27 September 2020 – Conference day 3 press releases

  • Liberal Democrats challenge Government’s “power grab” planning proposals
  • Liberal Democrats adopt transformative racial justice plan
  • BBC licence fee should be set by independent body, Liberal Democrats say
  • Stalled talks with EU threaten climate action, Liberal Democrats warn
  • Stopping no-deal must be the priority, Liberal Democrats say

Liberal Democrats challenge Government’s “power grab” planning proposals

In a policy motion adopted today at the Liberal Democrats’ Autumn Conference, the Party has warned that the Government’s planning proposals will “disempower” councils and allow developers to “run roughshod” over local communities’ wishes.

The motion lays bare the risks of the Government’s proposals, which the Party argue amount to a Government “power grab” that will reduce investment in affordable housing, damage public scrutiny of planning decisions, and potentially undermine climate commitments.

By supporting the motion, the Liberal Democrat members reaffirmed their commitment to challenging the move through the Government’s consultation process and reject the “reduction of local control”.

Liberal Democrat Housing, Communities and Local Government spokesperson Tim Farron said:

Planning decisions have incredible power to shape the places we live for the better. Local people are clearly best placed to decide what “better” looks like in their area, and to know what their community really needs.

Yet the Conservatives’ planning power grab will disempower local people and local authorities alike, and lead to even fewer affordable homes being built. Instead of addressing the root cause of the housing crisis, the Tories’ proposals serve the interests of wealthy developers, giving them carte blanche to run roughshod over local communities’ wishes.

As this motion shows, the Liberal Democrats wholeheartedly object to these proposals. We’ll be doing everything in our power to ensure our voice is heard through the consultation process. We are also calling on the Government to act now to address the housing crisis, by matching the Liberal Democrats’ ambition to build 100,000 social homes for rent every year.

Liberal Democrats adopt transformative racial justice plan

The Liberal Democrats have today adopted proposals to “tackle racial injustice now”, putting forward a series of measures to combat all forms of racism, “whether conscious or unconscious, individual or institutional”.

Affirming that Black Lives Matter, the motion – accepted at the Party’s Autumn Conference – calls on the Government to tackle discrimination and inequality across the UK. It includes calls to end the Hostile Environment, abolish suspicionless stop and search, and require the police, prison service, judiciary and other public bodies to adopt ambitious targets for improving the diversity of their workforce.

Wider calls include facilitating a review of the national history curriculum with the aim of diversifying the syllabus, creating local citizens’ assemblies to consider how the past is memorialised in public spaces, and forming a commission to establish the scale and extent of human rights abuses committed by the British Empire.

Speaking after the motion, Liberal Democrat Equalities spokesperson Wera Hobhouse said:

Racial justice cannot wait. The Black Lives Matter movement has demonstrated how important it is that we confront and tackle racism in all its forms, wherever we find it.

The Conservatives’ own policies, like the creation of a Hostile Environment, serve to fan the flames of racism and need to be scrapped. We need to see a coherent Race Equality Strategy.

One thing is abundantly clear: we must do much more to eradicate systemic racism in our society and our institutions, from our criminal justice system to our schools and universities. Radical action is needed right now to bring about change and build a more inclusive country.

BBC licence fee should be set by independent body, Liberal Democrats say

At their Autumn Conference today, the Liberal Democrats have agreed proposals that would see the BBC licence fee level set independently next year after government cuts forced the BBC to end free TV licences for most over-75s.

Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats Daisy Cooper warned that the Government must never again be allowed to “force the BBC into a corner where it has to choose between cuts to programming or raising these fees on the most vulnerable.”

The Party, which led a cross party group of 106 parliamentarians calling for a review of the decision to cut hundreds of BBC staff working across regional programmes, has agreed plans to protect the long–term future of the BBC.

Members have also called on the Government to uphold its promise to retain the licence fee model until the end of the current Charter period in December 2027, and for a transparent and independent body to review the cost of the licence next year.

The Liberal Democrats used the same policy motion to take a swipe at Boris Johnson ducking BBC scrutiny during last year’s General Election by calling on all senior politicians to make themselves available for scrutiny in televised interviews and debates.

Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats Daisy Cooper said:

Families around the UK have flocked to the BBC during the coronavirus pandemic as a source of trusted news, entertainment and education, demonstrating the true value of public service broadcasting at a time of national crisis.

As families face serious financial hardship and the prospect of local lockdowns, it is absurd that the BBC is left with no choice but to cut jobs and programmes that will reduce people’s ability to know what’s going on in their area.

Ending free TV licences for the over 75s, which could push some of the poorest pensioners into poverty, jars with common decency.

We must be clear: the responsibility of these cuts falls squarely at the feet of Conservative Ministers. With these plans, it is no wonder we can find neither hide nor hair of Boris Johnson when proper media scrutiny comes calling.

To save BBC programming we must never again allow Ministers to force the BBC into a corner where it has to choose between cuts to programming or raising these fees on the most vulnerable. That means ensuring the licence fee is set independently.

Stalled talks with EU threaten climate action, Liberal Democrats warn

The Liberal Democrats have today called on the Government to join the EU Emission Trading Scheme as part of a package of policies to “build a green recovery and tackle the climate emergency.”

The proposal, agreed as part of the Green Recovery motion at the Party’s Autumn conference, come as talks between the EU and the UK on a free trade agreement failed to make progress with environmental standards cited as a major stumbling block.

Liberal Democrat Climate Action Spokesperson Sarah Olney has warned Conservative Ministers struggling to cut deals with the EU are “risking that recovery and abandoning the duty on all of us to tackle the climate emergency.”

The Liberal Democrats are arguing that the UK should open talks to secure post-Brexit entry to the EU Emissions Trading Scheme, the European Union’s climate change policy tool to help industries cut their CO2 emissions in a cost-effective way.

Other proposals agreed by the Liberal Democrats include a legally binding commitment to reduce emissions tied into coronavirus related support packages and major investment to encourage active travel through walking and cycling, which recent official figures show has stagnated.

Liberal Democrat Climate Action Spokesperson Sarah Olney:

As we look at how we create jobs and get our economy moving following the pandemic, the Government must take a climate-first approach.

With Conservative Ministers struggling to cut deals with the EU, they are risking that recovery and abandoning the duty on all of us to tackle the climate emergency.

People and the planet deserve better. Liberal Democrats are unequivocally clear that reducing emissions must be a cornerstone for both business and government.

That means radical action from investing in active travel to putting aside party politics and working with our closest international partners to build a green recovery and tackle the climate emergency.

Stopping no-deal must be the priority, Liberal Democrats say

The Liberal Democrats have today reaffirmed their commitment to stopping a no-deal Brexit and oppose Boris Johnson’s efforts to “drag the country’s reputation through the mud” by breaking international law.

During a debate at the Liberal Democrat Autumn conference, the Party’s new Brexit spokesperson Christine Jardine slammed Boris Johnson for “sacrificing everything and anything in his ideological pursuit of Brexit.”

The debate comes as talks between the EU and the UK on a free trade agreement have show no signs of progress, and amidst mounting controversy over Government plans to to break international law over Brexit.

Other proposals agreed by the Liberal Democrats include a commitment to campaign to protect and enhance the rights of UK citizens in the EU and EU citizens in the UK, and to uphold the provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights and Charter of Fundamental Rights.

Speaking after the debate, Liberal Democrat Brexit Spokesperson Christine Jardine said:

With our country already facing the biggest economic and health crisis in generations, it is unthinkable that the UK would crash out of the transition period without a deal.

Boris Johnson must start putting the nation first, rather than sacrificing everything and anything in his ideological pursuit of Brexit. This is about stopping the disaster of food shortages, medicine shortages, and more.

At every step of the Brexit process, Liberal Democrats were clear in our pro-EU position. We’ll never turn our back on our pro-European values because we are so much better off standing together than we could ever be alone.

That is why our duty now is to put every last ounce of political energy towards stopping a no-deal and opposing Boris Johnson’s efforts to drag the country’s reputation through the mud by breaking international law.

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One Comment

  • David Garlick 2nd Oct '20 - 4:26pm

    BBC and us pensioners.
    Don’t cut out the free for over 75’s if they are receiving government support.
    Don’t give it to me in a couple of years time as I and millions more like me can well afford to pay.
    Independent fixers of the Licence Fee would need some careful thought and significant guidance. Beware the law of unintended consequences!

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