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."

Wednesday, November 03, 2021

Government's defence of Owen Paterson will damage trust in politicians

Commenting ahead of the House of Commons vote today that saw Conservative MPs, with a few notable exceptions, move to block the suspension of former minister Owen Paterson, Liberal Democrat Chief Whip Wendy Chamberlain MP said: 
"Owen Paterson’s focus on the Commissioner herself rather than the office has been reprehensible.  The Government supporting him in that is shameful. This was a committee with a Conservative majority of MPs that clearly concluded he had broken the rules. The report agrees that there were deliberate rule breaches and no rescue amendment should be supported today.
"Climate change and coming out of the pandemic are just two issues where trust in politicians is essential. Owen Paterson and the Government’s defence of him will inevitably damage what little trust is left."

Davey: Chancellor’s City of London Plan is half-hearted Treasury spin

Responding to the Government's plans to ask large UK firms and financial institutions to show how they intend to hit climate change targets, Liberal Democrat Leader and former Secretary for Energy and Climate Change Ed Davey MP said: 
“If we do not force fossil fuel money out of the City of London, we will never stop climate change in the UK or the wider world.
“The Chancellor’s plan, that net zero is not to be mandatory for the world’s largest polluters financed in London, is a serious mistake. 
“Billions of pounds of the world’s fossil fuel money flood through the City of London: half-hearted plans and Treasury spin are simply not going to change that.”

Government defeated over broken triple lock promise

Last night, the Liberal Democrats joined with peers from across the political divide to defeat the Government’s decision to ditch the pension triple lock.

The Conservatives pledged to maintain the triple lock in their 2019 manifesto. The commitment ensures that the state pension will rise in line with inflation, wage growth, or a base 2.5% - whichever is higher.

However, they have since reneged on their promise - a move which will mean the average pensioner loses out on between £370 and £485 a year. This is in part due to inflation being expected to rise to between 4-5%.

The Liberal Democrats have opposed this cut and endorsed the amendment from Baroness Altmann, a Conservative peer, which passed in the House of Lords by 220 to x tonight.

The amendment also includes a provision which will allow the Secretary of State to vary the increase for this year, to reflect the artificial increase in wages caused by the pandemic.

Liberal Democrat Work & Pensions Spokesperson in the House of Lords, Baroness Barbara Janke, said:

“The decision to ditch the triple lock represents yet another broken promise from this Conservative Government. Once again they say one thing at election time, then do the exact opposite when they’re in power.

“Their decision to scrap the triple lock will leave pensioners, particularly women and those on lower incomes, out of pocket as we approach what is set to be another difficult winter. This decision is both callous and cruel.

“That is why the Liberal Democrats have been fighting to oppose this cut. By passing this amendment tonight, the House of Lords have sent a clear message to the Government and stood up for pensioners who will lose out because of Conservative negligence.”

Monday, November 01, 2021

Slashing Air Passenger Duty to create same CO2 emissions as 2.3m extra train journeys

The Conservatives’ plans to cut air passenger duty on domestic flights will see a significant spike in CO2 emissions equivalent to 2.3 million extra train journeys, analysis by the Liberal Democrats shows.

It comes as world leaders meet for today’s crucial COP26 summit and after the Chancellor failed to give a single mention to the word climate in his Budget speech last week.

The Liberal Democrats are calling for the Government to cancel the slashing of Air Passenger Duty and invest in zero-carbon domestic flights instead.

The Office for Budget Responsibility estimates that reducing Air Passenger Duty will see an extra 410,000 passenger journeys on internal UK flights. The average UK domestic flight generates 223kg of CO2 equivalent, meaning that this policy will lead to a 91 million kg increase in UK CO2 emissions - the same as an extra 50,000 cars or 2.3m train journeys. Taking the train on equivalent routes generates just 39kg of CO2 emissions. 

The move takes the UK in an opposite direction to some of its neighbours. France is taking steps to ban some internal flights on routes where a direct train that takes two and a half hours or less is available.

Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for the Climate Emergency, Wera Hobhouse MP, said:

“Cutting tax on the most carbon-intensive form of flying as world leaders meet for COP26 is almost as damaging to the UK’s global reputation as it is to our climate targets and planet.

“The Chancellor’s budget did nothing for the climate. Rishi Sunak didn’t mention the word ‘climate’ once in his speech. But the Tories have been brazenly lecturing other countries about cutting emissions over the weekend. They are the party of pollution.

“Leadership on climate action should start at home. This completely counterproductive tax cut on domestic flights must be cancelled and the government should support the aviation industry with new investment that ensures all UK domestic flights are zero-carbon by the end of the decade.”

Davey on Boris Johnson at COP: PM needs to start acting like 'Global Britain'

Responding to Boris Johnson's speech at COP26, Leader of the Liberal Democrats and Former Secretary of State for Climate Change, Ed Davey MP, said:
“Boris Johnson has blustered his way to COP26 and it is starting to show. This is the most important conference to take place on our shores in a generation, and we all need it to succeed.
“That means putting aside his differences with other western leaders, particularly our friends across Europe, and working together to force China and others to act. For COP to succeed, the Prime Minister needs to stop just talking about 'Global Britain' and start acting like it.
“For a good COP, we need British leadership and united Western pressure on China, Saudi Arabia and Brazil. For a bad COP, all we need is for Boris Johnson to continue down his current path.”