Tag Archives: rwanda

30 April 2024 – yesterday’s (other) press releases

  • Suspected drug deaths up by 11%
  • Welsh Lib Dems criticise Tata’s “heavy handed” approach to steel workers concerns
  • Cole-Hamilton speaks in abortion safe access zones debate
  • UK Governments Rwanda plans are “cold and callous”- Welsh Lib Dems
  • Blackie: scrap business rates, boost our high streets

Suspected drug deaths up by 11%

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP has today warned that the country’s drugs crisis continues to “end lives and blight communities”, as new quarterly statistics revealed that suspected drug deaths have increased by 11%.

Figures published today show that between December 2023 and February 2024, the total number of suspected drug deaths was 278, which is 11% higher than the previous quarter in which 267 suspected drug deaths were recorded.

Public Health Scotland also confirmed that: “Based on the latest post-mortem toxicology testing, nitazenes were detected in 38 deaths (from the first detection in June 2022 to 31 December 2023).”

Mr Cole-Hamilton said:

Scotland’s drug deaths emergency continues to end lives and blight communities.

We are also seeing increasing evidence of nitazenes, a synthetic opioid 50 times stronger than heroin, contributing significantly to that crisis.

I have joined with campaigners in warning that these substances represent a growing part of the drugs death crisis, highlighting that their presence in Scotland will require an immediate response. That’s why I asked Humza Yousaf about nitazenes during First Minister’s Questions in early January.

Despite these emerging threats, the Scottish Government have delivered a brutal real-terms cut to drug services.

Well-meaning words and promises just won’t cut it. As well as delivering radical and transformational action to help all those suffering, I want ministers to protect and strengthen the drug and alcohol budget so that everyone can access care when they need it.

Welsh Lib Dems criticise Tata’s “heavy handed” approach to steel workers concerns

Today in the Senedd, the Welsh Liberal Democrats have called out Tata Steel for threatening to withdraw redundancy packages from workers at their Port Talbot site if they decide to go on strike over potential job losses.

The company also rejected plans submitted by the unions which would have kept at least one of the blast furnaces running at the site.

Posted in London, News, Press releases, Scotland and Wales | Also tagged , , , , , , and | 1 Comment

30 April 2024 – yesterday’s (Federal) press releases

  • Uber Ambulance: Thousands in need of urgent care making their own way to A&E
  • Homelessness figures: Ban no fault evictions before more families made homeless
  • Ed Davey says voters are fed up with “out of touch Conservatives” on visit to Tunbridge Wells
  • First Rwanda flight is “cynical nonsense”

Uber Ambulance: Thousands in need of urgent care making their own way to A&E

  • Patients in need of “very urgent emergency care” making their own way to A&E increased by nearly 40% since 2019
  • The number of elderly patients in need of emergency care going to A&E not in an ambulance has shot up by more than 20%
  • The Liberal Democrats warn Conservative government is creating an “Uber ambulance crisis”

There has been a near 40% increase in the number of patients in need of “very urgent emergency care” making their own way to A&E over the past five years, Freedom of Information requests (FOIs) by the Liberal Democrats have revealed.

NHS Trusts were asked for the number of patients who arrived at their A&E departments not in an ambulance, broken down by the urgency and severity of their condition.

504,276 patients classed as Code 2, meaning they were deemed to be in need of “very urgent emergency care”, arrived at A&E not in an ambulance in 2023. This was up 11,500 (2.4%) compared to the previous year, and up 141,000 (38.9%) compared to 2019.

The Liberal Democrats warned the Conservative government is creating an “Uber ambulance crisis” and called on ministers to urgently invest in ambulance services, staffed hospital beds and social care to reduce delays.

The figures also show there has been a particularly sharp rise in elderly patients making their own way to A&E despite needing urgent care. 96,000 patients aged over 65 in need of “very urgent emergency care” made their own way to A&E last year, up 45.4% since 2019.

53 of 140 NHS Trusts responded with complete data meaning the true numbers of patients needing urgent care making their own way to A&E is likely to be far higher.

Some Trusts saw staggering rises in the number of patients arriving in A&E not in an ambulance with very urgent emergency care needs. In York and Scarborough there was a more than eight-fold rise in Code 2 patients coming to A&E not in an ambulance with the figure last year reaching 7,669, up from just 808 in 2019.

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Tom Arms’ World Review

United States of America

Here’s the problem facing the US Supreme Court: Should US presidents – in and out of office – have total or partial immunity from criminal prosecution for acts they committed while in the Oval Office?

Or does the failure to provide this blanket immunity expose past presidents to political vendettas by their successors or other political opponents?

Or would Donald Trump’s appeal for blanket immunity – in the words of Justice Elena Kagan – “turn the Oval Office into a sea of criminality.”

This week the Justices heard oral arguments from lawyers representing Trump on one side and Special Prosecutor Jack Smith on the other. The latter is attempting to bring the former president to trial for his role in the 6 January Capitol Hill riots.

The Justices will now go away and ponder the arguments and issue a decision several weeks from now. Court-watchers are split on what the decision is likely to be. Quite often one can determine the outcome from the questions the Justices ask. Not so, this time as the Justices are painfully aware of the impact of their decision on the actions of future presidents as well as those of Donald Jesus Trump.

Many observers think the Supreme Court will issue a split decision. This would please the Trump team as it would mean referral back to the lower courts and delay, delay, delay.

As the Justices ponder, they may consider the words of pamphleteer Thomas Paine, whose 1776 “Common Sense” had a major impact on the American War of Independence and the constitution which the Justices are sworn to protect. “Where,” wrote Paine, “is the King of America? In America the law is king. For as in absolute governments the King is law, so in free countries the law ought to be king; and there ought to be no other.”

United Kingdom and Rwanda

The British government has declared itself the final arbiter of reality. It has decreed that if it says that a country is safe then it is safe, regardless of whether it is or not.

Most everyone – except for the government of Rishi Sunak – agrees that Rwanda is not safe. Freedom House judges it as “not free”. Human Rights Watch says that protesting refugees have been fired on by Rwandan police. Others have simply disappeared. The Rwandan government is supporting the M23, a violent faction in the Democratic Republic of the Congo which has been accused of war crimes.

For all of these reasons – and others – the UK Supreme Court in November ruled that the Sunak’s plans to send asylum seekers to Rwanda was “unlawful” because Rwanda is not a safe country.

So the government passed a bill which decreed that Rwanda is safe and the UK Supreme Court cannot say otherwise if the UK government say it is. A clear blow to the traditional independence of the British judiciary and its much vaunted respect for the rule of law.

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6 March 2024 – today’s press releases (part 2)

  • Budget: Rishi’s recession followed by Hunt’s hangover
  • Scot Lib Dems respond to a spring budget that lets down NHS and mortgage holders
  • “Bottler’s Budget”: Hunt and Sunak slammed for running scared of May General Election
  • Dock Donelan’s pay to foot £15,000 legal cost
  • Rwanda Bill Votes: Policy is fatally flawed

Budget: Rishi’s recession followed by Hunt’s hangover

Responding to the Spring Budget, Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey MP said:

This is a bottom-of-the-barrel Budget from a Conservative government that has given up on governing. Rishi’s recession is being followed by Hunt’s hangover, with years of unfair tax hikes while local health services are stretched to breaking point.

This Budget had nothing to offer for people seeing their mortgage soar due to Conservative chaos or being left waiting for months in pain for NHS treatment.

The public will see this for what is: a desperate last throw of the dice by a Conservative government that has neglected the NHS, trashed the economy and overseen a record fall in living standards. It couldn’t be clearer that we need a general election now so voters can finally kick this tired and out-of-touch government out of office.

Scot Lib Dems respond to a spring budget that lets down NHS and mortgage holders

Responding to the Spring Budget, Liberal Democrat Scottish Affairs spokesperson Christine Jardine said:

This really is a budget with little to offer families struggling with Rishi’s recession. It felt like a few scraps from a government which knows it’s out of time.

The national insurance cut is meaningless because of stealth taxes elsewhere.

Scottish Liberal Democrats are on the side of hardworking Scots who want to see their bills and NHS waits cut. Where was the help for people with soaring mortgages or spending months in pain waiting for NHS treatment?

The sooner voters get the chance to deliver their verdict the better.

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12-14 February 2024 – this week in the Lords

Whilst the Commons takes the week off, their senior colleagues down the corridor continue to work their way through the legislative process…

There were no Liberal Democrat Oral Questions last week, so of course Monday sees two. Dominic Addington has a question on Government plans what plans they have to ensure that all schools have the capacity to identify and implement a plan of support for the most commonly occurring special educational needs, a particularly topical question given the impact of such support on local government budgets. Tim Clement-Jones wants to know what …

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22-26 January 2024 – this week in the Lords

Hello, dear readers, and we meet again for another episode of the costume drama that is the House of Lords. And this week, it’s a “Rwanda week” even though the Rwanda Bill only received its formal First Reading on Thursday and isn’t due back until next Tuesday.

Even a relatively keen observer like myself is often surprised by the working of the Lords and, this week, the International Agreements Committee takes centre stage. I suppose, having thought about it, that any Parliamentary chamber would want to take a close look at international agreements signed in its name, and the House of Lords is no different. Chaired by Peter Goldsmith, the former (and rather controversial) Labour Attorney General, the Committee published its report on the UK-Rwanda Agreement on an Asylum Partnership. It doesn’t make good reading for the Government and, in typically courteous Lords fashion, accuses James Cleverly of effectively attempting to mislead the Committee (see paragraph 44). The report, including a series of recommendations, is to be debated on Monday and there will then be a motion, moved by Lord Goldsmith, resolving that:

His Majesty’s Government should not ratify the UK-Rwanda Agreement on an Asylum Partnership until the protections it provides have been fully implemented, since Parliament is being asked to make a judgement, based on the Agreement, about whether Rwanda is safe.

You can expect contributions from the two Liberal Democrat members of the Committee, Chris Fox and Tim Razzall, and there is every possibility of a Government defeat if Labour whip their members to vote for the motion.

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Tom Arms’ World Review

Ukraine

Remember Ukraine? A reminder: It is the East European country sandwiched between Russia and Poland which Russia invaded in February 2022.

You would be forgiven for letting it slip from your political consciousness. Six months ago it and its president Volodomyr Zelensky were being hailed as the “democratic shield” protecting the West from land-hungry autocratic Russia.

Now it has been pushed out of the headlines the corridors of concern by the war in Gaza and whichever crisis comes next.

The problem is that Ukraine cannot afford to slip off the front pages. It needs a successful PR campaign to stay in the war and keep the shield intact. Its armaments industry and its population are limited.

Russia’s manpower pool is four times the size of Ukraine’s. Its historic label is “steamroller.” Its armaments industry is ten times larger and was preparing years before the war started. It is also receiving weapons from Iran, North Korea and possibly China.

It is weapons that are particularly important at the moment, especially artillery shells which are used by both sides to hold the enemy at bay. Russia is estimated to have fired 22,000 rounds a day during the summer to stymie the Ukrainian counter-offensive. The Ukrainians fired 5,000 rounds.

European members of NATO promised Ukraine 1 million rounds of artillery shells by the end of 2023. It will fall well short of that target, although several European countries–  including Germany, the Netherlands, Britain, Norway, Sweden, Belgium, Finland and the Baltic states—have started to increase their armaments production. However, a lot of the increased production will go towards replacing depleted national stocks.

America, is, of course, the historic “arsenal of democracy.” But President Biden’s promised support is being held up by Republican congressmen who either want to divert money to Israel or feel that Ukraine is solely a European problem.

If the defense of Ukraine is left entirely to Europe then the hard-pressed European economies will have to increase armaments production even more. At the current rate, the million promised rounds is only enough to keep the Ukrainian guns firing for another six months.

UK and Rwanda

Britain’s Rwanda asylum issue is morphing into a constitutional crisis. At stake is the independence of the British judiciary, a long-established cornerstone of the country’s democratic foundations.

The UK Supreme Court recently threw out government plans to fly asylum seekers to the central African country of Rwanda. The basis of their decision was that the proposal was in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights, the UN Convention on Human Rights, the UN Convention on Refugees and three British acts of parliament relating to asylum seekers and refugees. Rwanda was not safe, ruled the court, because its government was likely to return asylum seekers to the country from which they had fled. This is known as refoulement.

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1-2 April 2023 – the weekend’s press releases

  • Water company fines: Pointless whilst it remains legal to dump sewage into swimming waters
  • Braverman pushes botched Rwanda scheme while queues pile up in Dover

Water company fines: Pointless whilst it remains legal to dump sewage into swimming waters

Responding to the Government re-announcing they will change the fine structure on water companies, Liberal Democrat Environment spokesperson Tim Farron said:

This is pointless whilst it remains legal for water companies to dump sewage into swimming waters. It is a national scandal that water companies are allowed to pump sewage into our rivers and coastlines all because Ministers refuse to get tough with them.

Conservative MPs have blocked taking tougher action on water companies, and these new half-baked plans from Ministers will do nothing to deter water companies from their polluting actions.

Thérèse Coffey must now resign. She has had months in post with nothing but hot air and empty rhetoric. Under Coffey’s plan, sewage will be pumped into our rivers for decades to come. Shamefully, the Environment Secretary has refused to ban water companies rewarding themselves with multi-million pound bonuses. It is time we had an Environment Secretary who actually cared about the environment.

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Yes, there are alternatives

I doubt if there are any descriptions and expletives not used about the Rwanda offshore processing scheme. The scheme in which Priti Patel wants to pack off asylum seekers arriving here by unorthodox means.

You can see the Liberal Democrats for Seekers of Sanctuary response to the proposal here: OFF SHORING PROCESSING OF ASYLUM SEEKERS IN RWANDA – STATEMENT FROM LD4SoS.

She is demanding to know alternatives, and yes there are. They are firmly embedded in Lib Dem policy.

The obvious one, most talked about, is Safe Routes for Refugees.  This has been mooted by Lib Dems since we first made the policy in 2015, and is as true as well as needed even more than it was in September 2015.  It has been in every manifesto commitment since.

However, more than that is needed.  Lib Dems have another policy, DECISION MAKING ON ASYLUM APPLICATIONS (pdf), saying that:

Liberal Democrats will review and reform all aspects of current asylum rules and operations that offend basic measures of fairness and justice. In particular, we would seek to change the culture of disbelief that affects all people applying for asylum. The Home Office is not fit for purpose and needs radical reform. The political influence must be taken out of decision making.

This is a radical departure from the present system, having respect, dignity and fairness at its heart.

It will cost more at first, with better trained staff, but decisions would be fairer and quicker.  It will be more accurate for the first time, so not so many appeals needed.  Appeals are not only traumatic for those making them, but cost the Ministry of Justice money, and 40% of them are won.  How much better for all if they get the decision right first time!

It would also be a system that took into account the different situations such as family reunion, unaccompanied children, victims of torture and rape, mental and physical health, and LGBT people.

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Welcome to my day: 18 April 2022 – in search of serenity…

Liberal Democrat Voice comes to you today from what is claimed to be the world’s oldest extant sovereign state, the Most Serene Republic of San Marino. For those who might not know, San Marino is about one-three hundred and fortieth the size of Wales and sits about ten miles inland from Rimini, on Italy’s Adriatic coast.

But we’re still talking about Rwanda, aren’t we? I wrote about the emerging plans to send asylum seekers to the East African country on Thursday, and as the proposals become clearer, they get worse. The idea that we’re going to pay the Rwandan Government to accept legitimate asylum seekers so that we don’t have to is a stain upon our nation’s reputation. And, of course, the proposals do nothing to address the people smugglers and criminal gangs who will continue to prey on desperate people.

What I was reminded about by the debate which followed was that there are some who callously and deliberately conflate seekers of asylum with economic migrants, and others who either deliberately or through a lack of knowledge, exaggerate the number of refugees reaching our shores. So, here’s the definition of refugee, courtesy of the 1951 United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees;

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What the UK can learn from Rwanda

rwanda

Young people are full of aspirations and energy, but our potential is often stymied by depressed economies, insecurity and limited opportunities to have a say in the decisions that affect our lives.

The issue of youth unemployment has crept up the political agenda, with little resultant action. There is a feeling among young people that our concerns and hopes are overlooked and our voices ignored. The way we see it, power still rests disproportionately in the hands of leaders, mostly men, twice our age or more.

Young people in Rwanda face many challenges, …

Posted in Op-eds | 2 Comments

Kishwer Falkner writes… Libya: our common humanity crosses frontiers to protect those we do not know

As tyrannical regimes go, Libya is right there at the top and ranks alongside North Korea for the unpredictability of its ruler, the self-styled Colonel Muammar Gaddafy, who used to be referred to by Ronald Reagan as the Middle East’s ‘mad dog’.

Having given up nuclear weapons he is admittedly slightly better than Kim Jong-il, but we cannot know for sure that he has also given up chemical and biological weapons. In a country where tribal loyalties prevail and where the four main tribes occupy the main positions, Gaddafi’s own tribe occupies the top posts and much of his internal repression is carried out through a myriad of different state security institutions as well as a plethora of paramilitary units, recruited from abroad.

The country does not have a constitution, but is run by a revolutionary ruling council which has been in situ for 42 years and cannot be dismissed. There have been regular attempts at coups over this period, which have been ruthlessly put down and there are no evident pointers to a peaceful succession.

Gaddafi’s four sons have long been involved in jostling for the top position and foreign governments were betting on Saif al Islam (the second son) to take over the reins, as he was increasingly the acceptable face of the regime.

Saif al Islam al Gaddafi was awarded a PhD from LSE enticingly titled “The Role of Civil Society in the Democratisation of Global Governance Institutions”. He chairs the Human Rights Commission of Libya, and lest anyone doubt that he is therefore a soft touch, he was his father’s voice last weekend displaying a similar determination to stay in power through putting down the uprising till as he put it, the last man, the last woman, and the last bullet had been expended. He appears to be delivering on his pledge.

Several hundreds have died in the last few days, hospitals are overflowing and as a crackdown has started, anyone moving on the street is shot dead. Reports say that ambulances are also shot at to deter them from trying to save the injured. The air force has been mobilised to bomb civilian residential areas, and the reign of terror has started.

So what should be done now, that the country has descended into chaos?

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Confirmed: Rwandans to get the vote from 10 March

The decision taken last year to let Rwanda join the Commonwealth means that Rwandan citizens living in the UK acquire the right to vote, including in Parliamentary elections.

This change will (thanks to an amendment to the British Nationality Act 1981, adding Rwanda to the list of Commonwealth countries) come in to force for elections from 10 March.

The Electoral Commission has told me they are about to send a circular out to electoral administrators informing them of the change.

Posted in Election law | Also tagged and | 1 Comment

Rwandans set to get vote in UK elections (updated)

Back last year I asked the question “Rwandans set to vote in UK elections?” The answer has now arrived and it is ‘yes’.

As I blogged last November:

One of the quirks of Britain’s imperial past is that Commonwealth citizens living here are able to vote, including in Parliamentary elections. This includes Mozambique residents who are able to vote because, although Mozambique was not part of the British empire, it was admitted to the Commonwealth in 1995 for political reasons.

As with Mozambique previously, Rwanda has now joined the Commonwealth despite not having been part of the British empire. In Rwanda’s …

Posted in Election law | 3 Comments

Daily View 2×2: 6 December 2009

It’s Sunday. It’s 7am. It’s time for a special Alan-rich (or is it Steve?) YouTube treat, but first the blogs and the news.

2 Must-Read Blog Posts

What are other Liberal Democrat bloggers saying? Here are two posts that have caught the eye from the Liberal Democrat Blogs aggregator:

  • The truth may not be out there after all: Peter Black reports on the Ministry of Defence winding down its UFO hunting activities. The fight on terrorism has been used to justify all sorts of policies, though the argument (made by someone Peter quotes) that UFO hunting is essential to the fight against terrorism is a new one to me.
  • ACPO U-turn on photographers and stop and search: But talking of absurdities done in the name of fighting terrorism, Carl Minns has welcome news on the police deciding that they’ve gone too far in stopping people taking photos.

Spotted any other great posts in the last day from blogs that aren’t on the aggregator? Do post up a comment sharing them with us all.

2 Big Stories

Harman attacks Tory tax break ‘for philanderers’

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