New Committee report out saying tenants needed more protection

The Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee has released a report today saying that the “most vulnerable tenants need greater legal protections from retaliatory evictions, rent increases and harassment so they are fully empowered to pursue complaints about repairs and maintenance in their homes.”

This report on the private rented sector found that many properties were sub-standard, calling on the Government to address the ‘clear power imbalance’, with

tenants often unwilling to complain to landlords about conditions in their homes such as excess cold, mould or faulty wiring.

I am appalled that this …

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Airstrikes Alone Will Not Solve the Syrian Crisis

Given the last two decades of failed interventions it is easy to understand why the majority of Britain is opposed to the recent intervention in Syria.

As liberals we must do all we can, as internationalists, to maintain peace around the globe. But also as liberals we cannot allow such abhorrent crimes to continue to be committed by the Assad regime. The silence of our inaction would have been deafening; five years of ignoring the conflict has led us to where we are today.

The scars of the Libyan intervention are still in the recent memories of the West, and conflict still plagues the nation, but our failures there cannot deter us from upholding our moral commitment to prevent war crimes and holding those who commit them to account. The Pro-Assad propaganda, backed by Russia and elements of the Labour party, are toxic: they stand in the way of any meaningful resolution in Syria, and more civilians will die if their interpretation of the war enters the mainstream of political thought.

We must look to our past if we are to make sure that we leave Syria a better place than it is now. The airstrikes are a short term solution, but they are only limiting Assad’s ability to launch another chemical attack, a noble cause but not a path to peace.

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Vince Cable speech: break-up the big tech monopolies

In a speech in London this morning entitled ‘Taming the Tech Titans’, Liberal Democrat Leader Vince Cable has called for stronger international and domestic regulation of big tech companies. You can watch the speech here.

He has criticised the effective monopolies enjoyed by the likes of Google, Facebook, and Amazon, comparing their market dominance to that of big oil companies in the past, and suggests ways they can be broken up.

The speech also focussed on how start-ups and innovative small and medium-sized tech firms can thrive in a more competitive market.

The text released in advance of the speech has Vince arguing that

Data is the new oil. Data is the raw material which drives these firms and it is control of data which gives them an advantage over competitors. These companies have acquired their pivotal position by providing a service or platform through which data can be extracted, collected and used.

Just as Standard Oil once cornered 85% of the refined oil market, today Google drives 89% of internet search, 95% of young adults on the internet use a Facebook product, Amazon accounts for 75% of E-book sales, while Google and Apple combined provide 99% of mobile operating systems. “

National government and, even more so, supranational bodies like the EU can and should look to break up enterprises where size is detrimental to the economic wellbeing of the country, its citizens and its capacity for innovation.

There is a case for splitting Amazon into three separate businesses – one offering cloud computing, one acting as a general retailer and one offering a third-party marketplace. Other examples would be Facebook being forced to divest itself of Instagram and WhatsApp as a condition for operating in the EU, creating two new social media networks. Divesting Google of YouTube would be another.

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Lords wins are essential to democratic process

Two key amendments to the EU (Withdrawal) Bill passed yesterday in the House of Lords.

An amendment on the customs union supported by the Liberal Democrats, Crossbenchers, Labour, and Conservative peers passed by 348 votes to 225.

The defeat forces the government to lay a report before Parliament outlining the steps taken to negotiate a customs union as part of the framework for a future UK-EU relationship, and prevents the repeal of the European Communities Act 1972 until these steps have been taken.

Commenting on the victory, Liberal Democrat Leader in the House of …

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Lib Dem Lawyers’ Open Memo calls for more vocal party support for legal aid

Imagine you are charged with a criminal offence. It has the potential to result in loss of your freedom, reputation, job, family, custody of your children and so on.  You will want a trained professional to help you.  Someone to explain to you the law that applies to the offence, what the state needs to prove against you and what defences may be available.  Someone to scrutinise the evidence against you objectively and assist you in presenting your defence. Someone to protect you from any abuses of power by the state’s police …

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Let’s not forget that the Gender Pay Gap reporting requirement is Jo’s Law

There was an urgent question in the House of Commons today about the Gender Pay Gap. Harriet Harman asked the Government what it was doing to close the gender pay gap after companies with more than 250 employees were required to report for the first time.

The minister Victoria Atkins was very supportive of the legislation. If you didn’t know better, you might be inclined to think that the Tories had introduced it:

It is unacceptable that in 2018 there are still differences in how men and women are paid in business and in industries. That is why this Government introduced new regulations, which came into force in 2017, requiring all employers with 250 or more employees to report their gender pay gap. I am delighted that as of yesterday 10,055 employers, covering all sectors of the economy, have reported their gender pay gap. These new regulations have shone a light on the injustice that has existed for too long and created a new conversation on the need for a step change in gender equality.

This is all very well, except the truth of the matter is that in the dying days of the Coalition Government, the Tories had to be dragged kicking and screaming to agree to the Liberal Democrats’ plan. Jo Swinson was the Liberal Democrat Minister who introduced the legislation and she reminded the Commons of that today:

The reason why I fought so hard as a Minister in the coalition Government to win the battle to introduce gender pay gap reporting—despite the Minister’s obvious commitment to this today, my goodness it was a battle with No.10 at the time—is that the visibility and transparency of hard numbers help to pierce the bubble of complacency in boardrooms, in newsrooms and in our living rooms where some people still think that we live in a world of gender equality. What concrete action are the Government taking to help employers understand that the gender pay gap is about unequal pay and so much more? It is about the fact that jobs in care and other roles are undervalued and low paid because they are predominantly done by women. It is about the 54,000 women a year who lose their job because they have a baby. It is about the toxic workplace cultures where the boys’ clubs make the decisions and sexual harassment is endemic. Time is up on pathetic excuses. It is time that organisations got serious about action.

Ms Atkins was forced to admit Jo’s role:

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Isabelle Parasram’s report into sexual impropriety complaints handling published

Last year, the Federal Board asked barrister Isabelle Parasram to produce a report on how companies involving sexual sexual impropriety in the party should be handled. Should the party inform the Police? What about anonymity of complainants?

This happened because concern had been expressed about how some such complaints had been handled.

The report has now been published. In a post on the members’ section of the party website, Isabelle Parasram said:

As the Head of Greycoat Law (a barristers’ chambers) I have over two decades of legal and policy experience covering the various strands of law impacting this subject.  I am also a Party member, holding roles within the Party as Vice Chair of Liberal Democrat Women, Vice Chair of the London Region, Regional Spokesperson on Brexit, Prospective Parlimentary Candidate and other similar positions.  I understand that these were some of the reasons why I was approached.

My investigation and eventual Report addressed the following key areas (amongst many others that arose out of what I discovered during the course of my investigation):

  1. support in the process for complainants;
  2. anonymity for complainants;
  3. reporting serious crimes to the police;
  4. suspension of members following serious allegations and
  1. how the Party can support members appropriately who are accused of serious allegations.

It is important to note that my focus was entirely on the applicable processes and were not and were never intended to be an additional investigation into the allegations themselves.

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Recent Comments

  • User AvatarDominic 19th Apr - 6:12pm
    Ok to some level but please can we avoid the mantra that “data is the new oil”. If anything, data is the new salt water....
  • User AvatarGlenn Andrews 19th Apr - 6:05pm
    Jay, the number of people who voted to leave all European customs unions is precisely zero. Did you not read read the ballot paper?
  • User AvatarPeter Martin 19th Apr - 5:26pm
    The Blair government were keen to be seen to be "anti-criminal" and reducing access to legal aid chimes with public sentiment at times. As previously...
  • User AvatarDavid Raw 19th Apr - 5:21pm
    Saskia is correct. Mr Mahir may want to brush it away with the phrase "many reasons" but I'll be more specific. My local food bank...
  • User AvatarGordon 19th Apr - 4:39pm
    “However risqué a no-fly zone would be in Syria, it would end Assad’s air superiority.” A ‘no-fly’ zone in Syria? This often comes up, but...
  • User AvatarDavid Evans 19th Apr - 4:26pm
    Michael BG - I agree totally, imagining we will gain 200 seats would be just setting us up to fail. What I was pointing out...
Thu 19th Apr 2018