Tag Archives: stephen williams

Opinion: Stephen Williams is right to support the criminalisation of squatting

It’s always a pleasure to see a Liberal Democrat MP standing up for our core liberal values. And among the core principles of liberalism, private ownership of property is of huge importance.

So it’s truly gratifying to see that Stephen Williams, MP for Bristol West, is taking a stand to protect owners of property from being dispossessed. Stephen has given his support to legislation, to be brought before parliament by the government, to criminalise squatting.

This is highly welcome and long overdue. Squatting has for too long been portrayed as a victimless crime, a Robin Hood grab …

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Clegg’s bailed-out banks’ shares give-away proposal triggers national debate

Nick Clegg’s very public call for the British public to be given shares in the bailed-out banks — creating 46 million shareholders and allowing collective ownership of banks — has garnered acres of coverage the past couple of days.

It’s three months since Lib Dem MP Stephen Williams first proposed the privatisation of its 83% stake in RBS and 41% in Lloyds by distributing shares to the public. Here’s what my co-editor Mark Pack said about the idea at the time:

Giving everyone shares in the banks: Stephen Williams’s proposals examined (7th March, 2011)
Stephen Williams’s plan is to give shares

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Opinion: Liberal Youth promote intergenerational fairness for Bank Shares

Nick Clegg’s innovative proposal to give the public shares in Lloyds and RBS is enthusiastically welcomed by Liberal Youth: but we believe that these reforms can go even further. Young people are bearing the brunt of the recession caused by the banks both in a lack of jobs and lost funding for education, and because it is the next generation that will be paying off the government’s debt for years to come. It is only right the government should give something back to them.

While Nick’s proposal represents exactly the kind of fairness that Liberal Democrats seek to bring to …

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The Budget: the Liberal Democrat influence

Earlier today the Liberal Democrat Press Office’s Phil Reilly tweeted, “Income Tax cut – from the front page of the @libdems manifesto to the pockets of 25m taxpayers”.

Certainly better to pick from the front page than the back page, as announcing a barcode would have been lacking a little in interest (except, perhaps, to one of my former economics lecturers, who once tried to persuade us that the checksums on barcodes matched up with a warning from the Bible and predicted an imminent Second Coming).

That however wasn’t the only major policy was a distinct Liberal Democrat flavour to it. So too was the news about pensions. As Stephen Williams MP put it, “Proposals for a £140 flat rate pension, together with the Lib Dem commitment of restoring the earnings link, will ensure our pensioners get a fair deal”.

HM Treasury logoBoth of those announcements were unsurprising, but one decision that had been up in the air was over the Green Investment Bank and how much power it really would have. George Osborne’s previous strange absence from the debate was put to rest when he announced a series of pieces of good news on the Green Investment Bank: starting a year earlier, £2 billion more in funds and, crucially, it can borrow. As Paul Waugh put it “Big victory for Cable”, not to mention Chris Huhne and Nick Clegg, who had taken the lead in settling the internal debate over how much powers to give.

Amongst the details was success for the long-standing Liberal Democrat calls for water rates relief in the South West, though overall the details did not add up to a particularly green budget, Green Investment Bank aside. The IFS’s initial analysis is that, “The Chancellor also insisted that green taxes will rise as a proportion of total receipts. This remains the case on current Treasury forecasts, but by the narrowest of margins”. Some of the non-financial measures, such as the new standard for zero-carbon homes, give the Budget a greater overall green tinge than the pure financial numbers show. How deep that tinge is will depend on how measures such as the presumption in favour of sustainable development pan out when the details are settled.

Here’s the email from Nick Clegg to party supporters about the Budget:

Today the coalition government has announced a budget that will return the UK to sustainable and balanced economic growth and which puts helping Alarm Clock Britain at its heart.

We are increasing the income tax threshold by £630 to £8105; lifting hundreds of thousands of low income earners out of paying income tax and putting £126 back in the pockets of low and middle income earners. This is in addition to the last budget that took nearly a million of the lowest income earners out of tax and made millions of hard working individuals £200 better off. We are making a real difference in people’s lives – from the front page of our manifesto to people’s back pockets.

Alarm Clock Britain will be further helped by the measures we have taken to give motorists a fairer deal. We are shifting taxation away from the pumps and onto the broader shoulders of the oil companies instead – with fuel duty being cut and taxation on oil companies rising.

At the same time we are making the wealthy pay their fair share with increased measures to tackle tax avoidance, higher charges for non-doms and a special tax on private jets. This budget also places green growth front and centre – the Green Investment Bank will begin operation next year with £3bn of capitalisation, delivering an additional £18bn of investment in green infrastructure by 2014-15.

We were left a toxic economic legacy by Labour with a record deficit and debt. Under Ed Balls Labour have no answers and solutions to the mess they left. The difficult decisions we have taken in government have rebuilt confidence in Britain’s ability to pay its way, kept interest rates lower than they would otherwise have been, and have provided the stability that business and individuals need to invest in the UK’s economy.

There are no easy decisions in this budget. But we are delivering a budget which will mean that that those who can pay more will; and those who are working hard to make ends meet will get a helping hand. This budget is progressive, green, liberal and what our country needs at this time.

Earlier in the day Danny Alexander took to YouTube to talk about the Budget:

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The Independent View: How the Stephen Williams plans for the banks would work

Portman Capital, an independent corporate advisory firm, has been asked to comment upon the technical issues raised by Mark Pack’s column on Stephen Williams’ proposal to privatise RBS and Lloyds by distributing the shares to the public. Portman Capital is not politically aligned and its comments are intended to explain the technical feasibility of the proposal rather than its political aspects.

The proposal to distribute the shares to the UK people is innovative, and as the British people will participate without having to provide cash up front, it has fairness at its core. Over time, the scheme is likely to …

Posted in Op-eds and The Independent View | Also tagged | 3 Comments

Giving everyone shares in the banks: Stephen Williams’s proposals examined

This morning saw the launch of a plan for giving away bank shares from Liberal Democrat MP Stephen Williams. Laid out in a pamphlet published by CentreForum, Stephen Williams’s plan is to give shares owned by the government in the banks to everyone on the electoral register. A floor would be set so the shares could not be sold until they had passed the price paid by the government and individuals would only keep any gains made above that floor price. In other words, as the shares rise in price and get sold the government gets back the funds it put into the banks and, if the banks do well, the public gets to profit from that.

It’s a neat idea, and one of the first substantive plans for what the government could do with its 83% of RBS and 41% of Lloyds. As is to be expected with any plan for such a controversial area, it raises a number of questions.

First, the government only gets back the money put into the banks if people sell their shares. If people hold on to them, those funds do not come back to government – and in particular that means a large source of possible government funds ends up being highly dependent on what can be very volatile stock markets. Such uncertainty would apply to other policies too – including direct government selling of shares on the stock market – but it is still an issue.

Second, even leaving aside the uncertainty, would this route raise more or less money for the government than a straight-forward sell off of shares? Stephen Williams and colleagues think so, as their Q&A explains,

The absolute and relative size of the Government’s shareholdings in Lloyds Group, and RBS make it conventional exit through share sales impossible at a reasonable price. In other words, shares would have to be sold at a substantial discount over many transactions over a number of years. This increases the risk that the public would never get its money back – as has happened in the US, where the Obama Administration has lost at least $10bn in selling a tranche of its GM shares.

Third, the degree to which shareholders have failed to hold boards of directors to account has been bad enough even with big institutional shareholders, let alone with mass small-scale shareholdings. But given how poor institutional shareholders have been, would this situation really be that much worse?

Fourth, by giving the same amount of shares to everyone, there is a neat piece of simplicity combined with fairness. Because the sale of shares would be subject to capital gains tax, the initial allocation of shares would have the virtue of simplicity whilst subsequent capital gains tax revenues would mean that the richest end up paying more of what they have been given back in tax.

Fifth, although I said “simplicity”, relying on the electoral registers raises issues of principle and practicality. The principle is about whether the electoral register should be used solely for electoral purposes. The practicality is about the accuracy of the electoral register. The offer of money in return for being on the register would most likely be an extra incentive for people to register, but what about then deliberate fraudulent register entries? Having a system that is resistant to fraud makes the idea not quite as simple as it looks at first.

(Strictly speaking, it’s not just the electoral register the proposal uses. As the Q&A explains, shares would go to “those on the electoral roll for UK elections who are resident in the UK for tax purposes. In addition, non-UK nationals serving in HM Forces and their dependents should be eligible on the same basis”.)

In other words, there are plenty of questions that the scheme raises, but as this is a proposal designed to help set the political agenda rather than a finely worked out imminent piece of legislation, that is as much a compliment as anything else. It’s a good contribution to the debate.

The Facebook page to support this proposal is at http://www.facebook.com/supportpublicshares.

Getting your share of the banks: Stephen Williams

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Clegg points to “clear liberal direction” of government, as Lib Dems highlight Labour’s economic woes

Nick Clegg used a prime-time slot on this morning’s Today Programme to make clear his view that the public will take a “more rounded view” of the Lib Dems’ achievements in government by the next election. As BBC News reports:

said the effect of the spending cuts would be “difficult”, adding: “But I think at the same time there are signs that the repair job we are doing on the government finances and the general creation of greater confidence in the economy might also start showing itself as well.

“I think it will be a crucial year – a crucial year, yes, of some very challenging circumstances for millions of people in this country, but I hope the beginning of a real turnaround as we move forward and as we successfully implement the repair job on the economy.” …

Asked whether the Lib Dems had been unsuccessful in implementing their manifesto commitments since forming the coalition, he replied that they had gone into the arrangement with the Conservatives “with our eyes wide open”. He said policies such as electoral reform, raising the point at which people pay basic-rate income tax and introducing a “pupil premium” to help children from the worst-off families had been largely due to his party’s efforts. Mr Clegg added: “I think this shows a clear liberal direction to this government, on the whole.”

He said: “These are the big benefits in British life which I acknowledge in a sense don’t present themselves immediately to people. Over the course of this parliament I believe people will take a more rounded view of what this government is doing.”

You can listen to a brief excerpt from Nick’s interview here:

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Wlliams: RBS must use profits to help struggling businesses

RBS is the latest British bank to return to profit, with the 84% state-owned bank reporting a first-half pre-tax profit of £1.14bn yesterday. This prompted Co-Chair of the Liberal Democrat Treasury Policy Committee, Stephen Williams, to make call for RBS to make greater efforts to assist UK firms:

RBS is almost entirely owned by the taxpayer, so these huge profits must be used for the national interest and not just to pay massive bonuses to senior staff. There is no excuse for RBS not to loan to good British companies that are struggling to get credit. We cannot simply allow

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Mandelson forcing universities to offer less choice and lower standards, says Stephen Williams

As early Christmas presents go, Lord (Peter) Mandelson’s announcement of swingeing cuts to university budgets lacked something of the festive spirit – the BBC reports:

The government is to cut university funding in England by a total of £398m for 2010-11 compared with this year, Business Secretary Lord Mandelson said. In a letter to the Higher Education Funding Council For England (Hefce), he also asks universities to protect quality and access to higher education. His letter confirms efficiency savings of £180m and £83m – and makes a further £135m budget reduction.

Liberal Democrat Shadow Universities Secretary, Stephen Williams, is none too …

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Stephen Williams condemns Bristol Tories’ attack on anti-homophobia charity

Pink News has the story:

A Liberal Democrat MP has accused both the Tories on Bristol council and one of the city’s newspapers of misrepresenting a National Lottery grant to a gay group. The Bristol Evening Post ran a story yesterday on Educational Action Challenging Homophobia (EACH). The highly-respected group has been awarded £391,668 by the Big Lottery Fund for a project reaching out to LGBT young people.

EACH said on its website:

“Throughout the next five years this will be spent upon EACH’s ground-breaking project, REACH: supporting lesbian, gay or bisexual young people develop a sense of pride in their identity and help their peers and adults in young people’s settings challenge homophobic bullying.”

The leader of the Conservative group on Bristol City Council, Councillor Richard Eddy, told the paper the grant was “mistaken and misguided” and “an outrageous waste of money.”

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Can you help save Bletchley Park for the nation?

Lib Dem councillor and blogger Mary Reid has issued the following plea, which The Voice is delighted to advertise further:

Lib Dem MP Phil Willis has put down EDM 1935 as follows:

Willis, Phil

That this House recognises the signficance of Bletchley Park, historic site of secret British code-breaking activities during the Second World War and birthplace of the modern computer; acknowledges that the use of the intelligence gained at Bletchley Park and subsequent related actions of the Allies is said to have shortened the Second World War by two years, saving countless lives; and calls on

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Conference: Higher education paper

Breaking news! The Lib Dem Voice cupboard has a WINDOW! Yes, it’s a slightly unnerving black smoked glass internal window which reflects us as well as revealing the outside world, but it’s a window!

I missed Simon Hughes’ speech this morning, which is a shame as I am extremely hopeful about his capacity to advance the environmental agenda – we’ll bring you that video as soon as we’ve established that it exists.

Listening now to the motion on the Investing in Talent, Building the Economy paper (Adult, Further and Higher Education policy paper).

I’ve missed the movement from Stephen Williams, and come …

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Stephen Williams speaks out on Lib Dem tuition fees policy

A recent Lib Dem Voice article which attracted a great deal of comment from LDV readers posed the question, Lib Dems to drop Tuition Fees pledge? Stephen Williams, Lib Dem MP for Bristol West, and the party’s shadow secretary of state for Innovation, Universities and Skills, has just posted this comment to the thread, setting out his views:

Let’s get some facts on the record. In the 2001 and 2005 elections in Bristol West I stated quite clearly that I opposed students paying fees. I stand by those comments completely and emphatically.

The policy review I am leading is to

Posted in News and Party policy and internal matters | 19 Comments

Lib Dems to drop Tuition Fees pledge?

The Telegraph’s Jonathan Isaby and Iain Dale point to an interview Lib Dem MP Steve Williams gave to the Times Educational Supplement a few days ago.

In it, the Lib Dem Shadow Secretary for Innovation, Universities and Skills was asked about the party’s commitment to abolishing tuition fees. The TES reports:

Stephen Williams, Lib Dem Shadow Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills, said that the policy was not sustainable… Nick Clegg, the leader of the party, had come to this conclusion after “long internal discussions”.

The magazine also reports that Cambridge MP and Shadow Solicitor General David Howarth …

Posted in Conference, News and Party policy and internal matters | Also tagged | 58 Comments

Labour and the Lib Dems

To the Marriott Highcliff Hotel for CentreForum and the Fabian Society’s lunchtime fringe: Labour and the Lib Dems: Allies or enemies? Squeezing myself between John Piennar and Rita Chakrabarti, it was standing room only as I watched Stephen Williams, David Lammy, Vince Cable and Charles Clarke argue their respective points.

Nabbing the free orange juice (it’s apparently politer to say “complementary”, but not once did the juice say how nice I’m looking) as I arrived, Stephen Williams was finishing his opening remarks and so I cannot regale you with the nuanced argument he made. Suffice to say, his overwhelming intelligence was …

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How the MPs are lining up (UPDATED)

By popular request, here’s the current list of which Lib Dem MPs have declared for which leadership candidate so far. (Originally compiled with the help of Jonathan Isaby of The Daily Telegraph.)

The list shows that Nick has attracted two MPs who supported Chris as leader in 2006: Greg Mulholland and Stephen Williams; and eight who supported Simon Hughes (all listed below). Chris has attracted one former Ming Campbell backer – Tom Brake – and three MPs who supported Simon Hughes last time.

Eight MPs have stated they will not declare for any candidate; four have yet – so far as I’m aware – to state their intentions.

As we continue to note, the number of MPs who declare for any one candidate is, in one sense, irrelevant: we are a one-member-one-vote party. Clearly, however, MPs’ endorsements will carry some influence with party members, especially among non-activists.

The full list appears below:

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How the MPs are lining up (UPDATED)

I’m grateful to Jonathan Isaby of The Daily Telegraph, who has compiled (and allowed me to reproduce here) his up-to-date list of which Lib Dem MPs have declared for which leadership candidate so far.

Jonathan comments: “Below are my most up-to-date lists, which suggest that Huhne now cannot possibly overtake Clegg in terms of MPs declaring. Brackets state where they went in the 2006 election.”

The list shows that Nick has attracted two MPs who supported Chris as leader in 2006: Greg Mulholland and Stephen Williams; and seven who supported Simon Hughes (all listed below). Chris has attracted one former Ming Campbell backer – Tom Brake – and two MPs who supported Simon Hughes last time.

Nine MPs have stated they will not declare for any candidate; 14 have yet to state their intentions.

As was pointed out in the comments on yesterday’s thread, the number of MPs who declare for any one candidate is, in one sense, irrelevant: we are a one-member-one-vote party. Clearly, however, MPs’ endorsements will carry some influence with party members, especially among non-activists.

It will also influence how the media perceives, and then reports, the strengths of the respective leadership campaigns. Though, of course, being seen as the favourite is not always the most comfortable of positions, as Ming Campbell discovered last time. Lib Dems do love an underdog.

Posted in Leadership Election and News | Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , and | 26 Comments

Lib Dem MPs flock to Facebook

There’s been a flurry of Liberal Democrat MPs starting to use the social networking site Facebook in the last few weeks – including party leader Ming Campbell (the first UK party leader to do so, just as he was the first on Google Video and YouTube), Jo Swinson, Steve Webb, Stephen Williams and Lynne Featherstone.

Facebook used to only be open to students – and so there is a strong Lib Dem Youth and Student presence on it – but has recently been opened up to anyone.

If you are a Facebook user yourself or you …

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Stephen Williams goes on YouTube

As part of the third annual Anti-Bullying Week, Lib Dem MP Stephen Williams has done a clip for YouTube about the problems of homophobic bullying:

Posted in Lib Dem TV and News | Also tagged | Leave a comment

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    Joe Bourke, I don’t understand why you are targeting your comments about Torry’s ‘permanent Citizen’s Basic Income’ being re-distributive at me, when I wrote stating...
  • User AvatarSue Sutherland 9th Jul - 6:48pm
    Congratulations Jo!
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    I don’t know about bringing “new thinking and approaches to traditional economics”. Surely Rishi Sunak is there already.
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    Lorenzo: The National Theatre, like other producing houses, is very much the exception, not the rule. I know several members of their sound department, so...
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    We must thank William Wallace for this concise and penetrating article, detailing and describing the horrifying choice the Conservative Party has made by hitching its...
  • User AvatarFiona 9th Jul - 6:05pm
    @Peter, that's not how I read it. I read it as working on ways to move away from 'traditional economics' and those ways of thinking,...