Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Negligent government must do better with taxpayer's money

Reacting to the revelations from the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) that billions of pounds of taxpayer's money may have been lost in fraud from coronavirus support schemes, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Business and member of the PAC Sarah Olney MP said:

"The PAC's revelations are eye-opening about the scale of the Government's failure to ensure that taxpayer money is directed to those that need it.

"While it was essential that businesses and families were given support to get through this pandemic, the public still expect ministers to not be so negligent with their money. These are funds that could have gone to struggling people and small businesses.

"As we attempt to recover from Covid, the Government should really pay closer attention to who they give our cash to, or they face making our economic recovery even harder."

Touring Visas: government apathy is alarming

Reacting to evidence submitted by Lord Frost and Caroline Dinenage MP on EU visa arrangements for touring workers at a Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee today, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for DCMS Jamie Stone MP said:

"Lord Frost's attitude of apathy today raises serious concerns about the way this Conservative Government is sacrificing people's jobs in favour of its anti-immigration ideology. As ever with the Tories, sorry seems to be the hardest word.

“Our touring professionals have been devastated by this pandemic and are desperate for some clarity and reassurance on their ability to travel around Europe for work. But this Government's botched Brexit deal means that hope is but a candle in the wind.

“Refusing to negotiate with the EU on visa waivers is a galling decision for thousands of people with their livelihoods on the line in our creative industries. The lack of progress in resolving this matter and giving people the certainty they need is alarming. 

“Our arts and culture sector employs millions of people, contributes billions to the UK economy and is well-respected around the world. Lord Frost’s recognition of this, instead of his utter contempt, would go a long way in ensuring the UK does not let the sun go down on our touring performers.”

Friday, June 25, 2021

Olney: TPP doesn't deliver for small businesses

Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Trade Sarah Olney has called on the Government to not rush into the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership and to "balance our diplomatic interests with our economic ones."

During the Commons debate on the TPP, which will increase GDP by only 0.017%, Sarah urged the Government to consider whether the risks of entering this partnership was in the interests of the public. 
Speaking after the debate, Sarah Olney MP said: 
"The Government have hailed this new agreement as a remedy to post-Brexit trade but in reality it's set to be a drop in the ocean.

"Our most important trading relationship with the EU is suffering, and British small businesses trading with Europe are struggling under complicated new rules and red tape. 

"It is time the Government starts paying attention to the problems of our small businesses and stops deluding itself about the Pacific trade pact."

Thursday, June 24, 2021

Livestream warships to keep them safe

Responding to Defence Secretary Ben Wallace’s statement, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Defence Jamie Stone MP said:
"The report by a BBC correspondent that HMS Defender was "harassed" paints a very concerning picture. The Secretary of State must set out exactly what took place.

“Her Majesty’s Government must ensure that a continuous global positioning livestream can publicly validate the true position of all our warships, at all times, in real time. This will help keep our warships safe and clearly identify acts of aggression based on false claims of ships’ positions at any time.”

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Scrap fees for Armed Forces veterans, urge Lib Dems

Liberal Democrats will today call on the Government to scrap visa fees for all foreign veterans and currently serving personnel in the UK Armed Forces.

Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Defence Jamie Stone MP has tabled a cross-party amendment to the Armed Forces Bill, which reaches committee stage in the House of Commons today, calling for visa fees to be waived for any current or previously serving members of the UK armed forces and their families.

Jamie Stone MP commented:

“In Armed Forces Week, we must provide meaningful support – not more empty words – for service personnel and their families.

"Foreign and Commonwealth citizens have a proud legacy of serving our country in the Armed Forces. Excessive application fees have prevented many brave veterans from taking up their right to settle in the UK with their families.

“They risk their lives in the service of our country. They deserve better.

“The Government has a choice: they continue taking veterans for granted, or they can support my amendment to the Armed Forces Bill, which would scrap fees for service leavers and their families immediately.”

£250k Covid certification contract is "extremely worrying"

Responding to suggestions that the Government is ushering in national ID cards via Covid certificates, Liberal Democrat MP Alistair Carmichael said: 

“Vaccine passports were the thin end of the wedge. That the Department for Health is contracting work to a company that makes its money setting up surveillance systems, including ID cards, for Governments around the world is extremely worrying.

“Collecting everyone’s personal information in a national database through an ID card system risks breaching people’s right to privacy. This is a policy no one wants and any plans for ID cards should be scrapped immediately.

“The Government cannot continue to operate without scrutiny, ignoring the voices of the British people and Parliament. The Liberal Democrats demand that the Government entirely rule out the introduction of ID cards in the UK.”



Drop the rights-breaching protest crackdown law

The Liberal Democrats are calling on the Government to remove Part 3 from its Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, as a new report from Parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights says it “would increase those restrictions on non-violent protest in a way that we believe is inconsistent with our rights”.

Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson Alistair Carmichael MP said:

“Priti Patel’s protest crackdown law is dangerous and draconian. The right to peaceful assembly and protest is a fundamental human right, and has always been a crucial part of our democratic society.

“As the Joint Committee on Human Rights makes clear, these new laws would undermine that right. They are part of the Conservative Government’s anti-democratic attempts to silence any opposition to its policies, and the Liberal Democrats will fiercely resist them.

“If the Government is serious about the rest of the Police and Crime Bill, it should remove the part about cracking down on protests now and let Parliament focus on debating the other 285 pages.”

Government borrowing shows scale of pandemic challenge

Responding to the economic stats yesterday, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for the Treasury Christine Jardine MP said: 
“The scale of the Government borrowing illustrates clearly just how huge an economic challenge people and businesses have faced in this pandemic.
"Ministers must remember that behind these figures are millions of families, individuals and businesses who need support to get by in this and by refusing to extend furlough and the business rates holiday the Government putting all of them, our recovery and public finances at risk.
"This Government has serious questions to answer about its economic strategy - if indeed it has a long term plan - and should immediately publish its analysis of what the impact of a wave of insolvencies and job losses would be on our debt and deficit." 

"Staggering" suppression of sick pay slammed

Liberal Democrats MPs Munira Wilson and Christine Jardine have written to the Chancellor demanding the Government protects lives and livelihoods in response to reports HM Treasury suppressed access to sick pay for furloughed workers.

The letter also highlights the lack of new support for businesses and workers following the month-long extension of Coronavirus restrictions.

Munira Wilson MP, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Health, commented:

“At the beginning of this pandemic the Chancellor promised he would do ‘whatever it takes’ to protect people's livelihoods. Yet his department stands accused of suppressing  access to support for those self-isolating, one of the country's most effective tools for slowing the spread of this terrible disease.

“Liberal Democrats have been calling on the Government to provide proper financial support for small businesses and fix the broken and inadequate self-isolation system all the way through this crisis.

“It is staggering that at a time when the country is being asked to make enormous sacrifices the Chancellor isn’t doing everything in his power to ensure everyone is properly supported, including working families and vulnerable workers, and to help struggling businesses stay afloat.”

Friday, June 18, 2021

Lib Dems gain Chesham and Amersham with 25% swing from Tories

 The late Cheryl Gillan, the coalition's first Welsh Secretary, had a majority of around 15,000 at the 2019 general election. Last night, that majority was more than overturned.

Monday, June 14, 2021

Slow down in renewables “failure of leadership”

New statistics show that renewable energy generation growth has slowed significantly in the last year, despite promises from the Conservatives to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 and to make Britain the “Saudi Arabia of wind energy.”
Offshore wind generation capacity grew by just 4% in 2020, compared to 20% the previous year. 
Onshore wind increased its capacity by just 1.1%, continuing a downward trend since 2017, when the Conservatives made it significantly harder to build new onshore wind farms. Solar capacity increased by 1.6%, continuing its limited growth since the Conservatives cut subsidies for solar power in 2016.
Wera Hobhouse, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for the Climate Emergency, said:
“In the year the UK is hosting a climate conference, we have to lead the world in tackling the climate emergency. 
"However, the Conservatives seem uninterested in doing this. This slowdown in renewable energy growth is a failure of leadership. 
“Expanding renewables is the easiest way to cut emissions, and yet the Conservative government is showing a complete lack of ambition. This disappointing progress follows the Government's grant cuts for home insulation and electric vehicles  they simply cannot be trusted to walk the walk on action for our environment. 
“Liberal Democrats believe in climate action now. That means expanding renewable generation to three quarters of all electricity by 2030.”

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Northern Ireland Protocol: Blame-slinging must stop

Commenting on the latest round of talks aimed at simplifying the Northern Ireland Protocol post-Brexit, Liberal Democrat spokesperson for Home Affairs Alistair Carmichael MP said:

"Today’s meeting was an opportunity for constructive attempts to fix the problems with the Northern Ireland Protocol. Instead, all we get is blame slinging and briefing wars which do nothing to help the people caught in the middle of all this.

"Continual insistence on unilateral action will get us nowhere. The issues with the implementation of the protocol will only be solved by the UK and EU working together to find a solution.

"There needs to be a wholesale change in focus, with the aim of reaching alignment on sanitary and phytosanitary standards and securing a veterinary agreement."

Cronyism over Covid contracts shows Tories not fit to govern

Following yesterday's court ruling which judged the Government acted unlawfully over their awarding of a £560,000 Covid contract, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Home Affairs Alistair Carmichael MP said:

“Today’s ruling should be a wake-up call. This is yet another example of the cronyism at the heart of this Conservative Government. While the Liberal Democrats were fighting for the three million people who have been excluded from government support, they were focusing on enriching their mates.
"It's little wonder the Conservatives are so keen on weakening the courts and restricting judicial review, given how often their Ministers are found to have acted unlawfully.
“This unapologetic cronyism shows that this Government is not fit to govern.”

Wednesday, June 09, 2021

Nearly 1 in 3 Brits are carers

New research by Liberal Democrats/Savanta has shown that 30 per cent of British adults self-identify as someone who has unpaid caring responsibilities for a family member or friend due to illness - almost 1 in 3 UK adults. 

The research surveyed over 2,000 UK adults and prompted Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey to call on the Government to give unpaid carers support to take time off. 

In further research commissioned for Carers Week (7 -11 June),  a Carers UK survey revealed 72 per cent of unpaid carers have not been able to have a break since the Coronavirus pandemic began. 

Commenting on the research Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey MP said: 

“Unpaid carers have taken on dramatically increased caring responsibilities during the pandemic. Many carers haven’t been able to take a single break since the pandemic started. Most are simply exhausted,” 

“This pandemic has shown that we are a nation of carers. But people looking after their loved ones are still too often forgotten and ignored by people in power.

“The government must finally recognise the incredible contribution that unpaid carers make and give them the support they deserve. It must give local councils the emergency funding they need to give carers a break.

“Liberal Democrats are standing up for carers and working to build a more caring society as we emerge from this pandemic.”

A workers' watchdog without new funding won't make a real difference

In response to the Ministerial Statement on upholding employment rights and plans for a new 'workers' watchdog', Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Business, Sarah Olney MP, said:

“This is a long-overdue step towards properly enforcing workers’ rights, but we need to see far more action from the Government.

“It is unacceptable that this announcement comes without new legislation or funding. This body must be written into law as soon as possible, and receive enough funding to employ at least one labour inspector per 10,000 workers.
“Making a real difference to workers’ lives takes more than a new watchdog. The Government must strengthen workers rights in key areas, such as giving zero-hours workers a 20% higher minimum wage and gig workers basic protections such as sick pay.”

According to the NGO FLEX (Focus on Labour Exploitation), the ILO recommends a target of one inspector for every 10,000 workers. Available pg.24 in this report.

To strengthen the rights of “workers” and “independent contractors” tied to one business, Liberal Democrats are calling for a new “dependent contractor” status in between employment & self-employment, with basic rights such as minimum earnings levels, sick pay and holiday entitlement.

Tuesday, June 08, 2021

Foreign aid cuts: Tory government's actions ruining UK's reputation

Yesterday, responding to Mr Speaker's ruling that the amendment on aid cuts was out of order and therefore not selected for a vote, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for International Development Layla Moran MP said:
"Today’s decision is just the start of the battle to reinstate the 0.7% target. Boris Johnson might have had a lucky escape from a vote on the cut today, but he cannot run and hide from Parliamentary democracy forever. 
"In a week which sees the eyes of the world on the UK at the G7, the Conservatives’ actions  from making it harder to vote at home to abandoning our development commitments around the world – are ruining our country’s reputation. 
"The Liberal Democrats will continue to stand up for the 0.7% target, which we have supported for over fifty years and enshrined in law."

Sunday, June 06, 2021

Corporation tax: G7 actions long-overdue to tackle tax avoidance

Responding to the announcement that G7 finance ministers have endorsed a unified stance on corporation tax, Liberal Democrats Treasury Spokesperson Christine Jardine MP said: 
"This is a long-overdue step towards tackling tax avoidance by some of the most profitable companies in the world.
"It is crucial we push ahead with these steps in order to prevent tech giants exploiting loopholes in our tax system, and these changes must be embraced by the G20, OECD and the rest of the international community.
"This Government did nothing to tax the excess profits made by large corporations that benefited from the pandemic. They must now use this opportunity to the fullest to ensure tech giants finally pay their fair share.
"This is an opportunity to ensure that those giants who have made huge profits in this pandemic cannot dodge their responsibilities and that they pay their fair share towards recovery."

Thursday, June 03, 2021

Broken Tory promises on aid targets trashing Britain's global reputation

Ahead of a potential vote on a tabled amendment to the Advanced Research and Invention Agency Bill on Monday, aiming to hold the Government to the 0.7% of GNI aid pledge, Liberal Democrat Foreign Affairs and International Development Spokesperson Layla Moran MP said:
“The Conservative Government’s decision to cut development spending has done extraordinary damage to Britain’s reputation with our allies and partners from across the globe. In a week which will see the eyes of the world on the UK as we host the G7, now is the time for leadership - but instead, the Conservatives want Britain to hide from its responsibilities during a global pandemic.
“Every Conservative MP stood on a manifesto commitment to the 0.7% target. If they vote to cut the development budget next week, they will be breaking a promise to their constituents and to the world’s poorest. They will be making a mockery of the Government’s global ambitions. 
“Liberal Democrats will vote to reinstate the 0.7% target, which we enshrined in law. International development spending protects the most vulnerable people around the world and gives them a better chance at life. From defeating Covid-19 to tackling climate change, this is in our national interest.”