Author Archives: Tom Brake MP

Tom Brake MP writes…If you care about Brexit, read this…

Some of you might have received an email from me on Thursday night about the EU Withdrawal Bill. If you didn’t, then please continue reading.

When people voted in the EU referendum last year, nobody really knew what a future deal with the European Union might look like.

16 months on it is now clearer than ever that no deal will be anywhere near as good a deal as the one we have now. To top that off, a catastrophic “no deal” scenario is becoming likelier than ever.

The chaos and uncertainty are leading to job losses and higher prices across the UK.

That is why the Liberal Democrats believe the people deserve the final say on any Brexit deal in a referendum. And if the public doesn’t like it, we should have the option to remain in the European Union.

In two weeks’ time, MPs will be debating amendments to the EU Withdrawal Bill. The Government’s majority is wafer thin – and if MPs from all parties work together, there’s a real chance we can defeat them and at the very least, stop them from pursuing a hard Brexit.

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Tom Brake MP writes…It’s time to reform renting

Recently at my surgery I met a distressed young woman who came to see me with her mother. Repairs are outstanding on their rented property. The landlord is refusing to sort them out while at the same time putting pressure on them to leave their flat. She didn’t know where to go or what to do.

This is a familiar story and it is no exaggeration to say that we have a national emergency in housing. There are vast numbers of people living in fear and uncertainty and in 2016 that is simply unacceptable.

We clearly have a rental sector which is broken. Many people are spending over half their disposable income on rent and yet a third of homes fail to meet the Government’s decent homes standard, with over 60% of renters having experienced either damp, mould, leaking roofs or windows, electrical hazards, animal infestation or gas leaks, according to a recent survey commissioned by Shelter.

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Tom Brake MP writes….On International Romani Day we should all remember the need for human rights to be given to all groups in Europe

Today is International Romani Day, a day to celebrate the culture and raise awareness of one of the most misunderstood groups within Europe. Romani people have faced severe persecution over the last century but are tragically often forgotten and that is why this day is important.

Tragically, Romani people are still facing persecution and are being denied equal human rights within Europe.

Our continent is buckling under the strain of the greatest humanitarian crisis it has faced since the last World War, tensions are running high in areas struggling to cope with an influx of men, women and children who have had to flee their homes to escape the destruction and tyranny of terrorist groups and dictators. Sadly, as these people reach the borders of states unable or unwilling to welcome the number of people who have arrived needing protection, human rights are often being forgotten and protection and fair treatment is not being given.

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Tom Brake MP writes: Do you support military intervention in Libya?

Libya is in crisis. After the removal of the brutal dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, Libya has unfortunately disintegrated into a state in little more than name, without the stability and leadership of any government. The country is being held back and fragmented through tribal infighting and most worryingly Daesh has established strongholds around Libya, including the cities of Sirte and Sabratha and even in areas surrounding Benghazi.

It is reported that the vast majority of Daesh fighters based in Libya are not Libyan nationals and the movement does not have roots within the country. Daesh is deeply unpopular with Libyan citizens and they have struggled to motivate and indoctrinate Libyan citizens.

The American military are currently conducting airstrikes on Daesh targets within Libya. The Secretary of State for Defence has personally authorised the use of RAF Lakenheath to allow these airstrikes to be launched from within the United Kingdom. The UK Government has been coy on what role, if any, our military will take to support the US military in their fight against Daesh in Libya, however the likelihood of the UK Government committing to military intervention in Libya is increasing.

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The Diversity Motion – a spring board to bring greater fairness, diversity and openness to our party

The Diversity Motion being put forward this weekend at the Spring Conference in York, is an important, necessary and long overdue motion, one that Liberal Democrats need to unanimously support. As a party we have always been committed to eliminating all types of prejudice, discrimination, inequality and privilege, and must continue to do so when it comes to the country’s elected bodies and party structures. For the myriad voices present in our society to be heard and valued, our political system must reflect the diversity that exists, not just a narrow section. This unfortunately is not case, and also is sadly not true of the Liberal Democrats.

There is wholly inadequate diversity among Lib Dem members of parliament and candidates. Despite efforts to increase diversity, in the form of the Campaign for Gender Balance and the Leadership Programme, there has only been a limited impact on the proportion of individuals elected from under-represented groups and low socio-economic backgrounds.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 44 Comments

Tom Brake MP writes…Violation of judicial process by Bangladesh International Criminal Tribunal

This week the Bangladesh Supreme Court upheld the Bangladesh International Crimes Tribunal (ICT) decision to execute Salauddin Quader Chowdhury. This represents the second rejection for Mr Chowdhury, following his original appeal in July 2015. This is a grave injustice for Chowdhury and for Bangladesh.

In 2013, Chowdhury was sentenced to death by the ICT for war crimes allegedly committed during the 1971 Bangladesh Independence War. The original trial, like many others heard by the ICT, has received widespread criticism including from the United Nations and Amnesty International for procedural irregularities and the violation of international fair trial standards.

The case of Salauddin Quader Chowdhury was marred by irregularities, the worst of which relates to witnesses for the Defence. The Court imposed a last minute restriction to the number of witnesses the Defence was permitted to call. The Prosecution called 41 witnesses to take the stand against Chowdhury. On the day the final Prosecution witness was called, the Court branded the 1153-long witness list a ploy aimed at delaying the case and arbitrarily cut the Defence witness list to just five.

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Tom Brake MP: Why I’m fasting for Shaker Aamer

haker Aamer is the last British resident held in Guantanamo Bay, which still stands as an icon to the Iraq War, a war which only the Liberal Democrats, led by Charles Kennedy, were brave enough to stand up against. Shaker has been held for the last thirteen years without charge or trial. He has been cleared by two successive US Presidents and yet is still held captive.

Baroness Ludford correctly said in 2012 ‘the continued existence of Guantanamo is a stain on the record and reputation of President Obama’; it is truly depressing that Guantanamo continues to be used to incarcerate people and that there are many reports of abuse and violence within the prison.

On 25th September, Shaker learned that he would finally be freed, however as Congress has to be given 30 days’ notice before Shaker can be released, he is unlikely to be released before the 25th October at the earliest.

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Tom Brake writes: My trip to the Calais Jungle

 

I visited the Calais Jungle a week ago, where around 4,000 people live in terribly squalid conditions. My trip was organised by staff from Lib Dem HQ, who had collected donations so we were able to distribute water, food and sanitary products.

It was a shocking experience to see the dreadful conditions people are living in. The Jungle is worse than a shanty town, with very few facilities.

There was no sign of water being provided and the people we met clutched gratefully the bottles we had transported.  Shoes, clothes and dry foods were also in demand. Portable toilets are provided by aid organisations while the local authorities seem to turn a blind eye to the conditions in the camp, simply wishing it would go away. I was told the French authorities don’t provide any help apart from a Centre where mobile phones can be charged and a hot meal is available. If someone is badly injured the local hospital bandages them up.

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Tom Brake MP writes: The #libdemfightback continues in Wallington. Can you help?

On 11th June there is a Council by-election in Wallington South ward in my constituency. It has been caused by the sad death of a friend of mine Colin Hall, who played a major role in many Sutton success stories such as the Smarter Travel Sutton scheme. You can read some of the tributes to Colin here.

Our candidate, Stephen Cook, if elected will be an excellent Councillor. He has lived locally for 35 years.  He is Chairman of the local residents’ association, has had involvement in a number of important campaigns such as the campaign to block a McDonalds drive-thru’ and has strong business experience.

The Tories, still smarting from their failure to dislodge London’s last Lib Dem MP, are running a relentlessly negative campaign (whilst claiming to be running a positive one).

This by-election provides one of the first opportunities since May 7th to defy the other parties and show them the Liberal Democrats aren’t going to fade away.

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Tom Brake writes… Job sharing for MPs – an idea whose time has come

There’s something about our system of electing one person to represent one, relatively small part of the country which makes MPs very territorial. Their constituency is “their patch” on which no one else must trespass, and by extension we all find ourselves utterly consumed by the job.

The consequence is that politics becomes available only to people who are able to give themselves to it to the exclusion of all else. Working age women in particular have been seen to self-select out of the job, and many more simply never enter it. Westminster hand-wrings often about …

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Tom Brake MP writes…Liberal Democrats have improved the Lobbying Bill

Yesterday the long, and at times tortuous, journey of the Transparency Bill through Parliament came to an end.  It will shortly receive Royal Assent.  The Bill had many critics, so it is worth reiterating the purpose of the parts of the Bill I was closely involved with as a Minister.

Part 1, sets up a Statutory Register of Lobbyists, to complement the existing regime of quarterly data published by Ministers about which external organisations they meet.  Liberal Democrats have successfully pushed for this data to become much more accessible and useful in future, so that all the data is published …

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Tom Brake MP writes: Part 2 of the Lobbying and Transparency Bill, an update

As Nick mentioned to party members in his Letter from the Leader over the weekend, the government has signalled its willingness to accept the principle of amendments to Part 2 of the bill from John Thurso and other Liberal Democrat MPs.

I would like to thank John for the hugely constructive approach he and many other Liberal Democrat MPs have taken to this bill. It is not, and has never been, the intention of this bill to in anyway restrict the ability of charities to campaign to change government policy or on other issues they feel strongly about. And government …

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Social media training at Glasgow Conference

At last month’s Edinburgh TV Festival, Kevin Spacey’s McTaggert lecture warned television execs to ‘embrace online or die’.

I don’t imagine that I will be changing how I watch Borgen anytime soon, but I can see from my own children how technology is changing the way they watch television.

As Liberal Democrats, one of our strengths has always been our sense of duty to communicate; since the very first Focus leaflets were sent out. As an MP, I think that the technological developments that Kevin Spacey was discussing raise important questions about how technology is changing the way we engage with local people.

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Tom Brake on 38 Degrees and the Transparency and Lobbying Bill

Tom Brake MPI’m sure some Liberal Democrat members and readers of Liberal Democrat Voice will have recently received a rather alarmist email from 38 Degrees claiming that the Government, through the Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill, is attempting to stop charities and campaign groups criticising government policy.

I would like to reassure Liberal Democrat Voice readers that 38 Degrees have rather regrettably misrepresented and exaggerated the effect and intent of the bill. We are doing nothing of the sort.

Posted in News and Parliament | Tagged and | 84 Comments

Tom Brake MP writes…Being Deputy Leader of the Commons

In September waiting by the phone finally paid off, I was given my first ministerial position: Deputy Leader of the House of Commons. If I am perfectly honest, when the position was offered to me, I wasn’t exactly sure what it would entail.  I had to phone a friend (David Heath in case you are wondering) to find out!

I have since learnt that my lack of awareness was at least partially excusable; much of what the Office of the Leader of the House of Commons does goes unseen, with its principal task, one of managing the precious resource that is

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Join Facebook in Brighton for a look at the future of social-media campaigning

In 2010, Hillary Clinton described social media as a new nervous system for our planet.

Even in the few short years since then, social media has gone from strength to strength. In 2013 every corporation has, or at the very least needs, a social media strategy. And in truth, political parties and our individual Members of Parliament no different.

That’s why I do not have time for parliamentarians who tell me that they have no interest in social media. For me as an MP, I have a duty to be wherever my constituents are and engage with them in whatever medium they …

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Marginal gains

Silver bullet - some rights reserved by eschipulToo often people come into political campaigning searching for a silver bullet which will revolutionise their candidacy and transform the electorate into ardent fans overnight. It’s the most common mistake of first time candidates. Those of us who have already spent decades stuffing letterboxes know that a quick fix doesn’t exist.

That isn’t to say there aren’t campaign game-changers – the advent of television or how some candidates have harnessed the internet, but in truth they are few and far between. Instead candidates and campaigns

Posted in Campaign Corner | Tagged , and | 2 Comments

Tom Brake writes … Lib Dem Conference is so much more than just political war-gaming

Before departing for Conference in Brighton this year, I happened upon a blog post on Prospect which bemoans the way in which Party Conferences have evolved from being policy-making platforms into gory showcases for Party brands in the mould of late 90’s movie ‘Primary Colours’ staring the fleet-of-foot John Travolta. Instead of serious politics, they’ve become simply a form of political mood music, so the accusation goes.

Sadly it’s all too easy to write off modern politics as less cerebral than it once was. But having authored a detailed policy paper about police reform and debated complex justice issues from …

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Tom Brake MP writes… Romney’s bought the latest gadget, but he’s forgotten to read the manual

Romney’s bought the latest gadget, but he’s forgotten to read the manual.When Obama stormed to the Presidency he did so in glorious Technicolor while his opponent was still campaigning in black and white (or at least fifty shades of grey). In contrast, Obama campaigned with panache and proved what can be achieved by harnessing the power of social media.

His victory, for me, was a Kennedy/Nixon moment – one campaign looked modern and dynamic, the other looked tired, sweaty and frankly a bit outdated. The result was rather predictable in the end. Obama triumph. Slam dunk.

But if Obama’s victory four years …

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Tom Brake MP writes… Politics is a profession of unrelenting pace

In politics, no sooner have you seen off one challenge, than another appears on the horizon. At least the triathlon I completed had a clearly defined finish line. Yet, in politics, no sooner has one election ended, than you have to refocus on the next.

As a result, it’s hard to find time to sit down and take stock. But during this recess, I’ve set myself the challenge of putting some time aside to refocus on the last election and look at the detail behind the detail.

I’ve spent election after election trying to learn the lessons of what went wrong. I’ve …

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Tom Brake MP writes… Labour has a lot to apologise for on immigration – it should start with child detention

On the subject of immigration, Ed Miliband was in apologetic mood this week. And not before time.

Labour has a lot to apologise for on immigration – not just the dog whistle ‘British Jobs for British Workers’ rhetoric and an attitude to the views of ordinary people that resulted in Gordon Brown’s ‘bigoted woman’ slur.

Miliband could apologise for not reintroducing the exit checks abolished by the Tories and allowing our border controls to descend into farce.

He could apologise for wildly underestimating the number of migrants from Eastern Europe when new countries joined the EU.

But if there is one thing Labour really …

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Tom Brake MP writes… Justice and Security Bill – a good result for the Lib Dems and Civil Liberties

Back in April, the Guardian, the Daily Mail and others reported that Nick Clegg, unhappy with the breadth and scope of the Justice and Security Green Paper, and having read the Joint Committee on Human Rights’ report into it, had written to Ministerial colleagues setting out his red lines for any Bill to be introduced in the second session.

These red lines, as reported at the time, were:

  • That any use of Closed Material Procedures (CMPs) should be restricted to exceptional cases of national security only
  • That they complement, not replace, the current system of Public Interest Immunity (PII)

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Tom Brake MP writes… A landmark achievement in fight for our civil liberties

Today the Protection of Freedoms Bill became an Act: a landmark for the campaign to roll back Labour’s surveillance state. Liberal Democrats have long campaigned for this piece of legislation, proposing a “Freedom Bill” more than five years ago when Nick Clegg was the party’s Home Affairs Spokesman.

The Act will protect millions of people from unwarranted state intrusion in their private lives, building on some of the things we’ve already achieved like the ending of ID cards and the destruction of the National Identity Register.

I just want to highlight a couple of things that will now happen. …

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Tom Brake MP writes…Complex benefit cases must be brought back within the scope of legal aid

There is a political consensus around the need to reform Legal Aid. Indeed Labour oversaw thirty reviews and consultations on the subject whilst in power.

The UK’s legal aid spend is one of the highest in the world, with many cases coming before the courts which do not necessarily require legal expertise to resolve.

The coalition government’s aim to deliver savings of £350 million from the annual Legal Aid budget by 2015 amounts to a relatively modest saving of 17% against the …

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Trusted, professional and effective: British policing at its best – Tom Brake MP on the Lib Dems’ new policing paper

Today we have launched the new Liberal Democrats policing paper: Trusted, professional and effective: British policing at its best.

It is my pleasure to be launching this paper, based upon which a conference motion will be debated by Liberal Democrat Conference in Spring 2012. Along side my Co-Chair Baroness Hamwee and the rest of the Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Justice and Equalities Committee we are constantly working to define Liberal Democrat Policy outside the Coalition.

Public confidence in the police has been shaken in recent times: by the riots, by phone hacking, and by the increasing state intrusion into our …

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Tom Brake writes… Free food and invigorating campaigning in Carshalton and Wallington

Following the boundary review, the current seat of Carshalton and Wallington will cease to exist, and will be replaced by two separate constituencies, Croydon Central & St Helier and Purley & Carshalton.

Last year we celebrated 25 years of political control of Sutton Council and these changes provide us with an opportunity to work with Croydon Lib Dems to spread the Lib Dem message into their borough. It is vital that we start to build up our presence and activity early in these new areas if we’re to win these seats in 2015. The run up to this year’s London elections …

Posted in Party policy and internal matters | Tagged | 1 Comment

Tom Brake MP writes: Child detention – work in progress

The Liberal Democrats played the central role in delivering the Coalition Government’s commitment to end child detention and we have delivered big time.   In 2009 under Labour, more than a thousand children were held in pre-departure detention. In August 2011, there were just three children detained under immigration powers. 
 
Indeed, the Children’s Society has acknowledged the progress the Government has made on tackling the number of children held in pre-departure detention.  But, the recent figures from the Children’s Society make it crystal clear that we must now focus with the same determination on the detention of children, who have arrived at …

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Tom Brake MP writes: Sir Paul Stephenson’s resignation

Tom Brake MP is Lib Dem Home Affairs, Justice and Equalities Co-Chair.

A friend texted me over the weekend, after the news of Sir Paul Stephenson’s resignation, saying ‘What next?’. I texted back, ‘The Queen abdicates?’.

Revelations about phone-hacking and the Metropolitan police have been coming so thick and fast over the last couple of weeks that nobody would bat an eyelid (all right, I exaggerate slightly) if Her Majesty revealed a previously unknown Met and NOTW connection.

Sir Paul’s departure is just the latest extraordinary development in the phone-hacking saga.

Even though he was widely recognised as an outstanding commissioner who …

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Tom Brake writes: The Freedom Bill is a staging post towards an even freer society

The Freedom Bill is clear evidence of the Liberal Democrats setting the political agenda and making a positive difference to how we live in Britain.

It’s our robust answer to unwelcome and unwarranted intrusions into our everyday lives. It starts the dismantling of an overbearing surveillance state and restores British civil liberties that we used to be able to take for granted.

At the heart of the Bill is a commitment to safeguarding and protecting individuals and national security. What has felt to many like an obsession of the state to monitor our every waking moment is broken down by the …

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Tom Brake MP writes… Google Streetview and British citizens’ privacy

The traditional privacies and anonymities enjoyed by people in this country come under greater pressure every day. Google Streetview is the latest point at which private interests come into conflict with technological advance. I remain concerned that this service, which places comprehensive, zoomable and rotatable photographs of Britain’s streets freely on the internet, has not come under enough scrutiny from those who are supposed to safeguard our individual liberties.

The Liberal Democrats have been absolutely unequivocal in their criticisms of the expansion of state surveillance, arguing that having CCTV on every corner is invasive and unnecessary. I simply don’t think that …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 5 Comments
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Recent Comments

  • User AvatarAlex Macfie 25th Sep - 8:32pm
    Yes, take away the areas we gained and we made no gains at all. Funny that.
  • User AvatarIan 25th Sep - 8:15pm
    Take away Remain-central SW London and South Cambs and we made no gains in the local elections at all. It was right that made the...
  • User AvatarAlex Macfie 25th Sep - 8:14pm
    Michael 1: You write "[Clegg] had a very good 2010 election campaign" I disagree. We should NOT have lost seats to Labour in 2010. Simple...
  • User AvatarTonyH 25th Sep - 7:31pm
    @OnceaLibDem, I'm sure people worked very hard in lots of areas, and I don't know why some didn't get the results they wanted. I do...
  • User AvatarOnceALibDem 25th Sep - 7:27pm
    @Paul Holmes "Others have already made the point that policies such as PR and Votes at 16 will not win elections. I agree with both...
  • User AvatarOnceALibDem 25th Sep - 7:19pm
    "Clearly there are always many factors." Indeed. However what TonyH said was "you... have proved there is no great secret." which are two very different...