Sunday, March 31, 2019

'Global Britain' vision collides with reality

On Friday, the Department for Trade published an impact assessment for the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (FTA)

As a European Union member, the UK is part of 40 trade agreements. However, so far the UK have only signed 8 continuity trade deals for if the UK leaves the European Union without a deal.

Responding to the statement, Liberal Democrat Brexit Spokesperson Tom Brake said:

“Today, at one minute past 11pm, was supposed to be Trade Deal Day for Liam Fox - the day he would roll-over all our EU trade deals.
“This was the day when his vision of a buccaneering Britain would reach fruition. We would sign off trade deals worth tens of billions of pounds with countries across the globe.
“Unfortunately his vision has collided with hard reality. Even when he gets the deal signed with Vietnam, the number still remains less than ten.

"On a day in which the Government has witnessed yet another embarrassing defeat of the Prime Minister's deal, they have clearly decided today is a good day to bury bad news."
"Fox has failed. He should pay the price and walk."

Stop and search is not the answer

Responding to the announcement that Police in England and Wales will be given greater stop and search powers to tackle rising knife crime, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson Ed Davey said:

“Yet again, the Tories are trying to tackle knife crime on the cheap. It won’t work.
“More random, suspicion-less Stop and Searches, carried out disproportionately on people from BAME [Black and Minority Ethnic] communities, are not the answer. They will not only consume police time and erode trust in the police, but have little impact in actually preventing people carrying knives.
“What we really need is more community police officers to build trust, turn young people away from crime, and target Stop & Searches on those who do carry knives.
“The Liberal Democrats demand better than this ineffective and counter-productive policy. The Government must give police forces the funding they need to recruit more officers and combat this knife crime epidemic.

Friday, March 29, 2019

Outrage as Theresa May uses taxpayers money to promote controversial speech

The Liberal Democrats have slammed the Conservative Government for using tens of thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money to promote Theresa May’s controversial speech last week where she blamed MPs for her failure to pass her EU withdrawal deal. 
Liberal Democrat Brexit spokesperson Tom Brake said the speech itself was “outrageous” but using taxpayers’ money to promote it was an “insult” and “really takes the biscuit.”
According to Facebook’s ad library, which publishes a record how much is spent on advertising, the UK Government spent between £12k and £30k in one day promoting the Prime Minister’s speech. Since October last year, the UK Government has spent a total of £191,000 on Facebook advertising.
However, the speech was roundly criticised across Westminster. According to reports, the Prime Minister’s own Chief Whip described the statement in Downing Street as "appalling."
The Liberal Democrats highlighted that the cost of adverts, bankrolled by the taxpayer, to promote the PM’s controversial speech was the equivalent of a nurse’s salary for a whole year.
Liberal Democrat Brexit spokesperson Tom Brake said: 
“This Prime Minister has lost the plot. At a time when she should be reaching across Parliament to build a consensus, her outrageous statement last week just pointed the finger at MPs and stoked further divisions.
“To now find out Theresa May used tens of thousands of pounds of public money to promote her deeply misjudged comments is an insult to taxpayers. It really takes the biscuit.
“The Tories cannot be trusted with taxpayers’ money, never mind Brexit negotiations. It is time the people took back the power and had the final say on Brexit, with the option to stay in the EU.”

Tories have pushed 200,000 children into poverty

The number of children living in absolute poverty across the UK has risen by 200,000 in a year, to a total of 3.7 million.

Responding to the government data release, Liberal Democrat DWP Spokesperson Christine Jardine said:

“This government should be absolutely ashamed of itself for presiding over the first increase in absolute child poverty in six years.

"The main culprits – the benefits freeze, the arbitrary two-child limit, and huge cuts to Universal Credit – were policy decisions, not accidents. Yet what would normally be front-page news has been buried by the never ending chaos of Brexit.
“The Liberal Democrats refuse to let the Conservatives get away with destroying the life prospects of 200,000 innocent children.

"That is why we are calling for the full reversal of cuts to Universal Credit work allowances, the abolition of the cruel two-child limit, and the creation of a second earner’s work allowance so that both parents in a couple are rewarded for work.”   

Thursday, March 28, 2019

The Commons moves towards a People's Vote

Vince Cable says that a shifting centre of gravity signals an option that MPs can't put down

Yesterday evening's Indicative Votes in the House of Commons have showed that significant support has shifted towards giving the people the final say on Brexit. [Infogram courtesy of]

The confirmatory referendum received more support than Theresa May's deal and was the most popular option on the order paper.

Commenting, Leader of the Liberal Democrats Vince Cable said: 

“As anticipated, the Commons has not produced an absolutely clear way forward, but it is clearer where the centre of gravity now is.

“What is essential is that whichever Brexit option the government pursues, it is put to the public in a confirmatory referendum. We have led calls for a People’s Vote for nearly three years, and we believe it remains as crucial this evening as at any time since 2016.

“The Leave campaign made promises which are simply undeliverable.  The public must be able to choose between the final Brexit offer – whatever that is – and keeping the deal we already have as full members of the European Union.”

DWP are without a plan for disabled people willing to work

Responding to the National Audit Office report revealing that two years into the strategy, minsters have not yet developed detailed proposals for their goal of getting one million more disabled people into work by 2027, Liberal Democrat DWP Spokesperson Christine Jardine said:

“Quite frankly I’m unsurprised by these findings, which simply add to the mounting stack of evidence showing that the DWP is not fit for purpose.
“It’s shameful that the department responsible for monitoring work capability is incapable of producing a plan so they can reach their own targets. They boast about how many disabled people are now in work, but this figure is completely useless if it can’t be matched to a reduction in the number out of work.

“Disabled people deserve more from this shambolic Tory government. Liberal Democrats demand better.”

Lib Dems lead debate to end fracking


The Liberal Democrats will today lead a debate in the House of Commons calling for an end to fracking because of its adverse impact on the environment and its incompatibility with tackling the climate crisis.
Liberal Democrat Climate Change Spokesperson Wera Hobhouse, who is leading the backbench debate, is also expected to warn the Conservative Government’s proposed changes to planning permission for fracking sites would deprive local authorities of their “historic rights of self-determination.”
The debate comes hot on the heels of the #FridaysForFuture movement which saw Swedish student Greta Thunberg inspire hundreds of thousands of school pupils across the world to strike in aid of tackling climate change, including in the UK.
Speaking ahead of the debate, Liberal Democrat Climate Change Spokesperson Wera Hobhouse said: 
“There is no doubt that fracking causes a massive amount of harm to both the immediate environment and our wider countryside, bringing with it the potential threat of earthquakes, water pollution, and green spaces transforming into industrial landscapes.
“Since the Conservative Government’s proposals on shale gas were announced, 300,000 people have signed petitions against their plans and forty councils have passed motions to reject them. They rightly demand better and it would be criminal to ignore them.
“The Liberal Democrats stand with the tens of thousands of young people marching to demand the climate crisis is averted. We are categorically against fracking, and the damage it would inflict on our environment. It's time Conservative Ministers listened, and ushered in an age of renewables.”

Thursday, March 21, 2019

'Govt treating EU citizens appallingly' with Settled Status call charges

Responding to reports that thousands of EU citizens are being forced to pay for calls to the Home Office’s Settlement Resolution Centre for help with their Settled Status applications, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs spokesperson Ed Davey said:

“EU citizens in the UK are our neighbours and our colleagues, our families and our friends. But ever since the Brexit referendum, they have been treated appallingly by this Conservative Government.
“Making them pay up to 40p per minute to get help navigating the complex Home Office system for applying for Settled Status is just the latest shameful example.
“This shows that, despite the shocking revelations of the Windrush Scandal, the Home Office’s hostile culture hasn’t changed a bit – and that means we are heading for another scandal when thousands of EU citizens lose their rights after Brexit.

“The only way to stop that happening is to stop Brexit. That’s why the Liberal Democrats are demanding a People’s Vote with the option to remain in the EU.”

Tory policies “playing into the hands of slavers”

Responding to new statistics on victims of trafficking and modern slavery, published by the National Crime Agency yesterday, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs spokesperson Ed Davey said:
“The appalling scale of slavery in 21st century Britain shames our country.
“These figures are shocking, but even worse are the thousands more victims who remain hidden – because they are unable or unwilling to come forward, and because the authorities do not have the resources they need to pro-actively go after trafficking and exploitation.
“Theresa May once rightly called modern slavery ‘the great human rights issue of our time’, yet her hostile environment makes it harder for victims to come forward. Her refusal to fund enforcement properly is playing into the hands of slavers.
“Liberal Democrats demand better for the victims of modern slavery. We will end the hostile environment and give the police, the Border Force and the Gang-masters and Labour Abuse Authority the resources they need to stop traffickers, free victims and bring those who exploit them to justice.”

Brexit statement from Vince Cable, Liz Saville Roberts, Ian Blackford, and Caroline Lucas

In a joint statement following cross-party discussions tonight, Vince Cable, Liz Saville Roberts, Ian Blackford, and Caroline Lucas said:

"The Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru, the SNP and the Green Party have been working together and meeting regularly for the past two years since the EU referendum.

"We agree that the House of Commons must formulate a plan that will give the EU Council the confidence to agree a longer extension beyond 30th June, so that by the end of next week legislation can be in place to prevent a No Deal exit.

"Parliament should now sit in continuous session until it can reach a decision and set out a clear plan.

"We will be pushing for the House of Commons to support a referendum on remaining in the EU, others will put forward their own positions. If the Commons cannot agree, as a last resort we would be prepared to take steps to secure a parliamentary vote on the revocation of Article 50.

"The Prime Minister must not be allowed to bully MPs into a choice between her bad deal and no deal. That would make Brexit a choice between disaster and catastrophe, and that would be a failure of truly historic proportions.

"The UK – and all of its people and nations – deserve better."

Lib Dems: We need a compassionate and effective immigration system

Commenting on the Home Affairs Select Committee's report into immigration detention, which identifies 'serious failings in almost every area' of the process, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs spokesperson Ed Davey said:

“Locking people up for months on end – without giving them any idea how long they’ll be detained – is clearly inhumane. It’s also expensive and unnecessary.
“That’s why the Liberal Democrats are campaigning for detention to be reduced to an absolute last resort and subject to a 28-day time limit.
“To make matters worse, the Home Office is woefully failing to manage the system properly, with far too many people wrongfully detained, including victims of torture, trafficking and abuse.
“The Liberal Democrats demand far better than this. We would take responsibility for immigration away from the discredited Home Office, which has ruined thousands of innocent lives.
“Only then can we build an effective, compassionate immigration system that works for everyone.”

Police must invest and investigate distressing rise in fraud

The Liberal Democrats have called for urgent funding to assist the police in investigating fraud following the publication of a report by UK Finance which shows criminals successfully stole £1.2 billion through fraud and scams in 2018.
The report shows scams in which criminals trick bank customers into paying them money out of their bank accounts jumped by 45% in the second half of last year.
Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson Ed Davey said: 
“Fraud and scams are deeply distressing, particularly given it is the most vulnerable who are targeted. Sadly these incidents have become all too common. People deserve to know their money is safe and free from attack.
“The Liberal Democrats demand better. We demand proper investment in our police, so they can investigate and prevent fraud online while also tackling the shocking rise in knife crime on our streets.
“On-line fraud is often perpetrated by serious international crime gangs to fund their other criminal activities. British leadership in Europol has helped to combat this scourge, but that will be lost if we leave the EU – deal or no deal.”

Monday, March 18, 2019

Liberal Democrats demand a Clean Air Act

On the first day of their Spring Federal Conference, the Liberal Democrats demanded the Conservative Government bring forward a Clean Air Act enshrining the legal right to unpolluted air.

The proposals, set out at the Liberal Democrat conference in York, are based on World Health Organisation guidelines and would be enforced by a new Air Quality Agency.
If successful, the Clean Air Act would also demand air pollution testing took place more widely and frequently, with warning signs displayed in pollution hotspots and sensitive areas, such as near schools.
Speaking after the debate, Liberal Democrat Climate Change Spokesperson Wera Hobhouse said:
“The Tories are just not taking air pollution seriously, despite current levels contributing to diabetes, dementia and heart disease - well as impacting children in the womb and the lungs of children at school.
“It is an absolutely disgraceful dereliction of duty. However, the way things are today are not the way they have to be. People deserve better, and the Liberal Democrats demand better.
"That is why we are calling for real action backed by the ambitious legislation we need to clean up our air and tackle this growing public health crisis.”

Lib Dems back access to justice for all

Yesterday Liberal Democrat Spring Conference voted for the restoration of Legal Aid and a new legal right to access to justice for everyone.

In a motion on Sunday morning, Conference asserted that access to justice is a crucial right and that cuts to Legal Aid have undermined it.

Liberal Democrats voted for the restoration of Legal Aid for early legal advice, assistance and representation in benefit, debt, employment, immigration, housing and family law cases.

Conference also voted to establish a new right to affordable, reasonable legal assistance with a new, independent Justice Commission to monitor and enforce it.

Liberal Democrat Justice spokesperson Wera Hobhouse, who summated the motion, commented:

“Access to justice is a critical right. Without it, people can be wrongfully evicted, deported, denied benefits or deprived custody of their children – with no real chance to fight for their rights in court.

“The Conservative Government’s cuts to Legal Aid have gone far beyond what was envisaged in 2012, leaving far too many people – especially vulnerable people – without legal advice or representation. That in turn contributes to poverty and social exclusion.

“The Liberal Democrats demand better. The motion we have passed today would ensure access to justice through a properly-funded, simpler Legal Aid system. That is a fundamental part of building the fairer society we all want to live in."

Liberal Democrats demand action to save Britain’s town centres

The Liberal Democrat federal conference approved a comprehensive plan to end the crisis on Britain’s high streets

The party’s plans are set out in a motion – Town Centres fit for the future – passed on Sunday at Liberal Democrat conference. The motion calls for bold action to ensure town centres thrive in an increasingly digital economy, including: boosting support for local entrepreneurs; reforming local planning laws; developing local asset registers; and creating a new industry-led body to help brick-and-mortar retailers adapt to the digital economy.

The motion also reaffirms the Liberal Democrats’ commitment to replacing business rates with a land value tax, thereby boosting investment, rebalancing the economy and cutting the average tax bill in over 90% of local authorities.

Speaking after the debate, Liberal Democrat Communities and Local Government Spokesperson Tim Farron said:

“While it is essential that we embrace innovation and the benefits of the 21st century economy, we cannot simply abandon our precious town centres to market forces.”

“There can be no doubt that our high streets are in crisis; the thousands of failed businesses and lost jobs are ample proof. But while Brexit bears some of the blame, the roots of this crisis run far deeper, from the rise of online retail to the burden of business rates and local planning failures.”

“That is why this motion is so crucial. By empowering local areas to reform their planning rules, support local entrepreneurs, and help retailers adapt to the digital economy – as well as scrapping the hated business rates system – town centres can truly take back control.” 

Swinson: Tories posturing over UK aid is shameless

Following the Tax Payers’ Alliance launch of their report attacking elements of UK aid, Liberal Democrat Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Jo Swinson MP said:
“The UK should be incredibly proud of what our aid budget has achieved across the world. Between April 2015 and March 2018 alone, UK aid provided humanitarian assistance to a staggering 26.8 million people, including at least 8.2 million women and girls.
“Through the Department for International Development and its work with multilateral organisations, UK aid not only changes lives but does so in a transparent and effective way: DFID is consistently ranked amongst world leaders in aid transparency.
“Despite this success, Conservative MPs have repeatedly attacked UK aid. Priti Patel and the Tax Payers' Alliance are the latest example of this shameless posturing.
“Enshrining the 0.7% aid commitment in law was one of the Liberal Democrat’s greatest achievements in Government and we will continue to fight against efforts to weaken the effectiveness and success of UK aid.”

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Cable: Labour leadership sits on their hands

Speaking after the Labour Party failed to back a People's Vote and the House of Commons voted for an extension of Article 50, Leader of the Liberal Democrats Vince Cable said: 

"Labour have predictably let down the cause of a People’s Vote this evening. This was their first chance to stand up and be counted, but instead they sat on their hands. Brexit remains in chaos with the government having faced heavy defeats this week. 

“The Commons has agreed by a large majority that Article 50 will have to be extended. With the hallowed exit date of March 29 more or less scrapped, it now seems inevitable that Brexit will be delayed or very possibly stopped. A People’s Vote remains the only way to resolve what is fast becoming a national crisis.”

Spring Statement an insult to police officers and knife crime victims

Responding to the Chancellor’s announcement on police funding in his Spring Statement, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson Ed Davey said:
“Faced with the current epidemic of knife crime claiming the lives of so many young people, the Government’s response today is shockingly inadequate.
“The Conservatives have cut £1 billion from police budgets since 2015, and now they offer just £80 million back. They have taken 5,000 police officers and 2,600 community support officers off the streets, and now they offer to fund some extra overtime.
“This is an insult to our hard-working police and an insult to the victims of knife crime and their families.
“The Liberal Democrats demand better. The Government must give local police forces the funding they need to recruit more officers and restore the community policing that prevents crime and keeps us safe.
“The Government must also invest in a proper public health approach that brings together youth services, community groups, schools and the NHS to tackle the shocking rise in knife crime.”

Short prison sentences for knives don't work

Responding to the figures showing the number of crimes related to knives and other offensive weapons dealt with by the courts has reached a nine year high, Liberal Democrat Justice Spokesperson Wera Hobhouse:

“Both the Justice Secretary and the Prisons Minister have admitted that short prison sentences don’t work and actually increase the risk of re-offending. So why are so many young people still being sent to prison for a few months for carrying knives?
“These pointless sentences do nothing to deter young people and offer no chance of rehabilitating them. Instead, they cost millions and only worsen the crisis of overcrowding in our prisons.
“The Liberal Democrats demand better. The Government must urgently bring forward legislation to end pointless short-term sentences and take real action to prevent knife crime: more police officers, more youth services and a proper public health approach.”

Ed Davey tables bill to waive “exorbitant” immigration fees for Commonwealth soldiers


Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson Ed Davey yesterday tabled a Bill to exempt members of the British Armed Forces and their families from “exorbitant” immigration fees.
There are several thousand Foreign and Commonwealth nationals serving in our Armed Forces. Under the Immigration Rules, those who have served for four years or more are entitled to apply for indefinite leave to enter or remain in the UK upon discharge, and to sponsor applications for their partners and children.
However, the fees for these applications have more than doubled since 2015, and now stand at £2,389 per person. This means that the cost of applying for a family of four is £9,556.
Ed Davey’s Immigration (Armed Forces) Bill would remove financial requirements and fees for applications for indefinite leave to remain from Foreign or Commonwealth members of the Armed Forces and their families.
Mr Davey has also tabled an Early Day Motion calling on the Government to waive the application fees, and is encouraging MPs from all parties to support it.
Ahead of the presentation of his Bill, Ed Davey said:
“Thousands of men and women from Commonwealth nations risk their lives in service of our country as members of Britain’s Armed Forces. They have the right to live here with their families once their service ends, but the Home Office’s exorbitant application fees are preventing them from taking up that right.
“These fees have forced some veterans to leave the UK, others to live here undocumented and unable to work, and many others to take out big loans that they cannot afford. This is clearly an unfair burden on those who have contributed so much to our country.
“Our veterans deserve better, and the Liberal Democrats demand better for them. My bill would exempt all members of the Armed Forces and their families from immigration fees, in recognition of the enormous debt we owe them.
“As with the campaign for the rights of Gurkhas a decade ago, I believe that this is an issue on which members of all parties can come together to ensure that the UK upholds its obligations to our veterans.”

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Business leaders join Cable in Brexit warning

Ahead of Philip Hammond’s Spring Statement today, business leaders have signed a joint statement with Leader of the Liberal Democrats Vince Cable warning that the UK faces more uncertainty if Brexit proceeds.
Twenty business people, from a range of backgrounds, agree “Any investment which is ‘pent up’ will remain so if Brexit proceeds, during a period of protracted and acrimonious further negotiation.
“The Chancellor is labouring in an absurd delusion by suggesting the economy will receive any Brexit Boost. Instead, there will be a heavy price to pay for business and for citizens.
 “The Government’s Withdrawal Agreement leaves a panoply of crucial questions about the future trading relationship of the EU unanswered.
“The certainty which businesses crave can only be secured by a People’s Vote and a decision to stay in the European Union, as a leading player setting the rules rather than merely following them.
Leader of the Liberal Democrats Vince Cable added: 

"It is quite clear that business isn’t fooled by the idea that ‘getting on’ with Brexit would provide certainty.
“The only really certain outcome would be to give the public a choice between the friendless Withdrawal Agreement and remaining in the EU.
“Overwhelmingly – whether in public or in private – business would prefer to stay as a full members of the EU.  If the public chooses to do so in a People’s Vote, there would be a significant economic boost.
“Contrary to all the government tries to allege, Brexit with a deal or without will cause the economy to contract.  Brexit means a poorer country, and a less welcoming home for business investment.”

Lib Dems stop Tories from offering up NHS in return for trade deals

Yesterday Liberal Democrat Lords inflicted two significant Government defeats on a Bill which could have allowed healthcare deals offering access to the NHS to be signed in return for trade deals.

 The two cross-party amendments, which restricted the application of the Bill to the EEA and Switzerland and also restricted the scope of the regulation making powers, were passed by the House of Lords by 36 and 38 votes respectively.
The Healthcare International Arrangements Bill legislates for the Government to makes reciprocal healthcare agreements with other countries.
However, the Bill does not just guarantee that UK citizens can continue to benefit from their EHIC cards in the case of a ‘no-deal’ Brexit, but in fact gave ministers the power to sign these deals with any country in the world, not just to replace the deals we currently have with the EU.
Speaking after the vote, Liberal Democrat Health Spokesperson Judith Jolly said:
“Tonight, the Liberal Democrats have defeated the Tory Government so that the Bill is limited to only allow ministers to replace the health deals we already have.
“This is an important victory for the NHS. We know the NHS has long been struggling due to unprecedented demand on its services. Giving NHS access to a multitude of new countries without Parliament having any say was alarming to say the least.
“We all know Liam Fox is completely desperate to sign pretty much anything, and today we ensured that access to the NHS is not up for grabs in return for a trade deal. The Liberal Democrats are not against the Government signing new health deals, but these new powers without proper scrutiny could have led to the NHS being put under more pressure than ever before.
“Throughout the Brexit process, we have witnessed the Conservative Government grab power and water down our standards and protections. Sadly, this Bill was no different. Today’s vote marks a huge success in stopping the Tories selling our NHS down the river.”

Lib Dems act to protect freedom of movement

Today, the House of Lords will vote on a Liberal Democrat amendment to the Trade Bill which will require the Government to preserve the free economic movement of people should the UK leave the EU.
Speaking ahead of the vote, Liberal Democrat Leader in the House of Lords, Dick Newby, said:
"Now that the Commons has resoundingly defeated Theresa May’s damaging Brexit deal twice, Jeremy Corbyn cannot dither on his support for a People’s Vote any longer. It is time his opposition to a damaging Brexit deal is put to the test.
"If his front bench fails to support this amendment, it will reveal that, for Labour too, nothing has changed. They still want to get out of the Single Market and will help the Tories deliver Brexit.
"EU membership has allowed us to live, work and study wherever we want across Europe. Both a Tory and a Labour Brexit would bring that to an end.
"With the Commons in disarray, it is time that Labour realised that a People’s Vote with the option to stay in the EU, is not a last resort to end the Brexit chaos but an urgent necessity."

Friday, March 08, 2019

Davey: Strip Home Office of immigration powers

Responding to an Institute for Government’s report highlighting “flaws in the immigration system”, published today, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson Ed Davey said:
“The Institute for Government is right. The Windrush scandal and countless other failings show that the immigration system is not fit for purpose.
“Now Brexit risks another scandal on an even bigger scale, as millions of EU citizens are exposed to the poisonous combination of Home Office incompetence and Theresa May’s hostile environment.
“The Liberal Democrats demand better. We will scrap the hostile environment and strip the Home Office of responsibility for immigration.
“Policy-making on work visas, student visas and asylum should be given to the Departments for Business, Education and International Development respectively – parts of Whitehall that aren’t infected by the Home Office’s toxic culture, and that understand far better the needs of our economy, our universities and refugees.”

Chancellor must end the freeze on benefits and tax credits

Liberal Democrat DWP Spokesperson Christine Jardine has called for the Chancellor to use his Spring Statement to end the freeze on working-age benefits, including Universal Credit and tax credits.
It comes as the Joseph Rowntree Foundation publishes new statistics revealing that, should the final year of the freeze go ahead, the benefits freeze will end up pushing 400,000 more people into poverty since 2015.
Liberal Democrat MP Christine Jardine said: 
"The Conservative freeze on working-age benefits is causing real pain and misery that must be stopped. Liberal Democrats demand better than the Tories' cruel policy of balancing the books on the backs of the poorest.
“Liberal Democrats have long campaigned for an urgent end to the benefits freeze and a full restoration of the billions the Tories' cut from Universal Credit. Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s report proves all families and children would benefit, particularly the most vulnerable.
“The Spring Statement is the last chance to scrap the benefits freeze before the final year of the freeze kicks in. The Chancellor must end the misery. If he doesn’t, he should be in no doubt that every life made harder and every child pushed into poverty will be on his watch.”

Thursday, March 07, 2019

Cable: Housebuilders must not pinch their profits from the public purse

Responding to the announcements that Persimmon's profits have topped £1 billion as it is under scrutiny over its continued involvement in the Help to Buy scheme, Leader of the Liberal Democrats Vince Cable said:

“Far from benefiting first time buyers, the major effect of Help to Buy is to drive up demand while having no effect on supply.  Prices go up and buyers are forced off the housing ladder. The result is not help for those who need it, but a boost to the profits of big developers.
“Liberal Democrats have set out how government could be delivering 300,000 homes a year over the next decade, by creating a British Housing Company as a dedicated, not-for-profit body to build on land acquired compulsorily without profits from land scarcity.
“The fact that Persimmon’s profits have topped £1 billion at the taxpayer’s expense is a scandal. The Government must act to stop Help to Buy, rather than allowing big housebuilders to pinch their profits from the public purse.”

Home Secretary ‘open-minded’ on refugees' right to work

Liberal Democrat MP Christine Jardine has secured assurances from the Home Secretary that he is ‘open-minded’ about her Bill which would loosen rules around asylum seekers’ right to work.
The Edinburgh West MP raised her campaign with Sajid Javid in a joint meeting organised by cross-party group, More United.
Currently, asylum seekers can only work if they have been waiting more than 12 months for their claim to be processed, and only then if they can fill a role on the Government’s very narrow ‘shortage occupation list’.
Ms Jardine’s Bill would change the law to allow them to work after just 3 months, which would vastly improve integration, help people rebuild their lives, and save the taxpayer millions in support payments*.
After the meeting, Ms Jardine said:
“Being denied the right to work, and to put food on the table for you and your family, is cruel and undignified. People deserve better.
“I was therefore very encouraged to hear that the Home Secretary is open-minded about backing my campaign and changing the rules to allow asylum seekers the right to work.
“He told me that he and his officials are looking in to the issue, but that more evidence is needed to clear up some reservations.
“I will now work with colleagues across the House to provide him with that evidence, so that we can finally get the law changed and help people who have risked so much to rebuild their lives.”

Revealed: Home Office report rubbishes Boris Johnson's Stop and Search claim

Liberal Democrat Home Affairs spokesperson Ed Davey reveals that a stop and search programme recently lauded by Boris Johnson had "no statistically significant crime-reducing effect" according to a Home Office report.

Earlier this week the former Mayor of London, Boris Johnson defended the stop and search project Operation Blunt 2 stating that it had taken "10,000 knives off the streets".

However, this statement from Johnson undermines the report of the Home Office which concluded “Overall, analysis shows that there was no discernible crime-reducing effects from a large surge in stop and search activity at the borough level during the operation.” 

Responding Liberal Democrat Home Affairs spokesperson Ed Davey said:

“Is there no depth of deception to which Boris Johnson will not stoop?

“Citing his massive increase in Stop and Searches in London as he argues for the same policy now, when the Home Office’s own analysis shows that it had ‘no discernible crime-reducing effects’.

“His gall would be impressive if it weren’t so destructive. Instead of reducing crime, expanding Stop and Search will only increase discrimination and undermine the community relations police officers need to prevent knife crime.

“We know what is needed to tackle this knife crime epidemic: more police, more youth services and a proper public health approach. We mustn’t let Boris’s dishonest arguments distract us.”

PM fails to stand up for rural communities over bank closures

Liberal Democrat MP Tim Farron yesterday used Prime Minister's Questions to urge the Prime Minister to properly compensate communities that have been abandoned by the banks and forced to use online banking instead.

According to the consumer group Which? around 3,000 bank branches have closed over the past three years.

Meanwhile over the same time period, innocent customers have lost an extra £2billion in on-line and financial fraud.

Speaking during Prime Ministers Questions, Tim Farron asked: “Will she agree that the banks have taken without giving for too long?

“Will she meet with me to force the banks to compensate victims of fraud, to compensate the communities they have abandoned and to prevent banks closing the last branch in town?”

In response, the Prime Minister refused to help abandoned communities and victims of financial fraud, instead saying that banks are “commercial organisations and those are decisions that they take.”

Following the exchange, Liberal Democrat MP Tim Farron said: 

“It’s absolutely staggering and hugely disappointing that the Prime Minister has decided to turn her back on communities like Grange in my constituency that have been abandoned by the banks.

“People who have been victims of financial fraud and those who have been let down by the banks deserve better than the Prime Minister shrugging her shoulders.”

Tuesday, March 05, 2019

Tory governement must take responsibility for knife crime epidemic

Liberal Democrat Home Affairs spokesperson Ed Davey has called on the Conservative Government to take responsibility for the knife crime epidemic and invest in more police and youth services.

Ed Davey said:

“Far too many innocent young lives are being taken by the epidemic of violence that is consuming our cities. Instead of just lamenting these tragedies and talking tough, Ministers need to accept their share of responsibility for this crisis.
“When children are excluded from school and see their youth centres closed, it’s hardly surprising that so many of them fall into the grip of gangs. When they see fewer and fewer police officers on the streets, it’s hardly surprising that young people start carrying knives for protection.
“There can be no doubt that unnecessary Tory cuts have made our communities less safe.
“The Liberal Democrats demand better. We demand more community police officers, urgent investment in youth services and a dramatic reduction in the use of school exclusions – all part of a proper public health approach to tackle the shocking rise in knife crime.”
NB Although education policy is devolved in Wales, it is the Westminster government which determines the overall allocation of funds here. If there were to be an increase in funding for education in England, there would be a corresponding increase in the Welsh settlement. Policing is not devolved.

Lib Dem Christine Jardine introduces legislation to scrap the gender price gap

Today Liberal Democrat MP Christine Jardine introduces a Bill to to end the so called ‘Pink Tax’.

Christine Jardine is launching her campaign to remove the gender price gap with a Bill to be presented to Parliament to mark International Women’s Day.

Commenting on her Private Member’s Bill, Ms Jardine said
“It is entirely unacceptable that in 2019 women and girls are still paying more than men for basic products, such as razors and deodorant.  Whilst women are often still being paid less too, women really are being hit by a double whammy.
“Products marketed at women are on average considerably more expensive than those marketed at men. Often the only difference is the colour, yet this unfair price gap will have a significant financial impact on a woman over the course of her life.
“Liberal Democrats demand better. It’s time to get rid of this price gap. My Bill would remove this outdated and sexist tax on women once and for all.”

Friday, March 01, 2019

Tory "reforms" have done nothing to stop re-offending

Today the National Audit Office have released a report stating that reforms to probation services have failed to meet the Ministry of Justice's targets to reduce re-offending.

Responding to the report, Liberal Democrat Justice Spokesperson Wera Hobhouse said:

“The rehabilitation of offenders and their re-integration into the community is central to who we are as a society and vital for cutting crime. It must be done with a sense of responsibility.
“Good public services cannot be expected to be run on a shoe string. The Tory party’s obsession with saving money has actually cost millions and increased crime.
“Liberal Democrats demand better. The Government must properly fund rehabilitative services, create clear lines of accountability and take its responsibility to all citizens seriously.”

PM's 'right to rent' checks found guilty of breaching human rights

Today, the High Court has ruled that the Conservative Government's 'right to rent' scheme breaches human rights laws. These rules, aimed at preventing illegal immigrants from renting properties, were blocked by the Liberal Democrats back in 2013.

Responding to the ruling, Home Affairs Spokesperson Ed Davey said:

“The Windrush Scandal should’ve been the end of Theresa May’s hostile environment, and today’s judgement must be the final nail in the coffin.
“The Liberal Democrats blocked the Theresa May's ‘right to rent’ checks in Coalition precisely because we were concerned about racial discrimination, but the Tories didn’t listen and rolled them out after 2015.
“The hostile environment has seen thousands of people deprived of their rights, and now the High Court has ruled that a key part of it is discriminatory. The Government must now scrap it without delay.”