Friday, March 30, 2018

Excess packaging around Easter eggs leaves bitter taste in the mouth

Yesterday Liberal Democrats' deputy leader Jo Swinson released an exclusive report into the use of excess packaging in the presentation of Easter eggs. Swinson’s report, which outlines the use of plastics by all major Easter egg manufacturers, highlights the need for companies to cut down the use of plastics to protect our oceans and reduce the amount of unnecessary plastic waste ending up in landfills.
Key findings of the report:
  • According to recent figures, 147.7 million hollow Easter eggs are sold each year. An average Easter egg box as found in this report contains 22 grams of plastic packaging, so this could mean over 3,000 tonnes of plastic waste per year from hollow Easter eggs alone.
  • Around one quarter of the weight of the average Easter egg comes from packaging. This has not improved since Jo’s previous report in 2012.
  • 5 of the 9 brands investigated used a substantial amount of plastic (>30g) in packaging their eggs. Many local authorities do not offer kerbside collections, meaning that significant amounts of plastic from Easter egg packaging could end up in landfill or the ocean.
  • The worst chocolate to packaging weight ratio was Lindt (chocolate to packaging ratio of almost 2:1), and the best was Green & Black’s (chocolate to packaging ratio of almost 5:1).
  • Lindt was the worst offender this year in terms of excess packaging on Easter eggs; with the egg itself taking up less than one sixth of the total size of the box, and the packaging accounting for over 36% of the total weight.
  • This year’s winner was Green & Black’s. Packaging accounted for 18% of the total weight, and the size of packaging was relatively small compared to the size of the egg (which took up more than 41% of space in the box).
Commenting on the results, Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats Jo Swinson said:
“Millions of us watched Blue Planet last year and witnessed the shocking levels of plastic waste in our oceans. None of us want the packaging from our tasty Easter treats to contribute to ocean pollution.
“It is disappointing that Easter egg manufacturers have not been more proactive in reducing levels of plastic in their packaging, so I am calling on them to pledge to eliminate plastic in next year’s Easter eggs. If manufacturers truly want to cut the use of plastics they must sacrifice the presentation of their eggs for the presentation of their values.
“The plastic waste associated with Easter eggs is symptomatic of a much wider problem across consumer industries, where companies could and should be doing more to combat plastic waste. Our oceans are precious - we all need to do our bit to help preserve them.”

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Gambling industry must sit up and take notice

Responding to the news that SkyBet has been fined £1 million for failing to protect vulnerable gamblers, Tim Clement-Jones, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson the Creative Industries, said:  

“This fine should make the rest of the industry sit up and take notice that they must take their responsibilities towards customers seriously.

"If people have been allowed to place bets having self referred for exclusion due to addictive tendencies then that is a serious failure of the system with vulnerable people being failed by those in positions of power. They have a duty to protect those at risk, and that should always take priority over profits.”

Sunday, March 25, 2018

The British people must not be cheated

Commenting on allegations made on Channel 4 News, Liberal Democrat Brexit Spokesperson Tom Brake, said:

"These allegations are stunning and touch directly on one of Theresa May's closest advisors.

"The British people expect fair play and campaigns to abide by the rules – they must not be cheated. These allegations must be examined by the police. If they represent what happened it is outrageous and shameful.

"The referendum had a very narrow outcome. One of the biggest exercises in democracy must not turn out to be one of Britain's biggest electoral frauds."

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Diesel scrappage: embarrassing U-turn is typical of Tory management

Responding to reports that Gove will end the diesel scrappage scheme, Tim Farron said: 

“This is typical of Tory management. The environment has never been a priority, and promises of environmental protection and regulations have been abandoned behind closed doors.
"It is bad for the environment and for the consumer, who bought diesel cars in good faith, and simply want to switch vehicles fairly. 
“Gove must think again, or at least explain to parliament why he has chosen this embarrassing U–turn.“

Thursday, March 22, 2018

NHS pay cap lifted in England; why not Wales?

Responding to yesterday’s reports that the government will announce a 6.5% pay rise for NHS workers in England over 3 years, Liberal Democrat health spokesperson, Judith Jolly, commented:
"This is a victory for the determined NHS staff members, who have fought tooth and nail and refused to accept the Tories’ mean-spirited attempt to force them to sacrifice a day’s holiday.
"Changes like these will go some of the way to addressing the worryingly low morale and poor retention rates within our national health service. However, significant additional measures must still be taken and, fundamentally, we must deliver long-term job security for workers, establishing sustainable funding by putting a penny on the pound.
"Notably absent from Jeremy Hunt’s announcement is any mention of the fate of care workers, who have worked for years tirelessly without a pay rise. Care workers are undervalued and underpaid: this must change."

Aberavon and Neath Liberal Democrats ask: when will first minister Carwyn Jones and health Vaughan Gething follow this long-overdue lead and lift the cap on Welsh nurses, already the worst-paid in Britain?

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

EU stands up to big tech firms with turnover tax

The European Commission has announced it intends to put an interim 3% levy on digital sales revenue of the biggest technology firms, such as Apple, Facebook and Google.

Many large digital businesses have been accused of avoiding tax by shifting profits through complex structures, including via tax havens where they have little or no physical presence. EU officials reportedly think they will raise £4.3bn a year for member states from around 150 firms.

Responding, Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable said: 
"This is the right move. A turnover tax has its problems, but as an interim measure it is necessary. Until a proper international system is agreed it is the best idea going.

"This is also another example of why staying in the EU is desirable. To stand up to the big tech companies we need a collective, co-ordinated approach." 

Universal Credit could lead to up to 1.3 million evictions

New data released yesterday by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) reveals that only 6% of Universal Credit claimants in the private rented sector have their rent paid directly to their landlords, compared to 35% in the socially rented sector. This is despite calls by Liberal Democrat DWP spokesperson Stephen Lloyd to make payments to landlords the default.

Lloyd has argued that maintaining the status quo will lead to many of the 1.3 million benefit claimants in the private rented sector being evicted and potentially made homeless. According to the Residential Landlords Association, 73% of landlords still lack confidence in renting to tenants on Universal Credit due to uncertainty that they will be able to recover rent arrears, while 38% have already experienced UC tenants going into arrears.

Stephen Lloyd, Liberal Democrat DWP Spokesperson said: 

“Back in January I led a Parliamentary debate calling on the government to make direct payments to private landlords the default option for Universal Credit. Consequently I am deeply disappointed these are still far lower in the private sector than the socially rented sector.

If this doesn’t change, we should expect a spike in evictions by private landlords who are already wary of renting to people on benefits, and a rise in homelessness that local authorities will have to deal with. People on Universal Credit often live in difficult circumstances which can prevent them from paying their rent on time, as soaring rent arrears under UC testify to.

“And the government cannot argue that this is technically unfeasible, because their DUP friends in Northern Ireland have already figured out how to make payments to landlords the default option. If the Universal Credit ‘computer’ allows that to happen over there, then why not here?” 

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Social responsibility should come before profit

Responding to yesterday's announcement by the Gambling Commission that they have recommended a £30 or lower stake for Fixed-Odds-Betting-Terminals, Liberal Democrat Culture Spokesperson in the House of Commons, Christine Jardine said:

“The Gambling Commission’s recommendation is simply not enough and we will be continuing to push the Government for a £2 limit to help protect people from damaging and costly addictions to these machines.

“Social responsibility should come before profit making from gambling and a limit of £30 will still leave people vulnerable to losing huge amounts of money that they cant afford.

“Even with the addition measures recommended the £30 limit would still leave these people vulnerable to losing huge amounts at such addictive machines.

“Additional measures, such as slower SPI, fewer machines and powers to local authorities to tackle ‘clustering’ of betting shops on our high streets will still, Liberal Democrats believe, be needed regardless of the minimum stake.”

Vince Cable: Council tax is no longer fit for purpose

Commenting on calls from the Resolution Foundation to radically reform the Council Tax system, leader of the Liberal Democrats Leader Vince Cable, said:

“It has long been clear that council tax is no longer fit for purpose. What was meant to be a temporary replacement for the disastrous poll tax has itself become so deeply unpopular and seen to be unfair, that it can no longer be used for increasing the revenue base of local government.

“Not only is council tax regressive in relation to income, but it is also based on property values almost three decades out of date. It is time for reform.

“The Liberal Democrats take the view that rebanding is necessary with higher bands paying relatively more and lower bands relatively less to provide some offset to the massive increase in property wealth for those especially in high value property.” 

Frank Little, secretary of the local Liberal Democrat party, commented: "Re-banding would be only a temporary and partial fix. I regret that Vince has not taken on the traditional Liberal Democrat policy of a local income tax (LIT). I have campaigned for LIT to be adopted in Wales at least ever since I became active in politics."

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Allegations against Cambridge Analytica must be investigated

Responding to allegations in the New York Times that Cambridge Analytica 'harvested' 50 million Facebook profiles in a potentially huge data breach, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson Ed Davey said:

"If these allegations against Cambridge Analytica are correct then it is a shocking betrayal of people's personal data."

"If this data was then actively exploited for political gain it is both underhand and immoral. This whistleblower has made serious allegations of what would be dodgy practices. They must now be investigated."

"My fear is this could be the tip of the iceberg and all campaign work linked to Cambridge Analytica must now be scrutinised, including any links to elections in the UK."

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Lift pay cap on brave armed forces

Liberal Democrat Armed Forces Spokesperson, Jamie Stone said:

“Men and women who serve in our Armed Forces deserve the utmost support for their sacrifice, but time and again they have been let down by this government. Too little has been done to address the chronic low morale amongst those currently serving, and the country is being put at risk by a failure to recruit new people with the skills needed for 21st century warfare.

“Williamson should have used his first major speech as Defence Secretary to show soldiers, sailors and airmen that he is listening to their needs by lifting the 1% pay cap, giving our Armed Forces the pay rise they deserve.

“Russia’s actions in the last few weeks show why we cannot afford to sit back and as our forces are hollowed out. We should not for one single second imagine that Vladimir Putin will be short-changing his own troops - he’s not that daft.”

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Lib Dems secure major victory in ban on cold-calling

When the Financial Guidance and Claims Bill returned to the House of Commons, the Liberal Democrats secured a significant victory following the government’s acceptance of crucial amendments tabled by Liberal Democrats peers in the House of Lords.

Led by Lord Sharkey, the Liberal Democrats campaigned in the House of Lords to end the scourge of cold-calling in relation to pensions, claims management and other financial services. 
The Government have now committed to a total ban on pensions cold-calling, as well as prohibitions on other forms of cold-calling if these are shown to be detrimental. 
The Lib Dems also secured a provision requiring people accessing their pensions to be referred to guidance, unless they explicitly opt out.

Stephen Lloyd, Liberal Democrat Work and Pensions Spokesman said:

I am delighted that the government has seen reason and moved to clamp down on the scourge of cold-calling. Every year millions of people are harassed and deceived by cold-callers, and in some cases the financial consequences can be severe. These measures will greatly improve the situation, and I will be watching the government closely to ensure they do not backtrack.

"None of this would have been possible without the valiant efforts of Liberal Democrat peers in the House of Lords, led by John Sharkey. Not only did the Lib Dems table and win the amendments that led to yesterday’s ban on cold-calling, they also secured provisions requiring people accessing their pensions to be referred to guidance. This will ensure that people truly make the best of their hard-earned savings.”

Monday, March 12, 2018


Aberavon Lib Dem activist Tehani Taylor, one of the Welsh party's diversity champions, has an article on Liberal Democrat Voice. She writes:

The Welsh Liberal Democrats have recently approved a Diversity Workplan that is at the heart of our plans to move our party forward. As one of the Welsh Lib Dem Diversity Champions and being visually impaired, I want us to be the party that is all talk and all action! In an effort to help the Welsh Libdems I sit on the National Executive which enables me to work alongside the people who are working on our future development plans.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Liberal Democrats vote for councils to be given the power to increase tax on second homes

At Liberal Democrat spring conference in Southport today, members passed a motion which calls for Local Authorities to be given the power to increase council tax on second homes by up to 500%.

Data from the Rural Services Network has estimated that across mainly rural areas, an average of 2.5% of properties are second homes. This figure substantially rises in some areas: in the Isles of Scilly over 15% of properties are second homes, with nearly 9% in South Hams, and 10% in some parts of Norfolk. 

To deal with the huge pressures this can put on local communities and services, Liberal Democrats have today voted enable local authorities to increase the council tax on second properties by up to 500%, and to give local authorities the power to increase the stamp duty surcharge on additional properties to 5%.

This cash would all go directly to local authorities, so they can invest in much needed affordable housing and local services. It would be for local authorities to determine whether they used one or both of these measures.

Commenting, Liberal Democrat DEFRA spokesperson Tim Farron said:

“High levels of second home ownership can have a hugely detrimental impact on local communities across the country, like in my own constituency in the South Lakes where almost 7.5% of all properties are second homes. This too often leads to the unacceptable decline and closure of key local services like schools, bus services, shops and Post Offices.

“If we are going to protect our communities from dying out then we need to take some action.

“Allowing councils to significantly increase council tax on second homes, by up to 500% if they wish, is not about penalising second home owners, but about asking them to pay a fair contribution towards those vital local services which are at risk. This would provide councils in areas with high second-home ownership with a fair and effective way of raising funds which could be ring-fenced to fund key local services and deliver affordable homes for lower income families.

“It's absolutely vital that we have in place the measures which will keep our communities thriving and ensure that places from Cumbria to Cornwall remain amazing places to live for everyone”

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Liberal Democrats are the party of policing

Ed Davey will outline bold new ideas to pitch the Liberal Democrats as the party of policing. Speaking at the Party’s Spring Conference in Southport, Ed Davey will argue the police are critical to protecting freedom and promoting social justice. He will call for an additional £300 million investment in the police - especially community policing.

Ed Davey will attack the Conservatives for "betraying" the police - with new cuts of over 4,000 officers since 2015 and Theresa May's police bashing and assault on police pay and conditions.

Ahead of the speech Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson, Ed Davey said:

“Effective, well-resourced policing is fundamental to protecting our freedoms and helping the most vulnerable in society.

“Liberal Democrats' commitment to civil liberties and social justice means we are natural champions for Britain's police.

“With the Conservatives and Theresa May in particular leading an anti-police charge of cuts in officer numbers, reductions in conditions and unacceptable police bashing, Liberal Democrats must show how we are the true champions of Britain's blue front-line - with our values and our spending priorities."

Thursday, March 08, 2018

Theresa May was wrong to bin Leveson

Commenting on reports from the BBC that a former private investigator who worked for the Sunday Times used illegal practices to target cabinet ministers Liberal Democrat Spokesperson, Christine Jardine, said:

“This story, and these acts, would rightly cause outrage at any time, but just five days after the government announced their plans to abandon part two of the Leveson Inquiry, it couldn’t be more damning.

"Theresa May is doing nothing to improve the culture of ethics in public life and the failure to implement the Leveson proposals deters individuals from seeking justice.

"Rifling through peoples bins, their personal data, reeks of dishonesty and sleaze, and the government should be ashamed that they have allowed this distinctly unbalanced playing-field to tip in favour of those on the wrong side of the law.”

ESA appeals figures "absolutely appalling"


New data out today from the DWP shows that the majority of ESA fit for work decisions that are appealed are overturned. 38% of fit for work decisions are upheld, and 62% overturned.

Commenting, Stephen Lloyd, Liberal Democrat Work & Pensions Spokesperson, said:

“These figures are absolutely appalling, but of little surprise to me. With the many constituents who come through my office and those of other MPs’ across the country, we see with our own eyes some shocking decisions by Work Capability tribunals.

"It is time that we stop faceless corporations making money off the backs of disabled people, while providing poor quality service.

"The Liberal Democrats are campaigning to bring welfare assessments in-house as a public service to our disabled neighbours. This would be fairer, improve quality and remove the profit motive from what has become a broken and soul-destroying process.”

International Women’s Day: Lib Dems call for government action on “upskirting”

Today, International Women’s Day, Liberal Democrat MP, Wera Hobhouse MP is calling on the government to make upskirting a criminal offence.

The bill will make upskirting, the practice of taking photos of a woman from beneath her skirt, a specific criminal offence. Wera Hobhouse presented the bill to Parliament on Tuesday this week, asking the government to classify upskirting under the voyeurism section of the Sexual Offences Act.

Only a very small number of people have been prosecuted for upskirting and in many cases the police have said that it is very difficult for them to prosecute.

Dame Vera Baird QC from the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners said legislation as it currently stands “is far from clear as there is no specific offence”.

Wera Hobhouse, Liberal Democrat MP for Bath, said:

“The fact that this is not a sexual offence in England baffles me, as much as it horrifies me. In Scotland upskirting was made an offence back in 2009. There is simply no excuse for ignoring this issue any longer.”

“Relying on outraging public decency is absurd. It should not matter how public it was or who else saw it. The law should focus on the individual victims and the crime committed against them. It is their body that is being taken advantage of without their consent.

 “As a female member of parliament, I feel it is part of my duty to try and achieve this protection for women across the country.”

Monday, March 05, 2018

TUC General Secretary to meet with cross-party leaders to set out Brexit concerns

The TUC’s General Secretary has accepted an invitation to speak to a group of cross-party opposition leaders about the TUC’s position on Brexit. 
Frances O’Grady will meet with the Westminster leaders of the Liberal Democrats, SNP, Plaid Cymru and the Green Party to discuss the need for a Brexit that protects workers’ rights, jobs and livelihoods of millions of people across the UK. 
The General Secretary will also set out why the TUC believes that single market membership and customs union should be on the table for the next phase of Brexit negotiations. 
The meeting is set to take place in Westminster on Tuesday morning. 
The Westminster opposition leaders have welcomed the meeting with the TUC, which has been at the forefront in campaigning against the dangers of a hard Brexit, protecting workers’ rights and guaranteeing the rights of EU citizens working in the UK. 
The TUC has launched a campaign putting pressure on Theresa May to protect the Working Time Directive – which safeguards the rights of more than 7 million workers to paid holidays, breaks and working hours.

Opposition parties have repeatedly raised concerns of the dangers of a hard Brexit and stated that securing continued single market and customs union access must be a priority for the UK government in order to protect the UK’s economy, labour market and businesses.

The UK government’s leaked economic analysis revealed that under the three likely scenarios of the Brexit negotiations, remaining in the single market and customs union is the least damaging option. 

At the TUC’s annual congress in September last year, Frances O’Grady said that the best current option for working people in the face of Brexit is “staying in the single market and customs union”. 
Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable MP, said:
“The TUC has been an effective and welcome voice in challenging the Conservatives’ attempts to leave the Single Market and the Customs Union. I look forward to seeing Frances this week. 
“There is a growing strength in the movement to avert the worst possible form of Brexit. Membership of the Single Market and the Customs Union is vital to protect jobs, the Good Friday Agreement and Britain’s future prosperity.” 

SNP Westminster Leader, Ian Blackford MP, said: 
“I am delighted that the TUC’s General Secretary, Frances O’Grady, has agreed to meet with cross-party opposition leaders to discuss the serious concerns that Brexit will have on workers’ and citizens’ rights, jobs and livelihoods of millions of people. 
“Time is running out for Theresa May to heed her government’s own economic analysis warning of the economic dangers of Brexit, opposition party’s consistent calls to remain in the single market and customs union, and organisations – like the TUC – concerns on safeguarding the rights of millions of workers.” 
Plaid Cymru’s leader in Westminster, Liz Saville Roberts MP, said:
"Tearing apart our economic links with the continent after Brexit will cause severe damage to our economy, our businesses and our citizens. 
“We must make every case for staying in both the single market and the customs union and the TUC’s input on their importance to jobs, wages and workers’ rights will be invaluable.” 
Green Party Co-Leader, Caroline Lucas MP, said: 
"The TUC recognise the perils of an extreme Brexit - and it's quite right that we'll be discussing together how to best protect workers in this country.

"There is a growing political alliance around staying in the customs union and single market to avoid the worst effects of Brexit, and it's imperative that the voice of millions of workers should be heard in these negotiations. For workers to really have control of the Brexit process, they should also be given a final say on the terms of any deal through a referendum.” 

Sunday, March 04, 2018

Lib Dems call on Labour to join the fight against Home Office’s ‘sinister’ proposal on data rules

The Liberal Democrats and the3million are calling on Labour to protect people’s basic fundamental rights where data is being processed for immigration purposes.
Next Monday Diane Abbott  and Liam Byrne have the chance to join with the Liberal Democrats to oppose the government from using the cover of GDPR implementation to sneak in a sinister proposal that would deny people the right to access data held about them as part of their wider hostile environment agenda targeted at immigrants in the UK. 
These provisions will likely impact EU citizens living in the UK post-Brexit.
The Liberal Democrats put forward an amendment to the Bill in the Lords to delete these provisions, but were not supported by Labour in the lobby when pushed to a vote. 
The Liberal Democrats have written an open letter to Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott and shadow Secretary for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport, Liam Byrne calling on them to support the Liberal Democrats’ fight to remove this alarming provision. 
Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesperson, Ed Davey said:
“Diane Abbott’s warm words are not enough. We gave the Labour party a chance to kill this sinister provision and they sat on their hands in the Lords. 
“It is no use tinkering at the edges with this exemption it needs to be deleted. 
“The Government’s hostile environment agenda has gone too far and they are now infringing on people’s fundamental right to access their own data and have mistakes corrected. This is appalling from a so-called democratic government and has no place in Britain.” 
Co-founder of the3million Nicolas Hatton said: 
"The Data Protection Bill is supposed to be about giving people greater control over their data, but it contains an exemption for immigration cases that does exactly the opposite - by denying people access to their data when they need it most.

"Victims of administrative errors may have no way to stop a typo from turning their lives upside down. 
Everyone should be entitled to know how the Home Office and other government agencies are using their records, and that is why the3million support removing this exemption."