Saturday, June 29, 2019

Liberalism has faced down bigger challenges than Putin

Following comments made by Vladimir Putin, in which the Russian President called liberalism 'obsolete', Liberal Democrat Foreign Affairs spokesperson Jo Swinson said: 

“Liberalism has faced down bigger challenges than Vladimir Putin, Boris Johnson or Viktor Orban.

“It’s survived and thrived on our continent for more than two centuries and through two World Wars. It’s not about to lay down to let nationalists and populists take over. 

“People across Europe and around the world are crying out for more open, inclusive and liberal societies, and in the UK the Liberal Democrats are at the heart of that growing liberal movement."

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Lib Dems launch plan to tackle knife crime crisis

In connection with today's debate in Parliament, Brian Paddick, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs spokesperson in the Lords, has launched a five-point plan to tackle the knife crime epidemic.

His public health approach which he has called on the Conservative Government to enact is outlined below:
  1. Enabling parents to be there for their children by tackling in-work poverty & providing the support parents and their children need.
  2. Safe and healthy alternatives to gangs: providing a positive safety net for those whose parents can’t provide the support their children need.
  3. Healing the damage caused by Adverse Childhood Experiences by addressing the psychological impact with intervention at ‘teachable moments’ and countering the normalisation of violence through compulsory sex and relationship education.
  4. Inclusive education: fewer excluded pupils, adaptable education that addresses every pupil’s needs, including teaching the realities of criminal gangs.
  5. United against knife crime: restoring community policing so police and communities can work on the same side against the knife carriers.

Following the launch of the plan, Brian Paddick said:
"Knife crime claims a new life almost every day but the Conservatives are not taking the crisis seriously. We have witnessed devastating cuts to our police force as well as a piecemeal approach which fails to make any impact.

"Knife crime is a public health emergency and therefore demands a public health response. Government departments should be working together to enact the changes we need to get a grip of this rise in violent crime.

"The knife crime epidemic needs a cohesive and joined-up approach which is what the Liberal Democrats have put forward. Not only must we address the decimation of community policing, but we must tackle other factors driving knife crime such as in work poverty and school exclusions.

"So I call on the Government to enact our plan. By doing so, we can move towards a society where young people are safe on our streets."

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Giving revenge porn victims anonymity is long overdue

Responding to reports that the Government is considering granting anonymity to victims of revenge porn in prosecutions as part of a review of image-based sexual abuse laws, Liberal Democrat Justice Spokesperson Wera Hobhouse said: 

“Revenge porn is a despicable form of abuse. Guaranteeing anonymity for victims is a change that is long overdue.

“The Liberal Democrats led the fight to outlaw revenge porn in 2015, but prosecutions are still far too low.

“That’s why the Liberal Democrats tabled legislation to extend anonymity to victims back in 2016, but the Conservatives and Labour blocked our attempts.

“The Government must bring forward this change without further delay, so that abusers can be brought to justice.”

Hannah Thompson, the Welsh Liberal Democrat who was one of the first women to raise the issue, said:
"Revenge porn is a disturbing and humiliating crime, and one that puts its victims under a great deal of stress. I'm pleased that the Law Commission are examining existing laws to ensure they're up to scratch, and I'm hopeful that automatic anonymity will be granted, easing some of the burden on victims coming forward. However, it is disappointing to see that they will not report back their findings until 2021. Given the pace of technological change, and the number of people affected by this crime - it's highly important that individuals are protected, and supported, as they seek justice."

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Liberal Democrats score victory for access to justice

The House of Lords yesterday passed a Liberal Democrat amendment to the Courts and Tribunals (Online Procedure) Bill that will protect access to justice for people at risk of being digitally excluded.

The Government Bill brings a number of court procedures online. Liberal Democrat peers, led by Justice Spokesperson Jonathan Marks, have raised concerns that moving certain proceedings online may put those who struggle to easily access digital systems at risk of being excluded from access to justice.
Lord Marks therefore tabled an amendment to the Bill to put a statutory duty on the Government to make support available for digitally excluded people. This support includes assisting them to initiate, conduct, progress or participate in the proceedings by electronic means.
Government Ministers accepted the amendment today, and it was passed by the House of Lords without a vote.
Liberal Democrat Justice Spokesperson Jonathan Marks said:
“We welcome the move from the Government to start the much-needed process of modernising the courts. We were however concerned that sufficient support was not in place to ensure full access to the new system.
“Navigating the courts is difficult enough for many as it is, and moving the system online could present problems, particularly for some older people, for those without computers or digital ability, for those who have no access to workable broadband, or those whose first language is not English.
“The decision to accept the Liberal Democrat amendment is the right one, and I’m pleased we were able to persuade the Government that modernisation must not leave the digitally excluded behind.”

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Swinson: 'Monumental' Court decision deems UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia unlawful

Congratulating the CAAT on their successful case against the Conservative government’s arms sales to Saudi Arabia, Liberal Democrat Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Jo Swinson said:

“Saudi Arabia is an enemy of British values, including human rights and the rule of law. Their repeated violation and disregard for human rights should have ruled them out as an arms trading partner long ago.

“Instead the Conservative government have continued to export arms and equipment to this brutal regime. The situation is inexcusable and cannot continue. 
“This court ruling is monumental. 
"It is now clear for all to see: the UK arms sales to the Saudi regime are unlawful. The Liberal Democrats are clear that the only acceptable course of action by the Tory Government is to suspend them immediately, rather than continuing to allow arm sales to a country which is targeting innocent civilians."

Government must back Bill to clean up our air

Today, on Clean Air Day, the Liberal Democrats have secured a victory with the Government confirming they are looking at implementing Wera Hobhouse’s bill, which would strengthen local authority powers on idling. 

The bill would allow local authorities to increase the fines for stationary vehicle idling offences, as well as increasing fines for those who repeatedly offend.
The Environment Minister, Thérèse Coffey, was asked if the Government would consider implementing the Vehicle Emissions (Idling Penalties) Bill that was presented to the Parliament last week.
Liberal Democrat Climate Change spokesperson Wera Hobhouse said:

"For far too long this Conservative Government has failed to take air pollution seriously. They have lost numerous court cases over their inability to tackle the toxic fumes that Britain breathes every day. I am delighted that the Government have woken up to the crisis and are looking at my proposal.

"This is a major emergency, with emissions from vehicles responsible for a myriad of health problems, many terminal. Research shows that 800,000 people die every year across Europe due to air pollution.

"The legislation that I have tabled is a crucial step in tackling our air pollution crisis. It will allow local authorities to clamp down on idling without the need to apply to the Government first, and it will enable them to increase fines on repeat offenders.
“I’ve done the first step for them, all the Conservative Government needs to do is back my bill and we can put an end to idling as soon as possible. It is time the Tories did much more to tackle both the climate emergency and the air pollution crisis."

Underfunding HMRC is a 'false economy'

Figures released today (20th June) show that HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) are losing tens of billions in lost tax revenue.

During 2016/17, HMRC estimated that the shortfall was approximately £33 billion. 

Commenting on these figures, which are equivalent to the entire budget for Housing and the Environment, Liberal Democrat Business and Treasury spokesperson Chuka Umunna said:  

“For every extra pound the Government invests in HMRC, tax collection, clamping down on tax avoidance and evasion, it gets many more pounds in return but HMRC is simply not being given the resources it needs by Ministers to do the job.

"Continuing to underfund HMRC is a false economy.”

Vagrancy report shows why we need to scrap the Act

Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran yesterday urged the Government to repeal the Vagrancy Act at the launch of Crisis’ report into the case for repealing.

The MP for Oxford West and Abingdon had held a debate in the House of Commons in January on her campaign to repeal the Vagrancy Act, which criminalises rough sleeping in England and Wales. Ms Moran also introduced a Bill to repeal it in February 2018.

The report says that the Act “does not tackle the problems people have, and there is evidence that it can also push people further from the help they need.”

Speaking ahead of the launch, Layla Moran MP said:

“I absolutely welcome the publication of this report. You can’t ignore the evidence and it is clear that the Government needs to repeal the Dickensian Vagrancy Act. It is making many people’s situation even worse.

“Now is the time to act. I will not stop campaigning until we have scrapped this cruel law and we take a more compassionate approach to the homelessness crisis we are facing in this country.

“Almost 600 homeless people died on our streets in 2017 alone. We need to end this ‘out of sight, out of mind’ attitude that the Act promotes and get on with fixing the problem.”

Friday, June 14, 2019

Chuka Umunna joins the Liberal Democrats

The Liberal Democrats are delighted to announce that Streatham MP Chuka Umunna has joined the party.

Chuka joins the Liberal Democrats, having held the seat since 2010. The Liberal Democrats recently topped the poll in London during the European elections and are extremely excited to gain this seat.

Commenting on his decision, Liberal Democrat MP Chuka Umunna said:

“I have chosen to join the Liberal Democrats because it is at the forefront of a renewed, progressive and internationalist movement in British politics that shares my values.  

“Labour and the Tories are committed to facilitating Brexit, and Brexit makes ending austerity virtually impossible.  The Liberal Democrats are not – they were arguing for a People’s Vote and to remain in the EU from the very start.

“I am convinced the Liberal Democrats, as the spearhead of a broader progressive movement in civil society, offer the best chance to improve the lives of those I represent as well as countless other citizens across our country.”

In addition, Leader of the Liberal Democrats Vince Cable said: 

“Chuka and I have worked together effectively for many months, campaigning for a People’s Vote and to Stop Brexit.
“I know that he will be a great asset to our party not just on Brexit, but in fighting for the liberal and social democratic values that we share.
“He joins alongside 20,000 people across the country just this month, demonstrating clearly that the Liberal Democrats are the biggest, clearest and most formidable force in the liberal centre-ground of British politics today.”

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Leaked memo confirms no-deal Brexit medicine fears

Responding to a leaked Cabinet note revealing the UK will not be ready for a no-deal Brexit by October 31st because is will take “six to eight months” to build up supplies of medicines, Liberal Democrat MP Christine Jardine said: 

“This Government document will be extremely concerning to people who rely on medicines like insulin to stay alive.

“It is unacceptable that senior Tory figures running to be leader are suggesting that we could leave on the 31 October when documents are showing the exact opposite. 

“The candidates for Tory leadership must be honest. No deal is not a reality, it has never been a reality. 

“The only options are a people’s vote with an option to remain or Theresa May’s universally disliked deal. Only by stopping Brexit can we ensure a safe supply of medicines.” 

Farron calls for new deal to fix broken social care system

Liberal Democrat MP Tim Farron used yesterday’s Prime Minister’s Questions session to call for the establishment of a new cross-party group to bring forward a new deal to fix Britain’s social care system.
Speaking on the floor of the House of Commons, Tim said: “This log-jammed and under-worked Parliament could become one of the best if we chose to work across party to fix our broken social care system. 
“Through free votes, good will and hard work, we could design and then enact a new deal for social care that could give millions hope for the future. 
“As one of her final acts as Prime Minister, will she commit to meet me and establish a cross party group so that we can bring this social care new deal to fruition?”
In response, Theresa May said that it was important that Britain’s social care system has a sustainable future and that she hopes that the Government will bring forward a social care green paper to Parliament soon which MPs of all parties would be able to contribute towards.
Speaking afterwards, Tim Farron said

“My suggestion is that we use the Local Government Association’s green paper on social care which has already been put together by councillors from parties of all colours as a good place to start.
“What I want is for MPs to work together for a couple of months to design and bring forward a bill so this Parliament, which at the moment is so rightly derided, might actually do one of the best things that’s ever been done by any Parliament.”

We must ensure next PM cannot shutdown Parliament

Yesterday the government stopped MPs from taking control of Parliamentary business on 25th June as part of the attempt to block a no-deal Brexit.

Following the vote, Liberal Democrat Brexit Spokesperson Tom Brake MP said:

“Crashing out of the EU without a deal would be catastrophic for our NHS, jobs, and the environment. That is undeniable and it is reckless and underhand to suggest otherwise.
“Liberal Democrats will continue to do everything in our power to take no-deal off the table. Whoever the next Prime Minister is, we cannot allow them to damage our country as they attempt to shut down Parliament and ride roughshod over our democracy.”

Failed Tory policies lead to nine-year knife crime high

Responding to the Ministry of Justice’s latest knife and offensive weapon sentencing statistics, published today, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson Ed Davey said:
“The UK is facing an epidemic of knife crime, but the Conservative's cack-handed response is to repeat policies that have completely failed in the past.
“Branding young people as criminals – whether by locking them up on destructive short prison sentences or giving them one of Sajid Javid’s gimmicky new knife ASBOs – traps them in a cycle of crime, creating more victims and making our streets less safe.
“To make matters worse, we now have Boris Johnson running for Prime Minister boasting about the supposed success of his Stop & Search policies in London – even though his own Government’s analysis shows they didn’t cut knife crime and were a total waste of police time.
“The Liberal Democrats demand better. We demand a public health approach that understands why young people carry knives in the first place and addresses those causes. That means more community policing to make people feel safer and more youth services to provide a positive alternative to gangs.”

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

May's hostile environment undermines fight against modern slavery


Responding to the Prime Minister's speech on modern slavery at the International Labour Organization, Leader of the Liberal Democrats, Vince Cable said:

“Critical to tackling modern slavery is scrapping the hostile environment policies the Prime Minister has pursued, which make it far too hard for victims to come forward.

“A central register of businesses’ modern slavery statements is a welcome but too-limited development. The Government must require those statements to include actual measures to deal with slavery – something the law currently doesn’t do.

“And until enforcement agencies are given the resources they need to conduct proactive inspections, far too many people will continue to be exploited.”

Sunday, June 09, 2019

Jardine: Hunt's comments on abortion 'alarming'

Responding to Jeremy Hunt's comments on the Sophy Ridge show this morning, in which he supported a reduction in the legal time limit for abortion from 24 to 12 weeks, Liberal Democrat MP Christine Jardine said:

“It is incredibly alarming to see the former Heath secretary and a candidate in the race to be the next Prime Minister hold such a view.

“Rather than attacking the women’s rights we already have in some parts of the UK, the Tories should be fighting for them to be equal in Northern Ireland.

“So far the Tory leadership race has shown how out of touch many of those putting themselves forward are. The Liberal Democrats demand better for the UK and think that women across the UK, especially in Northern Ireland, deserve better.”

Cable: Gove's VAT proposals 'ludicrous'

Responding to Michael Gove's promise to scrap VAT if he was to become the next Prime Minister, Leader of the Liberal Democrats Vince Cable said:

"Michael Gove is clearly on par with other candidates in the Tory leadership race who have put forward equally ludicrous proposals. Any remaining claims the Conservatives had for having some fiscal responsibility has gone down the drain.

"VAT is an essential part of our tax system which raises vast amounts of revenue. Due to the zero rate exemption low income families are protected from the worst effects of the consumption tax.

"There is a strong argument for raising the threshold due to the bureaucracy it creates for small businesses, but this is a very different matter from scrapping it entirely."

Tory leadership hopefuls must end hypocrisy on drugs

Responding to Michael Gove's comments on the Andrew Marr show today in which he asked his colleagues to forgive him for taking drugs in the past, former Liberal Democrat Health minister Norman Lamb said:

"Previous drug use should not exclude people from high office. What should exclude people from high office is hypocrisy.

"What the Liberal Democrats want to see the next Prime Minister do is end this hypocrisy of advocating draconian policies and instead enact reform.

"There must be a public health approach to drug use in the United Kingdom which will protect people from harm, rather than an approach which focuses on criminalising people.

"Rather than outdated drug laws, we must offer support, treatment and education to those using illegal substances."

Saturday, June 08, 2019

Lib Dems surpass record membership figures

The Liberal Democrats are delighted to announce that the party now has a record number of members following its successes in the recent local and European elections. 

There are now over 105,480 full members of the party, able to vote in the upcoming leadership contest, with 20,000 of those joining since last months local elections.

Commenting on the number of people that have joined, and continue to join the Liberal Democrats, Leader Vince Cable said:

"It is a sign of the real momentum that our party has at this time that we have exceeded our highest ever number of members. 

"People from all parts of the country and further afield have recognised that the Liberal Democrats offer the country a way out of this Brexit chaos and provide an open, liberal home for those who want to stop Brexit alongside us.

"We welcome all those that share our values to join us."

Wednesday, June 05, 2019

Lib Dems table legislation to tackle air pollution crisis

Today, for World Environment Day, Liberal Democrat Climate Change spokesperson Wera Hobhouse is tabling a bill to give local authorities more powers to issue fines to idling vehicles. 

The Bill will increase penalties for stationary vehicle idling offences, as well as increasing fines for those who repeatedly offend.

World Environment Day is the United Nations day for encouraging worldwide awareness and action to protect our environment. This year the focus is on tackling air pollution.

Speaking ahead of tabling her bill, Wera Hobhouse said:

"For far too long this Conservative Government has failed to take air pollution seriously. They have lost numerous court cases over their inability to tackle the toxic fumes that Britain breathes every day. Liberal Democrats demand better.

"This is a major crisis, with emissions from vehicles responsible for a myriad of health problems, many terminal. Research shows that 800,000 people die every year across Europe due to air pollution.

"Yet the Conservative Government do nothing.
"The legislation that I have tabled is crucial step in tackling our air pollution crisis. It will allow local authorities to clamp down on idling without the need to apply to the Government first, and it will enable them to increase fines on repeat offenders.

"We must do more to tackle both the climate emergency and the air pollution crisis. The Tories must stop wilfully ignoring the problem and back my Bill."

Monday, June 03, 2019

Davey: For Johnson to kick off his leadership campaign with a lie is at least very on-brand

Liberal Democrat Home Affairs spokesperson Ed Davey has criticised Boris Johnson for citing an inaccurate statistic about crime in London when he was Mayor and promoting Stop and Search in his campaign launch video, released today.
In the video, Johnson claims “we got crime down by 20%” in London when he was Mayor. The actual figure is 15%*. In addition, he argues for more Stop and Search, despite a 2016 Home Office analysis of his expansion of Stop and Search in London that found “no statistically significant crime-reducing effect from the large increase in weapons searches”.
Responding to the video, Ed Davey said:
“For Johnson to kick off his leadership campaign with a lie is at least very on-brand.
“He didn’t get crime in London down by 20%, and his own Government’s own analysis shows that his massive increase in Stop & Search had ‘no discernible crime-reducing effects’.
“We need real solutions to violent crime in London and across the country, not a return to gimmicky policies that have been proven not to work.”
*According to official government figures, police recorded crime in London fell by 15% from 2007-08 to 2015-16. The data is available here.