Author Archives: Baroness Liz Barker

Baroness Liz Barker writes…Osborne’s social care omnishambles

This week I am asking the Tory government how much revenue they anticipate local authorities will raise from May 2016 when they are given the power to add to council tax a precept of up to 2% to fund social care.

During the last government  Paul Burstow and Norman Lamb achieved something which had eluded all governments of the last thirty years, an equitable and sustainable settlement for social care. The Care Act restated the purpose of social care:  enabling the wellbeing  of both the person needing care and their carer, prevention and delay of the need for care and support and putting people  in control of their care.  The inclusion of the main proposals of the Dilnot Commission, paved the way for a funding system in which the costs of care would be shared, essentially between property owners and the state, thereby enabling individuals to avoid having to meet catastrophic costs at times of greatest vulnerability. 

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Baroness Liz Barker writes: The Tory threat to UK foreign policy

Lynne Featherstone and Lindsay Northover were outstanding DfID Ministers. During their tenure, with the support of Liberal Democrats in both houses, and throughout the party, for the first time,  radical commitments such as an to end Female Genital Mutilation by 30% by 2018 were included in UK Government policy.  Furthermore, those Liberal Democrat ministers, insisted that commitments to the rights of LGBT people and people with disabilities be central to FCO and DfID policy and programmes.

They did so, not just because of our unshakeable commitment to human rights, but because the UK’s unique history with the Commonwealth nations and relationships with European partners, give an unparalleled position from which to be an influence for good in the world.

This summer, the UK government has an opportunity to attend the 2016 Global LGBTI Human Rights Conference,  which will be co-hosted by the Kingdom of the Netherlands and the Government of Uruguay. It will involve the main international donors who support and fund LGBTI programmes.  It is a rare opportunity for the UK government to leverage the political commitment of the coalition government by involving other governments,  and the private sector,  in developing good practice guidance on funding, supporting NGOs to bring about change on difficult subjects. 

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Liz Barker on being awarded Peer of the Year by Pink News

Liz Barker gets award from Tim FarronLast week Pink News bestowed on me the honour of Peer of the Year. I am really chuffed to be nominated along with colleagues Brian Paddick and Paul Scriven because Pink News upholds high standards of journalism and is itself a brilliant campaigner for LGBT equality.   I am delighted to have won because this is recognition for all the effort that Liberal Democrats have made for equality from parish councils to the European Parliament.  No political party has worked longer and stronger for LGBT rights than the Liberal Democrats.

The award was a shot in the arm for battles which lie ahead. Others, including the SNP, will claim to have greater diversity of representation. The Tories and Labour are using equalities as a key weapon in their strategy to annihilate us. Just look at the constituencies of the MPs on the Women and Equalities Select Committee – Lewes, Eastleigh, Portsmouth South, Bath, Birmingham Yardley and Hampstead and Kilburn – so the message for 2020 is clear. Between now and then, should there be an event in your constituency featuring any community group included in the Equality Act, the Tories will be out in force.

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Baroness Liz Barker writes…Why Liberal Democrats should be out and proud in 2015

Next Saturday the LGBT community will celebrate Pride in London.

There has been a kerfuffle about whether UKIP should be allowed to attend. Of course they should. In this country the LGBT community is strong enough to be inclusive, to involve all sorts of minorities.  Moreover several hours in which to challenge the absurdity of being an LGBT member of UKIP – preferably through the media of song and interpretive dance – is a gift too good to be spurned.

This year the march will be led by Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners; an organisation of which many young people were unaware until they saw the film Pride. Do get the DVD. It is well worth a watch.  The presence of LGSM (as it said on the collecting buckets) is a timely reminder of how easily political fortunes can change and memories fade.

So this year it is more important than ever that Liberal Democrats have a visible presence at Pride events around the UK.  Our record in LGBT equality has always been outstanding – even if Stonewall refuses to say so. In government we stuck to our principles and brought in Same Sex Marriage.  It would not have happened without us. In DfID, Lynne and Lindsay fought hard to make LGBT equality a central factor in UK aid programmes and foreign policy.   However, be in no doubt that, as part of their plan to eradicate Liberal Democrats in our remaining council and parliamentary seats, the Tories and Labour will airbrush us out of the picture and claim the credit.  

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Baroness Liz Barker writes… International Office supports the next generation of female leaders from Mouvement Populaire party in Morocco

International officeLiberal Democrats do love a challenge. Not for us the easy life of safe seats and majority governments. Oh no, marginal and year round campaigning is the life for us.  So imagine that this is your task: to inspire women to stand for election to new regional councils, under an alternative list system, to be held in September, probably. The regulations for the new system  have yet to be finalised, but existing laws, under which all meetings of more than ten people have to be licenced and leaflets cannot be distributed without permission,  remain in force.

That is the task which Harakie Women, the women’s group within Mouvement Populaire, our sister party in Morocco, currently face.

Working with colleagues from VVD in the Netherlands and the FDP in Germany, the Liberal Democrat International Office has been supplying strategic and tactical support to the party’s potential candidates, coaching female candidates and providing them with the skills required to run an effective campaign.

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Baroness Liz Barker writes… A big step for a fairer society

Today, the House of Lords should be voting ‘that this Bill do now pass’ to take the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill through one of its final steps to becoming law. Liberal Democrats can be very proud of the fact that it is only because of us that this is happening.

In the Lords, I have been proud to lead from the Lib Dem benches whilst Lib Dem Ministers, including Jim Wallace and Lindsay Northover, have been speaking from the Government frontbench. You can read and watch my opening contribution to the Second Reading

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Baroness Liz Barker writes: Liberal Democrat peers will support equality as Same Sex Marriage Bill returns to Lords

The Same Sex Marriage Bill is back in the Lords today for Report Stage.

The Government has responded positively to a number of issues raised during Committee Stage, such as the need to review legislation which prohibits Humanist marriages in England and Wales.

The opposition have tabled amendments on all the issues which they had already raised at Committee Stage. You can follow them on Twitter today under the hashtag #hearditallbeforeDear (Lord Dear was, of course, the crossbench peer who attempted to wreck the legislation from the off).

First up is an attempt to create two definitions of marriage – one for straight …

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Baroness Liz Barker writes … My Lords speech on the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill

wedding ringsMy Lords, I declare an interest. Many years ago I had the great good fortune to meet someone. She and I have loved one another ever since – apart, that is, from the occasional spectacular argument, usually about driving or DIY. As the slogan on T-shirts in the 1980s said: it happens in the best of families.

Whilst marriage is robust and enduring, what is meant by marriage has developed and changed significantly. Marriage was redefined in 1986, otherwise there would not now be any civil marriages in this country. Marriage laws were redefined in 1949, otherwise under-16-year-olds would still …

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Baroness Barker writes… Liberal Democrats protecting the integrity of the NHS

We trust that doctors and nurses will care for us to the best of their ability, and we trust the decisions they make about our treatment are always in our best interest. It is clear that for patients and medical professionals alike, maintaining the integrity of the NHS is essential.

Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) will bring their unique knowledge of the health needs of their patient population to the design and commissioning of health services as part of the proposals contained in the Health and Social Care Bill.

We know that CCGs must be transparent and accountable to the public and …

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Baroness Barker writes… How the private patient income cap can benefit the NHS

Labour’s 2006 NHS Act deliberately opened up health services, including acute hospitals, to wide-ranging competition on price, not quality. Labour’s legislation allowed private companies to receive £250m for contracts which they never delivered. Liberal Democrat peers are working hard to ensure that the NHS, including Foundation Trusts (FTs), remain public services.

Indeed, in order to protect them from the full force of competition law and the threat of takeover by American healthcare companies, hospitals must not be deemed ‘undertakings’ or look more like private sector bodies. One way to achieve that is to make it explicit in law that the majority …

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Baroness Liz Barker writes: Liberal Democrat peers working to secure an NHS fit for the future

After five weeks of detailed, intensive scrutiny the House of Lords is about to start discussing Part 3 of the Health and Social Care Bill. This is the part which deals with the role of Monitor and EU competition law.

Building on the work of Nick Clegg in June this year following the listening exercise, Liberal Democrat peers are working hard to ensure that the legislation fully reflects our policy that competition should be strictly limited to those areas of commissioning and provision where there is evidence that it improves patient outcomes.

We will continue to argue that there should be nothing …

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Baroness Liz Barker writes… The Health and Social Care Bill in the Lords

I have spent my entire working life in the field of health and social care. For many years I worked for Age Concern and for all my time in the Lords I have been a member of the Health and Social Care team. I am, and always will be, a passionate supporter of an NHS which is free at the point of need and open to all regardless of their ability to pay.

Although the Health and Social Care Bill only came to the Lords this week I have been working on it for several months along with Liberal Democrat colleagues, including …

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Baroness Liz Barker writes… Reasons to be cheerful

As the nights draw one can become a bit miserable. So here is my list of reasons to be cheerful (Part V):

  • Tax: people earning less than £10,000 pay no income tax
  • Banking levy: the people responsible for the financial mess being made to help with the clear up
  • Social Care: £2 billion to fund long term care
  • Green Investment Bank: £1 billion in cash plus the proceeds of future asset sales to fund

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