Monday, March 18, 2019

Liberal Democrats demand a Clean Air Act


On the first day of their Spring Federal Conference, the Liberal Democrats demanded the Conservative Government bring forward a Clean Air Act enshrining the legal right to unpolluted air.

The proposals, set out at the Liberal Democrat conference in York, are based on World Health Organisation guidelines and would be enforced by a new Air Quality Agency.
 
If successful, the Clean Air Act would also demand air pollution testing took place more widely and frequently, with warning signs displayed in pollution hotspots and sensitive areas, such as near schools.
 
Speaking after the debate, Liberal Democrat Climate Change Spokesperson Wera Hobhouse said:
 
“The Tories are just not taking air pollution seriously, despite current levels contributing to diabetes, dementia and heart disease - well as impacting children in the womb and the lungs of children at school.
 
“It is an absolutely disgraceful dereliction of duty. However, the way things are today are not the way they have to be. People deserve better, and the Liberal Democrats demand better.
 
"That is why we are calling for real action backed by the ambitious legislation we need to clean up our air and tackle this growing public health crisis.”
 

Lib Dems back access to justice for all



Yesterday Liberal Democrat Spring Conference voted for the restoration of Legal Aid and a new legal right to access to justice for everyone.

In a motion on Sunday morning, Conference asserted that access to justice is a crucial right and that cuts to Legal Aid have undermined it.

Liberal Democrats voted for the restoration of Legal Aid for early legal advice, assistance and representation in benefit, debt, employment, immigration, housing and family law cases.

Conference also voted to establish a new right to affordable, reasonable legal assistance with a new, independent Justice Commission to monitor and enforce it.

Liberal Democrat Justice spokesperson Wera Hobhouse, who summated the motion, commented:

“Access to justice is a critical right. Without it, people can be wrongfully evicted, deported, denied benefits or deprived custody of their children – with no real chance to fight for their rights in court.

“The Conservative Government’s cuts to Legal Aid have gone far beyond what was envisaged in 2012, leaving far too many people – especially vulnerable people – without legal advice or representation. That in turn contributes to poverty and social exclusion.

“The Liberal Democrats demand better. The motion we have passed today would ensure access to justice through a properly-funded, simpler Legal Aid system. That is a fundamental part of building the fairer society we all want to live in."

Liberal Democrats demand action to save Britain’s town centres

The Liberal Democrat federal conference approved a comprehensive plan to end the crisis on Britain’s high streets
 

The party’s plans are set out in a motion – Town Centres fit for the future – passed on Sunday at Liberal Democrat conference. The motion calls for bold action to ensure town centres thrive in an increasingly digital economy, including: boosting support for local entrepreneurs; reforming local planning laws; developing local asset registers; and creating a new industry-led body to help brick-and-mortar retailers adapt to the digital economy.

The motion also reaffirms the Liberal Democrats’ commitment to replacing business rates with a land value tax, thereby boosting investment, rebalancing the economy and cutting the average tax bill in over 90% of local authorities.

Speaking after the debate, Liberal Democrat Communities and Local Government Spokesperson Tim Farron said:

“While it is essential that we embrace innovation and the benefits of the 21st century economy, we cannot simply abandon our precious town centres to market forces.”

“There can be no doubt that our high streets are in crisis; the thousands of failed businesses and lost jobs are ample proof. But while Brexit bears some of the blame, the roots of this crisis run far deeper, from the rise of online retail to the burden of business rates and local planning failures.”

“That is why this motion is so crucial. By empowering local areas to reform their planning rules, support local entrepreneurs, and help retailers adapt to the digital economy – as well as scrapping the hated business rates system – town centres can truly take back control.” 

Swinson: Tories posturing over UK aid is shameless


Following the Tax Payers’ Alliance launch of their report attacking elements of UK aid, Liberal Democrat Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Jo Swinson MP said:
 
“The UK should be incredibly proud of what our aid budget has achieved across the world. Between April 2015 and March 2018 alone, UK aid provided humanitarian assistance to a staggering 26.8 million people, including at least 8.2 million women and girls.
 
“Through the Department for International Development and its work with multilateral organisations, UK aid not only changes lives but does so in a transparent and effective way: DFID is consistently ranked amongst world leaders in aid transparency.
 
“Despite this success, Conservative MPs have repeatedly attacked UK aid. Priti Patel and the Tax Payers' Alliance are the latest example of this shameless posturing.
 
“Enshrining the 0.7% aid commitment in law was one of the Liberal Democrat’s greatest achievements in Government and we will continue to fight against efforts to weaken the effectiveness and success of UK aid.”

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Cable: Labour leadership sits on their hands


Speaking after the Labour Party failed to back a People's Vote and the House of Commons voted for an extension of Article 50, Leader of the Liberal Democrats Vince Cable said: 

"Labour have predictably let down the cause of a People’s Vote this evening. This was their first chance to stand up and be counted, but instead they sat on their hands. Brexit remains in chaos with the government having faced heavy defeats this week. 

“The Commons has agreed by a large majority that Article 50 will have to be extended. With the hallowed exit date of March 29 more or less scrapped, it now seems inevitable that Brexit will be delayed or very possibly stopped. A People’s Vote remains the only way to resolve what is fast becoming a national crisis.”

Spring Statement an insult to police officers and knife crime victims


Responding to the Chancellor’s announcement on police funding in his Spring Statement, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson Ed Davey said:
 
“Faced with the current epidemic of knife crime claiming the lives of so many young people, the Government’s response today is shockingly inadequate.
 
“The Conservatives have cut £1 billion from police budgets since 2015, and now they offer just £80 million back. They have taken 5,000 police officers and 2,600 community support officers off the streets, and now they offer to fund some extra overtime.
 
“This is an insult to our hard-working police and an insult to the victims of knife crime and their families.
 
“The Liberal Democrats demand better. The Government must give local police forces the funding they need to recruit more officers and restore the community policing that prevents crime and keeps us safe.
 
“The Government must also invest in a proper public health approach that brings together youth services, community groups, schools and the NHS to tackle the shocking rise in knife crime.”

Short prison sentences for knives don't work


Responding to the figures showing the number of crimes related to knives and other offensive weapons dealt with by the courts has reached a nine year high, Liberal Democrat Justice Spokesperson Wera Hobhouse:

“Both the Justice Secretary and the Prisons Minister have admitted that short prison sentences don’t work and actually increase the risk of re-offending. So why are so many young people still being sent to prison for a few months for carrying knives?
 
“These pointless sentences do nothing to deter young people and offer no chance of rehabilitating them. Instead, they cost millions and only worsen the crisis of overcrowding in our prisons.
 
“The Liberal Democrats demand better. The Government must urgently bring forward legislation to end pointless short-term sentences and take real action to prevent knife crime: more police officers, more youth services and a proper public health approach.”

Ed Davey tables bill to waive “exorbitant” immigration fees for Commonwealth soldiers

 

Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson Ed Davey yesterday tabled a Bill to exempt members of the British Armed Forces and their families from “exorbitant” immigration fees.
 
There are several thousand Foreign and Commonwealth nationals serving in our Armed Forces. Under the Immigration Rules, those who have served for four years or more are entitled to apply for indefinite leave to enter or remain in the UK upon discharge, and to sponsor applications for their partners and children.
 
However, the fees for these applications have more than doubled since 2015, and now stand at £2,389 per person. This means that the cost of applying for a family of four is £9,556.
 
Ed Davey’s Immigration (Armed Forces) Bill would remove financial requirements and fees for applications for indefinite leave to remain from Foreign or Commonwealth members of the Armed Forces and their families.
 
Mr Davey has also tabled an Early Day Motion calling on the Government to waive the application fees, and is encouraging MPs from all parties to support it.
 
Ahead of the presentation of his Bill, Ed Davey said:
 
“Thousands of men and women from Commonwealth nations risk their lives in service of our country as members of Britain’s Armed Forces. They have the right to live here with their families once their service ends, but the Home Office’s exorbitant application fees are preventing them from taking up that right.
 
“These fees have forced some veterans to leave the UK, others to live here undocumented and unable to work, and many others to take out big loans that they cannot afford. This is clearly an unfair burden on those who have contributed so much to our country.
 
“Our veterans deserve better, and the Liberal Democrats demand better for them. My bill would exempt all members of the Armed Forces and their families from immigration fees, in recognition of the enormous debt we owe them.
 
“As with the campaign for the rights of Gurkhas a decade ago, I believe that this is an issue on which members of all parties can come together to ensure that the UK upholds its obligations to our veterans.”


Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Business leaders join Cable in Brexit warning


Ahead of Philip Hammond’s Spring Statement today, business leaders have signed a joint statement with Leader of the Liberal Democrats Vince Cable warning that the UK faces more uncertainty if Brexit proceeds.
 
Twenty business people, from a range of backgrounds, agree “Any investment which is ‘pent up’ will remain so if Brexit proceeds, during a period of protracted and acrimonious further negotiation.
 
“The Chancellor is labouring in an absurd delusion by suggesting the economy will receive any Brexit Boost. Instead, there will be a heavy price to pay for business and for citizens.
 
 “The Government’s Withdrawal Agreement leaves a panoply of crucial questions about the future trading relationship of the EU unanswered.
 
“The certainty which businesses crave can only be secured by a People’s Vote and a decision to stay in the European Union, as a leading player setting the rules rather than merely following them.
 
Leader of the Liberal Democrats Vince Cable added: 

"It is quite clear that business isn’t fooled by the idea that ‘getting on’ with Brexit would provide certainty.
 
“The only really certain outcome would be to give the public a choice between the friendless Withdrawal Agreement and remaining in the EU.
 
“Overwhelmingly – whether in public or in private – business would prefer to stay as a full members of the EU.  If the public chooses to do so in a People’s Vote, there would be a significant economic boost.
 
“Contrary to all the government tries to allege, Brexit with a deal or without will cause the economy to contract.  Brexit means a poorer country, and a less welcoming home for business investment.”

Lib Dems stop Tories from offering up NHS in return for trade deals


Yesterday Liberal Democrat Lords inflicted two significant Government defeats on a Bill which could have allowed healthcare deals offering access to the NHS to be signed in return for trade deals.

 The two cross-party amendments, which restricted the application of the Bill to the EEA and Switzerland and also restricted the scope of the regulation making powers, were passed by the House of Lords by 36 and 38 votes respectively.
 
The Healthcare International Arrangements Bill legislates for the Government to makes reciprocal healthcare agreements with other countries.
 
However, the Bill does not just guarantee that UK citizens can continue to benefit from their EHIC cards in the case of a ‘no-deal’ Brexit, but in fact gave ministers the power to sign these deals with any country in the world, not just to replace the deals we currently have with the EU.
 
Speaking after the vote, Liberal Democrat Health Spokesperson Judith Jolly said:
 
“Tonight, the Liberal Democrats have defeated the Tory Government so that the Bill is limited to only allow ministers to replace the health deals we already have.
 
“This is an important victory for the NHS. We know the NHS has long been struggling due to unprecedented demand on its services. Giving NHS access to a multitude of new countries without Parliament having any say was alarming to say the least.
 
“We all know Liam Fox is completely desperate to sign pretty much anything, and today we ensured that access to the NHS is not up for grabs in return for a trade deal. The Liberal Democrats are not against the Government signing new health deals, but these new powers without proper scrutiny could have led to the NHS being put under more pressure than ever before.
 
“Throughout the Brexit process, we have witnessed the Conservative Government grab power and water down our standards and protections. Sadly, this Bill was no different. Today’s vote marks a huge success in stopping the Tories selling our NHS down the river.”

Lib Dems act to protect freedom of movement


Today, the House of Lords will vote on a Liberal Democrat amendment to the Trade Bill which will require the Government to preserve the free economic movement of people should the UK leave the EU.
 
Speaking ahead of the vote, Liberal Democrat Leader in the House of Lords, Dick Newby, said:
 
"Now that the Commons has resoundingly defeated Theresa May’s damaging Brexit deal twice, Jeremy Corbyn cannot dither on his support for a People’s Vote any longer. It is time his opposition to a damaging Brexit deal is put to the test.
   
"If his front bench fails to support this amendment, it will reveal that, for Labour too, nothing has changed. They still want to get out of the Single Market and will help the Tories deliver Brexit.
 
"EU membership has allowed us to live, work and study wherever we want across Europe. Both a Tory and a Labour Brexit would bring that to an end.
 
"With the Commons in disarray, it is time that Labour realised that a People’s Vote with the option to stay in the EU, is not a last resort to end the Brexit chaos but an urgent necessity."

Friday, March 08, 2019

Davey: Strip Home Office of immigration powers


Responding to an Institute for Government’s report highlighting “flaws in the immigration system”, published today, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson Ed Davey said:
 
“The Institute for Government is right. The Windrush scandal and countless other failings show that the immigration system is not fit for purpose.
 
“Now Brexit risks another scandal on an even bigger scale, as millions of EU citizens are exposed to the poisonous combination of Home Office incompetence and Theresa May’s hostile environment.
 
“The Liberal Democrats demand better. We will scrap the hostile environment and strip the Home Office of responsibility for immigration.
 
“Policy-making on work visas, student visas and asylum should be given to the Departments for Business, Education and International Development respectively – parts of Whitehall that aren’t infected by the Home Office’s toxic culture, and that understand far better the needs of our economy, our universities and refugees.”

Chancellor must end the freeze on benefits and tax credits


Liberal Democrat DWP Spokesperson Christine Jardine has called for the Chancellor to use his Spring Statement to end the freeze on working-age benefits, including Universal Credit and tax credits.
 
It comes as the Joseph Rowntree Foundation publishes new statistics revealing that, should the final year of the freeze go ahead, the benefits freeze will end up pushing 400,000 more people into poverty since 2015.
 
Liberal Democrat MP Christine Jardine said: 
 
"The Conservative freeze on working-age benefits is causing real pain and misery that must be stopped. Liberal Democrats demand better than the Tories' cruel policy of balancing the books on the backs of the poorest.
 
“Liberal Democrats have long campaigned for an urgent end to the benefits freeze and a full restoration of the billions the Tories' cut from Universal Credit. Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s report proves all families and children would benefit, particularly the most vulnerable.
 
“The Spring Statement is the last chance to scrap the benefits freeze before the final year of the freeze kicks in. The Chancellor must end the misery. If he doesn’t, he should be in no doubt that every life made harder and every child pushed into poverty will be on his watch.”
 

Thursday, March 07, 2019

Cable: Housebuilders must not pinch their profits from the public purse


Responding to the announcements that Persimmon's profits have topped £1 billion as it is under scrutiny over its continued involvement in the Help to Buy scheme, Leader of the Liberal Democrats Vince Cable said:

“Far from benefiting first time buyers, the major effect of Help to Buy is to drive up demand while having no effect on supply.  Prices go up and buyers are forced off the housing ladder. The result is not help for those who need it, but a boost to the profits of big developers.
 
“Liberal Democrats have set out how government could be delivering 300,000 homes a year over the next decade, by creating a British Housing Company as a dedicated, not-for-profit body to build on land acquired compulsorily without profits from land scarcity.
 
“The fact that Persimmon’s profits have topped £1 billion at the taxpayer’s expense is a scandal. The Government must act to stop Help to Buy, rather than allowing big housebuilders to pinch their profits from the public purse.”

Home Secretary ‘open-minded’ on refugees' right to work


Liberal Democrat MP Christine Jardine has secured assurances from the Home Secretary that he is ‘open-minded’ about her Bill which would loosen rules around asylum seekers’ right to work.
 
The Edinburgh West MP raised her campaign with Sajid Javid in a joint meeting organised by cross-party group, More United.
 
Currently, asylum seekers can only work if they have been waiting more than 12 months for their claim to be processed, and only then if they can fill a role on the Government’s very narrow ‘shortage occupation list’.
 
Ms Jardine’s Bill would change the law to allow them to work after just 3 months, which would vastly improve integration, help people rebuild their lives, and save the taxpayer millions in support payments*.
 
After the meeting, Ms Jardine said:
 
“Being denied the right to work, and to put food on the table for you and your family, is cruel and undignified. People deserve better.
 
“I was therefore very encouraged to hear that the Home Secretary is open-minded about backing my campaign and changing the rules to allow asylum seekers the right to work.
 
“He told me that he and his officials are looking in to the issue, but that more evidence is needed to clear up some reservations.
 
“I will now work with colleagues across the House to provide him with that evidence, so that we can finally get the law changed and help people who have risked so much to rebuild their lives.”

Revealed: Home Office report rubbishes Boris Johnson's Stop and Search claim

Liberal Democrat Home Affairs spokesperson Ed Davey reveals that a stop and search programme recently lauded by Boris Johnson had "no statistically significant crime-reducing effect" according to a Home Office report.

Earlier this week the former Mayor of London, Boris Johnson defended the stop and search project Operation Blunt 2 stating that it had taken "10,000 knives off the streets".

However, this statement from Johnson undermines the report of the Home Office which concluded “Overall, analysis shows that there was no discernible crime-reducing effects from a large surge in stop and search activity at the borough level during the operation.” 

Responding Liberal Democrat Home Affairs spokesperson Ed Davey said:

“Is there no depth of deception to which Boris Johnson will not stoop?

“Citing his massive increase in Stop and Searches in London as he argues for the same policy now, when the Home Office’s own analysis shows that it had ‘no discernible crime-reducing effects’.

“His gall would be impressive if it weren’t so destructive. Instead of reducing crime, expanding Stop and Search will only increase discrimination and undermine the community relations police officers need to prevent knife crime.

“We know what is needed to tackle this knife crime epidemic: more police, more youth services and a proper public health approach. We mustn’t let Boris’s dishonest arguments distract us.”

PM fails to stand up for rural communities over bank closures

Liberal Democrat MP Tim Farron yesterday used Prime Minister's Questions to urge the Prime Minister to properly compensate communities that have been abandoned by the banks and forced to use online banking instead.

According to the consumer group Which? around 3,000 bank branches have closed over the past three years.

Meanwhile over the same time period, innocent customers have lost an extra £2billion in on-line and financial fraud.

Speaking during Prime Ministers Questions, Tim Farron asked: “Will she agree that the banks have taken without giving for too long?

“Will she meet with me to force the banks to compensate victims of fraud, to compensate the communities they have abandoned and to prevent banks closing the last branch in town?”

In response, the Prime Minister refused to help abandoned communities and victims of financial fraud, instead saying that banks are “commercial organisations and those are decisions that they take.”

Following the exchange, Liberal Democrat MP Tim Farron said: 

“It’s absolutely staggering and hugely disappointing that the Prime Minister has decided to turn her back on communities like Grange in my constituency that have been abandoned by the banks.

“People who have been victims of financial fraud and those who have been let down by the banks deserve better than the Prime Minister shrugging her shoulders.”

Tuesday, March 05, 2019

Tory governement must take responsibility for knife crime epidemic


Liberal Democrat Home Affairs spokesperson Ed Davey has called on the Conservative Government to take responsibility for the knife crime epidemic and invest in more police and youth services.

Ed Davey said:

“Far too many innocent young lives are being taken by the epidemic of violence that is consuming our cities. Instead of just lamenting these tragedies and talking tough, Ministers need to accept their share of responsibility for this crisis.
 
“When children are excluded from school and see their youth centres closed, it’s hardly surprising that so many of them fall into the grip of gangs. When they see fewer and fewer police officers on the streets, it’s hardly surprising that young people start carrying knives for protection.
 
“There can be no doubt that unnecessary Tory cuts have made our communities less safe.
 
“The Liberal Democrats demand better. We demand more community police officers, urgent investment in youth services and a dramatic reduction in the use of school exclusions – all part of a proper public health approach to tackle the shocking rise in knife crime.”
NB Although education policy is devolved in Wales, it is the Westminster government which determines the overall allocation of funds here. If there were to be an increase in funding for education in England, there would be a corresponding increase in the Welsh settlement. Policing is not devolved.

Lib Dem Christine Jardine introduces legislation to scrap the gender price gap


Today Liberal Democrat MP Christine Jardine introduces a Bill to to end the so called ‘Pink Tax’.

Christine Jardine is launching her campaign to remove the gender price gap with a Bill to be presented to Parliament to mark International Women’s Day.

Commenting on her Private Member’s Bill, Ms Jardine said
:
 
“It is entirely unacceptable that in 2019 women and girls are still paying more than men for basic products, such as razors and deodorant.  Whilst women are often still being paid less too, women really are being hit by a double whammy.
 
“Products marketed at women are on average considerably more expensive than those marketed at men. Often the only difference is the colour, yet this unfair price gap will have a significant financial impact on a woman over the course of her life.
 
“Liberal Democrats demand better. It’s time to get rid of this price gap. My Bill would remove this outdated and sexist tax on women once and for all.”
 

Friday, March 01, 2019

Tory "reforms" have done nothing to stop re-offending


Today the National Audit Office have released a report stating that reforms to probation services have failed to meet the Ministry of Justice's targets to reduce re-offending.

Responding to the report, Liberal Democrat Justice Spokesperson Wera Hobhouse said:


“The rehabilitation of offenders and their re-integration into the community is central to who we are as a society and vital for cutting crime. It must be done with a sense of responsibility.
 
“Good public services cannot be expected to be run on a shoe string. The Tory party’s obsession with saving money has actually cost millions and increased crime.
 
“Liberal Democrats demand better. The Government must properly fund rehabilitative services, create clear lines of accountability and take its responsibility to all citizens seriously.”
 

PM's 'right to rent' checks found guilty of breaching human rights


Today, the High Court has ruled that the Conservative Government's 'right to rent' scheme breaches human rights laws. These rules, aimed at preventing illegal immigrants from renting properties, were blocked by the Liberal Democrats back in 2013.

Responding to the ruling, Home Affairs Spokesperson Ed Davey said:


“The Windrush Scandal should’ve been the end of Theresa May’s hostile environment, and today’s judgement must be the final nail in the coffin.
 
“The Liberal Democrats blocked the Theresa May's ‘right to rent’ checks in Coalition precisely because we were concerned about racial discrimination, but the Tories didn’t listen and rolled them out after 2015.
 
“The hostile environment has seen thousands of people deprived of their rights, and now the High Court has ruled that a key part of it is discriminatory. The Government must now scrap it without delay.”

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Theresa May fast becoming most irresponsible politician ever


Responding to confirmation that the Prime Minister has delayed her meaningful vote on Brexit, Liberal Democrat Leader Vince Cable said:

"Theresa May is fast climbing the league table of the most irresponsible politicians our country has ever had.

"Kicking the can down the road will only heighten fears and anxiety of businesses and people right across the UK. 

"MPs must this week rule out a damaging Brexit and then urgently bring this mess to an end with a People's Vote, including the option to stay in the EU."

Friday, February 22, 2019

The great Brexit trade myth has been busted



Responding to reports that the Conservative Government has admitted they will not be able to negotiate deals with Japan and Turkey before March 29, Leader of the Liberal Democrats Vince Cable said:

“One of the great myths of Brexit was that we could instantly sign new trade deals whilst seamlessly rolling over the existing deals we already have with over 70 countries as a member of the EU.
 
“This is damaging myth which has proven to be false. Should no-deal materialise, this will cause serious problems for our economy.
 
“Theresa May must take no-deal off the table and give the public the final say with a People’s Vote and the option to stay in the EU.”

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Cable: Government must level the playing field between the high street and online

Responding to the report by the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee calling on the Government to consider the options of an online sales tax and reforms to business rates, Leader of the Liberal Democrats Vince Cable said:

“While our high streets are going through an extremely difficult time, with the right action from government, councils, businesses and local communities, they can prosper once again.

“Instead of trying to recreate the high streets of the past, our towns and cities need to tailor their offer to local tastes and focus on experiences at a time of growing demand for online shopping.

"There must be a level playing field between brick and mortar businesses and online companies. Business rates should be replaced with a land value tax that encourages businesses to invest. Local authorities must also be given more power to run their own affairs and support local businesses, as pioneering Liberal Democrat councils are currently demonstrating."

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Begum should face justice for her crimes in the UK


Responding to the reports from Shamima Begum's family lawyer that she will lose her UK citizenship, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson Ed Davey said:

“Membership of a terrorist group is a serious crime, as is encouraging or supporting terrorism. But Shamima Begum should face justice for those crimes in the UK.
 
“It is not only hard to see Ms Begum and her baby as constituting a serious threat to national security, but it also seems a huge wasted opportunity. We can learn lessons as to why a young girl went to Syria in the first place; lessons which could improve Britain’s security by helping us prevent this happening again.”

Monday, February 18, 2019

Rail reform proposals signal that change is needed

Responding to the release of the report containing the Rail Delivery Group's proposals to the Williams Rail Review, Liberal Democrat Transport Spokesperson Jenny Randerson said:

"It has been long overdue for the Conservative Government to introduce the legislation needed to reform our outdated and unfair rail fares system. The proposals put forward by the industry which would modernise the way in which we pay for our train tickets are encouraging and it is now essential the Government sets the wheels in motion.

"Simplifying the system and introducing smart ticketing would help transform what is an incredibly outdated system, invented before people bought their tickets online. Equally, with more and more people now working flexible hours it is vital the system offers fairer ticket prices to reflect the way modern businesses work.

"With so many passengers wanting to overhaul the way they pay their rail fare, surely this should be something that Chris Grayling cannot delay."

Government consultations on plastic must be followed by action

Responding to the Government's launch of a number of consultations looking at overhauling the waste system, cutting plastic pollution, and moving towards a more circular economy, Liberal Democrat Environment Spokesperson, Alistair Carmichael said:

“Whilst the Government fail to get a grip of the crisis facing our environment, the detrimental effects to the UK’s wildlife continues. The Liberal Democrats have been clear about the need for a plastic bottle deposit scheme and the Conservative Government must follow through on these consultations with action.

"The Liberal Democrats will also continue to fight for a ban on all single-use plastic within three years and the introduction of a levy on all producers and retailers that produce or use single-use plastics."

“If the Conservative Government was as good at recycling plastic as they are at recycling consultations then our environment would be in better shape than it is.  It is good that the Government is thinking of acting, but the problem is urgent and needs to be taken seriously.” 

Lib Dems will work with like-minded MPs

Responding to the Labour party split, Leader of the Liberal Democrats Vince Cable said:


“It is not unexpected, or unwelcome, that a group of Labour MPs have decided to break away from Corbyn’s Labour; in part motivated by his refusal to follow the party’s policy on Brexit.

“The Liberal Democrats are open to working with like-minded groups and individuals in order to give the people the final say on Brexit, with the option to remain in the EU. We will be engaging in talks to progress both that campaign and a wider political agenda.”

On short prison sentences, Tories say one thing and do another


Responding to the Justice Secretary’s speech this morning where he advocated abolishing prison sentences of six months or less, Liberal Democrat Justice Spokesperson Wera Hobhouse said: 

“I’m glad the Justice Secretary is finally accepting what the evidence – and the Liberal Democrats – have been saying for years: short prison sentences are destructive and just lead to more crime.
 
“But even as he makes that admission, his Tory colleagues at the Home Office are busy introducing more short prison sentences in their Offensive Weapons Bill.
 
“This Tory Government is saying one thing and doing another, and the Liberal Democrats demand better. Ministers must end short prison sentences and stop creating new ones.”
 

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Tories failing on air pollution

New figures released by the Department for the Environment show that emissions of air pollutants have not dropped significantly over the past three years, despite the Government promising to tackle air pollution as a priority.
 
Responding to the figures, Alistair Carmichael, Liberal Democrat Environment Spokesperson, said:

 
“These figures show that this Tory Government is failing to tackle air pollution, which they described themselves as ‘the biggest environmental threat to public health.’

"Long-term exposure to these emissions can cause heart and lung problems as well as potentially contribute to cancers, with the young and the old being particularly vulnerable. People deserve better and Liberal Democrats demand better.
 
“Liberal Democrats would pass a new Clean Air Act, giving people the legal right to unpolluted air wherever they live. New Clean Air Zones must also be brought forward in the most polluted towns and cities,  and we would also restore subsidies to electric vehicles foolishly cut by the Tories.”
 

Farron slams 'Tory death tax'

Former Leader of the Liberal Democrats Tim Farron has taken a swipe at the Conservative Government ahead of the introduction of what he has dubbed a “Tory death tax”.

From today, new regulations introduced by the Conservative Government mean that the cost of death certificates, as well as birth and marriage certificates, is going up from £4 to £11.

Citizens Advice recommends people get “several copies of the [death] certificate, for which there will be a charge.” Upon losing a loved one, people now face a charge hike of £49, on the basis that seven copies are purchased.

Mr Farron accused the Conservatives of introducing these measures “by the back door” as MPs have been denied a vote on them.

The former Leader of the Liberal Democrats added: “These regressive fees, charged to people just when they are grieving for loved ones, are nothing more than an insensitive death tax.

“People deserve better, and the Liberal Democrats demand better. Profiteering off the back of people losing loved ones should bring shame on those who call themselves 'compassionate conservatives."

Thursday, February 14, 2019

May's time wasting rejected by parliament


Responding to the defeat of the Government's motion this evening by 45 votes, the Leader of the Liberal Democrats Vince Cable said:

"The vote this evening demonstrates a complete failure of Theresa May's Tory Government and Parliament's rejection of more reckless time wasting as they drag us closer and closer to the cliff edge.

"Theresa May's brinkmanship may seem to her as a clever tactic in trying to force MPs to support her deal, but tonight Parliament rejected this ploy. The reality is the Prime Minister's political games in refusing to take no deal off the table is having a serious effect on people's day-to-day lives.

"The Liberal Democrats have campaigned for a people's vote for over two years. Tonight's defeat of the Government makes clear it is long overdue that the Prime Minister took no deal off the table, and offered the public a final say on Brexit with the option to remain in the EU."

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Lib Dems back call for regulator to protect access to cash


The Liberal Democrats are backing calls from consumer rights charity, Which?, for a regulator to protect access to cash following new analysis revealing a rapid decline in cash-points.  

New figures obtained by Which? show cash-points disappeared at a rate of 488 per month between June 2018 and December 2018 with over 250 free-to-use machines also closing monthly.

Former Leader of the Liberal Democrats, Tim Farron said: 

“This research will be concerning for people in smaller communities right across the country who depend on being able to access cash when they need it, without having to trek into the nearest town. 

“People deserve better. Conservative Ministers in Whitehall need to appreciate that not everyone is comfortable with or able to use digital payments and on-line banking. For many, cash is still king. These closures will mean rural areas in particular are being left behind.

“Liberal Democrats demand better. That is why we are backing the call from Which? for a regulator to ensure that no one is left unable to access their own money when they need it.”

Rudd's Universal Credit admission is too late for tens of thousands


Responding to comments from Amber Rudd about the link between the rise of food bank usage and the roll out of Universal Credit, Liberal Democrat Work and Pensions Spokesperson Christine Jardine said:

“This belated admission of responsibility comes far too late for the tens of thousands of people forced to rely on food banks because of the Conservatives’ stubborn refusal to fix Universal Credit.
 
“In 21st century Britain no one should be dependent on charitable handouts for their survival, yet that is precisely the situation that Government policy has created.
 
“While some tinkering around the edges has happened, the Conservative Government must go all the way and give UC claimants full flexibility over when and how they are paid, while completely reversing the swingeing cuts made to the programme in 2015.”

Digital exclusion shows Universal Credit not fit for purpose


Responding to reports that almost half a million people needed help to apply for the government’s flagship Universal Credit benefit on-line, DWP Spokesperson Christine Jardine said:

"The Liberal Democrats raised the issue of digital exclusion with Conservative ministers months ago, but these concerns clearly haven’t been taken on board. This underlines the need to look again at Universal Credit, which is clearly not creating the simpler and more accessible benefits system that was intended.
 
“It is failing the very people it was supposed to be designed to help. Now the Government has acknowledged that Universal Credit has created a greater need for food banks, it is time they accepted it needs more than just the tinkering we have seen.
 
“Universal Credit just isn’t fit for purpose, and it’s time the Government accepted responsibility.”
 

Monday, February 11, 2019

Immigration rules for Commonwealth soldiers are outrageous

 

Hundreds of troops who joined the British Army after a targeted Commonwealth recruitment drive in 2016 are having to work second jobs in order to meet the Home Office threshold necessary to relocate their families.

Commenting, Lib Dem Defence Spokesperson Jamie Stone said:

"This is yet another example of the Tories' botched immigration policies. These soldiers were asked specifically to come and defend our nation and the government repays them with a hostile environment. It has all the hallmarks of the policies which caused the Windrush crisis.

"These people have responded to a call to serve the country and it is outrageous that immigration thresholds mean they must work second jobs just to bring their spouses and children with them.

"The Liberal Democrats demand better. Commonwealth soldiers who have been asked to come and serve must be welcomed into UK society."

PM's meaningful vote time-line irresponsible and insulting to parliament



Responding to the news that the PM will seek to wait until the end of the month for a second attempt at winning the meaningful vote, Leader of the Liberal Democrats Vince Cable said:

“This is worse than irresponsible.

"It is deeply insulting to the country and to Parliament. It goes against what she has been mandated to achieve. I would not be surprised if she faces a massive rebellion by Conservative MPs.”

Property guardians caught in poverty trap


Responding to the investigation by the i newspaper into property guardians , Liberal Democrat peer Olly Grender said:

"This undercover investigation shows how desperately bad the housing crisis has become. More and more people are living as property guardians in buildings that are dangerous and insanitary and the law fails to protect them.

"Safeguards must be introduced before the Government has another tragedy on its hands such as Grenfell. This is a hidden crisis for people caught in a trap of poverty and lack of decent housing and needs urgent attention. 

“The fact these properties are unsafe and unhealthy to live in should result in a rapid review of the relevant laws. It is vital that the Government now re-evaluate our HMO regulations to ensure that this form of tenancy, in all but name, cannot be ignored and left out of all important legal protections.

“There are responsible property guardian companies and they are working hard to provide cheap housing in empty properties. But the revelations in Colchester suggest a more exploitative approach and a growing crisis.”

Immigration white paper an enormous red tape threat to UK businesses

 

Responding to a report by Global Future which shows the deep costs to our economy of the Government's immigration white paper, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs spokesperson Ed Davey said:
 
“Conservative immigration plans represent the biggest red tape threat UK businesses have ever seen – far outweighing anything that came from Brussels.
 
“Local hospitals are already struggling to recruit the doctors and nurses they need, and now the Tories would take millions away from front-line care to pay for the cost of navigating the Home Office’s complex and bureaucratic immigration system.
 
“These policies would be expensive and destructive for employers across the country, and Britain simply can’t afford them. That’s why the Liberal Democrats are opposing the Tories’ half-baked plans to end free movement with the EU.”

Wednesday, February 06, 2019

Thousands dying waiting for social care as government ignores crisis


Responding to the research by Age UK showing that more than 50,000 older people have now died waiting in vain for care during the 700 days since the Government first said it would publish a Social Care Green Paper, Former Liberal Democrat Health Minister Norman Lamb said:
 
“These figures are tragic for many families and the stories of some of those who have been impacted should give many in government and across politics pause for thought.

“People are turning for help in their old age and help is not there. Despite the crisis in adult social care the Conservatives are consistently and consciously underfunding these services and the social care green paper promised in March 2017 has now been delayed six times.
 
“The Conservative Government is incapable of solving this problem themselves. They must now work with other parties to achieve a genuine long term, sustainable settlement for the NHS and social care. 
 
“Liberal Democrats would put a penny on income tax and directly invest funds in social care. We will also keep making the case for a new, dedicated NHS and care tax to guarantee a modern, effective and efficient NHS and care system which will be there for our loved ones when they need it.”