What’s going on in our Parliaments this week? 17-21 January 2022

Lib Dem highlights in our legislatures this week include Jamie Stone holding a debate on gas and electricity costs while Lib Dem peers take on some of the Government’s nastier Bills. Watch out for Brian Paddick on the Police Bill and Sal Brinton on the Health and Care Bill.

In Wales, Jane Dodds has a debate on free public transport for young people on Wednesday

So what’s happening?

Westminster

Monday kicks off in the Commons with Priti Patel and the Home Office ministerial team answering questions from MPs.

They then go on to debate the Elections Bill, which would disenfranchise many people from deprived backgrounds, who are less likely to vote Conservative, by requiring voter ID. It’s sickening voter suppression.

The Lords take on the dreadful Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill and you can read our take on that here.

On Tuesday, MPs question Sajid Javid and then go on to debate the Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill and a money resolution on the Charities Bill.

Jamie Stone has a Westminster Hall debate on the cost of gas and electricity.

Peers have the first of two days this week on the Health and Social Care BIll.

Commons business on Wednesday kicks off with questions to COP 26 President Alok Sharma, then you have to wonder what PMQs will throw up this week. MPs then turn their attention to the Building Safety Bill

The Lords deals with the Northern Ireland Bill and the Subsidy Control Bill. Several Lib Dems, including Malcolm Bruce and Jenny Randerson, are down to speak.

Thursday sees  international trade questions in the Commons followed by two general debates, the first on a motion relating to the Uyghur Tribunals and the second on Lawfare and the UK Court System.

Meanwhile the Lords have another day on the Health and Care Bill.

Holyrood

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Your last chance for the early bird rate for Spring Conference

Spring Conference takes place online between 11 and 13 March. Tomorrow is the last date you can register at the early bird rate of £40. Don’t miss your chance to take part and save yourself some money  – make sure you register here. 

There’s also an in-person companion event f run by ALDC,  which is taking place in York on 12 and 13 March and you can register for that here.

The agenda has not been published yet. Federal Conference Committee met yesterday to choose which motions will be debated and we should have those details within the next few days.

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Cutting sick pay for unvaccinated employees – what do you think?

I’ve been really concerned this week that some major employers are cutting sick pay for unvaccinated employees to the statutory minimum. ITV reports how companies like Next, Morrisons and Ikea are only going to pay employees who have to self-isolate Statutory Sick Pay of only £96.35 per week, whereas those who have been vaccinated will get their usual pay. And the majority of affected employees will be the lowest paid.

In England, if you are a close contact of someone with Covid, you don’t have to self isolate if you are fully vaccinated. You just need to take daily lateral flow tests. However, if you have not been vaccinated and there are no medical reasons why you can’t be, you have to isolate for ten days. If you do not do so, you could be fined £1000. The rules are set out here.

I don’t agree with employers making these sorts of value judgements about an employee’s liability for their own condition. That is a rabbit hole we really do not want to go down because it could end up in some really nasty places. Broken your leg while hillwalking? Imagine your employer telling you you could have avoided that and they are only going to pay you SSP.

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Lib Dems take part in Kill the Bill protests around country

Lib Dems across the country joined protests across the country against the Policing, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill. Protests too place in London, Bristol, Cardiff, Coventry, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Sheffield and Plymouth, as well as a lot of smaller towns. The protests come ahead of a critical vote tomorrow in the House of Lords on amendments introduced in the Lords in November which greatly increase the authority of police to control protests including an increase in stop and search powers.

On Friday, Labour Lords belatedly said they will oppose the protest clauses. With the Lib Dems, Greens and independents opposing the restriction of the rights to protest, the amendments are likely to fall. As they were introduced in the Lords, they cannot be sent on to the Commons if peers vote against them.

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Lib Dems table motion of no confidence in Boris Johnson

Liberal Democrat MPs have tabled a motion of no confidence in Boris Johnson and have written to Jacob Rees-Mogg to ask that it is given parliamentary time.

The motion been so far been signed by 18 MPs from four parties. These include all thirteen Liberal Democrat MPs, two Labour MPs, two from Plaid Cymru and Stephen Parry from the Alliance Party.

The Liberal Democrats have also written to Leader of the House of Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg, demanding he put the motion to a vote within the next week. Labour Shadow Health Secretary Wes Streeting says that Labour would back it in a Commons vote.

The question is, would enough Conservatives? And what would the public think if their Conservative MP backed a PM who has had such a chaotic approach to government and treats the laws of the land as an optional extra?

Ed Davey said:

It’s time for Conservative MPs to show where they stand. Are they going to continue to put up with a Prime Minister who lied to Parliament and to the public, who admitted he broke lockdown rules and refuses to hold himself accountable?

By remaining in Number 10 Boris Johnson is a threat to the health of the nation – no one will take anything he says seriously and that is simply unacceptable during a pandemic.

Conservative MPs should not only support our motion of no confidence but they should pressure Jacob Rees Mogg to give the motion time for a vote and soon. The country deserves a chance to move on from this deceitful Prime Minister.

The full text of Wera’s letter is below.

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Wera Hobhouse on cyber-flashing and the Online Safety Bill

The Lib Dem MP for Bath, Wera Hobhouse addressed the Commons on Thursday on online safety. She told MPs that “gendered harms are endemic” and any bill that does not address misogynistic abuse would not be credible. All too often the trauma that women experience is trivialised. She called for cyber-flashing to be made illegal saying it is a particularly prevalent form of online violence against women and disproportionately affects young women and girls. She called on the government to act without delay on tackle cyber-flashing without consent.

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Tom Arms’ World Review: Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Justice at home and abroad, Sri Lanka

Ukraine

After a week of Ukrainian talks the question is whether Vladimir Putin is using negotiations to avoid war or create a pretext to start one. The communiques emerging from Geneva, Brussels and Vienna shed little light on the subject. They are peppered with insubstantial diplomatese phrases such as “frank,” “friendly” and “constructive.” Off the record, journalists are being told that chief US negotiator Wendy Sherman is offering to widen the talks with suggested discussions on missile deployments and other issues. The US is clearly trying to drag out talks in the hopes that protracted jaw, jaw will lead to reduced tensions. But on one issue the Americans and their NATO allies appear to be standing firm: They will not agree to a legally binding commitment to block Ukraine (and Georgia) from NATO membership. Putin has made it clear that Ukrainian enrolment in NATO is unacceptable. In fact, Putin has compared it to the 1962 Cuban missile crisis. The Russian leader has also denounced America’s strategic arms policies, blaming them from withdrawing from the ABM Treaty (true), INF (not true) and the Open Skies Agreement (not true). However, Putin is also adamant that he will not be bogged down in the “swamp” of protracted negotiations. His concern over lengthy talks is at least partly related to the fact that if he doesn’t move soon Russian tanks will become mired in the mud of a Ukrainian spring. If Putin does invade, Biden has threatened sanctions “like none he has ever seen.” These are likely to include locking Russia out of the international banking system and blocking the Nordstream2 gas pipeline.

Kazakhstan

It now appears that the uprising in Kazakhstan was more of an internal power struggle than a popular uprising. In the wake of the violence the head of, Kazakhstan’s security services, Karim Masimov, has been sacked and charged with treason. In addition, 81-year-old former president Nursultan Nazarbayev has been removed from the chairmanship of the nation’s powerful Security Council and his family has dropped from public view. Nazabaryev, who was an autocratic president for 25 years, hand-picked Kassim-Zhomart Tokayev as his successor. It had been assumed that the ex-president was still pulling the puppet strings and grooming his daughter for the presidency. Now it seems that the puppet has cut the strings and turned on his master. He also appears to have the blessing of Russia’s Vladimir Putin who still holds considerable sway in the former Soviet republic. Twenty-five percent of Kazakhstan’s 18 million citizens are ethnic Russian. Its gas pipelines all run to Russia, and 2,000 Russian troops were called in by Tokayev to protect Russian assets when the revolt started. After killing 164 protesters, arresting 10,000 and possibly neutering the Nazarbayev family and their supporters, Tokayev appears to be firmly back in control and the Russian troops are back in their barracks.

War criminals face justice

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Ed Davey: Boris why would you even want to party when people were dying

Writing in the Express, Lib Dem leader Ed Davey said: “Boris Johnson is a man without shame, or scruples. That is, in many ways, how he managed to ascend the greasy pole.”

Explaining why he had written to Cressida Dick asking her to investigate Boris Johnson’s involvement in the continuing Partygate scandal, Davey asked how anyone of sound judgement can – let alone the prime minister – think it is somehow okay to get out the party hats and knock back the wine on the very day that the government ordered everyone to stay indoors and avoid all human contact that isn’t strictly necessary.

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Welsh Lib Dems secure £20 million to support most vulnerable children

The mark of a civilised society is how it treats its most vulnerable people. Ours could do a lot better.

Jane Dodds, as leader of the Welsh LIb Dems and the party’s only Member of the Senedd, announced this week that she had secured an extra £20 million for care leavers, who are often just dropped and left to get on with it when they turn 16.

Jane outlined what this extra money would mean in practical terms:

The pandemic has been difficult for young people the length and breadth of Wales. That is why the Welsh Liberal Democrats used our influence in the Senedd to champion children and young people.

“As a result of Welsh Liberal Democrat influence in the Senedd, we will see the establishment of a £20 million fund to be used over the course of this Senedd term to reform services for looked after children and care leavers making sure that children and young people in care have the best start in life.

“We will also see an increase in funding for mental health services over the coming years, which was a key priority for my Party during the election.

“I am also glad to see £20 million extra will be put into the Pupil Development Grant, expanding the programme that was a key part of former Welsh Liberal Democrat Education Secretary Kirsty William’s previous agreement with Welsh Labour.”

“It can only be a good thing when politicians work together to find areas of common ground. That is when we can deliver tangible change to people’s lives.

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Beatrice Wishart: We need to do better at tackling Endometriosis

This week, the Scottish Parliament debated the horrible, painful, debilitating condition Endometriosis.

Shetland’s Lib Dem MSP Beatrice Wishart highlighted the distress this condition can cause and the impact it can have on women’s whole lives – and says that we must do better than the misogynistic dismissal of this condition that we so often see. Here is her speech in full:

I congratulate Rachael Hamilton on securing this important debate. So much has already been said about the impact that endometriosis has across all aspects of life, but I make no apology for repeating some of what has already been highlighted today.

I want to start by outlining exactly what is at the heart of this discussion: the lives of women and girls. Endometriosis is a condition in which tissue similar to that in the lining of the womb starts to grow in other places, such as ovaries and the fallopian tubes. Symptoms include, among others, painful or heavy periods, painful bowel movements and pelvic pain. An estimated 1.5 million women in the United Kingdom are affected, which is similar to the number of women who have diabetes.

However, as we have heard, it takes an average of eight and a half years to receive a diagnosis, which means eight and a half years of pain, of missing out, of uncertainty and of explaining. How tiring must all of that be? Relationships break down because the pain and struggle are too hard to comprehend. There is the misogynistic dismissal of so-called women’s issues and people saying that it is just painful periods or, even worse, that it is perfectly normal for women to experience pain.

There are long waiting lists and a postcode lottery for treatment. There is a serious problem with delays in getting an initial appointment with a consultant, and Covid has only made the long waits even longer. Non-urgent appointments have been delayed because of Covid, but, for patients, endometriosis is not non-urgent.

One person told me that, although their GP has been good, before being referred to a consultant, their daughter had to go through various other options to rule out cysts, irritable bowel syndrome and food intolerances. More than a year after their GP’s referral, they are still to receive an appointment.

I have also been told by women that endometriosis has made them infertile, and how the inability to have children has affected their marriages. As many as 30 to 50 per cent of women who are affected by infertility have endometriosis.

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Observations of an ex pat: Migration time bomb

The world is sitting on a migration and demographic time bomb. A perfect storm of environmental, economic, and demographic factors are combing with increased international instability to drive millions of people from the developing to the developed world.

An internationally coordinated response is required to deal with the problem that will not go away. It will just become worse. Instead growing xenophobia is constructing physical and bureaucratic dams that must eventually burst.

Ironically, the two sides of the cultural and geographic fence have complementary problems. There is a shortage of workers in the xenophobic developed world and a surplus in the developing world. Birth rates in Europe, the US and Japan are either failing to replace those who die or—at best—leading to a no population growth scenario.

Low population is accompanied by an ageing citizenry. The median age in most of the world’s rich countries is between 40 and 50. This puts increased pressure on health and social care services, pensions and young workers who have to support their elders.

The developed world is also bordering on, or actually suffering, labour shortages. If their countries’ fail to grow by increased birth rates than they must recruit immigrants in order to maintain productivity levels that can support ageing populations.

In contrast, improved healthcare has dramatically cut the infant mortality rates in the developing world. This means that the median age in most of Latin America is 27. In Africa it is 18. In the case of Niger the median age is 14.8 years. The underdeveloped economies of these countries are incapable of supporting their rapidly growing populations. Their young people are heading north to survive.

To complicate matters further climate change and war is increasing the number of displaced persons in the world. In 2016 there were 10.6 million DPs. According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees the figure grew to 84 million in 2021, and that was before the Afghan crisis added several million more to the depressing and worrying total.

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Changes to comments and posting policies on Lib Dem Voice

We are from today making changes to the comments policy on Lib Dem Voice. We also will more proactively encourage female voices on LDV, both in making comments and in authoring posts.

This change comes after a meeting of editors (online as we are scattered around the country) to discuss where we are on LDV and where we want to go.

We are concerned that LDV posts and comments are dominated by men. In recent weeks, three quarters of posts have been authored by men and nine in ten comments were by men.

We intend to change that gender balance and make LDV more representative of the Lib Dems and liberal values.

We will be proactively managing the comments debate to prevent it being dominated by a small number of individuals. They are nearly always men and seem to want to slug it out to the end between themselves – to win a debate that LDV readers have long lost interest in. Too often that debate is tangential to the subject of the article. Too often it is a debate that should take place elsewhere.

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Daisy Cooper: Boris Johnson must resign #bbcqt

In a confident performance on BBC Question Time on Thursday night, Daisy Cooper tackled the question of the day. Should Boris Johnson resign?

She was forthright. The prime minister has broken the law. He has lied to parliament and the public. He must resign and the police should investigate.

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Who will deliver on Levelling Up?

Apart from the rumbling crisis developing around No.10 and the Prime Minister’s behaviour, the launch of the Levelling Up White Paper will be one of the defining moments between now and the next election.  Already delayed by disagreements within government, it’s now promised by the end of January.   If it’s a damp squib, deflating the hopes of voters in ‘red wall’ seats that Boris and Brexit would transform the poorer towns and cities of England, many of those seats will be lost again next time.

Many Conservatives cling to what cynics call ‘hanging basket’ levelling up: offering money in small packets to tidy up town centres, to bring back local pride and confidence.  Over 100 packages of funding are now on offer, through competitive bids biased in favour of Conservative-held and target seats.  Local authorities are spending money they can ill-afford writing bids for sums as little as £250,000 a time.  The maldistribution of levelling-up funds is a scandal in the making. 5 of the 10 most deprived LAs – Blackpool, Knowsley, Sandwell, Hackney and Barking – have reportedly received none; most other LAs have received far less than they have lost in core funding since 2016-17.

Gove would like to be more financially expansive – but the Treasury and Tory right-wingers are resisting. In his model central government will remain firmly in control.  This government distrusts local democracy.  Gove has talked of power for directly-elected mayors for cities, and ‘governors’ for counties, under central government direction, with a sharp reduction in numbers of councillors and local scrutiny.

The Liberal Democrat response needs to be robust.  The scale of the challenge of reducing regional and individual inequalities in the UK is such that it needs a long-term commitment to investment in a linked group of policies: education, from pre-school to FE, infrastructure and transport, local innovation and regeneration, and the revival of local public services.   The budgetary cost will require higher taxes, fairly distributed and carefully justified.  The need for consistency over 10-20 years means that an effort must be made to build some cross-party consensus, so that it will continue through changes of government.  And it MUST be led by local government, locally accountable – not dribbled down in penny packages by ministers and officials in London.

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Daisy Cooper on Question Time

Embed from Getty Images

Just to let you know that Daisy Cooper MP is appearing on Question Time this evening from Shrewsbury (10.35pm on BBC 1.)

 

 

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Campaigning on Europe – members’ views

Please note that the title of this piece has been amended to reflect the content of the article.

You may remember, last November, taking part in a survey on members’ views on Brexit and the party’s campaigning on the future of UK–EU relations. Thanks to everyone who participated – 6,500 members, more than any previous survey of this type – and thanks to Greg Foster and Dan Schmeising at party HQ who organised it on behalf of the Federal Policy Committee. This article gives you the results.

The first question asked how you voted in the 2016 referendum. Completely unsurprisingly, over 91 per cent voted to Remain. Most of the rest couldn’t vote (for example because they were too young); just 2.5 per cent voted to Leave. No less than 95 per cent would describe themselves now as Remainers (more than four-fifths of whom chose the option ‘Yes, I am a Remainer and I am proud of it’) and just 1.3 per cent described themselves as Leavers (a third of whom – 25 people – were proud of it).

In response to the question, ‘Do you think people in your life who aren’t Liberal Democrats associate the current problems the country is experiencing – shortages of truck drivers, farmworkers, care workers and goods in shops – with Brexit?’, on a 0–6 scale, the average answer was 3.7: in other words, they do, but not all that strongly. Of course, the pandemic and the government’s feeble response have complicated the picture substantially, but this will change over time, as the impacts of Brexit become ever clearer. Indeed, if we’d asked the question now rather than two months ago, I suspect the response would have been stronger.

We next asked which EU-related policy areas the party ought to treat as a priority, given that the impact of Brexit is being felt across so many; people could choose three out of a list of fourteen. Trade came top, listed by more than half of respondents. The others, in order, were: climate change and energy; freedom of movement and immigration; rights of EU citizens in the UK and UK citizens in the EU; standards for environment and labour issues; scientific collaboration; cultural, artistic and educational links; environment and biodiversity; defence and security; health policy; justice and police cooperation; foreign policy (countries outside the EU); international development; and crime.

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Where were the police?

Much has already been written about the revelations – which seem to increase on a daily basis – of illegal gatherings at No 10, but little has been said about the role of the police during those times.

It seems the Met Police have fined over 17,700 people for breaching Covid laws over the last two years, including some for holding gatherings of over 30 people.

So where were they on 20th May 2020? – and on 15th May 2020, 13th November 2020, 27th November 2020, 10th December 2020, 15th December 2020 (according to this timeline)?

The police were, of course, actually on the spot. No 10, naturally, has a high level of security, with uniformed and plain clothed officers present at all times. Did they warn the staff about breaches? And when the offences were repeated why did they not issue fines?

Boris Johnson has now admitted that he attended the event on 20th May – and there are clear photos of his attendance on 15th May.  At the very least the Met Police should investigate. And it should also be taken to task for not investigating at the time.

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The damage caused by this Government now includes psychological harm – we need them gone

This morning I was looking on Twitter at the heartbreaking messages from people who had not been able to see their loved ones before they died in May 2020 due to the Covid rules in force at the time, or to attend family funerals or visit relatives in care homes. These are deeply hurtful and scarring experiences.

I also thought to myself, how do most people feel about being told in the Spring of 2020 that they could, legally, only meet up with one person outdoors, now they know that there were parties with 30 or more people held in Downing Street at the very same time? Or about members of the public being fined by the police for breaking the same rules the Prime Minister introduced – yet broke – himself whilst, of course, concealing the truth from everyone?

I turned to thinking about Brexit and the damage and uncertainty caused to multiple interests, especially famers and fishing communities, but also to students and people who used to move regularly between the UK and the EU. This article is not about comparing the tragedies of Covid and Brexit, as Covid is infinitely worse due to the enormity of the loss of life and the associated heartache, but it is about the same way the Conservative Government has handled these two major catastrophes and continues to do so – and the kind of damage their duplicity has surely done to many people’s mental health.

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Ed Davey: Boris Johnson must resign

Ed Davey has said that Boris Johnson must resign over the Downing Street parties. He said:

“Boris Johnson has broken the law and lied to Parliament and the country, and he must now go.
“Millions of people obeyed the lockdown rules, often at huge personal cost. They missed funerals, cancelled weddings and said goodbye to dying loved ones on video calls – some on the very day that Number Ten illegally hosted a garden party.
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Why we’re so livid about the Downing Street parties

I’ve not had a huge amount of sleep. I went to bed too late and woke up too early.

Why? I’m livid. And, like many millions of people, emotions that I’ve been struggling with but keeping below the surface, are breaking through.

We’ve been going through hell, and the more we hear about the culture in Government that made them think that it was fine to sit outside in the sunshine and party when millions couldn’t comfort their dying or bereaved relatives, or had to endure intolerable suffering alone, the more we relive our experiences.

If you watched the BBC News last night, you’ll have seen a woman called Lisa recount how she had to watch her brother take his last breath on an iPad at around the same time the May 2020 BYOB party was going on in the Downing Street Garden. She is a friend of mine. So is her sister Jenni, who spoke to the Daily Record:

Jenni said: “They were telling us to stick to the rules but they thought it was OK to have a party.

“We couldn’t comfort one another but they’re having cheese and wine in the garden. They’re laughing at us and think this is OK?”

“We feel traumatised by what has happened, almost like we have PTSD because of our experience and then all these revelations come out that Boris and his staff are telling us to do one thing while they do another.

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Let’s focus on taking on the Tories in Sutton & Cheam

Last week, I had the honour of being selected by party members to be the Liberal Democrat candidate for Sutton and Cheam at the next general election, following a closely fought selection campaign.

Having previously worked as a BBC journalist for 30 years, I have now left this role to focus all my efforts on regaining this seat – which was stalwartly held for us by Paul Burstow until 2015. A win here would be a huge blow for the Conservatives and unseat Paul Scully, a senior Conservative minister who is part of this uncaring government that is taking local people for granted.

Since my selection was announced there has been some scrutiny about myself and my past. This is something I expected and indeed welcomed during the selection process, as it allowed me to explain my views and where I stand. However, more recently there have also been some unfounded claims about me by our political opponents on social media. I want to use this piece to reassure anyone who is worried and remind party members that I am always available to meet them to address any concerns.

Perhaps one issue is that having been a BBC journalist for the past thirty years, I have not been allowed to express political views in public, or on social media. So l’d like to set the record straight and address some of the issues raised. First, let me start with my history with the Liberal Democrats.

I started canvassing for the party as a student in 1982 and was first elected as an SDP-Liberal councillor in 1986 at the age of 22, winning my seat from the Tories with the biggest electoral swing that night anywhere in the country. I worked for the party in Parliament – helping Paddy Ashdown among others – and I am now the Vice Chair of Kingston Borough Liberal Democrats. I was the party’s candidate in Spelthorne in the 2019 general election and was shortlisted for several other target seats.

I have always worked for an inclusive society, supporting people regardless of sex, race, or sexual orientation. As NUJ chair at the BBC I led over a 1,000 journalists in our fight to improve racial diversity as well as equal pay for women. Here I worked closely with the first women news presenters to be successful in their fight against discrimination. And I went on to win more such claims.

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Mark Pack’s January report – the plan to build on our success in 2022

In 2021 we achieved something we’ve not achieved since 1993: winning two Parliamentary by-elections in the same year off the Conservatives. We start this new year with a larger Parliamentary Party than any of us would have dared dream of a year ago. (A winning run that has continued with the first council by-election of this year too – congratulations to now councillor Andrew Dunkin who won a seat from Labour from third place.)

The question now is how do we build on that success in 2022, and how do we make the most of our limited resources? Here’s the plan.

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Liberal Democrats must speak out for jury trials

When anyone attacks the jury system, Liberal Democrats should be vocal and prominent in defending it.

Just a few days into 2022 we saw, after the acquittal of the Colston 4, a sustained attack from Conservative voices. Their target was not just the verdict but on the jury system generally.
Juries are a precious safeguard of freedom. Our party has said so many times in our policy papers. The fight to establish juries as the fundamental deciders of whether a defendant is guilty or not was hard won. It was a struggle over centuries. It is a story entwined with the anti-establishment roots of the Liberal Democrats.

Last week’s mudslinging at the “the lamp by which liberty shines” (as Lord Bridge once called juries) is not the first bout of Tory anti-juryism. But it is particularly disquieting, albeit foreseeable, to hear it from buddies of the present government. The words of Conservative journalists and backbenchers are often used to scout positions and for ministers to stoop down to later.

Tory ministers have a record of trying to upend constitutional safeguards for partisan interest. Attempting to prorogue parliament to prevent votes on Brexit in Autumn 2019 was perhaps the worst example. The astonishing, repeated coincidences of donations with honours or policy outcomes is another. It is easy to imagine that this dangerous government might seek to interfere with the jury system.

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Email on Number 10 drinks party “adding insult to injury” – Ed Davey

Responding to reports by ITV News that Downing Street staff were invited to a drinks party in the Number 10 garden during the national lockdown on May 20 2020, Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey said:

This is yet more evidence that while the vast majority of people were sticking to the rules, those in Number Ten were breaking them.

It is a kick in the teeth for everyone who has sacrificed so much during the pandemic, from those who weren’t able to visit loved ones in hospital to nurses left wearing binbags as PPE.

To add insult to injury, on

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Dentist staffing crisis as almost 1,000 walk away

Data acquired by the Liberal Democrats has revealed a growing dentist staffing crisis as almost 1,000 practitioners have walked away from the profession in the past twelve months.

Official figures show there were 23,733 dental practitioners in 2021 – 951 fewer than the previous year, leaving more patients struggling to get the dental care they need.

The information, first covered in the Express, was published in response to a Parliamentary Question by Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey, who is calling for urgent action to ensure people can get the treatment they need.

Commenting, Ed Davey MP said:

The lack of NHS dentists across the

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Welcome to my day: 10 January 2022 – tax doesn’t need to be taxing…

Good morning, everyone, and welcome!

Your day editor is a slightly wounded one today, as my right shoulder doesn’t appear to have taken kindly to being fallen on three weeks ago. A sign of increasing old age, I fear. But the show must go on, and so it will…

As the Government finds itself in a “cost of living” crisis, a series of decisions already made look like making matters worse. Freezing the personal allowance and tax rate thresholds will bring more people into the income tax bracket, and more into the higher rate bracket too, as noted previously.

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What’s on in our Parliaments this week ? 10-14 January 2022

All three Parliaments are now fully back in session this week. Lib Dem highlights include Rupert Redesdale’s Lords debate on farming on Tuesday and it’s a busy week for Wendy Chamberlain who has an adjournment debate on Long Covid on Wednesday, a Westminster Hall debate on global vacccine access on Thursday and a Private Members’ Bill on Friday. Tim Farron also has a debate.

So what’s happening?

Westminster

Monday has Defence questions, the remaining stages of the Nuclear Energy Finance Bill which basically gives the Government the right to finance new nuclear power stations. You can find out more in the Commons Library briefing.

There’s also a couple of nasty finance measures such as the approval of the welfare cap, which is exactly what millions of vulnerable people do not need.

The Lords look at the National Insurance Contributions Bill.

On Tuesday, it’s Business questions and a yet to be defined Opposition Day Debate for MPs

In the Lords, there is an interesting question from the Bishop of Durham on social security support for larger families. A good chance to highlight the appalling two child limit for state benefits.

Then there is a chance for the Lib Dem peers to get stuck in to the Health and Care Bill as it starts its line by line scrutiny before Rupert Redesdala has a debate on the support needed by the  farming industry to combat increased costs and competition.

On Wednesday, the drama of PMQs gives way to a bill which sets out an arbitration process on rent arrears for commercial properties which have accrued during the pandemic. The Commons Library briefing is here.

Then Wendy Chamberlain has an adjournment debate on Long Covid.

The Lords deals with the final stage of the appalling Police, Crime, Courts and Sentencing Bill.  You can read Brian Paddick’s unequivocal denunciation of it as the most illiberal and authoritarian Bill he has ever seen here.

There’s more on the National Insurance Contributions Bill later.

Thursday sees Cabinet Office questions in the Commons followed by Jacob Rees-Mogg’s weekly business statement, the Government’s response to the Transport Committee report on smart motorways which says they should be paused for 5 years and backbench business on education catch up and the Online Safety Bill.

In the Lords, Paul Scriven has a question on the impact of people waiting to be seen in ambulance queues, and there’s more Health and Care Bill.

It’s a sitting Friday in the Commons and both Wendy Chamberlain and Tim Farron have Bills, Wendy’s on requiring the Government to ensure public bodies have representatives from devolved nations and Tim’s to ensure proper scrutiny of the welfare and environmental effects of trade deals on farming. Both of these are so far down the list that it is unlikely that they will even be covered and will be deferred to another date.

You can get into the full parliamentary calendar from here.

Holyrood

On Tuesday MSPs will hear Nicola Sturgeon’s latest Covid-19 update before
debating the impact of labour shortages on Scotland’s economy, a legislative consent motion to the recent Westminster Animal Welfare Bill and a private member’s debate on Endemetriosis

Posted in News and Parliament | Tagged and | 1 Comment

Jane Dodds: Welsh Farmers feel sold down the river by the Conservatives

Jane Dodds has said that the Welsh Council elections in May offer an opportunity for voters who feel let down by the Conservatives to send them a message by electing hard-working Liberal Democrats, just like they did in North Shropshire.

Writing in the County Times, she highlighted the failure of the Conservative Government to meet the needs of farmers and highlights growing support for the Liberal Democrats.

Time and time again on the doorstep we heard the sheer anger of voters, many of whom had voted Conservative for decades, that the Government simply doesn’t care about rural areas.

In contrast to the Government’s ‘levelling up’ mantra, many of these communities feel they are being levelled down.

This feeling was particularly strong among North Shropshire’s farming community and their concerns echo that I’ve heard across Powys.

Whether it’s on their failure to engage with the industry over concerns over the Australian and New Zealand trade deals, a failure to solve problems on the UK-EU veterinary agreement or a failure to help address labour shortages, the Conservatives are repeatedly failing to address the problems faced by our farmers.

Many feel as if they have been sold down the river for quick trade deals designed to benefit big bankers in the City with little regard for rural communities.

In contrast, the Liberal Democrats have a lot to offer the rural communities they have always understood and served:

Posted in LibLink | Tagged , and | 2 Comments

Daisy Cooper: Government must keep free lateral flow tests as long as they ask people to self isolate

They say that you shouldn’t believe anything until it has been officially denied. Education Secretary Nadim Zahawi has been doing the Sunday media telling us all that the Government “absolutely” has no plans to stop sending out free lateral flow tests to people. This is news to our health spokesperson Daisy Cooper who says that Ministers have already said to her that they would.

In Scotland, we are asked to test before we meet anyone, so my family of three is currently going through a box of seven tests every week. Everyone should be testing a couple of times a week as a matter of course.

My Facebook timeline has been full of friends posting pictures of their positive lateral flow tests for weeks and only discovered through testing that they had the virus and needed to stay away from others. If they had not tested, they may have gone home and visited Granny at Christmas time and spread the virus to her and other vulnerable members of their families.

Many others have been feeling pretty awful with what is supposedly a “mild” version of the virus, a reminder of how unpleasant t can be. And while hospitalisations and deaths are not, thankfully, rising in proportion with the huge rise in cases, the longer term damage from things like Long Covid is as yet unknown.

Zahawi’s denial certainly doesn’t convince me. We know already that there are tensions in the Government between those who want us all to get on with it and live with Covid with no government support and intervention and those who want us to get on with it and live with Covid with minimal support and intervention.

On the immediate issue of free lateral flow tests, Daisy said that the Government must not plunge us into a “cost of living with Covid” crisis and that the tests should remain free as long as people were being asked to self isolate:

It seems this Government is happy to hand out billions in crooked Covid contracts to their chums, but intends to scrap free covid tests plunging millions into a cost of living with Covid crisis.

Scrapping free tests when cases are at record levels would be hugely counter-productive and would hit those who can least afford it hardest, at a time when families are already being clobbered by rising taxes and energy bills.

Posted in News | Tagged , and | 26 Comments

WATCH: Daisy Cooper call for greater help for “innocent leaseholders caught in living nightmare”

Daisy Cooper has devoted a huge amount of time to pushing the Government to doing more to help leaseholders who have been caught in an impossible situation since the Grenfell Tower fire which killed 72 people. They face massive bills for additional fire safety measures, including insulation, firebreaks, balcony safety as well as cladding and the Government is doing precious little to support them.

Yesterday she spoke to Sky News about this after a leaked letter from Michael Gove suggested that the Government might introduce a limited grant scheme for cladding replacement. She made clear that this was inadequate.

She is also quoted in an Evening Standard article on the subject.

Posted in News | Tagged , and | 5 Comments
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