Tuesday, March 02, 2021

Aid cuts to Yemen appalling and heartless

 

Responding to the announcement that the Government is cutting UK aid spending to Yemen, Layla Moran MP, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs and International Development, said:

"It is appalling and heartless that the Government has cut UK aid to conflict-ridden Yemen.

"Yemen is facing the biggest humanitarian crisis in the world. Children are being denied an education due to the conflict. The coronavirus pandemic is spreading in the country.

"UK Aid has helped millions and stands as a testament to the best of British values. Now is not the time to reduce our commitment to support the world's most vulnerable."

Monday, March 01, 2021

Rail fares should be set by agency independent of government

 

Rail fares are due to increase by 2.6%, which is above inflation.* 

The Liberal Democrats will vote at their conference in March to end Government control of rail fares. 

In response to another rise in fares, Sarah Olney MP, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Transport, called for an end to Government setting rail fares and an immediate fare freeze:

“It is appalling that yet again people are being hit by another grossly unfair Government approved hike in rail fares.

"Enough is enough. The Chancellor’s budget should announce taking ticket prices out the hands of Government and give power to an independent agency with real teeth to give a fair deal to passengers.  This new agency should be told on day one their mission is to not only immediately freeze fares, but to also pave the way for a fairer and simpler system.

“The Government keeps telling us to put up and shut up every year with inflation busting increases in ticket prices.  This should be the end of the line for Government control of fares.

“We have been told for too long rail fares will be made simpler, but passengers too often get conned by a complicated system which is impossible to understand

“I bet if you quizzed the Transport Secretary himself, you would not get a straight answer on what all the ticket names means."


Sunday, February 28, 2021

No child should go hungry while school is out

 Jane Dodds, leader of Welsh Liberal Democrats, says:

None of us want to see children in our community go hungry while school is out. 

That’s why I am proud that Lib Dem Education Minister Kirsty Williams has ensured the Welsh Government provided free school meals over half term in Wales, ensuring children throughout Wales got a decent meal even when not in school.

 

Meanwhile, in England, the Conservatives have been shamed into action every single time. 

And going into this May’s vital Senedd elections, the Welsh Liberal Democrats want to continue Free School Meals over all school holidays permanetley.

If you agree that holiday hunger should not affect any of our children and families, please add your name to our campaign today. 


We must do the right thing and give every child the best possible start in life.

If you agree please back our campaign today.

Friday, February 26, 2021

Ed Davey welcomes people with learning disabilities being invited for Covid vaccines

 
Today, Leader of the Liberal Democrats Ed Davey welcomes the news that all people with learning disabilities will be invited for Covid vaccines. He said:
 
“This news will come as welcome relief for families across the country. I am glad the Government has listened to me and other carers speaking up for our loved ones.
 
“We know that people with learning disabilities are extremely vulnerable to Covid, yet they have far too often been forgotten and ignored by Ministers. The number who have died is heartbreakingly high.
 
“The Government must provide clear guidance and communications to follow through on this announcement, and make sure that both people with learning disabilities and their carers get their jabs as quickly as possible.”

Almost 50,000 asylum seekers trapped in Home Office limbo for more than 6 months

 

The Liberal Democrats are calling for the ban on asylum seekers' working to be lifted, as new Home Office figures reveal that 46,796 people have been waiting more than six months for a decision on their claim.

 

Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson Alistair Carmichael said:

 

“It beggars belief that the Government not only keeps more than 40,000 people waiting for months for a decision on their asylum claim, but bans them from working too. It’s bad for asylum seekers, bad for employers and bad for taxpayers.

 

“Conservative hostility and Home Office incompetence have created a system that no one trusts, and that fails to respect people’s dignity.

 

“Liberal Democrats are calling on the Government to finally lift the ban and give asylum seekers the right to work. That would give them an income and a sense of dignity, and save taxpayers money.

 

“People who’ve come to the UK having fled war or persecution should be welcomed with compassion. They should be enabled to contribute to our society, not trapped for months on just £5.66 a day.”

 

Budget must include refugee commitment as resettlement plummets

 

The Liberal Democrats are calling on the Chancellor to fund an “ambitious, 10-year commitment” to resettle vulnerable refugees from conflict areas in his Budget next week, as new official figures show the number brought to the UK plummeted by 85% in 2020.

The Home Office’s latest Immigration Statistics*, published yesterday, show that just 823 refugees were resettled in the UK in 2020 – compared to 5,612 in 2019 – after the Government suspended the UK’s resettlement schemes in March and has not reopened them.

Meanwhile, the number of people granted asylum in the UK fell by 40%, from 12,561 in 2019 to 7,546 in 2020. The number of children granted asylum is also down by 48% from 3,846 to 1,988.

 Responding to the figures, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson Alistair Carmichael said:

 “We must do all we can to protect people forced to flee their homes to escape war and persecution.

 “The UK has a proud history of providing sanctuary to those in need, but now the Conservative Government is turning its back on refugees.

 “The Chancellor must use his Budget next week to set out an ambitious, ten-year commitment to resettle vulnerable refugees from Syria and other dangerous conflict areas.

 “This is not only vital to uphold our duty to help the world’s most vulnerable, but it is also the best way to combat people smuggling and human trafficking and prevent people from making dangerous attempts to cross the Channel.”

 

*
The Immigration statistics are available here. Data on asylum grants and resettlement are in table Asy D02.

The Spending Review in November included £526 million for the asylum system and refugee resettlement in 2021-22, £460 million of which will come from the reduced international aid budget. However, the Government has still not provided any details of the new Global Resettlement Scheme that was originally due to launch last year.


Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Courts rule Home Office charges unlawful: Lib Dem response

The Court of Appeal has ruled that the £1,012 fee charged by the Home Office for registering a child as a British citizen is unlawful. 

Alistair Carmichael MP, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Home Affairs, urged the fees to be reduced immediately:

“It’s shameful that children are being denied their rights by these outrageous, extortionate Home Office fees. The Government should immediately reduce these fees to no more than the cost of administration.
 
“I’ve almost lost count of the number of times this Conservative Government’s policies have been found to be unlawful. These cases highlight why it’s so important that individuals can hold governments to account through the courts using judicial review.
 
“Instead of wasting taxpayers’ money defending her bad decisions in the courts, Priti Patel should get on with fixing our immigration system so that everyone is treated with dignity and the public can have confidence that it is fair and effective.”

Masks slip as Tories dodge vote on foreign aid

 

Responding to the news that the Government will not give MPs a vote before cutting the aid budget, Liberal Democrat Foreign Affairs spokesperson Layla Moran MP said:

“By avoiding a vote after promising one the Conservatives have confirmed what we already knew: they don’t need legislation to make a temporary cut. 
 
“The Liberal Democrats, who crafted the Act enshrining the target into law, are assured that temporarily not meeting the target is permitted by the law as long as you make a statement once a year. There are no sanctions. The real question is why bring legislation at all. And it would be for only one reason: to make the cut permanent. 
 
“The mask has slipped and we’re now seeing the callous Tories for who they really are. Their short-sighted decision to break their promise to the British people and the world’s poorest makes a mockery of their global ambitions and our reputation on the world stage. The Liberal Democrats will stand up for our international aid spending commitments and work cross-party to stop the UK shirking its responsibilities.”

Government borrowing: Chancellor needs to put people before the numbers

Responding to new figures which show that UK Government borrowing was at its highest levels in January since records began, Christine Jardine MP, Liberal Democrat Treasury Spokesperson said:

“These record borrowing figures demonstrate clearly the scale of the challenge posed by COVID-19, but they must not be seen as an excuse for cutting support and leaving behind those across the UK who are struggling.

"While the vaccine offers hope, the pandemic is far from over and the Government must improve, not reduce help.  Furlough must be extended, the three million excluded must be brought under the Government's umbrella, and struggling small businesses need urgent relief if we are to avert thousands of closures.

“The Chancellor needs to put people before the numbers in the March budget and commit all the support that people and businesses desperately need.”

*The latest data from the ONS on Public Sector Finances UK shows that debt and UK government borrowing was £8.8bn in January 2021, the highest January figure since records began in 1993.

*Government borrowing in the 2020-21 financial year has reached £270.6bn so far, which is £222bn more than a year ago

*The UK's overall debt is now worth 97.6% of GDP – a level not seen since the early 1960s.*


Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Hywel Francis

Aberavon and Neath Liberal Democrats mourn the passing of Dr Hywel Francis, historian and former member of parliament for Aberavon. We extend our condolences to his family and friends.

Ian Sherwood writes:

Very sorry to have just read about the passing of Hywel Francis . {When I was a local councillor and later mayor of Briton Ferry] and he was Labour MP, we had lively political conversations and political difference but he was a man of principle and he deeply cared about the people he served. I could also go and ask him anything . He was instrumental in the passing of Sam’s bill which helped carers considerably. This was done from personal experience playing a big part. He was an active constituency MP and a very interesting historian and lecturer . Perhaps of all the people from different political parties I’ve come across, one of the ones I felt I had most in common with. Thoughts with his family at this difficult time.

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

MPs silenced on future Trade Deals


Reacting to the Government rejection of scrutiny amendments to the Trade Bill, Liberal Democrat Trade spokesperson Sarah Olney MP said:

"The British public have the right to be represented in the negotiation of new trade deals and that means Parliament having its say. It is outrageous that the Government has refused, once again, to back Parliamentary scrutiny in the Trade Bill.
 
"Whether its safeguarding environmental regulations, protecting human rights or maintaining food standards, we have a duty as representatives of the public to scrutinise and vote on the detail of any future trade deal. The Conservatives have voted to ensure that all MPs will be silenced on all future trade deals
 
"Liberal Democrats will continue the fight to hold this Government to account. It is vital MPs have their say on any future trade deals. "

 

Moran: “Outrageous” government manoeuvres deny Uyghurs their day in court

 



Responding to the defeat of the Genocide Amendment by the Government, Liberal Democrats Foreign Affairs spokesperson Layla Moran MP:
 
“The Government used outrageous procedural manoeuvres to avoid any straight vote on the Genocide Amendment and avoid defeat, in a flagrant attempt to deny MPs from having their democratic say. If they were confident in their arguments, why do that? They are running scared of the Commons. By allowing parliamentary committees to rule on genocide, the Government has contradicted its own policy that genocide is a matter for the courts. Both relevant committees have already rejected these proposals.
 
“The Uyghur people have been betrayed and denied their day in court. The Government has turned a blind eye and has chosen to not put human rights first, despite clear cross-party support. Now is not the time for parliamentary games. Now is the time to stand up together against genocide and do the right thing when it comes to our trade policy. We will continue this fight in the House of Lords.
 
“The Liberal Democrats will always fight to protect human rights around the world, and we’ll continue to push this government to do everything it can to end the genocide being committed against the Uyghurs and other persecuted peoples.”

New IPPR report shows Hostile Environment must go

 

Responding to the Institute for Public Policy Research’s new report, ‘Beyond the Hostile Environment’, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson Alistair Carmichael said:

“As this report shows, the UK’s immigration system is broken and it is hurting us all. The appalling Windrush Scandal should have been the end of the Hostile Environment, but despite their apologies the Conservatives have kept their cruel, discriminatory policies in force.

“People who have every right to live in the UK are wrongfully denied healthcare, made homeless, detained and even deported. Public confidence in the system has been shattered. This has to stop.

“We owe it to the victims of the Windrush Scandal to ensure that nothing like it ever happens again. That’s why Liberal Democrats are fighting to scrap the Hostile Environment and build a fair immigration system that works for the UK and treats everyone with dignity and respect.

“We must build a more compassionate UK, where those who choose to come here to work, study or join their families are welcomed for the skills and contributions that they bring.”

Thursday, February 04, 2021

5p a day increase is an insult to carers

 


Reacting to Carers UK yesterday delivering a letter from near 5,000 carers calling on the Chancellor to acknowledge unpaid carers’ contribution throughout the crisis, Leader of the Liberal Democrats Ed Davey MP said:

“People looking after loved ones during Covid are doing a remarkable job, in very difficult circumstances. They deserve much more support.
 
“Millions of unpaid carers have  faced serious financial hardship during the pandemic, and the Government’s plan for an extra 5p a day is frankly an insult. 
 
“That’s why Liberal Democrats are calling on the Government to support carers properly, by raising Carer’s Allowance by £1,000 a year immediately, in line with the uplift in Universal Credit.
 
“This awful virus has shown that Britain is a nation of carers, but it seems Ministers haven’t noticed. 
 
“Liberal Democrats are determined to stand up for carers so we can build a more caring society as we emerge from this pandemic.”
 

Post-lockdown crime surge: Government must act now

 

Liberal Democrats have renewed calls on the Government to restore community policing and youth services, as new official figures show that police-recorded crime rose by 20% after the first lockdown was lifted last summer, returning to pre-Covid levels.
 
Responding to the figures, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson Alistair Carmichael said:

“The steep rise in crime last summer is alarming. The Government must act fast to prevent a similar surge when the current lockdown is lifted.

“For far too long, Conservative Ministers have been trying hard to seem tough on crime, but failing to do what works to actually prevent it.

“Liberal Democrats understand that police need the officers, resources and time to focus on preventing and solving crimes, and that young people need a positive alternative to gangs and violence. That's why we are calling for more community policing and youth services to prevent a return to the record levels of knife crime and serious violence we faced before the pandemic hit.

“Like everyone on the frontline of this crisis, police officers are doing an incredibly difficult job in extremely challenging circumstances. Ministers must give them the support and resources they need to keep people safe from Covid while also preventing crime."


Wednesday, February 03, 2021

Myanmar refugee crisis more uncertain and perilous


Reacting to the military arrest of Aung San Suu Kyi in Myanmar, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs Layla Moran MP urges focus on human rights and refugee crisis:

"Myanmar's military must step back from the brink, end this coup and release all civilian leaders immediately. Democracy and the rule of law need to be respected.

"The Foreign Secretary should use this pivotal moment to urge the international community to secure democratic and human rights of all citizens in Myanmar. Today’s developments are yet another disturbing chapter in Myanmar’s recent history of political unrest, which has already caused a refugee crisis forcing hundreds of thousands of Rohingya people to flee the country. Their future now looks even more uncertain and perilous.
 
"It is time for the UK to step up and lead the world in shining a spotlight on the plight of democracy and human rights in Myanmar, and seek peaceful resolution for all its people."

 




Tuesday, February 02, 2021

Foreign aid cuts expose what the Tories really think

 

 
Responding to the news that the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office aid budget is to be cut by over 25%, Liberal Democrat Foreign Affairs spokesperson Layla Moran MP said:
 
"These deep cuts to aid spending are incredibly concerning. The Foreign Secretary has assured us of the Government's priorities, but I just don't see how we can continue to deliver for the world's poorest if FCDO's aid budget allocation alone is being cut by over 25% compared to 2019/20. 
 
"These cuts tell us what the Conservatives really think, and the lack of any detail on how these decisions were made and what they mean for programmes and initiatives is troubling. In the middle of a global pandemic we need to be stepping up and leading internationally to help the world build back better from this crisis. Instead, we're cutting money from core aid, research and development and more. 
 
"The Liberal Democrats will never stop fighting to protect our aid budget and advocate for the world's poorest. The Foreign Secretary must come to the Commons at once to explain his written statement and be transparent about what these reductions mean."

Cancel debt to aid recovery

 
Following the International Development Committee's calls for the cancellation of developing countries' debt due to the coronavirus pandemic, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs Layla Moran said:
 
"Developing nations are facing a deadly combination of crises caused by the coronavirus pandemic - between increasing food insecurity, stretched medical supplies, disrupted education and more. Cancelling developing countries' debt would provide much needed relief during this unprecedented time. 
 
"The Conservative Government must prove it is committed to helping the world's poorest, and leaving no one behind. 
 
"Liberal Democrats will continue to continue to advocate for the world's poorest and press the Government to reinstate 0.7% of Gross National Income as development assistance, which we enshrined in law."

Friday, January 29, 2021

Deaths in prisons soar to record numbers

 

The coronavirus crisis has pushed the overall rate of prison deaths to a record high, new figures have revealed.

The Liberal Democrats are calling for the Government to release all low-risk prisoners serving short sentences to tackle the spread of Covid-19 in prisons. 

The latest Safety in Custody statistics, released yesterday by the Ministry of Justice, show that 109 prisoners died between October and December 2020 – a 70% increase on the previous three months and the highest quarterly total on record.

Since March 2020, 71 prisoners have died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid, and 51 of those deaths are suspected to be due to Covid.

Figures released in September showed that just 316 people were released under the Government's Covid early release schemes since the start of the pandemic – far short of the “up to 4,000” announced by Government in April.

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

“Far too many people are dying in our prisons. It is clear the Conservative Government hasn't done nearly enough to protect prison staff, prisoners and our communities from the spread of Covid.

“Since the beginning of the pandemic, the Liberal Democrats have been calling on the Government to release all low-risk prisoners serving short sentences and suspend any new short sentences to alleviate the severe overcrowding, so that prisoners and staff can practice proper social distancing.

“The Government must finally listen to prison governors, public health experts and the Liberal Democrats, and take real action now to end overcrowding in prisons and combat the spread of this cruel virus."

ENDS

Thursday, January 28, 2021

How the Food Standards Agency could be given a 'licence to kill'

 

Conservative MPs yesterday voted to overturn safeguarding amendments to a controversial Bill that could give the Food Standards Agency a licence to kill.

The Government’s Covert Human Intelligence Services Bill would create a legal basis for certain public bodies, including MI5, the Food Standards Agency and the Gambling Commission, to give undercover agents complete immunity to commit crimes in the UK.

A cross-party amendment inserted in the House of Lords to rule out murder, torture and sexual violence from being authorised was overturned by Conservative MPs in the Commons this evening. All Liberal Democrat MPs voted to keep the amendment.

Four other amendments were also overturned by the Government, and the Bill will now return to the House of Lords.

Alistair Carmichael, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Home Affairs, said:

"Voting in favour of state-sanctioned murder is another new low in the Conservatives' assault on the rule of law.
 
"I recognise that not everyone shares my views on every issue. But surely we can agree that the state should not be commissioning murder, torture or rape?
 
“This is a dangerous Bill from a Conservative Government that is careless with our rights and freedoms. Liberal Democrats will continue working cross-party to try and fix it."
 

Monday, January 18, 2021

Universal Credit must be extended to carers

 

The Liberal Democrats are calling for the increase in Universal Credit to be extended to anyone caring for a friend, family member or neighbour who cannot cope without their support. 

Parliament is due to vote today on a motion to scrap the planned £1000 cut in Universal Credit.  Liberal Democrat Work and Pensions Spokesperson Wendy Chamberlain MP is pushing for an amendment which would see unpaid carers as well as others who rely on ‘legacy’ benefits to be awarded the increase too. 

Over 900,000 people across the country rely on carers allowance of less than £70 a week, the lowest paid benefit of its kind.  Many struggle to make ends meet, often relying on foodbanks for themselves as well as those they care for.  Liberal Democrats have led the campaign to support the country’s unpaid carers many of whom are facing extreme financial hardship during the pandemic.

She said:

“On Monday, MPs have the chance to right a huge wrong in our society.  Not only can we vote to scrap the planned £1000 cut in Universal Credit but we can also do more to support the country’s carers.  Just calling for this cut to be cancelled is not enough, carers need help now.

“If Conservative MPs choose to blindly back the Government line then they will have to explain to the country why they can find hundreds of thousands of pounds for their mates and party donors but can’t find an extra £20 a week for our nation’s army of carers.”


Fishing anger should be no surprise - Carmichael

 
Liberal Democrat MP for Orkney and Shetland, Alistair Carmichael, has said there should be “no surprise” that seafood exporters have taken to the streets to protest against the disruption they are facing.
 
Dozens of HGVs have been reported around Whitehall in London demonstrating against the blockages they are facing in trade with the EU. Some reports suggest that protestors intend to dump unsailable seafood cargo in the streets.
 
Commenting on the protests, Alistair Carmichael said:
 
“I suspect that it will be a pleasant change for these lorry drivers to be able to drive instead of sitting waiting in a depot or at a port somewhere. It should be no surprise to anyone in Whitehall that our seafood exporters are angry.  That anger will only rise in the coming days if these issues are not resolved.
 
“Talk of 'teething problems' looks more and more ludicrous with every hour that passes.  Fishermen feel betrayed by those who used and abused their support – they deserve better. The Government has a duty to make good the harms caused by their complacency and incompetence.”

Friday, January 15, 2021

Supreme Court ruling is a lifeline for small businesses

Responding to the news that a Supreme Court ruling is set to force insurers to pay out on disputed coronavirus claims Sarah Olney, Liberal Democrats Spokesperson for Business, said:

"This is an excellent result and will provide a lifeline for many small businesses who have been plagued with worry and financial hardship throughout this pandemic.

"Businesses across the UK paid out thousands of pounds in premiums only to be let down by insurance companies when they needed to claim. 
 
"Now they will finally be able to get the money they deserve and are entitled to."

 

Police database blunder is a fiasco

 

 
Reacting to the news that 150,000 records were accidentally deleted from the Police National Computer, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Home Affairs Alistair Carmichael, said:
 
“People will rightly be alarmed that a blunder on this scale is even possible. The Home Secretary must take responsibility and come forward to explain exactly what went wrong, how it went wrong, and what she is doing to make sure it never happens again.
 
“It’s already the case that far too many crimes go unsolved and too many criminals are never identified. This fiasco risks making our communities less safe and the police’s job even harder, at a time when they are already under enormous pressure.
 
“Instead of spending her time coming up with ever crueller and more impractical asylum policies, Priti Patel should focus on getting the basics right and keeping people safe.”