Thursday, May 27, 2021

Orban: 10 challenges for PM

The Liberal Democrats have challenged Downing Street to hold Viktor Orban to account during his visit to Downing Street tomorrow. 

The Hungarian Prime Minister has been accused of antisemitism, islamophobia and making a sustained assault on democracy and the freedom of the press. 

In a joint letter to Boris Johnson, Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey MP and Lib Dem Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs Layla Moran MP wrote:

"When you decide to invite leaders of other countries to Downing Street, your choice matters. It sends a signal to our allies; to our partners; to people in Britain and around the world, of the UK’s values and commitments.

"We are therefore extremely concerned that you have chosen to invite Prime Minister Orbán to Downing Street. Orbán’s rule has been marked by a sustained assault on Hungarian democracy, on press freedom and on human rights.

"That you and your Government view co-operation with Orbán and his government as “vital to the UK’s security and prosperity” speaks volumes.

"We note Downing Street’s comments prior to this meeting, that “where we have concerns about human rights we do not shy away from raising them”. This Friday, you have the opportunity to do so. We therefore ask you to commit to challenging Orbán."

The letter lists 10 points that the Hungarian PM can be challenged on, including his record on civil liberties, women's and LGBT rights and Russia.

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

ONS Borrowing: SMEs need continued support

Responding to record-breaking public sector net borrowing statistics, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for the Treasury said:

"These record breaking figures are a warning of potential problems ahead. But they mustn’t be used by the Government as an excuse to cut short essential support while the economy reopens.

“Small businesses are concerned about the new Indian variant's potential threat to the final steps of re-opening. This must be taken into account in the next stage of the recovery.

"The Government must extend the furlough scheme at least until the end of the year, and unroll an ambitious revenue compensation scheme for small businesses that are still struggling.

"We now know the stark reality of the impact of the past year but the pandemic remains a threat to small businesses across the country and the Government's support must continue."

Catastrophic trade deal with EU major blow to our trade

Responding to trade stats from the ONS this morning, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Trade Sarah Olney MP said:

“The loss of nearly a quarter of our trade with our biggest trading partner should make the Prime Minister and Trade Secretary hang their heads in shame.


“Despite the impact of Covid-19, the figures are clear: this is primarily the outcome of the Government’s catastrophic trade deal with the EU.


“Hundreds of thousands of British small businesses that rely on trade with Europe have been abandoned by the Government, and their millions of employees will be rightly worried about their future.


“We must finally see an end to empty Government slogans about the opportunities of Brexit and see concrete actions to protect the jobs and businesses that depend on trade with Europe.”

Monday, May 24, 2021

Immigration: Home Secretary has failed to get a grip on broken system

Responding to Priti Patel’s speech this morning on immigration, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson Alistair Carmichael said:

“No amount of tough talk and bluster from the Home Secretary can hide the fact that she has utterly failed to get a grip on the UK’s broken immigration system. Years of Home Office failure, coupled with hostile policies and rhetoric from successive Conservative Home Secretaries, have shattered public confidence.

“Instead of fixing the broken system, Priti Patel is pressing ahead with damaging plans that will create more chaos and make it harder for British employers to recruit the workers they need.

“She talks about a new ‘digital border’, but apparently forgot to mention that the existing project is years behind schedule and more than £170 million over budget. And she is refusing to provide safe and legal routes for vulnerable refugees to come to the UK, even as she invokes our proud tradition of offering sanctuary to those in need.

“Priti Patel has been talking tough about immigration for ages, while failing miserably to make the system fairer or more effective. As she said today: enough is enough.”

Sunday, May 23, 2021

Lib Dems demand review on Excluded workers

Liberal Democrats have tabled an amendment to the Finance Bill demanding a review into the impact of the Government's decision to exclude millions of workers from income support.

The amendment, up for selection on Monday (24th May), calls on the Government to carry out a review of its income support schemes within three months.

It specifies that the review should assess the impact on limited company directors and other categories of self-employed people, who have largely been excluded from financial support.

Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for the Treasury, Christine Jardine, said: 

"It really is time that this Government stopped ignoring the plight of millions of taxpayers who have been excluded from vital financial support in this pandemic.

"Taxi drivers, make-up artists, florists and many more have found themselves left out of Government income support schemes.

"Liberal Democrats are clear that the Government should act immediately to provide the financial support these people so desperately need. We are calling for a review into the impact of the Government’s lack of support for the excluded, which will lay bare the consequences of their poor decision and, we hope, prompt them into finally taking action."

Friday, May 21, 2021

Israel and Hamas ceasefire welcomed but underlying issues must now be addressed

Following reports that a ceasefire between the Israeli government and Hamas has now been agreed, Layla Moran MP, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs commented:

“Sixty six children have died since the outbreak of violence last week. Every death was totally preventable. And while a ceasefire is welcome, we cannot afford yet another return to a status quo which will only lead to more innocent deaths in the future.

“The potential evictions, demolitions and settlement expansions in the West Bank - which are breaches of international law – must be stopped. The status quo arrangements in Jerusalem must be restored. It is vitally important that the Palestinians are able to fulfil their democratic aspirations through new elections including all Palestinian parties. In this context, Hamas, as well as the Israeli authorities, must eschew violence and oppression and allow a legitimate political process to be pursued.

“To address these issues, we need a process – but peace talks have not meaningfully taken place for years. So it is now incumbent on the UK Government to work with the international community to facilitate the reconstruction of negotiations, negotiations which must take place between two equal partners.

“Above all, there must be an injection of new hope into conflict which has been hijacked by the extremes. The strongest card the UK can play is to recognise the state of Palestine, which will ignite the flames of hope and bring greater balance to future negotiations. I urge the Government to do the right thing.”

Take Windrush scheme out of Home Office

Responding to the National Audit Office's report on the Windrush Compensation Scheme, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Home Affairs Alistair Carmichael commented:

“The Government’s response to the appalling Windrush Scandal is rapidly turning into a new scandal all of its own.

“It should never have been left to the Home Office – which caused so much harm in the first place – to put things right. That’s why Liberal Democrats called for the compensation scheme to be fully independent from the start.

“Conservative Ministers must finally admit their mistake and take the Compensation Scheme out of the hands of the discredited Home Office. Then we can finally get on with righting the wrongs done to the Windrush Generation and restoring public confidence in the immigration system.”

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Tories betraying British farmers with Australia trade deal

Responding to reports that the Government is planning to grant tariff-free access to the UK to Australian farmers, Tim Farron MP, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, commented:

“So often Conservative ministers take to social media to say how much they love British farming but their proposed new trade deal with Australia shows that when push comes to shove they are perfectly happy to sell our farmers down the river.

“The NFU are clear that letting Australian farmers sell their produce tariff-free into the UK would spell a disaster for small British family farms.

“Australian animal welfare standards are lower than the UK’s which makes for lower production costs and cheaper produce. Therefore the only way that small British family farms could compete would be to lower their own standards – which nobody except the Government wants them to do.

“To go ahead with this trade deal on these terms would be a betrayal of Britain’s farmers who are so vital in feeding us and protecting our environment.

“Liberal Democrats will always stand up for British farmers, and fight to protect Britain’s high quality animal welfare and environmental standards.”

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Touring Visas: Culture jobs ditched for ideology

Responding to Lord Frost's confirmation that the UK rejected the EU's offer of a visa waiver system for touring arts and culture workers, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Culture, Media and Sport Jamie Stone MP said:
"Lord Frost's admission today confirms to us exactly what we have always suspected - that this Conservative Government puts their political ideology above people's jobs.
"With live events and foreign travel banned, touring performing artists have been hit particularly hard by the pandemic. Now, as restrictions finally ease, they should be looking forward to finally getting the show back on the road. But this Government's botched deal with the EU means it's curtains before the start.

"It is utterly crucial that the UK gets back around the negotiation table and finds an agreement that means British touring performers can continue to work in the EU and our favourite European acts can perform here too.

"Our arts and culture sector contributes billions to the UK economy and is respected around the world. The UK must put recovery first and enable performers to carry on touring now."

Unemployment stats: furlough must be maintained until end of year


Responding to the latest unemployment figures, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for the Treasury Christine Jardine MP said:
"This is still a sharp reminder that there is a lot of work to be done to repair the damage done by the pandemic.
"We must not be lulled into any false sense of security by the furlough scheme, which has protected millions of jobs but is due to end in September. It's possible that then we will see the real impact of the pandemic on jobs.
“To support people we need to see the furlough scheme maintained at least until the end of the year, and a Revenue Compensation Scheme that will allow small businesses to retain and hire staff. 
"Ministers must continue to be aware of the potential threat and treat it with the seriousness it deserves.”

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Community policing needed to prevent post-lockdown crime surge

Liberal Democrats have renewed calls on the Government to restore community policing and youth services, as new official figures show that police-recorded crime was down by 8% in 2020, but rose sharply when Covid restrictions were first lifted last summer.

Responding to the figures, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson Alistair Carmichael MP said:

“As we emerge from lockdown, everyone should be able to feel safe in their homes and walking down their streets. After the crime spike we saw last summer, the Government must act to prevent another surge as restrictions are lifted now.

“For far too long, Conservative Ministers have been trying hard to seem tough on crime, but failing to do what works to actually prevent it. Their unnecessary police cuts have contributed to the rise in serious violence.

“Police need the officers, resources and time to focus on preventing and solving crimes. Instead, the Tories want to waste police time chasing pointless, centralised Whitehall targets.

“Liberal Democrats are calling for a return to proper community policing, where officers are visible, trusted and known personally to local people. And the Government must also restore youth services to give young people a positive alternative to gangs and violence.”

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Don't let them bring in FPTP for Mayoral and Police Commissioner elections!

Liberal Democrats  for Electoral Reform say:

The Government is pressing ahead with proposed changes to the way we elect mayors and police and crime commissioners, first announced by Priti Patel back in March.  But our friends at Make Votes Matter see this proposal for what it truly is: a backward step for democracy. They have launched a petition telling the Government that we need LESS First Past the Post, not MORE! If you agree, please sign and share the petition here.

Monday, May 10, 2021

Jerusalem: UK government must intervene to de-escalate situation

Responding to the rising tension in Jerusalem, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs Layla Moran MP said:

“I am alarmed by the growing unrest and violence in Israel and Palestine.
“First and foremost, we need to recognise that Israel has broken international law with its evictions in Sheikh Jarrah and ignited a tinderbox.
“The Israeli Government’s decision to use airstrikes in Gaza will only make this conflict worse. Children have died. 
"Violence only begets violence. Hamas also needs to stop its attacks.
"It has to stop. Enough is enough. 
“I call on the British Government to intervene in the strongest possible terms. We need an urgent de-escalation of this situation, now. I urge the Foreign Secretary to work with our international partners to help facilitate that. 
“My thoughts are with all those who have been wounded and killed in the strikes. It is a tragedy that lives have been lost.”

Monday, May 03, 2021

Government must verify Iran reports and set our citizens free

Responding to reports from Iran on Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs Layla Moran MP said:
“Reports from Iran, that the UK Government must verify, spell out what we already suspected – that the cruel and heartless regime has been using Nazanin as a bargaining chip over unpaid debts. Just this morning Dominic Raab suggested the situation was more complicated than this. It isn’t. 
“The UK has already accepted it owes the debt to the Iranian government, so if they haven’t already done so I urge them to pay and set our citizens free. And if they have now repaid the debt, they should confirm that and they must do everything in their power to return Nazanin to the UK immediately and redouble their efforts to secure the release of all other British citizens being held in Iran.”

Sunday, May 02, 2021

Global health cuts sowing seeds of next pandemic

Responding to the closure of FCDO (Foreign, Commonwealth and Devlopment Office) and funded UK Partnerships for Health Systems programme, due to aid cuts, Liberal Democrat Foreign Affairs and International Development Spokesperson Layla Moran MP said: 

“I’m appalled that the Government has cancelled the UK Partnerships for Health Systems programme. I cannot believe that during a global pandemic the Conservatives are taking money away from the very programmes that are designed to build resilient health systems in developing countries.

“This is both unforgivable and incredibly short-sighted. The Government are sowing the seeds of the next pandemic with these cuts. Nobody is safe until everyone is safe. Britain is seemingly not only abandoning the world’s poorest but also any hope of ending this pandemic worldwide.

“The Liberal Democrats will stand up against these cuts and for the 0.7% of GNI commitment, which we enshrined in law. The Government must immediately publish all details of its planned aid spending this financial year and tell us if any impact assessments for Covid-19 efforts were carried out first. It’s time for them to come clean.”