Thursday, March 26, 2015

Labour exploits child abuse victim in misleading poster

Guido Fawkes quotes a leading paediatric surgeon on the subject of Labour's contentious broken-bone NHS poster:

“There are absolutely clear two episodes of violence and possibly the bone bruise is a third… I have run it past a couple of paediatric colleagues are they both recognised this to be very likely non-accidental injury.”

The poster is misleading because Labour has not committed to the £8bn which health professionals state is needed to save the NHS in England. The Liberal Democrats are the only party to have made this commitment. (Increases in the NHS budget in England will be passed on proportionately to Wales under the funding formula. It is up to the Welsh government to decide how that extra money is spent.)

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

LibDems bring Tories on board in gender pay gap issue

Jo Swinson* on Liberal Democrat Voice reports:

In the final days of this Government Lib Dems are still delivering our agenda against the odds, and against Conservative obstruction.
Under the coalition government the gender pay gap had fallen to its lowest level, at just under 20% – but this is still 19.1% too high. Despite our high levels of women’s employment the UK has the 8th highest gender pay gap in the EU.
Not only is the gender pay gap socially wrong in modern society, but economically it’s nonsensical not to reward our most talented female employees properly. We should value the contribution of women and men in the workplace equally, so our goal has to be eliminating the pay gap completely.
As a Business Minister and Minister for Women, I have worked very hard to persuade my Coalition colleagues of the virtues of tough action to tackle this long-term inequality. Their traditional resistance makes it all the more remarkable that Nick Clegg has, in the last few weeks of our term, secured a government amendment that guarantees all large businesses will have to publish the difference between average pay for their male and female staff. So today (Tuesday) I will proudly vote for our party’s manifesto commitment – for large companies to publish the difference in average pay between male and female employees – to become law.
This is a significant win for women, and a political win for Liberal Democrats in Government. Amendments to the Small Business Bill, [approved in the House of Commons yesterday (Tuesday),] will fast-track our manifesto plans for gender pay transparency within the next 12 months. This will mean large companies – over 250 employees – will be legally required to publish the average pay of their male and female staff. It is our intention to create pressure from staff and customers to account for and close any pay gap that exists between men and women in large businesses. Women will know whether they are being properly rewarded for their endeavours: a situation that is good for competitive businesses and good for the economy.
As readers of Lib Dem Voice will know, we have argued for mandatory pay transparency since before the coalition was formed. We were the first major political party to commit to enforcing gender pay transparency by law. Labour might try to claim now that they would have done this in 2010 but actually their proposal was for voluntary publication for four years. This was something our champion for women, Lynne Featherstone objected to at the time – arguing against Labour’s delay that “pay audits are necessary and must be mandatory. We cannot wait another four years… voluntary pay audits are like waiting for Godot.”
In the wake of entrenched Conservative opposition, and in the context of Labour’s commitments while in government, we had to agree to try a voluntary approach first.  We did so only on the condition that the decision would remain under review, and if this approach did not lead to more companies publishing the difference in pay between men and women, mandatory reporting would be introduced for large companies. During our time in government just five companies have chosen to publish their gender pay gap voluntarily.  While I take my hat off to those who do – this is just not good enough.
Of course, the gender pay gap is not exactly an issue that the Conservative Party gets out of bed for. They were content to kick this issue into the long grass time and time again. Nick and I have made increasingly urgent appeals to our Conservative colleagues to address this. Which is why, today I am proud that we will go further than I expected. By securing a government amendment, Nick Clegg has successfully ensured that ministers on the government payroll will vote in favour of gender pay transparency, despite the Conservatives’ consistent efforts to block the proposals over the life of the coalition.
I could speculate about why the Tories have caved just weeks before the election – maybe the International Women’s Day celebrations caught the PM in a jovial mood? Or perhaps he feared that history (or the voters) would judge him for being on the wrong side of this argument.  It may be that with some help from the Liberal Democrats, he simply read the political runes and didn’t want to countenance any risk to the successful passage of the Small Business Bill as the firm deadline of Parliament’s dissolution approached. Liberal Democrats can be proud that we have been the drivers of reforms to modernise the workplace to give women a fairer chance to get to the top of the career ladder. By extending flexible working to all employees, introducing Shared Parental Leave and revolutionising childcare, we are ensuring that there is greater equality at home and at work.
We can also be proud that – thanks to our term of stability in government – there are more women in work than ever before and women’s gross weekly earnings have increased between 2013 and 2014. Additionally we have banned pay secrecy clauses and introduced mandatory pay audits for companies that lose equal pay claims. The Government is also committed to tackling occupational segregation, and the outdated view that certain jobs are for “men-only”. Only 13% of engineers in this country are women – substantially lower than other European countries like Latvia, Sweden and Bulgaria. Through initiatives like “Your Life” we are encouraging young girls to get into STEM-related careers.
We have achieved a lot, but there is still much more to do. Equal pay and better gender representation in business is good for the economy as well as helping to create a fairer society. So any future coalition that contains Liberal Democrats will ensure this remains front and centre of our efforts in government.

* Jo Swinson is the Liberal Democrat MP for East Dunbartonshire and is a Minister in hte Department Business, Innovation and Skills and Equalities Minister

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Minimum-wage dodgers named and shamed

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has issued another list of those employers, including some High Street brands, who have illegally paid some staff less than the minimum wage. This latest round brings the total number of companies named and shamed under the new regime to 210 employers, with total arrears of over £635,000 and total penalties of over £248,000.

Business Minister, Liberal Democrat Jo Swinson said:

There’s no excuse for companies that don’t pay staff the wages they’re entitled to – whether by wilfully breaking the law, or making irresponsible mistakes.
The government is protecting workers by cracking down on employers who ignore minimum wage rules. In addition to naming and shaming, we’ve increased the penalty fines and boosted the resources available to investigate non-compliance.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Seven-year record rise in minimum wage

Wales Online reports:

The national minimum wage will go up by 20p an hour from October.

It will be the biggest real-terms rise in seven years with 1.4 million low paid workers set to benefit from the 3% hike while rates for younger workers and apprentices will also go up.

The rates were recommended by the Low Pay Commission.

[Liberal Democrat] Business Secretary Vince Cable is planning to launch a national minimum wage accelerator - an online tool which will make it easier to compare rates of pay across regions, sectors and occupations.

It will take data from the annual survey of hours and earnings and display information about pay so that people are able to compare wages with others in their sector and region.

Mr Cable hopes that by having the facts, people will be empowered to discuss pay with their employers and businesses will be encouraged to consider whether they can increase rates.

The Government is also launching a consultation with businesses on the future minimum wage for apprentices.

It is predicted that inflation as measured by CPI will fall below 1% this year. The headline increases are in line with the recommendations from the Low Pay Commission, but for apprentices the coalition government went further. The recommendation was for a mere 7p increase rather than the 57p increase which will actually be introduced.

Monday, March 16, 2015

More from Liverpool federal conference

Freedom of expression:

The Leader's speech:

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

A blow for equal earnings

An amendment to the Small Business Bill being debated in the House of Lords next week would change the law to force firms with more than 250 staff to declare how much they pay men and women.

Jenny Willott, Lib Dem MP for Cardiff Central, said: “Real equality means fair pay. Women on average are paid 20% less than men, and are less likely to be in a leadership role. That frankly isn’t good enough.
“I have been pushing within Government to see this change – companies need to be held to account for how much they pay their male and female employees. I’m delighted that this will now be brought in and I hope it will make a real difference to the gap in pay between men and women.
“Let us be in no doubt, this wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t for the Liberal Democrats. The Tories have resisted these changes, but we have won the argument.”
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said: “We can’t wait and we can’t dither. We need to sort this out now. Jo Swinson, Jenny Willott and I have pushed for this to happen within government for a long time. Finally, we are now in a position for the government to vote through our party’s manifesto commitment for large companies to publish the difference in average pay between male and female employees.”

Sunday, March 08, 2015

Things LibDems have stopped Tories doing

  • Inheritance tax cuts for millionaires 
  • Scrapping help with housing costs for young people
  • Weakening arrest warrants for people who have fled overseas
  • Firing workers at will, without any reasons given
  • Regional pay penalising public sector workers outside London and the South East 
  • The Snoopers’ Charter
  • Ditching the Human Rights Act
  • Weakening the protections in the Equalities Act
  • Renewing Trident in this Parliament
  • Cutting investment in green energy
  • Nation-wide immigration checks on all new tenants and lodgers

Thanks to Mark Pack. His full list (including England-only measures) is here.

Friday, March 06, 2015


  • Nick Clegg will step in to the head-to-head debate with Ed Miliband to defend the Government’s record if David Cameron will not.
  • By proposing to hold the debate before the Tory manifesto is published, the public will not be able to see David Cameron grilled on his plans for Britain.
  • Liberal Democrats are not afraid to debate our record or our manifesto. We are proud that we have helped rescue the British economy and ensured the recovery has been done fairly.
  • Nick Clegg is passionate about anchoring these debates into the democratic process. If this means taking part in a “seven-sided 90 minute bite size squabble fest”, so be it.
  • It is not right for one party and one man to hold the debates to ransom. They are a right of the British people. Why should the Conservatives hold a veto over our democratic process?
Liberal Democrat General Election Chair Paddy Ashdown said on the Today programme:
“I'm told that Downing Street is now depending on the Liberal Democrats to say no. Well, I've got bad news for them. We're not going to.
"I hope the broadcasters stand firm but I need to be very clear that even if it is done in the fashion that the Prime Minister demands - and why on earth should he be able to veto the democratic debate? - we will still be there.
“If it is the case that there's a two-headed debate and Mr Miliband turns up and the Prime Minister will not defend the record of the Government, then Nick Clegg will be very happy to.
“What he is proposing is not just a ludicrous, seven-sided, bite-sized squabble fest but actually he is proposing it takes place before the Conservative manifesto is published.
“If Mr Cameron hasn't got the guts to stand up and defend this government's record then Nick Clegg will do so."

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Drugs reform

The Deputy Prime Minister confirmed today that the Liberal Democrat manifesto will contain the most far-reaching drug reform policies ever put forward by a major political party.
Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg made the commitment at an event alongside entrepreneur Richard Branson, a member of the Global Commission on Drug Policy.
The manifesto will include commitments to:
  • Adopt the approach used in Portugal, where those arrested for possession of drugs for personal use are diverted into treatment, education or civil penalties that do not attract a criminal record.
  • Legislate to end the use of imprisonment for possession of drugs for personal use, diverting resources towards tackling organised drug crime instead, as a first step towards reforming the system.
  • Continue to apply severe penalties to those who manufacture, import or deal in illegal drugs, and clamp down on those who produce and sell unregulated chemical highs.
  • Establish a review to assess the effectiveness of the cannabis legalisation experiments in the United States and Uruguay, in relation to public health and criminal activity.
  • Legislate to make the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs independent in setting the classification of drugs, while remaining accountable to Parliament and the wider public.
  • Enable doctors to prescribe cannabis for medicinal use.
  • Put the Department of Health rather than the Home Office in charge of drug policy.

Nick Clegg said:
 “If you’re anti-drugs, as I am, then you have a responsibility to look at the evidence of what actually works to reduce drug harm."At the moment, the level of harm to individuals and communities – here and around the world – is still unacceptably high. We need to get a grip on this problem. So, if you’re anti-drugs, you should be pro-reform.
“What we now need is brave political leadership to openly acknowledge that new ways of controlling illegal drug markets and discouraging use are required.
“So, my challenge today for politicians, the press and the public is to accept the overwhelming evidence that things are not working, that politicians are letting down the victims of the drugs trade by failing to engage with the evidence.
“Talking tough while acting weak may be tempting, but it no longer fools anyone.  It is time to commit to a radically smarter approach to tackle this problem head-on.”