Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Radical drugs reform needed

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

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Rehabilitation over retribution

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

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

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

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

Windrush Day is a victory

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

Liberal Democrat Baroness Floella Benjamin said: 

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

Victory declared for ‘upskirting’ Bill

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

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

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Medicinal cannabis should be made available

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

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

Christine Jardine said:

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

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

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

Friday, June 15, 2018

Cable: This result sends a message to Corbyn

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

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

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

Tories must sit up and listen to NAO

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

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

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Government has been shamed into doing right thing

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

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

CBI warning is a ‘wakeup call’

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

Rewarding Atos and Capita is 'appalling'

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

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

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

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

Conservatives must hold a free vote on Heathrow

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

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

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

Commenting, Vince Cable said: 

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

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

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

Tuesday, June 05, 2018

PM has responsibility to women in Northern Ireland

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

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

Kick USA out of the G7

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

Heathrow expansion is an expensive folly

Leader of the Liberal Democrats Vince Cable has today slammed the Tory Government’s decision to expand Heathrow as an “expensive folly”. He said: 

“Expansion at Heathrow is an expensive folly that will badly hurt the environment both locally and globally. 

“The Conservatives are taking an old fashioned view of aviation that will end up hurting rather than helping regional economies, with a reduction of jobs and slower growth at many airports outside of London. 

“The Liberal Democrats will work with Heathrow’s many and diverse political opponents within Parliament to finally put an end to this project once and for all.”

No need for the Tories to cost the taxpayer more than £2bn

Responding to the news that the Government lost the taxpayer £2.1bn on the RBS share saleLeader of the Liberal Democrats Vince Cable said:

“There was no need to sell these shares now. There was no need for the Conservatives to cost the taxpayer more than £2bn.

"There is continuing uncertainty on a number of RBS’ legacy issues. Ministers should instead have been using their position as the biggest shareholder to make sure management put the bank in order so that the share price recovered before selling any of the stake."

Monday, June 04, 2018

Scrapping immigration cap long overdue

Responding to Sajid Javid's pledge to re-assess immigration caps, Liberal Democrat Home Affair's Spokesperson Ed Davey said:
“The Home Secretary will have the support of almost everyone in Parliament to exclude students and medical staff from the immigration cap, but it’s far from clear that the Prime Minister is willing to admit her long cherished policy is wrong. I hope Parliament can get to vote on this as soon as possible.

“If the new Home Secretary is going to make a genuine change from the policies of Theresa May and Amber Rudd, his changes to the immigration cap need to go way beyond a minor tinker. 

“The immigration cap has never worked because Britain’s economy and public services, from the NHS to our universities, depend on a more flexible approach.

“Major change at the Home Office can’t come quickly enough."

Saturday, June 02, 2018

Rejection of tidal power lagoon a 'historic mistake'

Responding to reports that the UK Government is set to reject a £1.3bn project to build a tidal power lagoon in Swansea Bay, former Liberal Democrat Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Ed Davey said: 

"Tidal lagoons are the obvious next step in Britain's renewable power revolution. The Conservatives' decision to reject the Swansea Bay pilot against all the evidence, not least in the excellent review by Charles Hendry, is a historic mistake.

"This will mean more expensive electricity in the future for British consumers and leave others to lead the world's tidal industry. The opposite of what we thought Ministers meant by Industrial Strategy."

Transport Secretary in ‘parallel world’

Former Liberal Democrat Leader Tim Farron has slammed the Transport Secretary for living in a ‘parallel world’ as the RMT calls for him to be sacked. Mr Farron said: 

“Chris Grayling is always happy to blame everyone but himself for the delays, cancellations and other problems facing so many train users.

“He seems to live in a parallel world to everyone else, where the running of trains is totally unrelated to himself and his Department.

“People are being forced to miss hospital appointments, work and exams. The Transport Secretary needs to wake up to this and act, not least before the public have had enough and it is too late for him.”

Friday, June 01, 2018

Trump a 'petulant three-year-old'

Liberal Democrat Brexit Spokesperson MP Tom Brake has branded President Trump as a "petulant three-year-old" over his handling of steel and aluminium negotiations with the EU. 

The remarks come as the head of UK Steel warned that EU leaders have a "gun held to their head" over the threat of US tariffs on steel imports. The US tariffs came into effect this (Friday) morning.

Mr Brake said:
“Trump has handled these complex trade negotiations with all the delicacy of a petulant three-year-old. Had he been a contestant on his own show, he would have already been fired. 
“There is a hard truth that UK Government ministers must learn from this stand-off. If they think going it alone with Brexit will enable them to strike more favourable deals with the US, they are sorely mistaken. 
“Given the choice of working with our EU partners in the largest trading bloc in the world, or dealing alone with Trump’s bully-boy tactics, my money would be with the EU.

“That is why Liberal Democrats are calling for the people to have the final say on the Brexit deal and an opportunity to Exit from Brexit.”

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Yet another example of Brexit weakening UK security

Responding to reports that the EU plans on blocking UK participation in the new €500m European Defence Industrial Development Programme, former Leader and Liberal Democrat Defence Spokesperson Ming Campbell, said:
“This is yet another example of Brexit compromising UK security. The participation of the UK in the programme would maximise security for, not just the UK, but all member states of the EU.
“The UK's defence spending is the highest in Europe, with the greatest contribution to military industrial development. This is a clear example where the EU needs UK and UK needs the EU. The security of the continent of Europe should be paramount for all those affected by it.”

Poor training compounds Universal Credit domestic abuse misery

Responding to a report by the Work and Pensions Committee that reveals Jobcentre Plus staff do not feel equipped to deal with critical issues like domestic abuse, Liberal Democrat Work and Pensions Spokesperson Stephen Lloyd said: 

"Universal Credit is paid to one person in the household, often the man. In some cases, this has led to domestic abuse victims being deprived of money, and less able to escape their dangerous home situation.

"A month ago I wrote to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions to raise these concerns. I have yet to receive a response.

“Compounding the misery, this report reveals that a lack of training among DWP staff prevents them from dealing with domestic abuse. Now more than ever the Government must get a grip and make it easier for domestic abuse victims to have money paid into a separate bank account.”

Brexit will devastate food and farming standards

Responding to the LGA's report outlining the effects of Brexit on the UK food and farming industries (pdf here), former Liberal Democrat Leader and Spokesperson for the Environment and Rural Affairs, Tim Farron, said: 

"Withdrawing from the EU will entail severing ties to fundamental regulatory bodies responsible for maintaining food standards. It is clear that the Tories have no substantial plans to replace or replicate this key, underappreciated element of EU infrastructure.
"The UK makes routine use of these bodies, which ensure that the food on our plates is a high quality, and provide incentives for responsible, sustainable farming.
"This report highlights the devastating implications of Brexit to farming and food standards, and the Tories must sit up and listen."

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Parliament food waste is “shameful”

Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran has branded an increase in food waste from the House of Commons as “shameful” and has called for surplus food to be donated to charities.
Ms Moran has revealed through parliamentary questions that there has been a 116% increase in food waste from the House of Commons in just three years.
The House of Commons Commission confirmed to Ms Moran that in 2015/2016 there was 130,384 kg of waste, which has since dramatically rocketed to 282,133 kg in 2017/2018.
Commenting, Ms Moran said:
“It is damning that there has been a 116% increase in food waste from the House of Commons in just three years. Meanwhile, food banks struggle to meet demand and homeless people beg for money for food outside Parliament’s own doors and in town centers across the country.
“The Commons authorities really must make sure that good surplus food is donated to charities and as much as possible of the rest is composted.”

Afghan civilians must be protected

Responding to reports that a scheme to protect Afghan civilians who worked as interpreters for the Army has not resettled a single person in the UK, Liberal Democrat Armed Forces Spokesperson Jamie Stone MP said: 

“As the parent of someone who served several times served in Afghanistan, I am keenly aware of the UK Government's duty of care to all Afghan civilians who bravely assisted our forces.

"Their work no doubt saved lives, and we must look after theirs. 

"Ministers must re-double their efforts and ensure criteria for resettlement are fit for purpose."

Thursday, May 24, 2018

SMI is another cack-handed benefit change

Figures published by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) show that 29,000 Support for Mortgage Interest (SMI) loan claimants still haven't been successfully contacted by the Department, one month after the changes came into force. 

The update on the uptake of SMI loans also shows that of those contacted, 60% or 45,000 have turned it down, meaning they have lost the payment.

Commenting on these figures, which are accurate as of 16th May 2018, Liberal Democrat Work and Pensions Spokesperson Stephen Lloyd said: 

“These lamentable figures show that thousands of people have still not responded to the significant changes on mortgage interest loans being pushed by the DWP.

"Is this because they are closing their eyes and hoping it will go away or is it because their vulnerability means they just don’t understand what the change means? Who knows.

"What it does prove is this is yet another cack-handed benefit change by the Tories which is wholly unnecessary, and is already causing anxiety amongst some of our most disadvantaged, marginalised citizens.

"Even at this late stage I would urge the Government to cease the roll-out before even more people end up in greater debt.”

Javid must back up words with action

Speaking following the new Home Secretary’s first speech to the Police Federation, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson Ed Davey said:

"Warm words are not enough to gain the trust of hard working police officers who have faced the tough consequences of this Tory Government slashing police budgets and police numbers.
“Violent crime is on the rise and police officers are facing ever greater danger in order to protect our communities. They are rightly proud to do their job, but we must back them up with the resources they need.
“Time will tell if the Home Secretary can convince the Treasury to change tack and increase police budgets. So far his predecessors have failed to do so.

“Meantime, we still await action to recruit more community police officers and investment for specialist anti-knife crime projects and youth services.”