Thursday, December 24, 2015

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Tim Farron's response to the Autumn Statement

This was a deeply political budget from a deeply political Chancellor.  It looks good in the theatrics of the Commons, with Labour divided, weak and inept, but the budget will unravel.
It will unravel in schools next year when they see funding slashed; it will unravel when local councils have to cut services and increase taxes just to get by; and it will unravel when projects can’t be built because of the skills shortage caused by the attack on further education.
The brighter outlook has given Osborne room for manoeuvre, yet he continues an ideological crusade to slash spending and attack working families on welfare.
Today, was supposed to be a Long Term economic plan, but it was a short term economic scam.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Most popular Welsh Liberal Democrat autumn conference ever

The conference committee reported that more people had subscribed to the 2015 AGM and conference held in the Dylan Thomas Centre in Swansea yesterday than at any time in the Welsh Liberal Democrats' history.

There were lively debates on policies for next year's election on rented housing, agriculture, disability, mental health and economic policy, as well as inspiring speeches from federal president Sal Brinton, Westminster MP Mark Williams and Welsh party leader Kirsty Williams. Against a divided Labour party, a Conservative government which is revealing itself in its true colours and UKIP suffering a catastrophic loss of income there is a great opportunity to make progress, though all warned against complacency.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Welsh Liberal Democrats guarding the public purse

Eluned Parrott, Assembly Member for South Wales Central, writes:
Tomorrow I will be voting against the Assembly Commission's budget in protest at the proposed 20% pay hike for Assembly Members.

I cannot accept that, at a time while public services are being squeezed and public sector workers have had their wages held back, politicians should be treated differently.

Politicians from across the political spectrum have criticised this ridiculous increase - now is the time for them to put their money where their mouth is. I challenge the other parties to join us, and send the remuneration board back to think again.

Earlier, Kirsty Williams, leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats, had agreed that more AMs were needed to cope with the increase in powers resulting from the Wales Bill 2015, but added that there should be fewer Welsh MPs as a result, because: "There is no appetite to spend more money on politicians."

Thursday, November 05, 2015

Safe nurse staffing in Wales moves closer

As the Nursing Times reported yesterday, Welsh assembly members passed the motion on the financial resolution for the Safe Nurse Staffing Levels (Wales) Bill. It will now move on to the next part of the legislative process, which will see ministers consider amendments to the bill.

Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats Kirsty Williams, who put forward the Bill at the end of 2013, said that the decision was a signal that ministers would agree for the law to be introduced.

She said the bill was a “golden opportunity” to combat negative media headlines about the Welsh NHS. She added:

The premise of this bill is simple – making sure there are more nurses on our hospital wards means each nurse will have more time to care for each patients.

This will lead to better care outcomes for those patients, and a more manageable workload which might stem the flow of nurses leaving the profession. Nurses in Wales have to care for more patients per head than any other part of the UK. We simply can’t allow this situation to continue.

We must avoid another snooper's charter

Home Secretary Theresa May outlined her intentions regarding investigatory powers last Wednesday in her statement on a draft Bill.

Welsh Liberal Democrat leader Kirsty Williams responded:

“In 2012 the Tories brought forward plans to force internet service providers to keep a record of all your texts, emails and every website you visited. It was an enormous intrusion into our privacy, and a staggering attempt to grab our personal data on a scale we have never seen before.
“The Liberal Democrats were clear then, and are clear now, a snooper’s charter has no place in Britain, so we blocked it. Theresa May’s revised plans that have been published today should not try and sneak these provisions back in again.
“Make no mistake the Liberal Democrats will fight any attempt to bring back the so-called Snooper’s Charter under a different name.”

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Osborne must go back to the drawing-board, says Farron

Leader of the Liberal Democrats Tim farron said after last night's votes in the House of Lords

The Government has been forced into an embarrassing climb down. George Osborne must now go back to the drawing board and come back with plans to balance the books that don’t simply attack working families who are already struggling to get by.

We have sent a clear signal to the Tories that the British people will not accept this scale of attack on the vital support they need.

Tonight’s vote gives people hope, but the threat still looms large.

It is utterly depressing that Labour did not join with the Liberal Democrats to kill off the cuts to Tax Credits completely.

We support the delay in the proposals and the demand for transitional protection, but this alone won’t stop the Conservative’s attack on working families who rely on Tax Credits, or ensure that it really does pay more to be in work than remain on benefits.

The Liberal Democrats will continue to do all we can stop tax credit changes that disproportionately hurt low-earning families, and urge others to do the same.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Welsh NHS performance "not good enough"

Walesonline reports the worst performance in the NHS in five months - nearly 2,000 patients spent more than 12 hours in Welsh A&E departments during September, though figures also showed there was an improvement in the proportion of patients spending less than four hours in emergency units.

Kirsty Williams, leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats, said the latest figures were not good enough .
She said: “The Welsh Labour Government’s own target is that only 5% of patients should spend more than four hours in all emergency care facilities from arrival until admission, transfer or discharge, yet in Abertawe Bro Morgannwg over 22% of people waited longer.”

“It is also very worrying indeed that there has been a huge jump in the number of people waiting over 12 hours in A&E. Being in the accident and emergency department is an incredibly stressful time for a person and these extremely long waits will only add to that stress.”

Friday, October 16, 2015

The EU is about opportunity

The Vote Leave and Leave EU campaigns are "male, pale and stale," writes Catherine Bearder MEP. The board of the Stronger In campaign "represents all sections of society – students, the arts, business and trade unions – and almost half its members are women".

She goes on: "Young people in particular are historically the least likely to vote, but the latest polls show 83% of them want to stay in the EU. [We should emphasise] that the EU is all about opportunity. Whether it is a ski season in Austria or a summer working in a bar in Spain, being in the EU has made it easier than ever before to start a new life almost anywhere in Europe. Since 2007, 100,000 British students have received Erasmus grants to study abroad, giving them a chance to expand their horizons and make friends from all over the continent. Thousands of young people currently live and work around Europe, from Barcelona to Berlin. Many of us now take it for granted, but one central achievement of the EU is that opportunity no longer ends at our national borders. As EU citizens we have easy access to opportunities in 28 different countries.

"This includes the chance to come out and work in Brussels (which unfortunately young Brits don’t often take advantage of!). There are paid traineeship schemes at the various EU institutions [...] which provide an excellent way to get your foot in the door and gain some international experience."

Erasmus also offers a chance to avoid the student loans scheme.

Read more of Catherine's article here.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Welsh LibDem leader outraged by advice session snooping charter

Liberal Democrat politicians have reacted with alarm to yesterday’s ruling on the Wilson Doctrine The Investigatory Powers Tribunal basically shrugged off Harold Wilson’s declaration in 1966 that MPs’ phones would not be intercepted without him knowing, saying that it had no basis in law.
This comes on top of two Police forces abusing their powers to try to find journalists’ sources. If an MP, or a lawyer, or a journalist is investigating the Government for doing something it shouldn’t, the idea that the Government could snoop on that investigation is alarming.
This is why Liberal Democrats from across the UK have been quick to demand appropriate protections.
Kirsty Williams, the Welsh Lib Dem leader said it was outrageous that it was considered acceptable to spy on members of devolved parliaments:
It’s a huge concern that there is no legal basis for the convention limiting intelligence services from tapping the phones of MPs and Peers. However, it would seem that convention doesn’t even apply to parliamentarians outside of Westminster.
People need to trust that when they contact their Assembly Member they can do so securely. Day in, day out, we deal with private and confidential issues on behalf of our constituencies. That trust must never be jeopardised.
It is completely outrageous that it is considered acceptable to spy on elected politicians in devolved legislatures.
The UK Government must ensure the Wilson Doctrine applies for legislatures across the UK.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Liberals and Democrats in Europe success

Although only the fourth largest grouping in the European Parliament, ALDE was the most successful in winning votes in the plenary session just ended. The UK's Liberal Democrat representative, Catherine Bearder, is a member of this group.


More about the make-up of the various groups at

Friday, October 09, 2015

Hospital waiting list figures in Wales rise again refers.
Welsh Lib Dem leader Kirsty Williams said Labour had "lost control of our NHS".
Ms Williams accused Labour of "failure" on public services and a "poverty of ambition".
"NHS staff are working around the clock to offer the very best treatment they can," she said. "Sadly they are having to work in very trying circumstances which is making their job incredibly difficult."

Labour's e-cigarette myth evaporates

WalesOnline reports that a recent survey cannot find a single e-cigarette user who has not smoked before.

Kirsty Williams, Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats, said: “If Labour’s claims that e-cigarettes were a gateway to tobacco were correct, we should be seeing people who have never smoked a cigarette before using e-cigs now.
“In fact, the opposite is true: Labour’s survey couldn’t find a single e-cigarette user who’s never smoked a cigarette before.
“Welsh Labour Ministers must be pretty embarrassed that their own report is undermining their own argument for a vaping ban.
“It’s about time they listened to the evidence, and the thousands of people who have supported the Welsh Lib Dems’ campaign against their proposed ban, and scrapped these illiberal and illogical proposals.”

Thursday, October 08, 2015

We challenge Andrew RT Davies to disown Theresa May's Little Englandism

Federal party leader Tim Farron and Scottish and Welsh leaders Willie Rennie and Kirsty Williams were swift to challenge their Conservative counterparts to disown Theresa May’s “borderline xenophobic” comments in her conference speech earlier this week.

Kirsty said:

Andrew Davies must speak out against Theresa May’s outrageous speech or we must assume that he shares her views. He was right last month to call for extra help for refugees fleeing the crisis in Syria, but his position is at odds with the borderline xenophobia we heard from the Home Secretary.

Britain is socially, culturally and economically richer for our outward looking, tolerant approach. Yet this Conservative government is whipping up fear and mistrust.

The battle for a better Europe started in Bournemouth

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Pause in local government reorganisation

The Local Government Bill was meant to have been voted through on Tuesday but has been pulled from the Assembly agenda
Welsh Lib Dem shadow local government minister Peter Black, LibDem AM for South Wales West,  added: “This is the sign of a Labour Government that’s running scared, afraid of being left red-faced by the loss of a vote. I can’t help but think that if Labour’s minister hadn’t acted so arrogantly on this from the beginning, he wouldn’t have been left with no-one willing to work with him.
“Welsh Liberal Democrats have laid our cards on the table right from the very start: we will not support this bill without fairer votes for local council elections. I sincerely hope that the other parties won’t back down for any less.”

Friday, October 02, 2015

Great Swansea Bay renewable power project under threat

South Wales West AM Peter Black said he is concerned that investors could take their money elsewhere following a green subsidy decision delay from the UK Government
He said: "“I am a big supporter of the Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon, but it is quite clear that the failure of the UK Government to agree the price for the electricity it will generate within the original timetable has led to this delay.
"The danger now is that the project will lose momentum and that investors will take their money elsewhere.
“More seriously, the fact that the UK Government is dragging its heels over the feed-in tariff suggest that they may not be prepared to pay the price the company needs to make the project viable.
"I am concerned that the government’s lack of commitment to the lagoon and to renewable energy generally could kill it off completely.
“The Conservative Secretary of State for Energy needs to give some assurances that this will not be the case and accelerate the decision-making process so that Swansea, and those who want to invest in this project can have some certainty about the lagoon’s future.”

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Welsh Lib Dems attack 'colossal waste of money' on Williams Commission

A Freedom of Information request by the Welsh Liberal Democrats found that a total of £130,332.51 was spent on the Williams Commission, not including staff costs funded from core funds.
Peter Black AM, the Welsh Liberal Democrat shadow local government minister, said: “For Labour Ministers to spend over £130,000 to set up a Commission, only to then completely ignore its recommendations, is a colossal waste of money. Why go through the effort and expense of a full consultation if the response is just going to be ignored?

“Labour Ministers have been stubborn on this issue from the outset – it’s their way or else. Sometimes they seem to forget that they failed to get a full mandate at the last election, and that they don’t have the right to rule like a majority Government with only half the seats.
“Welsh Liberal Democrats are trying to give this Bill a purpose by introducing a much-needed change to the voting system for local council elections.
“If Labour Ministers decide that protecting their dominance in County Halls is more important than voters being able to cast a fair vote at election time, the Welsh Lib Dems will have no choice but to vote down this Bill. I hope other parties will join us in doing so.”

Thursday, September 24, 2015

What did you think of THE speech?

Related image

Euro porky pies

Thanks to the European Movement for this:

TODAY'S PORKY: We only Voted for Free Trade
“We thought we were only joining a free trade zone”
Not true. We were never hoodwinked. We actually left a free trade zone (EFTA) to join the EU, specifically because we felt free trade was not enough. The government, setting out its reasons for applying in 1967, stressed that “Europe is now faced with the opportunity of a great move forward in political unity and we can — and indeed we must — play our full part in it”. And before the referendum in 1975, national newspapers on both left and right were clear that political, not just economic, integration was proposed and would be a positive outcome. 
Email us here about your favourite PORKY and we will put it up on our website.  

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Liberal Democrats' big housing plans

In England, Liberal Democrats are working on a coherent and robust plan for building 300,000 houses a year for many years to come.

Welsh Liberal Democrats have also put housing at the top of their agenda. Peter Black AM writes:

Labour’s poverty of ambition is preventing many people from getting on the housing ladder. 

Yesterday in the National Assembly, Welsh Lib Dem Leader Kirsty Williams AM challenged the First Minister over his government’s failure to build enough affordable homes.

The Welsh Liberal Democrats is the only party with the ideas and ambition to tackle Wales' housing crisis.

We have a plan to double the budget for new affordable homes and build 20,000 homes by 2021. 

Please sign our petition today to support the campaign.

We will also introduce a Rent to Own scheme to allow people to earn a share in their homes over time through rent payments.

These are radical ideas which will help tackle the housing crisis. Please back the campaign.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Liberal Democrats vote to give boost to tourist trade

Federal Conference today voted to support cutting tax on tourism. Eluned Parrott, moving on behalf of Welsh Liberal Democrats, pointed out that 25 of 28 EU member states had taken advantage of a concession on VAT to reduce the tax on tourist accommodation and attractions. Backed by parties from the four corners of Britain, she pointed out that hospitality employed people at many different skill levels, unlike most of the newer industries, and had a good record in career development. Cutting VAT to 5% would initially hit the overall tax take, but would start to pay for itself after three years and would yield gains in the billions over a decade.

Eluned writes:

"Cutting VAT on hotels and attractions will boost tourism, create jobs and put our businesses on an equal footing with those across Europe.

"Now we need to turn this policy into reality. Please click here to sign our petition to cut tax on tourism."

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Most successful Liberal Democrat autumn conference ever

There were not only more attendees at this year's federal conference in Bournemouth, but there were more new members than ever for an autumn conference.

Members were roused by Tim Farron's speech at tonight's rally. The full text is here.

LibDems vote for compassion for refugees

At their federal conference in Bournemouth today, Liberal Democrats resolved, incorporating amendments, as follows:
Suzanne Fletcher (Stockton) moving a successful amendment

Creating Safe and Legal Routes for Refugees

Conference notes that:
I. There are currently almost 20 million refugees worldwide, who have fled war and persecution, including nearly four million refugees who have fled the ongoing conflict in Syria.
II. The vast majority of refugees are hosted by developing countries; for example, only six percent of Syrian refugees have sought safety in Europe.
III. Increasing numbers of people are attempting extremely dangerous journeys across the Mediterranean, with over 100,000 arriving in Europe by sea and nearly 2,000 people dying making the journey in the first five months of 2015 alone.
IV. 33% of those crossing the Mediterranean have fled war-torn Syria, 10% have fled Eritrea, and 18% have fled Somalia and Afghanistan.

Conference welcomes the Liberal Democrat commitment to give sanctuary to UN refugees, as stated in the party’s 2015 General Election Manifesto, Stronger Economy. Fairer Society. Opportunity for Everyone.

Conference expresses concern that:
A. In responding to the migration crisis, Conservative ministers have used dehumanising language to condemn the actions of refugees fleeing was and persecution, and have failed to recognise or address the humanitarian crisis. Some governments across Europe including the UK are making it increasingly difficult for those fleeing war and persecution to seek safety on the continent by removing safe and legal routes and creating ‘Fortress Europe’.
B. The lack of safe and legal routes is forcing refugees to make dangerous journeys, resulting in the loss of life.
C. Current UK policy limits the safe and legal routes available, including through a limited number of places for resettled refugees and overly restrictive family reunion rules that prevent, among others, adult children being reunited with their parents and siblings.
D. Last December, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees called on governments around the world to provide resettlement and other forms of admission for 130,000 Syrian refugees by the end of 2016, yet the United Kingdom has only pledged to resettle several hundred of the most vulnerable Syrian refugees, and by the end of March 2015, just 187 Syrians had been resettled here.

Conference calls on the Government to:
1. Create more safe and legal routes for refugees to seek safety in the UK by:
a) Significantly increasing the number of refugees resettled in the UK through UNHCR programmes, offering thousands rather than hundreds of places to those fleeing war and persecution including via an EU resettlement scheme.
b) Making it easier for refugees to join relatives already living in safety through UNHCR programmes in the United Kingdom.
c) Accept that the best way of arresting smuggling is creating safe and legal routes for refugees, as well as participating fully in EU efforts to tackle criminal people-smuggling which exploits the misery and desperation of vulnerable people, instead of taking a minimalist approach to EU police and crime cooperation.
2. Work together with partners in the EU to find sustainable solutions to the current and long-term migration crisis which has particularly affected Italy and Greece, including opting into a relocation scheme to offer asylum to the most vulnerable refugees from Syria, Eritrea and Iraq.
3. Take leadership within the EU in support of multilateral efforts to help refugees and displaced persons within their own regions and in support of host countries in North Africa and the Middle East which are assisting large numbers of refugees.
4. Continue to advocate for, and contribute to, the European search and rescue operation in the Mediterranean to save the lives of those who are forced to make dangerous journeys.
5. In the long-term, tackle the root causes of why people become refugees so that fewer people feel compelled to flee their homes.
6. Reaffirm the UK’s international commitment to give protection to those fleeing war and persecution.  In addition, Conference calls on local councils, particularly those that are run by the Liberal Democrats to be generous in offering housing and other support to incoming refugees.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Friday, September 11, 2015


At there is an A-Z debunking of myths spread by the popular media in the UK.

Monday, September 07, 2015

Electoral Reform Society

At the recent AGM of the ERS, five Liberal Democrats were elected to the Council. There are also 4 Labour, 1 Green and 5 non politically aligned members.

No new resolutions were passed, but the feeling of the meeting was that the Society should continue to encourage moving away from first-past-the-post voting systems, and continue to press for fair votes in Westminster general elections and in English and Welsh local elections.

ERS is to hold two events at this month's federal conference in Bournemouth: a fringe meeting – ‘Like Minds to Change Minds’ – to be held on Sunday September 20 at 6.15pm in the main BIC Conference centre and a drinks reception on Monday September 21, at 6pm at the Dean Park Inn.

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Labour misses police target

THE latest policing statistics published by the UK government have shown that the number of police community support officers (PCSOs) in Wales has been declining since September 2013, the Welsh Lib Dems said.
Commenting on the figures, Welsh Liberal Democrat Assembly Member for South Wales West Peter Black said: “I applaud the Welsh Government for their initiative in funding these extra PCSOs. They have certainly made a difference in many communities around Wales. However, we need to be realistic about what was actually funded and note that the pledge to put 500 extra PCSOs on the beat was not achieved, albeit the Welsh Government missed their target by just 40.”

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

ALDE gives cautious welcome to Greek settlement

Guy Verhofstadt, leader of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats in the European Parliament responded to news that a third bailout package had been agreed pending ratification by the Greek Parliament:

"For the first time an agreement is reached that represents more than an accounting exercise. It is a more intelligent approach, based on necessary structural reforms, that could mark a new beginning. Papandreou and Samaras never committed themselves to such in-depth structural reforms. Tsipras shows that he is committed to keep Greece in the Eurozone.

"The new package entails some structural reforms to make Greece competitive again. Closed professions will be opened to competition, the energy market will be deregulated and measures will be taken to re-install the rule of law. If these reforms are implemented, they can bring back trust that Greece's future is in the Eurozone. This certainty will lead to more investments, necessary to make Greece's economy grow.

"I hope the Greek Parliament will support this package. But then the real, and most important part of the work starts. The reforms have to be fully implemented.

"This new approach should go hand in hand with a new, more transparent way of overseeing the implementation process. The last couple of years have shown the work of the Troika was hampered by a lack of transparency.

"During the first meeting of the Conference of Presidents with my fellow Group Leaders in the European Parliament, I will propose that the European Parliament should be given a role in overseeing the implementation of the reform package. A transparent monitoring process, including a periodical debate in the European Parliament on the state of play of the implementation measures,will give confidence to both the creditors and the countries in economic transition that reforms will be duly implemented."

Sunday, August 09, 2015

Ceredigion MP Mark Williams features in new LibDem campaign team

New federal party leader Tim Farron has announced his campaign priorities.

Chaired by Greg Mulholland MP, his Parliamentary Campaigns Team will consist of:

  • Rural Communities and Vice Chair – Mark Williams MP
  • EU referendum – Catherine Bearder MEP and Lord Jim Wallace (Deputy)
  • Mental Health – Norman Lamb MP
  • Immigration – Shas Sheehan
  • Civil Liberties – Alistair Carmichael MP
  • Green Economy – Baroness Susan Kramer
  • Housing – Tim Farron MP

Tim explained:
These are the core issues I want the Liberal Democrats to stand out on and take a lead on.

Sensible, liberal and evidence-based views are already being woefully ignored by the Tory government – so it’s up to Liberal Democrats to make this case.

Whether it’s helping young people in rural areas find work, or ensuring those with mental health difficulties have effective support, our liberal voice is needed now more than ever.

Whether it’s investing in green energy, building the homes we need; understanding the plight of refugees, or ensuring the state can’t snoop on our emails, my party will offer that liberal alternative.

And with David Cameron’s hokey-cokey diplomacy on Europe, the Liberal Democrats will stand up for our country and make the passionate case for Britain to lead, not leave the EU.

This team will work alongside Lib Dems in all chambers, Parliaments and offices to drive forward strong and signature campaigns. I can’t wait to get started.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Welsh parliamentarians named in Tim Farron's first team

Baroness Randerson, former AM for Cardiff Central, will be new Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron's spokesperson for transport. Leader in the Assembly Kirsty Williams will speak for Wales.

The full list is as follows:

1. Leader: Tim Farron MP
2. Economics: Baroness Susan Kramer
3. Foreign Affairs/Chief Whip/Leader of the house: Tom Brake MP
4. Defence: Baroness Judith Jolly
5. Home Affairs: Alistair Carmichael MP
6. Health: Norman Lamb MP
7. Education: John Pugh MP
8. Work and Pensions: Baroness Zahida Manzoor
9. Business: Lorely Burt
10. Energy and Climate Change: Lynne Featherstone
11. Local Government: Mayor of Watford, Cllr Dorothy Thornhill
12. Transport: Baroness Jenny Randerson
13. Environment and Rural Affairs: Baroness Kate Parminter
14. International Development: Baroness Lindsay Northover
15. Culture Media and Sport: Baroness Jane Bonham-Carter
16. Equalities: Baroness Meral Hussein-Ece
17. Justice/Attorney General: Lord Jonathan Marks
18. Northern Ireland: Lord John Alderdice
19. Scotland: Willie Rennie MSP, Leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats
20. Wales: Kirsty Williams AM, Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats
21. Campaigns Chair: Greg Mullholland MP
22. Grassroots Campaigns: Cllr Tim Pickstone, Chair of the Association of Liberal Democrat Councillors
Introducing the team, Tim Farron said:

“I am delighted to be able to announce my team of party spokespeople. The team I am announcing today is the Liberal voice that Britain desperately needs.
“It features some of the best campaigners that the party has, balanced with the experience and economic credibility that our party has developed over the last five years in government.
“It was important to me to be able to call on the advice and experience of people at all levels of our party and I believe we have an excellent team to lead the Lib Dem fight back.
“Together, we will take our ideas, our values and our liberal messages to every corner of Britain. We will make the case for housing, immigration, Europe, environmentalism and human rights.”

Hat-tip to Liberal Democrat Voice.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Tim Farron's speech on the Welfare Reform And Work Bill

In the second reading debate on the Welfare Reform and Work Bill yesterday evening, Tim Farron, leader of the Liberal Democrats, said:

Tim Farron (Westmorland and Lonsdale) (LD): We are very clear: we cannot and will not support the Bill. If it did what it said on the tin, there might be much to commend it, but it does not. The Government pledge a living wage that even they know is not one, they want a welfare state that is anything but good for our country’s welfare, and they use the guise of economic necessity to cover up ideologically driven cuts. Tonight, we will vote against the Bill because we know that the depth and character of the proposals are unfair, unwise and inhuman, and anything but economically necessary.
In truth, the Government do not have to take £12 billion from the poorest families in the country, mostly working families, but are choosing to do so. No amount of political spin will protect the individuals who have to live with the reality, not the words. Calling something a living wage when it is not does not make it a living wage, calling housing affordable when it is not affordable does not make it affordable, and labelling the Bill as progressive does not make it progressive. In the end, the consequences of these actions for Britain will speak louder than the Chancellor’s attempts to change the definition of his words.
The proposals on employment and support allowance—support designed to help people who, through no fault of their own, face more barriers to work than most—will not help into work people with depression, fluctuating conditions, schizophrenia or physical conditions that make more difficult the ordinary tasks that many of us take for granted. In fact, they will act as a ridiculous disincentive. Almost 500,000 people will see their vital support cut by one third once they apply to the new system, meaning that if they are on the existing support, they will lose it as soon as they get a job, even on a short-term contract. It is a disincentive to work and will trap people on welfare, not liberate them.
The Chancellor has chosen to implement a counterproductive policy that demonises people with disabilities and mental health conditions. I am disappointed by Labour’s confusion over the Bill. To give in to the narrative that the answer to our country’s needs is to pit the working poor against the temporarily-not-working poor is shameful. Cutting tax credits, tightening the benefit cap and ramping up the right to buy is not just morally wrong but economically wrong; widening inequality is not just against British decency but economically stupid.
Greg Mulholland (Leeds North West) (LD): Of course, we accepted some of the changes to welfare in the last Parliament, but this goes too far. Does my hon. Friend share my concern about the effect on young people who, through no fault of their own, find themselves in need of housing benefit? Why should they be excluded from the same rights that any other citizen in this country has if they have need of the safety net?
Tim Farron: My hon. Friend makes an excellent point. In many ways, young people are the biggest victims of the Bill. I think of young people being supported by housing benefit—for example, in the location of a Foyer, such as the wonderful Foyer in Kendal—and who thereby have access to work, training and further development opportunities. Taking housing benefit away from young people is not just morally wrong but utterly counterproductive, because it will prevent them from accessing work and other life opportunities.
We will stand for the thousands of people in work and yet in poverty, and for the millions of people who might not be personally affected but who do not want to see inequality grow in Britain. Instead, we want a direction for the country that combines economic credibility with truly socially progressive policies, which is why we will continue to make the case for using capital investment to build houses and strengthen our economy for the long term, and for a welfare system that understands the needs of people with mental health conditions and helps them back into work, rather than putting them under the kind of pressure that simply makes them worse.
The reduction in the incomes of poor families in work comes at the same time as the Government are giving inheritance tax cuts to millionaires, cutting corporation tax for the richest firms and refusing to raise a single extra penny in tax from the wealthiest people—for example, through a high-value property levy. We will continue to speak for the millions of people who are young, who suffer from mental health problems, whose parents have no spare rooms or spare income, who do not have parents at all, or who have more than two children. The Liberal Democrats will stand up for families, whether they are hard-working or just desperate to be hard-working. We will not let the Conservatives through choice, or the Labour party through their silence, unpick our welfare system.
All Liberal Democrat MPs voted for the official Labour reasoned amendment but also against the Bill after the amendment was lost.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

European Parliament rejects secret courts as part of TTIP deal

The European Parliament research service recently posted the following summary of its recommendations to the European Commission over the transatlantic trade deal negotiations. The parliament reasserts the need to maintain EU health and safety standards. It also demands an open mechanism for dispute resolution rather than the much-condemned ISDS. Finally, it emphasises that the treaty can in the end be blocked by the EP if its conditions are not met.

The European Parliament takes citizens’ concerns on TTIP very seriously. Thus it is following the talks very closely to ensure that the agreement’s benefits do not come at an unacceptable cost. That is why MEPs will scrutinise and debate any text that emerges from the negotiation process before approving or not the EU-US trade deal.

Recommendations to the European Commission

TTIP: EP recommendations for an EU-US trade deal
© Wolfisch / Fotolia
The European Parliament adopted on 8 July 2015 itsrecommendations to the European Commission on the negotiations for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). According to these recommendations an EU-US trade deal must open up US market access for EU firms, but must not undermine EU standards, as explained in the respective Parliament press release.
An EU-US agreement needs to ensure “the highest levels of protection of health and safety in line with the precautionary principle laid down in Article 191 TFEU, consumer, labour environmental and animal welfare legislation and of cultural diversity that exists in the EU”, MEPs write in their recommendations to the TTIP negotiators.

No to ISDS

Furthermore, the Parliament requests “to replace the investor-to-state dispute settlement (ISDS) system with a new system for resolving disputes between investors and states which is subject to democratic principles and scrutiny, where potential cases are treated in a transparent manner by publicly appointed, independent professional judges in public hearings and which includes an appellate mechanism, where consistency of judicial decisions is ensured, the jurisdiction of courts of the EU and of the Member States is respected, and where private interests cannot undermine public policy objectives.”

Negotiation process

From the very beginning of the negotiation process, Parliament underscored European values and standards that it wishes to see upheld in the course of the talks as outlined in its resolution of 23 May 2013, adopted before the trade negotiations started.
As with all free trade agreements, the European Commission is negotiating the agreement on the basis of negotiating directivesissued by the EU governments, which were finally declassified.
At the European Parliament’s insistence, the European Commission committed to enhanced transparency and agreed to publish the EU position documents. It also decided to grant all MEPs access to the restricted negotiating documents with the use of a special ‘reading room’. They are not allowed to share these documents publicly but they can get an insight into the progress of the talks.
The European Parliament does not take part in these negotiations, but there can be no final agreement without its approval. Parliament has to either approve or reject the final text, although it is not legally able to modify its provisions. However, by drawing up recommendations on agreements such as TTIP, Parliament sends a message on what it wants to see in the final agreement.

Further information

Parliament has launched the specialised webpages ‘The European Parliament and the TTIP‘ and ‘TTIP: risks and opportunities‘.
Working documents and information about the current state of play in the negotiations are available on the Commission’s TTIP webpage.

Thursday, July 09, 2015

Some thoughts on the Summer Budget

For Liberal Democrats, this is obviously a difficult day. Our party spent five years preventing the Conservatives from implementing policies that we felt were unfair, as well as introducing distinctive Lib Dem policies that made our recovery fairer and more sustainable. Sadly, yesterday’s budget shows the real difference that Liberal Democrats made in government, and are no longer able to make after May’s elections.

Welfare Cuts – The first of an excessive £12 billion in cuts which will fall disproportionately on the poorest. Also, limiting child tax credits and universal credit payments to only cover the first two children in a family sets a worrying precedent for any future Tory changes to child benefit. Student 

Maintenance – We protected the maintenance grants for the poorest students and prevented any changes to this in the last parliament. Now the Tories are turning it into a loan and adding it onto students’ debt.

Green Energy – We created a system of subsidies for renewable energy production, funded by taxes on energy companies, to shift our economy away from our dangerous reliance on carbon. In government, we more than doubled the amount of energy the UK gets from renewable sources. Described by David Cameron as “green crap”, these taxes and subsidies are now being slashed. This is a tragically short-sighted cut that undermines the promising green energy foundations we have spent five years struggling to create.

Housing – The mass sell-off of housing association properties is a shameful example of short-term Tory electioneering at the expense of the social fabric of our communities. The plans for replacement of properties are threadbare and this whole plan has been ill thought-through. Now, these plans are being joined by the removal of housing benefit for Under-21s, which is going to make it even harder for young people and the less well off to find a home in our communities.

These are just four areas where the absence of Liberal Democrats in government will soon be felt. There will, no doubt, be more - such as protecting the Human Rights Act and fighting the Snooper's Charter.

Locally and nationally, we will continue to campaign for a fairer Britain. You can join us in this campaign by clicking here. Join us today, and help us continue the fight to protect our environment, our civil liberties, our housing and welfare systems, and fairness in higher education.

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Welsh Government's Renting Homes Bill is a disaster waiting to happen

As reported on Wales Online, Liberal Democrat housing spokesman Peter Black has voiced the party's objections to a measure which purports to make it simpler to rent a home in Wales.

He has warned that the Lib Dems may vote down the Renting Homes Bill if changes aren't made.

He said: “This bill from Labour is a disaster waiting to happen, and we will vote it down unless there are significant changes."

Peter asserts that the Bill may even breach the Human Rights Act.

“Removing the 6 month minimum tenancy rule will put tenants in a much more uncertain and insecure position, especially given more and more vulnerable people are to be placed in the private sector under this bill.

“Housing is yet another area of abject failure for this Welsh Labour Government. With fewer than half the houses that Wales needs being built, Labour’s poverty of ambition is driving the dream of affordable housing out of reach of too many people.”

Monday, July 06, 2015

Welsh Liberal Democrats accuse government of casual attitude to domestic abuse

South Wales West Liberal Democrat AM Peter Black is concerned that the Welsh Government has given only part time status to a domestic abuse programme advisor.

He said: “This Bill was controversial from the outset as many people felt it did not go far enough to tackle domestic abuse and sexual violence.

“In particular, all three opposition parties were concerned that sufficient and appropriate mechanisms were being put in place to mainstream education on relationships in schools.

“I am shocked therefore that the recent advert for the National Adviser says: 'The hours expected to fulfil this role will be part-time'.

“It seems to me that co-ordinating the various bodies involved in delivering this service, advising ministers on important issues such as funding and overseeing the important education agenda is in fact a full time job.

“We need much more information and assurances on this matter. Will the national adviser have a team of staff for support, for example, or will they be expected to fulfil the role individually? The government must not backtrack on this vital role."

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Liberal Democrats in Europe want to give Greece three more months

Not for the government, but for the Greek People

ALDE's Guy Verhofstadt identifies clientelism as a hurdle which must be removed. He calls on the Eurozone leaders to give the negotiations with Greece three more months to work out a programme to fundamentally change the Greek political and economic system in combination with a structural debt solution arrangement.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Peter Black criticises Labour's local government stitch-up

But process of reorganisation offers chance of fair votes at local level

Welsh Liberal Democrats believe that the job of reorganising councils is a job for the independent Boundary Commission. They should be tasked to come up with a fresh map based on natural communities that actually works for local people.

Peter Black AM characterises minister Leighton Andrews' proposals for reduction in the number of local councils as a party-political stitch-up in Labour's quest to hoard power in Cardiff Bay.

However, he goes on, "this is so much more important than just lines on a map. This re-organisation process should be about devolving powers from the Cardiff Bay to the new councils. It should empower councils and local people, giving them greater ownership of services.

"Who knows where this journey will lead us, but I have made absolutely clear that our party will not support any reorganisation plans unless they involve changing the voting system. The status quo isn’t fit for purpose, and I can assure you that Welsh Liberal Democrat AMs will never give up the fight for a truly proportional and fairer system."

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Peter Black's advice session

Assembly Member Peter Black will be holding an advice surgery in Neath Library next Friday.

Details are at

Friday, June 12, 2015

Liberal Democrat AM backs call for OP investigation

A new Labour MP has renewed the campaign for an inquiry into the effects of organophosphate sheep dip on susceptible farm-workers.

Ceredigion Lib Dem MP Mark Williams said: “Although the links between organophosphates and illness of those who have used it has been studied over the past 20 years, the symptoms are all too real for many farmers, including constituents of mine, who are now unable to work because of their illness. It is for this reason that I echo calls for an independent inquiry into this issue.
“What concerns me with the response we had in the debate from the minister is the inconsistency between the many cases from constituents, some of which we heard in the debate, and the outcome of the committee of toxicity reports. That surely should necessitate a fresh investigation.”

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Welsh LibDems press health agenda

Betsi Cadwalaldr health board

Responding to the suggestion that board members should be suspended over the Tawel Fan scandal, Welsh Liberal Democrat leader Kirsty Williams said it was only right people were “held to account” at all levels.

“I think the chair of Betsi (Peter Higson) and indeed everybody involved in the situation needs to think about what role they have played in the situation to date.”

Need for an independent watchdog

Leader Kirsty Williams said: "The latest round of shocking reports on care within our NHS reveals a complete failure of all the systems that should be in place to protect our most vulnerable people."

They show that the current watchdog, Health Inspectorate Wales, is "not fit for purpose". "The current system for inspecting hospitals in Wales should be scrapped and replaced by a new organisation which is independent from government."

Peter Black AM and party leader Kirsty Williams oppose E-cig ban

Welsh Lib Dem AM Kirsty Williams AM said: “The evidence for this decision is wafer thin. Banning things just for the sake of it isn’t a position any Government should take.

“There is very little evidence to date that e-cigs emit anything more harmful than water vapour. Therefore any ban on e-cigs is completely unjustifiable.”

South Wales West AM Peter Black has added:

"Ministers argue they do not want to take the risk of seeing smoking 'normalised' again after the success of the smoking ban.

"So by their own admission they are seeking to regulate a perfectly legal activity so as to change people's behaviour. The precedent that this sets is quite concerning and heralds the beginning of a nanny state or worse.

"The anti-smoking campaign group ASH Wales, Cancer Research UK and Tenovus are among those opposed to this ban whilst the British Heart Foundation, British Lung Foundation and the Royal College of Physicians want more evidence. Furthermore in a public consultation on the proposals last year, 79% of responses were opposed. So it is not as if there is a public clamour for this measure either. Why does the Government bother consulting when it has already made up its mind?

"Some people who vape are concerned that they will now be cast outside to join the smokers and that this will lead to them returning to smoking. Indeed there is some evidence in other countries that this is what has happened. There is strong evidence that e-cigarettes have enabled a large number of people to give up smoking, something that decades of lectures by government has failed to do."

Welsh Lib Dems Call For End To Gay Blood Ban

Marking National Blood Week, the Welsh Liberal Democrats have called on the Welsh Government to work with the UK Government to end the ban on men who have sex with men (MSM) giving blood.

Peter Black AM, the Welsh Liberal Democrat Shadow Equalities Minister, said: “National Blood Week has brought to our attention that the blood service needs 204,000 extra donors to meet demand. Given this huge demand for blood donors, I completely fail to understand why the ban on men who have sex with men giving blood is still in place.

“This ban not only turns away thousands of willing and healthy potential donors, but it also serves to reinforce negative stereotypes about gay and bisexual men. Straight people get HIV too, and all donated blood is tested for HIV and other diseases before being transfused for precisely that reason.

“The sooner this unfair and discriminatory ban is lifted, the sooner our blood services can benefit from a greater supply of donated blood and more lives can be saved.”