16-17 May 2020: the weekend’s press releases

  • Lib Dems: Covid-19 mental health implications a ticking time bomb
  • Lib Dems call for permanent remote voting option for MPs
  • Govt must be transparent if they want public support for reopening schools
  • Davey: Govt approach to tracing ‘totally inadequate’
  • Lib Dems: Govt putting ideology above people’s lives in refusing to extend Brexit talks
  • Govt must not pursue isolationist approach to vaccine

Lib Dems: Covid-19 mental health implications a ticking time bomb

Responding to the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ findings that psychiatrists fear a ‘tsunami’ of mental illness after the pandemic, Liberal Democrat Health Spokesperson Munira Wilson said:

The mental health implications of Covid-19 are a ticking time bomb for our NHS and care services.

While we may hope to get on top of the physical aspects of the virus, the mental health impacts will last for years to come and many of us will be affected.

These findings make for stark reading. It is clear the government must heed these warnings and do what they can now to encourage those who need support to seek it.

To protect our NHS and care systems so that they can continue to help everyone the government must ensure sustained investment starts now.

Liberal Democrats will continue calling on the government to form a comprehensive strategy to protect and support the nation’s mental health.

Lib Dems call for permanent remote voting option for MPs

The Liberal Democrats are calling for the new online system enabling MPs to vote remotely to be made permanent, after the successful first vote under the system this week.

The system, using the online “MemberHub” portal, has been introduced in the House of Commons as a temporary measure to allow MPs to vote on legislation and other motions from home during the coronavirus pandemic.

However, Liberal Democrat Political Reform Spokesperson Wendy Chamberlain says making it permanent would “put an end to MPs having to choose between going into Parliament when they’re ill or leaving their constituents unrepresented on key votes.”

The Party believes permanent remote voting would remove the reliance on pairing agreements, which have proved controversial such as when a Conservative MP voted in a knife-edge Brexit vote in 2018 despite being paired with former Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson, away on maternity leave.

The Liberal Democrats will submit their proposals for remote voting as an alternative to physical voting to the House of Commons Procedure Select Committee’s inquiry on procedure under coronavirus restrictions.

Wendy Chamberlain, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Political Reform, said:

It is right that, like everyone else, MPs stay at home as much as possible to protect the NHS and save lives. But proper parliamentary scrutiny of the Government’s actions is essential, and allowing MPs to vote remotely is therefore absolutely vital.

I’m grateful to the parliamentary staff who have put in place a secure system of remote voting for all MPs, so that we can continue to do our jobs.

Now that the system up and running, there is no good reason not to make it permanent. Allowing MPs to vote remotely will put an end to us having to choose between going into Parliament when they’re ill or leaving their constituents unrepresented on key votes.

It shouldn’t have taken a pandemic to drag Parliament into the 21st century. But now that it has, we must not see Parliament go back again when this crisis is over.

Liberal Democrats have been working for years to make Parliament more accessible and will continue to do so.

Govt must be transparent if they want public support for reopening schools

Responding to today’s press conference, Liberal Democrat Education Spokesperson Layla Moran said:

The Secretary of State was right to point out that whilst schools stay closed, disadvantaged and vulnerable children will fall the furthest behind. However, that does not mean their safety should not come first.

It shouldn’t have taken the Education Secretary this long to realise parents, children and teaching staff will need reassurance as they look at reopening schools, but the Government must now follow through.

SAGE must not only release the other options that were considered for reopening schools, but the conclusions that led to the current guidance. That is the only way Ministers can ensure the British public will support the measures they are introducing as they begin to relax lockdown.

Davey: Govt approach to tracing ‘totally inadequate’

Responding to Michael Gove’s appearance on Sophy Ridge this morning, Acting Leader of the Liberal Democrats Ed Davey said:

The Liberal Democrats have been calling for a comprehensive test, trace and isolate strategy from early in the crisis and like so many have been frustrated by the slowness in Ministers’ actions.

Yet the Government’s latest approach on tracing is totally inadequate. The experience in other countries suggests we will need more than 18,000 people to undertake the tracing work and the failure of Whitehall Ministers to engage with communities to deliver an effective tracing strategy is lamentable.

Ministers must listen to others on tracing given their testing strategy has been so poorly delivered. Even now, the UK’s testing capacity, in particular the speed of testing, and the availability of protective equipment for frontline workers must be stepped up if we are to slow the spread of coronavirus.

We have seen what has happened in our care homes due to the Government’s failure to properly protect people from the virus. It is simply not true for Ministers to now assert they put a ‘protective ring’ around care homes when everyone knows that is false, and it only adds insult to injury for the bereaved.

Government Ministers must now get a grip on the crisis urgently rather than wasting time patting themselves on the back when in truth they have been shambolic.

Lib Dems: Govt putting ideology above people’s lives in refusing to extend Brexit talks

Responding to reports that civil servants dealing with coronavirus have been redeployed to no-deal planning, Acting Leader of the Liberal Democrats Ed Davey said:

The Government’s continuing rejection of calls for an extension to Brexit talks is reckless and flies in the face of the current efforts by everyone to tackle the coronavirus crisis. The reports that civil servants are being diverted from dealing with the virus to no-deal planning, as well as Michael Gove’s stubborn response this morning, shows the Government is determined to see the British public go from one crisis to the next.

As we witness coronavirus continue to take lives across the UK, especially in our care homes and on the frontline, it is outrageous that the Government are pulling resources away from tackling the spread of the disease. This Conservative Government are putting ideology above people’s lives, when far too many have already been tragically lost.

To press ahead with Brexit on the previous timetable is dangerous. The Government must extend the transition period so they can focus on getting our frontline workers the protective equipment they need and the strategy to test, trace and isolate to keep people safe in place.

Govt must not pursue isolationist approach to vaccine

Responding to today’s coronavirus press conference, Liberal Democrat Health, Wellbeing and Social Care spokesperson Munira Wilson said:

Any progress on a vaccine to fight coronavirus is welcome, but we must not solely base all our hopes on this one trial, nor should we turn our backs on international cooperation should we be successful.

We have seen the importance of international cooperation, whether it has been sourcing ventilators, processing tests when our own laboratories could not process them all, or in working with others to fly back citizens stuck abroad. Whether we are the first to be successful, or another country is, it is vital we continue to fight the virus with other countries rather than pursuing an isolationist approach as we have seen from the President of the United States.

In the mean time, the Government must not lose sight of ensuring we have a comprehensive test, trace and isolate system in place to keep people safe until a successful vaccine is readily available.

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