Tag Archives: coronavirus

Who gets the vaccine next?

I’m losing track of calls for vaccine priority for one group or another. Teachers, police, this morning port workers – one might logically add the whole food supply chain of 4 or 5 million people. Unpaid carers have been raised (currently in group 6 of phase 1 ahead of 60-64 year olds in group 7).

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Lockdown weak, NHS in danger, where next?

With coronavirus case numbers still growing strongly (though perhaps slowing a little according to symptom tracking) and the NHS struggling to cope with the numbers of people needing hospitalisation already, driven by the much lower case numbers of 2 or 3 weeks ago, this is clearly the most dangerous time of the whole pandemic for any of us to contract the virus; there is every chance, wherever we live, that the NHS may not be able to give us the treatment we might need.

Acceleration of the vaccine programme is of course essential and the delay to second doses to give more people the protection of a first dose is a proportionate response to a crisis of this magnitude. But it will take until mid February to vaccinate (first dose) the most vulnerable 15 million people, accounting for 88% of deaths. So we should expect a big drop in pressure on the NHS by mid March. But that is 7 weeks away. For now, growth in the virus is adding pressure faster than vaccination can relieve it.

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That was the year that was (with apologies to Ms Millicent Martin) – Part 2, COVID

We have been living with the fallout from the 2016 Referendum for more years than many of us would care to admit to. After the General Election last December, many really did think that, followed by our exit from the EU we really had reached the “end of the beginning”. However, who would have thought this time last year that we would have spent most of 2020 hunkering down and ending with probably our largest ever peace time deficit? And for once we were not alone. How we humans have got to where we are exposes several theories. My personal view is that we humans are paying the price for encroaching ever closer to the animal world. Given nature’s shrinking environment it is not surprising that viruses are continuing to cross the species barrier and pose serious threats to our survival. What we have experienced all over the world for most of this year has been war by any other name. Just as two world wars in the space of thirty years witnessed the evolution of the aeroplane from the wood and canvas biplane of 1914 to the all metal jet plane of 1944, so the combined efforts of teams of scientists around the world have produced vaccines in less than twelve months that before had taken years to perfect, and in the case of a vaccine against HIV/AIDS, not at all.

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Munira Wilson leads parliamentary debate on Excluded

It’s a year today since Munira Wilson was elected as MP for Twickenham. Since then, she has held one of the most stressful roles, as Health Spokesperson, holding the Government to account for its often reckless and chaotic handling of the Coronavirus pandemic.

Like all other MPs, though, she will have a lot of casework from people who have had the financial rug pulled from under them – owners of small businesses whose activities have been curtailed or stopped altogether during the pandemic. People who run events companies, creative industry freelancers such as make-up artists are just some examples of those who simply have had no income and no support since March. Then they were struggling. Now they are desperate.

Lib Dems have led the fight for support for this group. Jamie Stone set up an all-Party Parliamentary Group and our MPs have repeatedly pressed the Government  to do more.

This week, Munira led a parliamentary debate to highlight the plight of those 3 million people who have been excluded from the Government’s support schemes:

You can read the whole debate here.

In her opening speech, Munira highlighted the impact the Government’s failure to provide support has had:

There has, at times, been a suggestion that some of the excluded are highly paid and dodging tax in some way, especially those paid via dividends. My constituent, Fraser Wilkin, who runs a travel company in Twickenham, pays himself by dividends because of the huge fluctuation in annual income due to events outside his control, such as the coronavirus. If he had drawn a regular salary through the year, he would have been unable to fulfil his statutory and contractual obligations to his clients, in terms of prompt refunds when their holidays were cancelled due to the pandemic.

Universal credit is cited as the fall-back. A survey of more than 3,000 individuals found that almost three quarters were unable to access universal credit. Let us face it: we all know that universal credit is not meaningful support. Otherwise, the Government would not have felt the need to create the furlough scheme or the self-employed income support scheme.

We know that the mental health impacts on many of those excluded from support have been stark. There have already been eight reported suicides, and one respondent to the House of Commons digital engagement team said that she almost took her life several times, and one week spent every day in contact with the Samaritans.

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Thinking about both sides of the letterbox

I was born in the same year as Donald Trump and Dolly Parton. No problems deciding which is one of my favourite Americans! Actually I was born on exactly the same day as the late Freddie Mercury (infinitely more Dolly than Donald). Do the sums and you will realise that I was surprised to find myself an endangered species – sorry, vulnerable category, when the virus came knocking on too many doors.

My colleagues were quite firm as to what I should and should not do. I consider myself pretty fit for my years, which is mainly due to delivering a few thousand Focus leaflets, or some other pieces of paper, every time we go to press. My legs do not take kindly to an absence of walking the streets but by temperament I am not into exercise for its own sake.

So after a few weeks of little more than telephoning constituents to see how they were faring, online casework and zoom meetings, I was very happy to join in our Ward Audit programme. I went out most days, without speaking to a soul, but peering down gullies, taking pictures of fly-tipping and noting faded road markings.

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The Late Late Toy Show – an Irish institution

This Friday, Christmas in Ireland will officially begin. The institution that is The Late Late Toy Show will be aired live on RTE One and internationally on the RTE Player.

It is the job of the Irish emigrant to explain to her non-Irish friends exactly what the appeal of The Toy Show is. Why do grown adults drop everything to get the goodies in, get settled in for the evening and pretend that they are children again? Why does Ireland stop for this one night, and in this Covid world we currently live in, why is the Irish Government desperately working to set out the exit plan from lockdown in time for The Toy Show? What is it about this magical Toy Show that brings grown adults to their knees?

The Late Late Toy Show began as a segment on toys on The Late Late Show back in 1976. The legendary broadcaster, Gay Byrne, saw the appeal of this segment and grew it into a fully-fledged dedicated programme once a year. If you’re of a certain age, you will remember the cheesy children from various stage schools singing and dancing, you might remember the precocious children showing off the toys they were to demonstrate or you might remember the delightfully entertaining children who could not but put a smile on your face. The Toy Show is warm television viewing with a heart. The key to its success is its values – an expectation of what childhood should be like putting family at the core of it.

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LISTEN: Ed Davey on Any Questions

Ed Davey was on Any Questions last night. The other panelists were Kim Darroch, the UK’s Ambassador to the US until last year, Diane Abbott and Prisons minister Lucy Frazer

The first question was on the various comings and goings at No 10. Ed pointed out how awful it was that in the middle of a huge public health and economic crisis, the people around the Prime Minister were jockeying for position.

He also reminded us how Dominic Cummings was the biggest opponent of free school meals during the coalition years when he was Michael Gove’s Special Adviser. Obviously that situation has parallels today with the Conservatives being so set against the very sensible step of providing help with meals during the holidays to those who need it most.

When Lucy Frazer tried to defend the indefensible, he was pretty effective in demolishing her argument, telling her that the Government has had to be dragged kicking and screaming into taking the half hearted measures that it has.

Kim Darroch made the point that the best advisers tend to be invisible, drawing from his own experience working in No 10 under Blair and Cameron.

The next question was about when Trump’s rantings become an attempted coup rather than the rantings of s sore loser.

Darroch said that Trump has a genius for creating a different reality that he genuinely believes. Trump, he feels is signalling to his supporters that the election has been stolen and this is about maintaining his relevance and base when Biden gets into the White House. He highlighted how popular Trump still is within Republican voters. He raised the spectre of a second Trump run for the presidency in 2024.

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2 November 2020 – today’s press releases

  • Four nations meeting welcome “first step” – Liberal Democrats
  • Government urged to “lead by example” and restore hybrid Parliament

Four nations meeting welcome “first step” – Liberal Democrats

Responding to news that the four Governments of the UK have met to develop a UK-wide approach to restrictions for the festive period, Leader of the Liberal Democrats Ed Davey said:

People across our family of nations will be reassured to hear that efforts are at last underway to ensure everyone is subject to the same guidance as they plan for the festive period, as first called for by the Liberal Democrats.

But today’s meeting can

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Why hygiene, testing and shielding are better than lockdown and furlough

We need the current argument between Westminster and Manchester on the best strategy to tackle coronavirus. The issues involved need wider informed debate than has so far been allowed. Both government and science should accept challenge, and refine policy accordingly.

We are told that policy is science-led and evidence-based. But extensive use continues to be made of blunt lockdown and furlough measures, without scientific evidence of their efficacy. These are both clearly extremely harmful in themselves. Here is an evidence-based case for the superiority of infection control, testing, and shielding.

1. Infection control works

After extensive mortality in March-May, UK care homes have reduced both infection and excess mortality rates to zero.

Source

This has been achieved through rigorous infection control procedures. Note that the initial increased mortality affected all elderly people, not just those in care homes.

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Passing the buck on Coronavirus

Embed from Getty Images

Opposition parties are right to challenge government mismanagement of the coronavirus epidemic. Competence is crucial to saving lives, maintaining wider public health, and not unnecessarily constraining personal liberty. So far, the UK government has got it spectacularly wrong on all these counts.

The twin major government failures in managing the pandemic have been

  1. Insufficient PPE in March. As a result, many thousands of people died. Care homes have since achieved zero infection with full PPE.
  2. Insufficient tests in September. As a result, thousands of uninfected people are now subject to 14 days avoidable quarantine, losing their liberty and their work.

Germany shows how to do it far better, limiting mortality to 115 deaths per million population compared to the UK rate of 627. People arriving in Germany from UK and EU take a test and are not quarantined if negative. All very sensible and effective.

Not only government ministers, but also their medical and scientific advisors, share responsibility for this UK failure. Patrick Vallance and Chris Whitty gave a presentation (text here), on the current level of threat. But this fell short of being the ‘best science’ by lack of any peer review, scrutiny, or questions.

Vallance claimed that the increase in infection is not due to greater testing, but to increased positive test outcomes (quote ‘Could that increase be due to increased testing? The answer is no.’). He’s wrong. The current huge increase in infections must be partly due to increased testing. Vallance should have attributed increased infections between these two causes.

Having long dismissed international Covid comparisons because they show the UK in a very bad light, Vallance then presented current infection data from France and Spain, whilst ignoring the German outcome which requires their scientific explanation. This matters, because it determines best policy recommendations.

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30 September 2020 – today’s press releases

  • Liberal Democrats to vote against Coronavirus Act due to “watered down” care provision
  • Clarity of purpose and clarity of messages essential to defeat Covid – Davey

Liberal Democrats to vote against Coronavirus Act due to “watered down” care provision

The Liberal Democrats have today confirmed they intend to vote against the Coronavirus Act because of the Prime Minister’s failure to reverse the reductions in rights to care for vulnerable people, particularly the disabled.

Leader of the Liberal Democrats Ed Davey warned he had “deep reservations about the serious implications for people’s wellbeing, rights and freedoms” and made clear the provision of care was a “red line.”

The MP, himself a carer for his disabled son and a patron of the Disability Law Service, wrote to the Prime Minister ahead of the vote to stress the legal advice shows that the measures in the Act are a breach of the UK’s obligations under international law.

The Liberal Democrats, who supported emergency measures before the UK went into lockdown, have also pointed to 141 people wrongly prosecuted under the Act and the reduction in safeguards for detention under the Mental Health Act as reasons to withhold their support.

Leader of the Liberal Democrats Ed Davey said:

To save lives through this pandemic, the Liberal Democrats have supported and continue to support all necessary measures to keep people safe – including the lockdowns and face-covering requirements.

However, I have deep reservations about the serious implications for people’s wellbeing, rights and freedoms. Most alarming to me is the watering down of care for elderly, disabled and vulnerable people. That is a red line issue.

Just imagine what that has meant for those children and their families. On top of all the other hardships of lockdown, having the lifeline of caring support cut off completely.

I have appealed to the Prime Minister to listen and heed the legal advice, but he has refused. Liberal Democrat MPs are therefore unable to vote for an Act that fails to care for the most vulnerable, sees people wrongfully charged and gives Ministers a blank cheque.

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21 September 2020 – today’s press releases

  • Ministers must put energy into fixing test and trace to “get a grip” on virus
  • PM must fix the test and trace system

Ministers must put energy into fixing test and trace to “get a grip” on virus

Following today’s briefing from Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance and Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty, warning of “significant rates of transmission” of coronavirus in parts of the UK, Liberal Democrat Health Spokesperson Munira Wilson said:

People right across the country will be alarmed to hear that, despite the heartbreaking sacrifices of these past six months, we are now facing a second wave of this dreadful virus. It’s clear that there will be difficult times ahead.

There is no excuse for the fact that our test and trace system has been barely functional for weeks. Rather than talking up their “moonshot” plans for future testing, Ministers should be putting all their energy into getting the system sorted right now to get a grip on the virus.

Equally, given the rapid changes in regulations, Ministers must also ensure crystal clear communication about new lockdown restrictions. This is about making sure people know the best ways to protect themselves and their loved ones, and that our hospitals, care homes and schools have all the equipment and resources they need to reduce the risk of transmission.

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An interview with Cllr Gareth Roberts

Gareth Roberts, Liberal Democrat Leader of the London Borough of Richmond Upon Thames (LBRUT), tells York Membery about the challenges he’s faced in dealing with the Covid-19 crisis, the specific Lib Dem approach he’s sought to pursue, and his misgivings about the Johnson government’s response to the pandemic…

How has the LBRUT coped with the fallout from the pandemic?

Reasonably well. Every local authority has been hit in one form or another but in terms of keeping infections down, limiting the number of deaths in the borough, keeping residents and businesses supported and, vitally, keeping residents informed we’ve performed well. And that’s not me being some Town Hall Trump; we conducted a poll of residents recently. 63% of respondents said Richmond was doing a good job in responding to the pandemic, whereas 61% thought the Tories at Westminster was doing poorly.

What are the biggest covid-linked challenges that the council has faced?

School closures was a biggie. I think people have largely forgotten how contentious that was. Some residents thought it was entirely wrong, some wanted us to move far more quickly and there was a real lack of direction from the Tory Government. More recently, the real challenge has been anti-social behaviour – before the pubs reopened people would meet friends in their local parks and green spaces and though most behaved themselves there was a hardcore of people who stayed far too late, were far too rowdy and used the parks (and even neighbouring front gardens) as toilets.

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I’m not a COVID sceptic, but there must be no more free passes for this incompetent government

I’m not a COVID-sceptic. I’m not a conspiracy theorist. I am willing to accept that the government needs powers to fight the virus. But it’s time to face up to the fact that the opposition has given Boris Johnson more than enough room. There should be no more free passes to restrict our day-to-day freedoms while his band of incompetents are in charge. As much as nearly everybody I know accepts collective action and the need to build consensus, we must also strongly oppose more unchecked powers.

The record is pretty clear and it has led to thousands of unnecessary …

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18 September 2020 – today’s press releases

  • “Overpromising but underdelivering” on testing will damage public trust in Government
  • Davey: PM must protect lives and livelihoods ahead of second wave

“Overpromising but underdelivering” on testing will damage public trust in Government

Responding to reports that the R rate has risen to between 1.1 and 1.4 in the UK, Liberal Democrat Health Spokesperson Munira Wilson MP said:

Figures showing the rapid spread of COVID will cause untold worry to families across the UK. Many will be disheartened to see the return of necessary restrictions on their daily lives.

We were promised a “world-beating” test and trace system to prevent a second wave.

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A Belgian, liberal perspective on handling the pandemic

Leading Belgium’s #COVID19 task force, Federal Minister Philippe De Backer from our sister party, Open VLD, has shown leadership and resilience in the face of crisis. I thought that our readers might be interested to see a liberal response to this crisis.

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Coronavirus crisis test for education services

After becoming York’s Executive Member for Children’s Services in 2019, I immediately started on the task of putting together an improvement plan to deliver the best possible services for the future generations in York. But, eight months into the role, we found ourselves unexpectedly having to deal with a national emergency which would see both Children’s Services and Education facing an unprecedented crisis. Our administration’s response in York can be best characterised as converting what had seemed ‘impossible’ into ‘possible’.  Yet the contradictions, confusion and periods of silence from our Government, have turned the challenge of the last few months into something which will shape our services for years to come. 

Since the introduction of ‘lockdown’ in late March, York’s teachers and school staff have gone above and beyond to help young people, parents and carers through this incredibly difficult time.  Whilst our city’s 63 maintained schools, academies and special schools have been taking care of our most vulnerable students and the children of our amazing key workers, the Government has stoked-up the levels of confusion and distress through ever-changing guidance on safety regulations, timescales for re-opening as well as the support available for the most disadvantaged students. 

Like elsewhere in the country, teachers here in York have been doing fantastic work in incredibly difficult and unusual circumstances. I am proud of the support that they have given pupils throughout lockdown by providing stimulating online learning materials across all year groups.  Government was quick to note the importance of providing access to remote learning through initiatives like free laptops and a temporary data charge exemption on sites which provide vital education for children, yet it was months into lockdown before the most disadvantaged children would receive any such help. York’s first delivery of laptops, allocated under arbitrarily strict Government guidance, arrived at the end of June.  And we have yet to receive a response to a letter sent to the School’s Minister warning of the urgency of the provision of this help. 

Similarly, Children’s Social Services, caring for the most vulnerable children in the city, had to adapt quickly to working more remotely.  Because fewer face-to-face meetings could take place due to health guidance, our staff put incredible effort into finding ways to contact all children and families safely. With a growing increase in the demand for such services as lockdown progressed, staff have gone above and beyond in making sure no child in need is left behind at this challenging time. 

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6 August 2020 – today’s press releases

  • Welsh Government must extend shielding support to avoid cliff edge
  • Liberal Democrats: Ministers are playing fast and loose with safety of NHS staff
  • Liberal Democrats: Jenrick’s planning reform won’t solve housing crisis

Welsh Government must extend shielding support to avoid cliff edge

The Welsh Liberal Democrats have called for an urgent extension to the support for those currently shielding, warning people could become “cut off” when the support ends next Sunday.

Under Welsh Government plans, the support currently available to those shielding, including foodboxes, will end next Sunday when shielding is paused. Local Authorities will then assume responsibility for providing additional support upon request.

However, new figures published by Asthma UK & British Lung Foundation Wales have revealed that 88% of those shielding are concerned about a return to work, with 12% so concerned that they have said they will refuse to go back – even if they lose their job as a result.

This creates a risky situation where thousands could face severe hardship by being cut off from existent support before they feel able to return to work and before Local Authorities can establish a proper functioning support network.

In response, Welsh Liberal Democrats have urged the Welsh Government to extend the support currently provided until the end of September, to avoid people being left isolated and give local authorities time to establish their own support schemes.

Jane Dodds, Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats, said:

I am deeply concerned that when the support for shielding ends next Sunday we will see thousands being cut off from the support they desperately need. Although some shielders are ready to go back out into the world, many still feel it is too unsafe and plan to stay home for longer.

While some of those are lucky to have a good local support network, many sadly do not. We must make sure these people are not be forced decide between unsafely returning to work or going without basic essentials.

That’s why we’re calling for the Welsh Government to extend the support currently available to those who are shielding until the end of September. This will provide a transition period, stopping them being cut off while also allowing Local Authorities time to talk to shielders and establish their own tailored support schemes.

I am grateful to Asthma UK & British Lung Foundation Wales for raising this issue and hope the Welsh Government will act quickly on this. We must give shielders the reassurance they deserve.

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30 July 2020 – today’s press releases

  • Highest levels of excess deaths demands Government learn lessons
  • Liberal Democrats call for review into school exclusions
  • Liberal Democrats: Government are failing survivors of sexual violence
  • Government must step in with Green incentives to save the car industry
  • Liberal Democrats: Record high of self harm in prisons shows extent of crisis
  • Leaked letter shows thousands of care home residents being exposed to virus

Highest levels of excess deaths demands Government learn lessons

Responding to ONS statistics that reveal England has had the highest excess mortality across Europe in the first half of 2020, Liberal Democrat Health spokesperson Munira Wilson said:

The unforgiving consequences of the pandemic have left too many families mourning loved ones. It didn’t need to be like this.

It is clear the Government has made mistakes. With a possible second wave occurring in countries across Europe at the moment, the Prime Minister must launch an independent inquiry immediately.

This is not a time for protecting political interests. This is a time to learn from mistakes and protect the country from more heartache.

Liberal Democrats call for review into school exclusions

Responding to new figures for permanent and fixed-period school exclusions in England for 2018/19, Liberal Democrat Education spokesperson Layla Moran said:

These figures make appalling reading. Every year thousands of children – often the most vulnerable – are being written off by our education system. Children eligible for free school meals are more than four times as likely to be permanently excluded – that says it all.

This Government should be ashamed that they have presided over continually high rates of permanent exclusion. Cutbacks to school budgets undoubtedly play a part in this. So too does the culture which prizes exam results and league table rankings over care and support.

We need see action to address the disproportionate number of exclusions among pupils on free school meals, as well as Black Caribbean, Gypsy and Roma, and Traveller pupils. That’s why we need to see a review into disparities in school exclusions.

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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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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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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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Every so often, it’s worth having a look at this table…

OK, I know that countries have very different ways of reporting deaths from Covid-19.

But this table, from Worldometer (excluding a couple of micro-states), gives us some idea how the UK is doing in terms of Covid-19 deaths per million of population.

Badly.

We are second in the world for the rate of deaths, after Belgium.

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Who gains from Rishi Sunak’s Summer Economic Statement?

It is easy to criticise Rishi Sunak’s Summer Economic Statement for not doing enough. The Chancellor had a difficult task to assess what size of economic stimulus would be effective.

His main aim was apparently to create jobs for those who had lost them or will be losing them soon. But the Statement.is very disappointing because it doesn’t deal with the realities of the situation for lots of businesses. Social distancing is very likely still to be in place after October, so it just will not be possible for many businesses to provide their services to as many customers as before lockdown.

He should have included a new coronavirus staff retention scheme (turnover based). It should have provided a proportion (say 80%) of the difference between the takings of a business in a month compared to the relevant month in 2019, for businesses that can demonstrate that because of social distancing they can’t deal with the same number of customers.

Rishi Sunak reported that £4.6 billion of consumer debt has been paid off and households have increased their bank deposits by £25.6 billion. This means there is the potential for more than £30 billion (about 1.5% of last year’s GDP) to be spent into the economy when households have confidence restored.

With an economy valued at £2000 billion I believe the maximum economic growth per year with which the UK can normally cope is about £60 billion. Therefore an economic stimulus of £30 billion at this stage is about right.

Instead of allocating up to £9.4 billion for his Job Retention Bonus scheme, I think Rishi Sunak should have used the amount to increase all working-age benefits such as Universal Credit, Family Tax Credit, Jobseekers Allowance and Employment and Support Allowance by £20 a week, the same value as his temporary increase of Universal Credit and Family Tax Credit in March. This would have targeted the money to the poorest in society who are most likely to spend it and to the areas where more of these people live. Giving employers £1000 per worker retained is not going to do much to encourage them to retain the most marginal workers, and will do very little if anything to increase demand in the economy.

A lot of the £5.6 billion for infrastructure projects is not new money and includes maintenance projects. £900 million is for shovel-ready projects in England in 2020-21 and 2021-22. But some of this, maybe the majority, will not be spent until the next financial year. We must hope that most of the £5.6 billion will go into the areas worst affected by job losses.

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6 July 2020 – today’s press releases

  • The PM blaming care homes for his failure is shameful
  • Landmark domestic abuse legislation passes House of Commons

The PM blaming care homes for his failure is shameful

Responding to the Prime Minister’s comments today saying that “we discovered too many care homes didn’t really follow the procedures in the way that they could have,” Acting Leader of the Liberal Democrats Ed Davey said:

For weeks Boris Johnson told us he and his ministers had put a protective ring round our care homes. That was a lie and the public knew it. Today he is trying to shift the blame to those who risked

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The Independent View: Overcrowded housing, BAME groups and COVID-19

As the COVID-19 era has progressed, more and more data has pointed towards a deeply harrowing truth – the virus is having a disproportionate impact on BAME groups. According to research from ICNARC, approximately one-third of the COVID-19 patients admitted to Intensive Care Units (ICUs) have been from BAME groups, despite the fact that just 14% of the UK population is BAME.

Added to this, black ethnic groups have experienced the highest diagnosis rates, and both black and Asian groups have experienced higher death rates than the white British majority. In order to understand this disparity, it is important to take a close look at one of the factors thought to play a part: overcrowded housing.

All minority ethnic groups are statistically more likely to live in overcrowded housing than the white British group. Taking the Bangladeshi ethnic group as an example, just short of 30% of households have more residents than rooms. For white British households, this figure stands at just 2%.

Overcrowded housing is of huge significance for two main reasons. Firstly, it dramatically increases the risk of COVID-19 transmission, as the virus can spread easily among those who live in close proximity to each other and share facilities such as bathrooms and kitchens. Secondly, it makes adhering to self-isolation guidelines essentially impossible, as a person cannot minimise their contact with others if their circumstances are such that they did not have enough personal space to begin with.

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Looking back: How investing in our communities laid the foundations for tackling Covid-19 in York

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Just over a year ago I was appointed to the role of Executive Member for Culture, Leisure and Communities in the new Lib Dem/Green partnership running City of York Council following the May elections of 2019.

I’m hugely proud of the way our team in York rose to the challenge presented by Covid-19. Lib Dems in local government (particularly those fortunate to be leading Councils), love nothing more than tweaking policy, putting values into practice, and pouring through budget papers with highlighters. We are no different in York. Little did we know 12 months ago that this effort was to be critical in stopping residents reach poverty and keeping them safe, with food in the cupboards and prescriptions delivered.

Our priorities for my corner of the Council centred on devolving budgets down to neighbourhoods and investing in community support. As we entered the Covid-19 crisis, these priorities came to be the bedrock of our community response.

In 2019, we announced a £4.5 million ward funding programme, to be spent by local councillors in ways that support their respective communities. Getting cash from the decision makers in the Council’s offices, to residents sat around the community centre table, was a point of principle we fought hard on in the local elections. For a community like mine, this meant our local area would benefit from £251k over the life of the administration. That’s already being spent on funding activities for young people, tackling adult isolation and improving infrastructure; new benches, bus shelters and road resurfacing.

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29 June 2020 – today’s press releases

  • Govt must make mental health support available to health and care workers
  • New Trade and Agriculture Commission must be a “watchdog with teeth” – Farron
  • Govt must stop spending money on measures that don’t prevent crime
  • Govt must make more help available for people and businesses in Leicester

Govt must make mental health support available to health and care workers

Responding to reports that Labour have announced a “Care for Carers” plan, Acting Leader of the Liberal Democrats Ed Davey said:

Over the past months the Liberal Democrats have called on the Government to ramp up mental health support for health and care staff. It is

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26 June 2020 – today’s press release

Lib Dems: Govt failing to stop spread of coronavirus in prisons

Responding to the latest Government statistics on COVID-19 in Prison and Probation Service in England and Wales, Liberal Democrat Justice Spokesperson Daisy Cooper said:

With more than 500 prisoners testing positive for coronavirus, but only 175 being released early, it is clear the Government aren’t taking seriously the spread of the virus in our prisons. They have completely failed to end overcrowding in prisons, allowing them to become a crucible for the disease.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the Liberal Democrats have been clear it is impossible to practice safe

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23 June 2020 – today’s press releases

  • Lib Dems table amendments to stop MPs debating complaints in the chamber
  • Govt must be transparent on guidance behind decision to relax lockdown
  • Govt must guarantee scrutiny in Parliament as daily COVID updates cease

Lib Dems table amendments to stop MPs debating complaints in the chamber

The Liberal Democrats have tabled amendments to the Independent Complaints Scheme which will prevent Members of Parliament from debating and voting on motions concerning complaints made in Parliament.

The amendments tabled to a motion set to be debated later today are crucial for protecting anyone who makes a complaint. It would give the independent panel the power to …

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Recent Comments

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  • Michael 1
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