Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Cruel treatment of disability benefit claimants exposed by Commons committee

In response to the Work and Pensions Select Committee Report out today on PIP and ESA assessments Stephen Lloyd MP, Liberal Democrat DWP spokesperson, said :
“This is an utterly damning report from the Select Committee on the quality, or lack thereof, from the government’s PIP and ESA assessments programmes.

"It’s clear far too many assessments are inadequate for this system to continue in its current form.

"This also comes on the day where the DWP has put out a deplorable tweet reminding people that as today is Valentines Day, they will be checking that benefits claimants are declaring they live with a partner or else. It’s obvious this Conservative government knows the price of everything but the value of nothing. 

"This is proof that the Liberal Democrat position of stripping the assessment contract from corporate behemoths such as ATOS and Capita and bringing them in-house as a public service, is the only practical and humane way forward.”

Intransigence over Irish language brings Stormont talks to a halt

Responding to the news that talks have collapsed in Stormont, Vince Cable, Leader of the Liberal Democrats, said:

"British taxpayer's have coughed up £1 billion to placate the DUP and keep them on the Government's side during this disastrous parliament. What are we getting for it? Just intransigence. 

"The British government are heading for a very dangerous situation in Ireland. Their approach to Brexit will lead to further division in Ireland, and undermine the Good Friday Agreement. At the same time their key allies in the Commons, to who they paid a billion pounds,  are refusing to show any willingness to compromise over internal matters in Northern Ireland.

"Theresa May needs to take this situation by the scruff of the neck and deal with it."

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Shas Sheehan calls for full inquiry into aid sector

Helen Evans, former head of safeguarding at Oxfam, made damning accusations about the lack of basic processes and disregard of serious concerns she raised, the substance of which were not denied by the chief executive.

In response, Baroness Sheehan, Liberal Democrat International Development Spokesperson, said:

"The government must now accept that nothing short of a full and far-reaching enquiry into illegal sexual behaviour within Oxfam and across the wider aid sector, will do.

"The public have a right to know what the extent of the problem is, and whether what has been exposed to date is only the tip of the iceberg.

"This information is vital if those of us who are proud of Britain’s record of delivering aid to the poorest people on our planet are to successfully defend it.

"The saddest outcome of this whole sorry saga would be to throw the baby out with the bathwater, and desert the 0.7% of GNI devoted to alleviate extreme poverty."

Friday, February 02, 2018

Office for National Statistics report reveals massive wealth gap that is not getting smaller

The ONS has released its latest figures from the Wealth and Assets Survey. Findings include:
  • In July 2014 to June 2016, the wealth held by the top 10% of households was around five times greater than the wealth of the bottom half of all households combined.
  • The wealthiest 10% own 44% of all wealth, those in the “Middle wealth” category (51% -90%) own 47% of all wealth, and the poorest half own just 9% of all wealth. 
  • The bottom 10% of households have total wealth of £14,100 or less, the top 10% of households have total wealth of £1,208,300 or more, and the top 1% of households have total wealth of £3,227,500 or more.
  • There was a striking increase in the value of net property wealth for households in London compared with all other regions; median net property wealth in London was £351,000 in July 2014 to June 2016, a 33% increase from £263,000 in July 2012 to June 2014.
  • Total aggregate debt of all households in Great Britain was £1.23 trillion in July 2014 to June 2016 (a 7% increase from July 2012 to June 2014), of which £1.12 trillion was mortgage debt (6% higher) and £117.0 billion was financial debt (15% higher). 
  • Young people (16-34) are clustered in the bottom wealth deciles, whereas the opposite is true of older households (65+). 

Responding, Vince Cable, Leader of the Liberal Democrats, said:

“The evidence points to a dramatic wealth gap that is not getting any smaller. It is a major driver of the disadvantages faced by younger people, who are currently struggling to get a foot on the housing ladder.

“Conservative policies on inheritance tax and capital gains tax have only widened this inequality of wealth between generations.”

“Wealth should be a key to unlocking opportunities, not a barrier to them."

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Davey welcomes court ruling on government surveillance

Commenting on a court ruling yesterday which has found the government’s mass digital surveillance regime unlawfulLiberal Democrat Home Affairs spokesperson Ed Davey said:
"The UK's surveillance regime has once again been declared unlawful. The Government cannot simply tinker around the edges and hope for a different result. What we need is a full overhaul of the system that puts our freedoms and civil liberties at its very core.

"Liberal Democrats believe we can be safe and secure by ensuring surveillance is targeted and suspicion-led. What we need is for our police and intelligence services to be given the resources and money they need to do their job, not endless new laws."

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Slashing Universal Credit penalises self-employed

Commenting on ONS figures released last week showing an 82,000 fall in the number of self-employed workers, Liberal Democrat Work and Pensions spokesperson Stephen Lloyd MP said:
“Liberal Democrats are deeply concerned by this huge drop in the number of people working for themselves, reversing a shift towards increasing self-employment and entrepreneurial risk-taking.
“I find it hard to believe that the roll-out of Universal Credit – which penalises the self-employed – does not have something to do with this.
“By slashing the support it offers the self-employed after twelve months and not taking account of freelancers’ fluctuating incomes, Universal Credit is making it much harder for people in modest circumstances to start their own businesses.
“I urge the Secretary of State to immediately review how Universal Credit treats the self-employed, before it devastates the 800,000 freelancers who are expected to transition onto it.”

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Conservative infighting threatens to wreck Britain's financial services industry

The government must urgently spell out its aims from the second phase of EU negotiations and on transitional arrangements, the Lords EU Financial Affairs Sub-Committee has warned. 

The committee has warned of market fragmentation and financial instability if the UK loses access to the EU through no deal, particularly damaging Britain's financial services industry.

Goldman Sachs boss Lloyd Blankfein, for example, warned this week that it is reaching a point in contingency planning where it will be too late to stop the group from leaving the UK.

Responding, Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable said: 

"This is a serious warning from a respected committee. Philip Hammond's comments this week that the UK and EU economies will diverge only 'very modestly' shows he is desperate to reassure the City that nothing is really  going to change.

"But obviously things will. Serious business people will, therefore, be assessing their options, including whether or not to relocate to other EU countries.

"The Conservatives must stop their infighting and at least draw up some kind of coherent plan on what they want from Brexit talks."

Friday, January 26, 2018

Dangerous, misogynistic, racist Trump is deserving of the protests he will undoubtedly face

Responding to reports that a UK visit from Trump will happen later this year as details are being 'finalised', Jo Swinson, Liberal Democrat Deputy Leader and Foreign Affairs Spokesperson, said:

“Trump is a dangerous, misogynistic racist and is deserving of the protests he will undoubtedly face.

"If and when he comes to the UK the Liberal Democrats will be at front and centre of the protests."

Government oblivious to record levels of prison violence

New figures show that violence and self-injury in prisons have reached record highs

Data released by the Ministry of Justice demonstrates a 12% rise in incidences of both self-injury and assaults over the past year in prisons in England and Wales.

Over the last 12 months there has been a 15% increase in the number of self-harm incidents requiring hospital attendance.

Lord Jonathan Marks, Liberal Democrat Justice Spokesperson, said:

“The Government’s continued failure to get violence and self-harm in our prisons under control is utterly disgraceful. The new Minister for Prisons, Rory Stewart, must make this his top priority.

“The Conservatives claim to want to turn our prisons into places of reform but with no attempt being made to address overcrowding they will likely remain squalid warehouses that only serve to harden criminals.”

Modest housebuilding increase dwarfed by executives' bonus hikes says Vince Cable

The latest National House Building Council statistics say that there has been a 6% growth in the number of new homes built in 2017 on the previous year.

Responding, Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable said: 

"A 6% increase to 160,000 homes still leaves the country a long way short on the 300,000 a year everyone now agrees is necessary to provide some stability to the market and provide hope to would-be first time buyers.

"This modest increase in new houses is dwarfed by the hike in bonuses enjoyed by housebuilding executives, fuelled by the flawed Right-to-Buy scheme."

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

IMF figures reveal UK is under-performing in the world

Commenting on the lMF's latest global forecast, Leader of the Liberal Democrats, Vince Cable, said:

“It is clear that Britain is under-performing relative to much of Europe, the USA and the rest of the world. It is especially unfortunate that the UK is entering an extended period of economic stagnation just as the rest of the world experiences a growth burst.

“The Brexit vote might not have produced a catastrophic collapse yet, but it has dampened investment, and consumer confidence and reduced Britain's global standing.

"The IMF's call to avoid any new trade barriers or regulatory realignments vindicates the Liberal Democrat campaign for an exit from Brexit."

Government backs Lib Dem pension proposal

Responding to calls from the Lib Dem Spokesman for the Department for Work & Pensions, Stephen Lloyd MP, new DWP Secretary of State Esther McVey agreed that a review into the current rules - past and current - after companies go bust is “something that needs to be brought forward”.

Responding to the comments, Liberal Democrat Work & Pensions Spokesman, Stephen Lloyd MP said yesterday:

“Under current rules, pension obligations are unsecured – meaning that insolvent companies only fund their pension schemes once they have compensated their other supposedly more ‘important’ secured creditors.”

“Today I urged the new Secretary of State to review the rules and provide further protection for employees with private pensions by giving them greater priority when companies fail. I was delighted to hear the Minister agree that this is something ‘which needs to be brought forward’.

"Then and only then will employees with private pensions be wholly protected when large companies collapse. I will be making sure that the Minister sticks to her word on this.”

Child poverty figures reveal Tories are failing most vulnerable

Commenting on the report from the End Child Poverty coalition revealing that in some areas of the UK more than half of children are living in poverty, Layla Moran MP said:

“This is an appalling indictment of a Tory Party that are failing to protect the most vulnerable in society.

“The gulf between children born in the richest and poorest families is widening, but Theresa May is more preoccupied with the gulf in her cabinet over Brexit.

“When we fail our children like this we fail as a society. The government must take action.”

Evidence disclosure crisis will undermine our criminal justice system if unaddressed

Commenting on the increasing failure by police or prosecutors to disclose evidence over the last two years, Jonathan Marks, Liberal Democrat Justice Spokesperson, said:
"This is a growing issue that will undermine our criminal justice system as a whole if we do not address it.

"More funding and better training must be provided to police and prosecutors to ensure that proper process if followed so cases do not collapse unnecessarily.

"Disclosure of evidence favourable to the defence is a fundamental part of prosecuting fairly. It is clear that government have ignored this issue to date and must now urgently make up for lost time.”

Ming Campbell comments on Defence accounting split

Commenting on news that the defence element of the National Security Capability Review will be separated out, Liberal Democrat Defence spokesperson Menzies Campbell said:

"This separation was both necessary and inevitable. The pressure on the government from all sides and all parties on the need to protect and enhance the defence budget was overwhelming.

"What it does mean is that when the national security review appears we will only have half the picture."

Monday, January 22, 2018

CBI: Britain needs to stay in customs union

Commenting on yesterday's intervention from CBI Director-General, Carolyn Fairbairn, which highlighted the importance of the customs union to British businesses, Liberal Democrat Brexit spokesperson Tom Brake said: 

“This is an important intervention from the CBI, and pours yet more cold water on the government’s idea that they can rustle up a trade deal that in anyway compares to the economic benefits of being in the EU and maintain the red lines they have set.

"The Conservatives are making a monumental mess of Brexit. The approach Theresa May has adopted so far is creating mass uncertainty for people and businesses and is designed to please her party’s right wing not to deliver what is best for the country. She must now change course.

"Liberal Democrats want to see a vote on the deal she strikes with the EU, so that the people can have their say on whether it is good enough for Britain.”

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Lidington's comments on rejoining the EU - Brake responds

Responding to reports in The Telegraph that David Lidington has said the UK could rejoin the EU in the future, Liberal Democrat Brexit spokesperson Tom Brake said:
“Whilst I welcome David Lidington's suggestion that the UK could rejoin a reformed EU, it would be more effective for the UK to be at the heart of that reform process from the outset. The UK, which has always been very influential in the EU, is best placed to play a part in driving reform by remaining a member.
“As a Liberal Democrat, I want people to have control over the future of our country, and that has to start by giving them a vote on the Brexit deal when it is done, so they can choose to exit from Brexit if they don’t like it”

Friday, January 19, 2018

Longer-term support needed for SMEs hit by Carillion crash

Responding to news that small businesses affected by Carillion's liquidation will receive support from a number of banks, Lorely Burt, Liberal Democrat Small Business Spokesperson said:
"It is essential that small businesses do not bear the brunt of the Conservative government's inaction and Carillion's collapse. While the Liberal Democrats welcome the emergency measures that have been put in place, small businesses must continue to be supported in the longer-term. 
The government must act now to provide this support. The Liberal Democrats back the Federation of Small Businesses' call for the government to set up a Carillion task force to help all small businesses that are affected find new opportunities and financial support. The government must stop burying their heads in the sand. It's time they take responsibility for this situation and provide the long-term help necessary to the minimise damage caused to small businesses by Carillion's collapse." 

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Cable on NAO report: Public bodies must be able to renegotiate onerous PFI contracts

Responding to the National Audit Office's report into PFI and PF2 contracts, Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable said: 

“PFI is a useful way of financing projects in certain situations, but it has been a mixed experience. If overdone, PFI becomes a way for the government to kick the financial implications of major spending decisions down the road. It is also clear that in many cases down the years these PFIs were negotiated just to keep liabilities off the government balance sheet. 
"Public bodies should have the means to renegotiate particularly onerous and disadvantageous PFI contracts. Moving forward, PFI contracts should only be used when it can be proven they are the best available option.

"The Carillion crisis reminds us that these types of projects have to be undertaken very carefully to ensure the distribution of risk is not skewed against the taxpayer." 

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Carillion investigation welcome, but more needed

Commenting on news that the Official Receiver will fast-track an investigation into the directors at Carillion, Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable said:

“The fast-tracking of this investigation into the directors who led Carillion is welcome. But we also need a National Audit Office probe, followed by Parliamentary scrutiny by the Public Accounts Committee to fully understand what led to Carillion’s collapse.

"We need to know why the government felt it was not wrong to feed Carillion lucrative public sector contracts when they knew the company was in severe trouble because of its profit warnings.” 

Layla Moran slaps down offensive snob Conservative MP

Responding to comments made in 2012 by Tory MP and party vice-chair for youth Ben Bradley where he suggested unemployed young men should get vasectomies, Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran said:

“These hugely misinformed and offensive comments should shame Mr Bradley and the Tory party. 

“It beggars belief that someone who has shown such contempt for young people who are out of work has been tasked by the Prime Minister to improve her party’s appeal with young voters. 

“This is another example of a shocking lack of due diligence by May and her team when making appointments to influential roles. This seriously draws their judgement into question.”

Monday, January 15, 2018

Inquiry needed into questionable decisions around Carillion - Cable

Responding to reports that Carillion is to go into liquidation, Leader of the Liberal Democrats Vince Cable said:

“The government must now take responsibility for the big contracts run by Carillion, or re-tender them, to keep the supply chain going and protect thousands of jobs. Ministers must minimise the damage to the capacity of the construction industry.

“We also urgently need a parliamentary inquiry into some of the very questionable decisions made in the past few months, not least the award of public contracts to a company that was clearly in danger of collapse. The issue of the former chief executive still being paid his salary, plus perks and bonus, is also a reward for failure that has to be looked into.”