Monday, September 28, 2020

Stalled talks with EU threaten climate action, Lib Dems warn


The Liberal Democrats yesterday called on the Government to join the EU Emission Trading Scheme as part of a package of policies to “build a green recovery and tackle the climate emergency.”

The proposal, agreed as part of the Green Recovery motion at the Party’s Autumn conference, comes as talks between the EU and the UK on a free trade agreement failed to make progress with environmental standards cited as a major stumbling block.

Liberal Democrat Climate Action Spokesperson Sarah Olney has warned Conservative Ministers struggling to cut deals with the EU are "risking that recovery and abandoning the duty on all of us to tackle the climate emergency."

The Liberal Democrats are arguing that the UK should open talks to secure post-Brexit entry to the EU Emissions Trading Scheme, the European Union's climate change policy tool to help industries cut their CO2 emissions in a cost-effective way. 

Other proposals agreed by the Liberal Democrats include a legally binding commitment to reduce emissions tied into coronavirus related support packages and major investment to encourage active travel through walking and cycling, which recent official figures show has stagnated. 

Liberal Democrat Climate Action Spokesperson Sarah Olney:

“As we look at how we create jobs and get our economy moving following the pandemic, the Government must take a climate-first approach.

"With Conservative Ministers struggling to cut deals with the EU, they are risking that recovery and abandoning the duty on all of us to tackle the climate emergency. 

“People and the planet deserve better. Liberal Democrats are unequivocally clear that reducing emissions must be a cornerstone for both business and government. 

“That means radical action from investing in active travel to putting aside party politics and working with our closest international partners to build a green recovery and tackle the climate emergency.”

Lib Dems adopt transformative racial justice plan


The Liberal Democrats yesterday adopted proposals to “tackle racial injustice now”, putting forward a series of measures to combat all forms of racism, “whether conscious or unconscious, individual or institutional”.

Affirming that Black Lives Matter, the motion - accepted at the Party’s Autumn Conference - calls on the Government to tackle discrimination and inequality across the UK. It includes calls to end the Hostile Environment, abolish suspicionless stop and search, and require the police, prison service, judiciary and other public bodies to adopt ambitious targets for improving the diversity of their workforce. 

Wider calls include facilitating a review of the national history curriculum with the aim of diversifying the syllabus, creating local citizens’ assemblies to consider how the past is memorialised in public spaces, and forming a commission to establish the scale and extent of human rights abuses committed by the British Empire.

Speaking after the motion, Liberal Democrat Equalities spokesperson Wera Hobhouse said:

“Racial justice cannot wait. The Black Lives Matter movement has demonstrated how important it is that we confront and tackle racism in all its forms, wherever we find it. 

“The Conservatives’ own policies, like the creation of a Hostile Environment, serve to fan the flames of racism and need to be scrapped. We need to see a coherent Race Equality Strategy. 

“One thing is abundantly clear: we must do much more to eradicate systemic racism in our society and our institutions, from our criminal justice system to our schools and universities. Radical action is needed right now to bring about change and build a more inclusive country.”

Sunday, September 27, 2020

BBC licence fee should be set by independent body, Lib Dems say


At their Autumn Conference today, the Liberal Democrats have agreed proposals that would see the BBC licence fee level set independently next year after government cuts forced the BBC to end free TV licences for most over-75s.

Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats Daisy Cooper warned that the Government must never again be allowed to "force the BBC into a corner where it has to choose between cuts to programming or raising these fees on the most vulnerable."

The Party, which led a cross party group of 106 parliamentarians calling for a review of the decision to cut hundreds of BBC staff working across regional programmes, has agreed plans to protect the long–term future of the BBC.  

Members have also called on the Government to uphold its promise to retain the licence fee model until the end of the current Charter period in December 2027, and for a transparent and independent body to review the cost of the licence next year.  

The Liberal Democrats used the same policy motion to take a swipe at Boris Johnson ducking BBC scrutiny during last year's General Election by calling on all senior politicians to make themselves available for scrutiny in televised interviews and debates.

Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats Daisy Cooper said:

“Families around the UK have flocked to the BBC during the coronavirus pandemic as a source of trusted news, entertainment and education, demonstrating the true value of public service broadcasting at a time of national crisis.  

"As families face serious financial hardship and the prospect of local l
ockdowns, it is absurd that the BBC is left with no choice but to cut jobs and programmes that will reduce people's ability to know what's going on in their area.  

“Ending free TV licences for the over 75s, which could push some of the poorest pensioners into poverty, jars with common decency.  

“We must be clear: the responsibility of these cuts falls squarely at the feet of Conservative Ministers. With these plans, it is no wonder we can find neither hide nor hair of Boris Johnson when proper media scrutiny comes calling.

"To save BBC programming we must never again allow Ministers to force the BBC into a corner where it has to choose between cuts to programming or raising these fees on the most vulnerable. That means ensuring the licence fee is set independently."

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Lib Dems demand Raab steps up sanctions against China over treatment of Uyghurs


In her first keynote address as Liberal Democrat spokesperson for Foreign Affairs, Layla Moran has demanded the Foreign Secretary does more to hold the Chinese Government to account in response to the treatment of the Uyghur population. She warned "we can’t just sit by and watch while a genocide is being engineered against the Uyghurs". 

Friday, September 25, 2020

 The Liberal Democrats have this evening passed a motion urging the Government to step up and tackle the spread of fake news and misinformation, especially in light of the corona-virus emergency.

The motion, passed at the Party's Autumn conference, also calls on the Government to improve its transparency with Liberal Democrat Deputy Leader Daisy Cooper demanding Ministers "get their own house in order".

The proposals agreed by conference include:

  • Government to introduce stricter regulations for social media companies such as issuing fact-checked corrections to scientifically inaccurate posts, as well as amending their algorithms to de-promote misinformation and 'fake news'
  • The Leveson model of co-regulation for publishers to be extended to all platforms which allow comment from both paid and unpaid contributors.
  • Mandating the Chair of the UK Statistics Authority to provide regular proactive comment on the presentation of official statistics by Government during COBR level crises.
  • The UK’s political journalists to host regular press conferences where they choose which members of the government, or bodies and individuals of nationwide political importance appear, and to invite and determine which journalists and outlets ask questions, using the model of the German Bundespressekonferenz.

Following the debate, Liberal Democrat Deputy Leader Daisy Cooper, said:

“The dramatic rise in fake news and conspiracy theories has gone unchecked for too long. However, the pandemic has driven home how vitally important it is for the public to be able to trust the information they are getting from the Government, as well as via social media.
“To tackle misinformation Ministers must extend the Leveson model of co-regulation for publishers to all social media platforms, as well as ensuring social media companies are forced to issue fact-checked corrections to any scientifically inaccurate posts.
“However, it is also crucial the Government get their own house in order. Throughout this crisis, Ministers have misused and manipulated figures as a figleaf for missing their own targets, and the Prime Minister’s shameless defence of Dominic Cummings shattered public trust. 
“The Government’s decision making, and particularly the scientific evidence behind it, must become much more transparent if we are to increase the public’s trust in politics and politicians. To ensure the response to this pandemic and future crises are as effective as possible, the Liberal Democrats are calling on the Government to take these new policies incredibly seriously.”

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Lib Dems secure urgent question to challenge Govt on eviction loophole


Today, Liberal Democrat Housing Spokesperson Tim Farron has secured an Urgent Question in the House of Commons following a loophole in the Government’s legislation to end the eviction ban, which has left an estimated 55,000 households at risk of being evicted since Monday.
It comes the same day as Liberal Democrat Housing Spokesperson in the House of Lords Olly Grender will use a motion in an attempt to try and block the legislation from going ahead.
Ahead of the Urgent Question, Liberal Democrat Housing Spokeperson Tim Farron said:

"With a second wave of virus infections spreading through the country, now is the worst possible time for tens of thousands of renters to be forced out of their homes.
"The Conservatives promised at the beginning of this crisis that no renter who has lost income due to coronavirus would lose their home. However, since Monday this week thousands of families are now at risk being unfairly evicted unless we see a change of heart from this Government.
"The Liberal Democrats will fight tooth and nail in the Commons and in the Lords to protect renters from being evicted."

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Lib Dems will continue to fight for the rule of law


Speaking after the Commons votes on the Internal Market Bill, where 255 MPs voted against the Government's determination to break international law, Liberal Democrat Business Spokesperson Sarah Olney said:

“Liberal Democrat and Alliance MPs took a clear stand for the rule of law and for stability in Northern Ireland against Boris Johnson’s tactics to violate the EU Withdrawal Agreement.

“With members across the house joining to stand for what’s right and voting against the Government, Boris Johnson must take this as a clear message: there is no consensus in Parliament about his disregard for the rule of law and the UK’s international standing.

“Liberal Democrats will continue to hold the Government to account and work across party lines to protect the UK’s interests.”

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Bill introduced to restore scrutiny of international aid


The Liberal Democrats have secured cross-party support for a Bill being introduced today [16/09/2020] which would create a new select committee to scrutinise Overseas Development Assistance expenditure by the Government. 
The move, supported by former International Development Committee Sarah Champion and former DfID Minister Harriett Baldwin, follows the Prime Minister's decision to abolish the Department for International Aid and rumours the Chancellor now intends to scrap foreign aid.
Liberal Democrat MP Wendy Chamberlain, who is bringing in the Bill, has stressed the need to ensure “that where UK aid is delivered, it delivers”.
In recent weeks, the Government has confirmed plans to axe a £12.5m project to cut teen pregnancy and sexual violence in Rwanda while £4.8m of the aid budget was shifted “to strengthen global supply chains” of supermarket giants including Marks & Spencer, Tesco and Morrisons.
Liberal Democrat MP Wendy Chamberlain said:
“For nearly twenty-five years, our aid spending has been scrutinised by the watchful eyes of the International Development select committee. They help ensure that taxpayers get value for money for the 0.7% GNI of aid spending – but also that where UK aid is delivered, it delivers for those who need it most.
“DFID was always highly rated for the way it spent UK Aid, but the Foreign Office has had problems. Now more than ever, we need to ensure oversight and scrutiny of the aid budget.
“I therefore urge Ministers to do the right thing and recognise that there is support from all parties for a cross-party select committee to ensure that UK Aid continues helping the world’s poorest.”

Friday, September 11, 2020

Economic contribution of UK-Japan trade deal will be "drop in the ocean"



Responding to news that the UK has signed a new trade deal with Japan, Liberal Democrat Trade Spokesperson Christine Jardine said: 

“The Government’s deal with Japan appears to be little more than a less ambitious version of the trade agreement between Japan and the EU. The Conservatives cannot be allowed to present it as a Brexit victory.

“The agreement’s economic contribution will be a drop in the ocean. Government has failed to leverage any meaningful benefit from its independent trade policy, whilst a deal protecting our EU trade is nowhere in sight. There couldn’t be a more reckless approach to international trade. 

“Boris Johnson must immediately get his priorities right and stop posturing, to ensure a close relationship with our most critical economic partner – Europe – or we risk a second economic crisis on top of corona virus.”

Tuesday, September 08, 2020

We condemn Johnson for destroying UK reputation on the world stage

 Responding to news that Sir Jonathan Jones, head of the UK Government’s legal department, has resigned following the Government's decision to introduce legislation which would undermine key aspects of the Withdrawal Agreement, Liberal Democrat Brexit Spokesperson Christine Jardine said: 

"The head of the Government’s legal department quitting over Boris Johnson’s approach to Brexit should signal how serious a situation this is.

"For Johnson to think it is acceptable to row back on international agreements and assurances made to Northern Ireland shows he has no respect for international law or the UK's obligations.

"How can the UK expect other countries, like China, to respect the international treaties we hold with them if we don’t do the same when it comes to the Withdrawal Agreement?

"Any Government figure of any integrity would be appalled at these plans. It is therefore unsurprising that Sir Jonathan has felt the need to leave his position.”

Responding to comments from the Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis that the proposed Northern Ireland customs rules legislation will “break international law”, Liberal Democrat Northern Ireland Spokesperson Alistair Carmichael said: 

“The UK Government should focus on making laws, not breaking laws. But the Northern Ireland Secretary's admission that the Conservative Government stands ready to break international law shows just how far we have fallen under Boris Johnson.

“His Government are tearing up the UK's proud history of promoting the rule of law and in the process destroying our reputation on the world stage. It is unforgivable.

"The Liberal Democrats unequivocally condemn this reckless approach."