Tag Archives: coronavirus

27 May 2020 – today’s press releases

Good evening, everyone. Please accept my apologies for the absence of this regular feature for a few days. To be honest, I’ve taken a few days off to attempt to regain my mojo and, whilst it hasn’t been wholly successful, I am at least back. Let’s pick up with today’s releases, and I’ll catch up the past five days as we go along…

  • High time for Govt to extend Brexit transition period
  • PM must instruct Home Sec to lift no recourse to public funds rule for coronavirus crisis
  • Govt strategy must also support people in isolation

High time for Govt to extend Brexit transition

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Our society has failed to protect the poorest and most disadvantaged of our citizens. This has to be stopped now.

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In the most expensive care homes, recent TV footage showed, both staff and residents have been protected from the virus, and nobody died. But in the run-of-the-mill homes shown, as our party leaders have been protesting, staff have not had the personal protective equipment they needed. With old people returning from hospital to their care homes, and care workers coming in and out without adequate PPE, what chance was there of the weakest being saved? We all know now the awful figures of mortality from the care homes.

Meantime the Office for National Statistics has shown that deaths from the virus are highest in the poorest areas of the country – where life expectancy had stalled anyway, as the recent Marmot Review recorded. (See my article here)

In crowded houses and flats, cooped up together with no gardens, housebound for weeks except for essential shopping, what chance have poor families had for healthy exercise and keeping separate from their neighbours? If they escape the virus – and the least healthy among them will be fortunate to do so – their children are falling behind with little chance for school work in the crowded family space, and mental ill-health is growing with the strain.

Now that people are urged to go back to work, it is the poorest and ethnic-minority people who are crowding on to the buses, trams and trains. The cleaners and handyworkers will be going back to the rich houses, while anyone on zero-hours contracts will struggle on as they have been doing, so that quiet deaths continue among maintenance workers and security guards.

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Observations of an expat: Sino-American Covid diplomacy

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It is difficult to tell who is winning the Sino-American Coronavirus diplomatic battle. Two weeks ago I would have put the US in the lead. They had successfully poured ice water on Chinese claims to have successfully suppressed the spread of the virus in China. It is now generally accepted that the Chinese statistics are extremely dubious.

This week the pendulum has swung the other way. The reason is the annual meeting of the World Health Assembly which – unsurprisingly – was dominated by the pandemic.

The pendulum received a gentle push from the European Union which successfully proposed a full and independent investigation into the causes, spread, handling and consequences of coronavirus as well as a report into how best to deal with a repeat crisis.

On the surface, this would appear to be a victory for the Trump Administration who have been loud on their accusations – despite all evidence to the contrary – that Covid-19 originated in a Wuhan virology lab from whence it reached the community by accident or intent. The Chinese have been even more outrageous with their leading conspiracy theory: America developed the virus and despatched US military personnel to Wuhan to spread a Covid-19 paste on hundreds of Chinese door knobs.

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Daily View 2×2: 21 May 2020

2 big stories

One of the interesting aspects of the Coronavirus crisis is how government, and in particular the Civil Service, has coped with the disruption and the demands placed upon it. At the centre of that is HM Revenue & Customs, who have, from a standing start, have processed one million applications under the Job Retention Scheme, protecting approximately 7.5 million jobs, and more than two million applications under the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme, with well north of £10 billion claimed. And all that with the majority of their staff working from home.

Its American counterpart, the Internal Revenue Service, is …

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20 May 2020 – today’s press releases (part 2)

  • Govt risking public safety with plan to bring back Parliament
  • Davey presents bill to extend transition period
  • Lib Dems: Govt has serious questions to answer over app delays
  • Lib Dems condemn failure to properly recognise contribution of foreign nationals working in NHS and care
  • Lib Dems: Charities need a multi-billion pound package to survive

Govt risking public safety with plan to bring back Parliament

The Liberal Democrats have accused the Government of risking public safety and warned “everyone deserves equal representation, including those who are shielding and those with family responsibilities.”

Liberal Democrat Chief Whip Alistair Carmichael MP raised these concerns with the Leader of the House, Jacob Rees-Mogg, having secured an Urgent Question in Parliament today.

Speaking via Zoom from Orkney, the Liberal Democrat MP accepted “none of us are blind to the inadequacies of online scrutiny,” but added “if it is a choice between that and putting the safety of members, their families and the staff of this House at risk then that is no choice at all.”

In response, despite MPs taking part in debates and ask questions via Zoom over the last few weeks, Jacob Ree-Mogg rejected the call to allow MPs to work from home and refused to acknowledge any of the concerns raised.

Following the exchange, Liberal Democrat MP Alistair Carmichael said:

Tens of thousands of people have already died during this pandemic. To protect vulnerable people, we should all follow public health advice and work from home when we can. We must set the right example.

It is an insult to those who have suffered and died for Jacob Rees-Mogg to suggest that MPs should put their communities at risk by traveling hundreds of miles to London each week for the whims of the Government.

Parliament has demonstrated in recent weeks that we can scrutinise the Government while working from home and ensure communities across the United Kingdom have their voices heard. Everyone deserves equal representation, including those who are shielding and those with family responsibilities.

We should instead be looking at how we can retain the best features of the virtual system to ensure safe and equal representation for every part of the UK. The Government must think again.

Davey presents bill to extend transition period

Today, Acting Leader of the Liberal Democrats Ed Davey has put forward a bill which, if passed, would force the government into a two year extension of the transition period.

An extension to the transition period is essential, ensuring that the government could focus its full attention on tackling the spread of coronavirus crisis.

Speaking ahead of the Bill’s presentation, Liberal Democrat Acting Leader Ed Davey said:

It is clear the government have not made nearly enough progress on the Brexit trade talks.

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Bradford Liberal Democrats call for detailed plans for schools opening to be scrutinised

The current debate about when and how schools should “re-open” has already developed entrenched positions. It started from a Government-led position of expecting the re-opening of schools for certain groups from June 1st. A growing opposition of “no to that” has developed with Trades Unions and some Local Authorities leading the charge. The two camps are sat facing each other and there seems to be no basis for discussion. A recent report by the Children’s Commissioner suggests that children deserve better.

One thing that seems to be missing from the debate is the obvious point that schools are open and …

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Daily View 2×2: 20 May 2020

A big day for some people, and definitely an interesting one, to look forward to, and we’ll be covering that in half an hour, but in the meantime, the debate over the General Election Review rumbles on, and we have some history, and some local politics to offer you during the day, with some thoughts on inter-generational fairness in the evening. So, on with the medley!

2 big stories (apart from that one!)

So much for schools reopening on 1 June. It’s already clear that parents aren’t keen, and that the teaching unions are wary, but when Conservative councils (Essex and …

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19 May 2020 – today’s press releases

  • Govt must not be allowed to forget unacceptable five week wait for UC
  • Govt must get a grip on coronavirus crisis to prevent further deaths
  • Govt needs to get a grip of care home crisis
  • Govt pledges to look into Lib Dems’ Mental Health plan for NHS & care staff
  • Lib Dems oppose Govt’s Trade Bill
  • Govt must request an extension to the transition period now

Govt must not be allowed to forget unacceptable five week wait for UC

Responding to ONS statistics out today which reveal a rise in unemployment and a six fold increase in the number of people claiming unemployment benefit, Acting Leader of …

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18 May 2020 – the overnight press release

Lib Dems: Govt must step up provision for vulnerable children

The IFS have today published a report revealing that children from better-off households are spending 30% more time each day on educational activities than are children from the poorest fifth of households.

Responding to the widening disadvantage gap between children during the coronavirus crisis, Liberal Democrat Education Spokesperson Layla Moran said:

The Liberal Democrats have been clear that we cannot fix the disadvantage gap without also addressing the looming crisis amongst our vulnerable children. The Government must set up an emergency taskforce to coordinate its response, and for out-of-work supply teachers and

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16-17 May 2020: the weekend’s press releases

  • Lib Dems: Covid-19 mental health implications a ticking time bomb
  • Lib Dems call for permanent remote voting option for MPs
  • Govt must be transparent if they want public support for reopening schools
  • Davey: Govt approach to tracing ‘totally inadequate’
  • Lib Dems: Govt putting ideology above people’s lives in refusing to extend Brexit talks
  • Govt must not pursue isolationist approach to vaccine

Lib Dems: Covid-19 mental health implications a ticking time bomb

Responding to the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ findings that psychiatrists fear a ‘tsunami’ of mental illness after the pandemic, Liberal …

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15 May 2020 – today’s press releases

  • Govt urged to protect funding to house homeless
  • Lib Dems call for Coronavirus honours list
  • Davey: Govt must get a grip on care homes coronavirus crisis
  • Davey: Public would expect Brexit extension

Govt urged to protect funding to house homeless

Responding to reports that the Government will no longer fund local councils to house homeless people during the Covid-19 pandemic, Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran said:

The Coronavirus crisis is an unprecedented threat. It is leaving the most vulnerable in our communities at risk and it is our duty to look after them.

It would be irresponsible for the Government to pull emergency funding for local

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14 May 2020 – today’s press releases

  • Aerospace industry needs support to avoid mass redundancies in Wales
  • Govt misled businesses over post-Brexit customs checks
  • Lib Dems oppose Govt’s Immigration Bill
  • EU Commission launch legal action against UK government’s failings over citizens’ rights
  • Govt must continue to help businesses and families

Aerospace industry needs support to avoid mass redundancies in Wales

A dire assessment of the aerospace industry’s current situation by Aerospace Wales Chief Executive John Whalley has prompted the Welsh Liberal Democrats to call for the Welsh Government to give the industry a much-needed financial lifeline.

Aerospace Wales is the umbrella organisation which represent aerospace companies in Wales. Collectively it employs around 21,000 people, …

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13 May 2020 – today’s press releases

We’ve had a bit of a glitch with press releases – it’s a long, rather dull story – but this has been fixed, and the flow of news from HQ has resumed. And so, it’s time to pick up the thread…

  • Lib Dems call for Safe Trace App Law to ensure coronavirus app is safe and effective
  • Moran: Govt must publish scientific advice for reopening schools
  • Govt must publish scientific evidence behind lockdown decisions
  • Jacob Rees-Mogg must not be allowed to undermine public safety

Lib Dems call for Safe Trace App Law to ensure coronavirus app is

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Lib Dems react to PM speech

As soon as Boris Johnson started speaking, I was infuriated.

Nicola Sturgeon manages to get a signer there for every briefing. And she does hers live.

Boris’s was pre-recorded. Why not have a signer in the room with him so that, whatever channel you watch, you can understand what is being said?

It’s not the first time I’ve been infuriated by his government over the past week. The misjudged, mixed messaging. One minute people were doing great for obeying the guidance, the next they were getting too lazy at home. Then the briefing that lockdown was going to be lifted on Monday leading to a whole clutch of “we’re being set free” headlines. It’s not what you need in the middle of the greatest crisis we  have faced in generations. People need to understand exactly what they need to do.

That’s why the new slogan is so terrible.  Nobody knows what “stay alert” means in practical terms. Everyone will tell you something different. If you had something like stay 2m apart, wash your hands, wear a mask in confined spaces, you know exactly what to do. Not only that, but when the other UK governments hear about it on in the press, it’s clearly not been well discussed.

So how have senior Liberal Democrats reacted to the PM’s speech?  So far we have been asking careful questions about issues like care homes, PPE and testing. I sense a more critical tone now.

Ed said that the PM’s statement had more confusion that clarity:


This is the first time we’ve seen divergence between England and the other nation states of the UK.

As liberals, we should welcome this, given that we get what devolution means. We should respect the devolution settlements that give different parts of the UK the powers to do what is right for them.

But that means that all the governments have to clearly show that the decisions they make are governed by the science.

Willie Rennie said tonight:

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Over-centralisation and the response to Covid-19

England would have managed its response to the Covid-19 epidemic better if our local government had been stronger, and encouraged to play a larger role. Liberal Democrats should now be arguing, even more vigorously than usual, that over-centralization leads to failure on the ground.

The first wave of testing centres was outsourced by the government, through a non-competitive contracting process, to one of our largest consultancy firms. The consultants’ understanding of regional and local geography was evidently limited, and their assumption that all health workers would have their own cars and would be willing to drive long distances for several …

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Rennie calls for UBI summit to help those who can’t get government support

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie has today called for an intergovernmental summit on a universal basic income to take place to ensure that support is urgently made available for those who have fallen through cracks of the current furlough and income support measures.

He highlighted the plight of self-employed workers who were not trading for the entirety of the last tax year, PAYE freelancers,  self-employed workers who are paid in dividends, people who work from home and those who have recently changed jobs as examples of people who have experienced a sudden and dramatic loss of income as well as those struggling to access existing anti-poverty measures.

Across the UK, the Institute for Fiscal Studies estimate that roughly 675,000 people will be ineligible for the government’s Self-Employed Income Support Scheme, which mirrors the 80% wage subsidy scheme for the employed.

The IFS says another 1.3 million people with some self-employment income are likely to be ineligible because they received less than half of their income from self-employment last year.

His call comes as the The Poverty Alliance, Scotland’s anti-poverty network, has identified a number of shortcomings in the current crisis responses, including a lack of targeted social security support for families with children at either the UK or Scottish level, limited access to community care grants and gaps in employment protection programmes.

Willie said:

I fully understood and supported the decision to use the existing tax and spend apparatus to help people financially. Time was short and we needed to act fast. Now that those schemes are getting into place we need to take the next steps.

With economic uncertainty destined to loom for the foreseeable future, we need to ensure that everyone can afford to keep a roof over their head and a meal on the table.

We should be adopting the principles of a universal basic income: no one should be left behind. The UK Government has acted swiftly to back businesses and support furloughed workers but too many are slipping through the cracks and there’s a real risk that furloughed staff will lose their jobs when the current scheme ends.

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Pubs need support now and inclusion for their future

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Having relaunched a pub in Brighton during the election, watching it grow into a successful community pub then suddenly falling complete silent has been an absolute roller-coaster of emotions. Not seeing your regulars every day is a weird feeling and not knowing when those doors will open again leaves me anxious for the future of the industry.

I’m a lucky one though, my parent pub company have been incredibly supportive and with their help and the coronavirus retention scheme, I’ve been able to continue paying 100% of my staffs’ wages. But for lots of publicans this is not the case.

Some of the big Pub Co’s are still collecting extortionate rents from their tenants, even though there has been zero footfall through the doors. Pubs with higher rateable values are exempt from grants. Bank loans are little to none in the hospitality sector and seasonal staff will be significantly worse off with the summer season limited. All these issues need addressing urgently, if we want pubs to be there able and ready for when we can enjoy that much anticipated pint with our friends again.

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Covid-19 … The new Liberal reality

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While we may disagree on the timing of the UK government introducing the Covid-19 lockdown, I hope we can all agree that doing so was a necessary measure.

However, it’s a holding measure, not a solution in itself. It is becoming apparent that the scenario of staying in lockdown till Covid-19 is eradicated, or at least until it’s constrained in known isolated pockets in hospital ITUs, is highly unlikely. With no coordinated international response, even if we were to achieve this in the UK, there would be high probability of infection being reintroduced. If we have similar (or higher) infection rates than other countries, it’s even arguable whether closing the borders would make any significant difference to the situation in the UK.

The lockdown is a rather blunt tool. It’s a list of permissible activities – a straightforward public health message that can be quickly conveyed. It’s not perfect – jogging or cycling can still result in injury, placing additional pressure on A&E. Perspiring and breathing heavily in public parks bring their own risks of transmission. You can still go to the supermarket as often as you like, for as long as you like, wearing no protection, even if you’re in a vulnerable group. So let’s not kid ourselves that this lockdown is perfect. And while we’re at it, let’s not kid ourselves that this lockdown is sustainable indefinitely.

Ideally, all activity would be assessed for its statistical probability of virus transmission, and a highly refined lockdown could then be issued. Unfortunately, this would be an impossibly complex public health message to convey. So what’s the way out of this?

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Local leadership in Watford

When I was standing to be the Elected Mayor of Watford in 2018, Sir Vince Cable kindly came to help the campaign several times. When asked by local journalists why electing Lib Dems in local government mattered, his answer was always a straightforward one; because up and down the country we provide caring and competent local leadership. During the coronavirus pandemic I have seen Lib Dem-run councils doing just that.

As soon as the scale of this emergency became clear, Watford’s Liberal Democrat councillors and campaigners started to phone hundreds of older residents to ask them if they were alright and to find out what help they might need. This was extremely well received and meant that we were able to identify many people in particular need at a very early stage.

From the very outset it was clear that the whole way the council operated would have to change with many staff moved to new priority areas. Our approach has focused on making sure that our town is caring for all those in need, that key services are maintained, we engage with our residents and that Watford remains as connected and positive as possible.

Many people wanted to know what they could do to support those more vulnerable than themselves during the lockdown. To make sure that local volunteer effort was coordinated and effective we worked with local voluntary groups to set up ‘Watford Helps’. Over 1,000 people have signed up and are helping people to get the food and medicines that they need and making friendly phone calls to those who are lonely or isolated.

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Daily View 2×2: 30 April 2020

2 big stories

So, will Matt Hancock reach his target of 100,000 tests today? And even if that capacity is reached, will they be carried out? It’s not looking terribly optimistic when even NHS Providers, which represents foundation trusts in England, dismisses the 100,000 target as a “red herring” that distracted from the failures of ministers.

Setting targets and missing them is bad enough, but setting meaningless, and possibly even misdirected ones, and msssing them anyway, seems to be the story of this Government’s handling of the crisis.

It’s a sign of the general uselessness of the British print media that, for …

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Daily View 2×2: 29 April 2020

2 big stories

Next steps in addressing the coronavirus crisis? Tracing, an app and?… The Guardian provides an explanation of how the Government plans to step up its battle to quell the virus. But do you trust the Government with data relating to where you’ve gone and who you’ve met? Or is the need to bring this to an end enough to overcome your concerns?

British Airways is making 12,000 staff redundant, a sign of how bad things are likely to get for the airline industry. The share price is down by more than two-thirds, compared to the FTSE 100 …

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Stepping up as a Liberal Democrat Councillor in Bradford as part of the response to the national emergency

Regular involvement in our local communities meant we could respond quickly to pull local partners together before lock-down was announced. Our Parish Church offered to provide a base for a ‘Community Response Hub’, the Church Secretary took on the role of co-ordinator and other volunteers from the congregation stepped up to run social media. This gave us a flying start in organising a grass-root team offer to local people into which representatives from the Police, a Council Officer and other representatives from local groups met and worked together. We met every day for the first 16 days to make sure …

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Lib Dems lead cross-party call for clarity on coronavirus loan scheme

The Liberal Democrats are leading a cross-party call for the Business Secretary to provide clearer guidance to lenders regarding Business Interruption Loans, following reports that lenders have been slow to approve loans to struggling businesses due to extensive due diligence processes.

Liberal Democrat MP Wera Hobhouse has been joined by over 20 MPs from across the political spectrum in writing to the Business Secretary to call for the additional guidance.

The letter asks that the Government sets out the “minimum level of due diligence required” to underwrite loans, criteria which would enable lenders to process applications at a faster pace. …

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Now is the time to stand up as champions of deliberative democracy

Our party is back on the right track. Covid seems to have brought us to our senses: the reaction of local parties, of MPs, and of peers to Covid has been impressive, and it does seem that there is a renewal of our central commitment to the idea of the empowered citizen as the most important element in a healthy politics.

The next step is to make ourselves the party of deliberative democracy, and to do so right now, by calling for a Covid Citizens’ Reference Panel to deliberate on and input into government policy as we transition over the …

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Daily View 2×2: 27 April 2020

I hope that you’ve all had a nice weekend, although I guess that, for some of you, each day is beginning to feel the same as the last. At Liberal Democrat Voice, our aim is to entertain, inform and engage, and so I’d better get on, hadn’t I?

2 big stories

Whilst the talk is of what happens next in the UK’s battle against Covid-19, elsewhere, the first steps towards normalisation have started;

In all four places officials caution that life is not going back to normal yet. For one thing, there can be no letting down their guard. The authorities have

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Layla Moran writes: Campaign for Coronavirus Compensation Scheme gathers momentum

Over the last four weeks, the numbers of NHS workers losing their lives to Coronavirus have risen. The figure now stands at well over a hundred. And then there are the other frontline workers: bus drivers, carers, teachers, to name but a few, who are risking their lives to help others.

I want to ensure that the Government recognises their bravery and courage. I’ve been calling on them to introduce a Coronavirus Compensation Scheme, to look after the families of frontline workers should the worst happen.

Over 8000 people and 50 cross-party MPs have supported the campaign so far. And this week, I unexpectedly teamed up with The Express, who to their credit, put their weight behind this campaign and are proving instrumental in helping drive this forward.

You can help too. Please sign the petition and share it far and wide.

My campaign has clear asks. This new scheme should mirror the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme and include:

  • a lump sum upfront
  • a guaranteed income for their family
  • child payments to eligible children under 18

This would be in addition to pension benefits. Furthermore, given the extraordinary nature of this crisis, the state should also contribute to funeral costs.

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Parliamentary scrutiny of a Unitary Cabinet government during the coronavirus crisis – Part 3

Read Part 1

Read Part 2

Even in the society of the independent-minded Dutch, a distinct “rallying around the flag” effect can be seen. The leaders of the populist parties questioning established politics (Geert Wilders, PVV, and Thierry Baudet, Forum for Democracy) or the capitalist aspects of Dutch health care and general government (the Socialist Party) used the first new-style plenary Corona debates for sharp, often ad hominem, attacks with overblown rhetoric on Prime Minister Rutte and his ministers. The debate lasted from 14.00 until around 22.00. The Health minister collapsed at the rostrum from overwork and resigned the next day. That scene had a sobering effect on the three attack dogs and when PVV and Forum lost badly in the next weekly poll they toned down the rhetoric and joined the more practical, factual line of arguing of all other parties.

With that toning down of parliamentary politics after the first dramatic debate, the parliamentary party leaders appear to have started a Whatsapp or Zoom group to regularly consult on Corona and other issues.

The Second Chamber Presidium had asked the government around 20 March to supply a list of all Bills (on non-Corona-related issues) they wanted to see being debated and adopted in the coming months. The government sent back a list with 84 Bills; President Khadija Arib immediately saw that 41 of those Bills hadn’t even been introduced to parliament. She sent the list on to the specialist parliamentary committees, who very soon let it be known that there was an impression that, in some cases, the Government was trying to get some controversial big laws passed. President Arib thereupon asked Rutte for Government to review this list, pointing to the limited parliamentary time in Corona times, and asked for a justification for every Bill that the Government really wanted debated.

Reviewing the list of Bills saw parliamentary committees (re)start meeting online, but journalists soon complained they weren’t able to see what happened in those meetings. The Presidium forwarded written summaries of those meetings to the media. But commentators and parliamentary sketchwriters pointed out that in principle all parliamentary sessions should be open to the public and media. And sketchwriters pointed out that every Prime Minister, however popular, even in “interesting times” of high crisis should be subjected to the same parliamentary and media scrutiny as always.

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Lib Dems lead cross party call for mental health plan in response to COVID-19 crisis

Liberal Democrats are at the forefront of cross party calls for a long-term, cross-departmental mental health plan in response to the COVID-19 crisis.

Citing the “acute” impact of the pandemic on mental health, a cross party group of Parliamentarians warn that over half of adults admit the coronavirus crisis has impacted their wellbeing.

The group, led by Liberal Democrat Health, Wellbeing and Social Care spokesperson Munira Wilson, are calling for the Government to set up:

  • An expert-led mental health taskforce to advise on the best methods to deal with the mental health impact of coronavirus.
  • A cross-departmental mental health plan to find ways to

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We must revive Britain’s history of bold policy

Coronavirus has blown open many of the issues contemporary society faces as a whole.

The UK Government has acted radically in the last few weeks. The furlough scheme has guaranteed many workers pay, and a huge effort has provided support for charities and businesses. Yet many have been left behind.

Those laid off have joined record applicants for unemployment benefit, as we look on from the precipice of the worst economic crash since the 1930s. Key workers have emerged as national heroes, but their low-pay has highlighted imbalances in our societal values. High earners continue to work from the safety of their homes, and companies are still paying shareholders, whilst relying on government bailouts to pay their staff. It is clear the government has not acted radically enough.

Yet Britain has an established history of putting radical thoughts into practice.

In 1941, the wartime coalition government began to envision how British society should look after the war. The “homes for heroes” scheme had rewarded soldiers’ service in the First World War with proper housing, and it was felt a similar repayment for sacrifices in this conflict was due. By 1942, three long years before the war would end, the report was finished. Inside was the blueprint for the modern welfare state, which aimed to pool the resources of every working citizen to maintain a standard of living “below which no one should be allowed to fall”.

George Orwell commented at the time that “it is something of an achievement even to be debating such a thing in the middle of a desperate war in which we are still fighting for survival”. It would take 6 years until the crowning glory of these reforms was unveiled with the official opening of New Park Hospital in Manchester, the first NHS hospital. Offering free healthcare to all at the point of use, the NHS remains unique around the world.

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Parliamentary scrutiny of a Unitary Cabinet government during the coronavirus crisis – Part 2

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Read Part 1

After Prime Minister Rutte’s March 12 press conference, the Second Chamber ordered (!) all parliamentary parties to make researchers start working from home; only a skeleton staff of co-ordinating people remained and MPs not having meetings retreated. The First Chamber (Senate) only meets on Tuesdays and can only veto or pass laws; their meetings were temporarily suspended (many members are above 60 years old). This was unprecedented.

After Rutte’s 15 March press conference, the Second Chamber Presidium took a double drastic step: only plenary sessions and debates about the progress of the national Corona crisis (one a week) would proceed.  Scrutinizing activities by specialist parliamentary committees were to be conducted online via written contributions and committee debates would be conducted online. The weekly “Question Time” hour was cancelled for the time being. Because Parliament too falls under the maximum 100 persons in a room rule (we have 150 MPs), the 15 parliamentary parties were allowed to have one or two MPs from each participating in plenary debates. To obey the constitutional quorum for plenary sessions, other MPs would sign in but retreat after that.

This sort of thing has never happened since the foundation of the Dutch unitary state and its two-chamber parliament in 1814-15. Right after occupying the Netherlands, the Germans disbanded parliament in May 1940; it reconvened after liberation in summer 1945.

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    Thanks Liz. It’s an important site and thanks for publicising this vital cause. Lib Dem Voice readers can find out more of the history and...
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    I am afraid that this is a type of "magical thinking" that is often seen. All tax is tax, and all taxes are eventually borne...
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    I found Layla Moran's self-description as "pansexual" both amusing and pretentious. In general politicians talk too much about their private lives. If she felt the...