Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Scrap fees for Armed Forces veterans, urge Lib Dems

Liberal Democrats will today call on the Government to scrap visa fees for all foreign veterans and currently serving personnel in the UK Armed Forces.

Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Defence Jamie Stone MP has tabled a cross-party amendment to the Armed Forces Bill, which reaches committee stage in the House of Commons today, calling for visa fees to be waived for any current or previously serving members of the UK armed forces and their families.

Jamie Stone MP commented:

“In Armed Forces Week, we must provide meaningful support – not more empty words – for service personnel and their families.

"Foreign and Commonwealth citizens have a proud legacy of serving our country in the Armed Forces. Excessive application fees have prevented many brave veterans from taking up their right to settle in the UK with their families.

“They risk their lives in the service of our country. They deserve better.

“The Government has a choice: they continue taking veterans for granted, or they can support my amendment to the Armed Forces Bill, which would scrap fees for service leavers and their families immediately.”

£250k Covid certification contract is "extremely worrying"

Responding to suggestions that the Government is ushering in national ID cards via Covid certificates, Liberal Democrat MP Alistair Carmichael said: 

“Vaccine passports were the thin end of the wedge. That the Department for Health is contracting work to a company that makes its money setting up surveillance systems, including ID cards, for Governments around the world is extremely worrying.

“Collecting everyone’s personal information in a national database through an ID card system risks breaching people’s right to privacy. This is a policy no one wants and any plans for ID cards should be scrapped immediately.

“The Government cannot continue to operate without scrutiny, ignoring the voices of the British people and Parliament. The Liberal Democrats demand that the Government entirely rule out the introduction of ID cards in the UK.”

ENDS

 

Drop the rights-breaching protest crackdown law

The Liberal Democrats are calling on the Government to remove Part 3 from its Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, as a new report from Parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights says it “would increase those restrictions on non-violent protest in a way that we believe is inconsistent with our rights”.

Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson Alistair Carmichael MP said:

“Priti Patel’s protest crackdown law is dangerous and draconian. The right to peaceful assembly and protest is a fundamental human right, and has always been a crucial part of our democratic society.

“As the Joint Committee on Human Rights makes clear, these new laws would undermine that right. They are part of the Conservative Government’s anti-democratic attempts to silence any opposition to its policies, and the Liberal Democrats will fiercely resist them.

“If the Government is serious about the rest of the Police and Crime Bill, it should remove the part about cracking down on protests now and let Parliament focus on debating the other 285 pages.”

Government borrowing shows scale of pandemic challenge

Responding to the economic stats yesterday, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for the Treasury Christine Jardine MP said: 
 
“The scale of the Government borrowing illustrates clearly just how huge an economic challenge people and businesses have faced in this pandemic.
 
"Ministers must remember that behind these figures are millions of families, individuals and businesses who need support to get by in this and by refusing to extend furlough and the business rates holiday the Government putting all of them, our recovery and public finances at risk.
 
"This Government has serious questions to answer about its economic strategy - if indeed it has a long term plan - and should immediately publish its analysis of what the impact of a wave of insolvencies and job losses would be on our debt and deficit." 

"Staggering" suppression of sick pay slammed

Liberal Democrats MPs Munira Wilson and Christine Jardine have written to the Chancellor demanding the Government protects lives and livelihoods in response to reports HM Treasury suppressed access to sick pay for furloughed workers.

The letter also highlights the lack of new support for businesses and workers following the month-long extension of Coronavirus restrictions.

Munira Wilson MP, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Health, commented:

“At the beginning of this pandemic the Chancellor promised he would do ‘whatever it takes’ to protect people's livelihoods. Yet his department stands accused of suppressing  access to support for those self-isolating, one of the country's most effective tools for slowing the spread of this terrible disease.

“Liberal Democrats have been calling on the Government to provide proper financial support for small businesses and fix the broken and inadequate self-isolation system all the way through this crisis.

“It is staggering that at a time when the country is being asked to make enormous sacrifices the Chancellor isn’t doing everything in his power to ensure everyone is properly supported, including working families and vulnerable workers, and to help struggling businesses stay afloat.”

Friday, June 18, 2021

Lib Dems gain Chesham and Amersham with 25% swing from Tories

 The late Cheryl Gillan, the coalition's first Welsh Secretary, had a majority of around 15,000 at the 2019 general election. Last night, that majority was more than overturned.

Monday, June 14, 2021

Slow down in renewables “failure of leadership”


New statistics show that renewable energy generation growth has slowed significantly in the last year, despite promises from the Conservatives to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 and to make Britain the “Saudi Arabia of wind energy.”
 
Offshore wind generation capacity grew by just 4% in 2020, compared to 20% the previous year. 
 
Onshore wind increased its capacity by just 1.1%, continuing a downward trend since 2017, when the Conservatives made it significantly harder to build new onshore wind farms. Solar capacity increased by 1.6%, continuing its limited growth since the Conservatives cut subsidies for solar power in 2016.
 
Wera Hobhouse, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for the Climate Emergency, said:
 
“In the year the UK is hosting a climate conference, we have to lead the world in tackling the climate emergency. 
 
"However, the Conservatives seem uninterested in doing this. This slowdown in renewable energy growth is a failure of leadership. 
 
“Expanding renewables is the easiest way to cut emissions, and yet the Conservative government is showing a complete lack of ambition. This disappointing progress follows the Government's grant cuts for home insulation and electric vehicles  they simply cannot be trusted to walk the walk on action for our environment. 
 
“Liberal Democrats believe in climate action now. That means expanding renewable generation to three quarters of all electricity by 2030.”
 

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Northern Ireland Protocol: Blame-slinging must stop

Commenting on the latest round of talks aimed at simplifying the Northern Ireland Protocol post-Brexit, Liberal Democrat spokesperson for Home Affairs Alistair Carmichael MP said:

"Today’s meeting was an opportunity for constructive attempts to fix the problems with the Northern Ireland Protocol. Instead, all we get is blame slinging and briefing wars which do nothing to help the people caught in the middle of all this.

"Continual insistence on unilateral action will get us nowhere. The issues with the implementation of the protocol will only be solved by the UK and EU working together to find a solution.

"There needs to be a wholesale change in focus, with the aim of reaching alignment on sanitary and phytosanitary standards and securing a veterinary agreement."

Cronyism over Covid contracts shows Tories not fit to govern

Following yesterday's court ruling which judged the Government acted unlawfully over their awarding of a £560,000 Covid contract, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Home Affairs Alistair Carmichael MP said:

“Today’s ruling should be a wake-up call. This is yet another example of the cronyism at the heart of this Conservative Government. While the Liberal Democrats were fighting for the three million people who have been excluded from government support, they were focusing on enriching their mates.
 
"It's little wonder the Conservatives are so keen on weakening the courts and restricting judicial review, given how often their Ministers are found to have acted unlawfully.
 
“This unapologetic cronyism shows that this Government is not fit to govern.”
 

Wednesday, June 09, 2021

Nearly 1 in 3 Brits are carers


New research by Liberal Democrats/Savanta has shown that 30 per cent of British adults self-identify as someone who has unpaid caring responsibilities for a family member or friend due to illness - almost 1 in 3 UK adults. 

The research surveyed over 2,000 UK adults and prompted Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey to call on the Government to give unpaid carers support to take time off. 

In further research commissioned for Carers Week (7 -11 June),  a Carers UK survey revealed 72 per cent of unpaid carers have not been able to have a break since the Coronavirus pandemic began. 

Commenting on the research Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey MP said: 

“Unpaid carers have taken on dramatically increased caring responsibilities during the pandemic. Many carers haven’t been able to take a single break since the pandemic started. Most are simply exhausted,” 

“This pandemic has shown that we are a nation of carers. But people looking after their loved ones are still too often forgotten and ignored by people in power.

“The government must finally recognise the incredible contribution that unpaid carers make and give them the support they deserve. It must give local councils the emergency funding they need to give carers a break.

“Liberal Democrats are standing up for carers and working to build a more caring society as we emerge from this pandemic.”

A workers' watchdog without new funding won't make a real difference

In response to the Ministerial Statement on upholding employment rights and plans for a new 'workers' watchdog', Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Business, Sarah Olney MP, said:

“This is a long-overdue step towards properly enforcing workers’ rights, but we need to see far more action from the Government.

“It is unacceptable that this announcement comes without new legislation or funding. This body must be written into law as soon as possible, and receive enough funding to employ at least one labour inspector per 10,000 workers.
 
“Making a real difference to workers’ lives takes more than a new watchdog. The Government must strengthen workers rights in key areas, such as giving zero-hours workers a 20% higher minimum wage and gig workers basic protections such as sick pay.”

According to the NGO FLEX (Focus on Labour Exploitation), the ILO recommends a target of one inspector for every 10,000 workers. Available pg.24 in this report.

To strengthen the rights of “workers” and “independent contractors” tied to one business, Liberal Democrats are calling for a new “dependent contractor” status in between employment & self-employment, with basic rights such as minimum earnings levels, sick pay and holiday entitlement.



Tuesday, June 08, 2021

Foreign aid cuts: Tory government's actions ruining UK's reputation


Yesterday, responding to Mr Speaker's ruling that the amendment on aid cuts was out of order and therefore not selected for a vote, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for International Development Layla Moran MP said:
 
"Today’s decision is just the start of the battle to reinstate the 0.7% target. Boris Johnson might have had a lucky escape from a vote on the cut today, but he cannot run and hide from Parliamentary democracy forever. 
 
"In a week which sees the eyes of the world on the UK at the G7, the Conservatives’ actions  from making it harder to vote at home to abandoning our development commitments around the world – are ruining our country’s reputation. 
 
"The Liberal Democrats will continue to stand up for the 0.7% target, which we have supported for over fifty years and enshrined in law."

Sunday, June 06, 2021

Corporation tax: G7 actions long-overdue to tackle tax avoidance


Responding to the announcement that G7 finance ministers have endorsed a unified stance on corporation tax, Liberal Democrats Treasury Spokesperson Christine Jardine MP said: 
 
"This is a long-overdue step towards tackling tax avoidance by some of the most profitable companies in the world.
 
"It is crucial we push ahead with these steps in order to prevent tech giants exploiting loopholes in our tax system, and these changes must be embraced by the G20, OECD and the rest of the international community.
 
"This Government did nothing to tax the excess profits made by large corporations that benefited from the pandemic. They must now use this opportunity to the fullest to ensure tech giants finally pay their fair share.
 
"This is an opportunity to ensure that those giants who have made huge profits in this pandemic cannot dodge their responsibilities and that they pay their fair share towards recovery."
 

Thursday, June 03, 2021

Broken Tory promises on aid targets trashing Britain's global reputation

Ahead of a potential vote on a tabled amendment to the Advanced Research and Invention Agency Bill on Monday, aiming to hold the Government to the 0.7% of GNI aid pledge, Liberal Democrat Foreign Affairs and International Development Spokesperson Layla Moran MP said:
 
“The Conservative Government’s decision to cut development spending has done extraordinary damage to Britain’s reputation with our allies and partners from across the globe. In a week which will see the eyes of the world on the UK as we host the G7, now is the time for leadership - but instead, the Conservatives want Britain to hide from its responsibilities during a global pandemic.
 
“Every Conservative MP stood on a manifesto commitment to the 0.7% target. If they vote to cut the development budget next week, they will be breaking a promise to their constituents and to the world’s poorest. They will be making a mockery of the Government’s global ambitions. 
 
“Liberal Democrats will vote to reinstate the 0.7% target, which we enshrined in law. International development spending protects the most vulnerable people around the world and gives them a better chance at life. From defeating Covid-19 to tackling climate change, this is in our national interest.”

Thursday, May 27, 2021

Orban: 10 challenges for PM

The Liberal Democrats have challenged Downing Street to hold Viktor Orban to account during his visit to Downing Street tomorrow. 

The Hungarian Prime Minister has been accused of antisemitism, islamophobia and making a sustained assault on democracy and the freedom of the press. 

In a joint letter to Boris Johnson, Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey MP and Lib Dem Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs Layla Moran MP wrote:

"When you decide to invite leaders of other countries to Downing Street, your choice matters. It sends a signal to our allies; to our partners; to people in Britain and around the world, of the UK’s values and commitments.

"We are therefore extremely concerned that you have chosen to invite Prime Minister Orbán to Downing Street. Orbán’s rule has been marked by a sustained assault on Hungarian democracy, on press freedom and on human rights.

"That you and your Government view co-operation with Orbán and his government as “vital to the UK’s security and prosperity” speaks volumes.

"We note Downing Street’s comments prior to this meeting, that “where we have concerns about human rights we do not shy away from raising them”. This Friday, you have the opportunity to do so. We therefore ask you to commit to challenging Orbán."

The letter lists 10 points that the Hungarian PM can be challenged on, including his record on civil liberties, women's and LGBT rights and Russia.

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

ONS Borrowing: SMEs need continued support

Responding to record-breaking public sector net borrowing statistics, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for the Treasury said:

"These record breaking figures are a warning of potential problems ahead. But they mustn’t be used by the Government as an excuse to cut short essential support while the economy reopens.

“Small businesses are concerned about the new Indian variant's potential threat to the final steps of re-opening. This must be taken into account in the next stage of the recovery.

"The Government must extend the furlough scheme at least until the end of the year, and unroll an ambitious revenue compensation scheme for small businesses that are still struggling.

"We now know the stark reality of the impact of the past year but the pandemic remains a threat to small businesses across the country and the Government's support must continue."


Catastrophic trade deal with EU major blow to our trade

Responding to trade stats from the ONS this morning, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Trade Sarah Olney MP said:

“The loss of nearly a quarter of our trade with our biggest trading partner should make the Prime Minister and Trade Secretary hang their heads in shame.

 

“Despite the impact of Covid-19, the figures are clear: this is primarily the outcome of the Government’s catastrophic trade deal with the EU.

 

“Hundreds of thousands of British small businesses that rely on trade with Europe have been abandoned by the Government, and their millions of employees will be rightly worried about their future.

 

“We must finally see an end to empty Government slogans about the opportunities of Brexit and see concrete actions to protect the jobs and businesses that depend on trade with Europe.”

Monday, May 24, 2021

Immigration: Home Secretary has failed to get a grip on broken system

Responding to Priti Patel’s speech this morning on immigration, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson Alistair Carmichael said:

“No amount of tough talk and bluster from the Home Secretary can hide the fact that she has utterly failed to get a grip on the UK’s broken immigration system. Years of Home Office failure, coupled with hostile policies and rhetoric from successive Conservative Home Secretaries, have shattered public confidence.

“Instead of fixing the broken system, Priti Patel is pressing ahead with damaging plans that will create more chaos and make it harder for British employers to recruit the workers they need.

“She talks about a new ‘digital border’, but apparently forgot to mention that the existing project is years behind schedule and more than £170 million over budget. And she is refusing to provide safe and legal routes for vulnerable refugees to come to the UK, even as she invokes our proud tradition of offering sanctuary to those in need.

“Priti Patel has been talking tough about immigration for ages, while failing miserably to make the system fairer or more effective. As she said today: enough is enough.”

Sunday, May 23, 2021

Lib Dems demand review on Excluded workers

Liberal Democrats have tabled an amendment to the Finance Bill demanding a review into the impact of the Government's decision to exclude millions of workers from income support.

The amendment, up for selection on Monday (24th May), calls on the Government to carry out a review of its income support schemes within three months.

It specifies that the review should assess the impact on limited company directors and other categories of self-employed people, who have largely been excluded from financial support.

Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for the Treasury, Christine Jardine, said: 

"It really is time that this Government stopped ignoring the plight of millions of taxpayers who have been excluded from vital financial support in this pandemic.

"Taxi drivers, make-up artists, florists and many more have found themselves left out of Government income support schemes.

"Liberal Democrats are clear that the Government should act immediately to provide the financial support these people so desperately need. We are calling for a review into the impact of the Government’s lack of support for the excluded, which will lay bare the consequences of their poor decision and, we hope, prompt them into finally taking action."

Friday, May 21, 2021

Israel and Hamas ceasefire welcomed but underlying issues must now be addressed

Following reports that a ceasefire between the Israeli government and Hamas has now been agreed, Layla Moran MP, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs commented:

“Sixty six children have died since the outbreak of violence last week. Every death was totally preventable. And while a ceasefire is welcome, we cannot afford yet another return to a status quo which will only lead to more innocent deaths in the future.

“The potential evictions, demolitions and settlement expansions in the West Bank - which are breaches of international law – must be stopped. The status quo arrangements in Jerusalem must be restored. It is vitally important that the Palestinians are able to fulfil their democratic aspirations through new elections including all Palestinian parties. In this context, Hamas, as well as the Israeli authorities, must eschew violence and oppression and allow a legitimate political process to be pursued.

“To address these issues, we need a process – but peace talks have not meaningfully taken place for years. So it is now incumbent on the UK Government to work with the international community to facilitate the reconstruction of negotiations, negotiations which must take place between two equal partners.

“Above all, there must be an injection of new hope into conflict which has been hijacked by the extremes. The strongest card the UK can play is to recognise the state of Palestine, which will ignite the flames of hope and bring greater balance to future negotiations. I urge the Government to do the right thing.”

Take Windrush scheme out of Home Office

Responding to the National Audit Office's report on the Windrush Compensation Scheme, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Home Affairs Alistair Carmichael commented:

“The Government’s response to the appalling Windrush Scandal is rapidly turning into a new scandal all of its own.

“It should never have been left to the Home Office – which caused so much harm in the first place – to put things right. That’s why Liberal Democrats called for the compensation scheme to be fully independent from the start.

“Conservative Ministers must finally admit their mistake and take the Compensation Scheme out of the hands of the discredited Home Office. Then we can finally get on with righting the wrongs done to the Windrush Generation and restoring public confidence in the immigration system.”


Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Tories betraying British farmers with Australia trade deal

Responding to reports that the Government is planning to grant tariff-free access to the UK to Australian farmers, Tim Farron MP, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, commented:

“So often Conservative ministers take to social media to say how much they love British farming but their proposed new trade deal with Australia shows that when push comes to shove they are perfectly happy to sell our farmers down the river.

“The NFU are clear that letting Australian farmers sell their produce tariff-free into the UK would spell a disaster for small British family farms.

“Australian animal welfare standards are lower than the UK’s which makes for lower production costs and cheaper produce. Therefore the only way that small British family farms could compete would be to lower their own standards – which nobody except the Government wants them to do.

“To go ahead with this trade deal on these terms would be a betrayal of Britain’s farmers who are so vital in feeding us and protecting our environment.

“Liberal Democrats will always stand up for British farmers, and fight to protect Britain’s high quality animal welfare and environmental standards.”