Author Archives: Julian Huppert

Julian Huppert writes…Why you need to be in the hall at 9 am tomorrow

here are two really important events happening tomorrow at the Lib Dem Conference. One at the beginning of the day, and one right at the end.

I normally spend the Friday and Saturday of Conference just encouraging people to buy tickets for the wonderful #LibDemDisco. It’s a fantastic event, with wonderful guest DJs, and you really ought to be there on Saturday night. Tickets will be available!

But there’s something else I really need you to do – and the party needs you to do, at about 9.10 in the morning, inside the auditorium.

I will be moving a suspension of standing orders …

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How can this government turn its back on thousands of child refugees?

A key test for any society must surely be how it looks after those most in need. Surely no one decent can fail to be moved by that heart wrenching photo of Alan Kurdi, the young Syrian boy washed up, dead, on a Turkish beach. How then, can this government turn its back on thousands of child refugees, breaking its own promises as well as any moral decency?

I’ve been concerned about refugee issues for decades – it’s one of the reasons I went into politics in the first place. As the MP for Cambridge, I served as the Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Refugees. It was a hard task, and many of the stories I heard were shocking.

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Julian Huppert writes…Stoking the flames of liberalism

Can you imagine how you’d feel, waking up on the 24th February, to hear the BBC headline ‘In what is being seen as a stunning boost to the hard Brexit campaign, Paul Nuttall, the leader of UKIP, sensationally snatched the seat of Stoke-on-Trent Central from a disintegrating Labour party. Nigel Farage is now live.’

I’d feel utterly gutted. The Tories, with Labour’s acquiescence, are already following the UKIP line closely enough, without an extra UKIP MP.

I’ve been talking to people in Stoke, and looking at the figures. Labour are in massive trouble there. It’s more than a decade since they got over 40% in any election, local or national there, with a huge decline in their actual votes. Less than half their voters in 2001 were still voting for them in 2015, with 14,000 having abandoned them, and that was even before Jeremy Corbyn. Sadly, many people are deserting Labour and looking for an alternative. For some, that alternative will be UKIP – we have to provide a better option for them.

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Julian Huppert writes…#libdemfightback: from theory to practice

As we move on from the trauma of the General Election, I have been hugely encouraged by the new sense of energy, and the huge new membership – we’ve got almost 200 new members here in Cambridge, for example.

There are lots of reasons – people realising their values chime with ours, people feeling bad about the huge hit that we took, people rather belatedly realising what we achieved.

This will form the core of the #libdemfightback – and I have no doubt that we will fight back and win more seats at all levels.

It is of course really important that we keep these members, and make sure that they do get the policy discussions, the community activity, the sense of value that they want. We cannot just let them believe we are nothing more than a campaigning cult, our rituals being leaflet delivery and door knocking.

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Julian Huppert writes … We must end indefinite detention for immigrants

Immigration detention
Looking back over the Coalition Government, one of our great successes is putting an end to the routine detention of children for immigration purposes. In 2009, 1,119 children were locked up in immigration centres, nearly 500 of them were under five years of age.

Not only have we ended this practice, but in the Immigration Act we made sure that if any future government wants to undo our reforms, they’ll have to do it the hard way by passing an Act of Parliament.

But the issue of immigration detention doesn’t and shouldn’t stop there.

The UK is an outlier in the EU as the only country that doesn’t have a time limit on how long someone can be detained under immigration powers. Ireland has a time limit of 21 days, France 45 days, Belgium two months and Spain 60 days. Even Russia has a time limit, albeit of two years.

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Julian Huppert writes… Clamping down on Tax Dodging

Tax dodging is plain wrong. There can be absolutely no justification for the wealthy not paying what they owe.

More than any other party, we know how important it is to have a fair tax system. Before the last elections, we pledged to lift the income tax threshold to £10,000. We have surpassed this by raising it to £10,600, lifting more than 3 million low earners out of paying income tax altogether.

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Julian Huppert writes … On shoehorning the Snooper’s Charter into the Counter Terrorism Bill

To my shock and dismay a small group of unelected peers are trying to shoehorn the Communications Data Bill (known as the Snooper’s Charter) into the Counter Terrorism and Security Bill as an amendment. This is a bad idea, and also an abuse of process. It would mean that neither the Lords nor the Commons would get a proper chance to discuss the details of what is a massive infringement of people’s privacy.

I served on the Joint Committee Nick insisted on, and we spent a year scrutinising it – and tearing it to shreds. Yes, we need the intelligence services to be able to do their job, but in the words we agreed unanimously “the draft Bill pays insufficient attention to the duty to respect the right to privacy, and goes much further than it need or should”.

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Julian Huppert writes…We need a strategy to promote walking and cycling

We have a huge problem in this country with physical inactivity. Most people do nothing like enough to stay healthy, and as a result problems like obesity and being overweight are very common.

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Julian Huppert MP writes… Carbon and fracking

Climate change is one of the most, if not the most, dangerous threat facing the world today. The evidence could hardly be any clearer – unless we curtail greenhouse gas emissions sharply, the results will be massively detrimental to us all and put the lives of future generations at enormous risk.

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Julian Huppert MP writes… Recalling MPs – how to let the public recall MPs who have committed misconduct

Today, the Recall of MPs Bill comes back to the House of Commons for further consideration.  During its Committee Stage, David Heath and I proposed improvements, which would ensure that constituents could access the recall process without the involvement of any parliamentary committee (link to previous article).

Greg Clark, the Government Minister responding to our proposals, told MPs that it was an “important suggestion much to commend it” and that he would “reflect carefully on the amendment.”  This is usually parliamentary parlance for “I like this idea and will bring it back in my own name at the next stage”.

However, …

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Julian Huppert writes: Workable real recall

House of Commons. Crown Copyright applies to this photo - http://www.flickr.com/photos/uk_parliament/4642915654/Scandals such as those around MP’s expenses led to calls for legislation to allow MPs who had behaved badly to be recalled, so that their electorate could have a prompt chance to give a verdict on the wrongdoing. To this end, we promised in our manifesto to allow for recalls for MPs who had committed ‘serious misconduct’. The Tories promised the same, and Labour offered recall for ‘financial misconduct’.

I believe that that is the right thing to do, and is the reasoning for the Recall of MPs Bill, currently before the House of Commons. It passed its second reading unanimously last week, and the details are being debated in a Committee of the Whole House today.

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Julian Huppert writes … The first Girl Summit

girlsummitlogoToday London hosts the first Girl Summit. Liberal Democrats in Government across every department have made the issue of gender inequality a priority. We understand that none of us can move forward if half of us are held back and this means tackling inequality and violence against women and girls wherever we find it.

Female genital mutilation (FGM) and child, early and forced marriage are two of the oldest and most extreme ways girls are stunted and harmed for life and we have made a commitment to work with Governments across the world, NGOs, faith leaders and communities to end these abhorrent practices.

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Julian Huppert MP writes.. A step towards humanist weddings

Humanist Wedding Ceremony - 16One of the Liberal Democrats greatest achievements in Government has been the successful passage of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act. On Saturday 29 March 2014 the first same-sex marriages took place, a date I am certain will go down in history.

Most of the positive speeches given during the debates in Westminster concentrated not around gay or straight but on the belief that everyone has a fundamental right to love who they want and demonstrate that love together in a manner of their choosing.

And yet still in …

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Julian Huppert MP writes: We need effective action on knife crime

Florence With Knife 1There is a problem with knife crime. Too many of our fellow citizens suffer from knife attacks, and even more live in fear of being attacked with a knife. Even though fewer people are carrying knives, too many still are.

The Tory response to this, backed by Labour, has been to rush into legislation forcing judges to impose a mandatory jail sentence for anyone who is found in possession of a knife twice.

To deal effectively with the problem we should try to understand why people are carrying them.

Most of …

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Julian Huppert MP writes…We need a new law to criminalise “revenge porn”

Houses of Parliament, LondonWe already have loads of laws on the statute book, and many of us resist calls repeatedly for more and more of them.

However, sometimes you do come across something that clearly should not be allowed, that causes significant harm to others, and yet is legal. Revenge porn is one of those.

This is the growing practice of vengeful ex’s sharing intimate images or videos of their previous partners with the clear aims of hurting, shaming and humiliating. What may have been a fun photo when times are good, …

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Julian Huppert MP writes…Let’s bring the “polluter pays” principle to government decision making

imageAll too often Government departments get decisions wrong. Most notorious are the Home Office and the Department of Work and Pensions. Many people will be well aware of the anguish faced by those awaiting Employment and Support Allowance appeals, and the same is true for those waiting to see if they can stay in the country, or bring in a spouse.

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Julian Huppert writes: Improving the private rented sector

Terraced housingThere are 9 million people in the private rented sector in the UK. Many of them get a rough deal from landlords who push the rules, and letting agents out to exploit them.

Letting agencies have been allowed to charge exorbitant fees to do the simplest, cheapest administrative tasks – sending an email, posting a letter or changing a name on the tenancy. According to Shelter, 1 in 7 people who use letting agents spend £500 on fees, that’s on top of rent and deposits!

Last Wednesday, I presented a Bill to …

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Julian Huppert MP writes…Nick Clegg has put Liberal Democrats far ahead of other parties on security and privacy

This morning was a good day for Liberal Democrats. I and many others went to RUSI, the Royal United Services Institute to hear Nick Clegg, Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of our party, deliver a speech on security and privacy in the internet age.

He sent out a clear and strong message: the legal framework for the UK’s intelligence agencies and intelligence oversight structure is in desperate need of an overhaul, and this must start with an independent review, which he has commissioned.

His wider ambitions are set out in a piece for the Guardian today. The Tories are blocking changes …

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Julian Huppert MP writes: Lib Dem immigration policy paper is strong, balanced and compassionate

Public concern about immigration has been fuelled by the rise of UKIP, and further driven by the Tories desperately trying to show how tough they can be on foreigners, and Labour keen not to be left out of the ‘sounding tough’ rhetoric. I am always disappointed that just about the only thing Labour has apologised for is letting too many people into the country in their 13 years.

We must stand firm against the anti-foreigner tide, and the Immigration Policy Paper, which you can read here, does exactly that. Andrew Stunell has led the working group impressively to produce a …

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Julian Huppert writes… Thoughts on a memorial service

On saturday, I attended the memorial service for a life-long Liberal, George Watson. It included a reading from John Stuart Mill ‘On Liberty’.

George stood for Parliament in 1959 in Cheltenham, unsuccessfully, and then became a Fellow at St John’s College Cambridge, where he became a noted scholar in literature, literary criticism and liberal political thought.

I got hold of his campaign literature from 1959, and while the layout and style is different – no bar charts – the central messages are unchanged.

To quote from his section ‘Put Freedom First’:

Liberals made them get rid of identity-cards – but the State Still has

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Julian Huppert MP: Another promise kept – Nick Clegg announces more than doubling of young offenders’ education time

If people are to be in jail, one of our priorities is to make sure that when they leave prison, they won’t come back. We realise that the best way to do this isn’t about draconian sentencing; it’s about providing people with skills. That’s why in our 2010 manifesto we said that we’d increase the number of hours prisoners spend in education and training.

Today, we’ve achieved another goal – Nick Clegg has announced that through a new system of Secure Colleges, young offenders will see the time they spend in education more than doubled.

This really matters. At any one time …

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Julian Huppert writes… an end to the chilling effects of libel action on free speech

libel-reform-campaign-logoAs we start a New Year, we always tend to look back on the past, as well as think to the future – and we do have a bad tendency to focus on the problems, not the successes.

But for a change, let’s celebrate another achievement – another manifesto commitment delivered, as the Defamation Act 2013 came into effect on New Year’s Day. This will hopefully mark an end to libel tourism, an end to the abuse of libel law by companies, and an end to the chilling effect threats of libel …

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Julian Huppert MP writes…Tackling child abuse online: Doing what works

Thanks to a number of national police forces, led by the Canadians, working together 341 child abusers have been arrested and almost 400 children being held as sex slaves have been freed in recent months. That is fantastic news.

However, not one of those was in Britain.

2,345 British suspects had been identified by the authorities in Toronto, some of whom are feared to have regular contact with children, and these were passed to CEOP, the specialist police centre, but astonishingly, no action was taken on our side for 18 months.

It appears that whilst the Prime Minister has a number of great …

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Julian Huppert MP writes… EU budget boost secures UK’s position as world leader in science

Europe Day - European Union - Some rights reserved by Niccolò CarantiI heard some good news this week. It may not have grabbed the headlines, but the UK economy was given a colossal shot in the arm thanks to the European Union.

Lib Dem MEPs on Tuesday voted for an EU budget, which was overall lower – a 6.5 per cent cut – but crucially included a 30 per cent increase in funding for research and innovation. This is important funding, and a clear sign of what can be achieved to help …

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Julian Huppert writes … Immigration Bill: Update

I thought it might be useful to let you all know where we’ve reached with the Immigration Bill. Today, we start to discuss each clause in detail in the Bill Committee, which I’m serving on.

I’ve tabled a whole series of amendments, to try to move the Bill back towards the sort of thing that we would like to see.

I’ll be suggesting that students shouldn’t pay the NHS levy – they already contribute to our economy by coming here to study, and we don’t want to drive them away to countries we compete with. I’ll also argue that people who’ve been …

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Julian Huppert writes… Fixing the women’s prison estate

After only  a couple of weeks with women offenders under his remit, Liberal Democrat Lord and Minister in the Ministry of Justice, Tom McNally has this morning announced what may be a step-change in the way Britain handles the women’s estate.

Six years after the Corston review, which bemoaned the lack of a tailored and differentiated approach to dealing with female offenders, we are finally seeing her recommendations being implemented. Corston called for an approach that recognised and reacted to the needs of women in the prison estate. Following on from this our Conference called for a radical change in the way women were handled throughout the criminal justice system and in Government we have delivered on your demands.

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Julian Huppert writes: Working towards a competent immigration system

immigrationAs a liberal, I believe that we benefit from immigration. Overall, this country is a richer place, economically and culturally, because we have people from around the world coming here to work, study and play. I want to see an immigration system that works, is fair and allows us to benefit from the best and brightest as well as offering sanctuary and asylum for those fleeing the most desperate situations imaginable abroad.

However, that case is not made often enough. We hear constant rhetoric from the Tories and the right wing press about how we must clamp down on foreigners, and Labour …

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Julian Huppert writes: Decarbonising Britain – making the sums add up

sustainable energyThere’s an excellent book by Prof David MacKay called ‘Sustainable Energy without the Hot Air’. This is a must read for anyone interested in energy policy.   To help with that, it’s available entirely for free, at http://www.withouthotair.com – although you can buy a copy if, like me, you think you’ll want to keep it to hand.

Essentially, David MacKay highlights that whatever we do, we have to ensure that the amount of energy used does not exceed the amount of energy available.

How do we strike this balance? The first thing we can do is reduce our energy usage – that’s why I and so many others care about energy efficiency. Not using a kWh of energy is far more environmentally friendly than generating by any means!

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Julian Huppert writes: Preventing and tackling sexual violence

Eliminating violence against women - Some rights reserved by European ParliamentNearly one third of women and nearly one fifth of men say they have experienced domestic abuse since the age of 16. Yet it remains an under-reported, misunderstood and incredibly damaging crime.

Last year alone in the UK around 1.2 million women and 800,000 men suffered domestic abuse and over 400,000 women were sexually assaulted.

But, the sad fact is this number is probably wrong, the true figure is thought to be far worse. Victims still fear coming forward while there is also a significant lack of understanding over what counts as domestic violence, especially amongst young people. It is frankly terrifying that some young men and women still believe violence in a relationship is normal. This must change.

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Julian Huppert writes… Ending food-crop-based first-generation biofuels

The issue of food being used for fuel has become increasingly contentious. And decisions are fast approaching – in the European Parliament Liberal Democrat MEP colleagues are currently negotiating capping the use of damaging biofuels. Norman Baker, Liberal Democrat Transport Minister will also be taking up the issue in the Council of Ministers.

While first generation biofuels were lauded as the future it is now clear they cause more problems than they solve. The UK’s Gallagher Review in 2010 in fact concluded that in some cases biofuels can generate a higher carbon footprint than fossil fuels and contribute to deforestation. Subsidies …

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