Friday, October 20, 2017

Cable: Retail sales fall as shop prices see biggest rise in five years

Retail sales fell sharply by 0.8% in September 2017 compared to the previous month, figures published yesterday by the Office for National Statistics have revealed.

Meanwhile prices in the shops increased by 3.3% compared to last year, the largest annual rise since March 2012.

Liberal Democrat Leader Vince Cable commented:

"This fall in retail sales shows shoppers across Britain are feeling the Brexit squeeze.

“A toxic combination of rising prices and stagnant wages is severely constraining household spending.

“Year on year retail growth is also looking weak compared to previous years.

“Given the UK’s unhealthy over-reliance on consumer spending, the government must clarify where future economic growth is going to come from.”

Rise in violent crime shows May failing to back police in England and Wales

Violent crime has increased by 19% in the last year, figures published today have revealed.

Knife crime was up 26% year-on-year, while overall crimes increased by 13%.

Commenting on the reported rise in violent crime, Ed Davey, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson, said: 

“People’s lives are under threat because Theresa May is failing to back Britain’s police.

“These increases in violent crime are frightening and it ought to be government’s first priority to protect the public. Yet with her police cuts, Theresa May has gone soft on crime and is letting the country down.

“Theresa May was the Home Secretary for six years: she ought to understand the needs of the police. Instead, she has left them out in the cold.”

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Gauke's premium rate climbdown cold comfort

Following an announcement by Stephen Gauke that the Universal Credit hotline will be made free, Liberal Democrat work and pensions spokesperson Stephen Lloyd said:

“I welcome the government's change of heart, but it is no compensation to the those on the breadline who have already been fleeced. Given the mess of Universal Credit, this is likely to become the hotest hotline in Britain.

"To even think about charging our most vulnerable citizens before they received their benefit shows just how out of touch the Conservatives are over Universal Credit.

"To prevent the car crash which is clearly heading our way over their whole UC project I urge, yet again, the government to pause the programme before it is too late and tens if not hundreds of thousands of our most vulnerable are broken on the ideological wheel of a deeply flawed and cruel new benefits initiative.”

Fresh thinking needed in Northern Ireland

Responding to James Brokenshire’s comments that power-sharing talks in Northern Ireland are stalling, Alistair Carmichael, Lib Dem Spokesperson for Northern Ireland, said:
“The comments from the Secretary of State regarding the current state of the talks process in Northern Ireland is deeply troubling. There are very real consequences for the people of Northern Ireland with the continuing stalemate – budgetary decisions are waiting to be taken, NHS targets are being missed and waiting lists are getting longer, and there is uncertainty for economic investment. Northern Ireland is also lacking a voice in the crucial Brexit negotiations.
“It is clear that the Government and political parties now need to consider fresh approaches to finding an agreement. The Government must now move from a closed DUP-Sinn Féin format towards a more multilateral process, bring in an external mediator, and make it clear that other approaches to the formation of power-sharing government will be considered.”

Vince Cable responds to think-tank's report on inequality

A report by the IPPR has revealed that wealthiest 10% of households have five times the wealth of the bottom 50% and nearly 900 times the wealth of the bottom 10%.

Liberal Democrat Leader Vince Cable commented:

“This report reveals just how unequally wealth in the UK is distributed.

"When the richest 10% of the population are almost 1,000 times wealthier than the poorest 10%, it puts the very existence of social mobility in 21st century Britain into question.

"Tackling inter-generational inequality and the growing concentration of wealth will require radical solutions, including reforms to the taxation of land, property and inheritance.

“Our current tax system, by focusing on income rather than wealth, facilitates the accumulation of unearned assets while punishing productive activity by individuals and businesses.
"The Liberal Democrats are the only party committed to changing this, in order to achieve the fundamental re-balancing our economy so sorely needs."

Govt must listen after Universal Credit defeat

The Liberal Democrats have accused the government of treating parliament with contempt by ordering their MPs to abstain at the end of the Universal Credit debate, and have now called on ministers to listen after their defeat.
Liberal Democrat Work and Pensions spokesperson Stephen Lloyd MP said:
"The government has shown contempt for parliament by yet again seeking to ignore votes that happen to be inconvenient. Parliamentary votes are meant to matter, this is not a debating society.
"None of this changes the fact that the government's Universal Credit proposals are a slow motion car crash. The government lost the argument, and now it has lost the vote. 
"Ministers must now re-consider these proposals that will draw millions into poverty. Parliament has spoken, the government has a duty, a moral duty, to now listen.

"Maybe it is Theresa May who needs to ring an emergency hotline to get some help running the country."

Jo Swinson responds to Social Mobility Commission report on low pay

Responding to the Social Mobility Commission's report which has found millions of workers remains trapped in low-paid jobs, Liberal Democrat Deputy Leader Jo Swinson:

“This report shows that a whole section of society are being failed by this government and remain permanently trapped in low-paid work.

“This is only being made worse by the Conservatives’ pursuit of an extreme Brexit that is damaging businesses, pushing up prices and hitting the poorest hardest.

“We urgently need to invest more in education, including adult learning, to improve social mobility and help people escape from poverty.

“Employment rules must be made fit for the 21st century, to strengthen rights and increase security for workers.”

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Brexit squeeze gets worse as inflation reaches 5-year high of 3%

Vince Cable has called on the government to end the benefits freeze, after figures showed consumer inflation has reached a five-year high of 3%.

Rising food prices made a large contribution to the change, with an increase of 0.8% between August and September 2017, compared with a 0.4% fall last year.

It comes as analysis by the Institute for Fiscal Studies has found the benefits freeze is expected to leave over 10 million families an average of £450 a year worse off in real terms by 2020.

Liberal Democrat Leader Vince Cable commented:

“The Brexit squeeze caused by the falling pound is getting worse, and it is hitting the poorest families hardest.

“This above-target inflation is increasing the cost of the weekly shop and cutting into people’s living standards.

“The Chancellor must end the benefits freeze that is set to leave millions of families hundreds of pounds poorer a year.

“Above all, the government must change course from a destructive Brexit that would damage living standards and push up prices further.”

Government plan on foreign takeovers doesn't go far enough

Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable says that the government Green Paper on foreign takeovers does not go far enough.

Vince Cable said:

“There is a powerful case for strengthening public interest case on takeovers, as indeed I argued following the attempted takeover of Astra Zeneca.

“However the government’s proposals as they stand are far too narrow.

“Their scope must be widened to properly defend Britain’s entire science base, not just a narrow subset of businesses in the military and computer hardware sectors.

“In recent months, several of our high-tech companies have been snapped up by foreign competitors taking advantage of the cheap pound.

“These underwhelming proposals from the Government are unfortunately a case of too little, too late.”


Tuesday, October 17, 2017

The Parliamentary Boundary Review is a dead duck

Liberal Democrat chief whip Alistair Carmichael MP has called on the government to stop wasting money on a dead-duck boundary review and scrap it.

Alistair Carmichael said:

“The DUP will not wear this review. Nor will many Tory backbenchers. The government should stop wasting public funds and bow to the inevitable.

“But if by some miracle it does go through, the Liberal Democrats will fight and win seats on these boundaries, in considerably stronger numbers than we managed last time.

“We will be making representations in the final eight week consultation for retaining strong community ties just as we have done at every stage of the review.”

Monday, October 16, 2017

Vince says Vauxhall should be given reassurance

Following the news that Vauxhall is to shed 400 jobs at its Ellesmere Port plant, Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable said ahead of a Commons debate on the subject that the government must give the car manufacturer assurances over the single market:
“As Business Secretary in the coalition I put in place measures to keep Ellesmere Port open protecting against the loss of 2,800 British jobs. Vauxhall has been making cars in the UK for over a century and is a significant employer. 
“We need Vauxhall to continue to make cars in the UK. The company has said that its future investment here is on hold until the government can give greater clarity on the UK’s trade with the EU post-Brexit.
“So every worker receiving a P45 will know that government in-fighting is hitting Vauxhall investment. It is time the government gave the assurances manufacturers need that Britain will continue to have full access to the world’s largest market.

"Given that foreign investment has fallen from a £120bn a year surplus to a £25bn a year deficit, the government needs to wake up fast to the rising level of concern in the business community about the state of the British economy.”

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Penalty for causing death by dangerous driving to be increased

The Government have committed to raising the maximum sentence for death by dangerous driving from 14 years to life. This follows a campaign spearheaded in Parliament by former Lib Dem MP Greg Mulholland, who introduced a Ten Minute Rule Bill with cross party support last year calling on the government to make these changes.

Commenting, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs spokesperson Ed Davey MP said:
"Liberal Democrats welcome the government's commitment to raising the maximum sentence for those who cause death by dangerous driving, and for careless drivers who kill while under the influence of drink or drugs.

"The devastation caused to the loved ones of those killed through criminal driving is heartbreaking. This move will ensure justice for the families of victims and serve as a clear warning that dangerous driving will be tackled with the full force of the law."

Saturday, October 14, 2017

"Every time Trump opens his mouth, the world becomes a less safe place."

Responding to news that President Trump is expected to withdraw backing from the nuclear accord with Iran in a speech later today, newly appointed Liberal Democrat Defence spokesperson Menzies Campbell, Lord Campbell of Pittenweem said: 

"This is yet another example of Trump's boneheaded belligerence. 

"Not content with senseless responses to every provocation of Kim Jong Un, he is determinedly undermining a treaty which has proved to be an important influence on nuclear non-proliferation. 

"Every time Trump opens his mouth, the world becomes a less safe place."

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Dr Fox's one-man make-work scheme

Commenting on news that International Trade Secretary Liam Fox's new Board of Trade has only one member, Liam Fox, Liberal Democrat Brexit Spokesperson Tom Brake said: 

"Talk about a job creation scheme.

"The Secretary of State, no doubt embarrassed by his lack of a real role in Government beyond accumulating millions of air miles, has had to invent a grandiose title for himself.  It will convince nobody.

"The signing of the first trade deals are years away, whereas the damage to our existing largest trade deal, with the EU, is happening now."

Conservatives trashing Lib Dem legacy on apprenticeships

Commenting on official apprenticeship levy figures that show a 61% fall in starts, Leader of the Liberal Democrats and former Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills,  Vince Cable said:

“As Secretary of State I presided over a huge increase in the quantity and quality of apprenticeships. It was a system that gave millions a chance to develop new skills and find work. The Conservatives are trashing that legacy.

“It is damning that this government are giving new apprentices such a poor deal. Hundreds of thousands of people will lose out from the opportunity to enter high skilled work.

“We should be working towards a system that helps all people, no matter their background, get an opportunity to get ahead in life. These figures expose a major setback towards that goal.”

Vince announces reshuffle

Vince Cable has appointed his first team of principal spokespersons since becoming leader this summer.

The team includes notable strength in depth on the economy, foreign affairs and local government at a time when the impact of Brexit, social inequality and lack of investment is fostering tensions in these areas. 

Cable said:

“I am fortunate to lead such a great, gender-balanced team, which is comprised of the most talented and promising politicians in the House of Commons and battle-hardened, experienced campaigners.

“The team has a wealth of senior ministerial experience. It also includes the former council leaders of Newcastle and Liverpool, signalling my intention to restore and build on our local government base.”

Former leader Tim Farron will take up a new position focused on regenerating the north of England. This is a sign of the Lib Dems’ commitment to building a more balanced national economy and making sure the government delivers on the Northern Powerhouse. Farron will also lead on rural affairs.

Another former leader, Menzies Campbell, has been appointed principal defence spokesman. The broader foreign affairs team includes deputy leader Jo Swinson, international affairs spokesperson Shas Sheehan and armed forces spokesperson Jamie Stone.

Cable will represent the party on economic and business issues in the Commons, reflecting his expertise and experience in predicting the causes of the financial crisis and his five years as Secretary of State for Business, Innovation & Skills.

The party’s economic credibility is further strengthened by the appointments of Susan Kramer, Chris Fox and Lorely Burt to treasury, business, and small business briefs in the House of Lords. All have economic or business backgrounds and political experience in these portfolios.

Christine Humphreys holds the Wales portfolio. The complete list is here.

Full to bursting prisons have become academies of crime

Responding to comments by the president of the Prison Governors Association that prisons in England and Wales are "full to bursting" and the number of inmates should be reduced, Jonathan Marks QC, Liberal Democrat Justice Spokesperson, said:
“The Government must listen when people on the front-line speak up. Prison numbers are sky high and it is this overcrowding that has led to the violence and complete lack of control and discipline in our prisons.

"It is time that Theresa May and her Cabinet stopped pandering to the right-wing press and started doing what works to turn prisons into places of rehabilitation.

"Today’s Chief Inspector’s report shows once again that our prisons are in deep crisis.  Unless the Government get a handle on this, our prisons will simply continue as academies of crime, cutting prisoners off from society for a while, then letting them out to re-offend, with new criminal contacts and new criminal skills.

"We must turn our prisons into places for reform and rehabilitation, education and training and tackling prisoners' issues.  If we don't we will just increase the misery crime inflicts on victims, offenders and all their families and communities.”

Frank Little, Liberal Democrat candidate for Neath in the 2017 general election, added:
The rise in the prison population has led to suspension of the programme of closing old unsatisfactory prisons. It could also lead to "category creep" in the super-prison to be built in the Swansea Bay area, so that what is planned as a Category C gaol would be pressed to take overspill of career and violent criminals from England.

Government's Internet Denial Of Safety

Responding to the proposals set out in the Government’s Internet Safety Strategy, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson Ed Davey commented:

"The substance in this Green Paper falls far short of its ambitious title.

"We must make the internet a much safer place – particularly for young people.

"But that means the hard graft of better digital education, faster reporting of problems and stronger partnerships with industry.

"Regrettably this Government is still in the blame game, scapegoating and castigating internet firms, and failing to see the huge economic benefits of investing in better digital education.

"Hopefully this Green Paper will be the last of the weak policy reheats and signal the start of real hard work on this issue."

Trump should be under no impression that UK endorses his views

Commenting on the postponing of a Trump state visit, Jo Swinson, Liberal Democrat Foreign Affairs Spokesperson, said:

“It is entirely right that when Donald Trump visits he will not be given red carpet treatment.

“Trump should be under no impression that the United Kingdom endorses his abhorrent views.

“If Trump makes a normal visit in the future, Theresa May must stand up for our fundamental values and use it to pile pressure on Trump to move away from his destructive positions on climate change, civil rights and foreign affairs.”

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Farm profits may halve after Brexit - Farron

Farm profits could fall by as much as half after Brexit, new research suggests.

The report, by the Agriculture & Horticulture Development Board (AHDB), says the "worst-case scenario" would cut average farm profits from £38,000 a year to just £15,000.

Former Liberal Democrat Leader Tim Farron commented:

"This shows what a disastrous situation ‘no deal’ would be for farmers and the future of our rural communities.

"The Government’s inability to make progress on negotiations is leaving farmers in the lurch and creating huge uncertainty.

"Farmers are unable to plan for the future and make informed business decisions because they do not know if tariffs will be imposed, what the cost and availability of workers will be and what level of support will be available.

"Farmers need a commitment from the Government that the billions of pounds currently received by British farmers from the EU will still be available post-Brexit.

"This should involve farmers being rewarded for providing public goods, rather than on the size of their farm, so the money is distributed more fairly."

Just 1% of 2.5 billion disposable coffee cups recycled

The Liberal Democrats have urged the government to introduce a charge on disposable coffee cups, after it emerged that just 1% of disposable cups used each year in the UK are recycled.

The Environmental Audit Committee yesterday heard that 2.5 billion disposable cups are thrown away annually in the UK, equivalent to almost 7 million cups a day, of which only 1% are recycled.

The number is expected to rise to about 3 billion by 2025.

Liberal Democrat Environment Spokesperson Kate Parminter commented:

“It is a scandal that only 1% of disposable coffee cups in the UK are recycled.

"Most people buy their morning coffee and throw away the cup without even thinking about it.

“The government must urgently introduce a coffee cup charge to encourage the use of reusable cups.

“As we saw with the plastic bag charge, a small change can have a huge impact in protecting our environment.”

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Boris Johnson must intervene to free British-Iranian woman from jail

The Liberal Democrats have called on Boris Johnson to intervene in the case of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British-Iranian woman who faces an additional 16 years in prison in Iran.

The charity worker was arrested at Tehran Airport in April 2016 while visiting family in Iran with her daughter, and was sentenced to 5 years in prison for allegedly plotting to topple the government in Tehran. She is reportedly now facing new charges that carry a sentence of an additional 16 years of imprisonment.

Liberal Democrat Deputy Leader and Shadow Foreign Secretary Jo Swinson commented:

“Liberal Democrats condemn in the strongest terms what is only the latest abuse of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe by the Iranian authorities.

“The Foreign Secretary must condemn these latest charges and increase pressure on the Iranian authorities to release Nazanin immediately.

“It is deeply disturbing that major trade deals are continuing despite the abuse of British citizens in Iran.

"The UK government must not allow economics to stifle their ability to speak out against the farcical unfairness of the Iranian judicial system.”

Lib Dems call for benefits freeze to be scrapped immediately

The Liberal Democrats have called for the benefits freeze to be scrapped, in a debate in Parliament today on Universal Credit.

It comes as a report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation found almost half a million more people would be forced into poverty in the UK in 2020 if the government maintains its freeze on benefits.

Stephen Lloyd MP, Liberal Democrat Work and Pensions Spokesman, commented:

"Balancing the books on the backs of the poorest in this way is unacceptable.

“Not only are those on benefits seeing their incomes eaten away by rising inflation, but many families are suffering as the flawed Universal Credit roll-out leaves them out of pocket for weeks on end.

"Rent arrears and indebtedness are soaring wherever Universal Credit is introduced. That is why even John Major and dozens of backbench Conservatives have called for a pause and review of the system.

“Unless this Government decides to change course and listen to those on the sharp end of their policies, millions of people - including young children - will see their life prospects permanently damaged.

"With Labour silent on this issue, only the Liberal Democrats are committed to ending the freeze on working-age benefits and ensuring that incomes keep up with the soaring cost of living.”

Give us openness on foreign aid as 30% "disappears"

Liberal Democrats have called for the government to give greater transparency and accountability for foreign aid after Priti Patel launched her Supplier Review. International Development spokesperson Shas Sheehan says that 30% of development aid “disappears in a black hole” while another huge tranche of public spending is not sufficiently scrutinised.

Shas Sheehan said:

“Liberal Democrats always welcome moves towards openness, transparency and accountability concerning public money.

“However, there are two glaring omissions from today’s supplier review announcement by Priti Patel.

“No mention is made of the 30% of development aid spent by other government departments. Most of this money seemingly disappears into a black hole, with nowhere near the level of scrutiny required by DFID.

“Secondly, £6bn of taxpayers’ money will be disbursed by the DFID’s economic investment body, CDC, by 2020, and yet this organisation is not subject to the same level of scrutiny of other DFID partners.

“Priti Patel must administer the same level of scrutiny on all departments and institutions which are spending UK aid.”

Carmichael wins emergency debate on government abuse of power

Liberal Democrat Alistair Carmichael has won an emergency debate in the House of Commons later today over whether the government is abusing parliamentary process.

This follows opposition day motions on public sector pay and tuition fees, where both motions passed without division and were then ignored by the government.

Alistair Carmichael said:

“It was known that in the event of a division, the DUP would vote against the government and the government would lose. Ministers took the view that these votes could be ignored - as they have subsequently done.

“The Leader of the House did not deny that this would become the tactic of the government when I challenged her.

“It has long been the practice of governments to respect the views of the House expressed in this way, and to right wrongs, such as over the Gurkha residency question in 2009.

“To ignore votes in the House is an abuse of process and is to relegate this parliament to a talking shop rather than as the place in our nation’s life where decisions of note are made.”

Monday, October 09, 2017

May should sack Boris now

The Liberal Democrats have said that now Theresa May has raised the possibility of ousting Boris Johnson as Foreign Secretary, his position is untenable.

Brexit spokesperson Tom Brake MP said:

"He must go. The Prime Minister has talked about moving him, but that raises the question of what department would be lumbered with him.

“When Theresa May made Boris head of the diplomatic service she certainly disproved the unkind suggestion that she lacks a sense of humour.

“There are so many areas where there would be a certain justice in leaving him to solve the mess he has created.

“Northern Ireland to solve the border problem he said wouldn’t be an issue? But that wouldn’t be fair on the people of Northern Ireland.

“If he were made Secretary of State for Health he might find the £350m a week extra he promised for the NHS. But Boris is the last thing patients need. The only solution is to release the Lion of Uxbridge back into the wild of the Tory backbenches."

Saturday, October 07, 2017

Cuts cast doubt on future role of Royal Navy

Commenting on reports that the MoD are considering cost-cutting plans to the Royal Navy which could see HMS Albion and Bulwark taken out of service, Paddy Ashdown, former Lib Dem Leader and Royal Marine, said:

"This is not yet a decision but it soon could be, if the government is allowed to get away with cuts which would betray the best traditions of our past and damage our ability to defend ourselves in the future. 

"It is time for those who value Britain's contribution, both nationally and internationally, to the preservation of peace to make sure this disastrous decision is never allowed to be taken." 

Trump bumps May in China

Commenting on reports that Theresa May has postponed a planned visit to China because Beijing has chosen to prioritise a visit by Donald Trump, Lib Dem Leader Vince Cable said:
“This postponement shows Britain is well down the list of Chinese priorities. All those promised free trade deals that we were told would be easy seem to be gradually disappearing.”

European Medicines Agency uncertainty bad for patients and UK staff

Responding to the news that the European Medicines Agency  has issued a tender for temporary workers to deal with loss of staff as they prepare to leave London after Brexit, Lib Dem Brexit spokesman Tom Brake said: 

"It is clear that uncertainty over where the European Medicines Agency will be based in the future, as well as being damaging for UK science which will lose hundreds of highly qualified medical professionals to Amsterdam or another European capital, is hurting the Agency.

"They are having to work much harder to hold on to staff here as the agency prepares to leave the UK. This is bad for patients and the roll out of new innovative drugs. The damage caused to the EMA is another reason to allow the British people a vote on the terms of the deal, offering an exit from Brexit if that is what the people decide."

Thursday, October 05, 2017

Fracking: England and Wales should follow Scotland

Responding to the news that the Scottish government has banned fracking after a public consultation, Lib Dem Energy and Climate Change spokesperson Lynne Featherstone said: 

"This is a welcome move from the Scottish government. Fracking is economically questionable, deeply unpopular in local communities up and down the country, not to mention a disaster for our environment. 

"Yet again, Theresa May is finding herself on the wrong side of the argument. Fracking is simply a fig leaf for her government's failures on decarbonising heating.

"May should follow the Scottish government's lead and bring a ban on fracking below the border into effect immediately." 

Boris Johnson is crass and insensitive

Responding to comments made by Boris Johnson at an event at the Tory conference, in which he said that a Libyan city could be the new Dubai once they "clear the dead bodies away", Lib Dem deputy leader and foreign affairs spokesperson Jo Swinson said:

"Diplomacy is a basic requirement for the role of Foreign Secretary.

"This latest unbelievably crass and insensitive comment about an issue of such importance is further proof Boris is not up to the job.

"May needs to get her house in order and sack him."

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Race audit - Cable challenges May

Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable has challenged Theresa May to act on the findings of a race audit that she commissioned. The audit shows that ethnic minorities are twice as likely to be unemployed as white people.

Vince Cable said:
"This audit shows that prejudice and bias based on the colour of someone’s skin continues to blight people’s life chances, and this is utterly unacceptable in 21st century Britain. It is not right that our BAME [black and minority ethnic] friends and neighbours are far less likely to have a job or own their home - it is an unfairness that should have ended long ago.

"This audit lays out the challenges we face as a society which cross party lines. They will only be overcome if we all work together. Theresa May’s decision to shine a light on this issue means she can't now shy away from tackling the causes of this inequality – cuts to public services and a shrinking state. Tackling inequality will need the devotion of all her ministers.

"Where ministers act, they will in turn have our support. Where they hesitate, we will push, cajole and confront them until they do the right thing."

Construction down – builders blame “Brexit blight”: Cable responds

The construction industry is contracting for the first time in 13 months with builders blaming “Brexit blight”.

Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable said:

“A year ago ministers promised to get Britain building again, but their plan now has hit severe subsidence.

“These figures are much worse than economists predicted and builders report that confidence is fragile.

“If construction firms build less this will more than outweigh any superficial boost to the construction industry from the government’s latest help to buy announcement.  The lack of commercial building underlines the dip in business confidence.

“Brexiteers suggest that Brexit fears are not acting as a break on the economy. But builders now downing tools would respectfully seem to disagree."

Government guilty on loosening Saudi arms controls

Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable has called on the government to re-introduce tough restrictions on arms sales to Saudi Arabia that he imposed as Business Secretary in the coalition government. An Oxfam campaign against arm sales to Saudi Arabia has just won the support of a group of prominent individuals including Ian McEwan, Bill Nighy and Coldplay. This follows reports that Britain has sold nearly £4bn worth of arms to Saudi Arabia since it began its bombing campaign in Yemen.

Vince Cable said:

“I fully support this initiative by Oxfam. There can be no justification for the continued selling of arms to Saudi Arabia.

“The issue first arose in the closing days of the coalition, and I made any further arms sales to Saudi Arabia contingent on the most stringent conditions. These conditions are no longer being met. I call for a complete cessation of arms sales given the situation in Yemen.

“The UN has just appointed independent investigators to look into human rights abuses there. Outside powers should be doing all they can to reduce the death toll, not increase it.”

Monday, October 02, 2017

Gauke burying his head in sand on Universal Credit rollout

The Liberal Democrats have accused David Gauke of burying his head in the sand as he announced the roll-out of Universal Credit will go ahead despite concerns over delayed payments.

It comes as the latest figures from the Department for Work and Pensions showed that almost a quarter of new claimants to Universal Credit did not receive their full payment on time.

Stephen Lloyd MP, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Work and Pensions, commented:

“Ministers continue to bury their heads in the sand over the shocking impact the rollout of Universal Credit is having on thousands of people's lives

“For David Gauke to ignore even his own MPs shows just how out of touch with the needs of ordinary people this government is.

“The whole point of the piloted implementation was to learn lessons and make the necessary changes, but ministers are determined to press ahead despite the consequences.

“This is despite clear evidence from numerous respected organisations of the destitution families are experiencing because of Universal Credit, including statistics from the Department for Work and Pensions itself.

"It’s almost as if the government wishes to drive these numbers up even further - which is just madness.

“I urge the DWP, even at this late stage, to change tack and pause the national rollout immediately."

PM has gone from lame-duck to sitting-duck

The Liberal Democrats have said that Theresa May's refusal to deny that Boris Johnson is un-sackable - in contrast to previous interviews - shows that she has "gone from being a lame-duck prime minister to a sitting-duck prime minister".

Liberal Democrat Brexit spokesperson Tom Brake MP said:

"If Theresa May is now too weak to slap down the ever more erratic Boris Johnson, it shows she has gone from being a lame-duck prime minister to a sitting-duck prime minister.

"Make no mistake: Boris Johnson is now driving the car. For the British people trapped in the back, this is a terrifying prospect. He might find it fun hurtling toward the cliff shouting 'cripes!', but this threatens to crash the UK economy and blunt the life chances of future generations.

"The Conservatives have shown they cannot drive the Brexit process. The British people must be given control of the steering wheel, with a vote on the final deal."

Johnson should call in Spanish ambassador - Cable

Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable has said that Boris Johnson should call in the Spanish ambassador and tell him that the police response to the Catalan independence referendum is unacceptable. Reports suggest 337 people have been injured by the police.
Vince Cable said:
"Police in a democracy should never drag people violently out of polling stations, whatever the arguments for or against holding a referendum. The police response looks to have been brutal and completely disproportionate.
"The Foreign Secretary should break off from conspiring against the prime minister and call in the Spanish ambassador to tell him that this is completely unacceptable."

Monarch: govt must tax US giants to compensate passengers - Cable

Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable has said that the government should consider taxing big American on-line travel agencies such as Trip Adviser and to pay compensation to holidaymakers left out of pocket by collapsing travel companies. His intervention comes as 100,000 British passengers have been left devastated by the collapse of Monarch, with some potentially being charged to be brought home.

Vince Cable said:

“It is scandalous that many British holiday makers will miss out on compensation. It is also unclear whether the government will seek to charge people who are brought home if they have booked through big American companies such as Trip Adviser and who are not regulated and do not pay tax.

"It is completely wrong that they are allowed to sell holidays without ATOL protection and they should be made to pay tax to pick up some of the bill for those British travellers now left stranded. If they are making profits in the UK these companies should be regulated and taxed in the UK. The 100,000 British travellers left stranded by the collapse of Monarch will be looking at the government to take action.”

Cable: Hammond speech shows he's a master of irony

Responding to Philip Hammond's conference speech today, Liberal Democrat Leader Vince Cable said:

“Philip Hammond has proved himself a master of irony in accusing Labour of putting the economy at risk for an ‘ideological experiment.’

"The Tories’ ideologically-driven hard Brexit will do serious damage to people’s living standards and deprive our crucial public services of the funding they need.

“Likewise, how can Hammond praise Margaret Thatcher’s legacy when his party is committed to quitting perhaps her greatest achievement – the European Single Market?

“Far from being fundamentally strong as Hammond claims, wages are failing to keep up with inflation, growth is anaemic, and business investment has stalled since the referendum.

“In the past, the Chancellor has shown he is one of the few sensible voices around the cabinet table. But unless the Conservatives change course, their reputation for economic competence risks being destroyed for a generation.”

Sunday, October 01, 2017

Students won't be fooled as May shakes magic money tree

Reports that the Conservatives are to find the money to make a fresh offer to students has been dismissed by the Liberal Democrats.
Liberal Democrat Education spokesperson Layla Moran said:
“This cynical attempt to shake the magic money tree will not fool young people who know it was the Conservatives who axed maintenance grants and presided over rising interest rates for students.
“The Conservatives have consistently worked against the young. This U-turn just shows they fear there being a change of government, not that they have had a change of heart.
"Liberal Democrats have been pushing for greater help for students but the Conservatives have shown no interest in lifting a finger until they belatedly realised that they have virtually no support among young people, and have suddenly panicked."