Monday, January 15, 2018

Inquiry needed into questionable decisions around Carillion - Cable

Responding to reports that Carillion is to go into liquidation, Leader of the Liberal Democrats Vince Cable said:

“The government must now take responsibility for the big contracts run by Carillion, or re-tender them, to keep the supply chain going and protect thousands of jobs. Ministers must minimise the damage to the capacity of the construction industry.

“We also urgently need a parliamentary inquiry into some of the very questionable decisions made in the past few months, not least the award of public contracts to a company that was clearly in danger of collapse. The issue of the former chief executive still being paid his salary, plus perks and bonus, is also a reward for failure that has to be looked into.”

Friday, January 12, 2018

Cable says iconic company GKN must be saved from private equity firm

Commenting on news that leading company GKN has been subject to an attempted takeover by Melrose, Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable said:
“GKN is at the heart of the industrial strategy in the car and aerospace industry in the UK. 
“If it were to be taken over this would be a massive blow to our industrial strategy.
“GKN stands for long term investment in advanced manufacturing whereas Melrose are in the business of short term financial engineering. 
“I will be writing to the Secretary of State for Business asking him to intervene and ensure this damaging takeover does not happen.”

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Study shows international students contribute £20bn to UK economy

International students bring a net benefit of £20.3 billion to the UK economy, a joint study by the Higher Education Policy Institute and Kaplan International Pathways has found.

Liberal Democrat Leader Vince Cable commented:

“I welcome this timely report from the Higher Education Policy Institute.

"This is a battle I fought for five years in government with Theresa May.

"All her cabinet colleagues seem now to realise there is a need to remove students from the immigration figures, but still nothing changes.

"The Conservatives are pursuing economic self-harm through harsh visa restrictions.

"International students enrich our economy and society and Liberal Democrats will continue defending their rights to study here."

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Construction sector sees largest fall in five years

The construction sector has seen the biggest quarterly fall in output in five years, ONS figures published today have revealed.

Construction output decreased by 2% in the three-months to November 2017, the biggest contraction since August 2012.

Liberal Democrat Leader Vince Cable commented:

"It’s no surprise that the construction sector is being severely impacted by the Government's Brexit plans.

"On top of growing economic uncertainty, the construction sector is particularly dependent on EU workers who are leaving in an ever-worsening Brexodus.

"As the negative economic consequences of Brexit become clear, the public must be offered a way out.

"That is why the Liberal Democrats will keep campaigning for a vote on the final Brexit deal, to take place by December 2018." 

Cable: Conservatives show "complete lack of ambition" on plastics

The Conservatives launch their 25-year environment plan tomorrow. Despite being heavily trailed to the media, the proposals are expected to be limited.

Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable said: 

"The Conservatives should be eliminating all avoidable plastic waste now - a target of 2042 beggars belief. They ramped up expectations only to disappoint.

"The Conservatives have shown a complete lack of ambition. Notably, they have failed to deal with the excessive waste of coffee cups through the levy proposed by the Liberal Democrats and recently embraced by a powerful group of cross-party MPs.

"This is only a small step rather than the leap that is needed. Even the extension of the 5p tax on plastic bags only closed exemptions unnecessarily introduced by the Conservative Party."

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Universal Credit will drive up homelessness as people struggle to rent homes

The Conservatives' roll out of Universal Credit risks driving up homelessness, Stephen Lloyd, Liberal Democrat Work and Pensions Spokesperson, will warn in his Westminster Hall debate this morning.

Lloyd is leading calls for the reform of the housing benefit element of Universal Credit before a “disaster occurs in an already dysfunctional housing market”.

He will call on the Department for Work and Pensions to make some further changes to the way they administer the housing element of Universal Credit before it is too late.

Speaking ahead of the debate, Stephen Lloyd warned: 

"If further urgent changes are not made to the Government’s new benefit, Universal Credit, homelessness will skyrocket and the private rental sector will prove even more resistant to tenants on benefits.

"The government has the opportunity to improve the chronic housing shortage across the country by making Universal Credit payments to landlords the default option.

"Despite the chaos created by the shambolic roll-out of Universal Credit, opportunities for positive action remain if the government actually listens to those trying to make the system work."

Young's appointment was a serious mistake, at least he has realised - Cable

Responding to the resignation of Toby Young, Vince Cable, Leader of the Liberal Democrats, said:

“Toby Young’s appointment was a serious mistake, but at least the man himself has realised as much and resigned.

"The Conservatives must get their basic due diligence right - getting a role in public office cannot be based solely on being a friend of Boris Johnson.

“Theresa May stood by a misogynist and supporter of eugenics. She has shown poor judgement and, coupled with a troubled reshuffle, has made a bad start to the year.”

Thursday, January 04, 2018

O'Neill right, future of UK is in unsafe hands - Cable

Responding to former Treasury Minister Lord O'Neill's comments that leading Brexiteers in the government have "no clue about the world economy", Vince Cable, Leader of the Liberal Democrats, said:

“Jim O'Neill is absolutely right to say that leading Brexiteers are clueless about the world economy.

“The future of our country is resting in their hands yet they have shown time and time again that they have a chronic misconception of how the modern, globalised world works.

“Of course it is right to disown Trump's nationalistic and short-sighted approach to Pacific countries but far-flung trade deals will never compensate for leaving the world's largest market sitting on our doorstep.

“The British people must be given a chance to decide their own future, they must be given a chance to exit from Brexit.”

World deserves better than petulant child running a superpower

Responding to Trump's latest round of Twitter diplomacy, including boasting about the size of his button and threatening Palestine, Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran, the first UK MP of Palestinian background, said: 

“After a year in office it has become quite clear that Donald Trump is making the world less safe.

“His ham-fisted, bully boy diplomacy is leaving a trail of destruction in his wake. People struggling through a lifetime of conflict deserve better than a petulant child running a world superpower.

“The world would be a better place if only he could just show some restraint. Instead we will spend years having to pick up the pieces.”

Tuesday, January 02, 2018

11,000 homes across UK empty for ten years or more

Over 11,000 homes across the country have been sitting empty for ten years or more, research by the Liberal Democrats has revealed. 

Vince Cable has said it is a "national scandal" that so many homes are being left empty when the country is in the midst of a worsening homelessness crisis.

The figures, uncovered through Freedom of Information responses from 276 local councils, show that there are over 216,000 homes across the country that have been empty for six months or more. Of these, 60,000 had been empty for two years or more, 23,000 for five years or more, and over 11,000 have stood empty for at least ten years.

The research also shows that just one in thirteen councils are making use of Empty Dwelling Management Orders (EDMO), powers used by local authorities to take over properties that have been empty for at least six months. Only 19 of the 247 councils in England and Wales that responded (the powers do not apply in Scotland) had used an EDMO in the past five years. Of these only six had used one in the past year.

In total, councils returned around 23,000 empty homes back into use, including through direct action and the work of empty home teams. The Liberal Democrats are calling for reform of EDMOs and stronger powers for local councils to bring long-term empty homes back into use.

The areas with the largest number of homes empty for six months or more were Durham (6,502), Leeds (5,724), Bradford (4,144), Cornwall (3,273) and Liverpool (3,093). Many of these areas also suffer from high levels of homelessness.

Liberal Democrat Leader Vince Cable commented:

“At a time when the homelessness crisis is worsening and more and more people are sleeping out in the cold on our streets, it is a national scandal that thousands of homes across the country are sitting empty.

“These homes could be turned into affordable places to live for some of the most vulnerable people in our society.

“The Government needs to urgently review the current system which is clearly not working.

“Councils need to be given the powers and resources to bring empty homes back into use .

“This must form part of a wider package to tackle the housing crisis, including building more homes on unused public sector land and clamping down on land-banking.”

Local Welsh Liberal Democrat secretary Frank Little added:

“One notes that Neath Port Talbot was one of those councils which did not respond to the survey. However, if their performance is anything like that of Swansea City - over 2,000 empty dwellings and only one use of an EDMO - then there is cause for worry.”

May forced into dropping foreign students from immigration numbers

Responding to reports Theresa May will be forced into dropping foreign students from official immigration figures, Liberal Democrat Leader Vince Cable said:

“For years Theresa May has stubbornly refused to accept that international students are not immigrants, while the Home Office has wildly exaggerated the number of those who overstay.

“This absurd policy has fuelled concerns over immigration numbers and done serious damage to our universities.

“It’s about time the government dropped this completely self-harming approach.

“International students generate over £25 billion for our economy and support thousands of jobs across the country.

“We should be encouraging more students to come and spend their money in the UK, instead of needlessly hampering one of Britain’s most successful export industries.”

Monday, January 01, 2018

Conservatives are reinventing Dad's Army at Britain's ports

The Liberal Democrats have warned that plans for volunteer border guards would expose Britain's soft underbelly in the fight against terrorism and organised crime.

The Home Office has confirmed proposals for “border force special volunteers” at small air and sea ports, who would be unpaid and have no powers to interrogate or arrest suspects.

It recently emerged that the budget for UK border force will be cut again in 2017/18, from £565m to £552m. The number of border guards has been cut from 8,153 in 2014/15 to 7,574 this year.

Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson Ed Davey commented:

“Now we see what the Conservatives really mean by 'controlling our borders' - they want to re-invent Dad’s Army at our ports.

“This would be funny if it wasn’t so serious. Our small ports are Britain’s soft underbelly in the fight against illegal immigration, drug smuggling and terrorism.

“Theresa May’s cuts to the UK Border Force have almost certainly already led to a rise in illegal immigration and drug smuggling.

"If she now thinks introducing a few uniformed volunteers is the right response to this serious threat, it really is time to panic, Mr Mainwaring.”

Cable: How can Grayling survive if Lord Adonis' accusations are correct?

Vince Cable has said it is difficult to see how Chris Grayling can survive as Transport Secretary if criticisms made by Lord Adonis over bailing out the East Coast rail franchise are correct.

Liberal Democrat Leader Vince Cable said:

"This is a lethal criticism of the Transport Secretary's mishandling of rail franchises.

"It would appear that the government is handing out millions of pounds in subsidy to Virgin Rail and Stagecoach for failing to meet their financial objectives.

"This makes a complete mockery of the entire principle of rail franchising, that companies compete and take a hit if they miscalculate the market and don't get their sums right.

"It’s difficult to see how Mr Grayling can survive if Lord Adonis’ accusations are correct."

Saturday, December 30, 2017

45,000 young people in Britain affected by homelessness

Over 45,000 young people (18-24 year olds) presented themselves to councils as homeless or at risk of homelessness in the past year, an investigation by the Liberal Democrats has revealed.

The figures show that the real number of young people being affected by the homelessness crisis is far greater than shown by official government statistics.

Of the 45,752 who turned to councils to help over homelessness problems, 13,621 or just under one in three were then accepted by councils as statutorily homeless. Figures are based on responses to Freedom of Information requests from 238 of 380 local councils in England, Wales and Scotland, for the year to September 2017.

The areas with the highest numbers of young people turning to councils for help after becoming homeless or at risk of homelessness were Bradford (1828), Manchester (1297), Cornwall (1127), Nottingham (1091) and Telford and Wrekin (1051)

Scotland had four of the five top areas with the highest numbers of young people being declared statutorily homeless over the year, these were South Lanarkshire Council (424), Dundee City Council (424), Aberdeenshire (238).

In England, the areas with the highest numbers of young people being declared statutorily homeless were Manchester (420) Bristol (190), Southwark (150) Kirklees (141) and Wandsworth (134).

Liberal Democrat Leader Vince Cable commented:

“These figures reveal the hidden homelessness crisis affecting thousands of young people across the country.

“It is a national scandal that so many youngsters are struggling to find a permanent place to call home.

“Young people should be hopeful and looking to the future. Yet instead thousands will be spending this Christmas without a roof over their head, worrying about where they will sleep at night.

“The situation is being made worse by the Government’s heartless decision to strip young people of housing benefit.
“The government must reverse cuts to housing benefit for young people, invest more in preventing people from becoming homeless in the first place and build more genuinely affordable homes.”

Friday, December 29, 2017

Private company involvement in benefit tests must end

Liberal Democrat DWP spokesman Stephen Lloyd – who has a disability himself – is calling for an immediate end to private sector involvement in benefit eligibility tests for sick and disabled people. He says this has undermined the principles of the welfare state established by Liberal reformer Sir William Beveridge.

Despite receiving contracts for personal independence payment (PIP) tests and work capability assessments (WCA) worth hundreds of millions of pounds from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), large multinationals including Atos, Capita and Maximus have consistently failed to meet the standards set by the Government.

The companies have been accused of subjecting claimants to dehumanising procedures, failing in many cases to accurately determine eligibility, and inappropriately cutting costs by not hiring qualified medical professionals. Just this month executives from all three companies were hauled in front of the Work and Pensions Select Committee and criticised for their

The Liberal Democrats would bring PIP tests and Work Capability Assessments in-house and ban any future private sector involvement. In the long-term the party would also go further and scrap Work Capability Assessments entirely, replacing them with a more humane system devolved to local authorities. This would ensure that benefit eligibility is based on local needs and labour market realities.

Stephen Lloyd, Liberal Democrat Work and Pensions Spokesman said:

“Just over 70 years ago, the great Liberal reformer William Beveridge set out the foundational principles of our modern welfare state. He called for a social contract between citizen and state, and a minimum standard below which no individual should ever fall.

“Today these principles are under threat from the privatisation of benefit tests, which continue to cause immeasurable suffering. While I am a strong believer in the benefits of a market economy, the profit motive has absolutely no place in determining the safety net for the most vulnerable.

“Enough is enough. Private firms should play no further role in deciding whether sick and disabled people are eligible for benefits. Both the Work Capability Assessment and PIP tests should be brought in house immediately, with a ban on further private sector involvement.

“The Liberal Democrats would go further by scrapping the WCA all together and replacing it with a more humane system devolved to local authorities. This would ensure that people – not profit – form the basis of our safety net.”

Conservative pursuit of hard Brexit and lack of investment to blame for TUC's dire real wage forecast

Analysis of OECD data by the TUC has found that the UK will have the worst real wage performance of any advanced economy next year.

Responding, Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable said: 

"This is a very good analysis by the TUC. The Conservative pursuit of a hard Brexit is a big part of this, leading to a sustained level of inflation that is eating into wages. This means it is increasingly difficult for families to make ends meet.

"Another reason is a productivity problem that cannot be solved when there is such subdued government investment. According to the analysis, we will be one of the few developed economies to suffer a real wage decrease in 2018. The Conservatives' mismanagement is putting us in the economic relegation zone." 

Thursday, December 28, 2017

May must back EU allies & condemn Polish government for its attack on the rule of law


Ahead of the UK - Poland summit in Warsaw tomorrow, the Liberal Democrats have called on Theresa May to support the EU’s efforts to reinstate the rule of law and liberal democracy in Poland.

David Cameron capitulated to demands by his own backbench Eurosceptic Conservative MPs to leave the mainstream EPP European grouping in 2009 and form a new right wing European parliamentary grouping with the Polish PiS party, which is now responsible for undermining democratic and judicial institutions in Poland.

Liberal Democrat Brexit Spokesperson Tom Brake said:

“It was a massive mistake for the Tories to get into bed with the populist, right-wing and homophobic Polish PiS party.

“Now Theresa May has been left in an awkward position that is totally self-inflicted.

“The UK must be firm with the Government in Warsaw and support EU efforts to defend democracy and the rule of law in Poland.

“Theresa May rightly committed to defending liberty, democracy and the rule of law in Europe - now it’s time to deliver.”

Public must be informed of secret Trump trade deal

Commenting on reports that Liam Fox has struck a secrecy deal with the US over Brexit trade talks, Tom Brake, Liberal Democrat Brexit Spokesperson, said:

“It is vitally important that the public are kept informed of what is being agreed between the UK and the most powerful country in the world. With a protectionist Donald Trump at the helm, this could be the biggest and worstest deal ever.

“We must know if our environmental standards are being flogged off, our food standards are going to hold up, or our public services are being sold to the highest bidder.

“The British people have the right to know whether Liam Fox wants us to eat chlorinated chicken, hormone-fed beef or GMO foods before they hit our supermarket shelves!”

Corbyn has shirked role of opposition over Brexit

Responding to the news that Jeremy Corbyn has strictly ruled out giving the public a say on the final Brexit deal, Tom Brake, Liberal Democrat Brexit Spokesperson, said:

“The Labour leadership have constantly played a game of smoke and mirrors over their Brexit position. But here they are nailing their colours to the mast in support of hard Brexit.

“The party of opposition have again shirked their responsibility to oppose Theresa May’s government.

“The public need to be given a say on the final Brexit deal.  With Labour and the Tories marching together over the cliff, the people must be given the opportunity to exit from Brexit.”

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Grenfell building safety report exposes "serious failings" by Govt

An interim report into building safety regulations commissioned in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire has warned that the current system is "not fit for purpose," due in part to weak enforcement of the rules and lack of clarity over who is responsible.

Wera Hobhouse MP, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Communities and Local Government, commented:

“This report exposes serious failings by the Government.

“Safety rules have not been properly enforced and the organisations that provide housing have not been held to account.

“Thousands of families across the country continue to live in unsafe accommodation.

“We need swift action to put the situation right before another tragedy occurs.

“That should include tougher enforcement of the rules and more funding for safety improvements."

PAC report condemns Govt's complacency over rising homelessness

A report by MPs on the Public Accounts Committee has accused the government of being "unacceptably complacent" over rising levels of homelessness.

It says the limited action taken has lacked the urgency that is so badly needed and that the “light touch” approach to working with local authorities tackling homelessness has clearly failed.

Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran, who sits on the committee, commented:

“This damning report exposes the Government’s failure to protect the most vulnerable in society.

“Soaring levels of homelessness have meant even many people in work are now finding themselves on the streets or in temporary accommodation.

“The complacency ministers are showing on this issue is totally unacceptable and must come to an end.

“Instead of passing the buck to local authorities, the Government must take responsibility for ending rough sleeping and building the truly affordable homes the country needs.”

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

National Audit Office report suggests that Green Investment Bank was sold on the cheap

A NAO report attacks the government for its handling of the sale of the Green Investment Bank, set up by Liberal Democrats in coalition. The report makes clear:
  • the sale process took longer than expected, and had an operational impact on the GIB. The sale process lasted for nearly 18 months, more than double the length indicated in planning.
  • the final sale price was very much at the lower end of the expected valuation range.
Liberal Democrat Leader Vince Cable, who as Business Secretary played a key part in setting up the bank, said:

"Establishing the Green Investment Bank, a world first, was one of the Liberal Democrat successes of coalition and it has made financially prudent investments. The GIB’s privatisation showed the Conservatives really don’t care about the environment, or the long-term financial rewards this brings as we try to move towards a lower carbon, more efficient economy.

“Sadly, the mishandled sales process has created uncertainty, particularly through key staff losses, at a time when the GIB should have been growing and helping the UK hit international carbon reduction targets by fostering the green economy.

“The big fear now is that it will disappear into the commercial arm of Macquarie, which will enjoy the returns generated through sound investment, without reinvesting that into new green projects.”

Trump not welcome - Swinson

After the American ambassador confirmed that President Trump will be visiting Britain in the New Year, Liberal Democrat deputy leader Jo Swinson said this embarrassing visit was the fault of Theresa May.

Jo Swinson MP said:

"President Trump’s divisive politics of hate is in direct conflict with British values.

"One of the prime minister’s biggest political mistakes was to offer to roll out the red carpet for a man who wears his racism and misogyny like a badge of pride. Theresa May should stand up to Donald Trump and withdraw her invitation."

Gove adopts Liberal Democrat policy on animal welfare offences

The Liberal Democrats have welcomed Michael Gove's announcement to increase sentences for animal welfare offences to up to five years, a policy taken from the Liberal Democrat manifesto, but warn that he should clamp down on illegal pet imports.

In January this year, the government said there were no plans to extend maximum sentencing in response to parliamentary questions from the Liberal Democrats, instead offering the possibility of giving revised guidance to magistrates.

The Liberal Democrat 2017 manifesto called for "stronger penalties for animal cruelty offences, increasing the maximum sentencing from six months to five years." No such policy was proposed in the Conservative 2017 manifesto.

Liberal Democrat Environment Spokesperson Kate Parminter commented:

“It’s very welcome that the government is finally agreeing to introduce tougher sentences for extreme cruelty against animals. But the government needs to crack down on the illegal importation of pets.

“The policy of tougher sentences was proposed in the recent Liberal Democrat manifesto and is something we have long campaigned for. While the Conservatives have had to drop many unpopular policies from their own manifesto, it is good to see they are now reaching for the Liberal Democrat one instead.

“For too long, offenders in cases involving extreme and premeditated cruelty have got away with little more than a slap on the wrist.

“We must now ensure this legislation is passed and implemented as soon as possible to deter more of these horrific crimes from happening."

Lib Dems respond to report on Intimidation in Public Life

The Committee on Standards in Public Life has today published a report on intimidation in public life.

The report calls for a new law to crack down on the rise in intimidation and abuse at elections and says social-media companies should tackle "persistent, vile and shocking abuse" directed at politicians.

Liberal Democrat President Sal Brinton, who gave evidence to the report, commented:

"We welcome this report and its recommendations.

"The Liberal Democrats look forward to working with other parties to implement these proposals to tackle intimidation in public life.

"It's crucial that both social media companies and political parties take action to tackle the shocking rise in abuse against those standing for public office."

Saturday, December 09, 2017

Cable: Time for all-BAME short-lists to tackle Parliament's diversity problem

Speaking at The Grand Mawlid (Peace Conference) in Birmingham today in front of an expected 4,000 audience, Vince Cable will call on the government to change the law so that all-BAME (black and minority ethnic) short-lists are allowed for selecting Parliamentary election candidates.

Under the 2010 Equality Act, political parties may field all-women or all-disabled short-lists, but the law does not allow for all-BAME short-lists.

Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable is expected to say: 

"There remains a serious lack of diversity in Parliament.

"There are just 51 BAME MPs. Despite being a record total, they represent only 7.9% of all MPs, against 14% of the British population. There are still too few opportunities for BAME people to enter British politics at all levels.

"Parliament is supposed to set an example to the rest of society. We should be showing that we are willing to tackle issues of lack of diversity head on.

"Although advances in gender balance have been made partly through all-women short-lists, we still have this loophole that all-BAME short-lists are not allowed.

"I have written to Damian Green, the de facto deputy prime minister, calling on him to close this loophole through legislation. It is time to unify the country by giving everyone the opportunity to move up in life."
Frank Little, secretary of Aberavon and Liberal Democrats, added:
"It should be noted that Vince calls for permissive, not mandatory legislation, contrary to some media speculation earlier in the week.

"In 2016 the Lib Dems became the first party to pick a prospective parliamentary candidate from an all-disabled short-list when Stephen Lloyd was selected for Eastbourne. He regained the seat at this year's general election with a majority of 1,609 and is now the party's Spokesperson for Work & Pensions. "