Tag Archives: Alistair Carmichael

Tim Farron: How would you want your family to be treated if they were fleeing war?

On Friday, MPs kept alive a Bill proposed by the SNP’s Angus MacNeil aimed at reuniting refugee families. The debate was one of those which makes you proud of MPs from all parties. The Bill had support from Conservative, Labour, SNP and Liberal Democrat MPs.

Ed Davey, Alistair Carmichael and Layla Moran all made interventions.

Tim Farron made a really powerful speech. His leadership was marked by his constant and passionate pressure on the Government to do more to help refugees and it’s something that he still continues to pursue. Here’s his speech in full.

I will try to be brief, Mr Deputy Speaker, because the most important thing today is that this Bill proceeds. I pay tribute to the hon. Member for Na h-Eileanan an Iar (Angus Brendan MacNeil), and to all hon. Members who, unusually, are here on a Friday. This is my fourth debate on a Friday in 13 years, because this Bill matters. It is a chance and a test. It is a test of our support for the people who need it most; it is a test of our ability to act with compassion and common sense. It is not a hard test, because this is a modest and tightly defined common sense Bill.

Let us be clear what the changes in the Bill would mean for the refugee children who are already here in the United Kingdom. These are children who have experienced unimaginable things. Nevertheless, I want Members to try to imagine. What horrific set of circumstances might have to happen to a family that would mean that the danger and misery of fleeing across land and sea, as well as the risk of separation, is preferable to staying put? Imagine how you would want your children and your family to be treated at the end of your journey. Imagine that sanctuary, and the kindness that goes with it, and be very clear that that must be the model for how we treat families today.

Separated refugee children in the United Kingdom have already overcome threats and danger in their own communities. They have been split from their families in their rush to find somewhere—anywhere—safe and have then been forced through a terrifying journey by sea and land to Europe, journeys that we know have claimed hundreds of children’s lives. These refugee children are here right now living in our communities alongside us, asking us today to step up and reunite them with their families. The Bill will allow them a future with their families instead of being separated from them. It will mean children growing up with their parents where they should be, at their side, rather than living with the constant worry about the fate of their families, stranded and out of reach. The Bill simply makes that possible.

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We might not be discussing mental health detention at our Conference, but we are trying to change things

The wonderful Ms Rigg wrote a very detailed piece on how the motions were selected for Spring Conference this week. As a member of the Party’s Federal Conference Committee, she knows all there is to know about such things and it’s great that she shares so much with us.

In her post,  she lamented that a motion on mental health detention, had not made it through.

The mental health detention motion would have highlighted an injustice that is not widely known and would have given us a distinctive policy platform which none of the other parties have – with all due respect to the submitters of the NHS at 70, there’s little in there that is distinctive.

I tend to see her point on this. We do need to show our distinctive perspective on all sorts of pieces so I’m glad that she voted the way she did.

We would have had no shortage of support for such a motion. In fact, we may even have got some parliamentarians speaking in favour. Alistair Carmichael held a debate in Parliament this week on this very issue.  He told the story of a constituent’s son, who’s based in England, and the ordeal he went through. The treatment he received and the failure of the authorities to realise what they had done wrong and apologise for it is pretty disgraceful. Here’s Alistair’s speech:

In recent years, as a community and a society, we have made remarkable progress on our attitudes to mental health. To talk about mental illness is no longer the taboo that it was when I was growing up, and as a consequence we have seen remarkable progress in recent years in relation to the treatment of people, especially in our national health service.

Today, I will focus attention on a slightly different aspect of this issue—one that does not get the same attention as the treatment of people with mental health problems in the NHS. I will talk about the experience of people who come into contact with the criminal justice system—initially, of course, with the police, then with the prosecution services and, possibly, the prison authorities. The purpose of this debate is to make clear to the Minister that within those agencies of the state, we need a change of attitude and culture similar to those we have seen in other aspects of our daily life.

It is surprising that this issue does not get more attention. Many of the people about whom we are speaking often exhibit in public or private what might euphemistically be called “challenging behaviour”, which is a symptom or consequence of their mental illness. It seems to me that at all levels—in the police, the prosecution services, the courts and the prisons—we need a greater level of understanding of their life experience and, as a consequence, better implementation of procedures. In fact, many procedures are pretty good but, as I will come on to explain, they are not followed in a way that is appropriate or that was intended when they were put in place.

I confess that I had rather thought that, within the criminal justice system, we had got beyond that point. Almost a quarter of a century ago, both as a trainee solicitor in Aberdeen and as a prosecutor, I railed against some police officers who, at that stage, still reported people who had attempted suicide, alleging that they had breached the peace. That attitude belonged in the 19th century, not the 20th, and I hope that such things would not happen today. However, it illustrates the underlying attitude that requires exposure.

My interest in this issue was first engaged as a result of a constituent—a lady resident in Orkney—who came to see me because she was concerned about the treatment of her son. This is not an isolated case. From discussions ​that I have had with people in the police, the criminal justice system and social work, I believe that it illustrates pretty well many of the ways in which the criminal justice system fails to meet the needs of people in our community, especially those who suffer from mental health problems.

I will not name these people; my constituent and her son want to retain their privacy, which is perfectly legitimate. However, the Minister should be acquainted with this case; last week, I forwarded him my correspondence file, which is fairly substantial, so that he would be aware of the background.

My constituent’s son is resident in Romford. He has a history of mental illness problems, but prior to the episode that I will discuss he had taken himself off some of the medication that he had been prescribed, because it had side effects that disagreed with him. He was reported missing by his partner on 27 April 2014. She contacted the police because she was concerned that he might kill himself. Eventually, he was traced by two police constables to a shopping centre in Romford. Questioned by the constables on the street, he told them that he was in possession of two kitchen knives, and at that stage he said that he did not intend to harm others; later in an interview, he said that he was considering harming some of those he loved.

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Carmichael: The Cabinet crumbles

A few weeks ago, I was out drinking (which I don’t do very often these days) on a Wednesday night and Michael Fallon resigned.

Tonight I was out drinking on a Wednesday night and Damien Green resigned. Robert Peston, who predicted he’d be absolutely fine, must be crying into his beer now.

All I can say is that it’s a sacrifice I would be prepared to make on a regular basis, especially for the Hanging Bat’s excellent honeyed ale with a schooner of rather excellent Porter on the side, all in the company of a very bad  influence indeed.

It must …

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Carmichael: Conservative ministers wrong to attend DUP Conference

Alistair Carmichael has criticised the appearance of two senior Conservative Ministers at the DUP’s annual Conference. The Conservatives are beholden to the DUP for a majority and in June agreed a deal with them which cost us £1 billion. The greater cost, though, is the damage to the sensitive political relationships in Northern Ireland.

Was is really necessary or wise for Damien Green to go for a dinner and Tory Chief Whip to be welcomed to the stage with such obvious pride by the DUP?

Alistair Carmichael says that it wasn’t?

The peace process is still fragile and has survived because British politicians have been prepared to rise above the usual partisan politics.

It is difficult to see how anyone in Northern Ireland and Ireland will see Conservative ministers as being anything other than part of the problem now. It was a mistake for them to go.

Ireland has been much in the headlines this weekend. Tom Brake had this to say on the comments by Ireland’s EU Commissioner that it is a “very simple fact” that “if the UK or Northern Ireland remained in the EU Customs Union, or better still the Single Market, there would be no border issue”.

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WATCH: Liberal Democrat MPs slam Government’s contemptuous approach to Parliament

This afternoon, Alistair Carmichael led an emergency debate, which he had secured, to raise the many ways in which the Government is marginalising Parliament. From ignoring Opposition Day debates to curtailing debate on legislation to the Henry VIII powers.

His speech introducing the debate was excellent. Watch it here.

My favourite bits are this:

The best Governments—and if ever there was a time in our country’s history when we needed the best possible Government, this is surely it—are those that are tested by Parliament, by the Opposition parties and by their own Back Benchers. Time and again, our system fails when the Government and the Opposition agree and arguments remain untested. How different might the debates on the case for going to war in Iraq in 2002 and 2003 have been if the then Opposition had been prepared to take a more questioning approach to Tony Blair’s case? I am sad to say that this Government, however, do not welcome scrutiny by Parliament, but rather seek to avoid it.

and the bit where he challenged MPs to get assertive:

In one sense, the Government have done us a favour by bringing this issue to a head, because it forces us as a House to decide what our role in the future of this country is going to be. Is it to be an active participant, with a strong voice and a decisive say, or is it to be a supine bystander as the Government continue to do as they wish, regardless of their lack of a mandate and, as is increasingly obvious, their lack of authority.

I have been a member of many debating societies over the years. They have all been fine organisations that provided entertainment and mental stimulation in equal measure. I mean them therefore no disrespect when I say that I stood for Parliament believing I was doing something more significant than signing up for a debating society. The difference is that in Parliament—in this House—we can actually effect change. Whether we choose to do so is in our own hands.

I loved the fact that the Tories responded by slagging off the Liberal Democrats in the most immature way as they clearly had no defence.

Christine Jardine said that MPs were there to serve the electorate, not to play games. She talked about seeing Parliament as others see it and the impression it gives to people outside who were not involved in politics.

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Not the best day for the British government’s Brexit endeavours

It’s not been the best day for the British Government. Theresa May had to accept that Japan’s immediate priority was its trade deal with the EU, which should not be surprising given that it gives access to half a billion people compared to our 60 million.

In the joint press conference held by Japanese Prime Minister Abe and Theresa May, Mr Abe stopped short of committing to a rapid new trade deal after Brexit, saying only that the two leaders would discuss the issue.

Instead, the Japanese Prime Minister stressed the need for a smooth and orderly Brexit that minimises disruption for Japanese investors in the UK.

Alistair Carmichael said:

Theresa May went to Japan seeking a new trade deal, she’s now had to admit the biggest priority will be completing the one the EU is already negotiating.

Once again the promises of the Brexiteers have been dashed on the rocks of reality.

It’s a sign of the Prime Minister’s weakness that rather than going abroad to fight for British jobs, she’s been forced to desperately fight for her own.

The chances of the UK getting a trade deal with Japan before Brexit are about as slim as the odds of Theresa May staying on to fight the next election.

Meanwhile, in Brussels, the Brexit negotiations aren’t going well for our Brexiteers. At a joint press conference, Michel Barnier, the EU’s negotiator, warned there has been “no decisive progress” on key issues and there were issues of “trust” between the two sides.

Tom Brake said:

The government is stuck in a Brexit quagmire of its own making, and risks taking the country down with it.

Five months on since Article 50 was triggered, progress in these talks has been almost non-existent.

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Vince’s six questions for David Davis on the customs union

Vince Cable has set out six questions the Government must answer after the “constructive ambiguity” in its document published yesterday told us not a huge amount. The questions seem designed to reveal whether the government’s position is actually based on any evidence about the impact of its options or whether the options are just a fig leaf to cover up the deep divisions in the Cabinet.

Vince said:

The government is offering two ways forward but won’t tell us which it prefers. That’s no doubt because cabinet ministers can’t even agree amongst themselves.

These plans are more concerned with papering over the cracks within the Conservative party than protecting our economy.

All those industries that depend on membership of the customs union, from the car industry to aerospace, still have no clear idea what is coming down the track.

All they know is that instead of jumping off a cliff in 18 months, the government now wants to do so in a few years’ time.

The government must come clean over the real costs of these plans for British businesses and consumers.

And on to the six questions:

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Recent Comments

  • User AvatarJon82 20th Mar - 1:44pm
    Immigration can be limited within existing EU rules but this government chose not to do that and the leave brigade used the EU as a...
  • User AvatarPeter Martin 20th Mar - 1:36pm
    @ JoeB, Steve Keen wrote "Debunking Economics" quite a few years ago and he has moved closer to MMT since then. He's conceded that MMTs...
  • User AvatarJoeB 20th Mar - 1:12pm
    Peter Martin, I have read Steve Keen's book 'Debunking Economics' (even the technical bits in the appendix(. He makes a lot of sense, although I...
  • User AvatarPaul Pettinger 20th Mar - 1:10pm
    About half the people commenting on this thread were warning - in one way or another -that we were heading towards calamity
  • User AvatarNeil Sandison 20th Mar - 12:36pm
    Our objective should be to build a modern progressive movement that looks forward not back .We should be aware others are misusing the term liberal...
  • User AvatarMick Taylor 20th Mar - 12:23pm
    Personally I would hit the villains where it hurst - in their pockets. Very large fines, confiscation of equipment, banning from the internet, extensive community...