Tag Archives: Alistair Carmichael

Alistair Carmichael: An Immortal Memory for Lockdown

Today is the birthday of Scotland’s National bard, Robert Burns. The traditional suppers to honour his memory have had to go online for obvious reasons. The Edinburgh South Lib Dems’ Burns Supper has been an essential part of my social calendar for years where I’ve been on the Naughty Table. It was a little different this year, eating my haggis in a Zoom breakout room with my fellow naughty friends.

Alistair Carmichael gave the Immortal Memory and had a pitch perfect look at how Burns might have coped with lockdown. He has kindly given us permission to reproduce it:

Good evening ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for your invitation to be here with you for this slightly unusual Burns Supper in these exceptionally unusual times.

I hope that you enjoyed your haggis neeps and tatties as much as I enjoyed my artisan-crafted sourdough Haggis Pizza here in Orkney. I figure that if you are going to do things differently then you might as well go the whole hog.

Normally when called upon to propose an immortal memory at a Burns Supper I pose the question, what is it that is so special about Robert Burns and his works that people feel compelled some two and a quarter centuries after his death to gather together to honour his memory.

I suppose that the question remains a good one, given the extraordinary lengths that we are going to this evening to do exactly that but tonight I want to take a slightly different approach. I do so for a variety of reasons but principally because I have been doing that immortal memory for over twenty years now and I suspect most of you will have heard it once at least.

So,this evening instead I want to take a few minutes to consider what Burns might have made of life under lockdown.

I suppose fundamentally Burns was a practical man – a farmer from a farming family – so would have been used to getting on with things and making the best of them.

It should also be remembered that he also spent time working as an excise man so despite his romantic nature – as seen through both his life and his works – he had a side to his character that would have wanted to respect the rules.

I cannot imagine that Burns would have had much sympathy with the anti-mask brigade. Yes, he was a man who would rail against authority and was believed to have some sympathy with the revolutionaries in France but, even so, I suspect that he would have somehow managed to live with a measure that was for he common good.

Burns, I think, like the rest of us would have embraced Zoom in the early days but I fear he would also have tired of it pretty quickly.

Consider his works and you see two themes emerge – Burns as a man who loved nature and a man who was, above all else, a social animal.

As a farmer he would, of course, have been allowed to carry on his work outdoors so for his great works describing nature – his poems To a Mouse or To a Mountain Daisy the inspiration would still have been available.

In both cases Burns draws lessons for mankind from our relationship with nature. As he puts it in To a Mouse – and, for the benefit of our younger colleagues, let me make clear that when he wrote To a Mouse, Burns was not address a piece of computer hardware.

I’m truly sorry Man’s dominion
Has broken Nature’s social union,
An’ justifies that ill opinion
Which makes thee startle
At me, thy poor, earth-born companion
An’ fellow-mortal!”

Both poems take a melancholy turn in their final stanzas

To the Mountain Daisy

Ev’n thou who mourn’st the Daisy’s fate,
That fate is thine—no distant date;
Stern Ruin’s ploughshare drives elate,
Full on thy bloom,
Till crush’d beneath the furrow’s weight

Shall be thy doom.

And in

To a Mouse

Still thou are blest, compared wi’ me!
The present only toucheth thee:
But Och! I backward cast my e’e,
On prospects drear!
An’ forward, tho’ I cannot see,
I guess an’ fear!

I doubt that with uplifting lines like that he would have got the gig to do COVID briefings alongside either Boris or Nicola.

Although he was writing two centuries before Brexit I defy anyone to find a better summary of how that is turning out than the lines in To a Mouse when he wrote

But Mousie, thou art no thy lane,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best-laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men
Gang aft agley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promis’d joy!

An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promis’d joy!

If you want to know how that feels then ask anyone who has tried exporting fish since the turn of the year.

But where I think Burns may have struggled more than most would be the loss of social interaction. His love of life – his enthusiasm for a good party and for dalliance with the fairer sex inspired and characterises some of his finest works.

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Alistair Carmichael sets out a route map back to the EU

There has been a lot of talk about the party’s future approach to the EU. In a speech to Liberal Democrats in Cambridgeshire this week, Alistair Carmichael MP set out a possible route map back to full EU membership for the UK and has given us permission to reproduce his remarks.

For the last quarter century Britain’s relationship with her European neighbours has never been far from the centre of our political debate.

For the last five years it has been absolutely dominant.

Brexit may now have happened but few would be naïve enough to think that would be the end of the story.

Less than a month after Boris Johnson signed his trade and cooperation deal with the European Union the flaws and gaps are already apparent.

Our fishermen have woken up to the fact that they were used by Johnson, Farage, Gove et al.

Our young people are coming to terms with the loss of the Erasmus Programme and the opportunities that it brought.

Our exporters are finding that before they can take advantage of the tariff-free access of which the Prime Minister is so proud, they must first get past the Tory red tape manufactured in Whitehall on this side of the channel.

Clearly our relationship with Europe will remain with us as a politcal issue for years if not decades to come.

For us as a party that is a challenge and an opportunity.

This is a point where we have to take stock and go back to our liberal first principles – free trade, enterprise, internationalism.

Since Jo Grimond, my predecessor but one as MP for Orkney and Shetland, took up the reins as leader of the Liberal Party we have been consistent in our view that the United Kingdom’s best interests have best been served by being a member of what was then the European Communities or European Union as it is today.

We have not always got it right. Too often our response to an unrelenting barrage of abuse and misinformation by a right-wing press was to be drawn into defending the institutions of the EU and to look, as a consequence, like uncritical fans.

I confess I never found that to be an attractive or even a particularly liberal approach.

That was why in my early years in Parliament I was one of a handful of Lib Dem MPs who wanted to see political reform before we joined the Euro. I think that time has vindicated that judgement.

It was also why I resigned from Nick Clegg’s front bench team in order to vote for the referendum on the Lisbon Treaty that we had promised in our manifesto in 2005.

I remember journalists describing me then as that most unusual animal – the Lib Dem Eurosceptic.

I won’t deny the “most unusual” bit but to the rest my response then, as now, was that as a liberal I would always be sceptical about the workings of government. The need to reform the way we govern ourselves in the UK was one of the main issues that motivated me to join the Liberal Party in 1980 as a fourteen year old schoolboy.

While we have made some progress in decentralising power away from Whitehall in the creation of the Scottish Parliament, Welsh Senned and Northern Ireland Assembly there remains much still to do.

The House of Lords remains stubbornly resistant to reform;

Our electoral system remains obscenely unrepresentative in the governments that it provides;

Local Government has been starved of funds and shorn of power piece by piece for decades.

At no point, however, have my frustrations with the institutions power government and politics dimmed my belief in the fundamental principles that underpin them – respect for democracy and the rule of law.

I mention that now because – as we saw most graphically in Washington DC a few weeks ago – these truths that were once regarded as being so obvious and universally held that it was trite to mention them – are under attack by a movement of nationalist populism as never before.

When the very idea of liberal democracy is under attack then the need for Liberal Democrats is greater than ever.

When historians come to write the story of the first two decades of the twenty-first century that is how I believe (and hope) that the debate about Britain’s relationship with Europe will be seen.

Yes, we have suffered a major set-back in that battle between those who believe that reform is possible and those who will tell you that it will never happen.

Our party has always argued for Scotland to have her own parliament within a federal United Kingdom. Not because of any nationalist sentiment but because we believe that produces better government.

Similarly we have always believed that the United Kingdom, while maintaining its own parliament and institutions should be part of the European Union. There again we should be guided by what produces better outcomes rather than the colours of a flag.

Nothing has changed in that regard. Our Federal Party conference confirmed as much as recently as last September when we passed a motion in these terms “Conference resolves to support a longer terms objective of UK membership of the EU at an appropriate future date to be determined by political circumstances, subject to public assent, market and trade conditions and acceptable negotiated terms.”

That remains the position. The Liberal Democrats are a party that wants to see the U.K. eventually rejoin the EU.

Of course, we should make it equally and emphatically clear that this is not something that we seek immediately. It is probably at best a medium-term objective. Quite apart from healing the divisions that have blighted our politics and communities since 2016 any party in government must be focused on rebuilding our economy post-COVID. Anything else would be unforgiveable.

Even a medium-term objective, however, must demand more than warm words.

This is a time when we as a party need to make it clear that we not only want to see the United Kingdom return to full membership of the European Union but that we have a clear and credible route map for getting there.

Liberal Democrats have always been a party where policy is set by our members, and rightly so. Just as we set ourselves that goal of EU membership at last year’s conference I would like us all to play our part in designing the route map to get us there. Full EU membership may be a medium-term objective but the problems caused by being on the outside are real and acute and immediate.

They need and deserve more than warm words about close cooperation.

So my opening bid in that debate is this.

I would like to see our party argue for the United Kingdom to rejoin the European Free Trade Association and to do so as soon as possible. We were, after all, founding members in 1960.

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LibLink: Alistair Carmichael Scotland’s fishermen have been used by opportunists

In a hard-hitting and justifiably furious article in the Sunday Herald, Alistair Carmichael highlights the betrayal of those working in the seafood industry whose livelihood has been ruined by Brexit enhnced by the incompetence of UK Government ministers.

He sets out what is wrong with the deal:

Having made a great pantomime of holding out to get the best deal for fishermen, Johnson folded. Instead we found a deal that the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation described this week as “desperately poor” and “the worst of both worlds”.

On close scrutiny the deal leaves our fishermen able to catch fewer fish in most key species, “wins” us shoals of “paper fish” (which we have no economic interest in catching) and leaves us locked into a deal that we barely control and will only be able to leave in 2026 if we are prepared to pay a heavy political and economic price.

It’s already having a devastating impact:

Traditionally, the first week of the new year is a bumper one for exports before trade quietens down for a couple of months.

This year, red-faced Scottish traders were unable to meet their orders as the lorries carrying their slowly deteriorating stock sat idling in Larkhall – unable to penetrate the new fog of bureaucracy in Johnson’s deal.

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Nationalism even extends to fish now, apparently

Our Parliament has a reputation as being one of the oldest and best in the world. Every time I walk through the Palace of Westminster, I am reminded of who has walked these same corridors.

Shirley Wiliams, Barbara Castle, William Wilberforce talking about abolishing slavery, Lloyd George bringing forward the People’s Budget, Aneurin Bevan bringing in the legislation that set up the NHS.

All these great things, over centuries.

In 200 years time, I doubt they’ll be talking about the Day the Fish Smiled.

It was Business Questions. The SNP’s Tommy Sheppard raised the crisis in our fishing industry caused by the Government. But of course, he couldn’t just leave it there. He had to use it as a proxy to ask to have a Commons debate on Scottish independence. I mean, the industry is on its knees. One of its key players, Loch Fyne, is talking about only being able to last another week. And all because the Government first of all pursued Brexit, did so in such a cack-handed manner that the decisions were only made about how the seafood industry would operate on Christmas bloody Eve with a week to go and then didn’t get its finger out to produce the relevant paperwork. This level of incompetence is pretty much standard practice for this lot.

It’s infuriating that the SNP constantly let the Tories off the hook by turning the question to independence. Keep it on the subject. Make them own the mess that they have made. Nope.

So what should have been an exchange on a crisis of the Tories’ making ended like this.

The fishing issue was covered a moment ago by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman should have tuned into that debate, rather than bringing it up at business questions, but the Government are tackling this issue and dealing with it as quickly as possible. The key is that we have our fish back: they are now British fish, and they are better and happier fish for it.

Not exactly edifying, is it?

Earlier, the grown-ups were present. Our Alistair Carmichael  took the Government’s actions to pieces in an urgent question, laying bare the damage that they had done.

Boris Johnson had hinted at compensation yesterday, and his ministers have since spent their time trying to row back from that.

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Alistair Carmichael’s Commons First “President-Elect Biden”

Alistair Carmichael had a Commons first today. He was the first person in the UK Parliament to refer to President-Elect Biden.

He was presenting his Bill to tackle plastic pollution. When Speaker Dame Rosie Winterton asked him when it would be debated, he said “Nine days after President-Elect Biden’s inauguration.”

If he has tempted fate, he will be in massive amounts of trouble…

So what is his bill about?

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23-25 October 2020 – the long weekend’s press releases

  • Liberal Democrats push for expansion of Hong Kong citizenship offer
  • PM’s failure to listen to scientists has made family Christmas less likely
  • Tories must “wake up to reality” and do the right thing on Free School Meals

Liberal Democrats push for expansion of Hong Kong citizenship offer

A Liberal Democrat Bill to grant all Hong Kong Citizens a pathway to UK citizenship and “strengthen the UK’s historic bond with the people of Hong Kong” is scheduled to have its Second Reading debate in the House of Commons today.

The Bill, tabled by Liberal Democrat MP Alistair Carmichael, Chair of the APPG on Hong Kong and Patron of Hong Kong Watch, would create a route to UK citizenship for all Hong Kongers.

By expanding British National Overseas (BNO) status to all Hong Kongers, the Bill goes well beyond the Conservative Government’s current citizenship commitments, which extend only to specific groups currently eligible to claim BNO status.

The Liberal Democrats have condemned the Home Office’s “deceptive” claim that the cost of a five-year visa for Hong Kongers will be just £250, as the true figure will be well over £3000 once the Immigration Health Surcharge is taken into account.

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20 October 2020 – the overnight press releases

  • Liberal Democrats: Government inaction failing survivors of sexual violence
  • Reversing Liberal Democrat Immigration Bill amendments risks “new Windrush-style Scandal”

Liberal Democrats: Government inaction failing survivors of sexual violence

Responding to the Victims Commissioner’s report on rape survivors and the criminal justice system, Liberal Democrat Justice Spokesperson Wera Hobhouse said:

Survivors deserve justice. They must be properly supported to come forward and be listened to when they do.

However, as this report shows, far too many survivors are put off reporting the crime for fear of being disbelieved, and far too many who do come forward find the whole process traumatic. Government inaction is failing survivors of sexual violence and allowing too many criminals to walk free.

It is incomprehensible that the Government’s review of rape cases is doing so little to engage with survivors – especially given the clear evidence that the system simply isn’t working for them.

Ministers must listen to survivors, complete the review as soon as possible, and urgently make improvements across the whole justice system. Survivors mustn’t be left waiting any longer for the justice they need.

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Our party must do more to tackle the digital divide

Whether it’s canvassing apps like MiniVAN or our fully-fledged – and fully functioning – virtual conference, Liberal Democrats have never shied away from digital innovation. Our current platform champions the roll-out of technologies like gigabit broadband and 5G, whilst also highlighting the frustrations of those in rural areas with limited access. By no means are we wrong to support these policies.

However, they do little to help those who don’t have the digital skills necessary to make the most of the internet. And what good is gigabit to you if you can’t even afford basic broadband? There are millions of people who are ‘digitally excluded’ in this country, and we need to do more to support them.

According to Lloyds, there are 9 million people in the UK who are unable to use the internet independently, and millions more who only use the internet for limited purposes, like social media. Meanwhile, roughly 23% of children in the poorest families do not have access to a desktop, laptop, or tablet. This had drastic impacts on children’s learning throughout lockdown and will likely have long-lasting consequences.

I was encouraged to hear Alistair Carmichael raising this very issue in Parliament on Monday. Children’s access to technology is paramount to ensure they aren’t left behind. Even when schools are open, access to tech at home helps children learn new skills and excel in the classroom.

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15 October 2020 – today’s press releases

  • Liberal Democrats: London lockdown further evidence Govt have lost control
  • Liberal Democrats vote against “dangerous” Government crimes Bill

Liberal Democrats: London lockdown further evidence Govt have lost control

Responding to reports that London will face Tier 2 Covid restrictions from Saturday, Leader of the Liberal Democrats Ed Davey said:

The Government have completely lost control of coronavirus across vast swathes of the country, and the situation in London is looking very difficult.

In the north of England, and now in London, the sacrifices of millions of people have been squandered by this Government. Because of Boris Johnson’s failure to ensure our test, trace and isolate system worked, millions of people will have to make those sacrifices again.

We need to understand the science behind the tier system immediately, otherwise there will be fears that this fresh wave of restrictions will do very little to help stop the spread of the virus. We need a circuit-breaker introduced now, on the condition that government overhaul the failing test and trace system – otherwise restrictions will need to remain in place for the foreseeable future.

The government must do much more to protect jobs and livelihoods and keep people safe.

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8-9 October 2020 – yesterday and today’s press releases

  • Liberal Democrats: Government must grant EU citizens proof of settled status
  • Slow economic growth reinforces need for furlough extension
  • Edinburgh Woollen Mill Group at risk of collapse shows need for furlough extension
  • Liberal Democrats: Sunak’s offer does not go far enough

Liberal Democrats: Government must grant EU citizens proof of settled status

The Liberal Democrats are calling on the Government to grant EU citizens the automatic right to stay in the UK, with the physical proof they need, as new Home Office figures reveal thousands are being refused and 1.8 million have not been granted the right to stay permanently.

The latest EU Settlement Scheme statistics, which were published this morning, revealed 16,600 people have been refused Settled Status – including 5,700 in September alone. They also revealed that 1.6 million have only been granted temporary ‘Pre-Settled Status’ and 180,000 are still waiting for a decision.

On Monday, the House of Lords passed a Liberal Democrat amendment to the Government’s Immigration Bill which would require the Government to provide EU citizens with physical proof of their Settled Status. The party is urging Conservative MPs not to overturn that amendment when the Bill returns to the Commons.

Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson Alistair Carmichael said:

EU citizens in the UK – our families and friends – have been living under a cloud of uncertainty for far too long. They must have the right to stay.

Boris Johnson and the Conservatives promised to automatically guarantee the rights of EU citizens to stay, but they have broken that promise, as they have with so many others.

This Government’s botched scheme is anything but automatic and, without physical proof of their rights, EU citizens will be at the mercy of the Conservatives’ Hostile Environment.

To prevent a new Windrush-style scandal, Liberal Democrats are fighting for EU citizens to be given the automatic right to stay in the UK, with the physical proof they need.

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28 September 2020 – Conference day 4 press releases

  • Liberal Democrats condemn Tories’ attacks on rule of law
  • Government must prepare for international ‘lifeboat’ system for Hong Kongers, Liberal Democrats warn

Liberal Democrats condemn Tories’ attacks on rule of law

In a policy motion passed this evening at the Liberal Democrats’ Autumn Conference, the Party has condemned “Dominic Cummings’ long history of attacking the rule of law”.

The motion stated “the rule of law is fundamental to our society”, calling for the Government to drop plans “to restrict judicial review, weaken the Human Rights Act or undermine the rule of law in any way”.

Following the motion being passed, Liberal Democrat Justice Spokesperson Wera Hobhouse said:

This Conservative Government have revealed time and again their disregard for the rule of law. From their recent determination to flout it with the Internal Market Bill, to their attacks on lawyers as ‘activists’ or judges when they disagree with their rulings, it is clear that part of Johnson’s and Cummings’ strategy is to trample on our rights to achieve their aims.

When the Government rides roughshod over people’s rights, the law is the vehicle for justice. However, the Government’s plans to rip up the Human Rights Act and restrict judicial review gives Ministers the ability to break the law with impunity.

Liberal Democrats are clear – we will always fight tooth and nail to defend individuals’ abilities to challenge the Government in court and uphold their rights. It is more important than ever that we oppose these Trump-like tactics to erode our democracy, allowing Ministers to become above the law.

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1 October 2020 – today’s press releases

  • PM mistaken in thinking he can break the law without consequence
  • Tories’ nasty plans for asylum seekers not the answer

PM mistaken in thinking he can break the law without consequence

Responding to reports that the European Commission has launched legal action against the UK, following the UK Government’s refusal to remove sections from the Internal Market Bill, Liberal Democrat Brexit Spokesperson Christine Jardine said:

Contrary to the belief of senior Government figures and their families, breaking the law has consequences. It beggars belief that Boris Johnson and his Government seem to think that not only are they above the law, but they can get off scot-free when breaking it.

How can Ministers seriously condemn other countries, like Russia and China, for failing to respect international treaties if they don’t do the same when it comes to the Withdrawal Agreement?

No one should be surprised that the UK will face legal action if Boris Johnson pushes ahead with the Internal Market Bill. However, there is still time to ditch the Bill and prevent it from becoming law. We must do what we can to salvage our international reputation.

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8 September 2020 – today’s press releases

  • Latest resignation shows damaging consequences of PM’s Brexit approach
  • Liberal Democrats condemn Government for “destroying” UK reputation on the world stage

Latest resignation shows damaging consequences of PM’s Brexit approach

Responding to news that Sir Jonathan Jones, head of the UK Government’s legal department, has resigned following the Government’s decision to introduce legislation which would undermine key aspects of the Withdrawal Agreement, Liberal Democrat Brexit Spokesperson Christine Jardine said:

The head of the Government’s legal department quitting over Boris Johnson’s approach to Brexit should signal how serious a situation this is.

For Johnson to think it is acceptable to row back on international agreements

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Ed Davey announces key appointments on Twitter

Ed Davey has started to make his announcements of his shadow cabinet on Twitter.

Layla Moran made a huge impression during the leadership campaign and has been rewarded with a promotion to Foreign Affairs Spokesperson. https://twitter.com/LaylaMoran/status/1300410349913608194?s=20

I can see an education dimension to this as well in terms of supporting education, especially for women and girls, around the world.

Christine Jardine takes up her third major office of state in three years. She covered Jo Swinson’s maternity leave at Foreign Affairs in 2018 and has been Home Affairs spokesperson for the last year. She is now the first woman to become Treasury spokesperson. As a former journalist, she will see this role very much in terms of stories and not numbers and will be able to articulate our liberal vision for a society that is fairer and values wellbeing.

And taking on Christine’s old portfolio at Home Affairs, Alistair Carmichael emerges from his Whiply shadows. It’s not clear if he will still be Chief Whip as well. We’ll have to wait and see.

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21 August 2020 – today’s press releases

  • The Chancellor needs an ambitious plan to save the economy
  • Government continue to threaten economic recovery
  • “Shameful” that bereaved families of NHS and care workers risk losing access to welfare benefits
  • Extending eviction ban nothing more than kicking the can down the road
  • Brexit reality falls short of rhetoric again as “no deal” threat looms

The Chancellor needs an ambitious plan to save the economy

Responding to reports that debt has increased to over 100% of GDP for the first time since 1961, Acting Leader of the Liberal Democrats Ed Davey said:

This news must not be used as a reason for the Government to make cuts or return the country to austerity.

We know that borrowing is historically incredibly cheap, so it is absolutely clear that borrowing money to boost the economy is the best way to get public finances back on track.

The Chancellor must be far more ambitious in his plans to rescue the economy. The Liberal Democrats have called for a £150bn Green recovery plan to boost the economy and create thousands of new jobs.

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14 August 2020 – the overnight press releases

  • Rise in discrimination towards BAME people since lockdown must be tackled
  • Government must compensate people forced to miss work in order to quarantine

Rise in discrimination towards BAME people since lockdown must be tackled

Responding to a University College London study that found BAME groups were most likely to report facing discrimination since lockdown began, Liberal Democrat Equalities Spokesperson Christine Jardine said:

Everyone should be free to live their lives without fear of discrimination, abuse or violence. Reports that Black, Asian and minority ethnic people have been most likely to experience discrimination since lockdown began is deeply alarming.

All of us with a public platform must stand up to those whose language and actions spread hate – whether based on race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability or anything else.

The Home Secretary must step up and tackle this appalling trend head-on. That work must be part of a wider effort to tackle systemic racial inequality, which is why the Liberal Democrats are calling on the Government to implement a Race Equality Strategy.

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4 August 2020 – today’s press releases

  • Government must act to strengthen NHS Test and Trace ahead of new school year
  • Liberal Democrats back calls for Magnitsky-style sanctions against Hong Kong human rights abusers

Government must act to strengthen NHS Test and Trace ahead of new school year

Responding to news that scientists have warned that current testing and contact tracing is inadequate to prevent a second wave of coronavirus when schools in the UK reopen, Liberal Democrat Education spokesperson Layla Moran said:

After months being cooped up at home, millions of children are looking forward to getting back to school in September, but safety must remain the top priority.

In the absence of a vaccine, a comprehensive test, trace and isolate system is the only way to keep people safe as we reopen schools. The Government must do everything in its power to strengthen that system if we are to have any hope of a safe start to the new school year.

Equally, the Government need to be honest about the very real risk that, if they do not get the NHS Test and Trace system in order, or in the event that we see a sharp rise in infections, children may have to go back to learning from home. Ministers must put in place safeguards now to ensure children are still able to get their education in this worst case scenario.

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28 July 2020 – today’s press releases

  • Davey calls for PM to put Martin Forde QC in charge of a Coronavirus Inquiry
  • Davey: PM must take second wave risk seriously
  • Government gaps in support for freelancers leaving employers to pick up the tab
  • Government must apply same human rights standards to US when it comes to exports
  • Dodds: ‘Swansea Tidal Lagoon is a vital part of our post-Covid recovery’
  • Davey calls for PM to put Martin Forde QC in charge of a Coronavirus Inquiry

    Today Acting Leader of the Liberal Democrats Ed Davey has written to the Prime Minister with a plan for an immediate inquiry into the coronavirus pandemic.

    Ed has called on the Prime Minister to appoint Martin Forde QC as the chair of an independent coronavirus inquiry and to start work immediately. Martin Forde was the independent adviser on the design of the Government’s Windrush Compensation Scheme and is chair of the independent inquiry into Labour’s report on the party’s handling of antisemitism complaints.

    Ed also released proposed Terms of Reference for the independent inquiry agreed to by the Covid19 Bereaved Families for Justice.

    A spokesperson for the Covid19 Bereaved Families for Justice said:

    Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice are relieved that Ed Davey has seen the urgent need for a rapid inquiry.

    The Government’s own ‘Preparing for a challenging winter 20/21’ report (The Academy of Medical Sciences) predicts over 119,000 excess deaths this winter if urgent action is not taken now.

    That action has to be informed by this transparent inquiry. It’s time the Prime Minister put the well-being of the nation above politics.

    Acting Leader of the Liberal Democrats Ed Davey said:

    The Prime Minister confirmed to me weeks ago that there would be an independent inquiry, but we have seen no action from the Government since. Bereaved families I speak to are so disappointed that the Government is yet to begin an inquiry. They just don’t want any more families to go through what they have.

    The coronavirus threat remains very real. Were a second wave to happen during the winter, it could be even more deadly and damaging than the first. The Government must immediately start an inquiry so that we can learn from mistakes and properly plan for a second wave.

    This plan has been agreed by the Covid19 Bereaved Families for Justice. I hope Boris Johnson takes it seriously and sees it as an opportunity to get an inquiry going as soon as possible.

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23 July 2020 – today’s press releases

  • Liberal Democrats: Govt must stop posturing and secure a good deal
  • Liberal Democrats attempt to block renter evictions
  • Any review of our democracy must be truly independent, Liberal Democrats warn

Liberal Democrats: Govt must stop posturing and secure a good deal

Responding to Barnier’s comments that there has been no progress on key Brexit issues including fisheries and state aid, Liberal Democrat Brexit Spokesperson Alistair Carmichael said:

With just weeks to go and our country already facing the biggest economic crisis in generations, it is unthinkable that the UK would crash out of the transition period without a deal in place or with a bad

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22 July 2020 – today’s press releases

  • Mental health and education gap of homeschooling must be addressed
  • All Hong Kongers must be given right to live in the UK
  • £2.9 billion aid cut shows Government abandoning world stage

Mental health and education gap of homeschooling must be addressed

Responding to ONS statistics published today on the impact of homeschooling during the coronavirus pandemic, Liberal Democrat Education Spokesperson Layla Moran said:

Coronavirus has clearly impacted every aspect of life, including the wellbeing of parents and children, and the quality of education the majority of children receive. We must ensure no one is left behind.

If it wasn’t for years of cuts to our schools and government failing to consult adequately with teachers and school leaders, it wouldn’t be this way. Ministers must now increase the necessary provision of laptops and introduce a Summer Learning Fund that supports the most disadvantaged children.

Moreover, the Government must address the mental health impact of the pandemic by signposting the appropriate support services to every household, and properly funding the charities that provide those services.

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21 July 2020 – today’s press releases

  • Pay rises without cash mean more cuts to schools and the police – Davey
  • Government must be clear higher debt won’t mean cuts to vital public services
  • Delyn MP must end ‘saga of scandals’
  • PM must announce a full investigation into potential Russian interference of our democracy
  • Braverman must apologise for endorsing Cummings

Pay rises without cash mean more cuts to schools and the police – Davey

Responding to reports that nearly 900,000 public sector workers will receive a pay rise out of existing departmental budgets, Liberal Democrat Acting Leader Ed Davey said:

Accepting the independent review body’s pay recommendations was the very least the Chancellor could do. Yet, as overall budgets remain unchanged, the reality is our schools, police and wider public services will struggle to meet this award without significant cuts elsewhere in their budgets, including redundancies.

And utterly failing to recognise the outstanding effort of social care staff during the COVID-19 crisis is simply not acceptable. Councils and the wider care sector must be properly funded.

Since the early days of this pandemic, Liberal Democrats have been the first to argue for a better deal for NHS and care staff, yet Ministers seem to think that warm words and hand claps are sufficient. Boris Johnson should be ashamed for neglecting NHS and care staff again.

Government must be clear higher debt won’t mean cuts to vital public services

Responding to ONS statistics showing that Government borrowing for June was £35.5 billion – around five times more than the same month last year – Acting Leader of the Liberal Democrats Ed Davey said:

In an unprecedented economic challenge like the coronavirus pandemic people must come before the numbers. Any Chancellor should go beyond normal borrowing to help protect peoples’ health and livelihoods.

What the Government must now make clear is that, after Covid, higher debt will not and must not mean cuts to vital public services or less investment for our crumbling infrastructure – especially in the parts of the UK that need it most.

Liberal Democrats stand firm that we must grow our way out of this crisis with a Green Recovery Plan that will invest billions to transform our economy, fight climate change and create millions of good-quality jobs.

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20 July 2020 – today’s press releases

  • Test and trace privacy fiasco yet another blunder by Ministers
  • Government’s school funding plan shows no understanding of challenges facing schools
  • Government must set up lifeboat system to ensure safe passage for Hong Kongers
  • Government silencing those who get in the way of their own political interests
  • Tories’ plan to “take back control” proves to be empty words when it comes to trade

Test and trace privacy fiasco yet another blunder by Ministers

Responding to reports that privacy campaigners have accused the Government’s test and trace programme of breaking data protection laws, Liberal Democrat Health, Wellbeing and Social Care spokesperson Munira Wilson said:

The fact that the Government have potentially broken the law is just another example of Ministers’ disastrous handling of test and trace. For the Department of Health to admit there was no consideration on the impact this would have on our privacy shows that this Government is simply walking into blunder after blunder, failing to get a grip on this crisis.

Of course mass testing, contact tracing and isolation at the community level for those who test positive, is the only safe way out of lockdown, but protecting individuals’ privacy remains of the utmost importance.

The Liberal Democrats have been clear that as long as there is absolute transparency when it comes to what information is collected, how long it is stored for, and who has access to this data, the Government can mitigate the concerns people have.

Ministers must get a grip of test and trace system if they are to keep people safe from coronavirus. They must do everything they can to not only protect people’s data and keep the public’s trust, but ensure we get an effective app up and running as soon as possible.

Government’s school funding plan shows no understanding of challenges facing schools

Responding to the publication of the Government’s funding allocations for schools in 2021-22, Liberal Democrat Education Spokesperson Layla Moran said:

The Conservatives’ spending plans show no understanding of the challenges facing schools in September. They have asked schools to open as normal when our Test and Trace system is faulty. Teachers must try to reverse the harm to children’s learning, development and mental health, when many disadvantaged children have disappeared off schools’ radars entirely during lockdown.

In the face of this crisis, spending plans announced last year are utterly unfit for purpose. All the Government has added is a catch-up premium worth just £80 per pupil per year, and a tutoring fund. It’s simply not enough to pay for the small group teaching that Ministers say our children need.

The pandemic requires us to invest in education at all levels on an unprecedented scale. That’s why Liberal Democrats have launched a five-point plan to re-open schools safely, provide laptops to those who need them and close the disadvantage gap, so that we can give every child a great start in life.

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18-19 July 2020 – the weekend’s press releases

  • PM must come before MPs after IfG Brexit warning
  • PM riding roughshod over our rights by restricting judicial review
  • Liberal Democrats bid to block corporate lawsuits watering down protections post-Brexit
  • Chinese treatment of Uyghurs amounts to genocide, Liberal Democrat warns

PM must come before MPs after IfG Brexit warning

Responding to a report by the Institute for Government which warns coronavirus has left UK firms unprepared for a no-deal Brexit, Liberal Democrat Brexit spokesperson Alistair Carmichael said:

Boris Johnson is arrogantly setting the country down a path that threatens jobs and livelihoods, and this report confirms it. People deserve better.

Now is not the time to be playing politics. Our focus must be preventing a no-deal Brexit and ensuring business has all the help it needs to protect jobs.

The Prime Minister must come before MPs before the summer recess to answer how he will address the calls for preparation support, sector specific investment and more.

PM riding roughshod over our rights by restricting judicial review

Responding to reports that the Government is planning to restrict judicial review, following a Court of Appeal decision against the Home Secretary, Liberal Democrat Justice Spokesperson Daisy Cooper said:

Threatening to weaken the courts because of a judgment you disagree with is the act of dictators and despots, not democrats.

With these plans, Boris Johnson and Dominic Cummings are trying to enable the Government to run roughshod over people’s rights and allow Ministers to break the law with impunity.

Liberal Democrats will always defend individuals’ abilities to challenge the Government and uphold their rights. We will not stand by and allow Johnson and Cummings to undermine the rule of law, which is so fundamental to our society.

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15 July 2020 – today’s press releases

  • Liberal Democrats secure PM commitment to independent inquiry
  • Consequences of Government cuts for BBC is now clear as day
  • Failing Graying has undone PM, now ISC must publish Russia report
  • PM running scared of real scrutiny from Intelligence Committee

Liberal Democrats secure PM commitment to independent inquiry

Acting Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey has today secured a commitment from the Prime Minister to an independent inquiry into the Government’s handling of the Covid-19 crisis and called for the timetable to be set out immediately.

Speaking during Prime Minister’s Questions today, Ed Davey warned that under Boris Johnson’s leadership the country has suffered “one of the worst death rates in the world and Europe’s worst death rate of health and care workers.”

Making reference to Boris Johnson’s support for an independent inquiry into the Iraq War, the Liberal Democrat Acting Leader again urged the Prime Minister to “commit in principle to a future independent inquiry”.

In response, the Prime Minister accepted his Government will “learn the lessons of this pandemic” and confirmed there will be in independent inquiry.

Ed Davey was the first party leader to call for an independent inquiry, back on the 21st of April, and the Liberal Democrats have consistently made the case since.

Speaking after the exchange, Acting Leader of the Liberal Democrats Ed Davey said:

The Coronavirus crisis is taking an enormous toll on people and our country.

It is clear the Government has failed on so many fronts – failing to prepare properly for a pandemic, failing to protect care home residents and social care workers, and failing to properly communicate their plans and so much more.

With so many loved ones lost, people deserve to know what happened. After months of refusing the public that opportunity, I am pleased the Prime Minister has finally accepted Liberal Democrat demands for an independent inquiry.

The Prime Minister must now set out the timetable of this inquiry, and it must begin as soon as possible. The Government must be held to account to ensure that the same mistakes are never repeated.

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7 July 2020 – today’s press releases

  • Davey: we need a devolution revolution to drive the green revolution
  • Govt decision on arms sales to Saudi Arabia shows lack of humanity
  • Govt green recovery plans do not match ambition of other countries

Davey: we need a devolution revolution to drive the green revolution

Today Acting Leader of the Liberal Democrats Ed Davey has delivered a keynote speech to the Local Government Association outlining his plan for a devolution revolution to drive a green revolution.

Ed Davey called for the government to make £45bn new funding available to local authorities over three years alongside a range of new powers so that local government can …

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3 July 2020 – the day’s press releases

Govt’s claim of protective ring around care homes “completely bogus”

Responding to the latest ONS figures showing almost 20,000 care home residents have died with coronavirus, Liberal Democrat Health, Wellbeing and Social Care spokesperson Munira Wilson said:

The devastating scale of the coronavirus crisis in our care homes is heartbreaking. It shows the Government’s claim that they had a “protective ring” in place was completely bogus.

We must learn the lessons of this crisis in real time. Alongside adequate protective equipment, routine testing for residents and care workers could not be more important. The Government must ensure every care home

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2 July 2020 – today’s press releases

  • Govt making “dog’s dinner” of Brexit negotiations
  • Govt must move faster to improve NHS Test & Trace system
  • Govt woefully underprepared to ensure every young person can return to school

Govt making “dog’s dinner” of Brexit negotiations

Responding to news that the UK Chief Negotiator David Frost has stated that “significant differences” remain as the latest restricted round of talks concludes a day early, Liberal Democrat Foreign Affairs and Brexit spokesperson Alistair Carmichael said:

Last month Boris Johnson asserted that he wanted a Brexit deal by the end of July.

But far from putting a tiger in the tank, David Frost appears to be making a

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1 July 2020 – today’s press releases

  • Govt must not abandon Hong Kong youth
  • Govt must stop overlooking green investment to create sustainable jobs

Govt must not abandon Hong Kong youth

Following Raab’s statement that China has broken the Joint Declaration by imposing the new ‘security law’ on Hong Kong, and that the UK govt will now be offering a path to citizenship for BNO status holders, Liberal Democrat Foreign Affairs Spokesperson and Chair of the APPG on Hong Kong Alistair Carmichael said:

It is right that the UK Government are taking swift action to help protect the rights and freedoms of the people of Hong Kong, but they must go

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30 June 2020 – today’s press releases

  • Govt must act swiftly in face of new law to uphold promises to Hong Kong
  • UK economy will need a Green Recovery Plan to recover
  • Johnson’s speech offers no green recovery plan and no help for vulnerable people
  • Tories’ Immigration Bill will deal enormous blow to NHS and British business

Govt must act swiftly in face of new law to uphold promises to Hong Kong

Responding to reports that China has passed a sweeping national security law giving it new powers over Hong Kong, Liberal Democrat Foreign Affairs spokesperson and Chair of the APPG on Hong Kong Alistair Carmichael said:

This new law crushes what

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19 June 2020 – today’s press releases

  • Cross-party group urge Govt to “right the wrong” done to Chagos Islanders and respect the ICJ
  • Debt response must be green recovery plan
  • Govt must do more to tackle disproportionate BAME Covid-19 deaths
  • Sir Simon McDonald’s premature departure raises serious questions
  • Challenge is for Govt, not teachers

Cross-party group urge Govt to “right the wrong” done to Chagos Islanders and respect the ICJ

The Liberal Democrats are leading cross-party calls for the Government to adhere to United Nations’ calls for the Chagos islands to be returned to Mauritian control and come good on the promise of a £40m package of support for the Chagossian community.

Liberal Democrat Foreign Affairs spokesperson Alistair Carmichael, who has secured the support of 29 other MPs from across the political spectrum, criticised the Government’s “arrogant” rejection of the International Court of Justice’s ruling on Chagos and warned it is jeopardising the UK’s credibility on a world stage.

The intervention comes after the UK Government issued a response to the UN Secretary General’s report on implementing Resolution 73/295 – which advised it to end the unlawful occupation of the islands – earlier this week.

In a letter to the Prime Minister, the cross-party group quote the Prime Minister of Mauritius who highlighted the connections between the Chagossian struggle and the Black Lives Matter movement by warning “the occupation of the Chagos Archipelago inscribes itself in these historic wrongs.”

Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesperson Alistair Carmichael said:

I’m saddened but not surprised at the Government’s decision to reject the International Court of Justice’s ruling on the illegal British occupation of the Chagos archipelago.

The ICJ has very clearly instructed the UK to return the island chain to Mauritian control. The Government’s refusal to do so is arrogant and jeopardises our credibility on a world stage.

The Government must abide by the ICJ’s ruling and ensure the £40m package of support promised to the Chagossian community is paid out in full.

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