7 March 2024 – today’s press releases

  • Resolution Foundation reveals £8bn pensioner tax bombshell in Budget
  • “All the hallmarks of a backroom deal”- Welsh Lib Dems react to decision to keep new controversial Senedd voting system
  • Donelan scandal: Lib Dems demand ethics advisor probe and Science Minister to step aside whilst investigation ongoing
  • Carmichael calls for UK ban on imports from illegal Israeli settlements
  • SNP cancel bus fund after spending less than 6% – Rennie
  • McArthur responds to news that more crimes will not be investigated

Resolution Foundation reveals £8bn pensioner tax bombshell in Budget

Jeremy Hunt’s Budget includes an £8bn tax bombshell for pensioners, analysis from the Resolution Foundation has revealed.

All 8 million tax-paying pensioners will see their taxes increase due to the freezing of income tax thresholds. This will leave the average taxpaying pensioner £1,000 worse off by 2027-28, – or an £8 billion collective hit.

Responding to the analysis, Liberal Democrat Treasury Spokesperson Sarah Olney MP said:

Buried in the small print of this Budget is a disgraceful £8 billion pensioner tax bombshell.

People who have worked hard and done the right thing all their lives are being hammered by Jeremy Hunt with years of unfair tax hikes, leaving them an average of £1,000 worse off each.

This Conservative government has shown their true colours, pensioners are not their priority. They would rather cut taxes for the big banks than look after those who have given so much for so long to our society.

“All the hallmarks of a backroom deal”- Welsh Lib Dems react to decision to keep new controversial Senedd voting system

The Welsh Liberal Democrats have described the decision to keep the new Senedd voting system as having “all the hallmarks of a backroom deal”.

From 2026, votes will be cast for parties instead of individual candidates as part of plans to expand the Senedd.

Critics of the new voting system say that it takes power away from the voter and places it in the hands of political party bosses.

Commenting, the Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats Jane Dodds MS said:

This proposal to switch towards a Closed-list system has all the hallmarks of a backroom deal, a stitch up decided behind closed doors.

We have heard time after time that Closed-list systems put power in the hands of the party, and not the people.

So why do Welsh Labour and their Plaid Cymru counterparts insist on pushing through a voting system that has been torn down by numerous experts?

The irony hasn’t been lost on me that the so-called “progressive parties” have decided to back a conservative system that holds us backwards instead of pushing us forward.

With this Bill, we have a once in a lifetime opportunity to revolutionise Welsh democracy.

But choosing to go down this path, we have turned ourselves into outliers. Disconnected from democratic norms such as voter empowerment and candidate accountability glaringly missing.

Donelan scandal: Lib Dems demand ethics advisor probe and Science Minister to step aside whilst investigation ongoing

The Liberal Democrats have written to the Ethics Advisor to demand an investigation into whether Science Minister Michelle Donelan broke the Ministerial Code.

The party has also said that Michelle Donelan should step down from her role whilst the investigation takes place, and Rishi Sunak should sack her if it turns out she has breached the Code.

It comes as it has been revealed that Donelan’s Department used £15,000 of taxpayers’ money to cover damages paid to Prof Kate Sang, although the full potential legal costs related to the case have not been published.

In the letter, the Liberal Democrats say that the lack of transparency over costs to the taxpayer could amount to a breach of the Code, which requires ministers to be “as open as possible with Parliament and the public, refusing to provide information only when disclosure would not be in the public interest.”

Liberal Democrat Cabinet Office spokesperson, Christine Jardine MP said:

Rishi Sunak needs to launch an Ethics Advisor investigation into this mess immediately so that the public can get the answers that they deserve, and Michelle Donelan should step aside while this is ongoing.

The public is rightly furious that they have been forced to foot the bill for Michelle Donelan’s actions. They deserve full transparency from the government and whether any rules were broken.

If Michelle Donelan is found to have broken the code she should resign, and if she does not have the decency to do that then Sunak must sack her.

Carmichael calls for UK ban on imports from illegal Israeli settlements

Orkney and Shetland MP, Alistair Carmichael, has today called for the government to commit to banning the importation of goods produced in illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank in Palestine. Questioning the Business and Trade Secretary in Parliament, Mr Carmichael noted current negotiations on a free trade deal with Israel, and warned that the “double standard” of banning goods from Russian-occupied Crimea while allowing trade in goods produced in illegal Israeli settlements risked undermining the UK’s reputation in upholding the international rule of law.

Speaking in the House, Mr Carmichael asked:

Can the Secretary of State give me some assurance that any free trade agreement with Israel will not allow the importation of goods produced in settlements on the West Bank?”

Responding for the government, Business and Trade Secretary Kemi Badenoch MP said:

Yes, I can give that assurance. We are clear under our existing UK-Israel trade and partnership agreement that Israeli goods originating from the State of Israel receive tariff preferences. We also have a separate interim agreement between the UK and the Palestinian Authority. I confirm that that will continue to be the case with an upgraded FTA with Israel. We will not compromise our long-standing positions on the middle east process throughout this negotiation, including with respect to settlements.

Reacting after the exchange, Mr Carmichael said:

Excluding goods from illegal settlements from a future trade deal with Israel is necessary but insufficient. It is incomprehensible that we allow such goods to be sold in the UK in the first place, with or without tariffs. It is past time we had a clear ban on the products of illegal occupation.

If we ban goods from Crimea, which is illegally occupied by Russia, then we cannot in good conscience allow goods from the illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Such a double standard risks undermining the moral legitimacy of our efforts against Putin’s illegal invasion or any other illegal occupations in the future. If we believe in the international rule of law then we have to live up to it now.

SNP cancel bus fund after spending less than 6% – Rennie

Scottish Liberal Democrat Willie Rennie MSP has today questioned connectivity minister Jim Fairlie on revelations that the SNP government spent less than 6% of a now-cancelled fund to improve bus services.

The Bus Partnership fund was launched in 2020 with £500 million of ‘long-term’ funding for bus priority measures on local and trunk roads. This was intended to improve services by reducing the impact of congestion.

However, the 2024-25 Scottish Government budget cancelled funding for the scheme, and bus industry body CPT wrote to the government revealing that ‘only about £26.9 million has been allocated to partnerships’.

Questioning Jim Fairlie today in Holyrood, Mr Rennie raised declining bus ridership which he said had fallen by a hundred million journeys per year a decade after the SNP came into power.

Speaking in the chamber, Mr Rennie said:

When the SNP came to power, there were almost half a billion journeys on the buses every year. Over the following decade it dropped by a hundred million before dropping further since the pandemic. So, for the years before the autumn statement why did the government fail to spend the budget that was designed to reverse that decline?

He later added:

The SNP would have spent £50 million a year if they were serious about this fund. But they only spent half of that over four years, with the final year cancelled. This is typical of the SNP- flashy announcements to signal that they care but incapable of delivering.

If SNP ministers could deliver funding as well as excuses, they could have spent the fund three times over.

McArthur responds to news that more crimes will not be investigated

Responding to the press release from Police Scotland declaring that a pilot scheme which saw some crimes going uninvestigated will be expanded to the whole of Scotland, Scottish Liberal Democrat justice spokesperson Liam McArthur MSP said:

It’s bizarre and Kafka-esque to see the police declare their trial a success because they have successfully not investigated some crimes.

I can understand that this may free up officer time when evidence from CCTV or witnesses is limited but there is a risk that this move encourages criminals and breeds disillusionment in the public.

The Scottish Government are risking a hollowed out police force which does not or cannot respond to reported crimes.

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This entry was posted in News, Press releases, Scotland and Wales.
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9 Comments

  • Good to see us starting to strengthen our stance on Palestine. I do hope we will be shouting about this in areas with Muslim communities. We shouldn’t leave them to the likes of George Galloway!

  • Mary Fulton 8th Mar '24 - 9:41am

    Totally agree we should boycott goods from illegal Israeli settlements and if Israel chooses to hide the true origin under a ‘produce of Israel’ label we should boycott all goods from Israel. Anything less condones the illegal settlements.

  • Alex Macfie 8th Mar '24 - 10:49am

    @David LG: We shouldn’t be thinking of it as a “Muslim” issue. There are many Jewish opponents of Israel’s actions in Gaza and of the Israeli government itself. George Galloway’s position is about Hamas prevailing in its conflict with Israel rather than forging a just long-term peace in the region. Voters attracted by his message might think of our nuanced position on the Israel~Hamas conflict as “selling out”.

  • @Alex Macfie
    It’s not just a Muslim issue but they are understandably the most motivated by it. And whatever Galloway’s exact position do you really think that 40% of people in Rochdale want a hamas victory instead of peace?

  • Alex Macfie 9th Mar '24 - 9:21am

    @David LG: You have to wonder what they think if they are prepared to vote for someone like George Galloway. Voting for him because you want peace between Israel and Palestine is like voting BNP because you want racial harmony.

  • Let’s get the maths right.

    Rochdale has an electorate of over 78,000. Just over 12,000 voted for Galloway. That’s nothing like 40% however ‘well educated’ or not they may be.

  • Alex Macfie 9th Mar '24 - 10:12am

    George Galloway makes no secret of his opposition to the existence of the state of Israel, and he’s strangely quiet about atrocities committed by Hamas, including against its own people. Condemning the atrocities on all sides is part and parcel of wanting peace in the Middle East, so anyone who is prepared to vote for someone who turns a blind eye to atrocities on one side cannot genuinely want a just peace there.

  • Peter Martin 9th Mar '24 - 10:44am

    “We shouldn’t be thinking of it as a “Muslim” issue”

    That’s right we shouldn’t. We can see this from the turnout on the Pro-Palestine marches and the banners held by a section of Celtic supporters. Nevertheless, and as already been alluded to, the Muslim community does make the difference. Rochdale probably wouldn’t have been won by Galloway and the Workers Party but for their support.

    The rightward shift of the Labour party has created a political vacuum on the left. This has been opportunistically filled by Galloway. If Jeremy Corbyn had taken the political initiative a year or two ago and set up a new left political party, it could have been his party in the spotlight now. Whatever anyone might think of Corbyn, they might think he is somewhat more preferable. However, he’s missed his opportunity.

    There are 17 constituencies with a higher Muslim vote share than Rochdale. Galloway will certainly have all of these in his sights. The next election may well yet have some unexpected surprises. Wes Streeting looks particularly vulnerable.

    https://theconversation.com/labours-muslim-vote-what-the-data-so-far-says-about-the-election-risk-of-keir-starmers-gaza-position-225118

  • Alex Macfie 9th Mar '24 - 7:11pm

    @Peter Martin: No, that’s not what I meant at all. Calling them “Pro-Palestine” marches rather gives the game away. Anyone who genuinely wants a just, lasting peace is not going to pick a side in the conflict. The display of antisemitic banners and slogans on the marches must give cause for concern, and the fact that people on the marches think this is OK suggests that they think of the conflict as principally a struggle by Muslims against Jews. This is a sectarian position and not one that anyone who calls themselves liberal should have any truck with. The Lib Dem positon is clear, as articulated by Layla Moran, we do not have to pick a side. To do so would alienate many of our supporters.

    In any case people who go on protest marches are not generally representative of the public as a whole. And I really doubt that a foreign conflict in which the UK is not directly involved will have much of an effect on the next UK GE result. Foreign policy rarely turns elections. George Galloway won Rochdale mainly because of the implosion of the Labour campaign. Labour will almost certainly win the seat back, and except maybe for Jeremy Corbyn himself any far-left challenges to Labour are likely to fail.

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