Author Archives: Julian Huppert MP

Julian Huppert writes … The first Girl Summit

girlsummitlogoToday London hosts the first Girl Summit. Liberal Democrats in Government across every department have made the issue of gender inequality a priority. We understand that none of us can move forward if half of us are held back and this means tackling inequality and violence against women and girls wherever we find it.

Female genital mutilation (FGM) and child, early and forced marriage are two of the oldest and most extreme ways girls are stunted and harmed for life and we have made a commitment to work with Governments across the world, NGOs, faith leaders and communities to end these abhorrent practices.

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Julian Huppert MP writes.. A step towards humanist weddings

Humanist Wedding Ceremony - 16One of the Liberal Democrats greatest achievements in Government has been the successful passage of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act. On Saturday 29 March 2014 the first same-sex marriages took place, a date I am certain will go down in history.

Most of the positive speeches given during the debates in Westminster concentrated not around gay or straight but on the belief that everyone has a fundamental right to love who they want and demonstrate that love together in a manner of their choosing.

And yet still in …

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Julian Huppert MP writes: We need effective action on knife crime

Florence With Knife 1There is a problem with knife crime. Too many of our fellow citizens suffer from knife attacks, and even more live in fear of being attacked with a knife. Even though fewer people are carrying knives, too many still are.

The Tory response to this, backed by Labour, has been to rush into legislation forcing judges to impose a mandatory jail sentence for anyone who is found in possession of a knife twice.

To deal effectively with the problem we should try to understand why people are carrying them.

Most of …

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Julian Huppert MP writes…We need a new law to criminalise “revenge porn”

Houses of Parliament, LondonWe already have loads of laws on the statute book, and many of us resist calls repeatedly for more and more of them.

However, sometimes you do come across something that clearly should not be allowed, that causes significant harm to others, and yet is legal. Revenge porn is one of those.

This is the growing practice of vengeful ex’s sharing intimate images or videos of their previous partners with the clear aims of hurting, shaming and humiliating. What may have been a fun photo when times are good, …

photo by: Francisco Diez
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Julian Huppert MP writes…Let’s bring the “polluter pays” principle to government decision making

imageAll too often Government departments get decisions wrong. Most notorious are the Home Office and the Department of Work and Pensions. Many people will be well aware of the anguish faced by those awaiting Employment and Support Allowance appeals, and the same is true for those waiting to see if they can stay in the country, or bring in a spouse.

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Julian Huppert writes: Improving the private rented sector

Terraced housingThere are 9 million people in the private rented sector in the UK. Many of them get a rough deal from landlords who push the rules, and letting agents out to exploit them.

Letting agencies have been allowed to charge exorbitant fees to do the simplest, cheapest administrative tasks – sending an email, posting a letter or changing a name on the tenancy. According to Shelter, 1 in 7 people who use letting agents spend £500 on fees, that’s on top of rent and deposits!

Last Wednesday, I presented a Bill to …

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Julian Huppert MP writes…Nick Clegg has put Liberal Democrats far ahead of other parties on security and privacy

This morning was a good day for Liberal Democrats. I and many others went to RUSI, the Royal United Services Institute to hear Nick Clegg, Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of our party, deliver a speech on security and privacy in the internet age.

He sent out a clear and strong message: the legal framework for the UK’s intelligence agencies and intelligence oversight structure is in desperate need of an overhaul, and this must start with an independent review, which he has commissioned.

His wider ambitions are set out in a piece for the Guardian today. The Tories are blocking changes …

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Julian Huppert MP writes: Lib Dem immigration policy paper is strong, balanced and compassionate

Public concern about immigration has been fuelled by the rise of UKIP, and further driven by the Tories desperately trying to show how tough they can be on foreigners, and Labour keen not to be left out of the ‘sounding tough’ rhetoric. I am always disappointed that just about the only thing Labour has apologised for is letting too many people into the country in their 13 years.

We must stand firm against the anti-foreigner tide, and the Immigration Policy Paper, which you can read here, does exactly that. Andrew Stunell has led the working group impressively to produce a …

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Julian Huppert writes… Thoughts on a memorial service

On saturday, I attended the memorial service for a life-long Liberal, George Watson. It included a reading from John Stuart Mill ‘On Liberty’.

George stood for Parliament in 1959 in Cheltenham, unsuccessfully, and then became a Fellow at St John’s College Cambridge, where he became a noted scholar in literature, literary criticism and liberal political thought.

I got hold of his campaign literature from 1959, and while the layout and style is different – no bar charts – the central messages are unchanged.

To quote from his section ‘Put Freedom First’:

Liberals made them get rid of identity-cards – but the State Still has

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Julian Huppert MP: Another promise kept – Nick Clegg announces more than doubling of young offenders’ education time

If people are to be in jail, one of our priorities is to make sure that when they leave prison, they won’t come back. We realise that the best way to do this isn’t about draconian sentencing; it’s about providing people with skills. That’s why in our 2010 manifesto we said that we’d increase the number of hours prisoners spend in education and training.

Today, we’ve achieved another goal – Nick Clegg has announced that through a new system of Secure Colleges, young offenders will see the time they spend in education more than doubled.

This really matters. At any one time …

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Julian Huppert writes… an end to the chilling effects of libel action on free speech

libel-reform-campaign-logoAs we start a New Year, we always tend to look back on the past, as well as think to the future – and we do have a bad tendency to focus on the problems, not the successes.

But for a change, let’s celebrate another achievement – another manifesto commitment delivered, as the Defamation Act 2013 came into effect on New Year’s Day. This will hopefully mark an end to libel tourism, an end to the abuse of libel law by companies, and an end to the chilling effect threats of libel …

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Julian Huppert MP writes…Tackling child abuse online: Doing what works

Thanks to a number of national police forces, led by the Canadians, working together 341 child abusers have been arrested and almost 400 children being held as sex slaves have been freed in recent months. That is fantastic news.

However, not one of those was in Britain.

2,345 British suspects had been identified by the authorities in Toronto, some of whom are feared to have regular contact with children, and these were passed to CEOP, the specialist police centre, but astonishingly, no action was taken on our side for 18 months.

It appears that whilst the Prime Minister has a number of great …

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Julian Huppert MP writes… EU budget boost secures UK’s position as world leader in science

Europe Day - European Union - Some rights reserved by Niccolò CarantiI heard some good news this week. It may not have grabbed the headlines, but the UK economy was given a colossal shot in the arm thanks to the European Union.

Lib Dem MEPs on Tuesday voted for an EU budget, which was overall lower – a 6.5 per cent cut – but crucially included a 30 per cent increase in funding for research and innovation. This is important funding, and a clear sign of what can be achieved to help …

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Julian Huppert writes … Immigration Bill: Update

I thought it might be useful to let you all know where we’ve reached with the Immigration Bill. Today, we start to discuss each clause in detail in the Bill Committee, which I’m serving on.

I’ve tabled a whole series of amendments, to try to move the Bill back towards the sort of thing that we would like to see.

I’ll be suggesting that students shouldn’t pay the NHS levy – they already contribute to our economy by coming here to study, and we don’t want to drive them away to countries we compete with. I’ll also argue that people who’ve been …

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Julian Huppert writes… Fixing the women’s prison estate

After only  a couple of weeks with women offenders under his remit, Liberal Democrat Lord and Minister in the Ministry of Justice, Tom McNally has this morning announced what may be a step-change in the way Britain handles the women’s estate.

Six years after the Corston review, which bemoaned the lack of a tailored and differentiated approach to dealing with female offenders, we are finally seeing her recommendations being implemented. Corston called for an approach that recognised and reacted to the needs of women in the prison estate. Following on from this our Conference called for a radical change in the way women were handled throughout the criminal justice system and in Government we have delivered on your demands.

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Julian Huppert writes: Working towards a competent immigration system

immigrationAs a liberal, I believe that we benefit from immigration. Overall, this country is a richer place, economically and culturally, because we have people from around the world coming here to work, study and play. I want to see an immigration system that works, is fair and allows us to benefit from the best and brightest as well as offering sanctuary and asylum for those fleeing the most desperate situations imaginable abroad.

However, that case is not made often enough. We hear constant rhetoric from the Tories and the right wing press about how we must clamp down on foreigners, and Labour …

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Julian Huppert writes: Decarbonising Britain – making the sums add up

sustainable energyThere’s an excellent book by Prof David MacKay called ‘Sustainable Energy without the Hot Air’. This is a must read for anyone interested in energy policy.   To help with that, it’s available entirely for free, at http://www.withouthotair.com – although you can buy a copy if, like me, you think you’ll want to keep it to hand.

Essentially, David MacKay highlights that whatever we do, we have to ensure that the amount of energy used does not exceed the amount of energy available.

How do we strike this balance? The first thing we can do is reduce our energy usage – that’s why I and so many others care about energy efficiency. Not using a kWh of energy is far more environmentally friendly than generating by any means!

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Julian Huppert writes: Preventing and tackling sexual violence

Eliminating violence against women - Some rights reserved by European ParliamentNearly one third of women and nearly one fifth of men say they have experienced domestic abuse since the age of 16. Yet it remains an under-reported, misunderstood and incredibly damaging crime.

Last year alone in the UK around 1.2 million women and 800,000 men suffered domestic abuse and over 400,000 women were sexually assaulted.

But, the sad fact is this number is probably wrong, the true figure is thought to be far worse. Victims still fear coming forward while there is also a significant lack of understanding over what counts as domestic violence, especially amongst young people. It is frankly terrifying that some young men and women still believe violence in a relationship is normal. This must change.

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Julian Huppert writes… Ending food-crop-based first-generation biofuels

The issue of food being used for fuel has become increasingly contentious. And decisions are fast approaching – in the European Parliament Liberal Democrat MEP colleagues are currently negotiating capping the use of damaging biofuels. Norman Baker, Liberal Democrat Transport Minister will also be taking up the issue in the Council of Ministers.

While first generation biofuels were lauded as the future it is now clear they cause more problems than they solve. The UK’s Gallagher Review in 2010 in fact concluded that in some cases biofuels can generate a higher carbon footprint than fossil fuels and contribute to deforestation. Subsidies …

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Julian Huppert: Trident – getting off the nuclear ladder

TridentI firmly believe that we do not want Trident. We simply don’t need the ability to blow up large parts of the globe. Frankly, the idea that we have spent decades with nuclear armed missiles cruising the oceans ready to fire on a moment’s notice seems absurd to me. I look forward to a world where we do not have such weapons, and where no one else does either.

Even those who believe that the MAD theory worked during the Cold War surely must accept that  the world has changed – I am always amazed by those who still live in the 60s.

The Tories are still wedded to that position – they seem to display some bizarrely Freudian attachment to having missiles which can explode violently.

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Julian Huppert writes: A local approach to sustainable transport

This is the first of three extracts from the forthcoming collection of essays Green liberalism: a local approach to the low carbon economy. Similar collections will be published under Green Alliance’s ‘Green social democracy’ and ‘Green conservatism’ projects as part of the Green Roots programme, which aims to stimulate green thinking within the three dominant political traditions in the UK. 

A sustainable and low carbon transport system is something which UK governments have historically struggled to achieve, thanks to years of poor forward planning and systems which revolve heavily around cars, a highly inefficient mode of transport. But mobility patterns are …

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Julian Huppert says, “Get Britain Cycling”!

On Wednesday, after a four month inquiry, the All-Party Parliamentary Cycling Group – of which I’m co-chair – published our plan to “Get Britain Cycling”.

Cycling is fast, safe, healthy, cheap, environmentally sound, and fun. Yet in 2011 less than 2% of journeys made in the UK were by bike.

For a nation in which 30% of our children are overweight or obese, and our roads are increasingly congested, this is a serious problem.

Our report sets out how, with strong leadership from the top, we can increase the proportion of journeys made by bike to 10% by 2025, and …

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Julian Huppert MP writes…I agree with Nick. He’s right to kill the Snoopers’ Charter

On 18th March 2010 Nick Clegg gave a speech to Privacy International about Lib Dem plans to roll back the surveillance state.  He said:

 The Conservatives talk a good game on privacy but scratch beneath the surface and it is clear they cannot be trusted to roll back Labour’s surveillance state… Only the Liberal Democrats will bring an end to the endless snooping on innocent people.

We committed ourselves at the last election to ending ID cards, curbing CCTV and stopping the Home Office encroachment into our lives. Enough of citizens as suspects. Enough of “endless snooping” by the Government.

One of our …

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Julian Huppert MP writes… Did it. As promised.

Libel Reform campaign logoI’ve been working on the Defamation Bill for years and now we are near the end phase.

Last week, I wrote here that we’d managed to secure a concession from the Government on something we’d argued for for a while – requiring companies to prove serious financial harm to take any libel action.

There were skeptics – lots of people saying they’d believe it when they saw it.

Well, today the Lords discussed the Government amendment we won, and supported it. The Bill can now proceed to Royal Assent.

We can …

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Julian Huppert writes…Update on the Defamation Bill

libel-reform-campaign-logoThe Defamation Bill has had a troubled passage through Parliament. Hijacked by Labour over Leveson, attacked by Tory backbenchers concerned about companies and undermined by vested interests, I was glad to see it finally reach one of its last Parliamentary stages in the Commons today.

I was on the Joint Committee that considered this bill when it was a draft – those discussions are already beginning to feel like a distant memory! But we will deliver a huge reform of the UK libel laws.

All the while, Lib Dems have been vociferous in …

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Julian Huppert writes … We all need to do our bit to Back Britain’s Charities

back_britains_charities_v5

Since becoming an MP three years ago I’ve developed a greater understanding of the work that charities do, and a true recognition of the important role they play in creating and strengthening communities. In Cambridge, for example, charities such as the Citizens Advice Bureau and the Samaritans are there to offer support when people have nowhere else to turn, and many provide niche services to people who would otherwise slip through the net.

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Julian Huppert MP writes… Improving on the UK Border Agency

On Monday the Home Affairs Select Committee published yet another damning report of the UK Border Agency. We found that, in addition to the half million undetermined immigration and asylum cases, UKBA were failing to deal with new immigration cases.

It is no wonder that immigration is consistently identified as one of the biggest issues facing the UK if the Agency established by Labour cannot tell us who is in the country, who should be here and who should not.

The backlog started in the 90s, but in response Labour put the whole border control operation at arm’s length. …

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Julian Huppert MP writes…A credible alternative to prison has always been a Liberal Democrat priority

For decades British Governments have been locking up criminals for 12 months or less, to watch them reoffend straight after they leave prison. Worse than that, the policy is costly, and holds little public confidence.

But when you look at how we treat women offenders, the situation is even worse.

Almost half of women serving 12 months or less will reoffend within the next year. And of all women in prison, 6 in 10 are there for six months or less; the vast majority of whom have committed non-violent offences. The last Government’s response was to increase the female prison …

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Julian Huppert MP writes…..The Preamble, 25 years on

25 years ago, our party agreed its new constitution – and the preamble to that constitution, setting out our core values and vision.

Many of us will know some of it – ‘The Liberal Democrats exist to build and safeguard a fair, free and open society, … in which no one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance, or conformity’.

This extract – the bit that appears on membership cards – is in my view truly poetic, and captures brilliantly what we are trying to do. We are concerned about people, and empowering them to do what they can and want to do. …

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Julian Huppert MP writes…An update on the Justice and Security Bill

The Government has today published their amendments to the Justice and Security Bill for Report Stage, following the strenuous efforts Mike Crockart and I put in during the Committee. And they have clearly made significant concessions to us as a result of the things we demanded.

First, there is a provision to make sure that Public Interest Immunity is looked at before a judge is allowed to consider a Closed Material Procedure. This was taken out by the Government during Bill Committee. Mike and I tried to put it back in, and it looks like the Government has accepted our …

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