Sunday, December 26, 2021

Britain's £100 million Christmas energy bill bombshell

Households in the UK will pay a whopping £100 million more than they did last year for their energy - and that’s only during the seven days between Christmas and New Year.

New analysis by the Liberal Democrats shows that due to the increase in the energy price cap UK households face dramatically higher bills this Christmas with more rises to follow next year.

Worse, if you add the extra £3.75 a week for the whole year, families will be paying an extra £195 a year. Yet there’s even worse to come as energy bills are to increase again this Spring, when the price cap is revised up again by at least a further £400 a year.

The Liberal Democrats are calling for the Warm Homes Discount to be doubled and expanded to support vulnerable households with their energy bills throughout the winter months.

Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey MP said:

“The Christmas period is already set to be tough but this is the worst possible gift from the Government. Once again ministers are leaving hard-working families out in the cold.  For many the choice between eating and heating will become a stark one this winter - in sharp contrast to the Number 10 parties and Boris Johnson’s posh wallpaper.

“The spike in gas prices is seeing energy bills rise to unprecedented levels. Next year energy bills are projected to rise by at least another £400, possibly an inflation-busting £500 a year. Meanwhile, we’ve seen suppliers collapse, and a reduction in competitive prices.

“The Conservatives have totally failed to tackle the problem. They’ve scrapped insulation programmes that would have reduced people’s bills, cut support for the most vulnerable whilst increasing the UK’s dependence on imported gas, making our country more vulnerable too.

“Liberal Democrats are calling for a new long-term home insulation programme to cut bills permanently, end fuel poverty and reduce emissions. As this is an emergency, we also need action now so the government must double and extend the Warm Home Discount to help the most vulnerable households with their heating bills.”

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Article 16: Truss repeating mistakes of Frost


Responding to the readout of Liz Truss’ first call with Maros Sefcovic, which claimed that 'the UK position has not changed' and reiterated threats to trigger Article 16, Liberal Democrat Foreign Affairs spokesperson Layla Moran MP commented:
“When this brief was given to the Foreign Secretary, we hoped it was time for a more diplomatic approach. Instead, it’s like Lord Frost never left. Triggering Article 16 will only lead to a ruinous trade war - harming British businesses just at the moment when they need support. 
“The reality is that Truss cares more about her reputation with the Tory party faithful than she does about what’s in Britain’s interest. The Conservative leadership contest psychodrama is only just beginning.”

Australia trade deal to cause £94m blow to British farmers and fishermen

The Liberal Democrats have warned that farmers are being “sold down the river” by the Conservatives, after it emerged the government's own impact assessment found the Australia deal will cause a £94m hit to the farming and fishing industries.

 

The Department for International Trade’s impact assessment of the agreement, published alongside the final text of the trade deal on 17 December 2021, refers to “a reallocation of resources away from agriculture, forestry and fishing” of £94 million. There is also an expected £225 million hit to the semi-processed food sector, such as tinned foods. The report also warns of “adjustment costs for affected sectors, businesses and employees” as well as the loss of jobs. [The full impact assessment is in a pdf here.]

The impact assessment refers to Australia as a “large, competitive producer of agricultural products”, making clear the “potential for the deal to result in lower output for some agricultural sectors [in the UK] as a result”. It goes on to warn that the sector is “expected…to contract”, compared to if the deal had not been struck. 

 

The Liberal Democrats are demanding that MPs are given a vote on the Australia deal so they can stand up for the interests of British farmers. It comes following the party's stunning by-election win in North Shropshire where concerns over the government's new trade deals on local farmers were a major issue.

Liberal Democrat spokesperson for Environment and Rural Affairs, Tim Farron MP, commented:

“This impact assessment proves what so many feared. Buried in the small print is a £100 million hit to our farming and fishing sectors that will hit rural communities hardest.

“Boris Johnson has sold farmers down the river to make a quick buck in a misguided trade deal with Australia.

“Now the reality of what’s on the table is clear, it’s vital that Parliament is given a vote on the deal.

“Last week’s political earthquake in North Shropshire shows that Boris Johnson’s Conservatives can’t afford to take farmers for granted any longer."

Sunday, December 19, 2021

Frost resignation: The rats are fleeing Boris Johnson's sinking ship

Responding to reports Lord Frost has resigned from the government, Liberal Democrat Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Layla Moran said:

“This shock resignation is a sign of the chaos and confusion at the heart of this Conservative government.

"The rats are fleeing Boris Johnson's sinking ship as he lurches from crisis to crisis.

"Even the prime minister's once loyal supporters are now abandoning him, just as lifelong Conservative voters are switching in their droves to the Liberal Democrats.

“At a time we need strong leadership to get us through the pandemic, we instead have a weak prime minister who has lost the support of his allies and the trust of the British people.”


Friday, December 17, 2021

Davey on North Shropshire by-election: "Party is over for Boris Johnson"

The Liberal Democrats have declared ‘the party is over’ for Boris Johnson after their sensational by-election win in North Shropshire tonight.

North Shropshire was the 58th safest Conservative seat in the country, with former Conservative MP Owen Paterson having a majority of almost 23,000 votes in 2019. This represents the second biggest majority overcome in a modern by-election, after Christchurch in 1993.

Liberal Democrat candidate Helen Morgan received 17,957 votes, representing a swing of 34% from the Conservatives and giving her a majority of 5,925. 

The stunning Liberal Democrat win follows their success in Chesham and Amersham in June, when a Conservative majority of 16,000 was overturned with another huge swing resulting in Sarah Green MP being elected with a majority of over 8,000.

Commenting on the result, Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey MP said:

“This result is a watershed moment in our politics and offers hope to people around the country that a brighter future is possible. Millions of people are fed up with Boris Johnson and his failure to provide leadership throughout the pandemic and last night the voters of North Shropshire spoke for all of them.

“This is the second stunning by-election victory this year for the Liberal Democrats - both in formerly safe Conservative seats. From Buckinghamshire to Shropshire, lifelong Conservatives have turned to the Liberal Democrats in their droves and sent a clear message to the Prime Minister that the party is over.

“The Liberal Democrats believe people deserve a fair deal where everyone plays by the same rules – including those in Downing Street. We will fight for that fair deal with good schools, safe streets and high-quality healthcare.”

Australia Trade Deal: Conservatives sell out British farmers

Responding to the new UK-Australia trade deal, Liberal Democrat Rural Affairs Spokesperson Tim Farron MP said:
"This trade deal fails to protect our farmers in the long-term. 
"The Conservatives make promises of transitions, but all that means is delaying the inevitable - our farming communities being undermined by imported food that is produced to lower standards of animal welfare and environmental protection.
"Liberal Democrats back British farmers, we're calling on the government to back my bill forcing them to publish the impact assessments of this deal on our farming communities and to give Parliament the final say."

Thursday, December 16, 2021

Inflation: Perfect storm facing families and businesses

Responding to new figures which show that inflation has hit 5.1% - its highest level in a decade - Liberal Democrat Treasury Spokesperson Christine Jardine MP said:

"Families and businesses are facing the perfect storm this winter as inflation soars and Covid surges.

"Boris Johnson cannot stand idly by while the cost of living crisis forces people to choose between eating and heating. 
"The Conservatives must offer hope to families this Christmas, starting by scrapping their unfair and manifesto-breaking tax rise coming in next year. 
"We also need an urgent package of support for caf├ęs, pubs and restaurants on the brink before more livelihoods are lost."

Wednesday, December 08, 2021

PM press conference: Inquiry must look into all Downing Street parties

Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey has called for the Cabinet Office inquiry to be extended into all parties that took place in Number 10 last year, along with any that took place in other government departments.

It comes after Boris Johnson confirmed at a press conference today that he has only asked Cabinet Secretary Simon Case to look into the party that took place on December 18 last year, not an earlier gathering that the prime minister allegedly attended on November 27.

Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey MP said:

“Boris Johnson has already done huge damage to public trust. Now he’s making things even worse by dodging scrutiny about claims he attended other parties at Downing Street.

“The official inquiry must be widened to look into all the parties held in Downing Street last year and in any other government departments, including those that the prime minister allegedly attended.

“The public are rightly furious that Boris Johnson thinks the rules don’t apply to him. They deserve answers, not a Whitehall whitewash that lets the prime minister off the hook.”

Covid pass app crashes days before vaccine passports introduced

Responding to reports the NHS Covid pass app has already crashed following the announcement the government will introduce Covid passports from next week, Liberal Democrat Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson Alistair Carmichael MP said:

“The government’s Covid ID cards plans have already descended into a shambles on the same day they were announced.

“This chaos is leaving people unable to access the Covid pass app, just days before they will need to start using it to attend events. Ministers must fix this mess now before people are shut out of events simply because the government’s app doesn’t work.

“It shows that Covid passports are not only illiberal but unworkable. The Conservatives may be able to organise a party in Number 10, but they can’t roll out Covid ID cards without them crashing.”

Monday, November 29, 2021

PM must stop sale of vaccine manufacturing centre

The Liberal Democrats have demanded that Boris Johnson immediately step in to halt the sale of the Vaccine Manufacturing Innovation Centre at Harwell near Oxford, describing the move as "short-sighted penny pinching."

It was reported this morning that the centre is being sold off to recoup some of the money invested by the Government.

On a visit to the centre last year, Boris Johnson claimed that the new vaccine centre “will be able to manufacture enough vaccine doses for the whole UK population... which would transform how we beat this virus and prepare for future pandemics."

Liberal Democrat Health Spokesperson Daisy Cooper MP said:

“Boris Johnson must immediately step in and stop the sale of the Vaccine Manufacturing Innovation Centre, and reassure the public that the Government isn’t cutting back on our ability to manufacture the vaccines we need.

“The Prime Minister himself underlined how important this centre will be to protect against Covid and future pandemics.

“It is astonishing that the Government is even contemplating selling off this vital national asset, when the Omicron variant means we may soon need to manufacture new vaccines.

“This looks like short-sighted penny pinching, at a time when ministers should be doing everything they can to keep the country safe from this and future Covid variants."


Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Pensioners betrayed by broken Tory promise on triple lock

First, the Tories rubbish the triple lock when it is included in the 2008 Lib Dems manifesto; secondly they are forced to accept it as part of the coalition agreement that year; then they claim it as one of their own when it proves popular, including it in all their subsequent manifestos; finally Rishi Sunak goes back on their word.

Responding to the rejection of an amendment to the Social Security Bill which would prevent the ditching of the pension triple lock, Liberal Democrat Work & Pensions Spokesperson Wendy Chamberlain MP said:

"Pensioners will not forget this triple lock betrayal. The Government have ploughed ahead with their manifesto-breaking plan, by rejecting a fair and sensible solution that would have saved the triple lock. The result is a downgraded rise in the state pension just as a cost-of-living crisis begins to bite. It is clear this Conservative Government is completely out of touch.

“The Prime Minister never misses a chance to talk about rising wages as a result of Brexit, yet at the same time calls this rise an anomaly to justify betraying pensioners. So which is it? Because it cannot be both.
"There is still time for the Government to come to their senses. At the very least they should use a realistic inflation figure, reflecting skyrocketing heating bills and the ever-rising cost of living. If they fail to, millions will see this rise be all but wiped out."

Tory sleaze U-turn descends into farce

Responding to the Government's failure yesterday evening to endorse a Standards Committee report on rule breaches by former Conservative MP Owen Paterson, Liberal Democrat Chief Whip Wendy Chamberlain MP said:

"This is a total farce. First, the Government scheduled this motion so there would be no chance for debate. Now, the motion hasn’t passed. It’s insulting that, after two weeks of this scandal, the Government couldn’t even perform their sleaze U-turn successfully. This tells you all you need to know about the state of the Conservative Party. 

"It’s vital that the Government brings this back before MPs as soon as possible. Every day that goes by without this being repealed, the more embarrassing this whole affair becomes. We must move forward."

Frank Little adds: 

"It is noticeable that Christopher Chope MP, the enemy of Private Members' Bills, was the man who cried 'object' in order to prevent the government's motion to pass without debate. I understand that the government will now shoehorn a debate on the motion into today's proceedings."

Sunday, November 14, 2021

Davey: PM has wasted COP26

Commenting on the conclusion of a deal at COP26 in Glasgow with only a commitment to 'phase down' the use of coal, Liberal Democrat Leader and former Secretary of State for Energy Sir Ed Davey MP said:
“It sadly looks like the Prime Minister has flunked the chance for the UK to lead real progress in the fight against the climate crisis. His COP has barely been worth excess emissions caused by the flights to Glasgow.
“We now need an urgent action plan to sort out the mess: we simply cannot sit and wait for COP27 and then COP28 after that. We need a global leaders’ summit within months to get China round the table and put the fossil fuel industry on notice once and for all.
“Over the last month Boris Johnson has treated COP26 as a glorified photo opportunity, when he should have spent the last year on the hard graft needed to save the planet.
“Johnson’s failure to prepare for COP26 properly and ultimately his incompetent leadership may have turned the 1.5 degree goal into a pipe dream."

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Figures reveal worst places in country to charge an electric car

  • Just 372 new “rapid” electric vehicle chargers were installed in the last three months

  • 80% of public charging points would take 8 hours to charge small electric car as Liberal Democrats demand more investment needed

  • Windsor, Swindon and Stockport the worst places to charge your electric car

Windsor, Swindon and Stockport have the least amount of rapid chargers per electric cars, analysis of official statistics by the Liberal Democrats can reveal.

Electric car drivers in these areas are most likely to be stranded by slower charging points taking at least 13 hours to charge a Nissan Leaf.  Rapid chargers however, take just 30 minutes, and are proven to encourage far more people to switch to electric cars. 

In the local authority area of Windsor and Maidenhead, there are 1,474 electric cars registered in the area for every rapid charging point, the worst in the country. 

In Stockport, there are a staggering 16,568 registered electric cars sharing just 16 rapid charging points. 

Just 372 new “rapid” electric vehicle chargers were installed in the last three months across the UK, as part of 1,553 new chargers installed. This is despite the Conservatives promising to dramatically increase the number of fast chargers.

These same statistics reveal that less than one in five (19%) of all electric vehicles charging points in the UK are so-called “rapid chargers”, whereas nearly  6,000 public charging points fall into the slow bracket (3KW - 5KW).

This year the Conservatives have cut grants available to new electric vehicles.

Sarah Olney MP, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Transport, said:

“Too many electric car owners face the anxiety of being marooned in a car park for hours on end because the government is installing the wrong kind of charging points. 

“The government needs to get on with it now or risk a new wave of electric car owners becoming stranded, or worse still, going back to diesel.

“For all the big talk we have heard from the government at COP26 on electric cars, the reality of their lack of investment shows a completely different picture. 

“Instead of vague words, Liberal Democrats are calling for a cut in VAT on the lowest cost electric vehicles and a massive expansion of rapid chargers, particularly in rural areas.”

Frank Little, secretary of local Liberal Democrats, added:

It is not clear whether these figures relate to England only. Certainly, the Welsh government has been criticised for its charging point strategy. We hope to research this issue.


Motion scrapping crony committee a "victory for democracy" says Chamberlain

Responding to the government tabling a motion to scrap its proposed new standards committee, Liberal Democrat Chief Whip Wendy Chamberlain, who led Monday's emergency Commons debate on standards, said:

"It is a victory for democracy and decency that the government has finally scrapped their crony committee for good.
"This reflects the strength of feeling shown by MPs across the political spectrum at yesterday's emergency debate.
"But this U-turn comes too late to undo the damage done to Boris Johnson and his government's reputation. People won't easily forget that the Tories tried to change the rules and undermine our democracy just to dodge scrutiny and protect themselves from future investigations.”

Monday, November 08, 2021

Lib Dems demand public inquiry into Tory sleaze scandal ahead of emergency Commons debate

  • Liberal Democrats demand independent public inquiry into sleaze allegations with powers to summon witnesses under oath.

  • MPs under investigation should no longer be able to vote on disciplinary issues.

  • The Lib Dems have secured an emergency debate in Parliament on the political sleaze scandal this afternoon.

The Liberal Democrats have called for an independent public inquiry into government sleaze and allegations of political corruption, warning that Boris Johnson’s Conservatives are “releasing sewage into our rivers and sleaze into our politics.”

The party is also demanding that any MPs under investigation for breaking parliamentary rules should be barred from taking part in Commons votes on disciplinary issues. It comes ahead of an emergency House of Commons debate on parliamentary standards today, Monday 8 November, secured by Liberal Democrat Chief Whip Wendy Chamberlain MP.

The Liberal Democrats have said an independent, statutory public inquiry is needed into recent allegations of political sleaze and corruption at the very heart of the government. These include the awarding of lucrative Covid contracts to those with political links to the Conservative Party, Boris Johnson’s failure to declare that holidays abroad and the redecoration of his Downing Street flat were paid for by party donors, and last week’s attempt to block the suspension of former Conservative MP Owen Paterson after he was found to have breached lobbying rules.

The inquiry would have the power to summon witnesses and require them to give evidence under oath, including current and former government ministers and officials, and demand the disclosure of any relevant official documents and communications.

The party has also said that any MPs being investigated by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards should not be able to vote or propose amendments to motions related to disciplinary issues. It comes after it emerged that 22 Conservative MPs who voted for Andrea Leadsom’s amendment to tear up anti-sleaze rules are either being investigated or have had allegations upheld against them since the 2019 general election. This includes Owen Paterson who was able to vote on whether or not he should be suspended.

Speaking ahead of Monday’s debate, Liberal Democrat chief whip Wendy Chamberlain MP said:

“We have a Conservative government that is releasing sewage into our rivers and sleaze into our politics.

“It beggars belief that Owen Paterson was able to vote on his own suspension, while the votes of Conservative MPs currently under investigation were critical in passing Leadsom’s sleaze amendment. It’s the equivalent of defendants in a court case also taking part in the jury. We need to make sure those with a vested interest in tearing up Parliament’s anti-sleaze rules don’t have the power to do so.

“Last week’s events were just the latest example of political cronyism and corruption, from dodgy Covid contracts to Boris Johnson’s holidays secretly paid for by his wealthy donor friends.

“Time and again government ministers have refused to properly investigate allegations of sleaze, failed to declare relevant meetings and donations and tried to rig the system to cover their own backs. We need an independent public inquiry, with the powers and resources to get to the bottom of this Conservative sleaze scandal.

“People around the country who play by the rules are being let down by Boris Johnson’s Conservatives who think the rules just don’t apply to them. They deserve answers over who is influencing our politics, how taxpayers’ money is being spent and what is being done to hold those in power to account.”


N.B. Wendy Chamberlain served for twelve years as a police officer in Scotland and is the only female former police officer in Parliament.

Sunday, November 07, 2021

John Major's comments are a "damning indictment" of Johnson's corrupt Conservative government

Responding to Sir John Major's comments on the Today Programme this morning that Boris Johnson's government is "un-conservative" and "potentially politically corrupt", Liberal Democrat Deputy Leader Daisy Cooper MP said:

"For a former Conservative Prime Minister to describe this government as being politically corrupt is frankly astonishing and a damning indictment of the Tories under Boris Johnson.

"John Major is simply saying what millions of lifelong Tory voters are thinking: Boris Johnson's Conservatives no longer represent them.

“This week’s scandal is just the latest in a long string of attempts to undermine our democratic traditions and shared values of decency, honesty and transparency. 

"Right across former Conservative heartlands in the Blue Wall, people are sick of being taken for granted by a government mired in sleaze and corruption."

Friday, November 05, 2021

Crime stats: Fraud soars by 32%

New action demanded


Responding to the new official crime figures, which show that there were 5 million fraud offences in the last year, a rise of 32%, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson Alistair Carmichael MP said:

“The scourge of fraud and scams is spreading at an alarming rate, but the Government is still not giving it the focus it deserves.

“Fraud is an appalling crime that particularly preys on vulnerable people. Far too many criminals are getting away with it, and far too many victims are being left without justice or redress.

“We need real action to stop fraud from ruining people’s lives. That’s why the Liberal Democrats are calling for a properly-funded new Online Crime Agency to tackle it effectively, and for the Government to name and shame the banks who are doing the least to prevent fraud and reimburse victims.”


Ed Davey on Paterson resigning: Johnson has underestimated the British people

Responding to the news Owen Paterson has resigned, Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey said:
"Boris Johnson thought he could rewrite the rules to defend himself and his Tory chums from charges of sleaze and corruption without anyone noticing.
"But he underestimated the British people and how badly this would go down, including among many lifelong Conservative voters.
"It just shows that the Conservatives are taking people for granted. The public wants decency and honesty from their government, instead under Boris Johnson all they get is lies, chaos and cronyism."

Government failing to support UK's world leading cultural sector

Following a Liberal Democrat debate in the House of Lords yesterday, the party has challenged the Government to do more to protect the UK’s vital cultural sector.

The Government claims it wants to ‘level up’ and ‘build back better’, but has failed to give the UK cultural sector the support it needs to do this.

Their failure to resolve disagreements over visas with the EU has left musicians and performers unable to tour, with Sir Elton John wading into the debate to call for action to resolve this.

The Liberal Democrats are calling for greater financial support for cultural institutions and freelancers, a halt to attempts to privatise Channel 4, and an agreement to secure visa-free travel for musical performers and artists across Europe.

Baroness Lynne Featherstone, who led the debate, said:

"Today’s debate highlighted the huge benefit the cultural industry brings to the UK. It is worth over £115bn to our economy and is one of the quickest growing sectors, growing five times faster than the rest of the economy before the pandemic hit.

"The extension of tax relief to cultural venues in the budget was a welcome move, but fails to meet the scale of the huge challenges facing this vital industry. The Government must do more to turbocharge this sector and ensure it can rebuild.

"The Conservatives have shown they don’t value or consider this industry important. If they did, they would have resolved the EU Visa issues which has left performers and musicians struggling with mountains of paperwork.

“Our children and young people must not be fodder in educational sausage factories where creative thinking cannot flourish. This is a moment of opportunity to build back better and genuinely level up our communities. The Government must grasp it."

Commenting after the debate, Liberal Democrat DCMS spokesperson Jamie Stone MP said:

"This Government has established an utter disregard for our nation's creative sector. It's clear that it has never been a priority from the very top of Government, as shown by there being 11 different Secretaries of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport over as many years.

"Culture is our secret weapon. Our soft power success. But because this Government has drawn a false distinction between art and science, this power has been time and time again underwritten and undermined.

"I fully endorse Baroness Featherstone's calls on the Government to respect, capitalise, and simply believe in the creative sector. This industry will not survive on handouts, like the Cultural Recovery Fund, that are dished out last minute. It is time - it has been for years - to prioritise British art and culture."