Lib Dem MPs react to the Budget

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More than 57,550 deaths may be linked to austerity

It wasn’t only Covid that killed people before their time. In just the four years after the Coalition between our party and the Conservatives was formed in 2010, the spending squeeze may have caused 57,550 more deaths in England than would have been expected.

Research from the Centre for Health Economics at York University reached this conclusion after studying the cuts in Government expenditure between 2010 and 2015. The research has been reported in the online journal BMJ Open.

The research revealed that real spending on social care and public health rose between 2001-02 and 2009-10, but fell between 2010-11 and 2014-15. This total spending gap attributable to austerity of 15.08% is said to have been likely to have caused 23,662 additional deaths. Meantime real spending on health care rose less between 2010-11 and 2014-15 compared with between 2001-02 and 2009-10 creating a 13.64% spending gap.

The researchers reckoned that a 1% decrease in health care spend would generate 2484 additional deaths, so the loss of 13.64% between 2010/11 and 2014/15 might have caused 33,888 additional deaths. They also figured that a 1% decrease in social care and public health spend would generate 1569 extra deaths. So the ‘loss’ of 15.08% between 2010-11 and 2014-15 might have caused 23,662 additional deaths. Adding these together they calculate a total of 55,550 additional deaths. It is pointed out that their “calculations assume that all health benefits occur contemporaneously with spend, which is unlikely to be the case”.

It also needs to be noted that “primary care and specialised commissioning spending were not included in the measure of overall healthcare spend, because responsibility for these returned to central government in 2013, while data on local spend for these services is not available.” It is likely that the cuts to primary care and specialised commissioning spending and to benefits over the same period would have caused some extra deaths, but the report does not quantify them.

Some of us recognised at the time that austerity was the wrong policy, but now those Liberal Democrats who were in the Coalition government need to recognise the effect their supporting austerity had on the British people.

Does the party need to take action to ensure we never do this again? What can the party do?

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A “mending” not a “minding” service

With so much media and political attention on social care there is a danger that social work, which is a very undervalued resource, may be further marginalised. This article attempts to demonstrate that social work and social workers are vital to a “mending” rather than a “minding” service.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s social work was regarded as a valuable resource and social workers seen as “agents of change”. Since then, social workers have been increasingly regarded as “gate keepers” assessing the eligibility for practical help and rationing of services.

The Seebohm Report which led to the establishment of Social Service Departments in 1971 recognised the value of social work. It did not, however, create the “one door to knock on”, it promised, as a multi-disciplinary / inter-agency response is often required. This was subsequently recognised with the establishment of Area Child Protection Committees (post Maria Caldwell), Mental Health procedures, “Community Mental Handicap Teams”, and Youth Justice Teams etc.

The undoing of much of the public sector was down to the Thatcher years and more particularly, in respect of Health and Social Services, to Sir Roy Griffiths and his mistaken belief that people were motivated by and could be controlled by money. This led to the introduction of the contract culture with the purchaser / provider split which Sir Roy thought would create a level playing field to facilitate a mixed economy of care thereby forcing quality up and prices down. It has subsequently been proven to have had the opposite effect and led to over-prescription taking away the ability of carers to react in situ to changing need. It led to greater fragmentation with different components of a “package of care” bought from different providers.

Social Workers were deployed on the “purchasing side”, assessing the need for specific services (often responding to “presenting problems” rather than the “underlying problem”) which led to several social services departments providing “minding” rather than “mending” services with an ever-increasing workload of dependent people.

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Budget 2021: Young people’s mental health missed

The Chancellor has given his Autumn Statement setting out the Conservative government’s spending priorities for the next year. Mental health care services, however, have been short changed and neglected once again.

The Government’s own budget research states that “Mental health and wellbeing have suffered during lockdowns, and anxiety and depression levels are now consistently higher than pre-pandemic averages”. Despite this, the Chancellor made no reference to mental health support in his speech and no new money for mental health services, let alone extra money to tackle the mental health crisis facing children and young people.

Hundreds of thousands of young people today are struggling with their mental health and far too often they cannot access support when they need it. Latest data from the NHS suggests that one in six young people now has a probable mental health disorder, up from one in nine in 2017. In a survey for YoungMinds in 2019, three-quarters of young people said they could not find support when they first needed it.

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Lib Dems Abroad: Supporting Afghans fleeing Taliban

At the Lib Dems Abroad first-ever Global Conference successfully held last weekend, I announced that a flight took off from Mazar-i-Sharif in Afghanistan that morning carrying around 200 Afghan female judges and their families bound for Athens. A first flight of Afghan female MPs arrived in Athens a few weeks ago. Another flight is expected to take more Afghan female judges and their families bound for Abu Dhabi.

However, these are the last flights envisaged for Afghans trying to flee their country in the face of the Taliban and also vengeful criminals released from prison by the Taliban who seek retribution for their previous sentences by Afghan female judges.

On board that flight to Athens were the four family members of Gul Ahmad Kamin MP, leader of the Afghan Civil Democrats, a group with whom Lib Dems Overseas has been working with for several years in the Afghan Wolesi Jirga or Parliament. And we have now succeeded in getting the leader’s family out. We will work on gaining the UK government’s support for their resettlement in the UK.

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Budget 2021: Davey says bankers get twice the catch-up for children

Following today’s budget, Ed Davey has slammed the Chancellor for giving twice as much away in tax cuts to bankers as extra catch-up funding to help children make up for lost learning during the pandemic.

Analysis by the Liberal Democrats shows that reducing the banking surcharge will cost the Treasury over £3.8 billion over the next four years. This compares to just £1.8 billion of additional catch-up funding in today’s Budget. That is the equivalent of £1 of extra catch up funding per child every school day, compared to a £6 a day tax cut for each banker.

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NALC appoints new cross-party President and Vice-Presidents

The National Association of Local Councils (NALC) has appointed a cross-party group of parliamentarians in its presidential roles at its Annual General Meeting today.

Baroness Ros Scott of Needham Market has become the new President of NALC. The Liberal Democrat peer took up the role, which became vacant when Conservative peer Baroness Jane Scott stood down after becoming a government whip.

NALC has also changed its rules to introduce the new position of Parliamentary Vice-President. Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle (Green), Andrew Gwynne MP (Labour), Lord O’Shaughnessy (Conservative) and Lord Lytton (cross-bencher) were appointed to this role.

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Ed Davey replies robustly to a Tory MP’s enquiry about our selection procedures

Philip Davies MP recently wrote to Ed Davey enquiring about the Liberal Democrats’ internal selection procedures.

Ed’s reply is a joy to behold! It is worth reading the correspondence in full.

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Public sector pay: NHS and social care workers to face £900m NI tax rise

The Liberal Democrats have accused the government of giving with one hand and snatching away with the other on public sector pay, given the national insurance tax hike and worsening cost of living crisis.

Previous analysis by the House of Commons Library commissioned by the Liberal Democrats estimates that those working in health and social care will be faced with a tax hit of over £900 million due to the Conservative government’s manifesto-breaking hike to national insurance.

The research shows a nurse or midwife on an average salary would see their tax bill rise by £310 next year, care home workers would pay around £140 more and ambulance staff would face a £420 increase. The average NHS worker across all staff groups will pay £315 more a year.

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Paul Tyler’s valedictory speech: The Tories and integrity

I chose to initiate a short debate, on the integrity of our electoral process for my final “valedictory” speech in the House of Lords.

After so many years of working with leading reformers in other parties – Robin Cook and Ken Clarke, for example – I deplored the lack of cross-party co-operation that this government have created. They have made few attempts to conserve the union, the reputation of Britain around the world or the rule of law, but also the traditional purpose of their own party. Ministers even wish to opt out of the European Convention on Human Rights, that Churchill worked so hard to create.

Of the Johnson Junta I summed up:

It is this cavalier relationship with the truth that divorces today’s Conservative Party from its past and betrays the legacies of Macmillan, Heath, Major, and, yes, even Thatcher.

Their Elections Bill will increase elusive foreign investments, being deliberately partisan, overturning work done since 1883 to prevent the rich buying constituencies. This aims to reverse the judgement of the Supreme Court in 2018 that reinforced those safeguards. The Bill also attempts to remove the Supplementary Vote from the PCC and mayoral elections, replacing it with First-Past-The-Post (FPTP). This move makes a mockery of the government’s own manifesto pledge making sure that every vote counts the same – a cornerstone of democracy.”

I ended with a challenge:

I plead with true Conservatives – in both Houses and beyond – to reclaim their party.   For many years, I have had staring at me on my desk the reminder of Edmund Burke: ‘The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good people to do nothing’.

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European health policy and the Conference on the Future of Europe

On the 23rd of October, the Liberal Democrats Abroad and the Liberal Democrats European Group held a discussion session with Irish Senator Timmy Dooley about the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe’s contribution to the Conference on the Future of Europe. Mr Dooley underlined the importance of hearing British views on Europe’s future, to help learn the lessons from Brexit, meet citizens’ expectations, and shape the EU into an organisation that the British people would be excited to rejoin.

In health, he mentioned the disillusionment caused by an initially slow response to vaccine procurement. Things have vastly improved since then, although, this is an important opportunity to take stock of what Europe does in health – and what else we might like it to do.

Firstly, on pharmaceuticals. Manufacturers can apply to the European Medicines Agency for EU-wide marketing authorisation for their products, but that doesn’t  automatically mean they’ll be available across the EU. Medicine pricing and reimbursement decisions are up to the Member States of the EU. Some have joined together to evaluate the impact of these newly available medicines and decide pricing, such as the Beneluxa group. Is there more Europe can do in this area? Should such coalitions expand to include other EU members – and could the UK get involved?

Europe also offers manufacturers incentives, based on market exclusivity for their new product for a period of time before competing medicines can come into play. The European Commission is examining changes to the rules, which could make these incentives conditional on EU-wide product availability or meeting health needs not yet addressed by existing products. At the same time, it seeks to make the process of getting market authorisation more efficient and less expensive, while maintaining high standards. Should it reform these incentives to influence manufacturers’ behaviour, and if so, how can the EU balance those two issues in a way that works for manufacturers and patients?

The Commission is also reviewing the rules on children’s and rare disease medicines, for similar reasons – how can we incentivise these treatments and make sure patients can access them?

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An Alternative Budget – a budget for the poorest in society

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Rishi Sunak will be presenting his autumn budget on 27th October. Currently inflation is rising with wages increasing up to 7% in some sectors, quantitative easing is due to end at the end of the year. Rishi Sunak has stated he wants to reduce the deficit.

The economic outlook is not clear, but I think Rishi Sunak should assume that the increase in inflation will only be short-term and the government and the Bank of England will not need to take any action to reduce inflation. The ending of the Covid support schemes will reduce government spending by £100 billion. While household savings have increased, I don’t believe all of these savings will be spent into the economy next year, or will be large enough to make up for the £100 billion being removed from the economy.

Therefore I believe that the Chancellor should not remove all of the £100 billion from the economy but should commit to continue to spend up to £40 billion of it. I suggest he should make the following changes above the normal upgrades and what has already been announced.

Benefits are due to increase in line with the inflation rate of September which was 3.1%. The triple lock on pensions has been suspended for next year, so instead of pensions increasing by 8% (the expected increase in earnings) they will be increased by 3.1%. As the party now supports a UBI we should be moving towards the idea that a couple receives twice the amount as a single person. Therefore I would make an exception for the couple’s Guaranteed Pension and instead of increasing it by 3.1%, increase it by 8% to £291.92 a week. This would move it from being 1.53 times the single rate to 1.6.

Party policy to scrap the ‘bedroom tax’ and the benefit cap should be implemented.

If the Local Housing Allowance rate was restored to the 50th percentile more than 32,000 households would be lifted out of relative poverty including more than 35,000 children (based on Crisis 2019 figures). Therefore the Local Housing Allowance should be increased to the 40th percentile from April 2022 and the 50th from April 2023.

These four measures should remove many pensioners from poverty.

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ALDC by-election report: 21 October 2021

It was a quiet week for by-elections – with only three principle authority local by-elections taking place on Thursday. However, it was still a great week for the Lib Dems – holding two principal authority seats in Birmingham and Horsham.

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World Review: Troubles in Poland, Nigeria, Brazil & the US, and Colin Powell

In this weekend’s commentary on world affairs, LDV’s foreign correspondent Tom Arms reviews the conflict between Poland and the Commission over the primacy of EU law. Nigeria is in a bigger mess than usual as corruption is exacerbated by Jihadism, the pandemic, a rapid rise in gang violence and a resurgence of Biafran secessionism. Brazilian senators are investigating Bolsonaro’s responsibility for 600,000 Brazilian covid-19 deaths. In the States, Trump aide Steve Bannon will go to prison for a year for contempt of Congress. Colin Powell who died this week, was universally recognised as a decent and honest man.

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Scottish Lib Dem social justice spokesperson Bruce Wilson highlights childcare problems

Former marine Bruce Wilson is the Scottish Lib Dems spokesperson for veterans and social justice. In this week’s Daily Record he wrote about the need for high quality childcare as a key element of a fairer society.

As the father of three children under 7, he and his wife know only too well the crippling costs of childcare:

While my eldest is in school and goes to after school club, there is no way for me and my wife to afford mortgage payments, bills and childcare for our twins, despite having decent salaries.

Nursery costs to cover full time work come to roughly £2,000 per month for both of them – a sum that is completely unachievable for most parents. Parents are often forced to leave the workforce.

And  it is most often women whose careers are adversely affected:

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Ed Davey takes on “sexist dinosaur” Philip Davies with humour

It’s not often I’ve felt the need to thank Philip Davies, the Conservative MP for Shipley for anything. I am kind of glad, though, that he felt the need to write to Ed Davey on House of Commons paper to complain that we didn’t use an all-women shortlist when we selected Bobby Dean as our candidate for Carshalton and Wallington, because Ed’s blistering, beautifully crafted response showed a new side to him.

Davies’ attitude is surprising given that he’s actively campaigned against measures to protect women for some time. Back in 2017, Laura Bates wrote a brilliant article in the Guardian outlining some of the worst. She said:

He has previously described feminists as “zealots”, voted against equalities legislation, argued against equality targets in the workplace and once tabled a private member’s bill that would have repealed the Sex Discrimination Act 2002. Last year, he spoke at a conference organised by the Justice for Men and Boys party, which is known for presenting petty “whining feminist” certificates to women’s rights advocates, and promoting inflammatory, misogynistic articles on its website such as one entitled “13 reasons women lie about being raped”.

Charming.

Now, I have always been in favour of all-women shortlists, but the fact is that they were so successful that we are not allowed to use them any more because our Parliamentary party in Westminster is 2/3 women. I don’t think it is fair, given the huge democratic deficit women face. There are only 222 women out of 650 in Parliament. It just isn’t good enough when your all-time high is 34%.

Ed just let Davies have it in return:

Writing on party paper, way more appropriate for the purpose than Commons stationery, Ed reminded us all of Davies’ prior views and expressed and pleasure that he may have finally seen the light:

I can only imagine that your interest has been triggered by a “Road to Damascus” moment and a realisation that we live in 2021 not 1821. Making a transition from sexist dinosaur to someone who champions the rights of women will not be easy for you. The list of people you need to apologise to is long.

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Observations of an Expat: Saving the world & political incompetence

A perfect storm appears to be gathering over Glasgow to obstruct the COP26 Climate Change Conference which starts on 31 October. Two hundred countries, 100 hundred world leaders and 30,000 participants from politicians to climatologists, to diplomats to businesses and to pressure groups will turn the Scottish city into a logistical nightmare for a fortnight. But that is an insignificant issue and a tiny price to pay if the world’s governments come up with a workable plan to reduce global temperature rises to the target of 1.5 degrees centigrade by 2050 or, hopefully, sooner. Unfortunately, that appears increasingly unlikely for a host of reasons. Top of the list is the world economy. It is in a mess.

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Federal Policy Committee seeks members for a new working group

As part of the next stage of our programme of future policy development, firmly focussed on how we can attract voters to support us, FPC has now approved the creation of a new working group to develop our proposals for creating a much fairer society.

We are therefore now looking for applications from party members to join the group, which you can do here, by the deadline of Wednesday 3 November.

The prime role of the group will be to develop policies which communicate our core values such as fairness, and also liberty, equality and community, in ways which help to get as many Liberal Democrats elected, locally and nationally.

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Dodds slams New Zealand trade deal

The Welsh Liberal Democrats have accused the Conservatives of dealing a hammer blow to Welsh sheep farmers after news broke that the UK and New Zealand have signed a trade deal. They are worried that lower standard and cheap meat from New Zealand could flood the UK markets and leave the British and Welsh farming industry unable to compete.

Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader Jane Dodds said:

I am extremely disappointed that the Conservative Government has decided to toss Welsh sheep farmers aside in this manner, completely ignoring their concerns and breaking previous commitments to the farming community made by the Party.

The NFU has also criticised the deal saying it had heard next to nothing from the government on how British agriculture is expected to compete with either Australia or New Zealand which both face less regulation than their British counterparts.

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Democracy – now on the Risk Register

An appreciation of Lord Puttnam’s recent address – The Shirley William’s Memorial Lecture: POWER AND FEAR – THE TWO TYRANNIES.

Was anybody listening?

If so, what did they hear?

If they heard, then what, exactly, did they understand?

Timing is everything.

In the heat of intense political clamour, unleashed as one of their own was murdered, the calm authoritative voice may have been lost in that moment.

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Lib Dems attack ministers on Covid as Ed Davey urges beefed up Plan B

Today’s i newspaper features Sir Ed Davey’s call for the government to bring in a beefed up version of Plan B as a matter of urgency to avoid a winter lockdown. Daisy Cooper also criticises the new Minister for Vaccines and Public Health for keeping a low profile. In the Commons yesterday, Layla Moran challenged the government on whether it is operating a policy of herd immunity.

The Plan B Plus would make face masks mandatory, people would be instructed to work from home and social distancing rules would be reimposed. It would not include Covid passports which the Lib Dems oppose.

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Everybody included – why democracy and diversity are two sides of the same coin

At a recent event hosted by Liberal Democrats for Electoral Reform, I was asked to speak about two topics that I feel very passionately about: democracy and diversity. In terms of democracy, I have been actively involved with the campaign for Proportional Representation for many years because I believe that our current system of First-Past-The-Post means that all votes are not equal: a vote in a marginal seat has a much bigger impact than a vote in a safe seat. In terms of diversity, I believe that we should welcome people from many different backgrounds to the campaign for PR by making an effort to being inclusive and open.

With this in mind, it was great to have an opportunity to be a panel speaker with someone so experienced as Lord Paul Tyler, the Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Constitutional and Political Reform in the House of Lords. Paul has given so much to the campaign for electoral reform, both as an MP and in the House of Lords.

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Munira Wilson calls for emergency SAGE Meeting

Liberal Democrat Health Spokesperson Munira Wilson has demanded that the government hold an emergency SAGE meeting to discuss soaring Covid cases.

The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies has stopped meeting weekly and most recently met on 22 July, 9 September and 14 October.

The call comes as it emerges that government scientists have not met to discuss Covid for weeks and cases are running at nearly 50,000 a day.

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Lib Dems oppose new oil drilling site

Ed Davey is quoted extensively in the Independent on the plans to build a new oil drilling site in Surrey at Horse Hill, which is not far from Gatwick Airport.

Surrey County Council’s decision to permit the development will be reviewed in the Court of Appeal next month after challenges by local residents. The Government is expected to defend the decision – just days before COP26.

Ed has written to Alok Sharma, the climate minister:

This new oil field is the equivalent to ministerial colleagues breaking your cricket bat just as you walk out to the crease at Cop26.

Your job is to hold China to account for their new oil infrastructure – how can you do that when your government is building its own?

As the minister responsible for Cop26, you must put party allegiances aside, and call for the government to oppose this new oil field and immediately call in the planning application.

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The right to online anonymity must be protected

There are plenty of lessons to be learnt from the horrific killing of David Amess. People are right to call for a less divisive tone to political debate; Brendan Cox’s article was particularly moving in its calls for more civility and understanding between opposing political sides. Part of this may well be more enforcement against online abuse, and perhaps pressuring social media companies to act faster when it comes to people using those platforms to threaten others. These things will be debated in time and rightly so.

Emotions are running high and there is an understandable desire to create a legislative legacy for Mr Amess. Jo Cox’s death prompted the creation of organisations such as More in Common, which works towards creating more united societies. Close friends of Amess seem keen to stress his focus on ending online abuse, and are rightly raising this as an issue that should be amplified in the light of his death.

But we must tread very carefully in the next few weeks.

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Lib Dems stand up against use of facial recognition tech in school dinner halls

This week the Information Commissioner stepped in after 9 schools in North Ayrshire started using facial recognition technology to speed up the payment queue in the dinner hall.

From The Guardian:

The ICO, an independent body set up to uphold information rights in the UK, said it would be contacting North Ayrshire council about the move and urged a “less intrusive” approach where possible.

An ICO spokesperson said organisations using facial recognition technology must comply with data protection law before, during and after its use, adding: “Data protection law provides additional protections for children, and organisations need to carefully consider the necessity and proportionality of collecting biometric data before they do so.

Scottish Lib Dem schools spokesperson Carole Ford went on GB News to say that this was wrong both in practical and privacy terms. Carole would know. As a former headteacher she knows what the issues are in school dinner halls. This is what she had to say:

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The Elephant in the Room

I was once told I have a memory like an elephant! I didn’t realise what that meant, and the friend who told me explained. She said that elephants have long memories. They remember. It is true. I do.

I remember a time when governments were at least able to behave in a way we could say was responsible, in carrying out their duties, because they knew they were responsible for the delivery of services. Now we have a dereliction of duty. And appallingly stretched public services.

I remember when even this government, late with everything, at least, though late, did something. Now they are doing not much more than nothing.

There is an elephant in the room. It has a long memory. It knows that there was a better way of doing things, through long past and recent history. It understands that it was never acceptable to accept unnecessary deaths. It realises that the preservation of life itself is the greatest instinct of humanity itself. It remembers when, in progressive, tolerant societies, preventable deaths were not tolerated.

A crisis has not been solved. Vaccines have not solved it. They have lessened it. It could have been solved by the vaccines, to a greater extent, if the virus had been dealt with more effectively, and the variants not emerged as a result of ineffective government.

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Munira Wilson: Ministers are burying their heads in the sand over rising Covid cases

The Liberal Democrats have demanded that the Government hold an emergency SAGE meeting to discuss surging Covid cases, and what measures may be needed to curb infections and protect the NHS and schools this winter.

It comes as it emerges that Government scientists have not met to discuss Covid for weeks and cases are running at nearly 50,000 a day.

Health Spokesperson, Munira Wilson MP said:

Covid cases are surging and millions of vulnerable people are yet to receive their booster jabs, yet ministers are burying their heads in the sand.

The Government cannot simply ignore the scientific advice and act as though this pandemic is over.

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LibLink: Christine Jardine on MPs’ safety

In the Scotsman, Christine Jardine MP has written about MPs’ safety in the light of the murder of Sir David Amess:

It is a risk which we must minimise, but continue to take for the sake of our democracy.

(Last Friday) was one of those days that you hope never to see, or that anyone you know will have to endure.

Christine goes on to write:

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Lib Dems call for half term jab blitz due to 8000 classrooms sitting empty

The Liberal Democrats have called for the Government to speed up the rollout of Covid-19 vaccines over half term after new Department for Education figures reveal over 216,000 pupils are absent from school for Covid-related reasons.

The figures, released today (12:00pm), show infection rates in schools are rising at a concerning rate and this is having a huge impact on young people’s education – with 2.6% of pupils absent for covid-related reasons over the last two weeks.

Across the UK schools are grappling with soaring case numbers, which has seen institutions like Eton bring in a wave of new strict …

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Recent Comments

  • Simon R
    It's good to bring attention to the issue of how cuts can cause excess deaths. But.... Make it a condition of being a PPC that they would pledge never to ...
  • Peter Hirst
    This budget should have focused on educational catch up and providing more for skills and adult education. If we want a high skills economy we need to invest to...
  • Peter Hirst
    It is wonderful news that flights are still occurring out of Afghanistan. Perhaps the Taliban are taking a lax approach to those wishing to leave their country....
  • Justin
    Scratch the entire comment above....
  • Justin
    How many excess deaths occurred during the coalition when the Lib Dems were hand in glove with the Tory policy of austerity? don't tell me that the excess death...
Thu 28th Oct 2021
19:30