Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Windrush Compensation Scheme should be taken out of hands of Home Office

Responding to news that over a thousand applications to the Windrush Compensation Scheme are still yet to be considered by the Home Office, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs spokesperson Christine Jardine said: 

"The treatment of the Windrush Generation by the Home Office has been and continues to be absolutely appalling. Those awaiting a decision, in some cases for over a year, have been left in anxious limbo at a time when the Government should be bending over backwards to support applicants.

"It is abundantly clear that the Home Office is out of its depth. The Windrush Compensation Scheme should be taken out of the hands of this Department.

"The Government needs to restore public confidence and build a fair immigration system that treats everyone with dignity and respect.  That’s why the Liberal Democrats are calling for the Hostile Environment to be scrapped altogether."

Home Office inaction risks COVID-19 crisis at detention centres

Following the Government's response to the Annual inspection of ‘Adults at Risk in Immigration Detention’ (2018–19), which the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration described as "disappointing", Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson Christine Jardine 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.

“The Conservative Government’s refusal to act with urgency on vulnerable people in immigration detention is unacceptable. It is shameful that Ministers took nine months to publish and respond to the independent inspector’s report, and that they refused to accept even its relatively timid recommendations.

“During the coronavirus pandemic, the Home Office’s inaction is even more dangerous. Given the risks of outbreaks within detention centres and zero chance of anyone being deported at the moment, the Home Secretary must release all detainees to prevent a COVID-19 crisis in UK detention centres.

“Liberal Democrats will continue fighting for an end to indefinite detention and for detention itself to be an absolute last resort. That will save taxpayers millions and ensure people are treated with more dignity.”

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Gove promises to gamble on EU deal this year no matter the cost

Responding to comments from Michael Gove about the likelihood of securing a deal with the EU before the end of June this year, Acting Leader of the Liberal Democrats Ed Davey said:

“It is deeply concerning that the Government still refuses to extend the transition period during the coronavirus crisis.

“Gove says that there is a two to one chance of a deal but why is the government so happy to gamble on our future during this crisis?

“Gove admitted limited progress has been made on negotiations during this round. The Government must now face up to this reality and seek an extension to the transition period. We must prioritise the safety and wellbeing of the British public over an arbitrary deadline and Brexit ideology.”

Government must grant visa extension to allied health professionals

The Liberal Democrats are supporting the call by the Royal College of Occupational Therapists in asking the Government to honour the contribution of all foreign born allied health professionals during the Covid-19 crisis by ensuring they are included in the Government’s auto-visa extension scheme.

The majority of the 150,000 Allied Health Professions, such as occupational therapists, physiotherapists, radiographers and speech & language therapists, are currently excluded from the government’s auto-visa extension scheme. This scheme was meant to recognise the pressures on front-line staff from overseas, who are fighting to keep people safe from COVID-19.

The Liberal Democrats are already leading a campaign to say “loudly and unequivocally, that those who have put their lives at risk for our country are welcome to live in it”. The party has secured cross-party support within Labour, the Conservatives, the SNP, the Greens and Alliance for their campaign to ensure foreign born health professionals working during the Covid-19 crisis nationals have the right to remain.
Liberal Democrat Health Spokesperson Munira Wilson said:
“The coronavirus crisis is an unprecedented threat, and NHS staff, social care workers and other health professionals are on the front-line. Every single day they are putting themselves in harm’s way to keep us and our loved ones safe.
“It’s good that the Government extended visas for NHS workers, finally recognising the enormous contributions people from all over the world make to our health service. Now they must do the same for the tens of thousands of social care workers and allied health professionals from overseas.”
Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson Christine Jardine added:
“Priti Patel may consider social care workers ‘low-skilled’ and believe that we can do without those who’ve come from other countries, but this crisis has demonstrated how wrong she is.
“The idea that the Home Office will force anyone who’s worked on the front-line of the coronavirus crisis to leave the country or charge them thousands of pounds to stay is absurd.
“The Government should grant them and their families indefinite leave to remain – or at the very least extend their visas as they have for NHS staff.”

Monday, April 27, 2020

Lib Dems call for COVID-19 testing at UK airports


Responding to news that John Holland-Kaye, Heathrow's chief executive has written to Matt Hancock to call for coronavirus testing at UK airports, Liberal Democrat Transport spokesperson Sarah Olney said: 

"Across the UK people are being asked to stay at home, avoid non-essential travel and work from home where possible. These are vital measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19, protecting the NHS and saving lives. That's why the vast majority are taking these measures extremely seriously. 

"However, the Government has been far less robust in its approach to people arriving in the UK from overseas, potentially carrying the virus. It is shocking that for weeks the Government has failed to take steps to reduce - or even to assess - the risk posed by people arriving in the UK off overseas flights, with no screening or testing measures in place at UK airports. 

"If we are to get a grip on this virus, testing and contact tracing will be absolutely key. Those arriving in the UK are no exception. The Government must act rapidly to step up testing at UK airports or risk undermining its own social distancing measures in the weeks ahead." 

Lib Dems lead cross-party call for clarity on coronavirus loan scheme


The Liberal Democrats are leading a cross-party call for the Business Secretary to provide clearer guidance to lenders regarding Business Interruption Loans, following reports that lenders have been slow to approve loans to struggling businesses due to extensive due diligence processes.
Liberal Democrat MP Wera Hobhouse has been joined by over 20 MPs from across the political spectrum in writing to the Business Secretary to call for the additional guidance.
The letter asks that the Government sets out the "minimum level of due diligence required" to underwrite loans, criteria which would enable lenders to process applications at a faster pace. This would help to ensure business owners benefit from the scheme as soon as possible.
Wera Hobhouse, Liberal Democrat MP for Bath, said:
"Business Interruption Loans offer a much-needed lifeline to businesses which would otherwise face collapse given the COVID-19 crisis. However, lack of clarity on the terms for these loans has slowed access to cash. If nothing changes, we may see many successful businesses fold before their loans are even approved.
"The Secretary of State for Business must urgently clarify minimum requirements to underwrite these loans, so that lenders have the confidence to process applications rapidly, fund-channelling to where it's needed and keeping businesses afloat.
"Failure to help speed up the lending process risks thousands of businesses - the lifeblood of our economy - collapsing in the midst of the current economic crisis."

Rising knife crime shows public health approach needed

Responding to new figures revealing that knife crime in England and Wales is at a record high, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson Christine Jardine said:

“Before coronavirus, hundreds of lives were already being taken by the epidemic of serious violence, many of them children. Too many people feel unsafe walking down their own streets. That has not changed.

“The Conservatives’ approach has failed, with the Home Secretary too busy trying to seem tough on knife crime to do the hard work to actually prevent it. They cut police numbers and failed to properly provide the services that help people build lives free from crime.

“Liberal Democrats are calling for a proper public health approach to tackle the epidemic of serious violence. The Government must restore community policing and youth services.

“Once this immediate coronavirus crisis is over, we need to urgently bring police, teachers, health professionals, youth workers and social services together to prevent young people falling prey to gangs and violence. That’s how we will make our communities safer and let people feel safer.”

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Failure to publish Brexit legal text is incompetent or irresponsible

Responding to news that the UK has not yet published a legal text setting out its position for negotiating a future UK-EU relationship, Acting Leader of the Liberal Democrats Ed Davey said: 

“For this Conservative Government still not to have published its legal Brexit negotiating document suggests total disarray at the heart of Government.

“Failing to publish would be understandable and even forgivable, if Ministers had accepted that coronavirus means the Brexit talks should be suspended and an extension to talks agreed, as Liberal Democrats have suggested.

“With Ministers still adamant they will pursue Brexit talks despite COVID, either they are utterly incompetent or they have decided to go for a 'No Deal' Brexit. Either way, it makes them the most irresponsible Government of modern times.”

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Cummings' role on Sage demands Covid-19 inquiry

Responding to reports that Dominic Cummings and a data scientist he worked with on the Vote Leave campaign are on the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), Acting Leader of the Liberal Democrats Ed Davey said:

“The coronavirus crisis is leaving the most vulnerable at risk. The public needs to have confidence that it is expert advice that is guiding government decisions, not dubious political advisers. The lack of transparency is an absolute outrage. 

“To get to the truth and to give Boris Johnson the opportunity to answer some serious questions, it is clear that there will need to be an independent inquiry to officially review the Government’s response to the pandemic.”

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Unwillingness to work with EU unforgivable


Responding to the Health Secretary's rebuttal of the suggestion that the Government's decision not to be involved in an EU ventilator scheme was a "political decision", Acting Leader of the Liberal Democrats Ed Davey said:

"This Government's evident unwillingness to work with the European Union through the current crisis is unforgivable. 

"Time and again, the Government seem to have missed opportunities to join the EU's procurement efforts. Continued shortages of PPE over the last few days coupled with the Government's failure to scale up testing for NHS and social care workers demonstrate that the current approach hasn't delivered. Lives are at risk as a result. 

"To maintain any credibility, the Government must be completely frank about what opportunities were missed or deliberately passed up. Ministers must be absolutely clear that they will participate in all future EU efforts to secure critical supplies. 

"No stone can be left unturned when it comes to getting essential equipment to those risking their lives on the frontline to care for people who are gravely ill with COVID-19."

Lib Dems lead cross party call to reduce motor premiums as car use plummets

The Liberal Democrats are leading a cross-party call seeking a rebate for motorists from insurance companies, who are set to make significant profits as the number of vehicles on the road - and subsequent number of insurance claims - falls dramatically due to the Covid-19 crisis. 

Citing the "direct correlation between the drop in claims, driving activity during lockdown and insurance company profits", Liberal Democrat MP Jamie Stone and other MPs are seeking the Chancellor's support in ensuring that insurance companies refund part of customers' premiums, rather than dishing out dividends to shareholders. 

Liberal Democrat MP Jamie Stone said:

"Meeting the COVID-19 threat has meant changing our lives beyond recognition. One of the most dramatic impacts has been that millions of people are using their cars much, much less - 75% less to be precise. 

"The motor insurance industry is set to make vast profits as the number of claims plummets. I am delighted that [South Wales-based] Admiral are now saying that they will offer partial customer refunds. However, many are still failing to reward the trust and loyalty of their customers. In fact, we have seen payouts to shareholders to the tune of millions rather than refunds to policyholders unable to use their vehicles as normal. 

"Myself and colleagues across the political spectrum are therefore urging the Government to take steps to ensure that, rather than profiting from the pandemic, all motor insurance companies play a part in supporting the millions of households in financial crisis as a result of COVID-19, and refund a percentage of people's annual premiums."

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Data must give full picture of COVID-19 death toll

Responding to news that the coronavirus-related deaths were 41% higher in England and Wales than the Government's hospital-only figures in the week to 10 April, Liberal Democrat Health Spokesperson Munira Wilson said: 

"Today's figures will cause real alarm. The gap between reported deaths to date and the true figures demonstrates it's impossible to understand the horrific toll of COVID-19 without a full set of data.  

"The Government must find ways to allow deaths in the community to be reported much faster, so that we have a grasp of the impact of coronavirus in real time. That is the only way to plan an effective, targeted response to this crisis. 

"The first and most urgent step in closing the gap in numbers is to ensure protective equipment gets to care staff on the front line and testing is ramped up and accessible to all care workers - the Government has dropped the ball on both.

"People are putting their lives on the line every day in the fight against COVID-19. The Liberal Democrats are urging the Government to back our support package for front line health and care workers to ensure they are given the protection and recognition they deserve as they battle this pandemic day after day." 

Give foreign NHS staff certainty about right to remain

Speaking after the Home Affairs Select Committee today where the Home Office was accused of causing foreign doctors and nurses in the NHS “unnecessary distress” despite fighting Covid-19, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson Christine Jardine said:

“It is completely unacceptable that anyone working on the front line and putting themselves in harm’s way during coronavirus crisis is having to worry about whether or not their visa will be extended. The Government must give them certainty that they will have the right to stay.

“The UK should say, loudly and unequivocally, that those who have put their lives at risk for our country are welcome to live in it. They and their families should be granted the right to settle here, without the costs or bureaucratic hurdles that usually involves.

“That’s why Liberal Democrats are calling on the Government to give all foreign nationals working in the NHS and social care indefinite leave to remain in the UK. This would be a small way to recognise and celebrate the enormous contributions that people from all over the world make to our public services and our society more broadly.”

Stop large companies hoarding cash

The Liberal Democrats have launched calls for the Government to take action on big businesses failing to pay smaller enterprises on time.

The Liberal Democrats' Business Spokesperson, Sarah Olney, has written with widespread cross-party support to the Chancellor calling for the Prompt Payment Code to become compulsory. This would end large companies ability to "hoard cash when their suppliers are struggling", leaving suppliers in a "perilous position".

Further to the letter, Sarah Olney said:

“Small businesses are the bedrock of our economy and our communities. With so many of them struggling due to slow or indefinitely delayed payments from large customers, they risk going under if the Government fail to act.

“We all know how critical cash-flow is to small enterprises. That is why the Liberal Democrats have long called for the Prompt Payment Code, a voluntary set of principles for reasonable payment terms, to be made completely compulsory. The coronavirus crisis however has now put this at the top of the agenda - the need to enforce these standards is more urgent than ever.

“The Chancellor has shown willingness to take steps to support businesses through this crisis, but more must be done. It is time this Government ensured large companies were not only held to account, and but that they behave responsibly during this crisis, otherwise we face watching thousands of small businesses close their doors for good.”

Government must scrap plans to end freedom of movement

Following the reports that the Government has taken the Immigration Bill from the Commons Order Paper, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson Christine Jardine said:

“I’m glad the Government has listened to Liberal Democrat concerns and decided not to move the Immigration Bill today. Now Conservative Ministers should use this delay to reconsider their destructive plans to end free movement.

“The coronavirus crisis has highlighted the enormous contributions that workers from all over the world make to our NHS, social care and other essential services. They are protecting us and putting their lives on the line every single day.

“By ending free movement, the Government would make it harder for doctors and nurses to come to work in the NHS and charge them thousands of pounds in fees for the privilege. And it would make it virtually impossible to recruit social care workers from overseas.

“Liberal Democrats are opposing these plans to end free movement. The Government should abandon them and instead build a fair, effective immigration system that treats everyone with dignity and respect.”

Kirsty Williams puts Welsh education at the leading edge

Kirsty writes:
The last month has been a time like no other. As Education Minister, I have had to make a number of particularly difficult decisions that I believe were necessary in the fight against Covid-19.
Before I detail those decisions, I want to express my gratitude to all the staff in our educational and childcare settings. They have been working so hard to provide care for our children in these difficult times. Their response has been nothing short of amazing.
Through this period, I have been working closely with Welsh Government cabinet colleagues but also with my counterparts across the four UK nations. We have been working together well, sharing information and ideas.
However, ultimately, I am responsible and accountable for education in Wales and I have to take and communicate clear actions for our students, staff, parents and institutions:
  • we were the first to suspend school inspections;
  • we were the first to repurpose schools, so they help support the children of critical workers and the most vulnerable children; 
  • we were the first to provide certainty on this year’s GCSE and A Level grades; and
  • we were the first to provide additional resource so children can continue to receive Free School Meals over the Easter holidays.
Last week I was pleased to be able to announce additional funding for school counselling services to deal with an anticipated increase in demand. 
But I know there is also a long way still to go.
This week, I will be publishing ‘Stay Safe. Stay Learning’ – making Wales the first UK nation to provide national guidance and tools in a coordinated way to support learning during this crisis.
It will set out my priorities as being:
  • the safety and physical and mental health of all learners and the education workforce;
  • the ability of all learners to keep learning; and
  • learners’ transition back into school and onto the next phase of their learning when it is safe to do so.
I recognise that we must do all we can to mitigate the impact of school closures on our children. ‘Stay Safe. Stay Learning’ will support teachers, parents, and carers in enabling remote learning and planning for how we can best help children through this time.
Our national mission to raise standards, reduce the attainment gap and ensure an education system that is a source of national pride, has driven progress for our learners, teachers, and schools over recent years.
We must not – and will not – lose sight of those shared ambitions for every child during these extraordinary challenging times.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Brexit negotiation during pandemic shows Tories put ideology above national interest

Responding to news that the UK Government is not seeking an extension to the Brexit transition period Ed Davey, Acting Leader of the Liberal Democrats, said:

"Right now, in their own words, the Government are 'straining every sinew' to deal with the coronavirus pandemic, and yet Ministers are still struggling to deliver on their promises on testing and protective equipment. 

“To press ahead with Brexit on the previous timetable - already recklessly fast - is just irresponsible and shows a fundamental disregard for the UK's national interest.  

"The Government must stop putting ideology before all else - including lives - and start working pragmatically with our European neighbours, some of whom the Government could clearly learn lessons from. 

“Surely even hardline Brexiteers want the negotiation process to succeed and to give it the attention it needs - and that just isn't possible during this dangerous and damaging pandemic.”

Government must stop profiting from PPE for care home staff

Following reports that the government is still collecting VAT on personal protective equipment for care homes, Acting Leader of the Liberal Democrats Ed Davey said:

"VAT on PPE should be the same for care homes as for the NHS. Care homes look after some of our society’s most vulnerable people and with the pressure of the coronavirus on care homes, the very least Ministers should do is to relieve them of this burden. 

"Throughout this crisis the Liberal Democrats have been clear that staff in the care sector are just as desperate for adequate personal protective equipment as NHS staff.

"It cannot be right that the Government profits from care homes desperate to protect their staff and those who they look after, let alone leaving some wondering whether they can afford to continue.

"There are too many workers on the front line looking after seriously ill people without proper protective equipment. Not removing VAT on PPE for care home staff now would be a huge mistake, adding to the government’s failure to overhaul its approach to PPE given the crisis our front-line workers are facing."

Lib Dems lead cross-party call for urgent support for creative industries amidst Covid-19 crisis

The Liberal Democrats are leading a cross-party effort to secure Government agreement for an economic package to support the UK’s world leading creative industries, including a timeline for its urgent implementation. 
Writing to the Chancellor, the cross-party group of parliamentarians have warned that government support so far has failed to reach “the very large numbers of directors of small limited companies, freelancers or agency workers that keep our creative industries booming.”
Over 130 MPs and peers from across the political spectrum have signed the letter and expressed fears that unless further action is taken quickly workers in the Creative Industries and their families will be “left with no option than to join the ever-growing queue for Universal Credit.”
The German federal government has already announced in recent weeks an aid package for the country’s creative and cultural sectors. This includes a €50 billion for small businesses and freelancers, including those from the cultural, creative, and media sectors.
Daisy Cooper MP, the Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport who coordinated the letter, is hopeful of a virtual meeting with the Government having secured the support of the Creative Industries Federation and UK Music.
Liberal Democrat MP Daisy Cooper said:
“The Coronavirus crisis is an unprecedented threat. Thousands of families will face financial hardship and people are rightly worried about their loved ones.
“While we saw government step in to stabilise banks in 2008, we have not seen the same urgency for the plight of many across the creative industries who are self-employed, freelancers or agency workers.
“Unlike Germany, the Government’s response has been too slow. Ministers must resolve the gaps in their plans and come forward with adequate support or risk decimating Britain’s world leading creative industries, one of the fastest growing parts of the UK economy.”
Caroline Norbury, Chief Executive of Creative Industries Federation, added:
“The creative industries are being hit hard by the fallout from Covid-19. With theatres, venues, museums and galleries closing, film shoots being postponed and festivals being cancelled, many creative professionals are facing an uncertain future.
“Creativity is an intrinsic part of the UK’s cultural identity, and one of the things that the country excels at globally. The creative sector will also be critical to driving the UK’s economic recovery - and transforming lives for the better in every community - as we re-build.
“For our sanity, our culture and our sense of shared experience, it is imperative that creative professionals are protected and supported through this crisis."
Tom Kiehl, UK Music’s Acting Chief Executive: said:
“Many in the music industry are required to be Company Directors to conduct their work yet are currently disqualified from Government help for the self-employed and cannot furlough without damaging their business. We are urgently seeking Government help to make sure these individuals, often low earners, do not slip through the net.”

Trump decision on WHO funding is dereliction of duty

Responding to news that Donald Trump has halted US funding to the World Health Organisation, Liberal Democrat Foreign Affairs spokesperson Alistair Carmichael said:

"Trump's decision to halt funding for the World Health Organisation at this moment is a dereliction of duty and puts lives at risk around the world. Instead of taking the opportunity to show leadership the global battle against this virus, it seems that Trump would rather bury his head in the sand and sideline international efforts to stem the spread of coronavirus in some of the world's poorest countries.

"This approach is deeply short-sighted. Covid-19, like any other virus, does not respect national borders. Effectively tackling the pandemic requires global cooperation like never before. The World Health Organisation is the organisation every nation should be working closely with in order to streamline action and get a grip on this public health crisis as quickly as possible.

"The UK has a duty to lead and the Foreign Secretary must do everything in his power to bring the US President back on board in supporting the efforts of the World Health Organisation. The Government must do everything possible to ensure this vital institution is not undermined at the moment we need it most." 

More inaccurate figures from Johnson risk our ability to combat coronavirus

Responding to reports that the Government’s coronavirus press conferences have repeatedly and falsely shown the UK to have fewer coronavirus deaths than France, based on the numbers of deaths in hospitals, Liberal Democrat Health spokesperson Munira Wilson said:

"The frequency of inaccurate information being given out from the Government is becoming increasingly alarming.

"The Liberal Democrats have been consistent in demanding that maintaining the trust of the public is a top priority throughout this crisis. The fact that repeated concerns have been raised regarding the Government’s figures, whether it is the number of tests, deaths or ventilators, reveals there is either incompetence, or worse, at the heart of the Government’s current approach.

"The Secretary of State for Health must come forward and explain why this continues to happen on his watch. It is simply not acceptable in the midst of the coronavirus crisis for Ministers or officials to use inaccurate figures. 

"Combatting the spread of the coronavirus is utterly dependent on the public trusting the Government. If they continue to allow flawed or inaccurate information to be used, they will not only lose the trust of the British public, but in turn they risk losing their ability to respond to this crisis effectively whatsoever."

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Government must be ready to expand support in face of devastating OBR estimates

Responding to new estimates from the Office of Budget Responsibility suggesting the coronavirus crisis could lead to unemployment rates of 10%, with a potential economic contraction of 35% in the second quarter of 2020, Acting Leader of the Liberal Democrats Ed Davey said: 

"This would represent an appalling economic shock on a level unseen for the best part of a century. 

“In the face of this devastating economic scenario, the Government must show that they are ready to expand support for those facing financial hardship - both now and in the future. We need to see plans for action now. 

"Working with foreign governments to streamline support for the global economy could not be more important. Liberal Democrats continue to call for the Government to postpone Brexit negotiations to deal with the immediate crisis at hand. It would be beyond irresponsible to add pressure to an economy in crisis by pushing on with Brexit negotiations." 

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Government must expand emergency accommodation for people suffering domestic violence


Responding to Priti Patel's announcement that the Home Office is working with charities to provide an extra £2m for domestic abuse support, Liberal Democrat's Home Affairs Spokesperson Christine Jardine said:

"This announcement is of course welcome. I am relieved that the Home Secretary is taking steps to tackle the terrifying rise in domestic violence. 

"However, the Home Secretary can still go much further. For far too many people, their home is not a place of safety. Many thousands of people are in the horrific position of being isolated in the same place as their abuser.

"The Liberal Democrats are calling on the Home Office to work closely with hoteliers so that their hotels can be used as emergency accommodation, with the Government covering the costs.
“The Government must act now to ensure that anyone who feels threatened has a guarantee of shelter. "

Friday, April 10, 2020

Home Secretary must answer concerns of Passport Office staff

Responding to the news that the Home Office has told Passport Office staff to go back to work next week despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson Christine Jardine said:

“Passport Office staff are rightly deeply concerned about being told to go back to work next week, just as the coronavirus pandemic is expected to reach its peak.

“The Government must ensure safe working conditions for everyone keeping vital public services going during this crisis. And the Home Secretary must come forward to address the concerns of her staff.

“It’s time Priti Patel answered important questions about this and numerous other coronavirus-related issues, from emergency police powers to support for refugees and survivors of domestic abuse.”

Thursday, April 09, 2020

Govt must do more to protect charity sector - Davey

Responding to the Chancellor’s plan to help the charity sector, Acting Leader of the Liberal Democrats, Ed Davey said:

“Charities play a crucial role helping the most vulnerable in our society. Millions of people rely more than ever on food banks, hospices and many other services provided through the charitable sector. 

“As charities see revenue plummet, it is of course welcome that the Chancellor has finally recognised the enormous pressures on them. 

“The £750million will undoubtedly help, but Ministers must be honest and admit it won't come close to making up for the £4.3 billion of income charities will have lost in just 12 weeks.

“Liberal Democrats are therefore calling on the Government to fund charities properly,  especially those smaller local charities that are close to their communities. If Ministers do not, many charities will simply not be able to help the most vulnerable in society, with potentially devastating long term consequences.”

Cross-party push for campaign to give NHS heroes right to remain

Liberal Democrat Home Affairs spokesperson Christine Jardine, working with Labour MP David Lammy, has secured cross-party support for a campaign to honour the contribution of foreign nationals working in the NHS during the Covid-19 crisis, by granting them and their families indefinite leave to remain in the UK.

In a letter to the Home Secretary, a cross party group of over 60 MPs wrote to say “loudly and unequivocally, that those who have put their lives at risk for our country are welcome to live in it”.

The proposals represent a significant step beyond the Government’s current offer, announced in late March, to extend the visas of foreign NHS workers by one year. The campaign has secured support from across the political spectrum, including Labour, Conservative, SNP, Green, Alliance and the Liberal Democrats.

Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson Christine Jardine said:

"Thousands of the doctors, nurses and support staff who work in our NHS – the people on the frontline of this crisis – are foreign nationals. Our beloved NHS could not function and lives would be lost at this difficult time without their contribution.
“Right across the UK we have seen people’s enormous pride in the NHS and goodwill towards NHS staff. Now the Government has a chance to show its own support for the people’s heroes by extending the right to remain to all the foreign national NHS workers fighting for our lives during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“If someone is prepared to risk their life for this country, they must be allowed to live in it. This is not just a gesture – it is our moral responsibility.”
Neath Labour MP Christina Rees is one of the signatories

Wednesday, April 08, 2020

Lib Dem Chief Whip calls for all-party meeting on parliamentary proposals

The Liberal Democrat Chief Whip has today called for an urgent all-party meeting to discuss remote working for Parliament, including a special committee of MPs, chaired by the Leader of the Opposition, to scrutinise the Government’s coronavirus response.
In a letter to the Chief Whips of all parties in the House of Commons, Alistair Carmichael MP warned the necessary constraints caused by the spread of coronavirus mean “we must consider alternative arrangements.”
The letter follows confirmation from the Speaker of the House of Commons has backed calls for a "virtual" Parliament to allow MPs to keep on scrutinising the Government during the coronavirus outbreak.
Liberal Democrat Chief Whip Alistair Carmichael said:
“People deserve reassurance that their representatives can fulfil their duties wherever they are in the country, even in these exceptional circumstances. MPs have to agree a plan that is fit for purpose for Parliament to return from recess on 21 April.
“The Speaker of the House announced important steps towards remote working for Parliament this week. Leaders from all parties must now meet to urgently discuss these and other measures, in a spirit of cooperation in the national interest.
“The proposals for a special committee to evaluate the Government response are just as important. In uncertain times and with sweeping powers enacted, democratic accountability demands that the parties outside of government are at the heart of the discussion. I believe that it is right and proper that the Leader of the Opposition chair this committee.”

Overcrowding will create coronavirus crisis in prisons

Responding to reports that Public Health England and HM Prison and Probation Service have advised the Government that a reduction of 15,000 prisoners is needed to safeguard prisoners and staff during the coronavirus pandemic, Liberal Democrat Justice Spokesperson Daisy Cooper said:

"While prisons remain overcrowded, they risk becoming a crucible for coronavirus. The steps Ministers have announced to release some prisoners early are welcome, but – as prison governors are warning – they clearly do not go far enough.

"The Justice Secretary must publish the advice he has had from Public Health England and the Prison Service. If the Government has decided not to follow their advice, he should explain why.

"If the Government doesn’t listen to prison governors and expert advice, it risks creating a Covid crisis in our prisons.

"Ministers must urgently end overcrowding in prisons, including releasing all low-risk prisoners serving short sentences – not just those already reaching the final months of their sentence."

Responding to reports that Public Health England and HM Prison and Probation Service have advised the Government that a reduction of 15,000 prisoners is needed to safeguard prisoners and staff during the coronavirus pandemic, Liberal Democrat Justice Spokesperson Daisy Cooper said:

"While prisons remain overcrowded, they risk becoming a crucible for coronavirus. The steps Ministers have announced to release some prisoners early are welcome, but – as prison governors are warning – they clearly do not go far enough.

"The Justice Secretary must publish the advice he has had from Public Health England and the Prison Service. If the Government has decided not to follow their advice, he should explain why.

"If the Government doesn’t listen to prison governors and expert advice, it risks creating a Covid crisis in our prisons.

"Ministers must urgently end overcrowding in prisons, including releasing all low-risk prisoners serving short sentences – not just those already reaching the final months of their sentence."