The Government has been accused of “extreme negligence” after it has emerged that almost one in five items in its stockpile of personal protective equipment (PPE) are not usable, with billions of pounds having gone down the drain.
A written parliamentary question tabled by Liberal Democrat Chief Whip, Wendy Chamberlain, has revealed that the Department for Health and Social Care has identified 3.4 billion units of PPE as “potential excess stock”. This would represent £2.2 billion of expenditure on items without demand.
Of 6.96 billion items of PPE that are not currently provided to frontline services, 1.2 billion of these (17.2%) are deemed to be not fit for use. These items were purchased for £458 million.
Meanwhile, storage of all PPE - usable or otherwise - is costing the taxpayer £4.5m a week, or the equivalent of £642,857 a day.
It comes after the revelations that one million counterfeit face masks were sent out for use in NHS hospitals despite warnings about their authenticity, raising questions over the systems and checks in place both during the procurement process and in assessing the quality of PPE.
Liberal Democrat Chief Whip Wendy Chamberlain said:
“This is extreme negligence on an industrial scale. The Government is burning a hole in the pocket of the taxpayer through its wastage of personal protective equipment, at a time when those pockets don’t run deep.
“The Government has misspent billions of pounds of public money on vital PPE for frontline staff that is either inadequate or will never be used. This is carelessness of the highest magnitude.
“Awarding contracts to chums unlawfully, frontline workers wearing bin bags and dodgy masks, and billions wasted - this is merely the latest sorry chapter in this Conservative Government’s dismal record.
“Ministers have this string of damning failures to answer for when the Covid inquiry comes to town. In the interim, it’s high time they get a grip on this mess once and for all and come up with a plan to ensure excess stock doesn’t go to waste.”
Note: although most NHS services in Wales have been devolved, procurement policy remains at Westminster.
Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey has called on Boris Johnson to hold a cost of living summit in Downing Street with the bosses of top energy and other utility companies.
The Liberal Democrats have warned that the Prime Minister is “missing in action,” and too busy trying to save his own skin rather than working to help struggling families.
The proposed summit would require the heads of the top five utility companies in the energy, telecoms and water sectors to come to Downing Street and thrash out solutions to the cost of living crisis. It would also include representatives of the public, so that both ministers and company bosses hear from people struggling to afford their household bills.
Energy bills are forecast to soar by 50% in April or an estimated £600 per household, forcing families to choose between eating and heating, while broadband bills are set to rise by 9.3%.
The Liberal Democrats are setting out a rescue package of measures to help families cope with the cost of living crisis, taking around £975 off the bills of lower income households.
Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey MP said:
“Boris Johnson is missing in action, more concerned with saving his own political career than helping families struggling to pay the bills.
“Bills are going through the roof but all the Conservatives are doing is clobbering families with an unfair tax hike.
“Instead of holding parties in Number 10, Boris Johnson should bring in the bosses of top utility companies to thrash out solutions to the cost of living crisis.
“People are fed up with playing by the rules and getting trampled over. Our plans would cut bills today by almost £1,000 for millions of families struggling to get by. No ifs, no buts, just more money in your pocket straight away.”
The cost of living rescue package being proposed by the Liberal Democrats includes:
Responding to the Government announcing the freeze on the student loan repayment threshold for the financial year 2022/3, Liberal Democrat Education Spokesperson Munira Wilson MP commented:
"Freezing the student loan repayment threshold is yet another hit on young people by the Conservative Government.
"This means a real terms increase in repayments of around £150 a year on graduates with student loans.
"It’s a truly shameful move from the Government. Let’s not forget the Government has just increased taxes for young people by raising National Insurance.
Responding to the Met Police statement this morning on the Sue Gray report, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson Alistair Carmichael MP said:
"So first the police were waiting for Sue Gray, now Sue Gray has to wait for the police?
The Liberal Democrats have slammed Liz Truss spending £500,000 on a private jet to Australia as a “staggering” waste of taxpayers’ cash and demanded she apologise to the public who are facing a National Insurance tax rise in April.
Analysis by the party shows that the money spent on Liz Truss’ flight would cover the tax hike faced by almost 2,000 people.
Liberal Democrat Business Spokesperson Sarah Olney MP said:
“This is a staggering waste of taxpayer’s cash at a time many families are feeling the pinch.
“Once again we see just how out of touch this Conservative government truly is to the millions of people struggling to get by.
“Not content with breaking their manifesto promise not to raise National Insurance tax, Conservative ministers are now jetting round the world on private jets at the taxpayers’ expense.
“Liz Truss should apologise for jetting around on ‘Air Force Sun’ and assure the public she won’t waste their money in this way again.”
Responding to today's quarterly crime stats, which show that sexual offences are at their highest level recorded within a 12 month period and rape offences are at their highest annual number on record, Liberal Democrat Justice and Women & Equalities Spokesperson Wera Hobhouse MP said:
“These appalling figures lay bare the disturbing truth that violence against women is endemic in our society.
“Survivors deserve justice. They deserve to be properly supported to come forward and be listened to when they do. What they don’t deserve is to be failed by a Government that sits on its hands and allows far too many violent predators to walk free without facing the consequence of their actions.
“Wholesale changes are needed across the board to ensure survivors get the justice they need. That starts with better relationships and sex education in schools and must be followed through with more training and resources for police forces and the courts”.
The Conservative Government is failing to deliver the promised 452 more police officers for South Wales.
Analysis of Home Office statistics by the Liberal Democrats has shown that South Wales’ officer numbers rose by only 111 in the last year.
A total of 206 extra officers have been recruited by South Wales Police under the Government’s campaign that started in September 2019.
South Wales Police has so far recruited just 7 more officers per month under the scheme. To meet the Conservatives' own target of 452 by March 2023, that rate would have to increase to 16 per month over the next 15 months.
Aberavon and Neath Liberal Democrats have slammed the government for failing to keep their promise to communities, adding that there needs to be a return to full and proper community policing.
Responding to the figures, we say:
“People in the area generally, and in this county borough in particular, are being let down and taken for granted by this Conservative Government. With so many local crimes going unsolved, we desperately need more police on our streets and in our communities.
“Liberal Democrats are calling for a return to proper community policing, where officers are visible, trusted and known personally to local people.”
“The Conservatives’ pledge to boost police officer numbers looks set to become yet another of their broken promises. They are letting down victims of crime and our communities right across our area.”
The Conservative Government is off track on its manifesto pledge to recruit 20,000 more police officers by March 2023, with new official figures showing the number of officers actually fell by 413 in December.
A total of 11,048 extra officers have been recruited under the Government’s uplift in the 29 months since it started in September 2019 – a rate of 381 more officers per month. To meet the target of 20,000 by March 2023, that rate would have to increase to 597 per month over the next 15 months.
Four police forces now have fewer officers than they did a year ago, according to the Home Office figures: Thames Valley (down 29), Gloucestershire (down 22), Warwickshire (down 12) and City of London (down 8).
Responding to the figures, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson Alistair Carmichael MP said:
“Since Boris Johnson is creating more work for the police, the least he could do is deliver more officers to do it.
“The Conservatives’ pledge to boost police officer numbers looks set to become yet another of their broken promises. They are letting down victims of crime and communities across the country.
“With four in five burglaries going unsolved, it’s clear we need more community police officers to make sure every crime is investigated properly.”
The Liberal Democrats have called for Boris Johnson to be placed on gardening leave and removed from Number 10 while the Metropolitan Police investigate the numerous rule-breaking parties that took place.
Traditionally, people under investigation are placed on leave whilst the proceedings are ongoing. This is to prevent them from attempting to prevent a fair investigation from being carried out by influencing witnesses or destroying evidence.
It’s been reported in recent weeks that Downing Street staff have been advised to delete emails or texts pertaining to parties, ahead of the Sue Gray investigation.
Whilst Boris Johnson is on leave, Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab would be expected to take over running the day-to-day affairs of the Government.
Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson Alistair Carmichael MP said:
“Since Boris Johnson is such a fan of spending time in his garden, it’s only fitting that he be placed on gardening leave and leave Number 10 whilst the police investigate. This will ensure he cannot try and abuse his position to get himself off the hook.
“Refusing to do so will show both the Conservatives’ utter contempt for the public and erode trust in this government even further.
“This truly is a Government in chaos, and every day the story gets worse. We have a Prime Minister who is at war with his own backbenches and desperate to cling onto power.
“With Downing Street under investigation by the Metropolitan Police for numerous lockdown-breaking parties, we must ensure that this investigation can proceed unhindered so we can finally see justice served."
Responding to the resignation of Treasury Minister Lord Agnew over Covid loan fraud, Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesperson Christine Jardine MP said:
"Will the last Boris Johnson supporter left turn off the lights?
“With two Ministerial resignations in two months and dozens of Tory MPs on the brink of handing in their letters to the 1922 Committee chairman, this is truly a Conservative government paralysed by chaos.
"It is outrageous this Government has allowed fraudsters to steal billions of taxpayer's money, especially when households are facing unfair tax hikes.
“The combination of ‘arrogance, indolence, and ignorance’ which Lord Agnew referred to cannot be allowed to continue.
“The buck stops with Rishi Sunak. He must explain how he’s going to get back these billions he allowed to be stolen from our schools, hospitals and police forces, and if he can’t, he should resign for someone who will.”
"Sue Gray report will be judgement day for Tory MPs", warns Deputy Leader of Liberal Democrats
One third (32%) of those who voted Conservative at the last election are now less likely to support a Conservative candidate if they back Boris Johnson to be Prime Minister.
The new poll commissioned by the Liberal Democrats finds four in ten (43%) of the public are less likely to vote Conservative at the next election if their Conservative candidate supports Boris Johnson as Prime Minister. This figure rises to six in ten Labour voters (62%) and almost seven in ten (69%) of Liberal Democrat voters.
The Liberal Democrats are within touching distance of Conservative seats across the country, including seats such as Wimbledon, Winchester and Carshalton & Wallington which have Conservative majorities of less than 1,000 votes.
The Liberal Democrats have already begun delivering leaflets about Boris Johnson breaking the rules ahead of key local elections for the Prime Minister’s future.
Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats Daisy Cooper MP said:
“The Sue Gray report will be judgement day for Tory MPs. Liberal Democrats are already in second place to dozens of Tory MPs across the country. It is now or never for Tory MPs to abandon Boris Johnson"
“If a Tory MP or candidate in the Blue Wall chooses to use the Sue Gray report outcome as a lame reason to back Boris Johnson, we will make sure their constituents know about it long before the next election”
“Blue Wall voters want decency and integrity back in politics, which they can’t find in today’s Conservative party.”
Layla Moran MP has today been granted an Urgent Question on the humanitarian situation in Tonga, following the eruption of the Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha'apai volcano on 15 January.
Liberal Democrat analysis from the Government’s own DevTracker shows that UK aid spending in Tonga has been reduced to £0 in 2021-22, a reduction of more than £500k on 2020-21, in the first year of the Government’s aid cut.
The Government is yet to announce the release of any new financial aid to the country following the eruption. Layla Moran criticised the Government’s decision to cut the international development budget, saying that it “has left us responding to disasters like this with one hand tied behind our back”.
The eruption of Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha'apai volcano and subsequent tsunami in Tonga on 15 January has particularly affected smaller islands - on one of which, all houses were destroyed. According to NASA, the size of the blast was greater than that of an atomic bomb.
The Liberal Democrats are calling on the UK Government to urgently provide emergency aid, and to reinstate the 0.7% of GNI target for international development spending.
Layla Moran MP, Liberal Democrat spokesperson for Foreign Affairs and International Development, commented:
“The UK must stand by our Tongan friends by providing urgent emergency aid. The Government’s failure to do so is yet more proof of the debilitating impact of the aid cut - which has left us responding to disasters like these with one hand tied behind our back.
“As a result of the Conservatives’ cruel aid cut, we are not even giving a penny of support to Tonga. Our Government talks about standing with our Commonwealth partners - but in their time of need the mask has slipped.
“The misguided decision to abandon the international development target has wrecked the UK’s long standing friendships, and hampers our ability to respond effectively to humanitarian disasters from Afghanistan to Tonga.
“The UK Government must immediately provide humanitarian support to Tonga, and restore the 0.7% of GNI target for international development spending.”
Responding to allegations from Nusrat Ghani MP who says her faith was raised by a Government Whip as a reason as to why she was sacked as a Minister in 2020, Liberal Democrat Deputy Leader, Daisy Cooper commented:
“Nusrat Ghani is incredibly brave to speak out. These very serious allegations of Islamophobia clearly need to investigated by a complaints process that is independent of the Conservative’s party machine so that she and others can have confidence that her claims won’t be swept aside.
“With every passing day, the public are shocked by more and more revelations and allegations from Conservative MPs about the way their Conservative government operates. It’s time for a clear-out, starting in Number 10.”
More than 1,300 rape cases are waiting to be brought before the Crown Court, as new figures from the Ministry of Justice reveal the backlog in the Justice system has grown.
In total there are 1,336 cases involving charges of rape waiting to be heard. Of these, 289 cases are still ongoing more than a year after reaching the courts, and the average case now takes more than 14 months (435 days) from charge to completion.
Responding to the figures, Liberal Democrat Justice Spokesperson Wera Hobhouse MP said:
“This Conservative Government is failing survivors by letting too many rapists walk free. Cases drag on far too long and conviction rates are appallingly low.
“Even before the pandemic, Tory Ministers had let this backlog soar out of control. They need to now get a grip and ensure that justice is served.
“We cannot keep failing survivors of sexual violence. We need urgent improvements across our whole justice system to ensure survivors are not left waiting whilst their attackers walk free.”
Responding to Liz Truss’s visit to Australia, thereby missing a meeting of the ‘Quad’ (comprising the US secretary of state Antony Blinken; French foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and German foreign minister Annalena Baerbock) to discuss the Russia/Ukraine crisis, Layla Moran MP, Liberal Democrat spokesperson for Foreign Affairs, commented:
“Agreements with Australia are all well and good - but is flying to the other side of the world really a matter of diplomatic urgency at a moment when Europe is coming perilously close to war?
“At this moment of danger, we would expect the Foreign Secretary to be at the table, with her counterparts from the US, France and Germany. But she’s not in the room - she’s not even on the continent.
“Truss’s diplomatic priorities are half a world away from where they should be. For the second time in as many weeks, she’s dispatched her junior counterpart to vital talks - shrinking our role on the world stage at this critical time. Vladimir Putin will be rubbing his hand in glee.
“What is it with Conservative Foreign Secretaries and chasing the sun in moments of crisis? Truss should stop following in the footsteps of her predecessor she should start doing her job as Foreign Secretary. She should join this meeting and show she is willing to work with others to stand up to Putin and his aggression.”
Responding to new record high inflation rates, Liberal Democrat Treasury Spokesperson Christine Jardine MP said:
“Inflation rates are at a record high and continuing to climb. This Conservative Government is too busy clearing up their own Downing Street mess to look after families that are struggling with the rising cost of living.
“People are facing soaring energy bills and tax hikes while their wages stay stagnant. The Government has left behind low and middle income families who will feel the brunt the most.
“This Government has done absolutely nothing to help UK households who face years of tax rises and sky-high energy bills.”
Liberal Democrat peers worked across the political divide tonight to defeat a number of controversial Conservative Government amendments to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill.
The Government had attempted to forcibly rush through anti-protest measures without the appropriate time afforded for the House of Lords to scrutinise them - and without any consideration by the House of Commons at all.
But nearly 70 Liberal Democrat Lords voted into the early hours of today to ensure the provisions were roundly defeated.
Such provisions included a potential 51 week prison sentence for chaining (attachment to objects) and a proposed new offence for obstructing major transport works.
Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Home Affairs in the House of Lords, Brian Paddick, said:
“This is a huge victory for people’s rights and effective policing, and a crushing defeat for this Conservative Government and their anti-democratic attempts to silence any opposition they face.
“To be able to peacefully assemble and protest is a fundamental human right. With these votes tonight, a message has been sent to the Government that their dangerous and draconian policies that aim to undermine this will be fiercely resisted.
“Some of the worst parts of this Bill - particularly the expansion of suspicionless stop and search and court-ordered bans on protests - will never see the light of day. This is a big win for British rights and freedoms."
"What comes as no surprise, however, is a fervent desire from the Conservatives to entrench themselves within a system that breeds the entitlement and self-serving behaviour we have seen over the past few weeks.
Responding to Conservative MP Simon Hoare telling Sky News the No.10 Garden Party was held to thank Dominic Raab, Liberal Democrat Deputy Leader Daisy Cooper MP said:
“Raab must come clean now. If he attended the party then he must resign.
"The public won't stomach any more lies and cover ups from this Government.
"We now have a Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister embroiled in a political scandal just when the country should be focussing on the continuing pandemic. This Conservative party is clearly not fit to govern our country."
Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey has written to Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Cressida Dick, calling on her to launch a full police investigation into the Downing Street Garden Party on 20 May 2020 including interviewing Boris Johnson under caution.
“The police must reassure the public that justice will be done and there isn’t one rule for them and another for Boris Johnson and his colleagues in Downing Street.”