Author Archives: NewsHound

Tim Farron proposes bill to protect farmers from poor trade deals

The Lib Dems have proposed new legislation to protect Welsh farmers from being undercut by food trade deals that do not meet the UK’s environment and animal welfare standards.

A private member’s bill from Spokesperson for Rural Affairs Tim Farron MP would require the government’s Trade and Agriculture Commission to assess the impact of any new trade deal on UK farmers, and guarantee that MPs had the final say on trade deals initiated by the government. This would include an assessment of the impact of new trade deals on farming communities in each region and nation of the UK.

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Ed Davey says Tories show utter disregard for small businesses and calls for tax cut

It is Small Business Saturday. Writing in City AM, Lib Dem leader Ed Davey says the Peppa Pig episode showed that Boris Johnson does not take the business community seriously. He says small businesses need help fast and calls for tax cuts which would benefit the smallest companies by an average of £5,000 each. He also wants the Employment Allowance to be quadrupled to £16,000, allowing a small business to employ five people without national insurance contributions.

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Johnson panic visit to North Shropshire a cynical attempt to gloss over decades of neglect

Commenting on Boris Johnson’s visit to North Shropshire today, Liberal Democrat Deputy Leader and Health Spokesperson Daisy Cooper MP said:

The Prime Minister turning up in North Shropshire is nothing less than a panic visit, two weeks out from the election because he’s scared of an upset.

His visit will be seen for what it is – a cynical attempt to gloss over the fact that people are worried sick about ambulance wait times and feel taken for granted.

The people of North Shropshire are ready to send a message to Johnson’s government: their local health services have been failed, local farmers are being

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Ed Davey: Sajid Javid care package for unpaid carers “insulting”

Cash for unpaid carers amounts to 87p a year, Ed Davey told the Independent yesterday. This comment followed the publication of the government’s long delayed white paper on reforming funding for social care.

Ed Davey said that the funding on offer over a three-year period was an “insulting” response to the sacrifices made by millions of people who have cared for disabled or ill family members and other loved ones during the pandemic. They are now at “breaking point” after months without respite.

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LibLink: Christine Jardine Government looks heartless and out of ideas as migrants keep dying

In her Scotsman column this week, Lib Dem MP Christine Jardine accuses the Government of trashing our country’s long tradition of providing sanctuary to those who need it.

It is as if the Government does not know that the word and concept of refugees was created by this country.

Its origins are in the creation of a safe haven, a refuge in London for Huguenots fleeing persecution in 17th century France.

They became known as refugees.

That was the start of a long, proud tradition of this country providing sanctuary for those fleeing persecution or poverty and willing to contribute to our society.

Perhaps the proudest episode was the kinder transports of the second world war which allowed so many youngsters who might otherwise have perished in Hitler’s death camps to build happy, prosperous lives in this country.

She outlined how this current Government is failing in its obligations:

I know individual members of the cabinet will be as shocked and upset as any of us at the horror of what has happened this past few days.

But collectively their response to the issue to date looks heartless and devoid of any compassion.

At best it is incompetence that has led the Home Secretary to announce hopeless policies like the dangerous ‘push-back’ of refugee boats to French waters or the ludicrous proposal to process arrivals in Albania.

There seems to be little if any understanding of what the problem is or any creativity in addressing it.

The cruel and counterproductive Anti-Refugee Bill serves as proof of that and is a nasty piece of legislation that only makes problems worse.

She highlighted the awful conditions of refugees around Calais:

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Scrapping of crony committee – Wendy Chamberlain hails a “victory for democracy”

Responding to the government tabling a motion to scrap its proposed new standards committee, Liberal Democrat Chief Whip Wendy Chamberlain, who led yesterday’s emergency Commons debate on standards, said:

“It is a victory for democracy and decency that the government has finally scrapped their crony committee for good.

“This reflects the strength of feeling shown by MPs across the political spectrum at yesterday’s emergency debate.

“But this U-turn comes too late to undo the damage done to Boris Johnson and his government’s reputation. People won’t easily forget that the Tories tried to …

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Sewage vote: Government ignores millions of people

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Liberal Democrat MPs last night voted against the Government’s weak proposal to tackling sewage in local rivers. Commenting after the vote Liberal Democrat Communities & Rural Affairs Spokesperson Tim Farron MP said:

Today, the government ignored millions of people who demanded action to save our treasured rivers and lakes. This is a slap in the face for what has been one of the boldest and more inspiring environmental campaigns in recent years.

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Paterson: Lib Dem MPs debate calamitous events of last week

Yesterday, the debate moved on from the behaviour of Owen Paterson to the behaviour of the government, especially prime minister Boris Johnson. Wendy Chamberlain who had requested the debate and said actions of the Government had tarnished the Common’s reputation. Layla Moran said the government had distracted attention from the more important business of COP26. Tim Farron said ministers had undermined trust in democracy at every level and Alistair Carmichael said the decision to whip Conservative MPs was a seriously colossal error of judgment. Closing the debate, Wendy Chamberlain told MPs that the government’s actions last week a clear executive overreach, and the Prime Minister has serious questions to answer. The prime minister did not however attend the debate.

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LibLink: Christine Jardine: Days before COP26, Tories and SNP let us down on climate change

In her Scotsman column this week, Christine Jardine looks forward to COP26, but highlights how both Scotland’s governments have mucked up on climate change:

First there was the mic drop moment when the SNP at Holyrood teamed up with the Tories at Westminster to back a third runway at Heathrow Airport. A move which will increase carbon dioxide emissions over that part of the country by a mind-boggling 183 billion kilograms by 2050, once you take into account not just the flights but the construction.

I am no expert but that’s a lot of CO2.

And this must be uncomfortable for the SNP’s new partner in Government:

What was particularly curious was that while my own party – the Scottish Liberal Democrats – introduced an amendment to scrap support for the runway, the Scottish Greens are content to continue in government with the party which backs that Heathrow expansion.

The Tories added insult to injury by cutting Air Passenger Duty:

It is accepted that aircraft on routes of 700 kilometres or less emit more carbon dioxide per person for every kilometre travelled than long-haul flights do. The actual figures are 251 grams per km for short haul compared to 195g per km for long haul.

The reason is that take-off and landing use the most fuel, while level flight over longer distance is cleaner in comparison.

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LibLink: Ed Davey: China will dictate the success of COP 26

When it comes to major global climate change talks, Lib Dem leader Ed Davey has way more experience than Boris Johnson. As Climate Change Secretary, he knows how to bring people across the world together and make progress.

He has written in the Standard about the challenges facing those who want to reach a binding agreement to limit carbon emissions and therefore temperature rises.

China is key. Unless they come on board, it will be very difficult to make the necessary changes. Ed says how he did it the last time:

Having led the UK’s negotiations at three previous COPs, I know the Chinese are tough. In my time we used air pollution to reel China into the fold. Smog is a national crisis in China, killing hundreds of thousands every year, if not millions.

When I appeared on China’s equivalent of BBC’s Question Time, solving air pollution was the only question. How had we eradicated London’s smogs? So we made the link: tackle local air pollution and, at the same time, global air pollution. China was won over for the Paris Treaty. But what we need this time is far, far bigger. For Glasgow to succeed, the UK must lead the task to persuade China to go much further — to reduce and end coal usage far earlier and far faster than it currently plans.

He says that there are carrots as well as sticks:

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Scottish Lib Dems’ Joe McCauley criticises SNP over Angus Robertson book event

It’s been an embarrassing weekend for Scotland’s Culture Minister Angus Robertson. The SNP MSP has pulled out of a promotional event for his new book which had been paid for by a grant for his own department.

From the Sunday Mail: 

But Angus Robertson cancelled his appearance last night – after the Sunday Mail started asking about the £30,000 handed to it by a group under his remit.

The Cabinet Secretary for the Constitution, External Affairs and Culture had been due to appear at the Borders Book Festival to plug Vienna – The International Capital.

The event was awarded the significant grant in August from Creative Scotland – a government- funded and accountable body ­falling under Robertson’s brief.

He has now cancelled the lecture and an advert was quickly removed from the festival website after this newspaper began asking questions about it.

In the newspaper’s report, the first opposition party quote, and it was a blistering one, goes to Scottish Lib Dem Culture Spokesperson Joe McCauley. The SNP’s cutting of cultural services in Glasgow was not lost on him:

“At the same time as the SNP takes a scythe to cultural centres in Glasgow, the Culture Secretary is trying to plug his book at a taxpayer-funded literary event.

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Budget 2021: Wales levelled down says Dodds

The Welsh Liberal Democrats have accused the Conservative government of levelling down Wales in Wednesday’s budget, stating that measures announced by the Government do not even come close to replacing lost EU funding.

Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader, Jane Dodds MS, stated:

We are now seriously beginning to feel the consequences of this Conservative Government’s obsessive Brexit ideology and the harm it is inflicting on the Welsh economy. In addition to acute labour shortages, supply shortages and price increases we now have significant evidence provided to us by the OBR showing the damage Brexit is doing to our economy. This can no longer be passed off as project fear, but rather project reality.

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Budget 2021: Davey says bankers get twice the catch-up for children

Following today’s budget, Ed Davey has slammed the Chancellor for giving twice as much away in tax cuts to bankers as extra catch-up funding to help children make up for lost learning during the pandemic.

Analysis by the Liberal Democrats shows that reducing the banking surcharge will cost the Treasury over £3.8 billion over the next four years. This compares to just £1.8 billion of additional catch-up funding in today’s Budget. That is the equivalent of £1 of extra catch up funding per child every school day, compared to a £6 a day tax cut for each banker.

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Public sector pay: NHS and social care workers to face £900m NI tax rise

The Liberal Democrats have accused the government of giving with one hand and snatching away with the other on public sector pay, given the national insurance tax hike and worsening cost of living crisis.

Previous analysis by the House of Commons Library commissioned by the Liberal Democrats estimates that those working in health and social care will be faced with a tax hit of over £900 million due to the Conservative government’s manifesto-breaking hike to national insurance.

The research shows a nurse or midwife on an average salary would see their tax bill rise by £310 next year, care home workers would pay around £140 more and ambulance staff would face a £420 increase. The average NHS worker across all staff groups will pay £315 more a year.

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Dodds slams New Zealand trade deal

The Welsh Liberal Democrats have accused the Conservatives of dealing a hammer blow to Welsh sheep farmers after news broke that the UK and New Zealand have signed a trade deal. They are worried that lower standard and cheap meat from New Zealand could flood the UK markets and leave the British and Welsh farming industry unable to compete.

Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader Jane Dodds said:

I am extremely disappointed that the Conservative Government has decided to toss Welsh sheep farmers aside in this manner, completely ignoring their concerns and breaking previous commitments to the farming community made by the Party.

The NFU has also criticised the deal saying it had heard next to nothing from the government on how British agriculture is expected to compete with either Australia or New Zealand which both face less regulation than their British counterparts.

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Lib Dems attack ministers on Covid as Ed Davey urges beefed up Plan B

Today’s i newspaper features Sir Ed Davey’s call for the government to bring in a beefed up version of Plan B as a matter of urgency to avoid a winter lockdown. Daisy Cooper also criticises the new Minister for Vaccines and Public Health for keeping a low profile. In the Commons yesterday, Layla Moran challenged the government on whether it is operating a policy of herd immunity.

The Plan B Plus would make face masks mandatory, people would be instructed to work from home and social distancing rules would be reimposed. It would not include Covid passports which the Lib Dems oppose.

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Munira Wilson calls for emergency SAGE Meeting

Liberal Democrat Health Spokesperson Munira Wilson has demanded that the government hold an emergency SAGE meeting to discuss soaring Covid cases.

The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies has stopped meeting weekly and most recently met on 22 July, 9 September and 14 October.

The call comes as it emerges that government scientists have not met to discuss Covid for weeks and cases are running at nearly 50,000 a day.

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Lib Dems call for half term jab blitz due to 8000 classrooms sitting empty

The Liberal Democrats have called for the Government to speed up the rollout of Covid-19 vaccines over half term after new Department for Education figures reveal over 216,000 pupils are absent from school for Covid-related reasons.

The figures, released today (12:00pm), show infection rates in schools are rising at a concerning rate and this is having a huge impact on young people’s education – with 2.6% of pupils absent for covid-related reasons over the last two weeks.

Across the UK schools are grappling with soaring case numbers, which has seen institutions like Eton bring in a wave of new strict …

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LibLink: Alistair Carmichael – Liberalism is the most effective counter to competing nationalisms

writing in the Scotsman, Alistair Carmichael challenges both the SNP’s view that independence is inevitable because so many young people support it and the older voters will die off and the Conservative view that those young people will become more conservative and risk averse as they grow older.

Both of these views are blinkered – and, frankly, complacent. We should have higher ambitions than some kind of “demographic destiny”. When we are talking about no less than the future of Scotland, our people deserve a little more by way of ideas and ideals, and a little less talk of inevitability.

Partisans on both sides of the constitutional divide are kidding themselves if they think they have a lock on our country’s future. The case for independence has not been made – but the stability of our shared community with the rest of the United Kingdom cannot be treated as an afterthought either. In a liberal democracy, we have to respect one another enough to make the case for the values of interdependence and shared prosperity, year on year and day by day.

He cited the experience of Quebec, where support for independence that once seemed inevitable is now much reduced. How did this happen?

What changed was not the demographic “inevitability” of Quebec, but the democratic debate and exchange of ideas. In the aftermath of the 1995 referendum, Liberal leaders and academics alike took on the issues raised by nationalism and independence and responded.

They challenged nationalist narratives head-on and reinvigorated discussions on the federal make-up of Canada. They changed minds – and made the case for a Canadian society of both diversity and shared common interest

And we have to keep winning the arguments to preserve our liberal values:

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Liberals share the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize

Some of our readers may have noted the joint award of the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize to Maria Ressa and Dmitry Muratov, for their work to defend press freedom and freedom of expression generally.

The chair of the Nobel committee, Berit Reiss-Andersen, in announcing the award said;

Free, independent and fact-based journalism serves to protect against abuse of power, lies and war propaganda. Without freedom of expression and freedom of the press, it will be difficult to successfully promote fraternity between nations, disarmament and a better world order to succeed in our time.

Maria Ressa is the CEO of Philippines news outlet Rappler …

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Rishi Sunak recycling aid money deals “damaging blow” to UK reputation ahead of COP summit

The Liberal Democrats have warned a UK government decision to effectively slash the aid budget by billions more pounds will send “completely the wrong message” to the world ahead of next month’s COP26 climate summit in Glasgow.

It comes after it was reported that the Chancellor Rishi Sunak will include the UK’s share of financial assistance provided by the International Monetary Fund through Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) as part of the 0.5% aid target. The move is expected to reduce the aid budget by another £4bn to £5bn over a number of years.

Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs …

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Wera Hobhouse blasts UK’s over-reliance on gas and inaction on renewables

Wera Hobhouse MP, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Climate Emergency and Energy, has taken aim at the Tory government’s energy policies:

The Conservatives have utterly neglected the UK renewables industry to the point where coal power stations are being fired up. They need to come clean on a firm end date to fossil fuel use in the energy sector, but Boris Johnson studiously avoids this topic.

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Sarah Olney calls for Morrisons’ workers to be protected ahead of the major takeover

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In the Guardian, Sarah Olney is quoted calling for protection for workers in the forthcoming takeover of Morrisons:

It would be a great shame to see local teams lose their stake in the future direction of the business. With uncertain economic times ahead, the new owners must pass the key tests of not loading the business with debt, not cutting jobs, and critically, protecting existing working conditions.

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LibLink: Wendy Chamberlain on need to tackle “serious and systemic” police failings

In an article for The House, Wendy Chamberlain, the only woman former Police officer in the Commons, says that the murder of Sarah Everard is a watershed moment to tackle serious and systemic failings at the heart of the Police. It’s a great follow-up to her interview on Sky News on Friday.

She describes how the abuse of power of Sarah’s murderer has led to a loss of trust in not just the Met, but Police across the country:

As a former police officer myself, I still carry the responsibility of my service with me long after I stopped wearing the uniform. Having served as a police officer does shape people’s opinions of you. At the time of my election in 2019, I viewed it as a way of demonstrating that I was someone to be trusted.

Couzens used and abused not only his position of power, but the notion of trust that Sarah placed in him as someone who wears the uniform with a duty to safeguard and protect.

That trust has been seriously eroded and damaged by this terrible crime. It is a shattering of trust that goes beyond the Metropolitan Police and applies to police services as a whole across the country.

So how is this to be fixed?

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LibLInk: Christine Jardine on the perfect storm that shows up our bad Governments

In her Scotsman column this week, Christine Jardine looks at the “perfect storm” of food and fuel shortages, health service crisis, Covid and high energy prices we are facing at the moment. She argues that the show how bad both UK and Scottish Governments are – and we shouldn’t let them away with blaming Covid and Brexit for our current travails. They were failing long before then:

It must be tempting for those responsible for the well-being of the NHS to blame its current predicament on all the other elements of the storm. That somehow the crisis which has necessitated calling in the Armed Forces to support our ambulance service is purely the result of the circumstances we find ourselves in. That they can look to the example of our energy industry which is defending itself with evidence of an unusual lack of wind and solar resources and a fire on an interconnector.

But that would be to ignore the reality which we have all experienced in different ways over recent, pre-pandemic years. The damage done by the increasing centralisation of public services and decision-making in Scotland.

On top of everything else, the FLu jag programme has been a nightmare this year.

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Davey: “Unforgivable” that military drivers only now receiving training for fuel crisis

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Ed Davey has criticised the Government’s incompetence and failure to plan ahead, after it was revealed that 150 military drivers will only now receive training to drive petrol tankers despite months of warnings from businesses.

As Energy Secretary and chair of the emergency Cobra committee during the fuel crisis of 2012, Ed Davey developed contingency plans to ensure around 800 trained military drivers would be on hand to drive fuel tankers if needed in an emergency. A Ministry of Defence report from 2014 says army personnel had been “trained and on call to deliver fuel in the event of strike action by tanker drivers.”

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Union delegates block electoral reform motion – despite 79.5% support from Labour members

The Independent reports:

Trade unions have blocked Labour from campaigning for proportional representation after a tight vote at the party’s conference in Brighton.

Delegates sent by members to the gathering overwhelmingly backed a motion in favour of electoral reform by 79.5 per cent to 20.49 per cent.

But the vast majority of delegates sent by trade unions voted against the plan, meaning the motion was lost by a total of 42 per cent to 57 per cent.

Ed Davey commented:

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Davey on the energy crisis and a Tory winter of discontent

Ed Davy makes a storming attack on the Conservative administration into today’s Guardian. The mounting cost of heating bills and food price-hikes due to increasing transport costs and the energy crisis means the poorest people will be hit the hardest. Davey says no one should be surprised that Boris Johnson has dismissed these problems. He wants us to believe it’s a global problem, with nothing unique to the UK. And he wants us to think it will all be over quickly. He is wrong. This is just the latest example of the Conservative party taking people for granted.

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Ed Davey profiled on BBC Radio 4

In his usual, often sardonic, style, Ed Davey has profiled by Mark Coles. In this 15-minute broadcast, we hear things we knew and things we probably didn’t. The profile begins with his birth on Christmas Day. Being orphaned. Neighbours leaving food on the doorstep. His school but good exam performance. Setting up a debating society. Being a prog rocker. Falling asleep at parties. In a gap year working in the local pork pie factory before interrailing and on to Oxford for PPE. Despite bad green jumpers, MI6 tried to recruit him. Rescuing woman from path of ongoing train.

And then …

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Moran calls for commitment on rough sleeping

Layla Moran has written to Chancellor Rishi Sunak urging him to “demonstrate a clear commitment” to the Conservatives’ manifesto pledge of ending rough sleeping by the end of this Parliament by rolling out Housing First across England at the forthcoming Spending Review, and by pushing for the scrapping of the Vagrancy Act.

In her letter, Layla says that the “time is right for a new national and political effort to tackle homelessness”, adding that “Because Housing First works, we also know in the long term it saves us money.”

There have already been successful pilot schemes in England, and in her debate on rough sleeping in the Commons last week, Layla urged for the programme to be rolled out.

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