Tag Archives: featured

Steve Webb MP writes…Tackling rip-offs, standing up for savers

SavingsEarlier today, I had the pleasure of announcing in the House of Commons a raft of new measures designed to make sure that when people save for a pension they get value for money.

One of the Coalition’s most successful policies, for which I have had lead responsibility, is the introduction of ‘automatic enrolment’ into workplace pensions.   Starting with the biggest firms in October 2012, and reaching the smallest ones by 2017, employers now have a legal duty to put their workers in a pension scheme and to make an employer …

photo by: Tax Credits
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Norman Lamb MP writes… Improving patient safety in the NHS

Nurse jokes with patientBack in 2012, an independent study of NHS case notes from hospitals concluded that in about 2.3% of hospital deaths there was strong evidence that death could have been prevented. In practice, this equates to around 6,300 preventable deaths in hospitals every year.

This is a shocking statistic. As Liberal Democrats, we should never fall into the trap of talking down the NHS – our health and care services do fantastic work day after day savings lives and providing excellent care.  But we must also be willing to confront …

photo by: NHSE
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YouGov’s Nick v Nigel poll: Clegg wins with Labour, Lib Dem voters; Farage with Tory, Ukip voters

Nick clegg york in europe Some rights reserved by Liberal DemocratsMy overall view of last night’s Nick v Nigel debate was that Mr Reasonable won it. But then I would think that, wouldn’t I? What did rest of the British public think?

Well, the vast, vast majority of rest of the British public would have had no view either way: they didn’t watch it. But polling firm YouGov did ask those who did watch it – though as Anthony Wells notes, “to get 1000 people for our poll of people …

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Nick v Nigel: My first thoughts

nickvnigelThis was Mr Angry v Mr Reasonable.

Nick Clegg started with one advantage – he’s a veteran of leaders’ debates – and one big disadvantage – his pro-Europeanism is unfashionable. Tonight, though, the Clegg of 2010 was back on show. He looked directly down the camera lens at the viewer, hand nonchalently in pocket, first-named the questioners.

It was (and yes, I would say this wouldn’t I but it doesn’t make it any less true) a class act from Nick. His crisp opening statement framed the key point we wanted to …

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Kate Parminter writes … Jumping in at the deep end: Lib Dem successes on the Water Bill

Water pumpToday marks the first day of Report Stage of the Water Bill in the House of Lords.  As the Party’s Co-Chair on Environmental, Food and Rural Affairs I have been leading for the Lib Dem Group on the Bill.  I wanted to share with you some of the work our team has been doing.

I should start by saying that there are a great many aspects of this Bill which are thoroughly Liberal Democrat.  The Bill’s main focus is on aiming to meet our increasing needs for water, against a backdrop of limited water resources.  The Bill also introduces a new system of flood reinsurance, or ‘Flood Re’, that will help people in high flood risk areas get affordable insurance.  It will also ensure that we are better able to encourage adaptations and preventative measures to try and limit the kind of horrendous floods so many people experienced over recent months.

While the Bill was in the Commons, our Minister, Dan Rogerson, strengthened even further a welcome new primary duty on Ofwat to ensure water resilience.  At a time when water resources are becoming more and more scarce this is a vital step towards the sustainable system Lib Dems want to see.

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Should prisoners have unlimited access to books?

Books to PrisonersThe bees are buzzing around my bonnet today. Earlier I had a bit of a go at Danny Alexander for falling in with the Better Together dourness in the Scottish Referendum campaign. Now, I have Chris Grayling in my sights. The Justice Secretary, under the guise of making the prisoners’ incentive scheme more “effective” has banned a number of things. The issue being given most prominence is that prisoners can no longer be sent books. The Howard League for Penal Reform’s Chief Executive Frances Crook condemned the

photo by: dreamsjung
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Opinion: The new tuition fees argument – having your cake and eating it

tuition fees voteOn Friday, the Guardian published an article pointing out that a lot more public money than expected will have to be contributed to tuition fees loans.

This has been greeted with a certain amount of glee by the usual suspects. On some level, I can understand the excitement, but nevertheless, it looks like a case of trying hard to have this particular cake and keep eating it.

People who used to shout about fees are now upset that after all, the state is putting more money into the system than …

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LDVideo: Vince responds to the budget (and takes on Labour “hubris” in the process)

Business secretary Vince Cable was on his feet in the Commons on Thursday, providing his response to budget. His speech has already proved something of a hit, not least for his deft responses to point-scoring interventions by Labour MPs, including with the Voice’s Stephen Tall.

You can watch (and read) Vince in action below.

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The price of trusting people with their own money

pensionsThe world of the private “Defined Contribution” pension is one that sees so many hidden fees it has been described as generating a greater return for the financial services industry than it does the saver. A large bite of this comes with the annuity purchase, where the pension pot, built up over the years, is spent on an annuity, converting a cash sum into a fixed (or index-linked) income for life.

Annuity purchase represents a kind of insurance against getting too old and running out of money.

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Some first thoughts on the Budget

George Osborne with Red Box, Budget 2012So the Chancellor has just sat down. Here are my first thoughts on the Budget.

Nick gets his Workers’ Bonus

The personal tax threshold rises to £10,500. I doubt it was anything to do with the petition being pushed on social media in the last few days. This was down to the hard work of our ministers staying on message, in volume, over time, in budget negotiations. Nick Clegg has stuck with this through the entire Parliament and given us a very tangible promise kept – and more. “I am proud of what we have achieved”, said Osborne. Aye right.

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A longer listen for the weekend: Can liberalism be better advanced by Lib Dems or Tories?

That was the topic up for debate at a fringe event a week ago at Spring Conference, hosted jointly by the Electoral Reform Society and Liberal Reform.

Lisa Smart, PPC for Hazel Grove, chaired the discussion, with Lib Dem MP Jeremy Browne, Conservative and Director of Bright Blue Ryan Shorthouse, and the ERS’s Nick Tyrone completing the panel.

As Jeremy indicates at the beginning of his remarks, he can answer the question shortly: the Lib Dems are the proper home for liberals. But fortunately for the audience he elaborated a little, including some challenges that he thinks the party has to meet if it is to remain at the liberal cutting edge.

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By-election update: Lib Dems take two seats from Tories in Canterbury and Ludlow

ALDC Master Logo (for screen)It has been a busy week for by-elections with ten in principal authorities and one parish council by-election reported to the Association of Liberal Democrat Councillors (ALDC).

The Liberal Democrats gained a seat from the Conservatives yesterday in Barnham Downs ward, Canterbury. Michael Sole was 52 votes ahead of his Conservative rival, taking 37.3%. It was a bad result for the Conservatives who lost 11.4% of the vote despite the Tory Council Leader living in the ward. UKIP took 18.15 to come third, Labour finished fourth with …

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17 policies on which the Lib Dems and Labour now agree

Nick Clegg and Ed MilibandIt was a fiery Prime Minister’s Questions this week: with Nick Clegg standing in for David Cameron, Labour’s deputy leader Harriet Harman was joined by her backbenchers in hurling insults at the Lib Dem leader, which he returned with equal force.

It wasn’t edifying or enlightening. And it may not be a good guide to what could happen after May 2015 if the electoral arithmetic leaves Labour and the Lib Dems with little choice but to team up to form a Coalition government.

In fact, if …

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New poll: Voters credit low-earner tax-cuts to Lib Dems, Clegg’s ratings spike following Farage debate challenge

Here’s a poll finding that will relieve Lib Dems and worry Tories – according to Ipsos-Mori more voters (45%) credit the Lib Dems with the Coalition’s tax-cuts than credit the Tories (33%):

tax cuts lib dme credit ipsos mori

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Opinion: Good co-ops, bad co-ops and the funding of the Labour Party

imageWe Lib Dems do not need persuading of the merits of the Co-operative Movement. Founded in Rochdale in the 1840s, it continues to this day to provide an alternative model for business.

However, it cannot be said that there are many takers for this business approach. Apart from a good number of small co-operatives, there are two dominant players. The John Lewis Partnership, which is owned by its employees, and the Co-operative Group, owned by its members.

John Lewis is a success. It is often cited as an example for others. Not so the Co-operative Group which seems to go from one crisis to the next.

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Jenny Willott on free childcare from 12 months

jenny willottJenny Willott is the Minister for Women, covering for Jo Swinson while she is on maternity leave. In an interview with the Independent on Sunday she said that extending childcare to babies would be expensive but “it may well be that it’s the right thing to do”.

The article points out that there is a “maternity gap” between the end of maternity leave and the point when free childcare kicks in for three year olds. In response Jenny said:

It may well be that that’s something the Government needs to look at. The issue is that it is extremely expensive. It may well be that it’s the right thing to do. But it’s as with every big public spending commitment, it’s a toss-up between if you’ve got the money is that the best thing to put it into or is something else the best thing to put it into.

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Five reasons why Liberal Democrats leave York in good spirits.

Screen Shot 2014-03-09 at 08.06.08Liberal Democrats left York with spirits as bright as the sunshine which brought 17 degree warmth to the historic city.  Seriously. I was quite surprised about how genuinely upbeat people were. It’s not that they’d forgotten that we’re defending 12 European Parliament seats in 74 short days’ time. By the way, if you think that’s along time away, remember that 74 days ago was Boxing Day.  Everyone knows the scale of what we have to achieve by then and nobody is taking anything for granted.

Even the more, how shall I put this, hardened Awkward Squad (not an insult, definitely a badge that many of them would wear with pride) were saying things that could only be described as positive. Actual positive, not just lacking in complaints.

Why the good humour, then?

People love fighting a European Election about Europe

Liberal Democrats are by their nature internationalist. If it involves working together and building global alliances to make the whole world better, we’re happy. And that, to be honest, is what the European Union is all about. It’s about making sure that our young men don’t have to meet up somewhere on the continent and kill each other every few decades. If you look at the last couple of thousand years, that’s pretty huge. Yes, there are lots of other benefits that have a real practical relevance to people’s lives, but peace and stability across 350 million is the Big One.

Posted in Conference and News | Also tagged and | 36 Comments

Nick Clegg’s speech to the Lib Dem spring conference in full

Clegg SpeechNick Clegg is just about to begin his speech to bring to a close the Lib Dems’ Spring Conference in York. You can read the full text below.

The speech is most striking for its aim to reclaim patriotism. “I love Britain” is the refrain of its opening section (much of which reads a lot like the popular Twitter account, @SoVeryBritish – eg, “I love that we insist on queuing when we go abroad, even when the locals don’t.”), with Nick listing the things that make him proud to …

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Six points I took from Nick Clegg’s Lib Dem conference Q&A

Here are six points that struck me listening to Nick Clegg’s Q&A at the Lib Dem conference today (actually, a few more did, but I haven’t time to cover them all…)

Nick Clegg is more comfortable than his party with positioning the Lib Dems in the centre of British politics

The party’s slogan, ‘Stronger economy, fairer society’, captures Nick Clegg’s message: the Lib Dems can civilise the Tories’ ruthlessness, and we can rein-in Labour’s spending excesses. I’ve written many times before that I think this is the only strategy available to the party given we won’t form the next government on our …

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So, what’s been going on at Conference?

It’s not always easy to blog from Conference. Wifi can be temperamental and distractions are plentiful. However, your team will have lots to tell you over the next few days.

Here’s a quick snapshot of what’s been going on so far:

The Rally:

Vince Cable got really personal. He said that he’d had a fair bit of pressure put on him to slash adult education. He refused to do it, because of his own family experience.

His mother had a long spell in hospital following a nervous breakdown. He talked about how adult education had given her a second opportunity to build a career.

That …

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Tim Farron and Julian Huppert write: Why we need a Digital Bill of Rights

farron huppertLib Dem MPs Tim Farron and Julian Huppert explain why Britain needs a Digital Bill of Rights…

Momentum is a big force in politics; sometimes an unstoppable force. And this week we’ve seen momentum gathering pace for a change to our surveillance state.

On Tuesday, Nick Clegg set out his plans for change, backed up by a full Obama-style review of our outdated and woefully inadequate surveillance legislation and oversight bodies.

On Wednesday we hosted a lively surveillance discussion in Westminster with Alan Rusbridger, Editor-in-chief of the Guardian, MPs, peers, civil …

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First two Lib Dem presidential hopefuls declare themselves

Party president Tim Farron’s second (and non-renewable) term of office finishes at the end of this year, after four years in the role. He doubtless expected most of the challenges that come from the Lib Dems being in coalition with the Conservatives. He wouldn’t have expected to have to manage the fall-out from the allegations of sexual impropriety made against Lord Rennard a year ago.

The post of party president is the only Lib Dem role other than that of leader elected through an all-member ballot, and it will take place this autumn. This mandate (along with the requirement to deal …

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Opinion: Let’s move to one-member one-vote

Following on from Sue Doughty’s excellent invitation to the consultation session on one-member one-vote (OMOV) for our party’s important committees, I’d like to give my perspective as a young(er) member on why I will be supporting this move at conference this weekend.

Sometimes people on the inside of the party can forget what it’s like to be on the outside, and also what it’s like to be a new member. Imagine for a minute you’ve just joined the party, your eyes and ears full of ideas. You’ve joined the party because of a shining commitment to involving members …

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Lib Dems as ‘The Party of IN’ – Clegg’s pro-European strategy starts to pay off

nick clegg v nigel farageKudos to Nick Clegg and his team, including his director of strategy Ryan Coetzee. The gambit of issuing a personal challenge to Nigel Farage to debate Nick on Europe has been accepted not only by the Ukip leader, but also now by the media. As Caron Lindsay reported here this morning – #NickvNigel – We have a date and #NickvNigel: We have 2 dates – any more for the Tour? – the two leaders will face-off both on TV and on radio within the next …

Posted in Europe / International and Op-eds | Also tagged , , , , , , and | 53 Comments

Opinion: York welcomes Spring Conference

yorkAs the countdown to this weekend continues, I would like to say how pleased I am to be welcoming Spring Conference to York. I have been speaking to local party members, businesses and organisations like Visit York about the conference and it is clear that anticipation is building.

 Visit York estimate that this weekend will boost the city’s economy by more than £600,000. And I know that hotels, B&Bs, guest houses, and restaurants are reporting soaring demand.

Added to the short-term economic boost is the long-term impact that national exposure will bring. It is a showcase for York as a destination for conferences and events. York is a beautiful, well-connected city with the potential to hold many more big political and business conferences. This weekend should just be the beginning….

It is also a chance for our members in York to meet our ministers and MPs as well as councillors and campaigners from across the country. And as we all know, a chance for local party members to actually debate and decide national party policy.

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Opinion: Ukraine – Next Steps

ukraineAn international affairs policy wonk could be forgiven for thinking that April Fools’ Day had come early. After all, the last 72 hours have seen the Russian Federation occupy Ukraine’s Crimea, and apparently threaten to attack Ukrainian forces in Crimea if they don’t surrender. Such an action is in direct violation of the 1994 Bucharest Memorandum, the OSCE’s Helsinki Final Act, and Article 2(4) of the UN Charter.

The use of force without the explicit authorisation of the UN Security Council has a very specific name: aggression. The Nuremburg Tribunal described aggression as the “supreme international crime”: aggression starts wars, destroys lives and is a visceral attack on the international rule of law.

Simply, aggression is international gangsterism of the highest order.

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Nick Clegg announces 2015 negotiating team

Nick Clegg has announced the team who will handle coalition negotiations after the election in 2015 (if needed, of course).  It will consist of Danny Alexander, Steve Webb, Sal Brinton, Lynne Featherstone and David Laws.

In his book ‘22 days in May‘ David Laws revealed that Nick Clegg had appointed the 2010 negotiating team in secret during the previous year. The team was not put together in haste after the election, as many had assumed, so there were really no excuses for the absence of women. Politically David Laws and Danny Alexander were drawn from the economic liberal wing of …

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My favourite Vince Cable quote on Tory immigration policy

Vince Cable smiling - Some rights reserved by Liberal DemocratsThe good news is that more people chose to come to the UK last year. Net migration to the UK increased to 212,000 in the year to September 2013, up from 154,000 in the previous year. As the independent Office for Budget Responsibility has shown before: if you want increased growth, you should welcome immigration.

Here’s how Lib Dem business secretary Vince Cable put it, according to the BBC:

Vince Cable welcomed the increase in net migration to the UK, saying

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So what’s happening at Conference? Part 1 The Debates

Jo Swinson Opening Glasgow ConferenceIn just 9 days’ time, Liberal Democrats will gather in York for Spring Conference.

If you haven’t been to Conference before, Spring Conference is smaller and shorter than the main event in Autumn, but it’s no less intense and interesting.

I thought I’d take a wee look around what will be happening next weekend in terms of debates, fringe and training.

But let’s get one thing out of the way first. When the agenda first came out, I had a bit of a wail on Twitter. If there is one thing I don’t want to see in my Conference agenda, it’s a great big enormous picture of Nigel Farage. Please never do this to us again, Conference Team. Thanks.

Unusually for a conference two months before an election, there are some interesting and possibly controversial debates on the agenda.

The debates kick off on Saturday morning with a motion on the large companies which dominate the pub market in this country. Even if you don’t like beer, it’s worth going to see if proposer Greg Mulholland dresses as the Casked Crusader. Andy Boddington wrote here last year about the effect of Pubcos’ behaviour on local communities and tenants. This is a good old liberal attack on the abuse of power and something that’s relevant in every area.

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Nick Clegg and Vince Cable highlight Liberal Democrat achievements in higher education

When I went to speak in the St Andrew’s University debate last week, I did a bit of what I described as getting the tin opener and the worm can perilously close to each other, but pointed out that young people from disadvantaged backgrounds were twice as likely to go to university as they were 10 years ago. I also pointed out that those graduates on the lowest incomes would be paying much less than they were under Labour.

I was greatly assisted in preparing my remarks by Stephen Tall’s piece in January on the latest data in which …

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Recent Comments

  • User AvatarManfarang 20th Apr - 3:20am
    sky9 True lies.
  • User AvatarChrisB 20th Apr - 1:57am
    @George Crozier & RC - You think this polling erroneous and most people are positive about the Lib Dems? Maybe your sample set is very...
  • User AvatarStephen Howse 20th Apr - 12:37am
    This isn't even about not wanting someone from the "left" of the party in the role - the current president is very definitely of the...
  • User AvatarStephen Howse 20th Apr - 12:35am
    "Don’t you believe in balance and a diversity of views? " Yes, I do indeed! I believe we are stronger for our diversity and for...
  • User Avatardaft ha'p'orth 19th Apr - 11:37pm
    @David Pollard I'd be all for teaching a little mythology and classical studies. Studying Gilgamesh, Deucalion and Genesis in parallel, for example, is a popular...
  • User AvatarPaul In Twickenham 19th Apr - 11:36pm
    It was interesting (and slightly surprising) to see widespread media coverage for a report from Princeton that labelled the USA as an oligarchy rather than...