20 October 2020 – today’s press releases

  • Liberal Democrats secure Government commitment to publish test and trace agreement with police
  • Government face first defeat in the Lords over Internal Market Bill

Liberal Democrats secure Government commitment to publish test and trace agreement with police

Today, Liberal Democrat Peer Paul Scriven has secured a commitment from Health Minister Lord Bethell to publish the agreement between the Government and police chiefs over the decision to share test and trace data.

This follows the Health Secretary’s refusal to make the Memorandum of Understanding public when Liberal Democrat Health and Care Spokesperson Munira Wilson asked him to just yesterday.

Following the exchange, Liberal Democrat peer Lord Scriven said:

An effective test, trace and isolate system to keep people safe will only work if the public have faith in it and this means the Government must be open and honest about how it uses people’s data.

It is absolutely crucial that the Government publishes its Memorandum of Understanding with police chiefs on sharing of Test and Trace data in full, otherwise they risk further undermining public trust in the system and discouraging people from getting tested.

I’m glad to have secured this commitment from the Minister, but he must now make sure the document is published for public scrutiny as soon as possible. The Liberal Democrats are clear that transparency over the use of personal data is essential to build public confidence in Test and Trace.

Government face first defeat in the Lords over Internal Market Bill

Responding to the vote on Lord Judge’s motion to the Internal Market Bill in the House of Lords, with the Government being defeated by 395 votes to 169 votes, Leader of the Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords Dick Newby said:

For a long time now we have known that Boris Johnson and his Ministers have little regard for the rule of law, but this Bill goes far beyond what any Prime Minister should even contemplate – let alone pursue.

How can this Government seriously expect to condemn other countries, like Russia and China, for failing to respect international law if they plan to flout it themselves when it comes to the Withdrawal Agreement?

However, there is still time to ditch the Bill and prevent it from becoming law. The Government must row back and do what it can to salvage the UK’s international reputation.

Breaking the law has consequences – and this resounding loss in the House of Lords is one of them. Liberal Democrats will always stand up for the rule of law – and plan to continue to stand up to those who think they’re above it.

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2 Comments

  • Katharine Pindar 21st Oct '20 - 9:54am

    Excellent what the Lords decided about the Withdrawal Bill, a resounding victory. We know the Government won’t accept it, but the protest must go on. Well done, Lord Newby, for representing what all Lib Dems would like to say.

  • Liberal Democrats are right to seek safeguards on test and trace data. But a more fundamental issue threatens lives in England – using an incompetent private firm at huge cost in Test and Trace run by a Tory Government chum, Baroness Dido Harding.

    George Monbiot makes it clear in today’s Guardian. I hope his words sink in with movers and shakers in the Liberal Democrat Party.

    “If you are not incandescent with rage, you haven’t grasped the scale of what has been done to us. The new surge in the coronavirus, and the restrictions and local lockdowns it has triggered, are caused in large part by the catastrophic failure of the test-and-trace system. Its £12bn budget has been blown, as those in charge of it have failed to drive the infection rate below the critical threshold.

    Their failure was baked in, caused by the government’s ideological commitment to the private sector. This commitment had three impacts: money that could have saved lives has been diverted into corporate profits; inexperienced consultants and executives have been appointed over the heads of qualified public servants; instead of responsive local systems, the government has created a centralised monster.

    This centralisation is perhaps the hardest aspect to understand. All experience here and abroad shows that local test and trace works better. While, according to the latest government figures, the centralised system currently reaches just 62.6% of contacts, local authorities are reaching 97%. This is despite the fact that they have been denied access to government data, and were given just £300m, in contrast with the £12bn for national test and trace. Centralisation may be a catastrophe, but it does enable huge contracts for multinational corporations.

    The Conservative mantra, repeated for 40 years like a stuck record, is that the public sector is wasteful and inefficient while the private sector is lean and competitive. Yet the waste and inefficiency caused by privatising essential public health functions is off the scale. This isn’t like rail or water privatisation, where failure has caused dysfunction within a single public service. This is about the escalating collapse of national life”.

    George Monbiot, Guardian 21 October, 2020.

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