Tuesday, July 30, 2019

The dark arts of Cummings have no place in Downing Street

Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran has written to Cabinet Secretary Sir Mark Sedwill calling on him to block the appointment of Dominic Cummings as an Advisor to Boris Johnson on grounds of suitability.

The letter cites that Cummings has previously been found in contempt of parliament for refusing to attend a Select Committee and highlights a track record of dubious behaviour in relation to leaked documents and unsubstantiated campaign claims during the EU referendum. 

Commenting on Cummings appointment and the representation to Sir Mark Sedwill, Layla Moran said:

“The appointment of Dominic Cummings should send shivers down the spines of UK citizens. This is a man who has peddled lies and flouted the truth for sheer, cynical political gain.
“The dark arts that he proffers should have no place in Government, and no place in Downing Street. If Boris Johnson is serious about uniting our country, then appointing one of the most divisive figures in politics is hardly the best start.
“Boris Johnson needs to act like a Prime Minister, and not be the puppeteer of someone who has so little respect for the British people.”

New Lord Chancellor must act now to restore Legal Aid

Responding to Robert Buckland’s swearing-in speech as the new Lord Chancellor today, Liberal Democrat Justice Spokesperson Jonathan Marks QC has challenged him to “match his warm words about Legal Aid with action”.

In his speech, the Lord Chancellor said: “I remain firmly of the belief that as far as possible the right support must be provided for those who need it, particularly where actions of the state directly affect the liberty, livelihood or welfare of the individual.”

Following the speech, Liberal Democrat Justice Spokesperson Jonathan Marks QC said:

“The new Lord Chancellor must match his warm words about Legal Aid with action.

“He should start be restoring Legal Aid for welfare, debt, employment, immigration, housing and family law cases.

“The Government has cut the Legal Aid budget by £945 million a year, more than twice the £450 million it expected when the reforms were passed in 2012. And these cuts have hit vulnerable people the hardest.

“Far too many people are unable to access legal advice or to afford a lawyer to represent them in court – even in cases that have profound effects on their lives.

“The Liberal Democrats demand better. We will reverse the £500 million of extra cuts to Legal Aid, to ensure that everyone has access to the legal advice and representation they need to defend their fundamental rights.”

Saturday, July 27, 2019

The people of Sheffield Hallam can send a powerful message for change

Responding to the news that Jared O'Mara will resign as the MP for Sheffield Hallam, Liberal Democrat PPC for Sheffield Hallam Laura Gordon said:

"By resigning Jared is doing the right thing - both for himself and his constituents.

"People in Sheffield will now get their chance to have their say, both on Boris Johnson's dangerous Conservative Government and on Jeremy Corbyn's failure to provide effective opposition at a time of national crisis.

"This by-election can send a powerful message for change and the Lib Dems ready for the challenge."

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Prison violence “getting worse all the time”

Liberal Democrat Justice Spokesperson Wera Hobhouse has urged the new Justice Secretary to adopt a better approach to criminal justice, as new official figures show assaults and self-harm in prison rising to record highs.
The latest Safety in Custody Statistics, published today by the Ministry of Justice, show that:
  • There were 34,425 assaults in the 12 months to March 2019, including 10,311 assaults on staff – both record high figures.
  • There were 57,968 self-harm incidents in the same period, also the highest 12-month total on record.
The Ministry of Justice’s Annual Prison Performance Ratings, also published today, show that 16 prisons are rated as having “performance of serious concern” – 14% of all prisons, the highest proportion since ratings began. 
Responding to the statistics released by the Ministry of Justice, Liberal Democrat Justice spokesperson Wera Hobhouse said:

“The new Justice Secretary must urgently get to grips with the deepening crisis in our prisons.

“Violence and self-harm in prisons is more prevalent than ever, and it’s getting worse all the time.

“The Tories’ approach to criminal justice is completely failing. Prisons are overcrowded, understaffed and failing to rehabilitate the people we send there, meaning more re-offending and more people becoming victims of crime.

“The Liberal Democrats demand a better approach that recognises the factors that cause people to commit crimes – especially childhood trauma – and treats them effectively, instead of locking up more and more people in deteriorating prisons.”

Johnson’s immigration plan is completely meaningless


Responding to Boris Johnson’s announcement today that he will ask the Migration Advisory Committee to review “an Australian-style points based system” for immigration, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson Ed Davey said:
“The likes of Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage like to talk about an ‘Australian-style’ immigration system because it sounds tough. But as with most things Johnson says, it’s actually completely meaningless.
“The UK had a points-based system, but it didn’t work and was effectively scrapped 8 years ago. The idea that bringing it back would restore public confidence is nonsense.
“Now, instead of a plan to fix our immigration system, Johnson is commissioning yet another pointless review. Given that he intends to end EU free movement in just a few months, it’s unacceptable that we still don’t know what he’ll replace it with.
“Individuals and employers need certainty, not more of Johnson’s empty promises.
“The Liberal Democrats demand better. We understand the huge benefits immigration brings to our country. That’s why we are fighting to stop Brexit, save free movement, and build an effective and compassionate immigration system.”

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Priti Patel appointment panders to right-wing


Responding to the appointment of Priti Patel as the new Home Secretary, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson Ed Davey said: 
“The job of the Home Secretary is to keep our country safe and ensure that everyone’s rights are respected.
“But now we have a Conservative Home Secretary who voted against allowing same sex couples to marry, has argued that it is wrong for citizens to hold the Government to account through the courts, and is one of the most enthusiastic advocates of Brexit – which would rob British police of the European Arrest Warrant and other crucial crime-fighting tools.
“The Liberal Democrats demand better from a Home Secretary. We will always fight to protect the rights of every individual, to give our police the tools and resources they need to prevent crime and keep communities safe, and to stop Brexit.
“By appointing Priti Patel as Home Secretary, Boris Johnson is continuing to pander to right-wing Brexiteers instead of putting the interests of the United Kingdom first. More proof that he is not fit to be Prime Minister.”

Victorian economics and the politics of the workhouse return to heart of government

Commenting on the appointment of Sajid Javid as the new Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Liberal Democrats Treasury & Business spokesperson Chuka Umunna said:
“By handing Sajid Javid the reigns of the economy, it is clear that Boris Johnson is choosing a Chancellor for the top 1%.
“In the Tory leadership race – where he called his new PM ‘yesterday’s news’ – Sajid Javid campaigned to give more money to the rich by scrapping the top band of income tax and to give large firms a big tax cut which business groups haven’t even been asking for. Meanwhile, middle and lower-income families continue to feel the squeeze. 
“His record as Business Secretary and failure to step up to the plate when the steel industry needed him to, illustrates his reluctance to engage in the industrial activism business wants to see. Above all, he is sponsoring a policy of leaving the EU without a deal which the overwhelming majority of businesses strongly oppose. This does not bode well for our different business sectors as he takes charge at the Treasury.”
Commenting on the appointment of Liz Truss, Dominic Rabb and Priti Patel to Cabinet, Chuka said: 
“It is deeply alarming that these Ministers have been appointed to the heart of government given their archaic views on British workers which represent a return to the cruel politics of the workhouse.
“People will not forget they co-wrote a book claiming that ‘once they enter the workplace, the British are among the worst idlers in the world’ and that British workers ‘need to work for longer.’ 
“British workers already work amongst the longest hours in Europe – instead of lecturing hard working people, they should focus on ensuring that if people put in the graft they see the rewards which is simply not the case in Britain under the Tories.”

Boris Johnson's Brexit already damaging British business

Responding to the Industrial Trends Survey published today by the CBI, showing that UK manufacturing output fell at the fastest pace since the financial crisis, Liberal Democrat Treasury and Business spokesperson Chuka Umunna said:

“Boris Johnson talks about the need for a ‘can do’ attitude but by pursuing a ‘no deal’ Brexit he is asking British businesses to run up a down escalator - which makes it all the more difficult to do business.
“These are not forecasts, these are facts. Uncertainty caused by the Brexit Boris Johnson campaigned for is already negatively impacting on the economy. As a minimum, he should dump his policy of keeping a 'no deal' Brexit on the table, in order to reassure firms that he will not take the country off a cliff this October.
“The only way to break the impasse in Parliament is to give the British people a final say on any Brexit deal. The Liberal Democrats are the only party who, if in government, will be unequivocally committed to holding a People’s Vote and stopping Brexit.”

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Lib Dems bring forward legislation to protect EU citizens

Yesterday, the Liberal Democrats introduced a Lords Bill to safeguard EU citizens' rights.

The Bill brought forward by Liberal Democrat peer Jonny Oates would provide a guarantee that, regardless of the outcome of Brexit, the rights of EU citizens and other EEA nationals living in the UK would be protected.

Ahead of the debate on his Bill, Liberal Democrat peer Jonny Oates said:

“The last three years have been a time of huge anxiety and fear for EU citizens in the UK. The Tory Government has broken the promises made to them by Boris Johnson and the Leave campaign.
“My Bill would deliver on those promises and remove that fear by giving all EU citizens currently in the UK an automatic right, guaranteed in law, to stay here afterwards Brexit.
“Of course, the best way out of this mess is to stop Brexit altogether. But this Bill can at least provide a greater sense of security and certainty to the EU citizens who have contributed so much to our country.”
Ilse Mogensen, public affairs officer for the 3million, the EU citizens’ campaign organisation, said:
“Both Leave and Remain campaigns promised in the 2016 referendum that EU citizens living in the UK would have the automatic right to stay here, no matter what the outcome on Brexit.
“With no EU/UK withdrawal agreement in place to protect us and increasing talk of no deal, EU citizens need more than warm words to protect the right to stay in the UK for ourselves and our families.
“We welcome this initiative for a Bill to provide that protection in UK law, and to ensure that only a majority in Parliament can change it.”
Jonny Oates' Bill was read a second time and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.

Friday, July 19, 2019

Umunna slams economically incompetent Tories

Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesperson Chuka Umunna has slammed the Tories for "economic incompetence" as new official borrowing figures show the deficit rising in June.
The Public Sector Finances bulletin, published this morning by the Office for National Statistics, shows that public sector net borrowing in June 2019 was £7.2 billion - £3.8 billion higher than in June 2018 and the largest June deficit since 2015.
In his Spring Statement in March, the Chancellor said the Government would borrow £29.3 billion in 2019-20, but it has already borrowed £17.9 billion in the first quarter alone.

Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesperson Chuka Umunna MP said:
“After breaking their pledge to eliminate the deficit by 2025 the Tories are on track to miss their own borrowing target for this year too. What more evidence do we need of their economic incompetence?
"The new Tory leadership fails to grasp that it’s simply not possible to spend more, reduce borrowing and cut taxes – all while crashing the country out of the EU. That move alone will cost our public coffers billions.
“The Liberal Democrats have consistently been the only voice calling for realistic, responsible borrowing to unlock funding for our public services. But this hinges on a stable economy. Our priority will be to safeguard this stability by stopping Brexit, and ending the Tories’ catastrophic management of our finances.”

Thursday, July 18, 2019

European Parliament resolution a vital step in UK’s duty to stand up for people of Hong Kong

Liberal Democrat MEP Antony Hook today urged all EU Member States to speak out and stand with the people for Hong Kong in their fight for democracy and human rights.

Mr Hook used an urgency resolution in the EU Parliament to also reiterate the importance of the “one country, two systems” framework and the need for Carrie Lam to unequivocally withdraw the proposed Extradition Bill.
Speaking after the Resolution was passed, Antony Hook MEP said:
“The EU has a proud history of defending human rights and democracy internationally. At a time when these values are increasingly under attack passing this resolution is a vital step in ensuring that all Member States, including the UK, continue to speak up for those who are fighting for their rights and freedoms.
“Up to two million people have taken to the streets of Hong Kong to protect these values and they should be proud of the historic role they have played in doing so.
“Together as 28 countries, the EU has a voice that cannot be ignored by Beijing. As countries that promote human rights and democracy, we must use that voice and influence to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the people of Hong Kong.”
Welcoming the Resolution, Alistair Carmichael MP, the Liberal Democrat Chief Whip in the House of Commons, said:
“Passing this resolution in the EU Parliament is a vital step in the UK upholding its moral and legal duty to the people of Hong Kong. When we use our influence as part of the EU we send a stronger message than we could ever hope to alone.
“It is essential that the people of Hong Kong know that we are with them in their fight for democracy and human rights. This resolution drafted by my colleague Antony goes to show that those across Europe are standing firmly with them.
“The Conservative UK government must now ensure that they are putting these values first and not kowtowing to pressure from China. They must work to guarantee that there is an independent investigation into police violence in the region and secure the total withdrawal of the Extradition Bill.”

Davey demands urgent action as knife crime epidemic continues to spread

The Liberal Democrats are calling for urgent investment in community policing and youth services, as new official statistics show that knife crime and robberies have risen dramatically, while police officer numbers have fallen since 2015.

The crime figures, published today by the Office for National Statistics, show that:
  • There was an 8% increase in police-recorded knife crime from 2017-18 to 2018-19.
  • Knife crime has risen by 77% since 2014-15, to its highest level since records began in 2010-11.
  • There was an 11% increase in police-recorded robberies from 2017-18 to 2019-19.
  • The number of robberies has risen by 71% since 2014-15, to its highest level since 2006-07.
Meanwhile, the Home Office has also published the latest police workforce statistics today. These show that:
  • The number of police officers has fallen by 4,022 (3%) from March 2015 to March 2019.
  • The number of Police Community Support Officers has fallen by 2,823 (23%) in the same period.
Responding to the figures, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson Ed Davey said:

“Britain’s knife crime epidemic is continuing to spread, and far too many young lives are being destroyed by it.

“People should be able to walk down their streets without fear of being attacked or robbed, but under this Conservative Government that simply isn’t the case in far too many places.

“Unnecessary Tory cuts to the police and youth services have taken thousands of police officers off the streets and left many young people without a positive alternative to gangs and violence.

“The Liberal Democrats demand better. We will give forces the funding they need to restore community policing, and invest in genuinely innovative and engaging youth services.

“After years of Tory failure, we need urgent action to make our streets safer and make people feel safer too.”

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

New PM must not delay Domestic Abuse Bill

Responding to the publication of the Domestic Abuse Bill on Tuesday, Liberal Democrat Justice Spokesperson Wera Hobhouse said:

“Two million people experience domestic abuse every year, and they urgently need the Government to take action.
“This Conservative Government has failed these people by delaying this vital legislation. Theresa May first promised it more than two years ago. Now that it has finally been published, the Liberal Democrats will be demanding that the new Prime Minister takes it forward without further delay.
“We will also be fighting to strengthen the Bill to make sure it protects everyone affected by domestic abuse and domestic violence – including children and migrant women – and guarantees that survivors have access to refuges, rape crisis centres and other crucial support services.”

May's government has treated victims of child trafficking appallingly

Following reports that hundreds of child trafficking victims have been refused the right to stay in the UK, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson Ed Davey said:
“Theresa May said that modern slavery is the greatest human rights issue of our time, but these revelations show that her government has treated victims appallingly.
“The Government has a clear moral obligation to support children who have been trafficked to this country and held in slavery. The Conservatives’ failure shames our whole country.
“The Liberal Democrats demand better protections for vulnerable people. Anyone who has been a victim of modern slavery should be given the support they need, not treated like criminals by the hostility in the Home Office.”

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Home Office accused of deliberately lying to deport slavery victims


Responding to reports that the Home Office lied in order to deport victims of human trafficking and modern slavery to other EU countries, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson Ed Davey said:

“These allegations are so shocking that they’d be unbelievable if they were about anyone other than the Home Office.
“The idea that officials have been deliberately lying in order to unlawfully deport victims of trafficking and modern slavery is sickening. There must be a full and independent investigation of these allegations immediately, and any victims must be returned to the UK.
“This is yet more evidence that the Home Office is not fit for purpose. The Liberal Democrats will strip it of its powers over immigration and asylum and set up a new, arms-length body to process applications fairly and lawfully.”

Monday, July 15, 2019

US trade deal delay more evidence of Brexit false promises

Responding to the reports that Liam Fox has admitted that a post-Brexit trade arrangement with the US may take longer to agree than previously hoped, Liberal Democrat Brexit spokesperson Tom Brake said:

"Fox’s comments underline the scale of the inaccuracies spouted by the Leave campaign. Boris Johnson and the Tories had promised us that the UK would have a host of trade deals in place by Brexit day. We won’t.

"This should also serve as a reminder that the EU will always be the natural and easiest trading partner for the UK – as shown by the bureaucratic difficulties linked to settling individual agreements with each US state. The Leave campaign claimed leaving the EU would make trade easier, but now it emerges that this was also untrue.

"The Liberal Democrats believe that prioritising trade with the EU, rather than a US led by an erratic US President determined to lower our standards, is the only way to safeguard our economy and jobs going forward."

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Chancellor’s warning demands No Deal U-turn

Responding to Chancellor Philip Hammond's warning that "many of the levers" that would affect a no-deal Brexit are not in the UK's hands, Liberal Democrat Brexit spokesperson Tom Brake MP said:

“Even this Conservative Chancellor accepts a no deal, which no one voted for, would see the UK lose control over our future.

"This warning makes a mockery of the promises of the Leave campaign. It simply isn't acceptable that the Tory leadership candidates are willing to see the UK crash out of the EU to ingratiate themselves with their hard right.

"People deserve better, and the Liberal Democrats demand better. We must give the people the final say, in a people’s vote, with the option to stay in the EU. Anything else risks disaster for our future.”

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Prisons inspector reveals Tory neglect

Responding to this year's Chief Inspector of Prisons' annual report, Liberal Democrat Justice Spokesperson Wera Hobhouse said:

“This report is utterly damning of the Conservatives’ neglect of our prisons.

“With prisons so badly overcrowded and in such an appalling state, prisoners are not being properly rehabilitated. That means more reoffending and more people becoming victims of crime.

“Too many people are in prison who shouldn’t be there. We know that short prison sentences don’t work, especially for women.

“The Liberal Democrats demand better. The Government must end overcrowding in prisons by making greater use of alternatives such as community sentences, women’s centres and restorative justice.

“Our goal must be to transform prisons into places of rehabilitation and recovery, with properly-funded education, training and treatment for prisoners to build a life free from crime.”

More female and minority judges need to be appointed

The Liberal Democrats have called for clear “targets with teeth” for improving judicial diversity, as new figures show that just 7% of court judges are BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic) and 32% are women.

The statistics, published (pdf here) by the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales and the Senior President of Tribunals, show that:
  • Of the 39 Court of Appeal judges, only 9 (23%) are women and just 2 (6%) are BAME.
  • Of the 97 High Court judges, only 26 (27%) are women and just 3 (3%) are BAME.
  • Of all 3,210 court judges, only 1,013 (32%) are women and just 205 (7%) are BAME.

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

“Whether it’s the disproportionate number of black people in prison or the lack of convictions for sexual assault, there are far too many examples of the justice system not working fairly for BAME people or women.

“One reason for this is that judges are overwhelmingly white men – especially in the higher courts. Progress on improving judicial diversity has been far too slow.

“The Liberal Democrats demand better. It’s about time we set clear targets for appointing female and BAME judges and give those targets real teeth, with named individuals required to make regular progress reports to Parliament.”

Friday, July 12, 2019

Pro-Trump PM could damage relations with Iran

Commenting on the escalating situation in the Gulf, Liberal Democrat Defence Spokesperson Jamie Stone MP said:

“We must not allow the next Prime Minister to blindly follow Trump into a volatile anti-Iranian coalition.
“It has become increasingly clear that Boris Johnson’s plans for a 'global Britain' are just for the UK to be the lapdog of the US.
“The EU have been principled and clear in standing firm on the Iranian nuclear deal, which Trump so petulantly tore up. Liberal Democrats will continue to urge the Conservative government, regardless of who the next PM is, to work with our EU partners and ensure that British foreign policy continues to promote our shared values.”

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Follow Kirsty's example, say Lib Dems in Westminster

Welcoming the decision by the Welsh government to make school uniforms accessible and gender neutral, Liberal Democrat Education Spokesperson Layla Moran MP said:
“It is great news that children in Wales will be able to wear affordable, gender neutral school uniforms. I am proud of the role my colleague Liberal Democrat Welsh Education Minister Kirsty Williams has played in securing this progressive change.   
“The Conservative government must now take this step into the twenty-first century. Dictating what children wear because of their gender is outdated and harmful.
“It is time to support all children to wear what they are happy, confident and comfortable in. The Conservatives must act to roll out gender neutral school uniforms and help facilitate a culture of acceptance in all our schools.”