Thursday, January 28, 2010

Undignified pensions system traps many in poverty

Commenting on figures from the Office for National Statistics showing an estimated 2m pensioners in the UK are living in poverty with a further million in fuel poverty, Liberal Democrat Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, Steve Webb said:

“Labour’s changes to the pension system have not protected many older people from the indignities of poverty.

“It is still the case that pensioners who are forced to rely on the state pension and Labour’s complex and undignified system of means-tested benefits are more likely to live in fuel poverty.

“The Conservatives presided over the erosion of the state pension in the 80s and it has never recovered.

“The basic state pension is simply too little to live on for the millions of pensioners who have no other income.

“We need a more generous, universal pension based on citizenship that would give pensioners a sense of dignity and a stable income in retirement.”

Government has wasted £1.2bn on failed IT projects – Willott

Following the announcement of the Government’s new ICT Strategy, Liberal Democrat Shadow Cabinet Office Minister, Jenny Willott released figures showing that 33 abandoned and 77 over budget Government ICT projects over the last decade have wasted almost £1.2bn in taxpayers’ money and caused a total of 70 years worth of delays.

Commenting, Cardiff Central MP Jenny Willott said:

“The Government has a track record of eye-wateringly expensive IT cock ups that have cost taxpayers billions.

“Labour’s addiction to grandiose computer projects has poured billions of taxpayers’ money down the drain and causedhuge delays.

“The Government has proved itself staggeringly incompetent at keeping information safe. So many CDs, laptops and data sticks go missing that the idea that Labour can be trusted to store huge amounts of personal information is laughable.

“It’s about time this mess was sorted out, but it remains to be seen whether ministers can deliver this strategy on time and to budget.”

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Membership goes up by one

Frank Little writes: we welcome the long-awaited happy news that our chairperson has been delivered of a 8lb 10oz baby boy. Congratulations to Helen and to Jon.

Green generators should have fair recompense

Commenting on today’s YouGov survey for Friends of the Earth and the Renewable Energy Association showing that over 70% of people support a higher feed-in tariff, Liberal Democrat Shadow Energy and Climate Change Secretary, Simon Hughes said:

“It is clear that there is a huge demand for renewable energy and that people all over Britain want to contribute to our energy supply.

“But the Government has been blinded by nuclear lobbyists at the expense of green energy.

“The need for clean, decentralised power generation is more urgent than ever after 12 years where Labour has languished on renewables.

“People who supply green energy should get a better deal if we want to cut energy bills, create green jobs and help cut emissions.”

Nick Clegg calls for whistleblower protection to be restored

The public interest defence for civil service whistleblowers should be restored, Liberal Democrat Leader Nick Clegg told the Institute of Government.

Providing this protection will strengthen the independence of the civil service and would aid officials speaking out on issues in the public interest, as with the dubious legality of the invasion of Iraq.

In his speech Nick Clegg said:

“The Chilcot Inquiry is a powerful reminder of the ambiguity that can surround the role of officials and the ease with which they can be dictated to by politicians.

“Where national security is concerned officials should act with the national interest in mind. But where there is clear need to speak out in the public interest – as with the dubious legality of the war in Iraq – officials must know they can do so free from prosecution.

“The number one responsibility of civil servants must be to the people of Britain, not self serving Ministers. 

“That is why the Liberal Democrats would amend the Official Secrets Act to restore the public interest defence for whistleblowers that was originally removed by the Conservatives.

“If that protection had been in place when the fateful decision was taken to invade Iraq Tony Blair and Gordon Brown might have been more openly challenged by officials who harboured real doubts about the war.

“But without cast iron protection for whistleblowers, it was too easy for this government to bully and cajole the civil service into remaining silent about one of the greatest errors of any government in the post war period.”

Monday, January 25, 2010

Council told to play fair on WHQS vote

Liberal Democrat activists are concerned to find that Neath Port Talbot officers are not providing the level playing-field required for a fair choice by council tenants.

Sources within the "No" campaign complain that:

  • the council has still not provided the geographically-order list of properties promised six months ago;
  • people who display "No" posters have been told that they are illegal and they have to be taken down;
  • tenants who have returned "no" forms have been been visited by council officers and asked to change their mind to the extent that some have felt intimidated.

There is an independent tenants advisory. Officers should not be arguing for or against transfer, if they do, they are out of order.

We need more information on Sarah’s Law trials – Huhne

Commenting on the announcement by Home Secretary Alan Johnson that Sarah’s Law could be extended nationally after four trial schemes, Liberal Democrat Shadow Home Secretary Chris Huhne said:

“We need far more information about these trials before they are rolled out across the country.

“The concern is that this will do nothing for the safety of children and could even lead to an increase in sex offenders.”

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Osborne lied on Conservative bank break-up policy

As Stephen Tall writes on Liberal Democrat Voice, the Conservatives did not propose radical banking reform last July as they now claim, but: "It’s pretty clear when the Tories decided to champion breaking up the banks: when President Obama made his announcement – in the hope that they can coat-tail on his ‘change we can believe in’ schtick"!

Vince Cable put forward a policy of splitting up our big banks as long ago as November 2008.

Another dubious employment selection by Peter Hain

From today's Independent:

The fresh-faced adviser with a vicious bite

Congratulations to David Taylor on his appointment as special adviser to the Welsh Secretary, Peter Hain. You can see why a cabinet minister might want to keep him on side ahead of a general election.

Mr Taylor may look young, but he was previously used as a Blairite attack dog. When a website dedicated to rubbishing Clare Short for attacking Tony Blair began attracting traffic six years ago, people were astonished to learn that its creator was an 18-year-old student from Wrexham named David Taylor.

His other web creations include a site set up in 2006 to defend Blair against those plotting to get him out of Downing Street. But last year, just before the 20th anniversary of the Hillsborough tragedy, which killed 96 Liverpool supporters, Taylor posted this on his website: "Who do I hate most – Chelsea or Liverpool? Liverpool, obviously. You'll never walk again." That last sentence was a sick chant that was directed at Liverpool supporters after the incident. If Mr Hain is wise, he will keep a close watch over his new employee.

Let's hope that David Taylor turns out to be a more clever selection than Steve Morgan, who ran Mr Hain's failed Labour deputy leadership campaign which committed a breach of electoral law, or Phil Taylor, his controversial special adviser.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Nick Clegg launches youth jobs pledge

Liberal Democrat Leader Nick Clegg will today use a new and social media initiative co-hosted by the UK Youth Parliament to launch the party’s youth jobs manifesto pledge. 

On the day that new statistics show the number of young people unemployed for more than six months has doubled in two years, Nick Clegg will announce the party’s plans using Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

The proposals would ensure young people do not spend more than 90 days on Jobseekers Allowance before they get more training, education, an internship or a place on a work programme. 

Today’s announcement forms the next step in the Liberal Democrats’ economic stimulus and job creation package. The plans will invest almost £900m in increasing the number of further education places, giving students financial support to return to college and creating a paid internship scheme.

Commenting Nick Clegg said:

“Young people feel cheated by this recession. 

“Everyone knows someone who has recently left college or university with hopes of starting a career only to find they cannot even get on the lowest rung of the job ladder. 

“We must help them now or they will be left behind in any recovery. 

“Our promise of more training, education, an internship or a place on a work programme will give hope to the nearly one million young people who currently can’t find a job. 

“Facebook, YouTube and Twitter play just as important a role as TV or newspapers in young people’s lives. Politicians can’t ignore new and social media if they want to connect with the next generation of voters.” 

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Brown-shaped hole in Iraq evidence – Davey

Commenting on Geoff Hoon’s evidence to the Iraq Inquiry that the armed forces were starved of cash before the war, having to rely on ‘urgent operational requirements’ for kit, Liberal Democrat Shadow Foreign Secretary, Edward Davey said: 

“Once again we can see Gordon Brown’s fingerprints all over this, but no sign of the man himself. He would have been instrumental in signing – or in some cases not signing – the cheques for military kit.

“The Prime Minister should appear before the Iraq Inquiry before the election to give voters an informed choice. Instead we are being left with a huge Gordon Brown-shaped hole in the evidence.”

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Temporary spikes and dips

Yesterday's figures from the Department for National Statistics showed the Consumer Price Index surging to 2.9% in December. Vince Cable commented: 

“These figures are almost certainly a temporary spike. 

“With inflation expected to fall quickly, it seems unlikely that the Bank of England would want to raise interest rates in the near future.

“Any recovery in the economy is still very fragile, it would be all too easy to destroy it by putting the brakes on too soon. 

“However, the MPC still needs to be acutely aware of the longer term inflationary dangers. 

“With the world economy improving at a much quicker rate than the UK, there is a danger that high food and energy prices could hit our economy before it has had chance to recover.” 

Frank Little, prospective candidate for  Neath at the general election, added: "It is almost certain that the fall in unemployment, reported today, is sadly also a one-off. Not only have the already announced redundancies yet to show up in the figures, but retail activity is bound to slow as VAT returns to its 2008 level. Then there are the unannounced, but likely, sackings in the West Midlands resulting from the takeover of Cadbury, and similar cost-saving measures by multi-nationals as they try to restore their profitability.

"The potential employment gains from Toyoda in Gorseinon do not compensate for the 900 losses at Bosch in Cardiff."

Baby Peter case review still not made public

Lynne Featherstone, the local MP, who has been pressing for the publication, sees some progress.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Libel tourism makes a mockery of British justice

In a speech today on the relationship between science and politics to the Royal Society, Liberal Democrat Leader Nick Clegg called for a reform of libel laws. 

“I am deeply concerned about the stifling effect English libel laws are having on scientific debate.

"The freedom to evaluate critically the work of others is the essence of good quality research. 

“Of course people have the right to protect their reputations from damaging and false statements made recklessly, irresponsibly or with malice. But scientists must be allowed to question claims fearlessly, especially those that relate to medical care, environmental damage and public safety, if we are to protect ourselves against dubious research practices, phoney treatments and vested corporate interests.

“English libel law as it stands is obstructing that process and threatens the public good as a result.

“The prospect of a costly, protracted legal battle hangs over journalists, editors and academics seeking to ask basic questions about the evidence for practices they believe may put people at serious risk. 

“Our libel law and practice have turned a country once famed for its traditions of freedom and liberty into a legal farce where people and corporations with money can impose silence on others at will. 

"I believe in raucous freedom of speech, not gagging orders in our courts. Libel tourism is making a mockery of British justice, with foreign plaintiffs able to bring cases against foreign defendants when the publications in question may have sold just a handful of copies in England.” 

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Only one DNA profile removed from database a day – Holmes

Just 377 DNA profiles were removed from the DNA database last year despite there being an estimated 1m innocent people’s profiles held, research by the Liberal Democrats has found.

More than 5m profiles are held on the database in total. The European Court of Human Rights ruled in December 2008 that the retaining of innocent people’s DNA is illegal.

Commenting, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson, Paul Holmes said:

It is a disgrace that we have got a million innocent people on the database in the first place and it is a disgrace that people are not being taken off.

“A lot of people are absolutely furious about this. The court ruling went their way and yet nothing is happening.

“Police forces have got the discretion to remove profiles, yet some are and some aren’t.”

Friday, January 15, 2010

Sudden cuts could plunge the economy into a prolonged recession- Cable

Responding to George Osborne's admission that the Conservatives would begin to cut spending immediately after the General Election if they won. Liberal Democrat Shadow Chancellor, Vince Cable said:

"Nobody doubts that serious budget discipline will be required in the coming years in order for Britain to maintain its credit worthiness, but it's foolish to set a political timetable with no regard for the state of the economy.

"There's a big risk that if cuts begin suddenly and on a purely political basis that the economy will be plunged back into prolonged recession.

"What is needed is a set of clear economic tests, which include the growth of the economy and employment, as well as conditions in international markets, to judge when contraction of spending should begin or be accelerated."

Earlier, Vince had commented on evidence given to the Treasury Select Committee today by the Chief Executives of RBS and Lloyds:

“Bankers tell us that their bonuses are a reward for their skills and ingenuity.

“At the moment, this seems to involve borrowing taxpayers’ money at half a percent from the Bank of England and then lending it back to us at eight, 10 or even 20 percent.

“It’s hard to find the skill in that and even harder to see how bankers feel that they have a right to collect bonuses for it.

“This is yet more proof that Labour’s badly designed bonus tax is having no effect on bonus payouts.

“The best way to deal with bonuses and achieve a fair deal for the taxpayer, who guarantee these institutions, is to split the banks up. Before this is done an additional 10% levy on their profits should be introduced.

“This is a much more effective solution than a one-off windfall tax and recognises the debt that the banks owe to the taxpayer.”

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Nick Clegg letter to Gordon Brown urging Iraq Inquiry appearance before election

Following yesterday’s Prime Minister’s Questions, Liberal Democrat Leader Nick Clegg is writing to Gordon Brown, urging him to indicate to the Chilcot Inquiry that he would prefer to appear before it ahead of the election.

The text of the letter is as follows:

Dear Gordon,

I am writing to urge you to indicate immediately to Sir John Chilcot that it is your strong preference to go before the Iraq Inquiry ahead of the General Election.

Following developments yesterday at Alastair Campbell’s hearing, your personal role in the decisions that led to the war in Iraq has now come under the spotlight. The notion that your hearing should take place after the election in order that the Inquiry remains outside of party politics therefore no longer holds. On the contrary, the sense that you have been granted special treatment because of your position as Prime Minister will only serve to undermine the perceived independence of the Committee.

As I said to you across the floor of the Commons today, people have a right to know the truth about the part you played in this war before they cast their verdict on your Government’s record. I urge you to confirm publicly that should Sir John Chilcot invite you to give evidence to the Inquiry ahead of the election you will agree to do so.

Nick Clegg

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Assembly Member to hold advice surgeries in Neath and Glynneath

The Welsh Liberal Democrat Assembly Member for South Wales West, Peter Black, will be holding his first two advice surgeries of the year this week.

Mr. Black will be in Glynneath Library on Friday 15th January from 3pm to 4pm. He will then be available at Neath Central Library from 4.30pm to 5.30pm.

No appointment is necessary.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Clegg intends to treat the voters as adults

In a speech today, Nick Clegg laid down the direction of the Liberal Democrats' election campaign. It is clear that the party will treat the voters as adults, being brutally honest where necessary. He said:

"The Liberal Democrats start this election year with a different assumption [from Labour and the Conservatives]: voters know the game’s up for the old politics. 

"Shopping lists of pledges don’t wash any more. The politics of plenty are over. 

"Voters will have no time for implausible promises. But neither are they interested in relentless prophecies of doom and despair. 

"Faced with these new circumstances, I start from three simple beliefs: 

"First, treat voters like grown ups. People know that the country faces one of the greatest crises in our public finances in generations. They know that difficult decisions must be taken. So they want politicians to spell out their priorities, spell out the choices, rather than live in denial about the dilemmas we face. 

"Vince Cable and I have gone further than any other politicians in spelling out some of the steps which must now be taken to address the deficit and redirect money to our priorities: a 10% levy on banks profits as long as they are underwritten by the taxpayer; no to the like-for-like replacement of Trident; an end to tax credits to above average income families; cancelling the Government’s Baby Bond scheme; a £400 cap on all public sector pay increases. 

"These cuts and revenue raising measures are, in our view, unavoidable if we are to persuade people that we are serious about tackling Gordon Brown’s astronomical deficit, let alone generate the resources we need for our social and political priorities. 

"Second, the importance of conviction. I have heard the claim that at a time of crisis in the Government’s finances, values and conviction must take a back seat to the immediate task of balancing the books. 

"I strongly disagree. 

"I do not believe it is possible to balance the books and transform British society, unless you are guided by strong values which guide you through the difficult choices which now must be made. 

"People will support a party that is realistic about the difficult decisions ahead, but guided by optimism and clear convictions about the way forward. 

"The party that will win the argument this year is the party which finds a way of marrying credibility and hope, restraint and generosity, discipline and compassion. 

"And, third, stick to the big ideas. The coming election will be no ordinary election. For once, the hype about the future of Britain being at stake is true. 

"Elections should be an opportunity for us all to ask: where next? - and for voters to choose. 

"The next Government will not only need to deal with the immediate crisis in the public finances. 

"It must reinvent our rotten political system, heal the social divisions which still thwart the hopes of millions, and put our economy on a new, more balanced, more sustainable footing. 

"None of this can be achieved if we merely tinker at the edges. Talk of change is cheap. Delivering big, permanent change is the real challenge. "

Friday, January 08, 2010

Conservative tax proposals incoherent or unfair

Commenting on David Cameron’s admission that he ‘messed up’ over his plans for a marriage tax break, Nick Clegg’s Chief of Staff, Danny Alexander MP, said: 

“David Cameron didn’t just mess up because he blundered in an interview, he messed up because his policy is incoherent and fundamentally unfair. 

“It is unfair because it gives tax breaks to married couples where one person can afford to stay at home, but does nothing for couples who both work.

“It is unfair because a family that loses one parent will have their tragedy compounded by an effective tax rise.

“And it is unfair because ultimately it takes money from the pockets of poorer families and gives it to rich ones.

“When the country is mired in recession and public finances are in a dire state, this is a mess that we cannot afford.

“Labour has failed to deliver fairness and the Tories can’t be trusted to make the country fairer. Only the Liberal Democrats will build a fairer Britain.”

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Liberal Democrat MP calls for more gas storage

After the announcement that a second gas balancing alert went out today, the demand by John Hemming for more gas storage capacity to be provided, and, in the mean time, for imports to be increased, has become more urgent.

Mr Hemming has been concerned about UK's gas supply situation for many years.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Liberal Democrats up for real change, not up for sale.

Nick Clegg pledges that there are no backroom deals or under-the-counter “understandings” with either of the other two UK parties. He restates the core values of the Liberal Democrats as fairness in society and real change in politics.