Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Government failure to publish immigration plans an affront to parliamentary democracy

Responding to the Home Secretary’s admission yesterday that the Government’s plans for post-Brexit immigration might not be published before the meaningful vote on the Brexit deal, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson Ed Davey described the continued delay as “completely unacceptable”.
Appearing before the Home Affairs Select Committee, Sajid Javid admitted that he couldn’t say that the long-awaited immigration white paper would be published before MPs vote on Theresa May’s deal on 11th December.
Ministers originally promised to publish the white paper last year, but that deadline has been repeatedly postponed. Ed Davey has written to both the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary demanding that they publish the white paper without any further delay.
Liberal Democrat MP Ed Davey said:
“When it comes to publishing their immigration plans, the Tories seem to be taking the phrase ‘white paper’ far too literally. After years spent talking about ending free movement, they still can’t give us any details of what that really means. This continued delay is completely unacceptable.
“From the reports of Cabinet splits, it seems Theresa May’s own Ministers understand that her obsession with the arbitrary net migration target is disastrous for our economy and our public services. Her proposals would create a huge amount of bureaucracy for British businesses and make the shortage of workers in the NHS and social care a lot worse.
“The Liberal Democrats demand better. Theresa May must either publish her immigration proposals now, or admit the truth: that they are simply unworkable.”

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Ed Davey challenges May on human rights

Following the publication of the political declaration on the UK’s future relationship with the EU, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs spokesperson Ed Davey has written to the Prime Minister, urging her to commit to retaining the European Convention on Human Rights in UK law.

In the letter, Davey raises concerns over new language in paragraph 7 of the political declaration, which states that “The future relationship should incorporate the United Kingdom's continued commitment to respect the framework of the European Convention on Human Rights”. He argues that this is not sufficient, and asks the Prime Minister to clarify whether this could mean the UK leaving the ECHR.

Ed Davey commented:

“If Theresa May is once again threatening to withdraw the UK from the European Convention on Human Rights, she must come clean with Parliament and the people.

“She has no mandate to allow people’s individual freedoms to be curbed, yet her political declaration appears to suggest she might withdraw us from the ECHR after Brexit, even though it is totally separate from the EU.

“The Liberal Democrats demand better. We will continue to lead the fight against attempts to withdraw the UK from the ECHR, and to fight to give the people the final say on Theresa May’s deal, with the option of an Exit from Brexit.”

The full text of Ed Davey’s letter to the Prime Minister:

Dear Theresa,

The outline of the political declaration setting out the framework for the future relationship between the European Union and the United Kingdom published by the Government last week (on 14th November) included as one of the initial provisions:
“Reaffirmation of the United Kingdom's commitment to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR)”.

However, the draft political declaration published today (22nd November) merely states that:
“The future relationship should incorporate the United Kingdom's continued commitment to respect the framework of the European Convention on Human Rights”.

This is deeply concerning. The Liberal Democrats believe that the ECHR’s guarantee of individual freedoms is essential for keeping our society free and democratic. The UK must remain a party to the ECHR, and we do not believe that a commitment merely to “respect its framework” is sufficient.

Can you please explain the reasons for this change of wording and explain what effect it would have. Specifically, do you believe it would be possible to “respect the framework” of the ECHR without remaining a party to it under the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights

Can you also please clarify what the Government’s policy is on the ECHR. Will you commit to the UK remaining a party to it in the future, even if we leave the EU?

Yours sincerely,


Friday, November 23, 2018

Cable: PM’s plan is ‘pathetically weak’

Leader of the Liberal Democrats Vince Cable has described Theresa May’s political declaration as “pathetically weak”. 

Speaking in the House of Commons today, Vince Cable said: “This is essentially an agreement to have an agreement. It is full of worryingly vague aspirations. How, for example, can the Prime Minister justify Clause 24 which relates to medicines, chemicals and aviation safety when we currently have strong agreed cooperative standards?”

The Liberal Democrat Leader added: “The Prime Minister has managed to negotiate an agreement where we, and I quote, ‘explore the possibility of cooperation.’ That is pathetically weak. It will cause great anxiety to millions of people who depend on high standards of safety.”

In response, the Prime Minister confirmed the Government would not be able to put together “legal text until we have left the European Union.” 

Following the exchange, Leader of the Liberal Democrats Vince Cable said: 

“Be it the Prime Minister’s deal or any deal, Brexit will make people poorer and weaken the UK’s standing in the world. 

“It is painfully clear that there is no majority in Parliament for any deal. The only way to break the deadlock and end uncertainty is with a People’s Vote, including the option to remain in the EU.”

Tories must take back control of smart meters

Responding to the National Audit Office report on rolling out smart meters, Ed Davey, former Liberal Democrat Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, said:

“The smart meter programme's aims are positive and making the energy system smarter is essential if we want to move to a low carbon economy.

“However, the Tories have bungled this rollout badly. When I left Government we were expecting 2nd generation meters and a central database within a year; we currently have neither. Instead, because of Conservative failings, suppliers are still rolling out 1st generation meters that go ‘dumb’ when you switch. What’s the point of a smart meter that stops working if you switch? Liberal Democrats demand better.
“The Government needs to take back control of smart meters. First, they need to accept some hard truths: they have completely botched this, it’s going to come in vastly over budget, and they are responsible. Only then can the public trust that smart meters will work for them, otherwise they’ll think it's nothing more than a white elephant.”

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Tory paralysis failing domestic abuse victims

Responding to official statistics published this week showing that 2 million people experienced domestic abuse in 2017-18, Liberal Democrat Communities spokesperson Wera Hobhouse said:

 “Every case of domestic abuse is an abhorrent and unthinkable crime. The scale of these figures show the urgent need for the Domestic Abuse Bill, but the Tories’ Brexit-induced paralysis is delaying vital legislation and failing victims.
“Changing the law alone won’t, however, be enough on its own. Liberal Democrats demand better. We are fighting for more funding for refuges and rape crisis centres, as well as a new national rape crisis helpline to support victims and increase the chances of convictions.”

Serious failings revealed in Commons committee report must be put right

Responding to the Intelligence and Security Committee’s report on the 2017 terror attacks, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs spokesperson Ed Davey said:

“We are all immensely grateful for the work our police and security services do in responding to terror attacks and stopping others from being carried out.

“This report reveals a number of serious failings that must be put right in order to prevent more tragedies in the future. The failure of successive Home Secretaries to address past concerns is completely unacceptable.

“Rather than introducing needless new authoritarian laws in its latest Counter-Terror Bill, the Government should focus on fixing these problems. That includes a thorough review of the Prevent programme.”

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

PM must come clean on immigration plans

Responding to Theresa May’s speech to the CBI conference yesterday, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson Ed Davey said:

“Theresa May is desperately trying to win over the Brexit hardliners on the Tory benches by promising tough new immigration controls. But she still refuses to publish any details of her plans, more than a year after the white paper was originally due.

“The PM is trying to hide the truth: that her plans would either fail to end free movement as she claims, or place a huge new bureaucratic burden on employers while damaging our economy and undermining public services. Either way, that’s hardly 'taking back control'.

“The Liberal Democrats demand better. Theresa May must finally come clean and publish her immigration white paper now, so MPs can scrutinise the proposals before voting on her Brexit deal.”

Bank of England must conduct honest assessment of Brexit deal

 Leader of the Liberal Democrats Vince Cable has today urged the Bank of England to conduct “an honest assessment of the Brexit deal and the options” and produce economic analysis of what remaining in the EU will mean for the UK economy. 

 The calls follow the appearance of Bank of England Governor Mark Carney before the Commons Treasury committee this morning where he said that the Bank of England was “not intending to look at providing additional analysis on the third scenario which is no Brexit at all.”
However, just last night the House of Commons forced the Government to accept an amendment to the Finance Bill which means Ministers must publish assessments comparing the UK’s economic prospects between Theresa May’s deal and remaining in the EU. The Liberal Democrats want the Bank of England to follow suit.
Leader of the Liberal Democrats Vince Cable said: 
“Last week the PM confirmed that ‘No Brexit’ was an option for the UK going forward; it is now going from possible to probable.
“The public deserve to see a full and comprehensive assessment of all the options available to us – they should have had it two years ago in all honesty.
“The Bank of England need to do the responsible thing, and provide an analysis of the benefits of remaining in the EU, the emergence of information such as this is a game changer, and shows more than ever why we need to take this decision back to the people with a final say on May’s deal,”

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Labour hypocrisy on schools

One story in Westminster, another in the council chamber

Local Lib Dems attacked local Welsh Labour councillors for letting down the children of Neath and Port Talbot. Cuts to the county’s education budget stood in clear opposition to the efforts of Education Minister Kirsty Williams in raising the status of education in Wales and displayed rank hypocrisy.

“Labour in Westminster deplores austerity in education. In an opposition-day debate last Tuesday on a motion calling for the government to ‘end austerity, not with little extras, but by reversing all cuts to education funding’, Labour MP after Labour MP stood up in the Commons on Tuesday to attack the Conservative government.”

It is a different tale in Neath Port Talbot. The Labour County Borough Council plans to slash the education budget by 2% in cash terms (even more when inflation is taken into account), reduce the wages of our hard-working dinner ladies and force secondary schools to sacrifice more of their own funds in order to maintain buildings and grounds.

Aberavon and Neath Liberal Democrats call on Labour to practise in Port Talbot what they preach in London and restore the cuts to the education budget.

David Davis's self-appointment dubbed farcical

Responding to reports that David Davis has spent several days in Washington speaking to US Trade Officials about a free trade deal with the UK, Liberal Democrat Brexit spokesperson Tom Brake said:

"Having failed to negotiate properly with the EU, the idea that David Davis is now touting himself as Britain's self-appointed 'man in Washington' is farcical. The Prime Minister must confirm he has not been acting in any official capacity or with her blessing.

"David Davis and his Brexiter colleagues have got us into a huge mess. With Britain now facing a damaging and disorderly Brexit deal, the people must be given the right to reject the deal and remain in the European Union, through a people's vote."

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Lib Dems back move to defeat 'craven' government over FOBT delay

The Liberal Democrats have today announced they will back a cross-party amendment to the Finance Bill to ensure the maximum stake for fixed-odds betting terminals are introduced within six months.
Speaking ahead of the vote next week, Liberal Democrat Leader Vince Cable said:
“A few months ago I was approached by a mother who was distraught after her son had committed suicide as a result of distress caused by debts that had accrued from compulsive gambling. 

“There is now a network of grieving relatives who have been brought together by the same dreadful experience. Like them, I want the NHS to recognise gambling addiction as a serious mental health condition. Preventive action is also needed including urgent steps to curb some of the more exploitative practices like high stake fixed-odds betting terminals.

“I and the Liberal Democrats will therefore work with others to stop these abusive practices and introduce a crackdown as promised.  The Government has been utterly craven in giving in to lobbying from the industry and must now back the cross-party amendment or face defeat.”
Liberal Democrat Culture, Media & Sport Spokesperson in the House of Commons, Christine Jardine, added:  
“Further delays are causing more and more vulnerable people to face financial stress, mental health problems and worse.
“It doesn’t need to be this way. Liberal Democrats demand better, which is why we have been calling for the maximum stake to be reduced to £2 for nearly a decade.

“The Tories have already taken too long to act, now they are kicking it into the long grass. It simply isn’t good enough.”

Tory cuts make our borders less secure

After an inspection report revealed Border Force staff shortages at British seaports, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs spokesperson Ed Davey has called on the Government to recruit more officers to secure our borders.
The report by David Bolt, the Government’s Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, details concerns among Border Force officers that the agency is “resourced to fail” and that, due to staff shortages, “the border is not secured by any stretch of the imagination”.
Home Office accounts show that funding for the Border Force has been cut by 8% in real terms since 2015 and the number of officers has been reduced by 7%, from 8,332 to 7,734.
Responding to the report, Ed Davey said:
“The Border Force doesn’t have the officers it needs to cope with the pressures it faces now, let alone the extra pressures it will face if we leave the EU.
“Despite all their tough talk on immigration, Tory cuts have left our borders less secure, allowing organised criminals to traffic people, weapons and illegal drugs into the UK.
“The Liberal Democrats demand better. We will recruit more officers to an accountable, intelligence-led Border Force. That will help to secure our borders, rebuild trust in the immigration system and make our communities safer.”

Brake: If your passport is blue, get in the queue

Responding to documents published by the European Commission which show that British visitors to EU countries will require visas if their stay exceeds 90 days in a 180 day period, Brexit Spokesperson Tom Brake said:

"Now we are beginning to realise why the Brexiters wanted everyone to get new, blue passports; to collect all the visa stamps they will need to travel as freely as they do now. 

"This will come as a real shock to those who spend their winter months in Spain or Portugal and will now see additional costs and potential queues providing extra baggage. 

"Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn need to start listening to the people up and down the country, the majority now want a People's Vote, and the chance to walk away from this terrible Tory mess." 

Both Tories and Labour must be transparent about Brexit mess

Following the passing of a motion in the House of Commons yesterday calling on the Conservative Government to publish the legal advice it has received on Brexit, Liberal Democrat Brexit Spokesperson Tom Brake said:
“Tory Ministers must now be honest and upfront with the public and make available the final legal advice they have received on Brexit and the Northern Ireland backstop.
“But frankly, Labour too have a problem with legal advice. Does their legal advice confirm whether Brexit is stoppable or whether their six tests are legally compatible? The public are entitled to know.
“Both parties need to be transparent with the public on what Brexit will actually mean. It will be up to backbench MPs as to whether they blindly follow their shambolic leaderships or support a People’s Vote, including the option to remain in the EU.”

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Hostile environment must be completely scrapped

Responding to the news that NHS Digital has withdrawn from its immigration data-sharing arrangement with the Home Office, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs spokesperson Ed Davey said:
“The Home Office should never have been forcing NHS staff to supply patients’ data in the first place. Doctors and nurses’ time should be spent providing healthcare to those who need it, not acting as border guards in Theresa May’s hostile environment.
“The Liberal Democrats demand better. We will completely scrap the Tories’ hostile environment and instead invest in an accountable, intelligence-led Border Force to prevent people entering the country illegally and quickly identify those who overstay their visas.
“That way we can secure our borders and rebuild trust in the immigration system, while leaving NHS workers to focus on their jobs.”

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Government failing to meet promises made after Grenfell

Responding to the reports that more than 400 high-rise residential buildings still have the same type of external cladding blamed for the Grenfell Tower fire, Liberal Democrat spokesperson for Housing Wera Hobhouse said:

Grenfell should never have happened. The fact that thousands of families are still living in unsafe high-rise buildings is a disgrace.

“The Government is failing to meet the promises it made after the fire. The Secretary of State committed to fully fund the removal and replacement of unsafe cladding by councils and housing associations, but there are still over 150 publicly owned buildings that are unsafe.

“Furthermore, those in private residential buildings cannot be ignored. The Government must not only meet its basic promises, but must go further and fund the same for the private sector. Money can be recovered at a later date but when it is about people's homes, safety must come first.”

Detention should be a last resort

Responding as the Government announces that it will close Campsfield House immigration detention centre, Home Affairs Spokesperson Ed Davey said:

“Locking vulnerable people up – often for months on end – without giving them any idea when they’ll be released is clearly inhumane. It’s also expensive and unnecessary.

“It’s good to see that the Government is slowly recognising the need to detain fewer vulnerable people, but closing down one detention centre while keeping thousands of people locked up isn’t nearly enough.

“Liberal Democrats demand better. We are calling on the Government to close eight detention centres rather than just one, and make much greater use community-based alternatives to detention. That would save around £100 million that could be re-invested in an accountable Border Force and fixing the broken immigration system.”

Thursday, November 08, 2018

High Court rules that government must reverse cuts to modern slavery victims

Responding to today’s High Court ruling that the Government acted unlawfully when it cut payments to modern slavery victims, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs spokesperson Ed Davey said:

 “Theresa May once rightly called modern slavery the great human rights issue of our time, but her Government cut support for victims by 40%, leaving them vulnerable to further exploitation.
“Now that the court has ruled those cuts unlawful, the Government must reverse them and ensure that victims receive the help they need to escape the terrible bonds of slavery.
“You can’t fight the great human rights issue of our time on the cheap. Liberal Democrats demand better.”

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

Pharma leaders call for urgent action to protect medicine supply

A group including representatives of major pharmaceutical companies have written a joint letter to the Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, to state that if urgent action is not taken the UK will not have a medicine supply that will suffice in a no deal Brexit. 
A letter has been sent to the Health Secretary from organisations including the ABPI, the Brexit Health Alliance, and the ABHI urging the Government to raising the warning level to ‘red’ in regards a widespread shortages of medicines and device supply in no deal Brexit.
In the joint letter titled “Request for Urgent Roundtable on Medicine and Device Supply in No Deal Brexit”, the organisations note David Lidington’s report to Cabinet that ‘the normal Dover-Calais route could be at 12% capacity for six months’.
The group of organisations representing medical professionals and pharmaceutical companies do not believe the border and transport infrastructure can be ready for March 2019 and that time is very tight to address the problem.
Commenting on the letter that has been sent to Matt Hancock, and the uncertainty that is building around the possibility of a No Deal Brexit, Liberal Democrat Brexit spokesperson Tom Brake said: 
"This letter makes it clear that we are dangerously close to not having a secure supply of the critical imported drugs or medical devices our health service depends on in a No Deal Brexit. When an incredibly broad group of medical organisations and bodies are telling the Government we are at warning level ‘red’, it shows the preparations Government has made are both shockingly inadequate and woefully behind.
“They simply cannot guarantee that there won't be shortages of medicines, whether in a No Deal or a Chequers Deal scenario.

"Liberal Democrats demand better. Nobody voted for this chaotic Brexit, people are entitled to a final say on Brexit in a People's Vote and put a stop to this unnecessary, draining mess.”

Tuesday, November 06, 2018

Government should be encouraging more Commonwealth soldiers to serve - without discrimination

Responding to the announcement that more Commonwealth soldiers will be able to join the Armed Forces without living in the UK first, Defence Spokesperson Menzies Campbell said:
 “Soldiers from around the Commonwealth have played a crucial role in our military history, particularly during the two world wars. We should celebrate their service and encourage more to follow their example. But the Government must ensure that those who serve our country aren’t prevented from staying in the UK or bringing their families to join them – for example by prohibitive visa fees and other hostile policies.”

Government is sleepwalking into another Windrush-type scandal

Following a disastrous appearance at the Home Affairs Select Committee last week, Immigration Minister Caroline Nokes was brought before the House of Commons today, but was still unable to answer what immigration checks EU citizens will be subject to after Brexit, or how these will apply to those who are already here and are therefore entitled to "settled status".
The Home Office is currently trialing the scheme for applying for settled status, but it isn’t due to be fully open until March 2019. Nokes boasted that the Home Office has now granted settled status to 1,000 EU citizens, less than 0.03% of the 3.6 million EU citizens currently living in the UK.
Following the debate, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs spokesperson Ed Davey said:
“Millions of EU citizens in the UK have been living under a cloud of uncertainty for more than two years. After being quizzed by MPs on two separate occasions, the Immigration Minister has utterly failed to offer them any clarity.
"The one thing the Minister did admit is that the Conservatives will not be able to implement their much-vaunted immigration red lines for years to come.

“The Conservatives are sleepwalking into another Windrush scandal, where hostile environment checks destroy the lives of people who have every right to be in the UK. The Government’s chaotic approach to Brexit risks subjecting EU citizens to those same injustices.
"Conservative Ministers must end this uncertainty and offer a way out of this mess entirely by giving the people a final say on the Brexit deal, with the option to remain in the EU.”

Sunday, November 04, 2018

HS2: another line chalked on Grayling’s CV of failure

Responding to today’s Telegraph story carrying Transport Secretary Chris Grayling’s admission that the second phase (Birmingham to Leeds) of HS2 may never be built, Liberal Democrat Transport spokesperson Baroness Randerson said:

“This is another line chalked up on Grayling’s CV of failure.

“If HS2 turns out to be just a way of making Birmingham a suburb of London because it can be reached in 30 minutes, it will have fundamentally distorted the purpose of the project.

“This Conservative Government are dragging prosperity from the north rather than increasing it and the Liberal Democrats demand better.”

Best deal for UK is what we already have

Responding to reports in today’s Sunday Times that Theresa May has negotiated a deal with the EU that would see the UK remain in the Customs Union, Liberal Democrat Brexit spokesperson Tom Brake said: 

“The deal the PM seems to have secured will leave us as rule takers not rule makers.

“It is time she conceded that the best deal we will get is the one we already have: in the customs union, in the single market and in the EU.

“The PM must accept the growing calls around the country to put this to a People's Vote and provide an option to remain on the ballot paper.”

Saturday, November 03, 2018

Lib Dems demand more police to tackle violence epidemic

Responding to the claims from a senior police officer that children as young as nine are being caught carrying knives, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs spokesperson Ed Davey said:
“It is heart-breaking that the epidemic of violent crime is claiming the lives of so many children.

“We urgently need more police officers on our streets to restore the community policing that helps to prevent violent crime. That’s why the Liberal Democrats are demanding an extra £300 million a year for the police.

“But we also need to tackle the root causes of this epidemic to stop it spreading in our communities. That requires a public health approach involving not only the police, but also health professionals, social workers and teachers.”

Friday, November 02, 2018

Government must take action on organised crime

Responding to reports from the National Crime Agency that show the extent of organised crime in the UK, Liberal Democrats Home Affairs Spokesperson Ed Davey said:
“The true cost of organised crime extends well beyond the financial impact. It includes the children exploited by gangs, the vulnerable people held in modern slavery and the lives taken by trafficked weapons.
“That’s why the Liberal Democrats are demanding an extra £300 million a year for the police, to rebuild the community policing that helps to prevent gangs from operating, and greater investment in the Border Force to stop the trafficking of people, weapons and illegal drugs.
“But the biggest threat to the fight against organised crime is Brexit, which risks robbing us of crucial cross-border tools like the European Arrest Warrant and information-sharing systems. That’s why we are fighting to keep those tools, by giving the people the final say on the Brexit deal, with the option to remain.”

PM must end betting terminals delay

Responding to the announcement that DCMS Minister, Tracey Crouch, has resigned from the Government over their handling of fixed-odds betting terminals, Liberal Democrat MP Christine Jardine said:
“When the Minister responsible for a policy steps down, you know the Government is moving in the wrong direction.

"These machines are a blight on our society and undeniably damaging to vulnerable people.

"Tracey Crouch knows this, so why doesn’t the Prime Minister? Theresa May should come to the floor of the House and explain why this will not be implemented for another year.”

Lib Dems lead rebellion against Tory tax cuts for higher earners

Commenting as 21 Labour MPs voted with the Liberal Democrats against raising the higher rate tax threshold, Lib Dem Leader, Vince Cable said:

“Despite the best efforts of their whips, 21 Labour MPs put principle above party and voted with the Liberal Democrats against the Government’s indefensible tax cuts for higher earners. 

“It is beyond belief that a party which claims to stand 'for the many, not the few', decided not to oppose the Government on this. Using the money to fund Universal Credit or end the benefits freeze would have been a far more progressive way of using the money. 

“On Brexit, Universal Credit and now the Budget, the Liberal Democrats have shown that we are the real opposition.”