansion of Heathrow. 

Grayling fudged his response to Vince's challenge*, which occurred in yesterday's Commons session following the Minister's statement on the subject. The fudge suggested that the Conservatives will try to impose a three-line whip on an issue that badly divides his party.

This would open up huge divisions in the Cabinet. It has been reported that Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson will be ‘conveniently abroad’ at the time of the vote so that he will not be available to vote against expansion and therefore against the government.

Commenting, Vince Cable said: 

“There should be a free vote on Heathrow expansion. MPs must be allowed to vote with their consciences on an issue that has negative economic consequences across many regions of the country - as well as causing environmental problems locally and globally.

“Grayling’s failure to properly answer my question and not announce a free vote for the Conservatives is damning. This suggestion even offers the Conservatives a solution to one of their many Boris problems. Rather than hiding away abroad he would be able to do the right thing and vote against expansion.”

* Extract from Hansard:
Sir Vince Cable (Twickenham) (LD)
  • How does the Secretary of State reconcile his claims about regional connectivity with the fact that Heathrow expansion is opposed by all the largest regional airports—Edinburgh, Manchester, Birmingham, East Midlands and Bristol—as well as those in the south-east, Stansted and Gatwick? Since these communities are represented by Members from different parties, does he agree that it would be appropriate to have a free vote on the NPS when it is put before Parliament?
  • It is clearly up to every individual party to decide how they will approach this vote, but my experience is not what the right hon. Gentleman has just communicated to me: my experience is that around the United Kingdom there is huge support from regional airports and, crucially, regional business groups for the expansion of Heathrow airport. We have looked at the projections, and they show growth at almost all of our regional airports, and I do not have the sense of opposition from the regional airports that the right hon. Gentleman is describing.

Tuesday, June 05, 2018

PM has responsibility to women in Northern Ireland

Speaking ahead of the emergency debate today in the House of Commons on Northern Ireland's abortion law, Liberal Democrat MP Christine Jardine said: 

“Women in Northern Ireland are now the only women across the UK that are denied their fundamental right to choose. It is simply appalling that abortion is still treated as a criminal rather than a medical issue in 2018.
“In the absence of a government in Northern Ireland, Theresa May has a responsibility to act for these women. She cannot remain silent.
“If she is indeed a feminist, the Prime Minister would ensure women across the UK are treated equally. Perhaps, however, she must instead dance to the DUP's tune."

Kick USA out of the G7

Liberal Democrat Brexit Spokesperson Tom Brake has called for the USA to be kicked out of the G7 if they continue to behave like a ‘rogue state’.
Brake made his remarks in the House of Commons yesterday in response to a government statement on the US-imposed tariffs on the EU.
Brake later said: 
“Mr Fox warns against a trade war, and yet he refuses to recognise that a post-Brexit UK may well be rebuffed by a protectionist Trump administration uninterested in striking a fair trade deal.  
“Our EU partners, fellow members of the largest trading bloc in the world, are right to take a stand against Trump to defend our economic interests.
“Yet it seems the Tories are far happier to see Trump take their lunch money and run than admit they could be wrong. Instead we must be ready to act firmly, including suspending Trump’s rogue United States from the G7 if necessary.”