Author Archives: The Voice

Jim Wallace remembers Donald Dewar

This week, our Jim Wallace delivered the annual Donald Dewar Memorial Lecture in Glasgow. This lecture, held every year in memory of Scotland’s First First Minister, has previously been delivered by senior political figures such as Alistair Darling and Jack McConnell. Donald Dewar died suddenly in October 2000.

Jim served as Deputy First Minister to him and was Acting First Minister when Donald Dewar had heart surgery and in the immediate aftermath of his death while Labour selected a new leader. The Labour/Lib Dem coalition, over 8 years, delivered things like freedom of information legislation, free eye and dental checks, STV for local government, free personal care and land reform.

Jim’s lecture gave insights into the coalition negotiations back in 1999, Dewar’s style of Government and his hopes for the future.

He said:

The most liberating election campaign which I ever fought was the first election to the Scottish Parliament in 1999. To a greater or lesser extent, all the general elections in which I’d been a candidate, had been fought against a backdrop of an ongoing constitutional debate about Scotland’s future. By 1999, we had a Parliament, endorsed overwhelmingly in the 1997 referendum; so now we could debate what the Parliament was going to do.

“With so many challenges today facing our NHS, our education system, our environment, transport links to islands and mainland destinations, in local government and not least in advancing Donald Dewar’s great passion for a more socially just Scotland, wouldn’t it be a refreshing change to think that these would be the issues which should again dominate the Parliament’s agenda.

“In that speech on 1st July, almost a quarter of a century ago, Donald also said,

“We are fallible. We will make mistakes. But we will never lose sight of what brought us here: the striving to do right by the people of Scotland; to respect their priorities; to better their lot; and to contribute to the commonweal.”

“It takes a special politician with great character to admit to fallibility and the possibility of mistakes. But at least they would be our mistakes. I can’t imagine him having the knee-jerk response always to blame Westminster. But compared to many countries with devolved powers, the competences of the Scottish Parliament and the Scottish Ministers are extensive – more extensive today than they were in 1999. So, wouldn’t a fitting tribute to the legacy of Donald Dewar be for today’s Scottish Parliamentarians to resolve again to focus on using these powers – to better the lot of the people of Scotland, and to contribute to the common weal.

The full text of Jim’s speech is below:

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Ed Davey talks to Today about the Horizon scandal

Ed Davey was interviewed on the Today programme  this morning about his actions as postal affairs minister during the Horizon scandal.

The BBC had obtained a briefing from civil servants to Ed in which he was advised to meet Alan Bates “for presentational reasons” and not to make any commitments to him.

Ed made the point that he had wanted to meet Alan Bates anyway after Bates’ second letter to him and, after that meeting, he had questioned the Post Office, who had lied to him. He added that it wasn’t until the BBC interviewed a whistleblower from Fujitsu in August 2015, long after he had left his post, that there was any hard evidence to go on about the problems with Horizon.

He also talked about how he had been calling for an independent enquiry and speedy compensation since 2015.

From the BBC:

However, Sir Ed told the BBC’s Today programme it “wasn’t the case” that he had agreed to meet Mr Bates because of potential bad publicity.

“That’s what the officials put in the submission to me just before the meeting, but I wanted to meet him because after his second letter, I felt I should hear his concerns,” he said.

Sir Ed said he was the first minister to meet Mr Bates and added he took his concerns “very seriously”. “When I put those concerns to the Post Office, concerns about the Horizon IT system, I’m afraid I was lied to,” he said. With a general election coming up, Sir Ed said he had not considered stepping down as Liberal Democrat leader.

“When I go out there campaigning, we’re finding incredible results in seats that only we can beat the Conservatives in,” he said. “The party is very keen for us to fight this election really hard under my leadership.”

Those of you who haven’t read Ed’s Guardian article from last week in which he recognised and apologised for his failure to see through the lies he had been told can do so here.

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7 February 2024 – the overnight press release

Government has neglected children’s mental health for too long

Responding to the Royal College of Psychiatrists’s report on children’s mental health, Liberal Democrat Health and Social Care spokesperson Daisy Cooper MP said:

This devastating explosion of mental ill health among children should be a wake-up call for the government.

Conservative ministers have neglected children’s mental health during and after the pandemic, leaving mental health services and families in crisis.

We have seen a litany of broken promises from this government including the failure to deliver maximum waiting times for children, ending out of area placements or reforming the Mental Health Act.

The Liberal

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LISTEN: Christine Jardine on Any Questions

Christine Jardine was on Any Questions last night along with Ann Widdecombe (representing the Reform Party), Thangam Debonnaire and Sir Robert Buckland.

She travelled to Bridgwater in Somerset.

The first question was on whether we should have closer relations with the EU, following this week’s news from Northern Ireland and the fourth anniversary of Brexit.

Christine said that Northern Ireland is a very special case and we should welcome this week’s agreement as a starting point. She pointed out that the people of Northern Ireland had been denied democracy for years because of this. Too cheers from the audience, she took Rishi Sunak to task for his comment that Northern Ireland now has the best of both world. She simply said “Didn’t we all used to have that?” She pointed out that businesses in her constituency were concerned at the amount of red tape they now have to complete to export to the EU that they didn’t before. While she didn’t see a quick path back to the single market, she thinks that that is the direction we should go in but the EU and the British people have to want it. But let’s hope that someone at Lib Dem HQ was listening to the audience cheers which surely suggest that the door is open for stronger arguments on closer relationships with our closest neighbour.

Thangam Debonnaire continued with the fiction that Labour’s Brexit would be just lovely but she sounded much more enthusiastic for closer ties than that position implied.

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LibLink: Ed Davey on the Post Office scandal

Ed Davey has been writing in The Guardian today under the heading “I fell for Post Office lies – and I’m sorry. But I won’t be silent as Tories prey on victims’ trauma

He writes:

The Post Office Horizon scandal is the greatest miscarriage of justice of our time, and I am deeply sorry for the families who have had their lives ruined by it. As one of the ministers over the 20 years of this scandal, including my time as minister responsible for postal affairs, I’m sorry I did not see through the Post Office’s lies – and that it took me five months to meet Alan Bates, the man who has done so much to uncover it.

The Post Office is owned by the government but not run by it, so the official advice I was given when I first became a minister in May 2010 was not to meet Bates. He wrote again urging me to reconsider, and I did then meet him that October. But he shouldn’t have had to wait. When Bates told me his concerns about Horizon, I took them extremely seriously and put them to the Post Office. What I got back were categorical assurances – the same lies we now know they were telling the subpostmasters, journalists, parliament and the courts.

Since then, the innocence of the subpostmasters has been proven.

He goes on:

So how did we get here? It’s hard not to conclude that this was a conspiracy on a grand scale, and it was only exposed when a brave whistleblower came forward from inside Fujitsu itself in 2015.

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Four ways you can help Liberal Democrat Voice

The Voice is only a success because of the interest and support from our readers. For many people just lurking and reading the site is all they want to do – and that’s fine, we’re grateful for people taking the time to read the site.

You can though help us continue to produce interesting content for a growing audience. Here are four simple ways:

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Interested in finance? A chance to join the Federal Finance and Resources Committee

Would you like to contribute to the running of our party?

The Federal Finance and Resources Committee has a casual vacancy for a volunteer member, which will be filled by the Federal Board. Applications are invited with a closing date of 12th February.

There are full details of the context and responsibilities on the party website, but here is some extracts:

This is your opportunity to play a pivotal role in the Party’s work in a volunteer non-executive position. You will help us win by ensuring our financial resources are well used.

You must be a member of the Liberal Democrats and able to demonstrate your affinity with the values of the party, as well as an understanding of its structures, relationships and financial needs.

Prior professional experience in a relevant field, such as finance or risk, and/or experience as a non-executive, trustee, or similar scrutiny role, is highly desirable. Also desirable is experience with understanding and managing how financial decisions sit within a complex stakeholder environment.

Interested? All you need to know, including how to apply, is here.

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Layla Moran challenges Sunak on Thames Water incompetence

Oxford West and Abingdon MP Layla Moran had a question to the Prime Minister today.

She challenged him on Thames Water, who are putting charges to her constituents up, despite providing a terrible service. She said:

Thames Water is a shambles. During the recent flooding in Oxfordshire, it dumped sewage from 270 sites along the Thames in one week. Waste was backing up into people’s homes because of drains that it had not unblocked, and it could not even refill its own reservoir because the rivers were too dirty. Rather than offering a rebate for this shoddy service, Thames Water is intending to put bills up for everyone by 60%. Will the Prime Minister explain to my constituents why they are being asked to foot the bill for Thames Water’s gross incompetence?

Sunak responded by basically reaffirming Layla’s point that Thames Water had been terrible, but without much in the way of understanding or action to prevent such a massive increase in charges.

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Safer canvassing guide from the Local Government Association

The Local Government Association has issued a new ‘safer canvassing guide’ for councillors and political parties to follow in the run up to the local election and an anticipated general election.

The guide outlines seven principles for safe canvassing and builds on those to offer some helpful, practical hints for canvassers.

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Farron: Children are missing school to go abroad for dental treatment

We all know that NHS dental appointments can be almost impossible to access in many areas of the country.

Liberal Democrats have been highlighting this for months and calling on the Government to do more to ensure people can access this key service.

Yesterday, Tim Farron spoke in an opposition day debate on dental services and said that he had been told that some children were missing school to go abroad for dental appointments because they couldn’t get them locally:

I have heard at first hand from my constituents about the shocking scale of the difficulty of getting access to appointments for children. One attendance officer at one of our primary schools wrote to me earlier last year after she found that families in her school were going abroad for dental appointments. She said:

“Tim, I felt compelled to email you to tell you… We have a high number of children who are regularly missing out on education due to being unable to register with a local NHS dentist. A large number of our children have Polish, Romanian, Latvian and Ukrainian parents and therefore will find it easier to travel back to their parents’ original home country rather than wait for a local NHS dentist who is accepting patients.”

Wow! Let us be clear: she is saying that some children in Cumbria find it easier to get dental treatment travelling to a war zone than to access the NHS dental care that their parents have already paid for through their taxes.

He also highlighted that tooth decay was the number 1 reason for paediatric hospital admissions on his path. That is so shocking. The implications of poor dental health in childhood can last for a lifetime. Tooth decay is preventable and manageable. Free access to a dentist should be a right for children.

Tim said:

In 2022, the BDA found that one in four five-year-olds in my community in Cumbria had tooth decay, and that tooth decay was the No. 1 reason for hospital admissions among young people. Regular dental appointments are vital for preventing tooth decay, and even more so for children, whose teeth tend to decay more quickly. However, fewer and fewer children are able to access those Toggle showing location ofColumn 195appointments because of the negligence of this Government. In Cumbria, the proportion of children seen by a dentist in the NHS each year went from 64% in 2018 to just 50% last year, a drop of 14% in five years. Half of our children in our communities—from Grasmere to Grange, Appleby to Ambleside, Kendal to Kirkby Stephen and Windermere to Warcop—do not have access to an NHS dentist. That is a disgrace.

The situation was worse for adults, with a structural problem in that the NHS Trust only receive half the money it needs to provide services for everyone who needs them.

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Four Lib Dems honoured in New Year Honours List

We interrupt our festive break to bring you the happy news that the Liberal Democrats have seen three people honoured in the New Years Honours list.

Jude Godden has been awarded an MBE for her services to local politics, Gavin Stollar has been awarded an OBE for his work within the Jewish Community and Andrew Dixon was awarded an OBE for his work in tackling inequality and for his support to British entrepreneurs.

Jude Godden

Jude Godden has been serving her community for the past 20 years, first running adult education for a large rural area and delivering over 200 courses a year as well as delivering cardiac rehabilitation courses and then more recently, as Head of Casework for Tim Farron MP. During the years she has worked for Tim Farron’s office she has made a massive difference. She has been instrumental in investigating and exposing two major national health scandals by supporting whistleblowers to have their voices heard, one of which was featured on the BBC. She single-handedly repatriated 57 people when the pandemic hit from around the world by working day and night till they were safely home. Recently she has helped refugees who were struggling to get visas to leave Ukraine and faced deportation back to a war zone. Jude has successfully returned over a million pounds to constituents and has acted as an advocate for countless people to ensure social justice is delivered.

Ed Davey congratulated Jude on her MBE

My warmest congratulations to Jude Godden, who’s charitable spirit is so importantly recognised in today’s honours.

Jude is a carer for a family member, as well as a caseworker for Tim Farron and has served her local area tirelessly for over 20 years.

Everyone in the Liberal Democrats is so proud of Jude’s work and this well-deserved accomplishment.

Gavin Stollar

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Alex Cole-Hamilton’s Christmas message

Alex Cole-Hamilton’s Christmas message is below:

Christmas is a time for reflection, and I think it’s important to look back on the long road travelled since last year.

Just twelve months ago Nicola Sturgeon was the most powerful figure in Scottish politics. Now her reputation lies in tatters.

The SNP in government are badly diminished by scandal, infighting and more than a decade of neglect of public services which has led to record NHS waiting lists and our schools slipping down the international rankings.

Twelve months ago the Conservatives were in utter chaos… so some things don’t change.

While the Conservatives and SNP flounder, Scottish Liberal Democrats have never shied away from making the case for action on the two biggest issues facing our country: the cost of living and the crisis in our NHS.

We have also led the way on other matters, offering considered and constructive solutions to the challenges facing our country.

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Season’s greetings

We will be back in the New Year.

 

 

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Why would you cut energy efficiency funding in a climate emergency – Alex Cole-Hamilton

Yesterday’s Scottish Budget hit the headlines because of the introduction of a new top tax rate for higher earners, and a rise in tax for the richest. But there were some real devils in the detail.

The BBC’s report states that:

Plans to accelerate clean heating systems will receive £358m of funding.

This might be fine, but the figure last year was £367.5 million.

They have also cut the funding for fuel poverty and housing quality from £21.8 million to £1.7 million.

And that is before you even start to mention the effective cut to Council budgets because of the Council Tax freeze. A report last week suggested that a quarter of Scottish Councils fear bankruptcy.

Alex said in response to Finance Secretary Shona Robison’s statement:

The SNP has spent years ignoring expert warnings about the lack of a long-term economic strategy and the impact of its failure to grow the economy. Scotland needs predictability and a long-term plan for tax and the wider economy, not erratic changes that will undermine confidence.

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‘I’m worried that if it’s not the bullets that kill them, it will be the lack of water,’ says Layla Moran of civilians trapped in Gaza church

Layla Moran appeared on Channel 4 News last night. “(She said) her relatives are among hundreds of civilians trapped in a Catholic Church in Gaza City as Israeli forces operate nearby.

Over the weekend, the Catholic authority in the region claimed that two women were killed by Israeli snipers inside the Holy Family Parish compound. Israel has denied targeting the church.”

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Part 2: Lib Dem Peers call for improved mental health services for young people

Yesterday we reported on the debate in the House of Lords on mental health services for children and young people secured by Earl Russell.

We thought you might like to read the other Lib Dem contributions to the debate. First up, Richard Allan who talked, among other things, about the effect of bullying on mental health:

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Russell for securing this debate. Like many others, I am impressed by how quickly he has brought value to the work of this House and by the combination of passion and reasoned argument that he brought to today’s debate.

I congratulate the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Hale, on her maiden speech. I had not realised that she is from Yorkshire but, based on the comments of the noble Baroness, Lady Hollins, I can say, as a Sheffielder, that we are now on a Yorkshire hat trick as a group of three speakers. In my household, it is not often that we talk about the law as a cool and attractive profession, but the activities of the noble and learned Baroness in her previous role triggered such comments. Based on her contribution today, I am sure that, in future, she will provide examples of how our words here can be both impactful and entertaining. I hope that she does not let her natural diffidence get the better of her too often.

Turning to the subject of the debate, I start with a question: what do we call a family with experience of child mental health issues? The answer is “a normal family”. That has been reflected in the debate, as well as in my noble friend’s contribution as he related his own experience, but I suspect that every person sitting here today has their own direct personal experience of a young person suffering from mental health issues during their childhood, whether through their children, their nieces and nephews, their grandchildren or those children’s cousins. This understanding is necessary not to trivialise the matter—quite the opposite. If we normalise it, we may get to a position where we understand that child mental health issues need to be treated as seriously as other child health conditions, with an infrastructure and an understanding that, as my noble friend said, it is unacceptable to ignore them or somehow treat them as less serious.

The tools that we need to help people are common to all kinds of healthcare. First, we need early and accurate identification of problems. Secondly, we need good availability of the right treatment options; that is the case whether it is a physical issue or a mental health one. There are also four settings that need to work for young people in order to achieve these goals of the identification and treatment of the issues with which they present. The first is families themselves; the noble Baroness, Lady Hollins, referred to the importance of family as the primary setting. The second is the educational institutions in which children find themselves; the third is primary healthcare; and then there are the acute services to which children may need to turn. I will not go into the issues around family support in any depth today other than to flag the fact that families and the care they provide must be recognised and supported. There is an important objective for government in supporting families who provide care for somebody, whether they have a physical condition or a mental health one; that care provides enormous value to the individual but also to society. There are questions around the extent to which, today, government provides the support that those families need.

I turn to educational settings. These are generally schools for younger children but we should not forget the significant role of universities and colleges. That is important because we are talking today about children and young people; to me, that extends through into those university years. It is another period of transition. For many of the young people who reach the age of 18 or 19 and transition to university, that is when the crisis hits. Again, universities have a critical role to play in this.

Major shifts are needed to improve staff training. Staff across all these different kinds of establishment need to be trained in such a way that they can help identify problems, because problems may first present themselves in an interaction between a young person and a professional in an institution. We also need to make sure that counsellors are available when they represent an appropriate form of treatment; they are frequently the first line. The Minister has made commitments around both those aspects previously—the training of all staff in educational establishments where that may be useful in identifying problems; and the provision of counselling services to the right degree so that, when issues have presented themselves, that first line of treatment is available—so I hope that he will be able to demonstrate progress.

I am interested to understand from the Minister how budgets will operate in this space given that it sits between different government departments. The young person does not care that one thing sits with DHSC and another sits with DfE, or whatever acronyms we are using now; they care about whether treatment is available. I hope that the Minister can indicate how we will ensure that budgets follow need rather than being stuck in departmental silos.

I want to touch on bullying, which can be both a cause and an exacerbating factor for somebody with mental health issues: it can trigger the mental health issue but, sadly, the start of bullying can also sometimes be the response of young people to someone in their school who has a mental health issue. It then compounds the crisis that a young person is suffering. The challenge is to have an effective response because these issues are often labour intensive, requiring engagement—often over a long period—with the children and families involved.

As noble Lords may be aware, I have professional experience of the online component of this as I spent many years working at a large online platform. It seems obvious that the nature of bullying has changed with ubiquitous connectivity. However, sometimes, there is also the risk of us seeing the solutions as entirely within the domain of technology. People report bullying to a platform, which can result in the removal of the content and sometimes the closure of the bullying account, but it rarely solves the underlying problem.

In some cases, the bullying is entirely within an online community, but much more typically the online activity is an extension of something that is happening offline in the real world. The intervention that resolves the problem is one that brings young people, parents and others together to discuss the offline and online activity. I understand the challenges for school staff in resourcing this, but some option will have to be found or we will simply be playing whack-a-mole on the online platforms, knocking down individual instances while the young person’s mental health continues to deteriorate because the bullying is moving from place to place and never being addressed at its root causes.

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Ed Davey’s message for Hanukkah

Here is Ed Davey’s message for Hanukkah, wishing Jewish people a happy and peaceful time and referring to the exceptionally tough last couple of months. The Liberal Democrats, he said, are your friends.

On the party website, he wrote:

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Earl Russell highlights lack of mental health support for children and young people

Improving mental health has been a priority for the Liberal Democrats long before it was fashionable.

Our elected representatives at every level raise it whenever they can. Norman Lamb as health minister did so much to improve access to services but it’s been a long 8 years since he was in office.

Recently, our Earl Russell secured a debate in the House of Lords to highlight how appalling provision is for children and young people. Waiting times are horrendous. Imagine the impact on your education if you have to wait a year to even be seen. It’s then a long recovery and before you know it, that’s half your secondary education gone. And imagine the suffering if, like too many, CAMHS won’t even accept your referral.

For parents and carers, watching their young person struggle is one of the worst things to endure. And the anxiety of wondering if they will still be there in the morning, every day, takes its toll.

The debate is covered here on Today in Parliament, from about 20:10 in, and below are Earl Russell’s speeches. We’ll cover the contributions by Richard Allan, Claire Tyler and Mike Storey tomorrow.

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COVID inquiry: Strip Johnson of allowance and bar him from future honours

The Lib Dems have called on Rishi Sunak to strip Boris Johnson of his £115,000 a year ex-Prime Ministerial allowance and for the disgraced former PM to be barred from receiving future honours or a peerage.

It comes ahead of Johnson’s scheduled appearance at the Covid inquiry next week.

The inquiry has already heard evidence that the response to the pandemic under Johnson’s government was chaotic and filled with a callous disregard for the lives of the elderly. Boris Johnson’s former Chief of Staff, Lord Lister, told the inquiry that the ex-PM said “let the bodies pile high” when presented with the prospect of a circuit breaker lockdown in September 2020.

The Liberal Democrats are putting pressure on Rishi Sunak to strip Johnson of his up to £115,000 a year allowance as a former Prime Minister. The party is also calling on Sunak to rule out giving Johnson an honour or peerage in future honours lists. It comes after Sunak gave a peerage to former Prime Minister David Cameron so he could rejoin the cabinet.

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Ed Davey tackles PM on hospital delays

Ed Davey used his question to the Prime Minister today to highlight hold-ups in the building of the mythical 40 new hospitals promised in the Government’s 2019 manifesto. Especially as the National Audit Office thinks it won’t meet that commitment.

Ed said:

Three years ago, the Government made a commitment to 40 new hospitals and significant upgrades to hospitals in most need, but today many schemes are badly delayed. The Royal Berkshire—stuck at the development stage, with not a single pound transferred for construction. Harrogate District Hospital—still waiting on £20 million for urgent upgrades after reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete was

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Carmichael warns about increases in helicopter response times

If you regularly face danger at sea, the last thing you will want to hear is that the Government plans to quadruple helicopter response times.

Alistair Carmichael seeks answers from the Government as he holds a parliamentary debate on the future of coastguard services in Parliament.

The debate follows revelations about the Maritime and Coastguard Agency’s plans to quadruple the emergency response time for the helicopter service based at Sumburgh in Alistair’s Shetland constituency from 15 minutes to 60 minutes.

The MCA previously “clarified” that the current “readiness” state of 15 minutes is due to remain in place until at least October 2026 — but “discussions relating to readiness states beyond this date are ongoing.” Following further meetings, however, it has emerged that the MCA has already signed a new contract for the future of the Sumburgh service.

Other concerns have been raised that the new service will only run one type of helicopter, raising issues with resilience should a model be grounded. Mr Carmichael has called on the MCA and the Department for Transport to release the full documents relating to the proposals.

Ahead of the debate, Alistair said:

Reports that there were discussions under way in the Maritime and Coastguard Agency to cut back on the helicopter provision from Sumburgh were bad enough. It has now emerged, however, that the “discussions” are effectively already over – as a contract was signed months ago.

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Carmichael warns on new election spending regulations

So, if you’re the Tories and you’re lagging in the polls, you’ve run out of ideas and you’re basically a hot mess masquerading as a Government, but you want to grip on to power because you think you are entitled to it, what do you do?

You can’t gerrymander like the Republicans have done in states all over the US to ensure that they run State legislatures because our boundary setting process is independent.

Well, you could give yourself a massive financial boost by raising the campaign spending limits to a level at which you can comfortably outspend your rivals. And you also raise the levels at which you have to report donations.

In Parliament today, without debate, they slipped out a regulation doing just that.

Now these limits were well overdue a rise, but these limits should be set by consensus between the parties. Not on how much money the party of the rich can expect to raise.

Alistair Carmichael took to Twitter to express his displeasure:

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Rob Blackie challenges Transport for London to tackle sexual harassment

A British Transport Police survey published today revealed that a third of women had said that they had suffered some level of sexual harassment on their daily commute by train or tube:

The recent survey also shows that half (51%) of those who have been victims of sexual offending say that other passengers tried to help them, yet only one in five (18%) people who have witnessed sexual harassment have reported it to police.

Contrary to popular belief, crime data also shows that most sexual offending takes place during the evening rush hour period (5-7pm) in busy train carriages.

Just three weeks ago, Transport for London told London Lib Dem Mayoral candidate Rob Blackie that their own survey showed sexual harassment was at a very low rate.

Rob said today:

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One in three Brits miss work while waiting for healthcare

  • Shock poll reveals staggering number of working UK adults say they have missed work in the past year due to being stuck on waiting lists or attempting to see a GP or dentist
  • Half of young adults (18-34) missed work last year due to NHS waiting lists
  • Lib Dem MP warns crisis in the NHS is damaging economic growth as one in three adults missed work waiting for an appointment in the last year
  • Party calls on the Government to use the £13bn windfall to deliver 8,000 GPs, cut waiting times and improve mental health support, among other measures

A new poll, commissioned by the Liberal Democrats, has found that one in three working adults say they have missed work in the last year while waiting for a medical appointment or treatment on the NHS.

That includes over half (54%) of young adults (18-34) who say they’ve been forced to miss work in the past year due to soaring health waiting lists, including seeing GPs.

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LibLink: Vince Cable on industrial strategy

Vince Cable has been writing at CommentCentral under the headline: Industrial strategy is vital to boosting growth. He bemoans the closure of blast furnaces in Port Talbot and Scunthorpe.

He says:

The closures seem to be a mockery of the optimistic story about a future based on green jobs since the closures are prompted by a wish to move the industry onto a less energy and carbon intensive (and more modest) footing, using electric arc furnaces to turn scrap back into steel. The government is putting in £1 billion to help finance the transition.

But critics point to a dearth of constructive ideas for the industry. Britain produces 10 million tonnes of scrap steel a year, less than a third of which is currently recycled (the rest being exported and recycled elsewhere), so why are there no plans to boost domestic production? Why are there no plans to use hydrogen as a reducing agent in updated blast furnaces making use of Britain’s resources of offshore wind to generate ‘green’ hydrogen through electrolysis? Where is the strategy?

He compares the UK with countries such Japan, China, Germany and Israel and praises their industrial strategy.

After a brief flurry of free market discipline, the Coalition was soon forced into reactive intervention to stop large factory closures. I decided to launch a comprehensive, sector based, industrial strategy. Conservative colleagues went along with it, some reluctantly. There was positive engagement from business – and trades unions – and in sectors like vehicles, aerospace, life sciences and creative industries. there were industry-wide strategies that were acted upon.

To my pleasant surprise, Theresa May kept and developed the industrial strategy, under Greg Clark. It couldn’t last. With Boris Johnson came ‘f**k business’ and also pathological short-termism (though Dominic Cummings managed to get the DARPA ‘moon-shot’ project launched). Truss and her free-market fundamentalists like Rees Mogg and Kwarteng had no time for ‘industrial strategy’.

Sunak seems to be going down the same path. In contrast Labour is keen to give industrial policy a central position.

He concludes:

I like to claim that industrial strategy was one of the Lib Dems’ big but unsung achievements in the Coalition government. But industrial strategy depends on shared, cross-party ownership. In that spirit, I would like to see Jeremy Hunt using his Autumn Statement to give his support to industrial strategy as part of his programme for boosting growth.

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Lib Dem Peer Brian Cotter has died

Sad news this morning. Brian Cotter, who was made a Lib Dem Peer in 2006 after representing Weston Super Mare in the Commons between 1997 and 2005, has died.

The Lib Dem Whips Office made the announcement on Twitter:

It is with sadness that we have to let you know that our own Brian Cotter died peacefully earlier today surrounded by his wife and children. Brian was a proud small business man who spent 8 years in the Commons and 17 in the Lords. He will be missed. Condolences to his family.

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UPDATED: Tory reshuffle: goodbye, Suella Braverman, hello, David Cameron?

It’s all kicked off at Number 10, so we’ll be updating this as events unfold…

In one of the more unexpected moments of this increasingly flaky Government, Rishi Sunak has moved James Cleverly from the Foreign Office to the Home Office after just fourteen months, and replaced him with David Cameron, giving him a peerage in order to do so. It would be fair to say that the responses have been mixed…

Beth Rigby, Sky News’ Political Editor, notes:

Layla Moran has pointed out that:

Bringing back a scandal-hit, unelected former Prime Minister who has been criticising Sunak’s government at every turn has the

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Suella Braverman goes… at long last…

The news that Rishi Sunak had a backbone transplant over the weekend and has finally sacked his Home Secretary is likely to put a small spring in the step of many this morning.

It seemed inevitable that something had to give. No Prime Minister can allow such open challenge to his authority to carry on for long, especially in a Party where the virtues of loyalty and discipline have been so clearly forgotten. And, in attacking the police in such a ham-fisted, confrontational manner, Suella Braverman had broken a number of the rules of politics, incited rioting at the Cenotaph and …

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Last chance to stand in Scottish internal elections

Nominations close tomorrow night for candidates for office bearer positions and the party committees, along with representatives to Federal Party Committees and the Federal Council to serve for the next two years.

It’s a challenging time for the Scottish Party. The people elected at this set of elections will need to progress the 150 Rising project, to almost double our councillors at the next set of council elections in 2027, as well as get us through the General Election and prepare for the Scottish Parliament elections in 2026.

Nominations close tomorrow night (13th November) at midnight. Any member of the Scottish Party can stand and the nominations process is all online, so there is no need to get anyone to sign bits of paper.

All the information you need to stand is here.  It includes the posts available, job descriptions, how to stand and get nominations and the rules about campaigning.

It is absolutely not too late to throw your hat into the ring. If you want people to nominate you, if you ask in any of the online spaces, such as the Liberal Democrats Scotland Facebook group, you are very likely to find people willing to help you.

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Lib Dems react to King’s Speech

Ed Davey has been on Sky News talking about the King’s Speech.  He called for a General Election to put a Government that has run out of ideas out of its misery.

In the debate in the Commons yesterday, Ed said:

May I, like others, start by paying tribute to His Majesty for delivering his first King’s Speech? It was clearly an historic moment, but for our King it must have been an emotional one. He made reference to his late mother, our late, amazing Queen, and many of us listening to him felt that he delivered that speech with grace and aplomb, and we are very grateful to him.

May I also pay tribute to the right hon. Member for Scarborough and Whitby (Sir Robert Goodwill) and the hon. Member for Stroud (Siobhan Baillie) for their speeches? I have always rather admired the right hon. Gentleman, for many reasons. His speech today was extremely entertaining, but I have always liked the fact that he, like many on our Benches, opposed the third runway at Heathrow and that he was a constructive, if unfashionable, Conservative in his views on a constructive relationship with our European partners. But perhaps what makes him more at home with the current Government is his romantic enthusiasm for the steam engine, as we have heard: more noise than substance and going nowhere in the modern world.

My mother-in-law, an expert beekeeper and honey producer—and the swarm officer for North Dorset, no less—would join the seconder of today’s motion in congratulating Stroud on being the world’s first bee guardian town. I am sure that Stroud has a real buzz about it, but the House will be pleased to hear that I do not intend to drone on and on. Given your strictures at the beginning of this debate, Mr Speaker, I should like to clarify that I was not referring to any other Members in talking about droning on.

Today’s Gracious Speech is overshadowed by horrifying events around the world, with the monstrous terrorist attacks by Hamas on Israel one month ago—more than 1,400 Israelis were slaughtered and hundreds were taken hostage, and they are in our thoughts today—and now the dire humanitarian situation in Gaza. Innocent Palestinians have been cut off from food, water and medicine. Their homes have been destroyed, and more than 10,000 have been killed.

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