3 June 2020 – today’s press releases

  • Welsh Lib Dems welcome plans for phased school re-opening
  • China is being wilfully ignorant with Hong Kong response
  • Govt not clear on legal powers to implement local lockdowns
  • Govt must not risk going backwards on containing COVID-19
  • MPs need to urgently restore the virtual Parliament

Welsh Lib Dems welcome plans for phased school re-opening

Commenting on Kirsty Williams’s announcement of a phased return to school from the end of the month, Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader Jane Dodds said:

Once again Kirsty Williams is setting the bar with regards to how a Government should be communicating at times like this.

She has clearly laid out her plans, and the rationale behind them, in an upfront manner. This will give parents, children and teaching staff the reassurance they need.

The Welsh Liberal Democrats are committed to getting our children back in the classroom and learning as soon, but only when it is safe to do so.

I am therefore pleased to see that no child is forced to go back, especially those who are shielding themselves or who have family that are shielding.

China is being wilfully ignorant with Hong Kong response

Responding to reports that China has warned the UK to “step back from the brink” over UK criticism of Beijing’s national security law for Hong Kong, Liberal Democrat Foreign Affairs spokesperson Alistair Carmichael said:

China’s Foreign Ministry are being wilfully ignorant. The Sino-British Joint Declaration was not a unilateral announcement but a clear joint legal text, lodged at the UN. The clue is in the name.

Both the UK and China made promises to the people of Hong Kong during the Handover. Under the Joint Declaration, Hong Kong’s ‘one country, two systems’ way of life was to be protected and enhanced.

Beijing has shown increasing contempt for the Joint Declaration and it is clear that the government must now ensure all Hong Kongers are given the right to live in the UK. Liberal Democrats will continue to urge the UK Government to expand the BNO offer they have outlined.

Govt not clear on legal powers to implement local lockdowns

Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department of Health and Social Care Lord Bethell has admitted that the Government’s policy for local lockdowns is still “in development”, and could not confirm who would have legal responsibility for implementing and managing these.

In response to a question from Liberal Democrat Peer Lord Scriven, Lord Bethell confirmed that “arrangements for local lockdowns aren’t fully in place”.

Following the exchange, Liberal Democrat Peer Lord Scriven, a former Leader of Sheffield City Council, said:

Today at the Number 10 press conference, the Chief Medical Officer has said we will be likely to get local flare ups. The Government cannot seriously expect local areas to take action to keep local people safe and to dampen the Virus in their area if the Government hasn’t got policies, systems and legal arrangements in place to ensure local bodies can take swift and decisive action to deal with a spike of Coronavirus.

It is utterly incomprehensible that the Government has decided to start lifting the lockdown – recognising the risks this poses – without legal clarity on the issue of who is responsible for managing local infection surges and implementing lockdowns.

If we are to have any hope of containing COVID-19 and preventing a second wave of infections, these systems are absolutely pivotal. We must see clarity on these powers as a matter of urgency. Without this, it’s hard to escape the conclusion that Ministers are again playing catch up with what the scientists are telling them, taking serious risks with public health.

Govt must not risk going backwards on containing COVID-19

Responding to the Prime Minister’s COVID-19 update, Acting Leader of the Liberal Democrats Ed Davey said:

Major concerns remain about the prospect of a new surge in COVID-19 cases given that the risk level remains “high” and, tragically, hundreds are still dying every day in the UK. The Government seem unable to get a grip on key issues further undermining public confidence.

It has taken months for the Government to introduce measures to quarantine new arrivals and it’s not clear that this move even follows scientific guidance. For ten days now the Department of Health have failed to provide raw data on the numbers tested. The test, trace and isolate system that is vital to keep people safe has yet to be proven effective.

The Government must not risk going backwards in containing the spread of this the virus by lifting lockdown too early, before critical systems are up and running.

MPs need to urgently restore the virtual Parliament

Responding to the news that Alok Sharma MP has had to return home to self isolate after becoming unwell with suspected Covid-19 at the dispatch box earlier today, Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader Jane Dodds said:

I am incredibly concerned for Alok Sharma. He was clearly very unwell at the dispatch box earlier and I hope that he recovers soon.

Mr Rees Mogg was warned about forcing MPs to return, but he didn’t listen. His obsession with tradition has put the health and wellbeing of MPs at risk, and excluded those who cannot return due to health concerns.

Mr Rees Mogg has lost all credibility and needs to resign as Leader of the House of Commons.

This case shows just how important maintaining the virtual parliament is. It is ludicrous that MPs have to spend 45 minutes snaking around the Parliamentary estate in order to vote, when this can be done online in a matter of seconds.

MPs need to urgently restore virtual proceedings so they can all continue to participate from the safety of their own home. This is the only sensible route forward and is same approach being taken by both the Senedd and the House of Lords.

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