Thursday, September 30, 2021

Sunak's £500m support fund "cold comfort" for struggling families

Responding to the news that the government will launch a £500m support fund for vulnerable households this winter, Christine Jardine MP, Liberal Democrat Treasury Spokesperson said:

"This will be cold comfort for struggling families seeing their universal credit slashed and facing the risk of eviction.
"People need a generous package of support to help them cope with soaring gas bills this winter. Instead Rishi Sunak is offering then some crumbs off the table. He’s kidding himself if he thinks this will be enough to prevent the looming winter of discontent.
"If the chancellor really wanted to support vulnerable households, he would scrap his cruel cuts to universal credit and the planned tax hike that will kick people and businesses when they're already down."

Sunday, September 26, 2021

Grant Shapps "passing the buck" on fuel shortages

Reacting to suggestions made by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps that fuel shortages are a crisis "manufactured" by the public and "one of the road haulage associations", Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Business, Trade and Transport Sarah Olney MP said:

“Grant Shapps is shamefully passing the buck for the Government’s own failures.

“The Conservatives have repeatedly ignored calls from businesses to address the shortage of drivers. It is a bit rich for ministers to now blame the public and the road haulage industry for the mess we find ourselves in.
“The Transport Secretary should focus on getting a grip of this crisis instead of trying to duck responsibility.”

Friday, September 24, 2021

NHS and care workers to face £900 million tax bill under National Insurance hike

Nurses, care home staff and other health and social care workers will pay over £900 million more in tax under Boris Johnson’s increase to National Insurance, new research reveals.

Analysis by the House of Commons Library commissioned by the Liberal Democrats estimates that those working in health and social care will pay 12% of the £7.4 billion expected to be raised from employees through the tax rise. The estimate also doesn’t include those working in health and social care who are self-employed, meaning the real figure is likely to be even higher. The Liberal Democrats said this showed the government was launching a “tax raid on NHS and care home heroes” who have been on the frontline of the pandemic.

The research also shows the expected tax hike that will be faced by those working in the NHS and social care next year due to the 1.25% increase in national insurance. A nurse or midwife on an average salary will see their tax bill rise by £310 next year, care home workers will pay around £140 more and ambulance staff will see a £420 increase. The average NHS worker across all staff groups will pay £315 more a year.

The Liberal Democrats are warning that the government’s plans will do nothing to fill the estimated 120,000 vacancies for social care workers, and will actually make them worse by hammering those working in the sector with a tax rise. The party is calling for measures to give care staff the pay and recognition they deserve, as well as an increase to the carer’s allowance to £1,000 a year.

Liberal Democrat Health Spokesperson Munira Wilson said:

“Boris Johnson’s broken manifesto promise amounts to a £900 million tax raid on our NHS and care home heroes.

“These are the nurses, ambulance drivers and care workers who worked day in day out to save lives on the frontline of the pandemic. Now their reward is to be hit with a tax bill worth hundreds of pounds, at a time when incomes are being squeezed by the cost of living crisis.

“The Conservatives must rethink this unjust tax hike that will disproportionately impact those on low and middle incomes. Their plans risk worsening the staffing crisis in our care homes instead of fixing it.

“The Liberal Democrats will offer a fair deal for our carers, along with an increase to the unpaid carers’ allowance to give them the pay and recognition they deserve.”

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Afghan interpreter data breach is shocking betrayal

Responding to the news that the Ministry of Defence has ordered an investigation into a data breach involving the email addresses of dozens of Afghan interpreters who worked for British forces, Liberal Democrat Defence Spokesperson Jamie Stone said:
"This is shocking and truly a betrayal. It is deeply unworthy of the standards all of us had thought defined British honour.
"Ministers must to see to it that whoever in Government oversaw this horrific blunder is no longer in a position of responsibility.  All decent people will expect no less."

Monday, September 20, 2021

Ed Davey on energy crisis: Taxpayers risk footing bill for government failures

Commenting on the gas energy crisis, Liberal Democrat leader and former Energy Secretary Ed Davey said:
“The Conservatives have taken their eye of the ball by failing to insulate millions of people’s homes and diversify our energy supply. Now taxpayers risk having to foot the bill for the Conservatives’ energy policy failures over the last six years.
“We now need urgent action to end this crisis and prevent families having to choose between eating and heating this winter.
“Today ministers must restore calm to the market and consider creating a Northern Rock style energy company to take on customers of companies that have gone under.
“But we also need a massive home insulation programme so we are prepared for the next crisis. The Liberal Democrats are demanding that all UK homes are upgraded within ten years - including fully funded grants for those in fuel poverty and on low incomes.”

Friday, September 17, 2021

22,000 fraud cases dropped by the police last year, new figures show

The Liberal Democrats have accused the Home Secretary Priti Patel of being “asleep at the wheel” in the fight against fraud, after the party revealed that over 22,000 investigations into fraud cases were dropped by police last year.

Analysis of Home Office figures shows that between April 2020 and March 2021, 22,420 fraud cases were closed without a suspect being identified, an increase of 20% on the previous 12 months. Only 9% (4,853) of all the 51,870 cases closed in 2020/21 resulted in a suspect being charged.

The Liberal Democrats are demanding an urgent government strategy to tackle the fraud epidemic, support victims and catch the criminals responsible.

Online fraud has soared during the Covid pandemic, with internet banking fraud more than doubling between 2019 and 2020. Those falling victim to scams are also often not receiving their money back, with just £147 million (47%) of the £312 million of losses to bank transfer fraud being reimbursed last year. [Scale of losses is shown in a pdf here]

At its Autumn conference today (Monday 20 September), the Liberal Democrats will call on the government to step up efforts to tackle fraud and support the estimated 3.5 million people who fall victim to this crime each year. Measures being proposed include naming and shaming banks with the worst records on fraud, making it mandatory for banks to refund blameless victims and requiring social media companies to do more to clamp down on scams on their platforms.

The party is also calling for a real-time warning system for scams to be established allowing people to report suspicious activity, along with an Online Crime Agency to effectively tackle illegal content and activity online.

Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson Alistair Carmichael MP said:

“The country faces a growing fraud epidemic, yet Priti Patel is asleep at the wheel.

“Far too many criminals are getting away with this appalling crime, and far too many victims are being left without justice.

“It is a national scandal that vulnerable people are being abandoned after losing life-changing sums of money.

“The government must urgently toughen up its approach to fraud, ensure victims are refunded and give police the resources they need to catch those responsible.”


Ed Davey statement on opening of Lib Dem conference

Speaking ahead of the opening of the Liberal Democrat Autumn Conference today (Friday 17 September), Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey said:
“The Liberal Democrats go into this conference feeling energised by our recent successes and determined to stand up for people who are sick and tired of being taken for granted.
“Our stunning by-election win in Chesham and Amersham showed we are the party that can take on Boris Johnson’s Conservatives and deliver a fair deal for families around the country.
“Already we have forced the government into watering down their undemocratic planning reforms imposed on communities and U-turning on illiberal Covid passports.
“Boris Johnson is kidding himself if he thinks these U-turns will stem the tide of voters turning to the Liberal Democrats in former Conservative strongholds across the Blue Wall.
“Right across the country, voters are telling us that this government isn’t listening, is breaking its promises and ignoring their concerns.
“It is time Boris Johnson’s Conservatives stopped taking people for granted, time people got a fair deal, time we guaranteed a better life for future generations.
"The Liberal Democrats will provide them with an alternative, one that puts local people first and delivers a fair deal for our children so they do not bear the burden of the pandemic."

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Universal Credit cut shows PM out of touch

Commenting on the Government cut to Universal Credit ahead of this afternoon's debate in Parliament, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Work and Pensions Wendy Chamberlain said: 

“The decision to rip support from millions of families across the country shows how completely out of touch the Prime Minister really is. 
“He claims that he wants people to live by their own efforts rather than welfare. So either he doesn’t know that almost half of those receiving Universal Credit are already in work or he doesn’t care.
“Working people, many with young families, are struggling. Furlough is ending, costs are rising and the Government has hiked taxes on low-paid workers and the young.
“The Liberal Democrats are joining with opposition parties and some Conservative MPs to demand that the Government leaves no one behind and makes the uplift to Universal Credit permanent. We are also calling for the uplift to be extended to people on legacy benefits, the majority of whom are disabled, who were callously denied the initial uplift entirely.”

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Job vacancies: working families face 'triple whammy'

Reacting to new figures which show job vacancies are at a record high, Liberal Democrat Treasury Spokesperson Christine Jardine MP said:

"These figures reveal an unprecedented staffing crisis creating uncertainty for businesses all across the UK, and threatening to hurt our economic recovery.

"At the same time, at the end of the month countless working families will be left worrying about putting food on the table as they face the triple whammy of furlough ending, the slashing of universal credit and the unfair National Insurance hike.
“The Government can no longer ignore the unfolding crises in our economy hurting people and businesses. We need to see an extension of furlough, the Universal Credit uplifting made permanent, and urgent action to tackle staff shortages."


Shambolic trade policy damages British business

Reacting to the Government announcing a delay to import checks, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Trade Sarah Olney MP said:
“The Government’s 'independent trade policy' is in shambles. Utterly unable to secure the UK’s vital imports, the only solution to the supply chain crisis they could cobble together is to kick the can down the road.
“British businesses and consumers need to have the certainty that their supply chains won’t get choked off and that they’ll continue to find all the products they need in the supermarket.
“The Conservative government must urgently explain how they’ll avoid damaging shortages and price rises when import checks do come into force.”

Leasehold Reform Bill a missed opportunity

The Liberal Democrats have branded the Leasehold Reform (Ground Rents) Bill a missed opportunity after amendments to look at greater financial support for leaseholders facing cladding issues were rejected.

The proposed legislation, which has its third reading in the House of Lords today, was subject to a range of amendments at its second reading - including an amendment from Liberal Democrat peer Kath Pinnock.

Her amendment aimed to ensure the bill looked at what could be done to better support leaseholders being left facing huge bills for fire remediation work to remove dangerous cladding.

However the amendment was defeated after Conservative peers marshalled behind the Government, leaving the bill to advance without it.

Commenting on the advancement of the bill, Liberal Democrat Lords Housing and Communities Spokesperson Baroness Kath Pinnock said:

“The Government has managed the remarkable feat of making a bill about leasehold reform fail to live up to their own promises to leaseholders.

“In its current form, the bill does nothing to help the thousands of leaseholders who are facing eye-watering bills of several thousands of pounds to remove dangerous and unsafe cladding.

“The current situation cannot go on. The Government must commit to doing more to ensure leaseholders get the financial support they need and deserve.”

National Insurance tax hike risks breaking backbone of the economy

Speaking today in Parliament ahead of the vote on the government’s manifesto-breaking plans to increase National Insurance, Liberal Democrat Treasury Spokesperson Christine Jardine MP said:

“This is a jobs tax, but much worse than that. It’s a tax on nurses who on average will pay an extra £270 more per year. It’s a tax on our teachers, police and care home workers. the very same people who have kept the country going throughout this pandemic.

“It’s a tax that will disproportionately hit low earners, at a time families are already seeing their income squeezed by the pandemic.

“This is the worst possible time to be hitting families and businesses with a crippling and unfair tax hike.

“Instead of boosting hiring and spending, this will damage confidence and investment. The government is not only breaking its promise to the electorate, it risks breaking the backbone of our economy.”

Monday, September 13, 2021

Tory government tells MPs not to raise cases of people abandoned in Afghanistan

The Government has told MPs to stop taking up the cases of Afghan nationals who are still in the country and in need of help.
In a letter to MPs, Home Office minister Victoria Atkins said that the Government will not be able “to respond to colleagues with specific updates on individuals” given the “deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan.”
MPs are being told by the Government to signpost individuals towards the Government’s resettlement schemes “rather than seek to pursue cases on their behalf.”
Layla Moran MP, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs, said:
"The Conservatives have turned their back on vulnerable people desperate to flee the terror of the Taliban, and are now telling MPs we should give up trying to help them too.
“It is utterly disgraceful. People are trapped in their homes fearing when the knock at the door may come, now they have lost one of their last lifelines. 
“This has been a complete shambles from the start with devastating consequences. First, MPs were put on hold for hours on end, and now we are simply being fobbed off.  
“Just because the Government has given up on people, doesn’t mean the Liberal Democrats will. We will continue pushing for safe and legal routes to ensure those in danger are able to escape the country and seek safety abroad.”


Sunday, September 12, 2021

Lib Dems target Conservatives in Blue Wall seats who voted for NI tax rise vote

The Liberal Democrats are stepping up campaigning in Conservative seats across the “Blue Wall”, targeting Tory MPs who broke their manifesto promise by voting for a National Insurance rise last week.

Lib Dem Leader Ed Davey has warned the Conservatives are "losing touch with their votes across the Blue Wall" and that the Liberal Democrats will provide an alternative choice, ahead of the party's Autumn conference later this week.

It also follows the revelation that the Government's own analysis of their NI plan shows it will harm families and that those who are "currently just about managing financially, will see their disposable income reduce."

The party has drawn up a “promise breaker” hitlist, targeting 20 of the 317 Conservative MPs in marginal seats who have been left vulnerable after voting for the unfair tax rise. The targeted campaigns include digital ads and leaflets warning of a “Tory tax bombshell” and highlighting how local Conservative MPs broke their manifesto promise.

It comes as new analysis shows that in 20 marginal seats, it would require only around 10% of NI tax payers to switch their vote from the Conservatives to the Liberal Democrats to unseat the sitting Tory MP. The figures are based on data provided by the Commons Library estimating the number of people who pay National Insurance in each constituency.

It also follows the revelation that the Government's own analysis of their NI plan shows it will harm families.

Seats that sit on a knife edge at the next election include Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab in Esher and Walton, and former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt’s seat in South West Surrey. If just 5% of NI taxpayers switched from the Tories to the Liberal Democrats, Dominic Raab would see his 2,743 majority wiped out, losing by over 2,750 votes. Meanwhile if 10% of those paying NI switched from the incumbent to the Lib Dems, Jeremy Hunt would see his 8,817 majority overturned and lose by over 2,000 votes.

The Party has already selected candidates Bobby Dean and Zoe Franklin in Carshalton and Wallington and Guildford, where Conservative opponents Elliot Colburn and Angela Richardson both voted for the unfair tax hike in Parliament. 

Commenting ahead of their Autumn Conference next week, Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey said:

“The Conservatives are losing touch with their voters in the Blue Wall.

“Conservative MPs in marginal seats across the country have broken two manifesto commitments in one day. 

“Thousands of voters will bear the brunt of these latest broken promises, at a time many have seen their household finances squeezed by the pandemic.

“People across the country who feel like this tax hike is unfair and will hit them hard in the pocket have another choice, they can vote Liberal Democrat.”  

Friday, September 10, 2021

Government must fix ‘gaping hole’ in EU trade deal


The Liberal Democrats have called for the UK Government to take swift action to support the UK creative industry, which is being hard hit by the current EU trading arrangements.


During the post-Brexit negotiations, European officials offered the UK a tailored package to support the creative industries. This would’ve seen some elements of temporary Freedom of Movement retained for the UK and EU performers and companies.


However the UK Government rejected these plans, and this has had a huge impact on the ability of UK performers, artists and performers to tour Europe and greatly reduced the opportunities available to new, aspiring talent.


Today in the House of Lords Liberal Democrat peer Lord Paul Strasburger, who is campaigning on this issue with Sir Elton John, pushed the Government on what they are going to do to fix this crisis and support the UK creative industry.


Speaking after his question, Lord Strasburger said:


“The creative arts industry is worth over £111bn to the UK economy every single year. As we look to rebuild from the pandemic, we must ensure this industry is able to grow and thrive.


“Sadly, the Government has failed to listen to the industry’s concerns about the EU trade deal and their reckless behaviour has now left UK performers facing an almost insurmountable level of red tape and cost.


“This not only hurts those who perform, it also has a huge knock on effect for the whole supply chain. Almost 1-in-8 British companies are affected by these changes - putting many thousands of jobs at risk.


“This gaping hole in the EU trade agreement must be rectified urgently. That is why I am working with industry leaders and A-list performers like Elton John to get the Government to act.”

Thursday, September 09, 2021

Priti Patel's reckless handling of migrants risks lives

Responding to reports that the Government plans to send back boats carrying migrants back across the channel, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Home Affairs Alistair Carmichael MP said:

“Priti Patel’s latest cruel idea shows she is not interested in saving lives.
“The Government should be trying to stop people making these dangerous Channel crossings, not forcing them to try again.
“The Home Secretary's recklessly ideological immigration rules risk killing off our economic recovery before it has begun. Is it too much to hope that she might spend her time attending to that instead of looking for the next dog whistle photo op?"

Tuesday, September 07, 2021

Elections Bill: Blatant assault on democratic rights

Ahead of tonight's vote on the controversial Elections Bill, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Home Affairs Alistair Carmichael MP said: 

“You don’t strengthen our democracy by making it harder for people to vote.
“The Conservatives’ voter ID law is a blatant assault on our fundamental democratic rights, and Liberal Democrats will resist it all the way.
“Between this and their attacks on the courts, the Human Rights Act and the right to peaceful protest, Boris Johnson and his Tory Ministers are desperately trying to stop people holding them to account for their disastrous policies. We won’t let them.
“Instead of pushing ahead with their discriminatory and unnecessary voter ID law, Ministers should get behind our efforts to build a better politics with a fairer electoral system.”

Davey: Broken promises are betrayals that will haunt Johnson’s premiership

Commenting on Boris Johnson's latest press conference, Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey MP said: 

“These broken manifesto promises are betrayals that will haunt Boris Johnson’s premiership. Whether it’s young working families, carers or small business owners, those catastrophically failed by the Conservatives during the pandemic are now being asked to pick up the tab.
“The Liberal Democrats will oppose these unjust plans in Parliament tomorrow and urge all Conservative MPs to do the same. For the past two elections we have been clear about how to fix the social care crisis in a fair and progressive way. The Government must do the sensible thing and sit down with other parties to find a consensus, instead of drawing up divisive policies on the back of a fag packet.”

Pensioners abandoned after broken Tory promise on triple lock

Reacting to the announcement that the triple lock on pensions has been scrapped for the next year, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for the Treasury Christine Jardine said:

"Another day, another broken Tory promise. With two million pensioners living in poverty, the triple lock was their guarantee that they wouldn’t have to face the old days of 75p rises.
"Now it’s gone. Even if this Government says it’s a temporary move, how can pensioners have any faith that this is the one promise they will keep?
“Liberal Democrats demand that the Government doesn’t leave pensioners living in poverty high and dry. The triple lock offers them vital protection – we cannot abandon them.”

Johnson's social care plan won't fix crisis and is a broken promise, says Ed Davey

Responding to the news that Boris Johnson has failed to produce a sustainable social care plan and broken his election promise not to raise national insurance, Leader of the Liberal Democrats Ed Davey MP said:
“This is yet another broken promise from the Conservatives that will hit working families hard. Boris Johnson gave voters a cast iron guarantee that he would not raise National Insurance – and now he’s breaking voters’ trust again. 
“Even worse, the Government’s plans won’t fix the social care crisis. Our loved ones will still not get the quality care they need.
“This is two broken promises in one: a betrayal of taxpayers especially the low paid, young and small business and a betrayal of carers and people who need care.
“People deserve a Government they can trust, and that’s clearly not a Conservative one. That’s why voters across the Blue Wall are turning to the Liberal Democrats instead.”