Friday, March 28, 2014

The party president writes

Here is part of Tim Farron MP's commentary on the LBC debate:

Nigel Farage made that awful statement that the EU ‘has blood on its hands’ in the Ukraine. He seemed to be reading the Kremlin’s ‘talking points’. I personally could not believe that his hatred of the EU is so deep and so myopic that he was prepared to side with Vladimir Putin against the people of Ukraine.

I cannot understand that mind-set. I cannot understand how you can side with Putin because you hate the EU so much. It wasn’t just a crass throw away remark, it was offensive to the thousands of protesters (as well as the families of the 100 murdered protesters) who stood up for values that we should share and support.

Paddy said Mr Farage had shown “inexperience” in world affairs and he’s right. But isn’t that deeply concerning for a party leader and MEP of 15 years standing? I compare him to our MEPs – Catherine Bearder, Edward Macmillan-Scott, Sharon Bowles. There is no comparison. They are people of substance. Nigel Farage is not.

I know that in the next debate Nick will win again. Not just because the arguments are on our side, but because when the public hear our arguments, put forward by a brave politician making the case that so many others are too timid to make, they will be won over.

Britain is better in, than out. Britain is stronger in the world within the EU. That’s why I agree with Nick.

Friday, March 14, 2014

The Cooperative movement and liberalism

Thanks to Liberal Democrat Voice for the following:

  • Arthur Seldon on Liberal, Labour and Co-operative from 1949
    From “Liberal Magazine” Nov 1949
    “A Liberal looks at the Co-operative Movement, declares
    Alliance with Labour is dangerous”
    The co-operative movement is a liberal institution. It was born in a liberal economy. It grew in an era of political and economic liberalism. It will survive and prosper only in a liberal State.
    Its alliance with the Labour Party is a profound and tragic blunder. Its principles, its purpose and prospects as a trading organisation, and its political policies make its most natural and congenial political home the Liberal Party.
    First, its principles are liberal. The co-operative movement is a voluntary association of individuals who join and leave at will. It is based on the voluntary principle, without which is loses its soul. It lives by serving the consumer in a free economy independent of the State. It could not breathe in a regime of compulsion, direction and State control.
    Secondly, its business structure and development makes its Labour alliance incongruous, out-moded, and dangerous. Changing distribution of income and social groupings are leading it to expand and extend its services and activities. The bulk of its members are drawn from skilled workers whose incomes and requirements are approaching those of the old middle classes. The new members of recent years have come mainly from the middle classes, and the expansion has been mainly in the South. It is a far cry from the groceries, the coal, and other staple commodities of the Northern working classes to the fashion goods, the television and the department stores of the 1950′s.
    The co-operative veteran must rub his eyes when he reads the current advertising campaign of the C.W.S with its “co-op. customers” – the dentist, the teacher, the colonel and other middle class figures. How is the movement to continue to expand along these lines – the only lines along which it can expand – if it is tied to a political party which potential members, for reasons good or bad, fear or distrust?
    Thirdly, a free consumers’ co-operative movement has no business to be allied to a party largely financed by a producer interest, the trade unions, and inspired by Socialist ideology based on belief in the efficacy of State control. The National Council of Labour is not a triumvirate of like-minded equals; it is an unconvincing facade for irreconcilable opposites.
    The co-operative movement’s differences with the trade union element in the Labour movement are typified by its attitude to the licensing of shops. Can any co-oiperative official or member endorse U.S.D.A.W.’s demand for this reactionary and illiberal device for the control of retail outlets?
    And the inevitable conflict with the philosophy and practice of Socialist planning has been laid bare in the compromises and the concessions which preceded the final draft of “Labour Believes in Britain”. No doubt face saving formulae will be found by the Labour Party negotiators in the effort to keep the goodwill of the movement at least until the coming general election is over. But is the movement faithfully served by buying a few more years of immunity? The clash must come sooner or later.
    The co-operative official or member who convinces himself that the nationalisation of wholesaling and other co-operative activities can be put in cold storage for ever, or who gives credence to seductive talk of the movement being “allowed” to run a part of a Socialist economy, is indulging in wishful thinking that does no credit to his judgment and no service to the movement.
    He has forgotten that there is a co-operative movement in Russia that is “allowed” to run a sector of the economy – now expanding, now contracting at the will of a commissar. But is this poor thing, this convenient instrument of a total State, unfree, dependent, a mockery and a travesty of the hopes of the Rochdale Pioneers, held up as a desirable fate for the British co-operative movement?
    But if the Co-operative-Labour alliance is a mistake, on what does it rest? There is the sentiment of he working-class origin of both organisations, a sentiment which neglects the long distance both have travelled since their early days. Then there is that universal Aunt Sally, “the capitalist system”, which means all things to all men, a convenient thought-stifler when awkward questions arise. And a few words about “production without profit”, or about that wildly impossible “Socialist and Co-operative Commonwealth” could always be relied on to raise a cheer or quell the doubts of those who think for themselves.
    What are the facts of history? From the very first the alliance with Labour was never an easy one. Only ten years after it was born, doubts and fears were expressed by co-operative spokesmen about Labour policies, such as Dr. Addison’s producer-controlled agricultural marketing boards.
    More than once in the 1930′s Lord Rusholme (then Mr R. A. Palmer) and others spoke out against the monopoly legislation of the Labour Government of 1929-31, later adopted and enlarged by the “National” Governments of Macdonald, Baldwin, and Chamberlain, and supported in principle by Labour in Opposition. These co-operative spokesmen were supported not by the Labour Part, which was too concerned with trade union interests, but by the handful of Liberals who understood the economic and political dangers of monopoly in all its forms.
    It has taken four years of Labour in power to make the dangers too plain to be ignored. It is not merely a question of the nationalisation of a few co-operative activities in wholesaling and insurance. These are only the first steps. The ugly truth is that, however “liberal” some of its paper intentions, Labour’s philosophy is the antithesis of that on which the co-operative movement and other Liberal institutions rest. For underlying it is the impudent assumption that no voluntary association of free individuals can be superior to the State.
    The co-operative movement wants the freedom to develop in those fields in which, by trial and error and in rivalry with other forms of distribution, it proves itself in the interests of the community. It seeks no artificial respiration, but it rejects doctrinaire exclusion. This is precisely what a Liberal economy implies, and what the Liberal Party stands for.
    In a Liberal economy there is room for all forms of enterprise – companies and one man businesses working for “profit”, profit-sharing enterprises of all kind, and “mutual aid” organisations such as the co-operative movement. The only activity for which there is no room is monopoly.
    The Liberal Party does not stand for one kind of economic organisation against the others. It stands for the progressive elements in all forms of economic life against the backward-looking elements. It calls for room for all forms of activity provided hey benefit the community. And in its policies of freedom for enterprise and the prevention or destruction of monopoly, it truly serves the consumer. Here surely is the voice of sanity. It is the voice of the progressive in all forms of human activity, co-operative and all other; it is the voice of the Liberal.
    The hour is not too late for co-operators to see the truth and to warn their colleagues and their fellows. Many have paid uneasy lip-service to Socialist ideals in which they had no faith. Many have quelled doubts by representing themselves as “liberal-minded Socialists”. Misplaced loyalty to the established political strategy is treachery to the principles of the co-operative movement. To speak out now may be to incur the displeasure of the articulate minority who have vested interests in the Socialist alliance. But to remain silent is to earn the reproach of the multitude whose hopes will be crushed by the prostitution of the movement in a Socialist State.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Social housing continues to rise in England under the coalition

What is happening in Wales?

Digital Bill of Rights

Tim Berners-Lee has called for a digital bill of rights.

Last Sunday, the Liberal Democrats passed the following motion (amendment indicated by change of typeface) at their spring conference in York, in  spite of some resistance by Martin Horwood over the lines relating to the collection of bulk data. (Martin Horwood is the MP for Cheltenham and therefore for GCHQ, and both his parents worked for the security services.) :

F19 A Digital Bill of Rights
Mover: Tim Farron MP
Summation: Dr Julian Huppert MP (Co-Chair, Parliamentary Party Committee on
Home Affairs, Justice and Equalities)

Conference believes:

i) Monitoring or surveilling people without suspicion is alien to our
traditional British values.

ii) That systematic surveillance of people's communications and online
activities undermines a number of fundamental human rights, including
the right to respect of private life and correspondence, freedom of
expression, of association, of conscience and of religion; that these
rights are essential in safeguarding the democratic principles of our
society; and that any interference with these rights must be necessary
and proportionate.

iii) That our online communication and behaviour should be treated with
the same respect and legal due process that we expect for our offline
communication and behaviour.

iv) That the internet has the power to liberate, to educate, to bring people
closer together, and to boost our economy; and that such potential will be
undermined by government control, surveillance and censorship.

v) That the indiscriminate harvesting and storage of the communications
and metadata of people without suspicion is incompatible with our
liberal and democratic principles, and has the potential to cast a chilling
effect on free speech and free association.

vi) Whilst there are legitimate concerns surrounding national security, such
concerns must not be invoked simply as a pretext to undertake blanket
surveillance, stifle investigative journalism, or discourage public debate.

vii) That the work of the intelligence and security services is essential to the
underpinning of a free, fair and open society, and that clear public
agreement as to their remit and the extent of their powers would be to
their benefit as well the country more broadly.

Conference endorses:

A. The International Principles on the Application of Human Rights to
Communications Surveillance, which emphasise that any surveillance of
citizens by the state must be necessary and proportionate.
B. The United Nations General Assembly resolution on the Right to Privacy
in the Digital Age (A/C.3/68/L.45), emphasising that the same rights that
citizens have offline must also be protected online.
C. The Reform Government Surveillance Principles signed by Apple,
Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Yahoo, LinkedIn, Twitter and AOL, which
call for overhaul of the oversight, accountability and laws governing
government surveillance programmes in order to restore the balance
between security and liberty and to restore public trust in the internet.
D. Existing Liberal Democrat policy that data belongs by default to the
individual to whom it refers; this ownership of data means that the
individual citizen has a right to access all their own data and, where
reasonable, can decide who else has access.
E. The Deputy Prime Minister's decision to veto the unworkable and
disproportionate Communications Data Bill.

Conference therefore calls for:

1. The annual release of Government Transparency Reports which publish,
as a minimum, the annual number of user data requests made by law
enforcement, the intelligence agencies, and other authorities, broken
down by requesting authority, success rates, types of data requested
and category of crime or event being investigated.

2. The establishment of a commission of experts to review state
surveillance and all recent allegations from the Edward Snowden leaks,
with specific scope to:
a) Scrutinise relevant legislation including the Regulation of
Investigatory Powers Act 2000, the Intelligence Services Act 1994
and section 94 of the Telecommunications Act 1984.
b) Assess the implications for privacy and internet freedoms of Project
Tempora and other programmes revealed by the Snowden leaks,
and consider alternatives to the bulk collection of data.
c) Review powers, scope, appointment and resources of oversight
committees, commissioners and tribunals.
d) Consider the use of judicial involvement and approval for
surveillance and for access to communications data and metadata
likely to reveal sensitive personal data.
e) Publish its findings and recommendations.

3. The Government to define and enshrine the digital rights of the citizen to
protect from overreach by the state, through:
a) Ensuring that powers of surveillance, accessing data, and
accessing new technologies are not extended without
Parliamentary approval.
b) Ensuring that government does not undertake the bulk collection of
data and only accesses the metadata or content of
communications of an individual if there is suspicion of involvement
in unlawful activity.
c) Ensuring that oversight of government surveillance is independent,
informed, transparent and adequate.
d) Supporting a prompt, lawful and transparent framework for data
requests across jurisdictions and between governments.

4. The Government to accelerate and expand the midata project, to grant
citizens access to all their data in an open digital format, regardless of
which business holds that data, by using powers under the Enterprise
and Regulatory Reform Act 2013.

Sunday, March 09, 2014

Day Two report

The day was dominated by Europe, both in debate and in the Leader's Speech. In between, the party expressed its concerns about the authorities' surveillance of electronic communications.

The day opened with a discussion without a vote on the topical issue of Ukraine. The debate was opened by Robert Woodthorpe Brown, chair of the party's international relations committee, with a response by Martin Horwood on behalf of the parliamentary party and with a summation from Dr Julie Smith, vice-chair of the party's federal policy committee. In between there were passionate and informed contributions, some from members with first-hand or family connections with Ukraine or eastern Europe.

There followed F18, "In Europe, In Work", a motion highlighting key Liberal Democrat policies for the European election campaign, based on existing policy as set out in last year's policy paper, "Sustainable and Secure". (Text of resolution follows at end of posting.)

F19, a motion developing policy on legislation that would enshrine the digital rights of the citizen and make sure the intelligence and surveillance services are properly accountable to the people they serve. It builds on existing policy on privacy and surveillance set out in conference motion "Human Rights" of 2012. Apart from an expression of vested interest by Martin Horwood, MP for Cheltenham, the motion was enthusiastically received. At least one platform speaker regretted the opportunities passed over by the Westminster parliament to redress the balance in this area. (Full text of resolution is included here.)

The Leader's Speech is available at (video and transcript).

Text of motion F18: In Europe, In Work

Federal Policy Committee
Mover: Martin Horwood MP (Chair, European Manifesto Working Group)
Summation: Baroness Ludford

Conference believes that:

I. Liberal Democrats want Britain to stay in the EU because we are
fighting for a stronger economy - millions of British jobs are linked to
our trade with the EU, and being in Europe gives us more strength
when negotiating trade deals with global players like the US, China,
India and Brazil.

II. Liberal Democrats are working to defend millions of British jobs, create
millions more and put thousands of pounds back in people's pockets
by making it easier for British companies to export and slashing red
tape for small businesses.

III. Liberal Democrats are fighting for safer communities by ensuring our
police forces have access to key EU crime-fighting tools.

IV. Liberal Democrats are fighting for a greener future by working with other
EU countries to combat climate change, create green jobs and reduce

V. The Tories and UKIP are putting millions of British jobs and billions of
pounds of investment at risk by undermining our membership of the EU
while Labour can't be trusted with the economy at home or abroad -
their reckless spending and failure to regulate the banks crippled
Britain's economy while their MEPs support measures that would
impose huge burdens on British businesses.

VI. Liberal Democrats are the party of 'in' - In Europe, In Work.

Conference welcomes the record of Liberal Democrats in the European
Parliament and Westminster in delivering:

A. Jobs - for example through the conclusion of successful trade deals,
EU funding that has created over 200,000 new jobs, securing €60
billion EU funding for research and technology over the next 7 years,
and the creation of a single EU Patent system.

B. Safer Communities - for example through fighting off Tory and UKIP
attempts to withdraw the UK from the EU Arrest warrant, new EU laws
to help British victims of crime in other EU Countries, and stronger EU
co-operation to fight human trafficking.

C. A Greener Future - for example through an agreement for the EU low
carbon roadmap that paves the way towards a low carbon economy, a
radical overhaul of the Common Fisheries Policy to ban most discards
(throwing dead fish back into the sea), EU energy efficiency laws that
will unlock investment in energy saving technologies, and major reforms
to the Common Agricultural Policy that will help cut emissions and
protect our countryside.

Conference resolves that the Liberal Democrat Manifesto for the 2014
European Elections should set out a strong future policy agenda based on
these priorities and the policies adopted in policy paper 113, Prosperous,
Sustianable and Secure (September 2013), including:

1. Creating more jobs by further opening up the EU's internal market,
supporting new EU trade agreements with other trading countries,
cutting red tape and 'thinking small', by reducing unnecessary EU
regulatory costs which particularly hit smaller businesses, promoting
innovation in science and manufacturing and getting British ideas to
market faster, and supporting the European Investment Bank (EIB)
initiative to develop European project bonds in order to speed up vital
infrastructure development.

2. Fighting cross-border crime and defending rights by pressing for a
European Union missing child alert system to be implemented quickly,
setting up a European Union database of unidentified bodies help
families searching for missing loved ones, supporting the work of the
new European Cybercrime Centre (EC3), and working to secure speedy
implementation of the European Commission's new proposal on
fighting money laundering, pushing for a European Union-wide
proportionality test in the use of the European Arrest Warrant, and supporting
the full implementation of 'Eurobail' to allow British citizens to serve their
bail back in the UK.

3. Protecting the environment and creating green growth by committing to
reduce the EU's greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50% by 2030,
urgently strengthening the EU Emissions Trading System mechanism,
pushing for more international grid connections between European
countries to ensure we can meet our climate change goals faster and at
a lower cost, promoting better European energy labelling, and
encouraging sustainable consumption in European Union member
states, including by arguing for the European Union to support the
target of halting net deforestation worldwide by 2020.

4. Building a safer, stronger financial system by ensuring better quality of
regulation in order to protect the economy, businesses and jobs,
fighting for fairer rules that will clamp down on manipulation of energy
and financial markets as exposed by the LIBOR scandal and Brent Oil
fixing investigation, ensuring fairer mortgage repayments and fuel prices
for consumers, supporting alternatives to bank financing for small and
medium sized companies, and pressing for new rules that will force
large companies to disclose the countries where they pay their taxes,

5. Getting a better, fairer deal for consumers by campaigning to abolish
mobile phone roaming charges once and for all, supporting higher
standards of food inspections across the European Union with better
country of origin food labelling, supporting greater protection of
holidaymakers' rights to compensation if their holiday company goes
bust, and making it easier for consumers to gain adequate
compensation when people suffer losses due to malpractice, through
new rules that will make it easier for consumers to take cases together,
reduce the number of court cases and cut costs for the claimants.

6. Building a more sustainable future for rural communities and businesses
by supporting continued reform of the Common Agricultural Policy with
more devolution in agricultural policy, ensuring continued support for
rural communities, particularly upland and less favoured areas, and a
mid-term review in 2017, and promoting a more sustainable fishing
industry in the UK, with the expansion of European Marine Sites, a
100% ban on the discard of edible and other usable fish and want
tougher enforcement of European Union fishing rules by all member

7. Helping to build a safer and more democratic world through a more
effective European Union foreign policy, building more security and
democracy in the European neighbourhood, deeper defence co-
operation in Europe, with the European Defence Agency, in co-operation
with NATO, playing a central role in helping states to pool and share
military capabilities, and better co-ordination of development assistance
provided by European member states and by the European Union itself.

8. Promoting fairness and opportunity by encouraging government and
universities to fully publicise the opportunities available for young people
in the UK to take advantage of EU schemes for studying and working
abroad, and supporting fair rules to underpin free movement of workers,
such as the Coalition proposals to support an EU framework whereby
EU  migrants do not claim benefits before spending six months in the UK.

9. Reforming the European Union by campaigning to end the waste of
having two meeting places for the European Parliament, supporting an
audit of existing European Union agencies and institutions to find ways
to rationalise and find savings, and calling for a guarantee in the next
European Union treaty that both Euro area and non-Euro area member
states have a full voice in the regulation and application of the single

Conference further resolves that Liberal Democrats are committed to giving
the British people their say in a full in/out referendum in the event of
proposals for any further significant transfer of powers from the UK to the
EU, and that Liberal Democrats will campaign for an 'in' vote because it is
overwhelmingly in Britain's national interest to stay in and pursue the
policies on jobs, crime and the environment outlined in this motion.

Thursday, March 06, 2014

LibDem and UKIP MEP voting records compared

Michael Crick concludes:
The former Ukip MEP Godfrey Bloom, who no longer gets the Ukip whip, has a very poor record, having voted in just 26.47 per cent of votes. If one included Bloom (and he is still a Ukip party member) the average Ukip figure would be dragged down to 62.2 per cent.
The Liberal Democrat voting record is very different.
Their 12 MEPs have voted in 87.95 per cent of votes – more than seven votes out of every eight. Even the Lib Dem MEPs’ worst voter, Edward McMillan-Scott, took part in 70.62 per cent of plenary votes.
It makes sense for even opponents of our membership of the European Union to make sure that they get some value for the money that is spent on MEPs' salaries and expenses, and to vote for candidates who will actually turn up to vote on matters they are concerned about.

Minimum Nurses Bill goes forward

Yesterday, the National Assembly voted to accept Kirsty Williams's Minimum Nursing Staff Levels Bill for further discussion.

Kirsty writes:

Over the next 18 months or so my idea will be turned into a concrete proposal, consulted on and scrutinised. It’s a long road from where we are today to the finishing line.

One thing is certain though. The more people who add their support at, the stronger my case will be in the Assembly as my Bill gets debated over the coming months.

I was able to tell Assembly Members today about the thousands of people from across Wales who’d already added their support to the campaign, and I know it made a difference.

As my proposal goes forward to be scrutinised, it’s even more important to have as many people supporting it as possible.

If you haven’t added your support at already, please do.

And if you have, please spread the word, so we can really build a campaign to improve our NHS here in Wales.

Monday, March 03, 2014


We are sure that it's a sheer coincidence that Liberal Democrats are meeting for their spring conference in the old Viking city of York at the same time as Scandimania comes to London.