Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Lib Dems team up with expert to call for urgent new fracking regulations

Today [May 22nd], Liberal Democrat Energy and Climate Change spokesperson Lynne Featherstone hosts a talk with former President of the Geological Society Professor Peter Styles on the increased risk of earthquakes due to fracking

Professor Styles is expected to call for the implementation of buffer zones and stricter regulations, forcing fracking companies to assess dangers and faults.
Commenting on Professor Styles' speech, Lynne Featherstone said:

“Fracking is an unnecessary, invasive and dangerous distraction from the very urgent need to move away from carbon-based energy and towards sustainable energy sources.
“There is a growing consensus that fracking is destructive to the environment and dangerous to the public. The Government must response to the increasing number of experts speaking out against the practice.”

Frank Little, secretary of Aberavon and Neath Liberal Democrats, adds:
"One hopes that the Welsh Government, which has sat on the fence with respect to fracking in the Principality, will pay attention to this talk."


Monday, May 21, 2018

Omission from Galileo is a shocking reminder of damaging impact of Brexit

Commenting on Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson's announcement that he is considering British participation in an alternative satellite-navigation system to the EU's Galileo programme, Liberal Democrat Transport Spokesperson Baroness Randerson said:

“Our omission from Galileo is a shocking reminder of the damaging impact that Brexit is having on our economy. All the while the Government are proposing to waste billions on a British sat-nav system.
“We have already seen losses of high-skilled, well-paid jobs that are crucially important to our national security.
“Talk of replacing it with our own version, in cahoots with the country furthest away from the UK is frankly delusional, taking decades, in the meantime, our brightest and best leave our borders to follow the jobs elsewhere.
“Apparently, Gavin Williamson wants to take back control of space as well.”

Impose tougher sanctions on Russian oligarchs

Commenting on the Foreign Affairs committee report, Moscow's Gold: Russian Corruption in the UK, which claims London is a "laundromat" for Russian "dirty money", Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable said:

“It is now more than two months since I challenged the Prime Minister to impose tougher sanctions on Russian oligarchs close to the Putin regime, including the use of unexplained wealth orders. But, since their introduction at the end of January, these orders appear to have only been used against peripheral figures from other countries, when the situation with Russia is both so pressing and hostile. 

“These oligarchs, who own so much of London that they should have their own piece on a Monopoly board, must be subjected to the orders. Ministers must also must explain why they have not been used so long after the situation with Russia became so fragile. 

“That’s the context in which we need to look at Mr Abramovich’s visa issue, whether it’s a concerted strategy or simply routine inefficiency.” 

PM must make freeing Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe a personal priority

Responding to reports that jailed British-Iranian Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe is facing a new charge against her in Iran, Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran said: 
“No one should be separated from their family like this. It is heart-breaking.

"Given that the Foreign Secretary has proven himself unable to help, the Prime Minister should make bringing Nazanin home to her family a personal priority.”

Conservatives must heed Northern Ireland’s warnings and change course on its ill-conceived Brexit

Research by Queen’s University Belfast shows that 61% of people in Northern Ireland want the UK as a whole to stay in the Single Market and the Customs Union. This comes amid concern that North-South border checks could be imposed as a result of Brexit. 

The research also found that if there was a referendum on EU membership today, 69% of Northern Irish people would vote to remain against 56% at the time of the poll in 2016. 

Responding, Liberal Democrat Brexit spokesperson Tom Brake said: 

“This research shows there are deep fears in Northern Ireland that this messy, ill-conceived Conservative Brexit will result in a hard border that could quickly deteriorate into violence. 

“Theresa May and her Brexiter ideologues must heed these warnings and pursue a safe deal for Ireland, which means staying in the Single Market and the Customs Union. 

”The surge of people in Northern Ireland who would now vote to remain in the EU also provides yet more evidence that there must be a vote on the final deal that provides the option of an exit from Brexit - particularly if that deal is a perilous one for Ireland.” 

Friday, May 18, 2018

Increasingly likely UK will not be ready to leave EU by March

Commenting on reports that Theresa May's spokesperson has said the EU Withdrawal Bill will return to the House of Commons in 'weeks rather than months', Lord Wallace, Liberal Democrat spokesperson for the Cabinet Office, said:
"The Tory government is blindly drifting into a world where the UK will not be able to leave the EU by March.
"Even if Theresa May doesn't shelve the EU Withdrawal Bill for months, there are many other Brexit Bills that are still waiting in the queue behind that. We haven't even seen the Immigration or Agriculture Bills yet, for example.
"The Prime Minister's cowardice comes at a high price for her Brexiter Cabinet. Every postponed decision and parliamentary debate brings us closer to March and closer to being unable to get through the huge amounts of necessary legislation."

New peers are a cynical response to government defeats

Commenting on the announcement that Theresa May has put nine new Tory Peers into the House of Lords, Liberal Democrat Leader in the Lords, Dick Newby said:  

“This is a cynical response from Theresa May to losing a string of votes in the Lords in recent weeks, and is a desperate bid to quell opposition to the Conservatives' reckless Brexit. The fact that she is doing this on the Friday evening before the Royal wedding is frankly pathetic.
“This is a desperate grab for power by a regime losing its grip on Parliament, public opinion and even its own backbenches. The PM is running scared of the mounting criticism of her disastrous handling of Brexit.”

Arming all police would be "totally disproportionate"

Responding to reports the National Police Chiefs' Council is considering routinely deploying armed officers in remote and rural communities, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson Ed Davey said: 
"Police Officers carry out dangerous and often lifesaving work on our behalf, not least in the face of ongoing threats including terrorism. We must therefore ensure that armed officers are able to respond quickly to situations.
“However, any move towards routinely arming officers would be totally disproportionate and contrary to the principle of policing by consent.
"There needs to be sensible guidelines in place to ensure that armed officers on our streets do not become the norm."

Gove's green agenda a '"acade"

Commenting on the Government announcement that they plan to accelerate fracking developments by fast-tracking private companies' planning applications, Liberal Democrat Energy and Climate Change Spokesperson Lynne Featherstone said:

“The planning process has clearly been doing its job and allowing people to fight fracking applications in their local area.

“So it is desperately disappointing that the Government have announced today that they will be altering planning law to make it easier for the frackers.

“Campaigners are quite rightly furious at this law change and it shows that Gove’s attempts to paint himself as ‘green’ were just a façade.”

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Government immigration policy holds UK back

Responding to reports that more than 1,600 engineers, tech specialists, teachers and NHS staff offered jobs in the UK were denied visas between December and March, Liberal Democrat Science Spokesperson Layla Moran MP said:

"These figures are truly shocking. These are people that the Government should be bending over backwards to welcome to the UK. Instead they are being denied visas for vital roles in our NHS, schools, universities, science and tech sectors.

"These are some of the most saleable people in the jobs market who can and will go elsewhere if the Government doesn’t get a grip and sort this situation out as a matter of urgency."

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Carillion collapse demands radical reform

Responding to the publication of an inquiry by two parliamentary committees, which found Carillion's collapse was down to a "rotten corporate culture", the Leader of the Liberal Democrats Vince Cable MP said: 

“Previous attempts to open up the audit market have been far too weak and failed to deal with the major structural problem.

"I and others have called for radical reform for years. It is now clear that we need to break up the Big Four and shatter this cosy club to create a more competitive, truly diverse market.” 

Leveson 2 was promised, it should be delivered

Responding to the House of Lords defeating the Government, this time to successfully amend the Data Protection Bill to establish 'Leveson 2', Liberal Democrat peer and former Justice Minister Tom McNally said:

“This issue keeps coming back for the Government, and this vote shows that the House of Lords aren’t willing to forget the promise that was made by the Coalition that Leveson 2 would be enacted.
"The decision to drop Leveson 2 was part of a squalid deal between the Conservative Party and the Press Barons and was against the strong advice of Lord Leveson himself. The promise to hold Leveson 2 was a solemn promise made by David Cameron on behalf of the UK Government and supported by all parties in both Houses.
“This is not about restricting press freedom. It is about fighting for a press that is respected and trusted. Leveson 1 only did half the job. The amendment carried today gives the Commons a chance to launch the kind of inquiry which is still needed if we are to have a press which is respected and trusted as well as free.”

Recognise Palestine to rekindle hope

Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran yesterday called on the UK Government to recognise Palestine to rekindle hope in the region, following the deadliest day in Gaza since 2014.
Ms Moran, who is the first MP of Palestinian descent, also urged the UK Government to acknowledge that the two sides in the conflict are not “meeting as equals”.
Responding to Ms Moran, Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt said the question of recognition "remains open" but needs to happen "at a time when it's most designed to serve the cause of peace".
Ms Moran said:
“Between Hamas and a very extreme Israeli Prime Minister is the blood of children. Both must be condemned in the strongest terms. 
“The UK Government must recognise, however, that the two-sides are not meeting as equals along the peace process table.
“Now is the moment to give recognition to the Palestinians, so that there is hope, because that is also what has died this week.”  

Monday, May 14, 2018

Tories must speak out against Erdogan

Responding to Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's state visit to the UK today, leader of the Liberal Democrats Vince Cable, said:

"The UK has a strong, proud history of democracy and human rights, but our reputation on the world stage is in danger of being eroded by this Conservative government’s desire to woo world leaders like Trump and Erdogan.

“May’s administration appears to have substituted diplomacy for sycophancy in its pursuit of Brexit.

“By permitting a state visit and audience with the Queen, May and Johnson are essentially rolling out the red carpet for a man with a disregard for human rights, who is responsible for alarming oppression and violence.

“The government must stand with the Turkish people and use this visit to speak out against Erdogan’s unacceptable disregard for liberal, democratic values.”

The fight against terrorism relies on European cooperation

Commenting on MI5 chief Andrew Parker's speech, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs spokesperson Ed Davey said:

"The chief of MI5 could not be clearer - Britain's security and our fight against terrorism now relies on European cooperation more than ever in our history.
"So for this Brexit Conservative Government to play Russian roulette with the safety and security of Britain could not be more reckless. 
"Despite all the promises, there is no evidence that the Brexit negotiations have produced any deal on security that can match what we have now.

"While it is in the interests of both sides to find some compromise, it's scandalous that the Conservatives have led our country to the point where we will have to compromise on our security, given these heightened threats and the historic importance of European cooperation."

Tories wanted to do away with civil partnerships altogether

Responding to reports that the UK Government may extend civil partnerships to heterosexual couples, Baroness Lynne Featherstone, who successfully pioneered the legislation that delivered same-sex marriage, said: 
"Liberal Democrats have always been clear that people who love each other should be allowed to celebrate their love as they wish. That is why we wanted to introduce civil partnerships for heterosexual couples alongside same-sex marriage.
“However, it was the Conservatives who blocked this. In fact, for too long there has been a consistent desire from the Conservatives to get rid of civil partnerships altogether.
“I therefore welcome their reported U-turn with some hesitation. If they couldn’t be trusted to deliver before then why should they be trusted now?
“Liberal Democrats will continue to campaign to ensure everyone can celebrate their love equally.”

Friday, May 11, 2018

Renting crisis symptomatic of broken system

Responding to a new official report revealing that the number of over-40 renters has doubled in the last ten years, Liberal Democrat Housing spokesperson Wera Hobhouse said:

"This is symptomatic of a broken housing market. We often hear about the debilitating barriers that the younger generation faces, but it is important to remember that this crisis impacts those of all ages.
“The opportunity to own a home is becoming more and more restricted to the extremely wealthy in our society.
“Swathes of hard-working individuals in the UK are unable to own a home and it is time the Government took action."

Wednesday, May 09, 2018

Single Market defeat sends a clear message

Commenting on last night's defeat for the Government in the House of Lords on the Single Market, Liberal Democrat Leader in the Lords, Lord Newby said:

“This victory sends a clear message to those sat round the Cabinet table that Parliament won’t just sit back while Theresa May leads us towards a hard Brexit.

"245 Peers from all parties and none have voted to stay in the Single Market and protect the UK economy, defeating a Government hell-bent on pursuing ideology over prosperity.”

Today is Europe Day

Europe Day


EU flag
Europe Day held on 9 May every year celebrates peace and unity in Europe. The date marks the anniversary of the historical 'Schuman declaration'. At a speech in Paris in 1950, Robert Schuman, the then French foreign minister, set out his idea for a new form of political cooperation in Europe, which would make war between Europe’s nations unthinkable.
His vision was to create a European institution that would pool and manage coal and steel production. A treaty creating such a body was signed just under a year later. Schuman’s proposal is considered to be the beginning of what is now the European Union.
For reasons why Tories want the UK to leave the EU and Liberals want us to stay in, see the slide-show at https://alde.eu/en/

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

Customs Partnership row shows divided Government

Commenting on Boris Johnson's remarks that a post-Brexit customs partnership would be 'crazy', Liberal Democrat Leader Vince Cable said: 

"Ironically, Boris is right. A customs partnership is – as he says – “crazy”. It is a poor substitute for the UK remaining within the EU. 

“As part of the EU, the UK has a seat at the top table and access to a multitude of ready-established trade deals. Any alternative trade and customs relationship with the EU will pale in comparison to the one we already have.

"Yet again this Tory Government is demonstrating to the Europeans who are negotiating with them that they are internally divided. When a leading Tory describes the Prime Minister’s proposals as “cretinous”, why would Mr Barnier take them seriously?"

Sunday, May 06, 2018

Trump displays ignorance of Britain

Commenting on Donald Trump's speech in which he suggested knife crime in Britain was increased by British firearms laws, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs spokesperson Ed Davey said:

“London has seen a disturbing rise in knife and gun crime but Donald Trump's remarks are nevertheless ridiculous.
“To defend America’s shocking gun laws by revealing his ignorance of Britain should alarm even his apologists in the Conservative Party.
“Theresa May should confirm to Parliament that she will explain to Trump that the UK’s strict gun laws have been key to keeping gun crime much lower than in America, and that the recent rises in knife crime have not been caused by our gun laws. "

Saturday, May 05, 2018

Government must bring in National Video Relay service

Liberal Democrat peer Malcolm Bruce called on the government to follow the lead of many other countries and back a National Video Relay service.

This well established technology allows sign language users to access interpreters online, anytime, anywhere.

The cost would be minimal in a £40 billion a year market but its benefits would be transformational allowing sign language users to dial up an interpreter to help with communication at work, in accessing public or private services and for social interaction with family and friends.

The deaf community have been campaigning for this for years but the Government have so far failed to act.
Lord Bruce, whose daughter is deaf and has worked closely with many charities for deaf people, commented:

“Communication in their preferred language is crucial for deaf people’s well-being and quality of life.

“We have a developed technology ready and available to serve the deaf community. The only thing stopping it is Government inertia.

“It would also make efficient use of the limited number of interpreters who currently spend time on unpaid travel”.

Wednesday, May 02, 2018

Cable responds to RBS cuts

Responding to the news that the Royal Bank of Scotland has announced it is to close 162 branches and cut 792 jobs across England and Wales, Leader of the Liberal Democrats, Vince Cable said:

“The Conservatives seem to have forgotten about the ‘last bank in town’ pledge, where communities must have at least one bank or the local Post Office must take over its duties. Ministers must check that RBS has consulted the Post Office for these assurances. 

“All this has happened because RBS dragged off and defaulted on its Williams & Glyn spin-off, another of the inglorious failures of its recent past.” 

Cable and Davey call on Javid to drop Home Office plan to deny immigrants access to their data

Sajid Javid has been urged to dump the controversial Immigration Exemption Clause in the Data Protection Bill, which will be debated next week. 

Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable and Home Affairs spokesperson Ed Davey have written to the new Home Secretary to protect people’s fundamental rights when their data is being processed for immigration purposes. 

Many immigration decisions are overturned at appeal because the Home Office has made mistakes. But the Bill puts at risk the right for individuals to see what information the Home Office holds on them and the Lib Dems are pressuring the government to make a concession on this point.  

In the letter Vince Cable and Ed Davey write: 

”Amendment 15 to the Bill, which will be debated next week, would maintain these rights: if you sign it or table a satisfactory alternative government amendment, you will have our strong support. 

“Drawing on the public goodwill towards those British people who were victims of the Windrush scandal, you enter office with an exceptional opportunity to change the nature of debate about immigration in this country.” 

The letter also urges the Home Secretary to publish a Foreign Office report that allegedly shows Philip Hammond warned the Home Office about possible deportations of the Windrush generation in April 2016, when Theresa May was Home Secretary. 

Chancellor leaves government Brexit plans in tatters

Responding to reports that the Chancellor will argue in cabinet for a close customs partnership with the EU, Liberal Democrat Brexit spokesperson Tom Brake, said:

“Reports suggesting that the Chancellor is set to undermine Theresa May’s position on the customs union show that the government's Brexit plans are in tatters.
“Many in the House, and now even senior Cabinet ministers, are openly questioning the viability of the PM’s plan to tear us out of the customs union. With nearly half our exports currently going to other countries in the EU, the Treasury knows that leaving the customs union could badly damage businesses up and down the country.
“The divide in the Conservative party and Cabinet highlight the need for the people to have a final say on the deal, so that the country is not trapped into a hard Brexit, only supported by the likes of Boris Johnson and Liam Fox.”

Tory Brexiteers have swiftly reacted to the Hammond plan - see BBC news report.