Sunday, December 15, 2013

Welsh LibDems call for more nurses by law

Welsh Liberal Democrat leader Kirsty Williams has been successful in the National Assembly’s ballot to introduce backbench legislation. She will be calling on AMs to support her calls for a change in the law to require minimum staffing levels for nurses in Wales.

Kirsty said: "This change in the law could transform the quality of care provided in the Welsh NHS. It is staggering to see the vast difference in the ratio of nurses to patients in Wales when compared to the rest of the UK. Once again Welsh Labour's poverty of ambition has led to our NHS having to do more, but with less.”

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Little Black Book

So David Cameron’s keeping a little black book of the things Lib Dems have stopped him doing in Government – things he wants to put in the next Tory manifesto.
A copy has been found, and it’s scary reading:

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Peter Black voted AM of the year

In the prestigious annual Welsh Political Awards hosted by ITV in Cardiff City Hall yesterday, South Wales West Assembly Member, Liberal Democrat Peter Black was announced as AM of the year. The judges highlighted his achievement in being the first backbencher to pilot an Act of the Assembly into law. Peter's Mobile Homes (Wales) Act  introduces a licensing requirement for site owners and a requirement for all site owners to pass a ‘fit and proper persons’ test through the licensing procedure.

Friday, December 06, 2013

Nelson Mandela

These are the words of Lindiwe Mazibuko, parliamentary leader of the Democratic Alliance, our sister party in South Africa, on the occasion of Nelson Mandela's 95th birthday. They have all the more resonance today:

As a younger man Nelson Mandela gave up his career in order to take up the fight against apartheid and racial injustice.

In so doing, he sacrificed his own freedom.

At the dawn of our young democracy, President Mandela became the custodian of our new constitution. He demonstrated the political will, courage and humanity which set the tone for reconciliation and forged a spirit of shared nationhood that is still with us today.

As South Africans, we are blessed to have him as the example of an elder whose life is an inspiration and a guide to us all.

Friday, November 01, 2013

Kirsty Williams welcomes coalition announcement

"More accountability and responsibility"

Walesonline reports: "The UK coalition leaders have today announced a series of new measures to enable the Welsh Government to invest in transport infrastructure, such as an upgrade of the M4, and the devolution of stamp duty. The announcement follows the news last night that the Celtic Manor, which hosted the Ryder Cup in 2010, will be the venue for a major Nato summit next year."

Kirsty Williams, leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats, comments: “I am very pleased that we will be able to make advances on the Silk Commission’s recommendations. It is no secret that the opposition and delay to this announcement has come from the Conservative side of the coalition. It has been an uphill struggle to get them to agree to implement these key recommendations. Liberal Democrats have consistently supported greater financial powers for the National Assembly.

“It is a credit to my Liberal Democrat colleagues in government that this announcement has been made after over a decade of Labour inaction and months of Conservative inertia. While constitutionalists and academics will pour over the detail and debate today’s announcement, I want the people of Wales to understand how this will affect their lives.

“For the very first time, the amount of money a Welsh Government spends could be directly linked to success in promoting economic development. That should sharpen minds in Cardiff Bay and would also bring the same level of accountability to Wales that exists in almost all national parliaments.

“Stamp duty devolved to Wales could help lower the cost of buying a house and promote growth in the construction sector. The Confederation of British Industry and the business community believe that, if used effectively, devolving and reforming stamp duty could be a tool for growth and stimulating house building in Wales. This would create the much needed jobs we need in Wales to help our economic recovery. Wales’ devolution package is missing a critical element.

“Unlike most families and businesses, the Welsh government has the luxury of spending money handed out by others. Uniquely, Wales has no power to borrow or raise money. This lack of accountability for how money is raised breeds irresponsibility about how money is spent. Wales must have a proper functioning parliament with additional fiscal responsibilities to create a stronger economy and a fairer society.

“I know that the Liberal Democrat side of the coalition is working hard to ensure that we achieve this aim. At every stage we have been pressing, and we will continue to press, to bring more accountability and responsibility to the Welsh Government.  We want Wales to have further powers to drive forward Wales’ economic development, creating jobs and prosperity for our people.”

Monday, October 28, 2013


Aung San Suu Kyi was presented with the Sakharov human rights prize in the European Parliament last week. She told MEPs that in 1988, when she founded the Movement for Democratic Reform in Burma, many of the democratic countries now represented in the European Union were still communist dictatorships.

It was a timely reminder that we too often take for granted the European Union's enormous achievement in promoting peace, democracy and the extension of human rights. UKIP people dismiss this and claim that the collapse of the 'iron curtain' was due to NATO. They ignore the values that inspire and underpin EU partnership, and the decision-making procedures that tie governments and politicians together. Lots of jaw-jaw, as Churchill might have said.


Saturday, October 26, 2013

LibDems in Europe fighting waste

Earlier this year, Nick Clegg said that when we are having to tighten our belts at home it would be wrong for the EU to press ahead with big spending increases. He was right then and he is right now. This is why Liberal Democrats in Brussels backed moves to cut the EU budget by 8bn Euros.

Despite this fact, this week our friends at the Daily Mail reported that Lib Dem MEPs voted for an increase in the EU budget. The truth is that not a single Liberal Democrat voted for more spending from Brussels.

Liberal Democrats are committed to building a more streamlined and efficient EU, by cutting back on administrative costs and wasteful spending. That is why we have fought for billions of euros of cuts including on staff salaries, MEP allowances and trips abroad.

[Hat-tip to Liberal Democrat Voice and George Lyon MEP]

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

European Liberals prevent restrictions on E-cigarettes

Mary Reid writes in Liberal Democrat Voice:

In the European Parliament earlier today, MEPs backed a Liberal Democrat amendment which will ensure that electronic cigarettes are available for sale on the same basis as tobacco.
The original proposal from the Commission was that e-cigs should be treated as medicines, which would have restricted sales. But the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe  (the Group to which our Liberal Democrat team belongs) argued that they had a major role to play in reducing tobacco-related deaths. The amendment did require e-cigs to meet safety standards and for advertising to be restricted.
We have received comments from two of our MEPs who have been actively involved in this issue.
Chris Davies says:
E-cigs can be a game changer in the fight against smoking.  Hundreds of former smokers have written to tell me that they have helped them give up cigarettes when nothing else worked.
They are successful because they are not medicines but products that smokers enjoy using as an alternative to cigarettes.
Every year 700,000 people in Europe die of smoking-related disease. We should not do anything that makes e-cigs harder to obtain than tobacco cigarettes.
Rebecca Taylor says:
Many smokers have already quit tobacco by switching to electronic cigarettes; today’s vote will help more of them to do so.

Saturday, October 05, 2013

Tweet from LibDem electoral guru

Good news: latest quarterly stats show Lib Dem membership up. 1st time that's happened outside a general election in a decade

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Vince Cable's directors' pay reforms come into effect today

Under legislation piloted by Liberal Democrat minister for Business, Innovation and Skills, Vince Cable, companies will for the first time be subject to a legally binding vote on pay policies. From today, shareholders will finally have the power to link pay of directors to their performance, instead of merely registering protests through advisory votes on remuneration reports.

More on the application of the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act here.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Peter Black's Park Homes Act

Liberal Democrat Assembly Member Peter Black saw his Private Members Bill to protect mobile home residents passed into law in Cardiff yesterday.

The new law will not apply to holiday sites - only to sites where people have permanent homes.

"Under the current law there is little protection for residents from unscrupulous park homes site owners, a minority of whom may exploit their position for personal gain," Mr Black said, "Many of Wales's 96 park homes sites are run well but there is little legal help when disputes arise.

"Problems can include poor site management and vetoing or deterring legitimate sales.

"My bill will stop this unfairness. Wales will have a new system that will protect people by bringing in fair, easy-to-use processes and clear rights for both residents and site owners."

'Fit and proper'

Mr Black said there would be a "fit and proper" persons test for site owners, and a licensing system to give home owners confidence that the site they live on is effectively managed.

There is more in BBC News.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Under-occupancy penalties

This afternoon, Federal Conference in Glasgow passed the following:

Conference accepts there is under-occupancy of social housing, and all tenants, including pensioners, should be encouraged to live in homes that meet their housing needs.

Conference is concerned that the Government’s extension of Labour’s policy of reducing housing benefit entitlements for private rented sector tenants considered to have spare bedrooms to the social housing sector is discriminating against the most vulnerable in society.

Conference also believes that:
I. The majority of rural and urban areas outside large cities such as London have insufficiently large, diverse and dynamic social housing markets to make moving into a smaller property locally a viable option
II. There is lack of appreciation of the housing requirements of children and adults with disabilities and care needs
III. Insufficient funds are allocated to Discretionary Housing Payment Funds of Local Authorities to meet demand and there is insufficient support for tenants to apply and to challenge decisions
IV. In many areas it is more important to free up family homes with three or more bedrooms than two bedroom homes.
V. The implementation of policy paper 104, Decent Homes for All (2012), should be a priority for

Conference welcomes:
i) Scottish Liberal Democrats passing a motion against the policy.
ii) Actions taken by councils to mitigate the harmful effects of this policy on the most vulnerable, including reducing the dangers of eviction caused by arrears.
iii) The work of many, including voluntary organisations, in supporting those applying for discretionary payments and highlighting the injustices caused by this policy.
iv) The changes successfully demanded by Liberal Democrats in Government to protect some of the
most vulnerable, including exempting foster carers and families of members of the Armed Forces.
v) The increase in the Discretionary Housing Payment fund from £60m in 2012/13 to £155m in 2013/14
vi) The success of the Liberal Democrats in Government in securing an additional £35m fund to help claimants affected by the removal of the spare room subsidy who need extra support - this funding consists of £5m for rural areas with very isolated communities, £10m for all local authorities and £20m as a bidding fund for local authorities who can demonstrate that they have or are developing a robust policy to distribute discretionary housing payments and who have an additional need for funding achieved by Liberal Democrats in Government.

Conference calls for further action by Government, including:
1. An immediate evaluation of the impact of the policy, establishing the extent to which larger homes are freed up, money saved, costs of implementation, the impact on vulnerable tenants, and the impact on the private rented sector.
2. A redrafting of clear housing needs guidelines in association with those representing vulnerable groups including the disabled, elderly and children that are responsive to local circumstances.
3. Acceptance that some Councils and Housing Associations have calculated rent by reference to bed spaces (not bedrooms) as some rooms can and should only house one person: this should be reflected in the DWP calculation of housing benefit.
4. A review of the amount allocated to Local Authorities for the Discretionary Housing Payment Fund and guidelines on the use of these funds and appeal processes.
5. The development of practical strategies to encourage pensioners to downsize where a single person or couple lives in a three or more bedroom home.
6. In the context of new guidelines an assessment of the current and future demand for social housing and the use of this at local level to facilitate planning to get the right homes in the right place.
7. Until any new guidelines are in place:
a) No withdrawal of housing benefit to those who are on the waiting list for social housing which fits the current guidelines within their local area.
b) No reduction in housing benefit from their projected housing need for those who, for a period of less than six months, temporarily have a smaller housing need due to a change in their circumstances, but whose need will predictably return to a higher level (e.g. whose children will pass the age limits for separate rooms within that period).

[as amended]

Friday, September 13, 2013

Autumn Conference

Federal Conference begins in Glasgow tomorrow. There will be coverage on BBC-Parliament, and on Liberal Democrat Voice which will provide background information and comment.

Peter Black AM will represent Swansea and the South Wales West region at conference.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Spare Room Subsidy

Mike German clears some of the myths on Liberal Democrat Voice:

Like many people reading the front page of the Guardian this morning, I was worried by the headline on the pronouncements by the UN special rapporteur on the removal of the spare room subsidy. But it is important to look behind the headline to see that these comments were based on a very brief visit from this adviser, who did not have the time for a detailed discussion with the Department for Work and Pensions to understand the policy. 

If she had done she would have been able to understand that this policy brings the rules for the social housing sector into line with those which Labour already introduced for private rented accommodation. Perhaps then she may have recognised that the policy is designed to tackle long council waiting lists and help those families stuck in overcrowded one bedroom flats – to find somewhere decent to live.

Most importantly, the rapporteur ignored the achievements of the Lib Dems in the coalition in arguing for extra Discretionary Housing Payments to ensure vulnerable people do not have to face extra costs. Because everyone’s situation is so different it is right that we have given local councils control over how this funding is best spent. We have also successfully argued for exemptions for groups such as foster carers. Finally, we have ensured that local authorities in particular need, can bid for extra funding over the course of this year. I will also be making sure that the Coalition sticks to its promise of monitoring the impact of this policy carefully over the coming months.

Sunday, September 08, 2013

Sarah Teather MP to stand down at next general election

This is the text released to her constituents by the Brent (Greater London) constituency office:

In just over a week's time, I shall reach the tenth anniversary of my election to Parliament in the Brent East by-election. I took some time off this summer and found myself reflecting a great deal on the last ten years.
It has been an enormous privilege to serve as an MP in Brent. Indeed, for me personally, so much of the last decade has been both rich and surprising. I am not sure that I would ever have expected to be elected so young, and I certainly never expected that I would have had the opportunity to serve in Government.
The greatest privilege of my work both as a constituency MP and as a Minister has been the gift of being able to share in the private joys and struggles of so many people's lives - many different from one another and very different from my own. I shall always be inspired by the profound courage and dignity I have witnessed in people I have worked with, often in the face of the most extraordinary difficulties.
Of all my parliamentary work, the campaign I remain most proud of is the campaign to get my constituent released from Guantanamo Bay. I shall always count the moment my constituent walked back in through his own front door and picked up his five year-old daughter for the first time in her life as one of the most precious of my life.
In Government, the moment I count as my proudest is the one where I listened to Nick Clegg announce our intention to end the routine detention of children in the immigration system - something I worked hard to deliver, in what, at times, felt an almost insurmountable battle with the Home Office. I feel humbled too to have been able to play my part in delivering the pupil premium to schools and to extend free early education to two year olds, and perhaps the work dearest to my heart, that of reforming the system of support for children with special educational needs.
There have been so many rewards to this work -- too many to list here. But having taken the summer to reflect on the future, I feel now that at the General Election, the right time will be right for me to step aside. I wanted to explain why I have decided not to seek re-election in 2015.
I first joined the party almost exactly twenty years ago, during fresher's week at university. It was then -- and still is now - absolutely inconceivable that I could ever join any other political party. As with most party members, there have always been a few issues where I have disagreed with party policy. But over the last three years, what has been difficult is that policy has moved in some of the issues that ground my own personal sense of political vocation - that of working with and serving the most vulnerable members of society. I have disagreed with both Government and official party lines on a whole range of welfare and immigration policies, and those differences have been getting larger rather than smaller. Disagreements with the party on other areas of policy I have always felt could be managed, but these things are just core to my own sense of calling to politics. I have tried hard to balance my own desire to truthfully fight for what I believe on these issues with the very real loyalty and friendship I feel to party colleagues, but that has created intense pressure, and at times left me very tired. I don't think it is sustainable for me personally to continue to try and do that in the long term.
I want to reassure people in Brent that I shall continue to work very hard to represent them over the next 18 months until the next General Election. My constituency office will remain open five days a week, just as it has always been. I shall be out campaigning for the local elections with my local LibDem team over the forthcoming months and will campaign to get my Liberal Democrat successor elected to Parliament in the General Election. In Parliament I shall continue with my work as Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Refugees and will carry on making the case for a fair and humane immigration system as Parliament considers a new immigration bill in the coming months.
I hope that I have been able to support and represent the people of Brent well as their MP, but I feel rich beyond measure to have been able to do this work here. I shall always count myself indebted to those who gave me this opportunity to serve - to the thousands of constituents who voted for me and to the many Liberal Democrat supporters and members who campaigned and walked the streets for me over three elections. I hope that, over the last 10 years, I have at least gone some way in repaying the faith that so many have shown in me.

Thursday, September 05, 2013

LibDem Eastleigh promotes green growth

Keith House, leader of Liberal-Democrat-controlled Eastleigh Borough Council, writes of his council's commitment to green policies: "The evidence is that the market alone will not deliver change. It could need a nudge but, more likely, it requires a strong prod with financial inducement.

"Take energy. Eastleigh’s approach is to use policy to promote change. Hence the unusual practice of not charging planning application fees for renewable energy schemes."

Now there's an idea for councils in the Swansea Bay area.

Monday, August 05, 2013

Newly appointed peer will work for elected upper chamber

Former North Wales assembly member Christine Humphreys became the latest Welsh Lib Dem to be admitted last week. She told Vaughan Roderick on Sunday Supplement on BBC Radio Wales that she was delighted but still looked forward to the day when there would be a reformed House of Lords, which she didn't want to be named the House of Lords.

Sunday, August 04, 2013

France strikes a small blow against global warming

Chris Davies, Liberal Democrat MEP, writes:

Readers of these NOTES may know of my long running battle to get Daimler, manufacturers of £70,000 Mercedes cars, to apply the EU law that I helped shape requiring car companies to start using air conditioning refrigerants in their new models with a global warming potential (gwp) less than 150 more than CO2.  At present most cars have refrigerants with a horrendous gwp 1.430 greater than CO2.
I hope the torrent of parliamentary questions (PQs) I have tabled, and exchanges I have had with European Commission officials, have encouraged them to enforce the law as firmly as they can, but I also know that the legal process is painfully slow - especially when a member state (Germany) is claiming that there are 'scientific' reasons for their objections.
But now the French have cut the Gordian knot.  While our UK (Tory) minister has decided to leave it all up to Brussels, the French have stepped in and simply banned the registration of new Mercedes vehicles.  So in France you can buy one of the non-compliant vehicles but you can't drive it on French roads.
Daimler sell 29,000 of the relevant cars in France each year so they have gone ballistic!  I thought the French government or the European Commission might bow to arm twisting by Germany, but last week the Commission came out with a declaration that in effect said that France was within its rights.
Vive la France!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Changes at Unlock Democracy

In a farewell email. Peter Facey has announced that he is moving to Australia. His current deputy, Alexandra Runswick will be taking over.

Monday, June 24, 2013

US trade deal

Chris Davies MEP writes:

The hard bit is yet to come

Last week agreement was reached to open negotiations with the aim of securing an EU - USA trade deal. Commanding one third of the world's entire trade it could bring important job-creating benefits to both sides of the pond. But the difficulty will be in agreeing common standards. For example:

Having introduced tough vehicle emissions standards for every car sold in the EU, will we now have to relax these to allow the import of US-made cars that don't meet them?

Will we have to accept the import of meat containing growth hormones - a standard practice in the USA but banned in the EU?

And what about the safety of the tens of thousands of chemicals used in every aspect of production? The EU has a regime that requires every manufacturer to demonstrate that their product will cause no harm when properly used. Are we to relax these standards and put human health and the environment at risk?

I imagine there are going to be some stormy debates ahead. Of course, it could be that the USA will simply sign up to our generally higher standards. And, then again, pigs could fly.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Council tax benefit mess

Liberal Democrat committee member Eluned Parrott accused Welsh Labour ministers of being "far more interested in a having a spat with the UK government than it was in actually helping the people of Wales".  
She added: "Rather than getting on with the job in hand, the then local government minister chose to enter into a game of tit for tat and point scoring with Westminster.  "He continually blamed the UK government for not producing figures he said he needed, but on closer examination we found that not only was this problem not encountered in Scotland and England, but the minister himself admitted that what happens in England was of 'little significance' to him."

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Pre-conference events

Welsh Liberal Democrats hold their Spring Conference this weekend 20th & 21st April. On Friday, Cardiff Liberal Democrats will hold a pre-conference fund-raiser curry night at the Haveli restaurant on City Road at 8 pm.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg will be opening Conference, with speeches later on in the weekend also come from the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander and Welsh Liberal Democrat party Leader Kirsty Williams.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Fewer obstacles for disabled candidates

Last year, Lynne Featherstone MP* launched the Access to Elected Office Strategy to provide additional support for disabled people seeking elected office. The Strategy is designed to level the playing field for potential disabled candidates and tackle the currently low levels of disabled people in political life. The Liberal Democrat HQ diversity team forms part of the stakeholder group for this initiative.  As part of this strategy, the Government has:

  • Set up a new fund to help disabled people who plan to stand for elections with the extra disability-related costs. The fund will be open for applications until March 2014. It will help disabled candidates meet the additional costs they may face compared to a non-disabled person in standing for election, such as extra transport costs or sign language interpreters. Go to for more details.
Please visit for more information about the strategy.

* Lynne is the Liberal Democrat MP for Hornsey and Wood Green. She was Minister for Equalities at the Home Office until her translation to Overseas Development last September.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Neath Port Talbot among unhealthiest boroughs in England and Wales

Analysis of the 2011 census figures has revealed that of the ten local authority areas with the lowest levels of good health, five are in Wales and that Neath Port Talbot is one of these five.

Local Liberal Democrats say that this is a scandal. One sadly has to accept that where a person is born often dictates how healthy that person’s life will be, but more than 13 years of Labour rule in London and Wales has resulted in a more unequal society with a widening gap between the rich and poor. The disproportionate appearance of Welsh local authority figures in this dismal table points to failure by the people in Cardiff responsible for the nation's health since devolution.

Welsh Liberal Democrat leader Kirsty Williams has affirmed: “The Welsh Liberal Democrats believe that reducing health inequalities is a matter of fairness and social justice. We will continue to hold this failing Welsh Labour Government to account; for too long the people in South Wales have been allowed to be left behind.”

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Peter Black AM's advice surgeries

Assembly Member for South Wales West Peter Black will hold advice surgeries in Port Talbot and Maesteg on Friday 1st February. Between 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. he will be in Maesteg Library, and from 3.30 until 4.30 p.m. in Port Talbot library.

No appointment is necessary.