25 January 2023 – today’s press releases (part 2)

  • Zahawi: Raab must bring in law to stop baseless legal threats
  • Sunak holding “Hideaway Day” at Chequers with scandal-hit Cabinet
  • New sewage target passed in Parliament which allows 15 more years of harmful waste in rivers
  • Conservative MPs vote to cover up the truth about golden visas

Zahawi: Raab must bring in law to stop baseless legal threats

The Liberal Democrats have written to Dominic Raab, calling on him to “urgently” bring in a new law to stop journalists and campaigners being silenced through legal threats.

It comes following numerous reports that Conservative Party Chairman Nadhim Zahawi used the threat of legal action against campaigners and journalists who raised questions about his tax affairs.

The government has previously promised new legislation to tackle the use of Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPPs). Last year in response to a consultation on the issue, Dominic Raab warned these sorts of legal threats can have a “chilling effect” and “stifle legitimate reporting and debate,” with “media and others intimidated into abandoning critical stories in the face of crippling legal costs.”

Raab also previously said that “it is wrong that unscrupulous individuals and corporations are able to exploit our laws and our courts in this jurisdiction with claims designed to muzzle respected journalists, academics and campaigners.”

The Liberal Democrats are calling on the government to bring in new anti-SLAPP laws as quickly as possible, and to clarify if they would prevent Cabinet Ministers such as Nadhim Zahawi from behaving in the way which has been alleged.

The party is also calling for the current investigation by the ethics adviser to look into the use of legal threats by Nadhim Zahawi.

Liberal Democrat Deputy Leader Daisy Cooper said:

Dominic Raab has rightly warned about the chilling effect that the threat of legal action can have on media scrutiny and exposing corruption. It’s now time to put his money where his mouth is by finally bringing forward tough new laws to tackle these baseless legal threats.

It is particularly worrying that Nadhim Zahawi reportedly used the threat of legal action against those raising questions about his tax affairs. We need to know whether the new rules the government is proposing in this area will tackle such behaviour by Cabinet Ministers in future.

The current inquiry into Zahawi by the ethics adviser must also look into this issue, and whether legal threats were used in an attempt to cover up the truth. It can’t be one rule for Conservative ministers and another for everyone else.

Sunak holding “Hideaway Day” at Chequers with scandal-hit Cabinet

The Liberal Democrats have accused Rishi Sunak of holding a “hideaway day” with his scandal-hit Cabinet today at Chequers, dodging scrutiny while the country suffers.

Four out of 22 Cabinet Ministers are embroiled in some form of scandal, having either been previously punished for breaking the rules or currently under investigation.

Rishi Sunak himself has been fined twice by the police for breaking the law and Home Secretary Suella Braverman was previously sacked for breaching the ministerial code.

Conservative Party Chairman Nadhim Zahawi is being investigated by the government’s Ethics Adviser over his tax affairs, while Dominic Raab is facing an inquiry into bullying allegations.

Liberal Democrat Deputy Leader Daisy Cooper MP said:

While Rishi Sunak and his scandal-hit ministers hold a ‘hideaway’ day at Chequers, the rest of the country is suffering from this endless Conservative chaos.

The NHS is in crisis and people are struggling to pay their rent or mortgage, but Conservative ministers are too busy fighting to save their own careers.

Sunak’s promise to govern with integrity now lies in tatters. He can’t even tackle the multiple crises facing his Cabinet, let alone the huge challenges facing the country.

The public deserve so much better than this daily soap opera of sleaze and scandal. All people want is a fair deal with a competent government and public services they can rely on.

New sewage target passed in Parliament which allows 15 more years of harmful waste in rivers

  • Conservative MPs vote through “pathetic” target of 80% reduction of phosphates in rivers by 2038
  • Lib Dems slam “betrayal” of public who are demanding tougher action on water companies

This afternoon, Conservative MPs voted through a new statutory instrument (SI) setting new targets to reduce water pollution. Under the Environment Act the government is obliged to bring forward new binding environmental targets.

The new legilsation set a target of an 80% reduction in phosphates in rivers by 2038. Phosphates are naturally occurring minerals found in human waste and can lead to a dramatic growth in algae and deplete oxygen levels when they are dumped in rivers.

In the last two years water companies in England dumped raw sewage 775,568 times lasting 5,768,679 hours. These regulations would permit dumping to continue by water companies for 15 more years. Liberal Democrat MPs voted against these weak targets in an attempt to force the Tories to set far stronger targets.

Responding to the vote in Parliament, Liberal Democrat Environment Spokesperson Tim Farron MP said:

This is a pathetic target which allows water companies to get away with a staggering 15 more years of shameful sewage dumping. This is a betrayal of the British public who rightly want tougher action against water companies.

The water companies that are responsible for dumping sewage into our rivers, lakes and coastal waters every day, now have 15 years to clean up their act. Meanwhile their top execs have paid themselves £51 million, including £30.6 million in bonuses over the last two years.

Conservative MPs should be ashamed of themselves. It will be swimmers and treasured wildlife which pay the price for today’s flimsy target. Water company execs will be cheering this through parliament. I am proud the Liberal Democrats voted against these unacceptable targets.

Conservative MPs vote to cover up the truth about golden visas

Conservative MPs have voted against a Liberal Democrat amendment to the Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Bill in the House of Commons which would have forced the Government to release their review of the so-called Golden Visa scheme.

The vote was lost 290-220.

The review examines those golden visas which were issued between 2008 and April 2015, and has reviewed more than 6,000 golden visas for national security risks – over half of all those issued during this period. 10 golden visa recipients have since been sanctioned by the UK Government, following the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The review was initially launched in March 2018. Almost five years on, the review is yet to be published.

Last week, Lib Dem Foreign Affairs Spokesperson, Layla Moran MP, criticised the Government for trying to publish a summary of the review’s recommendations, rather than the review itself.

The Liberal Democrats have said the review must be published immediately, with a wider review into those who came here on these visas but now have claimed UK citizenship.

Liberal Democrat Foreign Affairs Spokesperson, Layla Moran MP, said:

The public have a right to know the truth about the Government’s actions on Golden Visas, but Conservative MPs have decided to sit on their hands.

Frankly, the whole thing stinks of a cover-up. We know Putin’s cronies used and abused this scheme – so why won’t the Government give us the full picture?

If the Conservatives have nothing to hide, then they have nothing to fear. Liberal Democrats will keep pushing until the review is published in full.

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