Monday, February 26, 2018

Investigation into audit market needed after Carillion collapse

Liberal Democrat leader, Vince Cable, has called for a fresh investigation into the audit services market to smash the domination of the so-called 'big four'.

In a letter to the Competition Markets Authority, Cable raises concern that there continued to be a lack of competition to the 'big four' auditing firms.

In the wake of the collapse of Carillion, where criticism has been made that the external auditor did not highlight potential problems at the company, there is a need to look again how the market is operating and review the 'remedies' introduced in 2014 which Cable describes as being a 'disappointment' to him.

In the letter Vince Cable writes:

"For far too long regulators have stood back and allowed the Big Four to dominate. This is not healthy for the industry itself or for their clients. There needs to be far greater competition, even if this has to be facilitated by breaking up the Big Four themselves, perhaps by spinning off their consulting arms."

"I am writing to ask you to conduct a fresh investigation into the audit market with a specific mandate to look into the merits or otherwise of this remedy. We cannot continue to see such a soft approach taken to such a vital market"

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Revised GDP figures highlight economy's weakness

The Office for National Statistics has revised the UK economy's growth down from 0.5% to 0.4% for the final quarter of 2017. It has also confirmed the economy grew by only 1.7% in 2017, down from an earlier estimate of 1.8%. 

Responding, Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable said: 

"These revisions confirm that the economy is at its weakest since 2012. Some industries, such as construction, look particularly frail, while families are being hit by rising inflation at a time when wage growth is poor.

"The UK economy will continue to be outpaced by other countries if the Conservatives maintain their pursuit of a needlessly hard Brexit. Unnecessary threats to pull us out of the Single Market and the Customs Union are putting a dampener on the economy." 

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Government should allow cannabis for medicinal purposes

Commenting on the government's refusal to allow cannabis for medicinal purposes, specifically in the case of six year old Alfie Dingley, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs spokesman Ed Davey said:

"The government's refusal to consider allowing the use of cannabis for medicinal purpose is criminalising people who simply need to alleviate chronic pain.

"A growing number of our European neighbours and other countries around the world now recognise the benefits of medicinal cannabis.

"The government must put aside their preconceptions on this issue, and instead start looking at the evidence and listening to the views of patients and experts."

Unemployment rise a 'warning sign'

ONS figures show the first rise in unemployment in two years.
Baroness Susan Kramer, Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesperson, commented:
 This rise in unemployment is small, but it is a warning sign, that, along with the drop in foreign investment and high inflation, UK economic growth is fragile, and that the uncertainty of Brexit is denying us the high rates of growth that other countries enjoy.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Cruel treatment of disability benefit claimants exposed by Commons committee

In response to the Work and Pensions Select Committee Report out today on PIP and ESA assessments Stephen Lloyd MP, Liberal Democrat DWP spokesperson, said :
“This is an utterly damning report from the Select Committee on the quality, or lack thereof, from the government’s PIP and ESA assessments programmes.

"It’s clear far too many assessments are inadequate for this system to continue in its current form.

"This also comes on the day where the DWP has put out a deplorable tweet reminding people that as today is Valentines Day, they will be checking that benefits claimants are declaring they live with a partner or else. It’s obvious this Conservative government knows the price of everything but the value of nothing. 

"This is proof that the Liberal Democrat position of stripping the assessment contract from corporate behemoths such as ATOS and Capita and bringing them in-house as a public service, is the only practical and humane way forward.”

Intransigence over Irish language brings Stormont talks to a halt

Responding to the news that talks have collapsed in Stormont, Vince Cable, Leader of the Liberal Democrats, said:

"British taxpayer's have coughed up £1 billion to placate the DUP and keep them on the Government's side during this disastrous parliament. What are we getting for it? Just intransigence. 

"The British government are heading for a very dangerous situation in Ireland. Their approach to Brexit will lead to further division in Ireland, and undermine the Good Friday Agreement. At the same time their key allies in the Commons, to who they paid a billion pounds,  are refusing to show any willingness to compromise over internal matters in Northern Ireland.

"Theresa May needs to take this situation by the scruff of the neck and deal with it."

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Shas Sheehan calls for full inquiry into aid sector

Helen Evans, former head of safeguarding at Oxfam, made damning accusations about the lack of basic processes and disregard of serious concerns she raised, the substance of which were not denied by the chief executive.

In response, Baroness Sheehan, Liberal Democrat International Development Spokesperson, said:

"The government must now accept that nothing short of a full and far-reaching enquiry into illegal sexual behaviour within Oxfam and across the wider aid sector, will do.

"The public have a right to know what the extent of the problem is, and whether what has been exposed to date is only the tip of the iceberg.

"This information is vital if those of us who are proud of Britain’s record of delivering aid to the poorest people on our planet are to successfully defend it.

"The saddest outcome of this whole sorry saga would be to throw the baby out with the bathwater, and desert the 0.7% of GNI devoted to alleviate extreme poverty."

Friday, February 02, 2018

Office for National Statistics report reveals massive wealth gap that is not getting smaller

The ONS has released its latest figures from the Wealth and Assets Survey. Findings include:
  • In July 2014 to June 2016, the wealth held by the top 10% of households was around five times greater than the wealth of the bottom half of all households combined.
  • The wealthiest 10% own 44% of all wealth, those in the “Middle wealth” category (51% -90%) own 47% of all wealth, and the poorest half own just 9% of all wealth. 
  • The bottom 10% of households have total wealth of £14,100 or less, the top 10% of households have total wealth of £1,208,300 or more, and the top 1% of households have total wealth of £3,227,500 or more.
  • There was a striking increase in the value of net property wealth for households in London compared with all other regions; median net property wealth in London was £351,000 in July 2014 to June 2016, a 33% increase from £263,000 in July 2012 to June 2014.
  • Total aggregate debt of all households in Great Britain was £1.23 trillion in July 2014 to June 2016 (a 7% increase from July 2012 to June 2014), of which £1.12 trillion was mortgage debt (6% higher) and £117.0 billion was financial debt (15% higher). 
  • Young people (16-34) are clustered in the bottom wealth deciles, whereas the opposite is true of older households (65+). 

Responding, Vince Cable, Leader of the Liberal Democrats, said:

“The evidence points to a dramatic wealth gap that is not getting any smaller. It is a major driver of the disadvantages faced by younger people, who are currently struggling to get a foot on the housing ladder.

“Conservative policies on inheritance tax and capital gains tax have only widened this inequality of wealth between generations.”

“Wealth should be a key to unlocking opportunities, not a barrier to them."