Thursday, July 23, 2020

Johnson and Cummings must stop posturing and secure a good deal

Responding to Michel Barnier’s comments that there has been no progress on key Brexit issues including fisheries and state aid, Liberal Democrat Brexit Spokesperson Alistair Carmichael said:

"With just weeks to go and our country already facing the biggest economic crisis in generations, it is unthinkable that the UK would crash out of the transition period without a deal in place or with a bad deal.

"Boris Johnson must start putting the nation first, rather than sacrificing everything and anything in his ideological pursuit of Brexit. Our NHS, jobs, and the economy are already suffering as a result of coronavirus. The Government must ensure that they are not brought to their knees as a result of the double whammy of a bad Brexit deal and the pandemic.

"The Government must redouble their efforts to reach a deal with the EU. The time for posturing is long over."

Lack of economic planning for a pandemic highlights government failures

Responding to a Public Accounts Committee report published today that finds an “astonishing” failure on the part of the Government to prepare for the economic impact of a pandemic, Acting Leader of the Liberal Democrats Ed Davey said:

“Everyone agrees that COVID-19 is an unprecedented challenge, but the Government’s failure to ensure there was a contingency plan at the ready has left thousands of families with no help whatsoever, and thousands of businesses making redundancies or closing down. 

“Considering that pandemics are one of the key risks any Government plans for, if there had have been a proper plan in place implemented quickly, we could have saved thousands more livelihoods.

“This makes an independent inquiry into this Government’s handling of the pandemic more urgent than ever. The Liberal Democrats were the first to demand this and will continue to push for it until the Government has explained its lack of preparedness."

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Tories' plan to "take back control" proves to be empty words when it comes to trade


Following news that the Trade Bill has passed in the House of Commons, without any amendments which would ensure that Parliament can vote on future trade deals, Liberal Democrat spokesperson for International Trade Sarah Olney said:

"By refusing to give Parliament a say over future trade deals - going against the wishes of many of their own MPs - it is clear that this Conservative Government's motto of "taking back control" was just empty words in their ideological pursuit of Brexit.

"As the Liberal Democrats warned, we now have less scrutiny over trade deals than when we were part of the EU. Instead the Government is clearing the way to push through a quick deal with Trump's America, no matter what the cost to the UK.  

"The Liberal Democrats will continue to fight to hold Boris Johnson's Government to account to deliver the closest possible relationship with the EU and to safeguard high environmental, labour and food standards post-Brexit."

All Hong Kongers must be given right to live in the UK

Responding to the Home Secretary's writen statement on the Government's BNO passport policy for Hong Kongers, Liberal Democrat Foreign Affairs spokesperson and Chair of the APPG on Hong Kong Alistair Carmichael said:

“The Government must put these measures in place as soon as possible to protect Hong Kongers. We have already seen how the Chinese Communist Party are using the new laws to crack down on people’s rights and freedoms.

“Liberal Democrats have been calling for these protections since the time of Paddy Ashdown. We are pleased that the government is finally listening.

“Now, we are urging Boris Johnson to ensure no one is left behind. The offer must be expanded to ensure all Hong Kongers have the right to live in the UK, regardless of whether they have BNO status.”

£2.9 billion aid cut shows Johnson's government abandoning world stage

Responding to reports the Government is to cut its global aid budget by £2.9 billion this year, Liberal Democrat International Development spokesperson Wendy Chamberlain said:

“For so many vulnerable people in need around the world, UK international aid has made the difference between life and death. 
“Despite previous assurances that clearly weren’t worth the paper they were written on, we now see the callous Tories for who they really are.

“This devastating cut to international aid is a clear sign that the UK is abandoning the world stage. Because of this government more children will have their life chances blighted by poverty.
“Now more than ever we need oversight and scrutiny by retaining the ICAI, the International Development Committee and a Development Minister in Cabinet."

Sunday, July 19, 2020

We need a proper Green Recovery Plan to protect jobs

Responding to ONS unemployment figures showing that the number of workers on payrolls has fallen by 649,000 between March and June, Acting Leader of the Liberal Democrats Ed Davey said:

“Every single person losing their job reminds us that coronavirus is a tragedy that cuts across every aspect of people’s lives. Managing this health and economic crisis demands the best possible leadership at the top of our country.

“The Conservative Government’s shambolic handling of the pandemic has made the economic challenge we are facing far worse than it need have been. We need much better political leaders than Boris Johnson and Dominic Cummings if we are going to help those losing their jobs. 

“With this sharp rise in job losses, the Chancellor must urgently look at additional support, otherwise there will be an unemployment tsunami in October.

“And we need a real vision for creating new jobs and the jobs of the future. The Chancellor’s summer statement offered little more than a sticking plaster. The Liberal Democrats are instead calling for a major £150bn Green Recovery Plan that will create millions of good quality jobs, safeguarding the UK’s future.”

Johnson must come before MPs after think tank's Brexit warning

Responding to a report by the Institute for Government which warns coronavirus has left UK firms unprepared for a no-deal Brexit, Liberal Democrat Brexit spokesperson Alistair Carmichael said:

“Boris Johnson is arrogantly setting the country down a path that threatens jobs and livelihoods, and this report confirms it. People deserve better.

“Now is not the time to be playing politics. Our focus must be preventing a no-deal Brexit and ensuring business has all the help it needs to protect jobs.

“The Prime Minister must come before MPs before the summer recess to answer how he will address the calls for preparation support, sector specific investment and more.”

Lib Dems bid to block corporate lawsuits watering down protections post-Brexit

The Liberal Democrats have launched an attempt in Parliament to block corporations from using secretive tribunals to water down environmental or worker protections, and safeguard human rights and transparency in post-Brexit trade deals.

Liberal Democrat MPs have tabled an amendment to the Trade Bill – which is due to be debated in the House of Commons on Monday – to require the Government to assess each new trade agreement’s impact on citizens’ rights with regard to gender, age, race, class and economic well-being.

With separate amendments, the Party’s MPs will attempt to stop the Government from introducing controversial “investor-state dispute settlements” – better known as ISDS. Through such mechanisms, large overseas corporations can sue the UK if they believe that certain laws, such as environmental or worker protections, harm their interests.

Unlike normal legal disputes, ISDS cases are litigated in opaque private arbitration courts outside the main legal system. The Liberal Democrat amendment would replace such arrangements with either standard UK court proceedings or a transparent multi-lateral tribunal, safeguarding fair treatment for the UK and investors.

Speaking ahead of the debate in the House of Commons on Monday, Liberal Democrat International Trade Spokesperson Sarah Olney said:

“As the UK pursues a new trade policy we must not abandon the values we benefited from as members of the EU: human rights, justice and transparency must be safeguarded despite the Government’s Brexit plans.

 “The Government’s approach to trade has woefully neglected these principles. Not only have they offered next to no guarantees on environmental and worker protections, but they even seem intent on giving large multinationals a say over our own rules.

 “There’s no hiding from the fact that this is the opposite of ‘taking back control’. That is why Liberal Democrats are fighting for a fair trade policy, that commits us and our partners to the highest standards, and that stands against secretive courts that let foreign companies abuse their power.”

David Lawrence, Senior Political Adviser at the Trade Justice Movement added:

"Human rights and high standards must be at the heart of our future trade policy. The Trade Bill offers an opportunity to enshrine these principles in law.

“MPs should support amendments which require the Government to undertake human rights impact assessments of all trade deals before and after implementation. The bill also offers an opportunity for the UK to free itself from harmful investor court provisions in trade deals.

 “These secretive courts have been used by companies to challenge important environmental and social regulations, including minimum wage rises and pollution controls. Removing ISDS clauses from trade deals is essential for ensuring that our new trade policy is good for people and the planet."

Chinese treatment of Uyghurs amounts to genocide

The Liberal Democrats have called on the Foreign Secretary to acknowledge that the Chinese government is "engineering a genocide of the Uyghur people" and to come before Parliament before the recess to set out the Government's response.

In a letter to the Foreign Secretary, the Party's Foreign Affairs spokesperson Alistair Carmichael urged the Government to use the next round of targeted sanctions on individuals responsible for human rights abuses in China. 

The intervention follows the Chinese Ambassador to the UK denying on The Andrew Marr Show that the Uyghur people are being transported across China for forced labour in factories.

Liberal Democrat Foreign Affairs spokesperson Alistair Carmichael said:

“The images we have seen in recent days are harrowing and inhuman. The Government has a duty to take a lead and do all we can to save the Uyghur people.

"We must be clear what is happening here. The Chinese government is engineering a genocide.

"The Foreign Secretary must come before MPs before the recess and set out what urgent actions the Government will take, both on an international level and unilaterally."

Johnson would ride roughshod over our rights by restricting judicial review

Responding to reports that the Government is planning to restrict judicial review, following a Court of Appeal decision against the Home Secretary, Liberal Democrat Justice Spokesperson Daisy Cooper said:

“Threatening to weaken the courts because of a judgment you disagree with is the act of dictators and despots, not democrats.

“With these plans, Boris Johnson and Dominic Cummings are trying to enable the Government to run roughshod over people’s rights and allow Ministers to break the law with impunity.

“Liberal Democrats will always defend individuals’ abilities to challenge the Government and uphold their rights. We will not stand by and allow Johnson and Cummings to undermine the rule of law, which is so fundamental to our society.”

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Raab and Johnson's half-baked merger plan is threat to international aid

Responding to the International Development Committee’s final report into the 'Effectiveness of UK aid’, which warns the 'impulsive' decision to abolish the Department for International Development (DfID) is likely to have dire consequences, Liberal Democrat International Development Spokesperson Wendy Chamberlain said:

“For countless vulnerable people in need around the globe, UK international aid has made a vital difference. We should be proud of that.

“All the experts warn that Dominic Raab’s half-baked plan is threatening international aid. The Tories should be ashamed for looking at reducing global poverty as nothing more than a political choice.

“We need oversight now more than ever. Ministers must commit to retaining the Independent Commission for Aid Impact, the International Development Committee and a Development Minister in Cabinet or public faith will be washed away."

Tories must not use commission as an excuse to stall on tackling racism

Responding to the Government's publication of the membership of its Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities, Liberal Democrat Equalities Spokesperson Christine Jardine said:

“As Black Lives Matter has shown, the Conservative Government urgently needs to redress institutional racism in the criminal justice system and many other parts of our society.

“I wish the commission well, and commit the Liberal Democrats to playing a constructive role. But, to guarantee this commission has real teeth, the Prime Minister should commit now to ensuring the recommendations to come don’t just sit and gather dust. 

“Conservative Ministers must not use the commission as an excuse to stall on tackling racism. We need a Race Equality Strategy now, starting with scrapping the Hostile Environment policies and suspicion-less Stop and Search.”

Monday, July 13, 2020

Wasting money on Britain's borders just more incompetence from Johnson

Responding to the announcement of the Government's funding to help manage Britain's borders, Acting Leader of the Liberal Democrats Ed Davey said:

"The Tories’ handling of their own policy of Brexit is fast becoming as shambolic as their handling of the coronavirus pandemic. The sheer incompetence, waste of taxpayers’ money, and continual deception of the public must make this Government the worst in living memory.

"The fact that even government ministers are warning about the disastrous consequences of their own border plans, not only shows how bad things are, but that there never was an 'oven ready' Brexit. 

"Ministers full attention should be on containing the spread of the virus and getting our society back to normal, yet they are wasting hundreds of millions on new border infrastructure. 

“Boris Johnson’s shower make Dad’s Army look modern, well-organised and competent.”

Johnson and Patel's destructive immigration plans will cause chaos and confusion

Responding to the publication of further details about the Government's points-based immigration system, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson Christine Jardine said: 

“These Conservative immigration plans will be a disaster for the small businesses that power the UK economy, just as they are struggling to survive the coronavirus crisis. 

“Key sectors like construction and hospitality, already facing enormous challenges, will face staffing shortages. The existing social care crisis will get even worse as there is so little time to prepare for this new system.

“Given the shortage of time and the mountain of red tape that everyone including the Home Office will face, far from restoring public confidence in the immigration system, this will just cause chaos and confusion.

“Liberal Democrats will oppose Priti Patel’s destructive policies and continue our fight for a fair, effective immigration system that works for our economy and treats everyone with dignity and respect.”

Friday, July 10, 2020

Unwillingness to work with EU is unforgivable

Responding to reports UK has opted out of the EU's coronavirus vaccines scheme, Liberal Democrat Health Spokesperson Munira Wilson said:

“When coronavirus is such a threat to people’s lives and livelihoods, Ministers should leave no stone unturned in their bid to end the pandemic.   

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

“The crisis does not stop at any national border. It is about time the Prime Minister started showing leadership, including fully participating in all EU efforts to secure critical medical supplies and a vaccine.”

Homeless covid deaths should act as a wake up call

Responding to ONS statistics released today that reveal 16 people who were homeless have died as a result of Covid-19, Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran said:

“Every death is truly heart-breaking. With coronavirus putting the most vulnerable in our communities at risk, we must ensure no one is left behind. 16 homeless deaths is 16 too many.

“The Government must avoid more deaths by protecting emergency funding for local authorities to accommodate rough sleepers, particularly as many have underlying health conditions.

“This sad news should act as a wake up call to the Conservatives. Ministers must urgently produce a long-term plan to end rough sleeping, including supporting my Bill to scrap the Vagrancy Act that so needlessly criminalises rough sleepers."

Two candidates confirmed for Lib Dem leadership race

Liberal Democrat MPs Ed Davey and Layla Moran will be the two candidates contesting the latest Liberal Democrat leadership contest, the Party has confirmed.

At the close of nominations yesterday both Ed Davey and Layla Moran secured the support required to appear on the ballot.

Voting will open on the 30th July and close on the 26th August, after which the Party will announce the next leader.

Liberal Democrat Party President Mark Pack said:
“With two fantastic candidates, I am really excited for the contest for who will lead the Liberal Democrats and champion our vision for an outward-looking, caring country that celebrates diversity and benefits from the highest-quality public services.
“With Liberal Democrat membership at record levels, I urge everyone who shares our values to join us in the coming days and vote in the leadership election.”

Government must foot the bill to keep TV licences free for over 75s


Responding to news that the BBC will ask over-75s to start paying for TV licences from 1 August, Liberal Democrat Digital, Culture, Media and Sport spokesperson Daisy Cooper said:

"Many people over the age of 75 are worried about setting foot outside their homes due to the risk of COVID-19. For those who are isolated, television is a lifeline - especially right now. It is a travesty that many may now lose access to this vital service. 

"The Government has forced the BBC into a corner where it has to choose between further cuts to its programming or raising these fees. The Government must foot the bill so that millions of elderly people are not left without television during this ongoing crisis and commit to a new independent body that can determine fair funding without Government interference. 

"At a time when fake news about COVID-19 is going viral, the Liberal Democrats will continue to champion our public broadcasters, given their vital role providing accurate, impartial information to those who need it most.”

Consequences of Chancellor ignoring our high streets already clear

Responding to the reports that two of the UK's largest high street retailers, John Lewis and Boots, have announced a combined cut of 5,300 jobs, Liberal Democrat Business Spokesperson Sarah Olney said:

"The scale of today’s layoffs show the true extent of the crisis facing British high streets. The Conservative Government had the chance to provide real relief for our high streets in yesterday’s summer statement, but instead the Chancellor did nothing for the vast majority of businesses outside of hospitality.

"We cannot allow the Government to forget that behind each job loss statistic lies a household struggling to make ends meet. These job losses will devastate our communities and leave families wondering how they are going to get by in the months to come.

"The coronavirus crisis has left our economy with an immense economic challenge, but the Government must rise up to it. Supporting the hospitality sector is vital, but the consequences of not helping the retail sector are already becoming clear. Rishi Sunak must expand the support for our high streets as soon as possible, before we witness thousands more losing their livelihoods overnight."

Publishing Russia report top of the list for intelligence committee

Responding to confirmation that the House of Commons will be asked to approve membership of the intelligence and security committee on Monday, Liberal Democrat MP Wera Hobhouse said:
“With the threat of coronavirus, people are rightly worried and need a Government they can trust. Boris Johnson has failed to do that with his conspicuous delay to reconvening the intelligence committee.

“After months of pressure from Liberal Democrats and others, I am glad the committee is due to be restored. However, it should never have needed this fight. The Prime Minister has a lot to do to claw back public confidence.

“At the top of the list for the intelligence committee must be forcing the Government to publish the report into Russian interference of our democracy, and before the summer recess so MPs can scrutinise it.

“A failure to do so would damage the UK’s standing in the world and continue to raise further questions about the Conservative Party’s deep connections to Russian oligarchs.”

Thursday, July 09, 2020

Settled Status figures show need for automatic right to stay

The Liberal Democrats are calling on the Government to grant EU citizens the automatic right to stay in the UK, with the physical proof they need, as new Home Office figures reveal thousands are being refused and millions await a final decision.

The latest EU Settlement Scheme statistics, published this morning, reveal 2,300 people have been refused Settled Status, 1.4 million have only been granted temporary ‘Pre-Settled Status’ and 250,000 are still waiting for a decision.

Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson Christine Jardine said:

“EU citizens in the UK have been living under a cloud of uncertainty for far too long. They are our families and friends, our colleagues and carers. They must have the right to stay.

“Boris Johnson and the Conservatives promised to automatically guarantee the rights of EU citizens to stay, but they have broken that promise.

“With so many people being refused Settled Status, granted only temporary ‘Pre-Settled Status’ or still waiting for a decision, it's clear that the Government’s scheme is anything but automatic."

“And without physical proof of their rights, EU citizens will be at the mercy of the Conservatives’ Hostile Environment. They must not become the victims of a new Windrush-style scandal.

“Liberal Democrats are fighting for EU citizens to be given the automatic right to stay in the UK, with the physical proof they need.”

Wednesday, July 08, 2020

Davey: We must match the scale of the crisis with the courage to invest

Speaking after the Chancellor's Summer Statement, Acting Leader of the Liberal Democrats Ed Davey said:

“Coronavirus has left countless families facing serious financial hardship. More than a million people have lost their jobs and many more are worried about losing theirs in the weeks and months ahead.

“While I welcome short term measures to help people now, the Chancellor has no serious long term economic strategy for dealing with unemployment, climate change and inequality. 

“Totally absent today was any measure to help the millions excluded from Covid support - like new starters, newly self-employed people and freelancers. They haven’t been helped at all so far and yet represent some of the most vulnerable groups. They must not be left behind.

“Fundamentally, we need a radically new approach to building a radical new green economy for everyone. We must match the scale of the economic and climate crises with the courage to invest £150 billion over three years in a Green Recovery Plan for green jobs in all parts of our country.

"Sadly, Ministers have fallen far far short of what is needed for people and for the climate.”

Monday, July 06, 2020

Landmark domestic abuse legislation passes House of Commons

Tonight, the Liberal Democrats have hailed the passing of the “landmark” Domestic Abuse Bill. The Liberal Democrats tabled a number of amendments designed to further support survivors of domestic abuse. 

Ahead of the Commons debate, the Liberal Democrats had succeeded in pushing the Government to ban alleged domestic abusers from cross-examining survivors in family courts and to properly recognise children as victims of domestic abuse.  
Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson Christine Jardine had secured cross-party support for two amendments to protect migrants who experience domestic abuse. Neither was put to a vote, but the Government agreed to introduce a pilot scheme to give more support to migrant survivors, and Christine Jardine secured an assurance from the Minister that they will put a stop to police sharing survivors' data for immigration purposes.

Following the passage of the Domestic Abuse Bill in the House of Commons, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson Christine Jardine said:

“It is great to see this landmark piece of legislation finally pass the House of Commons. It will bring in much needed support and protections for survivors of domestic abuse.

“Cross-party pressure has resulted in real improvements as the Bill has made its way through the Commons. The Government has listened to calls from the Liberal Democrats and agreed to recognise children of victims of domestic abuse, and to pilot extra support for migrant survivors.

“But this is by no means the end of our work to tackle domestic abuse. Liberal Democrats will continue to press for all survivors to get the support they need, no matter where they were born.

"The passing of this historic Bill sends out a clear message that domestic abuse is unacceptable and will not be tolerated. It is a key step to tackling gender inequality in the 21st century."

Government shouldn't need to mull on EU coronavirus vaccine scheme

Responding to reports that the UK Government is considering whether to participate in the EU coronavirus vaccine scheme, Liberal Democrat Foreign Affairs and Brexit spokesperson Alistair Carmichael said: 

“When it comes to saving lives, there should be no mulling to do. Joining the EU’s coronavirus vaccine scheme is not about the old arguments of Brexit. It is simply the right thing to do.

“It is all very well Boris Johnson claiming he regrets the loss of life but if he then refuses to do something because of politics then his regret is worth nothing more than a bucket of cold sick. 

"The Prime Minister must put ideology aside and commit to participating immediately."

Thursday, July 02, 2020

Tories' Immigration Bill will deal enormous blow to NHS and British business

Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson Christine Jardine said:

"The passage of Priti Patel’s Immigration Bill is hugely disappointing for so many people. MPs from all parties tried to transform this Bill into something which valued human dignity, the needs of our NHS and the interests of British business, but sadly the Government rejected our amendments.

"Ending free movement will deal an enormous blow to our NHS, social care providers and employers across the UK – just as they are working to recover from the coronavirus crisis.

"It was especially galling to see so many Conservative MPs line up to turn their backs on unaccompanied child refugees; to continue locking people up indefinitely in inhumane conditions; and to keep the ban on migrants receiving the financial support they need during the coronavirus pandemic.

"Liberal Democrats will continue to fight to end the Conservatives’ Hostile Environment, and to build a fair immigration system that the public can have confidence in and treats everyone with dignity and respect."

Green way out of unemployment

The govenment must look to green investment to create sustainable jobs 

Responding to the news that some 11,000 job losses have been announced in the past 48 hours, Acting Leader of the Liberal Democrats Ed Davey said:

“The coronavirus pandemic has created an unprecedented economic challenge. 

“Behind these statistics, there are thousands of individuals and families facing real hardship, who will now be worried about putting food on the table and paying basic bills.

“Given the scale of recent announcements of yet more job losses, Ministers need to move faster on their economic response and to look into special help for those sectors still being hit hard by COVID-19.

“Ultimately the way out of this crisis is to create new, good quality jobs through a Green Recovery Plan that will tackle climate change while building back our economy.

“The Government must stop overlooking green investment in its recovery plans if it is to create the sustainable jobs we need. Just as crucially, the Government must avoid a bad Brexit deal or even worse no deal at all - or more jobs could be on the line.” 

UK has the wrong animal at the Brexit talks

Government making "dog's dinner" of Brexit negotiations

Responding to news that the UK Chief Negotiator David Frost has stated that "significant differences" remain as the latest restricted round of talks concludes a day early, Liberal Democrat Foreign Affairs and Brexit spokesperson Alistair Carmichael said:

“Last month Boris Johnson asserted that he wanted a Brexit deal by the end of July.

“But far from putting a tiger in the tank, David Frost appears to be making a dog’s dinner of the talks.

“With the impact of coronavirus already weighing heavy on UK business and the economy, we cannot afford for the Government to continue posturing on Brexit. They must work to secure a deal so that the UK does not leave the transition period with a bad deal or - even worse - no deal at all.

“Liberal Democrats will keep fighting to maintain the rights, values and access the UK enjoys through the EU.”