The Liberal Democrats have warned that the Chancellor must not use the excuse of higher debt to start cutting public services and called for a Green Recovery Plan.
The intervention comes as ONS (Office for National Statistics) statistics published yesterday reveal Government borrowing has hit a record high.
Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesperson Christine Jardine said:
“In the face of a pandemic, it is no wonder that borrowing is so high. It is yet another reminder to Ministers that they must do all they can to limit the chaos of Brexit or risk peoples' livelihoods.
“The Chancellor must now make clear that he will not use the excuse of higher debt to start cutting public services or reducing investment for our crumbling infrastructure – especially in the parts of the UK that need it most.
“Liberal Democrats stand firm that we must grow our way out of this crisis with a Green Recovery Plan that will invest billions to transform our economy, fight climate change and create millions of good-quality jobs.”
The Liberal Democrats are urging the Government to “take real action now” to prevent the spread of coronavirus in prisons, as new figures show that the number of Covid cases has surged more than five-fold in the last two months.
The figures, released today by the Ministry of Justice, show that, as of the end of November, 3,429 prisoners have now tested positive for Covid-19 – up 1,807 (111%) from 1,622 at the end of October and more than five times the 636 cases at the end of September.
There were 15 Covid-related deaths in prisons in November, the largest one-month total since April.
Figures released in September showed that a total of just 316 people were released under the Government's Covid early release schemes since the start of the pandemic – far short of the “up to 4,000" announced by Government in April.
Responding to the figures, Liberal Democrat Justice Spokesperson Wera Hobhouse said:
“With more than 3,000 prisoners testing positive for coronavirus, but only 316 being released early, it is clear the Conservative Government hasn't done nearly enough to protect prison staff, prisoners and our communities from the spread of the virus.
“Since the beginning of the pandemic, the Liberal Democrats have been calling on the Government to release all low-risk prisoners serving short sentences and suspend any new short sentences to alleviate the severe overcrowding, so that prisoners and staff can practice proper social distancing.
“The Government must finally listen to prison governors, public health experts and the Liberal Democrats, and take real action now to end overcrowding in prisons and combat the spread of this cruel virus.”
Responding to the Court of Appeal’s ruling that the Government has unlawfully discriminated against EU citizens with Pre-Settled Status by excluding them from Universal Credit, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson Alistair Carmichael said:
“Denying people the financial support they desperately need during this pandemic is an appalling way to treat the EU citizens who are our families and friends, our colleagues and carers.
“Boris Johnson and the Conservatives promised to guarantee EU citizens living in the UK the automatic right to stay, but they have broken that promise. Not only that, but they have unlawfully discriminated against them as well.
“The Government’s ‘Settled Status’ scheme is anything but automatic. 1.8 million people have been given only temporary ‘Pre-Settled Status’, and until now they have been excluded from access to benefits.
“Liberal Democrats will keep fighting for all EU citizens to be given the automatic right to stay in the UK, as they were promised.”
The figures, published yesterday by the Ministry of Justice, show that the number of outstanding criminal cases in the Crown Court has risen from 33,248 at the end of 2018 to 50,918 at the end of September – a 53% increase in less than two years.
Separate Ministry of Justice statistics, also published yesterday, show that the average length of care proceedings in the Family courts has risen to over 40 weeks for the first time since 2013. In July to September this year, just 29% of these cases were disposed of within the 26-limit set by the Children and Families Act 2014 – down from 62% in 2016 and 49% in 2018.
Responding to the figures, Liberal Democrat Justice Spokesperson Wera Hobhouse said:
“Justice delayed is justice denied. Too many victims of crime and their families are being left far too long without justice. And too many parents and children are left in limbo for months as cases drag on through the family courts
“Some of this is an inevitable consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic, but that doesn’t explain the huge backlogs that had already built up last year, before Covid hit.
“The Conservatives have underfunded the whole of our justice system for much too long, and have been far too slow to introduce Nightingale Courts to increase capacity during this pandemic. Ministers must not use Covid as an excuse for this backlog, or to undermine the fundamental right to trial by jury.
“The Government must take urgent action to tackle the backlog of court cases. More Nightingale Courts are welcome, but ultimately these delays can only be prevented with proper funding for our whole justice system – from Legal Aid right through to judges’ time.”
Welsh Liberal Democrats is the first federal party to impose high qualification standards for inclusion on their list of approved candidates for the 2021 Welsh general election.
Members must sign up to the following code of conduct. Failing to follow this code of conduct will constitute prima facie grounds for removal from the list of approved candidates. In addition, if elected, failing to follow this code of conduct may result in the Whip being withdrawn.
1. You must treat others with respect, and must not bully or intimidate
any Party member, member of Party staff, member of Parliamentary staff,
Party volunteer or member of the public.
2. You must act in such a way as to promote the values of the Liberal
Democrats and must not act in a way that is contrary to the interests or
values of the Party. This includes your use of language, whether spoken
or written, and content on digital or so-cial media platforms.
3. You must complete any declarations of private interest that the Party
requires, and, if elected, must complete the Official Register of
Interests or equivalent as supplied to Members and any declaration
required by the Electoral Commission.
4. You must at all times comply with the current versions of the Political
Parties, Elec-tions and Referendums Act 2000 and the Representation of the
People Act 1983 and any other relevant legislation and must provide
information regarding expenses or donations as required by the Party.
5. You must at all times comply with the Party’s data protection and data
security policies when dealing with any data to which you may be given
access by the Party.
6. You must give consent to and provide the details necessary for the
Party to undertake (or to authorise an approved third party to undertake)
an audit of your social media profile when requested.
7. You must abide by the Party’s internal selection and election rules,
and by any other Code of Conduct that has been signed up to by the Party.
8. If asked by your state party, you must complete a post-election review
after each general election, whether or not you stood as a candidate.
9. You must appoint an election agent who has been trained and certified
by the Party, provided that a suitable person is available and willing to
undertake the role.
10. If asked by your state party, you must agree a Candidate Compact with
the local party (or parties) within three months of being selected as the
prospective parliamentary candidate for a seat.
11. If elected, and if asked by your state party, you must make a
reasonable contribution towards ongoing party activity, which will include
a financial element, the exact level to be determined following the
election by agreement with the relevant regional party and by reference
to any relevant guidance then in force.
12. You must signify your agreement to this Code of Conduct to the
Returning Officer at the start of any selection process in which you
13. You must not bring, or risk bringing, the Party into disrepute.
It is expected that this or a similar Code of Conduct will be instituted for the party as a whole for Westminster elections.
Liberal Democrat Justice Spokesperson Wera Hobhouse has called on the Government to “do what works” to prevent knife crime and repeal mandatory prison sentences for knife possession, as the party reveals that the Government has wasted more than £370 million on the policy while knife crime has soared.
New figures from the Ministry of Justice show that nearly 14,000 people have now been sentenced to prison under a law passed in 2015 requiring mandatory prison sentences for those convicted of a second offence of carrying a knife. Both the Conservative and Labour parties backed the law, while the Liberal Democrats opposed it.
The Ministry of Justice’s own analysis shows that sentences of less than a year lead to higher rates of reoffending than community sentences, and the President of the Prison Governors Association has described them as “pointless”. The average length of sentence is 7.6 months.
Using government figures for the cost per prisoner, the Liberal Democrats have calculated that these mandatory sentences have cost the taxpayer £375 million since they come into effect in 2016.
Liberal Democrat Justice Spokesperson Wera Hobhouse said:
“Even before the Covid pandemic, the UK was in the grip of an epidemic of youth violence. The Government must invest in what works to prevent knife crime, not waste money on pointless short-term sentences.
“This law clearly hasn’t worked. The Conservatives said we needed to ‘send a message’ to stop people carrying knives, but five years on knife crime has soared.
“Young people are far more scared of being caught without a knife by a gang than being caught with a knife by the police. The threat of prison simply doesn’t work as a deterrent in this case.
“Even worse, the Conservatives have wasted more than £370 million on this policy, which should instead have gone to community policing and youth services – the things that actually prevent people carrying knives.”
Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson Alistair Carmichael has slammed the Government’s latest changes to the Immigration Rules (available here) as “against everything the UK stands for” and “yet another breach of international law”.
The changes, published today, which will allow the Home Office to reject asylum applications if the person has passed through another “safe” country on their way to the UK.
Alistair Carmichael said:
“The UK has a proud history of providing sanctuary to those in need, but now the Conservative Government is turning its back on refugees.
“This latest nasty policy from Priti Patel goes against our commitments under the Refugee Convention and against everything the UK stands for. It’s yet another breach of international law by this irresponsible Tory Government.
“Everyone wants to stop people making dangerous attempts to cross the Channel, but the best way to do that is with safe and legal routes to sanctuary in the UK. Sadly, Priti Patel has closed down those routes.
“We must do all we can to protect people forced to flee their homes to escape war and persecution. The UK should welcome them with compassion and treat them with dignity.”
Responding to the Commons vote yesterday evening on EU citizens rights, Liberal Democrat spokesperson for Home Affairs Alistair Carmichael said:
“Boris Johnson’s promises to guarantee EU citizens’ rights automatically lie in tatters tonight.
“The Home Office’s Settled Status scheme is anything but automatic. Thousands of people will be left effectively undocumented and subject to the Tories’ Hostile Environment.
“Liberal Democrats will continue to fight for EU citizens to be given the automatic right to stay in the UK.
“Europeans who’ve made their lives here contribute enormously to our economy, our public services and our society. They must not become the victims of a new Windrush-style scandal.”
The Liberal Democrats are calling on PM to negotiate an “Adjustment Period” as part of the deal with the EU, to ensure British businesses have enough time to prepare for the new trading relationship with Europe.
In a letter to the Prime Minister, the Liberal Democrats warn of a potentially "existential" threat to businesses if they are not given time to adjust and argue that - by phasing-in new rules, regulations and procedures - businesses would have the "breathing space" they need to prepare and adapt.
Leader of the Liberal Democrats Ed Davey said:
"Businesses cannot afford to be hit with the double whammy of Covid and disrupted trade with Europe, our biggest trading partner. With job losses already mounting, the danger is unemployment will rise still further in the new year, unless urgent action is taken.
"Despite months of negotiations, businesses are still in the dark about the details of their future trading relationship with Europe. With just weeks to go and our economy on its knees, this is inexcusable.
"The Prime Minister must urgently recognise what's in the best interests of British businesses, and secure a time-bound adjustment period to allow firms to adapt to new trade arrangements and save jobs.”
Responding to the Government's "Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution", Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey said:
"This plan fails to undo the damage the Conservatives have done to the UK's progress on climate change over the past five years. It pledges to continue selling fossil fuel powered hybrid cars past 2030 and promises to extend the Green Homes Grant by just one year.
Responding to news that the four Governments of the UK have met to develop a UK-wide approach to restrictions for the festive period, Leader of the Liberal Democrats Ed Davey said:
"People across our family of nations will be reassured to hear that efforts are at last underway to ensure everyone is subject to the same guidance as they plan for the festive period, as first called for by the Liberal Democrats.
"But today's meeting can only be a first step. We need to see results, not just platitudes. That means comprehensive, uniform guidance for family gatherings across the UK, as well as a common approach to transport, student return and asymptomatic testing. This must happen urgently.
"If we are to both keep people safe and ensure families have any chance of spending holidays such as Diwali, Hanukkah and Christmas together, then Ministers across these isles must now get a grip on the failing test, trace and isolate trace system."
A Liberal Democrat Bill to grant all Hong Kong Citizens a pathway to UK citizenship and “strengthen the UK’s historic bond with the people of Hong Kong” is scheduled to have its Second Reading debate in the House of Commons today.
The Bill, tabled by Liberal Democrat MP Alistair Carmichael, Chair of the APPG on Hong Kong and Patron of Hong Kong Watch, would create a route to UK citizenship for all Hong Kongers.
By expanding British National Overseas (BNO) status to all Hong Kongers, the Bill goes well beyond the Conservative Government’s current citizenship commitments, which extend only to specific groups currently eligible to claim BNO status.
The Liberal Democrats have condemned the Home Office’s “deceptive” claim that the cost of a five-year visa for Hong Kongers will be just £250, as the true figure will be well over £3000 once the Immigration Health Surcharge is taken into account.
Ahead of the Bill’s scheduled calling, Alistair Carmichael, Liberal Democrat MP, Chair of the APPG on Hong Kong and Patron of Hong Kong Watch said:
“Many Hong Kongers have suffered grave persecution at the hands of the Chinese Regime. We have a moral duty to act.
“By providing a clear route to citizenship for all Hong Kongers, my Bill will strengthen the UK’s historic bond with the people of Hong Kong and show our continued commitment to the Joint Declaration, something that the Chinese regime has utterly betrayed.
“We also need to make sure that the citizenship offer is affordable. The Home Office’s claim that it will only cost £250 is deceptive given the upfront costs of the Immigration Health Surcharge.
“I urge the Conservatives to do the right thing for all of the people of Hong Kong and back this Bill today. In addition, we need to see measures to put in place an international lifeboat system as a matter of urgency, should the situation deteriorate further.”
Today, Liberal Democrat Peer Paul Scriven has secured a commitment from Health Minister Lord Bethell to publish the agreement between the Government and police chiefs over the decision to share test and trace data.
Responding to the vote on Lord Judge's motion to the Internal Market Bill in the House of Lords, with the Government being defeated by 395 votes to 169 votes, Leader of the Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords Dick Newby said:
"For a long time now we have known that Boris Johnson and his Ministers have little regard for the rule of law, but this Bill goes far beyond what any Prime Minister should even contemplate – let alone pursue.
"How can this Government seriously expect to condemn other countries, like Russia and China, for failing to respect international law if they plan to flout it themselves when it comes to the Withdrawal Agreement?
"However, there is still time to ditch the Bill and prevent it from becoming law. The Government must row back and do what it can to salvage the UK’s international reputation.
"Breaking the law has consequences – and this resounding loss in the House of Lords is one of them. Liberal Democrats will always stand up for the rule of law – and plan to continue to stand up to those who think they’re above it."
The Liberal Democrats have warned that the Conservatives are risking a new Windrush-style scandal, as the Government overturned the Party's amendments to end indefinite immigration detention and protect the rights of British nationals living in the EU and EU citizens in the UK.
Yesterday evening, Conservative MPs rejected all 10 cross-party amendments to the Government’s Immigration Bill, passed by the House of Lords earlier this month, including three from the Liberal Democrats.
Amendment 5 – tabled by Liberal Democrat Lord Oates – would force the Government to provide EU citizens in the UK who are granted Settled or Pre-Settled Status with physical proof of their migration status, instead of the digital-only proof under the Government’s current system. It was rejected by 331 votes to 260.
The 28-day time limit on immigration detention (Amendment 6) – introduced by Baroness Hamwee in the House of Lords – was defeated by 328 votes to 264.
The Bill will now return to the Lords to continue “ping-pong” tomorrow.
Following the votes, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson Alistair Carmichael said:
“The Conservatives’ decision to overturn these Liberal Democrat amendments shows how empty their promises to guarantee citizens’ rights after Brexit and to fix the broken immigration system really are. Their Hostile Environment is, sadly, alive and well.
“Indefinite detention is inhumane, expensive and unnecessary. The Tories may have blocked a time limit today, but Liberal Democrats will continue the fight to save money and prevent misery.
“Meanwhile, the Windrush Scandal showed the devastating impact of the Hostile Environment on people who cannot easily prove their rights. By denying EU citizens physical proof of Settled Status, the Government risks making them the victims of a new Windrush-style Scandal.”
Responding to the Victims Commissioner’s report on rape survivors and the criminal justice system, Liberal Democrat Justice Spokesperson Wera Hobhouse said:
“Survivors deserve justice. They must be properly supported to come forward and be listened to when they do.
“However, as this report shows, far too many survivors are put off reporting the crime for fear of being disbelieved, and far too many who do come forward find the whole process traumatic. Government inaction is failing survivors of sexual violence and allowing too many criminals to walk free.
“It is incomprehensible that the Government’s review of rape cases is doing so little to engage with survivors – especially given the clear evidence that the system simply isn’t working for them.
“Ministers must listen to survivors, complete the review as soon as possible, and urgently make improvements across the whole justice system. Survivors mustn’t be left waiting any longer for the justice they need.”
The Liberal Democrats yesterday led cross-party opposition to the Government’s Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Bill, calling a vote against the legislation in the House of Commons.
The Bill, which would create a legal basis for certain government bodies to authorise undercover agents to commit crimes in the UK, has given rise to major concerns among MPs and human rights organisations for its breadth and the lack of sufficient limits, safeguards and oversight.
The Liberal Democrats voted against Third Reading this afternoon, but most Conservative MPs backed it and Labour abstained, so the Bill passed by 313 votes to 98.
A Liberal Democrat amendment (Amendment 16) would have restricted the powers in the Bill to the police, the intelligence services, the National Crime Agency and the Serious Fraud Office – in contrast to the Government’s plans to extend them to a much longer list of public bodies including the Environment Agency, the Food Standards Agency, the Gambling Commission and three government departments.
The amendment received cross-party backing from Labour, SNP, Green and Alliance MPs, as well as the Conservatives’ David Davis. However, most Conservative MPs voted against, defeating it 65-311 as Labour abstained.
Following the vote, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson Alistair Carmichael said:
"This is a dangerous Bill from a Conservative Government that is careless with our rights and freedoms.
"We all understand the need for MI5 and the police to authorise undercover agents to do things that would, in normal circumstances, be illegal. If the Government had restricted itself to that, it would have resounding cross-party support.
“Instead, the Tories are using their majority to ram through things that no responsible Government should do. They are trying to award far too broad powers to far too many parts of government, with virtually no safeguards.
"That’s why the Liberal Democrats worked cross-party to try and fix this law. With the Government blocking our amendments, we had no choice but to vote against the Bill."
Responding to reports that the Prime Minister has said it's time to 'get ready' for no deal, Liberal Democrat Brexit spokesperson Christine Jardine said:
"Boris Johnson’s handling of Brexit has been disastrous and these reckless comments are just further evidence of the Prime Minister's incompetence. It has been more than four years since the referendum and yet here we are with a potential no deal and less than three months until the transition period ends.
"At a time when the UK is already facing the biggest crisis in generations as a result of coronavirus, we cannot afford to crash out of the EU without a deal in place or to accept a rushed, bad deal. The Government cannot allow people's livelihoods to be put further at risk, when so many are already struggling to get by.
"The Liberal Democrats will continue to hold the Conservative Government to account as Ministers fail to deliver what they promised, and try and ensure we get the best deal available."