Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Davey welcomes court ruling on government surveillance

Commenting on a court ruling yesterday which has found the government’s mass digital surveillance regime unlawfulLiberal Democrat Home Affairs spokesperson Ed Davey said:
"The UK's surveillance regime has once again been declared unlawful. The Government cannot simply tinker around the edges and hope for a different result. What we need is a full overhaul of the system that puts our freedoms and civil liberties at its very core.

"Liberal Democrats believe we can be safe and secure by ensuring surveillance is targeted and suspicion-led. What we need is for our police and intelligence services to be given the resources and money they need to do their job, not endless new laws."

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Slashing Universal Credit penalises self-employed

Commenting on ONS figures released last week showing an 82,000 fall in the number of self-employed workers, Liberal Democrat Work and Pensions spokesperson Stephen Lloyd MP said:
“Liberal Democrats are deeply concerned by this huge drop in the number of people working for themselves, reversing a shift towards increasing self-employment and entrepreneurial risk-taking.
“I find it hard to believe that the roll-out of Universal Credit – which penalises the self-employed – does not have something to do with this.
“By slashing the support it offers the self-employed after twelve months and not taking account of freelancers’ fluctuating incomes, Universal Credit is making it much harder for people in modest circumstances to start their own businesses.
“I urge the Secretary of State to immediately review how Universal Credit treats the self-employed, before it devastates the 800,000 freelancers who are expected to transition onto it.”

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Conservative infighting threatens to wreck Britain's financial services industry

The government must urgently spell out its aims from the second phase of EU negotiations and on transitional arrangements, the Lords EU Financial Affairs Sub-Committee has warned. 

The committee has warned of market fragmentation and financial instability if the UK loses access to the EU through no deal, particularly damaging Britain's financial services industry.

Goldman Sachs boss Lloyd Blankfein, for example, warned this week that it is reaching a point in contingency planning where it will be too late to stop the group from leaving the UK.

Responding, Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable said: 

"This is a serious warning from a respected committee. Philip Hammond's comments this week that the UK and EU economies will diverge only 'very modestly' shows he is desperate to reassure the City that nothing is really  going to change.

"But obviously things will. Serious business people will, therefore, be assessing their options, including whether or not to relocate to other EU countries.

"The Conservatives must stop their infighting and at least draw up some kind of coherent plan on what they want from Brexit talks."

Friday, January 26, 2018

Dangerous, misogynistic, racist Trump is deserving of the protests he will undoubtedly face

Responding to reports that a UK visit from Trump will happen later this year as details are being 'finalised', Jo Swinson, Liberal Democrat Deputy Leader and Foreign Affairs Spokesperson, said:

“Trump is a dangerous, misogynistic racist and is deserving of the protests he will undoubtedly face.

"If and when he comes to the UK the Liberal Democrats will be at front and centre of the protests."

Government oblivious to record levels of prison violence

New figures show that violence and self-injury in prisons have reached record highs

Data released by the Ministry of Justice demonstrates a 12% rise in incidences of both self-injury and assaults over the past year in prisons in England and Wales.

Over the last 12 months there has been a 15% increase in the number of self-harm incidents requiring hospital attendance.

Lord Jonathan Marks, Liberal Democrat Justice Spokesperson, said:

“The Government’s continued failure to get violence and self-harm in our prisons under control is utterly disgraceful. The new Minister for Prisons, Rory Stewart, must make this his top priority.

“The Conservatives claim to want to turn our prisons into places of reform but with no attempt being made to address overcrowding they will likely remain squalid warehouses that only serve to harden criminals.”

Modest housebuilding increase dwarfed by executives' bonus hikes says Vince Cable

The latest National House Building Council statistics say that there has been a 6% growth in the number of new homes built in 2017 on the previous year.

Responding, Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable said: 

"A 6% increase to 160,000 homes still leaves the country a long way short on the 300,000 a year everyone now agrees is necessary to provide some stability to the market and provide hope to would-be first time buyers.

"This modest increase in new houses is dwarfed by the hike in bonuses enjoyed by housebuilding executives, fuelled by the flawed Right-to-Buy scheme."

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

IMF figures reveal UK is under-performing in the world

Commenting on the lMF's latest global forecast, Leader of the Liberal Democrats, Vince Cable, said:

“It is clear that Britain is under-performing relative to much of Europe, the USA and the rest of the world. It is especially unfortunate that the UK is entering an extended period of economic stagnation just as the rest of the world experiences a growth burst.

“The Brexit vote might not have produced a catastrophic collapse yet, but it has dampened investment, and consumer confidence and reduced Britain's global standing.

"The IMF's call to avoid any new trade barriers or regulatory realignments vindicates the Liberal Democrat campaign for an exit from Brexit."

Government backs Lib Dem pension proposal

Responding to calls from the Lib Dem Spokesman for the Department for Work & Pensions, Stephen Lloyd MP, new DWP Secretary of State Esther McVey agreed that a review into the current rules - past and current - after companies go bust is “something that needs to be brought forward”.

Responding to the comments, Liberal Democrat Work & Pensions Spokesman, Stephen Lloyd MP said yesterday:

“Under current rules, pension obligations are unsecured – meaning that insolvent companies only fund their pension schemes once they have compensated their other supposedly more ‘important’ secured creditors.”

“Today I urged the new Secretary of State to review the rules and provide further protection for employees with private pensions by giving them greater priority when companies fail. I was delighted to hear the Minister agree that this is something ‘which needs to be brought forward’.

"Then and only then will employees with private pensions be wholly protected when large companies collapse. I will be making sure that the Minister sticks to her word on this.”

Child poverty figures reveal Tories are failing most vulnerable

Commenting on the report from the End Child Poverty coalition revealing that in some areas of the UK more than half of children are living in poverty, Layla Moran MP said:

“This is an appalling indictment of a Tory Party that are failing to protect the most vulnerable in society.

“The gulf between children born in the richest and poorest families is widening, but Theresa May is more preoccupied with the gulf in her cabinet over Brexit.

“When we fail our children like this we fail as a society. The government must take action.”

Evidence disclosure crisis will undermine our criminal justice system if unaddressed

Commenting on the increasing failure by police or prosecutors to disclose evidence over the last two years, Jonathan Marks, Liberal Democrat Justice Spokesperson, said:
"This is a growing issue that will undermine our criminal justice system as a whole if we do not address it.

"More funding and better training must be provided to police and prosecutors to ensure that proper process if followed so cases do not collapse unnecessarily.

"Disclosure of evidence favourable to the defence is a fundamental part of prosecuting fairly. It is clear that government have ignored this issue to date and must now urgently make up for lost time.”

Ming Campbell comments on Defence accounting split

Commenting on news that the defence element of the National Security Capability Review will be separated out, Liberal Democrat Defence spokesperson Menzies Campbell said:

"This separation was both necessary and inevitable. The pressure on the government from all sides and all parties on the need to protect and enhance the defence budget was overwhelming.

"What it does mean is that when the national security review appears we will only have half the picture."

Monday, January 22, 2018

CBI: Britain needs to stay in customs union

Commenting on yesterday's intervention from CBI Director-General, Carolyn Fairbairn, which highlighted the importance of the customs union to British businesses, Liberal Democrat Brexit spokesperson Tom Brake said: 

“This is an important intervention from the CBI, and pours yet more cold water on the government’s idea that they can rustle up a trade deal that in anyway compares to the economic benefits of being in the EU and maintain the red lines they have set.

"The Conservatives are making a monumental mess of Brexit. The approach Theresa May has adopted so far is creating mass uncertainty for people and businesses and is designed to please her party’s right wing not to deliver what is best for the country. She must now change course.

"Liberal Democrats want to see a vote on the deal she strikes with the EU, so that the people can have their say on whether it is good enough for Britain.”

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Lidington's comments on rejoining the EU - Brake responds

Responding to reports in The Telegraph that David Lidington has said the UK could rejoin the EU in the future, Liberal Democrat Brexit spokesperson Tom Brake said:
“Whilst I welcome David Lidington's suggestion that the UK could rejoin a reformed EU, it would be more effective for the UK to be at the heart of that reform process from the outset. The UK, which has always been very influential in the EU, is best placed to play a part in driving reform by remaining a member.
“As a Liberal Democrat, I want people to have control over the future of our country, and that has to start by giving them a vote on the Brexit deal when it is done, so they can choose to exit from Brexit if they don’t like it”

Friday, January 19, 2018

Longer-term support needed for SMEs hit by Carillion crash

Responding to news that small businesses affected by Carillion's liquidation will receive support from a number of banks, Lorely Burt, Liberal Democrat Small Business Spokesperson said:
"It is essential that small businesses do not bear the brunt of the Conservative government's inaction and Carillion's collapse. While the Liberal Democrats welcome the emergency measures that have been put in place, small businesses must continue to be supported in the longer-term. 
The government must act now to provide this support. The Liberal Democrats back the Federation of Small Businesses' call for the government to set up a Carillion task force to help all small businesses that are affected find new opportunities and financial support. The government must stop burying their heads in the sand. It's time they take responsibility for this situation and provide the long-term help necessary to the minimise damage caused to small businesses by Carillion's collapse." 

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Cable on NAO report: Public bodies must be able to renegotiate onerous PFI contracts

Responding to the National Audit Office's report into PFI and PF2 contracts, Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable said: 

“PFI is a useful way of financing projects in certain situations, but it has been a mixed experience. If overdone, PFI becomes a way for the government to kick the financial implications of major spending decisions down the road. It is also clear that in many cases down the years these PFIs were negotiated just to keep liabilities off the government balance sheet. 
"Public bodies should have the means to renegotiate particularly onerous and disadvantageous PFI contracts. Moving forward, PFI contracts should only be used when it can be proven they are the best available option.

"The Carillion crisis reminds us that these types of projects have to be undertaken very carefully to ensure the distribution of risk is not skewed against the taxpayer." 

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Carillion investigation welcome, but more needed

Commenting on news that the Official Receiver will fast-track an investigation into the directors at Carillion, Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable said:

“The fast-tracking of this investigation into the directors who led Carillion is welcome. But we also need a National Audit Office probe, followed by Parliamentary scrutiny by the Public Accounts Committee to fully understand what led to Carillion’s collapse.

"We need to know why the government felt it was not wrong to feed Carillion lucrative public sector contracts when they knew the company was in severe trouble because of its profit warnings.” 

Layla Moran slaps down offensive snob Conservative MP

Responding to comments made in 2012 by Tory MP and party vice-chair for youth Ben Bradley where he suggested unemployed young men should get vasectomies, Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran said:

“These hugely misinformed and offensive comments should shame Mr Bradley and the Tory party. 

“It beggars belief that someone who has shown such contempt for young people who are out of work has been tasked by the Prime Minister to improve her party’s appeal with young voters. 

“This is another example of a shocking lack of due diligence by May and her team when making appointments to influential roles. This seriously draws their judgement into question.”

Monday, January 15, 2018

Inquiry needed into questionable decisions around Carillion - Cable

Responding to reports that Carillion is to go into liquidation, Leader of the Liberal Democrats Vince Cable said:

“The government must now take responsibility for the big contracts run by Carillion, or re-tender them, to keep the supply chain going and protect thousands of jobs. Ministers must minimise the damage to the capacity of the construction industry.

“We also urgently need a parliamentary inquiry into some of the very questionable decisions made in the past few months, not least the award of public contracts to a company that was clearly in danger of collapse. The issue of the former chief executive still being paid his salary, plus perks and bonus, is also a reward for failure that has to be looked into.”

Friday, January 12, 2018

Cable says iconic company GKN must be saved from private equity firm

Commenting on news that leading company GKN has been subject to an attempted takeover by Melrose, Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable said:
“GKN is at the heart of the industrial strategy in the car and aerospace industry in the UK. 
“If it were to be taken over this would be a massive blow to our industrial strategy.
“GKN stands for long term investment in advanced manufacturing whereas Melrose are in the business of short term financial engineering. 
“I will be writing to the Secretary of State for Business asking him to intervene and ensure this damaging takeover does not happen.”

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Study shows international students contribute £20bn to UK economy

International students bring a net benefit of £20.3 billion to the UK economy, a joint study by the Higher Education Policy Institute and Kaplan International Pathways has found.

Liberal Democrat Leader Vince Cable commented:

“I welcome this timely report from the Higher Education Policy Institute.

"This is a battle I fought for five years in government with Theresa May.

"All her cabinet colleagues seem now to realise there is a need to remove students from the immigration figures, but still nothing changes.

"The Conservatives are pursuing economic self-harm through harsh visa restrictions.

"International students enrich our economy and society and Liberal Democrats will continue defending their rights to study here."

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Construction sector sees largest fall in five years

The construction sector has seen the biggest quarterly fall in output in five years, ONS figures published today have revealed.

Construction output decreased by 2% in the three-months to November 2017, the biggest contraction since August 2012.

Liberal Democrat Leader Vince Cable commented:

"It’s no surprise that the construction sector is being severely impacted by the Government's Brexit plans.

"On top of growing economic uncertainty, the construction sector is particularly dependent on EU workers who are leaving in an ever-worsening Brexodus.

"As the negative economic consequences of Brexit become clear, the public must be offered a way out.

"That is why the Liberal Democrats will keep campaigning for a vote on the final Brexit deal, to take place by December 2018." 

Cable: Conservatives show "complete lack of ambition" on plastics

The Conservatives launch their 25-year environment plan tomorrow. Despite being heavily trailed to the media, the proposals are expected to be limited.

Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable said: 

"The Conservatives should be eliminating all avoidable plastic waste now - a target of 2042 beggars belief. They ramped up expectations only to disappoint.

"The Conservatives have shown a complete lack of ambition. Notably, they have failed to deal with the excessive waste of coffee cups through the levy proposed by the Liberal Democrats and recently embraced by a powerful group of cross-party MPs.

"This is only a small step rather than the leap that is needed. Even the extension of the 5p tax on plastic bags only closed exemptions unnecessarily introduced by the Conservative Party."

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Universal Credit will drive up homelessness as people struggle to rent homes

The Conservatives' roll out of Universal Credit risks driving up homelessness, Stephen Lloyd, Liberal Democrat Work and Pensions Spokesperson, will warn in his Westminster Hall debate this morning.

Lloyd is leading calls for the reform of the housing benefit element of Universal Credit before a “disaster occurs in an already dysfunctional housing market”.

He will call on the Department for Work and Pensions to make some further changes to the way they administer the housing element of Universal Credit before it is too late.

Speaking ahead of the debate, Stephen Lloyd warned: 

"If further urgent changes are not made to the Government’s new benefit, Universal Credit, homelessness will skyrocket and the private rental sector will prove even more resistant to tenants on benefits.

"The government has the opportunity to improve the chronic housing shortage across the country by making Universal Credit payments to landlords the default option.

"Despite the chaos created by the shambolic roll-out of Universal Credit, opportunities for positive action remain if the government actually listens to those trying to make the system work."

Young's appointment was a serious mistake, at least he has realised - Cable

Responding to the resignation of Toby Young, Vince Cable, Leader of the Liberal Democrats, said:

“Toby Young’s appointment was a serious mistake, but at least the man himself has realised as much and resigned.

"The Conservatives must get their basic due diligence right - getting a role in public office cannot be based solely on being a friend of Boris Johnson.

“Theresa May stood by a misogynist and supporter of eugenics. She has shown poor judgement and, coupled with a troubled reshuffle, has made a bad start to the year.”

Thursday, January 04, 2018

O'Neill right, future of UK is in unsafe hands - Cable

Responding to former Treasury Minister Lord O'Neill's comments that leading Brexiteers in the government have "no clue about the world economy", Vince Cable, Leader of the Liberal Democrats, said:

“Jim O'Neill is absolutely right to say that leading Brexiteers are clueless about the world economy.

“The future of our country is resting in their hands yet they have shown time and time again that they have a chronic misconception of how the modern, globalised world works.

“Of course it is right to disown Trump's nationalistic and short-sighted approach to Pacific countries but far-flung trade deals will never compensate for leaving the world's largest market sitting on our doorstep.

“The British people must be given a chance to decide their own future, they must be given a chance to exit from Brexit.”

World deserves better than petulant child running a superpower

Responding to Trump's latest round of Twitter diplomacy, including boasting about the size of his button and threatening Palestine, Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran, the first UK MP of Palestinian background, said: 

“After a year in office it has become quite clear that Donald Trump is making the world less safe.

“His ham-fisted, bully boy diplomacy is leaving a trail of destruction in his wake. People struggling through a lifetime of conflict deserve better than a petulant child running a world superpower.

“The world would be a better place if only he could just show some restraint. Instead we will spend years having to pick up the pieces.”

Tuesday, January 02, 2018

11,000 homes across UK empty for ten years or more

Over 11,000 homes across the country have been sitting empty for ten years or more, research by the Liberal Democrats has revealed. 

Vince Cable has said it is a "national scandal" that so many homes are being left empty when the country is in the midst of a worsening homelessness crisis.

The figures, uncovered through Freedom of Information responses from 276 local councils, show that there are over 216,000 homes across the country that have been empty for six months or more. Of these, 60,000 had been empty for two years or more, 23,000 for five years or more, and over 11,000 have stood empty for at least ten years.

The research also shows that just one in thirteen councils are making use of Empty Dwelling Management Orders (EDMO), powers used by local authorities to take over properties that have been empty for at least six months. Only 19 of the 247 councils in England and Wales that responded (the powers do not apply in Scotland) had used an EDMO in the past five years. Of these only six had used one in the past year.

In total, councils returned around 23,000 empty homes back into use, including through direct action and the work of empty home teams. The Liberal Democrats are calling for reform of EDMOs and stronger powers for local councils to bring long-term empty homes back into use.

The areas with the largest number of homes empty for six months or more were Durham (6,502), Leeds (5,724), Bradford (4,144), Cornwall (3,273) and Liverpool (3,093). Many of these areas also suffer from high levels of homelessness.

Liberal Democrat Leader Vince Cable commented:

“At a time when the homelessness crisis is worsening and more and more people are sleeping out in the cold on our streets, it is a national scandal that thousands of homes across the country are sitting empty.

“These homes could be turned into affordable places to live for some of the most vulnerable people in our society.

“The Government needs to urgently review the current system which is clearly not working.

“Councils need to be given the powers and resources to bring empty homes back into use .

“This must form part of a wider package to tackle the housing crisis, including building more homes on unused public sector land and clamping down on land-banking.”

Local Welsh Liberal Democrat secretary Frank Little added:

“One notes that Neath Port Talbot was one of those councils which did not respond to the survey. However, if their performance is anything like that of Swansea City - over 2,000 empty dwellings and only one use of an EDMO - then there is cause for worry.”

May forced into dropping foreign students from immigration numbers

Responding to reports Theresa May will be forced into dropping foreign students from official immigration figures, Liberal Democrat Leader Vince Cable said:

“For years Theresa May has stubbornly refused to accept that international students are not immigrants, while the Home Office has wildly exaggerated the number of those who overstay.

“This absurd policy has fuelled concerns over immigration numbers and done serious damage to our universities.

“It’s about time the government dropped this completely self-harming approach.

“International students generate over £25 billion for our economy and support thousands of jobs across the country.

“We should be encouraging more students to come and spend their money in the UK, instead of needlessly hampering one of Britain’s most successful export industries.”

Monday, January 01, 2018

Conservatives are reinventing Dad's Army at Britain's ports

The Liberal Democrats have warned that plans for volunteer border guards would expose Britain's soft underbelly in the fight against terrorism and organised crime.

The Home Office has confirmed proposals for “border force special volunteers” at small air and sea ports, who would be unpaid and have no powers to interrogate or arrest suspects.

It recently emerged that the budget for UK border force will be cut again in 2017/18, from £565m to £552m. The number of border guards has been cut from 8,153 in 2014/15 to 7,574 this year.

Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson Ed Davey commented:

“Now we see what the Conservatives really mean by 'controlling our borders' - they want to re-invent Dad’s Army at our ports.

“This would be funny if it wasn’t so serious. Our small ports are Britain’s soft underbelly in the fight against illegal immigration, drug smuggling and terrorism.

“Theresa May’s cuts to the UK Border Force have almost certainly already led to a rise in illegal immigration and drug smuggling.

"If she now thinks introducing a few uniformed volunteers is the right response to this serious threat, it really is time to panic, Mr Mainwaring.”

Cable: How can Grayling survive if Lord Adonis' accusations are correct?

Vince Cable has said it is difficult to see how Chris Grayling can survive as Transport Secretary if criticisms made by Lord Adonis over bailing out the East Coast rail franchise are correct.

Liberal Democrat Leader Vince Cable said:

"This is a lethal criticism of the Transport Secretary's mishandling of rail franchises.

"It would appear that the government is handing out millions of pounds in subsidy to Virgin Rail and Stagecoach for failing to meet their financial objectives.

"This makes a complete mockery of the entire principle of rail franchising, that companies compete and take a hit if they miscalculate the market and don't get their sums right.

"It’s difficult to see how Mr Grayling can survive if Lord Adonis’ accusations are correct."