12 March 2024 – today’s press releases

  • Stuart’s failure to call out racist Hester comments “jaw-dropping”
  • 1,197 suspected drug deaths in 2023
  • Firefighters face risks as government fails to deliver RAAC register
  • Welsh Lib Dems call for more support for childcare sector in Wales
  • Care leavers shouldn’t be forced to “bear burden of proof” when it comes to accessing housing support
  • Blackie calls on Susan Hall to disown racist Frank Hester remarks

Stuart’s failure to call out racist Hester comments “jaw-dropping”

Responding to Graham Stuarts’ comments this morning on Times Radio where he refused to say Frank Hester’s alleged comments were racist and refused to say the money should be returned, Liberal Democrat Chief Whip Wendy Chamberlain MP said:

Graham Stuart’s refusal to call out these racist comments was simply jaw-dropping.

The Conservative Party has flat out refused to return these donations despite these comments being inexcusable. How low can you go?

Rishi Sunak can bunker down and hide in Downing Street as long as he wants but every day he doesn’t return this money is another damning blow to the Conservative Party’s credibility.

1,197 suspected drug deaths in 2023

Responding to new Police Scotland figures showing that there were 1,197 suspected drug deaths between January and December 2023, which is a 10% increase compared to 2022, Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP said:

When 100 people a month are dying in Scotland’s drugs deaths emergency, we need to be open to anything that will save them. Each represents a life cut short and a family torn apart by grief.

These numbers are already going in the wrong direction and with the SNP and Greens having pushed through a budget that delivers a real-terms cut to drug services, I am extremely concerned that problems will simply get worse.

Every tool at our disposal needs to be used to reduce harm and save lives. That includes protecting the drug and alcohol budget, integrated drug checking facilities and preparing now for a network of safe consumption rooms because help can’t just be limited to Glasgow.

Well-meaning words won’t stop people dying. Humza Yousaf and his government must deliver swift change and ensure they never take their eye off the ball again.

Firefighters face risks as government fails to deliver RAAC register

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton has today urged the Scottish Government to compile a complete list of buildings where the dangerous bubbly concrete known as RAAC is present, as a minister conceded that the presence of the material could present safety implications for firefighters responding to incidents.

In response to a parliamentary question from Mr Cole-Hamilton, community safety minister Siobhian Brown admitting that “Where the material is in poor condition there could be greater risk of weakness or collapse”.

It follows the news that the Scottish Government intends to leave the dangerous concrete in place in 35 NHS buildings and that it has no deadline or target for removing RAAC in NHS buildings. This contrasts with the situation in England, which currently has a target to eradicate the dangerous building material from the NHS estate by 2035.

Mr Cole-Hamilton said:

This dangerous concrete is an additional hazard that firefighters will have to consider when responding to an incident.

The minister admits that this material raises the risk of collapse so why is her government not pressing ahead with a full national register of buildings where this material is in place?

Ministers need to get their heads out of the clouds and finally establish a fund that NHS boards and local authorities can tap into, allowing them to carry out the necessary works to get rid of this dodgy concrete for good.

They also need to ensure that private property owners are investigating whether this material is present and ensuring that there is an up-to-date register of its location and its condition. It is not good enough to leave this to an already overstretched fire service.

Welsh Lib Dems call for more support for childcare sector in Wales

Today in the Senedd, the Welsh Liberal Democrats have called on the Welsh Government to offer more support for the childcare sector.

The party has raised concerns over the potential impact that the 2024 National Living Wage uplift may have on childcare providers.

According to a recent survey from Early Years Wales, 84% of childcare providers stated that the wage increase is unaffordable given the current funding rates and rising operational costs they face.

The same survey also found that 91% of providers have been forced to consider or are set to increase fees for parents, while 94% believe that the current funding rates are inadequate.

The Welsh Lib Dems are now calling on the Welsh Government to provide more support for the childcare sector.

Commenting, the Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats Jane Dodds MS said:

Unfortunately, like many industries here in Wales, our childcare sector is nearing its financial breaking point.

Devoid of any substantial government backing, there is a real risk that countless childcare providers could go under if immediate action isn’t taken.

The impact of losing our childcare sector would be felt by all of us here in Wales, not just working families that are already struggling with balancing work and home responsibilities.

Families across the country are already being faced with an almost impossible task of finding affordable and easily accessible childcare, with many being forced to choose between forking out thousands of pounds or quitting work.

To put it simply, with less affordable childcare providers, more parents will be forced to make the difficult choice of leaving their employment. Creating a potential butterfly effect that could devastate our already struggling economy.

We urgently need the Welsh Government to support the sector and help protect working Welsh families.

Care leavers shouldn’t be forced to “bear burden of proof” when it comes to accessing housing support

Today in the Senedd, the Welsh Liberal Democrats have called on the Welsh Government to ensure that the onus of proving their backgrounds isn’t placed on care leavers looking for housing support.

The Welsh Government has suggested making it a requirement that local housing authorities should have to inquire whether an applicant for housing assistance has experienced life in the care system.

However advocacy groups such as NYAS Cymru argue that this places an unnecessary burden on care-experienced youth to repeatedly disclose painful personal memories.

The advocacy group have stated their belief that the burden of evidence should not be on care-experienced young people, but instead on Local Authorities acting as “corporate parents”.

The Welsh Lib Dems are now calling on the Welsh Government to prioritise data sharing between housing authorities and social services regarding care histories.

Commenting, the Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats Jane Dodds MS said:

The Welsh Government’s proposals on preventing our most vulnerable from slipping through the cracks of our housing systems are, whilst well-intended, flawed.

Our care-experienced young people shouldn’t be forced to repeatedly disclose painful details of their past every time they wish to access rights and services that they are rightfully entitled to.

Rather than burdening our young people with proving their backgrounds, the Welsh Government must instead look at prioritising multi-agency collaboration and data sharing between housing authorities and social services.

The onus must be placed on governing bodies, not care leavers.

Blackie calls on Susan Hall to disown racist Frank Hester remarks

Following remarks from Conservative donor Frank Hester, Liberal Democrat London Mayoral candidate Rob Blackie has written to Susan Hall asking that she disowns him.

The letter reads:


today you promised to keep women safe. Yet you have said nothing about the appalling racist remarks by Conservative donor Frank Hester, who said that Diane Abbott “should be shot”. It’s been almost 24 hours since this news emerged.

Black women continue to face unacceptable racism and violence in London. We all have a duty to fight against this. London’s diversity is our greatest strength – and we all need to work together to fight people who would divide us.

In that light can you confirm that the London Conservatives have never received funding from Mr Hester, directly or indirectly? If you have, will you return the funds immediately?

And will you condemn his remarks for appalling racist and dehumanising language?


Rob Blackie
Liberal Democrat candidate for Mayor of London

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This entry was posted in London, News, Press releases, Scotland and Wales.


  • Mary Fulton 13th Mar '24 - 7:43am

    Liberal Democrats should be demanding that control of drugs laws should be devolved to Scotland as a matter of urgency so the drugs deaths emergency can be properly addressed. Not only is this the right thing to do – it will also remove the only excuse the SNP/Greens have for their inability to tackle the problem.

  • Re increasing drug deaths; the sad truth is that the main drug using cohort is getting older and sicker and sometimes there is little to nothing even the best drug treatment service can do to prevent the death of a patient.

    Drug deaths are often multifaceted a fatal overdose may be contributed to by, for example, liver disease leading to reduced capacity to metabolise the drugs and therefore greater risk of overdose on amounts that would not normally be likely to cause a fatality. Similarly compromised lung function through COPD or other conditions can make fatal overdose from sedating, cardio vascular suppressant drugs more likely.
    The topic is extremely complex and to try and play politics because deaths are increasing is not the answer, deaths will increase regardless of who is in power.
    Early intervention and prevention is a different matter and here, political strategy can and does have impact and influence on the numbers of people becoming dependent users.
    Scotland’s drug strategy has usually been far more innovative and adaptive than that of the rest of the U.K. they changed the law to allow the easy distribution of Naloxone years, before the rest of the U.K. even gave it any serious consideration.

  • It is far too early to say what if any impact a roll out of consumption rooms would have, or whether they would lead to any significant number of previously unknown users being supported into treatment. The U.K. already has a well developed and well resourced infrastructure of drug ( and alcohol treatment services). This is very different to some of our European neighbours. Greece, for example has in comparison to the U.K. extremely limited opiate substitute prescribing services, with people often having to travel to major cities to receive prescribing treatment, not so in the U.K.

  • nigel hunter 13th Mar '24 - 4:29pm

    Hester is, it seems, the chap funding Sunak’s chopper trips. 2019 he started donating to the Conservatives .Lo and behold he is given NHS contracts. He donates 10 million to the Conservatives. Is he expecting more juicy contracts? Is he getting these Taxpayer funded contracts (we supply the cash via our taxes for the NHS thru NI) then donating to the Conservatives profits funded by these taxpayer contracts? Fraund from the public purse?

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