Monday, July 31, 2017

Fox comments show cabinet in ”state of civil war” says Cable

Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable has said seized on remarks by Liam Fox that there is no cabinet consensus on the need for a three-year transitional deal, which contradict assurances from the Chancellor Philip Hammond that the cabinet is in agreement.

Vince Cable said:

“Dr Fox's comments, directly contradicting the chancellor over a transitional agreement on Brexit, show all the signs of a cabinet in a state of civil war.

“Earlier this week he clashed with Michael Gove over the terms of a trade deal with the USA when Gove argued quite sensibly for the need to maintain high environmental standards.

“The latest clash over freedom of movement in the proper transitional period reveals a deep, unbridgeable chasm between the Brexit fundamentalists and the pragmatists. 

“Businesses which might have hoped that Phillip Hammond had pulled the government back from a commitment to a catastrophic cliff edge, crashing out of the EU, have been misled.

“There is no cabinet consensus for moderation. And the rumours of Boris Johnson being about to resign fuel the uncertainty.”

Hammond on post-Brexit tax haven Britain - Cable responds

Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable has responded to Philip Hammond's claim that Britain will not become a post-Brexit tax-haven.

Vince Cable said: 

“Philip Hammond’s assurances that Britain will not become a tax haven with low quality public services in a post-Brexit world are welcome, even if they do contradict an earlier threat he made on the subject.

“It is unclear whether these views are shared by cabinet colleagues such as Liam Fox and Boris Johnson, who are now more interested in firing salvos at each other than fighting for Britain’s interests in Brexit negotiations.

“But if we are not going down the low-tax route, the Chancellor needs to explain how the British economy will flourish if it is cut out of the single market and customs union when the economy will slow and tax revenues will be lower.

“Japan’s largest bank has reportedly decided to re-locate staff from London to Amsterdam, apparently because it can’t wait any longer for the British government to reach a deal on passporting rights.

“While the cabinet squabbles, businesses are starting to walk out of Britain.”

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Prison assaults reach record high while 71 prisoners released in error

The Liberal Democrats have accused the government of "turning prisons into powder kegs", after damning figures showed both assaults and self-harm have reached a record high, while 71 prisoners have been released in error.

In the year to March 2017, incidents of self-harm reached a record high of 40,414 while assaults soared to a record 26,643, up 20% on the previous year.

Serious assaults on staff have trebled since 2013, reaching 805 in the year to March 2017.

The shocking figures also showed 71 prisoners were released in error over the past year, the highest number since records began.

Separate annual performance ratings showed 10 prisons were rated as having an overall performance of serious concern, the lowest possible ranking.

Responding, Liberal Democrat Chief Whip Alistair Carmichael commented:

"Scandalous underfunding under this Conservative government has turned our prisons into powder kegs.

"It is beyond belief that 71 potentially dangerous prisoners have been released by mistake.

"What should be places of rehabilitation are now dangerous hotbeds of violence, self-harm and drug abuse.

"No prison guard should have to go to work in fear of being seriously assaulted while being outnumbered six to one.

"The government has lost control of our prisons and urgently needs to get a grip.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Cabinet now competing to do most harm to Welsh agriculture


Commenting on reports that Boris Johnson will undermine UK sheep farmers in a potential UK-NZ trade deal, Liberal Democrat Chief Whip Alistair Carmichael said:

"Yesterday it was chlorinated chicken from the States and today it is cheap lamb from New Zealand. It seems to be a competition within the cabinet to see who can do the most harm to Britain's agricultural industry."

“The trade deals this government are chasing risk seeing cuts in our food standards as poorly regulated imported goods flood the market.

“There should be no trade deals that weaken our standards of animal welfare or food standards.

"Our countryside depends on having a strong and vibrant agricultural industry. Having promised farmers the earth during the referendum our cabinet Brexiteers are happy to see them go to hell in a handcart."

GDP figures – Cable responds

Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable has branded the latest growth figures "weak".

Vince Cable said:

“We have weak economic growth presided over by a weak government, and this is likely to keep us near the bottom of the international growth league. Manufacturing has actually fallen by 0.5% due largely to a slump in car production, while construction has also fallen. Only the service sector has enabled us to have very modest growth.

“We are continuing to see the effects of a weak pound which has hit wages and consumer confidence. It has only been the spending of shoppers, based on consumer debt, that has kept the economy going. This lack of demand is due to ministers insisting on an extreme Brexit that is creating uncertainty and reducing investment.

“More fundamentally, this shows the need for a re-balancing of the economy and a proper industrial strategy to ensure that Britain makes high quality products that the rest of the world wants to buy.”

Employment fees ruling - Govt has wasted workers' taxes trying to undermine workers' rights

The Liberal Democrats have welcomed a Supreme Court ruling that employment tribunal fees are unlawful, and accused the government of "wasting workers' taxes in an attempt to undermine workers' rights."

The party called for employment tribunal fees to be scrapped in its manifesto for the 2017 General Election.

Liberal Democrat Deputy Leader Jo Swinson commented:

"This is a landmark victory for workers and for access to justice.

"The government should be ashamed that it fought this case all the way to the Supreme Court. Ministers have wasted workers' taxes in an attempt to undermine workers' rights.

"The evidence has been mounting for years that employees, including many women facing discrimination at work, have been denied access to justice because of these exorbitant fees.

"The Conservatives repeatedly blocked my requests for action to redress this in Coalition, and then stuck their heads in the sand when official research on pregnancy discrimination showed how much tribunal fees are a problem.

"The government needs to scrap these unfair fees across the board as a matter of urgency."

Monday, July 24, 2017

Farron comments on Fox trade mission

(Warning: poultry metaphors are in operation)

Fox running into trade negotiations like a headless chicken - Farron 

Commenting on reports that Liam Fox is happy to import US chlorinated chicken as part of a UK-US trade deal Liberal Democrat MP Tim Farron said:

“Liam Fox is running into these trade negotiations like a headless chicken.

“Parliament will not back a reduction to food standards as part of the repeal bill. This is a betrayal of British poultry farmers who currently work to the highest standards in the world. Liam Fox’s dangerous grovelling to the US is only going to see his chickens come home to roost.

“The government knows that it is on the back foot in these trade negotiations but poisoning the nation’s food supply and wrecking the British poultry industry should not be on the table.”


EU regulation 853/2004 says that only water to remove surface contamination from animal products is allowed and any another substance like chlorine needs to specifically have been approved by the EU 
That regulation will be transposed into UK law under the repeal bill and should require a majority in Parliament to scrap
The poultry producer Moy Park is the largest private sector employer in Northern Ireland, employing 6,300, and would risk being undercut by cheap US imports.               

 George Eustice told Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party, currently Theresa May's supporters in parliament, in March 2017:                       

"The final thing I would mention on trade is the US, which is a major producer and exporter. I am aware that there are concerns about the standards of production in the US. It has lower standards of animal welfare and lower standards of food safety, and it allows approaches that are not currently allowed in the European Union, such as chlorine washes. It is important, as we contemplate any future trade deal, that we do not put our industry at an unfair disadvantage, as the hon. Gentleman pointed out, and we will clearly take very earnest account of that as we consider future trade deals"                     

UK should be home energy leader but Cons "cut the green crap" - Davey

Commenting on the latest government proposals for home energy generation, former Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Ed Davey said:

"The UK could have been a world leader in home energy generation by now but the last two years have seen renewable investment nose-dive after the Conservatives decided to "cut the green crap’.

“While today's announcement is a belated step in the right direction no-one will forget how Conservatives damaged the progress made by Liberal Democrats by their right wing attack on the green agenda since 2015 - from the slashing of feed in tariffs to ending onshore wind and selling off the green investment bank.

“Today's announcement is only possible because of the home energy boom in solar power during the Coalition and because of policies we introduced that incentivised early battery storage research. Yet there have been two wasted years since 2015."

Local party secretary Frank Little added: "So far from being the world leader in green energy technology proclaimed by David Cameron in 2015, UK imports its wind generation hardware from Scandinavia. The latest example is the floating wind farm built by Statoil of Norway off the coast of Scotland."

Friday, July 21, 2017

Appointment of UK's first female top judge is incredibly welcome

Responding to the appointment of Lady Hale as the next President of the Supreme Court, Liberal Democrat Equalities Spokesperson Lorely Burt commented:

“This news is incredibly welcome and a major step forward.

"Lady Hale has championed diversity in her field and this appointment, I’m certain, will inspire many who are studying the law now.

"I hope this will encourage a new generation of female leaders across all fields.”

Damning report shows we sell arms to human right abusers – Lib Dems

The Liberal Democrats have blasted the government for selling billions of pounds of weapons to countries who they believe abuse human rights. Jo Swinson said ‘When you sell weapons to countries with serious human rights concerns and regulate an arms dealer less than a scout leader, you have to seriously question the judgement of ministers.’

The Foreign Office has released its 2016 Report on Human Rights and Democracy.  The report assesses the human rights situation in 30 countries which FCO has designated as its Human Rights Priority Countries.

These are: Afghanistan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Burma, Burundi, Central African Republic, China, Colombia, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Eritrea, Iran, Iraq, Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Libya, Maldives, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, South Sudan, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Syria, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Yemen and Zimbabwe.

Many of these countries buy significant amounts of weapons from the UK.  Despite warnings from UK advisers, the UN, and humanitarian groups, Britain has sold £3.3 billion worth of arms to Saudi Arabia in the past two years alone, including licences for aircraft (such as Typhoon and Tornado jets), drones, grenades, and missiles.

The Liberal Democrats believe a register of arms deals should be set up, and that countries on this priority list should be automatically excluded from being licensed without Ministerial sign off. 

Currently we have a register for 32 different trades and professions from bouncers to a Inspector of Weights and Measures but not for arms dealers.  Anyone selling arms commercially should be required to register and make their business dealings more transparent.

Arms dealers in Britain have signed billions of pounds in contracts with countries the Government says abuse human rights and harbour fanatics.

Jo Swinson, Liberal Democrat Foreign Affairs spokesperson said: "The UK has one of the most active and lucrative arms industries in the world, and at a time of global instability it is critical that we play our party to ensure that industry is transparent.  When you sell weapons to countries with serious human rights concerns and regulate an arms dealer less than a scout leader, you have to seriously question the judgement of ministers.

“While many arms brokers work within the law, some unscrupulous brokers are responsible for the illegitimate and illegal trade of weapons, including to terrorist groups and in war zones including Yemen and Syria.

“This register would allow better scrutiny of these shady deals, and bring the UK into line with countries like the US and Australia, of which already regulate brokers.

“Dodgy regimes like Saudi Arabia have purchased UK manufactured Typhoon and Tornado aircraft which have flown combat missions in the current conflict in Yemen. Saudi Arabia is using cluster bombs and the world looks the other way. Enough is enough, we need to stand up for our values with better and stronger accountability.”

Gove's broken Brexit promise could be end of British family farm

The Liberal Democrats have accused Michael Gove of "breaking a Brexit promise," after he set out plans to cut subsidies for farmers unless they meet certain criteria.

It comes despite a pledge made by Vote Leave during the referendum campaign, signed by ministers including Michael Gove, which stated that farmers and other recipients of EU funding would continue to receive payments after a Leave vote.

Michael Gove's speech also failed once to mention the single market and potential tariffs, a crucial issue for British farmers who export around £11bn of agricultural goods to the EU each year.

Former Liberal Democrat Leader Tim Farron commented:

"Michael Gove promised to maintain payments for farmers, now he's breaking that Brexit promise and the chickens are coming home to roost.

“This speech does nothing to address the huge uncertainty farmers face over the long-term viability of their businesses.

“Gove has glossed over the crucial issue of whether farmers will be hit with tariffs when selling to customers in Europe.

"If high tariffs and lower subsidies put small farmers out of business, it will be the end of the family farm as we know it.

“The bottom line is that the best way to protect British farmers is to defend our membership of the single market.”

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Vince Cable declared Leader of the Liberal Democrats

Vince Cable has been declared Leader of the Liberal Democrats with the backing of every one of the party’s MPs, succeeding Tim Farron.

Vince was nominated by all his parliamentary colleagues and the requisite number of members across the country. He is to embark on a UK-wide tour having been declared Leader (Thursday) at an event in central London.

He was congratulated by out-going Leader Tim Farron and welcomed on the stage by Deputy Leader Jo Swinson.

New Leader of the Liberal Democrats and former Business Secretary Vince Cable said:

“There is a huge gap in the centre of British politics and I intend to fill it. As the only party committed to staying in the single market and customs union, the Liberal Democrats are alone in fighting to protect our economy. It will soon become clear that the government can’t deliver the painless Brexit it promised. So, we need to prepare for an exit from Brexit.

“Theresa May wants to take Britain back to the 1950s while Jeremy Corbyn wants to take Britain back to the 1970s. I will offer an optimistic, alternative agenda to power the country into the 2020s and beyond.

“We have a government that can’t govern and an opposition that can’t oppose. Labour and the Conservatives have formed a grand coalition of chaos, driving through a hard Brexit which would deliver a massive blow to living standards.

“Both parties have abandoned mainstream economics. I want to put economics back centre stage.

“Under my leadership the Liberal Democrats will be at the centre of political life: a credible, effective party of national government.

“We have doubled our membership and our new members have given the party enormous energy. I want to give leadership to that energy, hitting the headlines and putting our party at the centre of the national debate.”

Rail electrification scrapped in "betrayal of passengers"

The government has scrapped the planned electrification of railway lines in Wales, the Midlands and the North in a statement sneaked out today.

The Department for Transport has claimed that planned electrification works between Cardiff and Swansea, Kettering, Nottingham and Sheffield, and Windermere and Oxenholme will no longer be needed due to the introduction of new trains.

Liberal Democrat Shadow Transport Secretary Jenny Randerson commented:

"This decision is a betrayal of passengers across the country who would have benefited from these upgraded routes.

"The Liberal Democrats secured vital investment for rail electrification when in government.

"That was then delayed by the Tories and now has been scrapped altogether.

"Much-needed infrastructure investment is being neglected because of this government's obsession with an extreme and damaging Brexit."
The government has scrapped the planned electrification of railway lines in Wales, the Midlands and the North in a statement sneaked out today.

The Department for Transport has claimed that planned electrification works between Cardiff and Swansea, Kettering, Nottingham and Sheffield, and Windermere and Oxenholme will no longer be needed due to the introduction of new trains.

Liberal Democrat Shadow Transport Secretary Jenny Randerson commented:

"This decision is a betrayal of passengers across the country who would have benefited from these upgraded routes.

"The Liberal Democrats secured vital investment for rail electrification when in government.

"That was then delayed by the Tories and now has been scrapped altogether.

"Much-needed infrastructure investment is being neglected because of this government's obsession with an extreme and damaging Brexit."

Violent crime up and police numbers down shows "record of failure"

Violent crime has risen by 18% across England and Wales in the last year, according to new statistics today. The Liberal Democrats said the figures revealed the government's "record of failure" on crime.

It is the largest annual rise in crime for a decade and includes increases of 16% in robbery and 14% in sex offences.

It comes as separate figures show there are 900 fewer police officers compared to last year.

Liberal Democrat Shadow Home Secretary Ed Davey commented:
“The Conservative record of failure on crime has been exposed - crime is up and police numbers are down.

"This Government is failing in its duty to keep our streets safe.

"The Conservatives have utterly disrespected the police by freezing their wages and cutting their budgets time and again.

“It's time for the Government to admit the impact of these savage cuts and ensure our police have the funding they need to keep us safe."

Monday, July 17, 2017

Brake slams government over failure to condemn Saudi child executions

Liberal Democrat Shadow First Secretary of State Tom Brake has today asked an urgent question to the government on the imminent execution of fourteen people in Saudi Arabia, including two who were juveniles at the time of their arrests.

The group were all arrested in 2012 for allegedly participating in protests. The trials were held by a specialist court, set up to deal with cases of terrorism. Juveniles Mujtaba Sweikat and Salman Qureish were only 17 when they were alleged to have taken part in the protests.

Commenting Tom Brake said:

“Saudi Arabia’s disgusting record of executing minors and protesters cannot be ignored.

“I am ashamed of our government which is more interested in trade deals than defending human rights.

"Today I called on them to stand up to Saudi Arabia and make it clear that there will be consequences if these 14 are executed. To do less would be effectively to sanction these abuses.”

Monday, July 10, 2017

IFS response - Theresa May is betraying the Just about Managing

According to data released today (Monday) from the Institute for Fiscal Studies families dependent on fathers' earnings alone have average incomes no higher than 15 years ago.  Commenting on the news, Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron said:

"Millions of families are no better off than they were 15 years ago. These people are the just about managing and they have been betrayed by Theresa May.

"In 2017, people should not be sitting there at the end of month worrying if they can buy essentials or public sector workers having to go to food-banks.

"The Prime Minister said she would help them and yet she has done nothing. Never has someone in recent times talked so big and delivered so little.

"People are struggling and the government just don't seem to care.  It is time millions of people get the pay rise they deserve."

Sunday, July 09, 2017

Tom Brake MP blasts Government for ‘fingers-in-ears approach to Brexit’

The Liberal Democrats’ Brexit spokesperson Tom Brake has accused the Government of being “clueless” about Britain’s trading relationship with the European Union after Brexit.

Mr Brake’s comments come after the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier said “frictionless trade” would be impossible if Britain leaves the Single Market and the Customs Union.

Tom Brake said: “This statement from the EU is another in a long line of examples that expose the Government’s fingers-in-ears approach to Brexit.

“We have been told once again that the Government’s plan for a reckless hard Brexit will damage businesses, thwart exporters and cripple producers in the UK. Trade barriers in the form of high tariffs on exports will lead to untold misery for farmers and manufacturers all over Britain.

“The Conservatives are clueless about our future relationship with the EU, and the Labour Party have capitulated to the Government’s plans. The Liberal Democrats will continue to make the case for an open, tolerant and sensible Brexit that prioritises jobs over dog-whistle calls for less immigration.”

Thursday, July 06, 2017

Report shows Liam Fox’s department is a disaster - Lib Dems

Department for International Trade (DIT) figures on Foreign Direct Investment show that the number of new jobs created by foreign investment fell by 9% last year, with the number of company expansions also falling.  Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron has blasted Liam Fox’s department as a ‘disaster’.
The data, released by DIT this morning show that new jobs created due to investment have fallen by 9%.  The jobs in 2015/16 created was 82,650 and for 2016/17 has fallen to 75,226.
Also company expansions are down 5% from 821 to 782 and mergers down 6% from 262 in 2015/16 to 246 a year later.
Commenting Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron said:
"This report shows that Liam Fox’s department is a disaster.  If the International Trade Department cannot grow international trade, what are they actually for?
“While Liam Fox sits about in airport departure lounges of some of the world's sunniest spots  businesses back here in the UK are now seeing a Brexit squeeze which is impacting on our economy.
“This government have no plan, no idea and no clue and this report is the latest evidence.  Never has a minister risen so far and been more useless.”