Chris Lucas

Liberal Democrat Campaigner, living and working in Weston Ward in the beautiful city of Bath. Learn more

The Liberal Democrat Coronavirus Update

by Liberal Democrats on Wed, 08 Apr 2020

Overcrowding will create coronavirus crisis in prisons

Responding to reports that Public Health England and HM Prison and Probation Service have advised the Government that a reduction of 15,000 prisoners is needed to safeguard prisoners and staff during the coronavirus pandemic, Liberal Democrat Justice Spokesperson Daisy Cooper said:

"While prisons remain overcrowded, they risk becoming a crucible for coronavirus. The steps Ministers have announced to release some prisoners early are welcome, but – as prison governors are warning – they clearly do not go far enough.

The Justice Secretary must publish the advice he has had from Public Health England and the Prison Service. If the Government has decided not to follow their advice, he should explain why."

If the Government doesn’t listen to prison governors and expert advice, it risks creating a Covid crisis in our prisons.

Ministers must urgently end overcrowding in prisons, including releasing all low-risk prisoners serving short sentences – not just those already reaching the final months of their sentence.

Government must extend transition period to focus on coronavirus crisis

Responding to a poll which has demonstrated the widespread support for extending the Brexit transition period, Acting Leader of the Liberal Democrats Ed Davey said:

“People will rightly see no reason why the Government should stick to its self-imposed deadlines on negotiating a new deal with the EU. At the moment we must focus on saving people’s lives by tackling the coronavirus."

That is why the Liberal Democrats have been calling for the transition period to be extended. Brexit is still a divisive issue and will have a serious impact on the economy – but right now we must be united and resolute in doing everything we can do support vulnerable people through the coronavirus crisis.

Lib Dem Chief Whip calls for all-party meeting on parliamentary proposals

The Liberal Democrat Chief Whip has today called for an urgent all-party meeting to discuss remote working for Parliament, including a special committee of MPs, chaired by the Leader of the Opposition, to scrutinise the Government’s coronavirus response.
 
In a letter to the Chief Whips of all parties in the House of Commons, Alistair Carmichael MP warned the necessary constraints caused by the spread of coronavirus mean “we must consider alternative arrangements.”
 
The letter follows confirmation from the Speaker of the House of Commons has backed calls for a "virtual" Parliament to allow MPs to keep on scrutinising the Government during the coronavirus outbreak.

Liberal Democrat Chief Whip Alistair Carmichael said:

People deserve reassurance that their representatives can fulfil their duties wherever they are in the country, even in these exceptional circumstances. MPs have to agree a plan that is fit for purpose for Parliament to return from recess on 21 April.
 
The Speaker of the House announced important steps towards remote working for Parliament this week. Leaders from all parties must now meet to urgently discuss these and other measures, in a spirit of cooperation in the national interest."

The proposals for a special committee to evaluate the Government response are just as important.

In uncertain times and with sweeping powers enacted, democratic accountability demands that the parties outside of government are at the heart of the discussion. We believe that it is right and proper that the Leader of the Opposition chair this committee.

 

Government must strengthen guidance on PPE in social care settings

Responding to reports in the Health Service Journal that plans are in place to deliver 30 million pieces of personal protective equipment to social care providers, Munira Wilson, Liberal Democrat spokesperson for Health, Wellbeing and Social Care said:

"Many social care staff, who are on the frontline of this crisis, will feel a huge sense of relief at the prospect of finally receiving personal protective equipment.

However, the suggestion from Ministers that supplies should be prioritised for those who currently have "close unavoidable contact with confirmed or suspected Covid-19 cases" is like locking the stable door after the horse has bolted. We should be doing everything possible to stop transmission of the virus into care settings in the first place, as well as onward transmission when a patient already has the virus."

The Government must also lay out exactly how Local Resilience Forums will guarantee delivery to all care providers in their area. At the moment, some care providers are excluded from local delivery networks, leaving them on their own when it comes to sourcing PPE, often at significantly inflated prices. 

The protection of all care staff, regardless of setting, must be an absolute priority.

Read this article on www.libdems.org →

Amidst the current turbulence, we wanted to let you know you still have a chance to contribute towards the Liberal Democrats election review.

Hundreds of members, constituency teams, donors, door knockers and other activists have sent in their own reflections and submissions; all have been read

The panel has been working intensively since appointment earlier in the year, and the process is a thorough one; submissions have been requested from all current MPs, all former Lib Dem MPs, as well as candidates in key target seats (both Conservative and Labour facing). All Regional Chairs have been asked for submissions, and both Welsh and Scottish parties have contributed. Many individual local organisations and party bodies have conducted their own reviews which have been subsequently sent into the panel. There have been many hours of 1-2-1 interviews between the panel and key decision-makers in the Parliamentary Party, at HQ and with other team members across the organisation, including ALDC.

Read this article on www.libdems.org →

A Passover like no other

by Mark Pack on Wed, 08 Apr 2020

Tonight, at sundown, Jewish communities across the globe will mark the beginning of Pesach/Passover. Over the next eight days, in the UK and around the world, Jewish people will commemorate the liberation of their ancestors from slavery in ancient Egypt.

The story of Passover teaches that freedom is coming, our current situation will not last forever, and out of our trauma grows new strength

However, this year’s Passover will be like no other in recent memory.

Read this article on www.libdems.org →

The Liberal Democrat Coronavirus Update

by Liberal Democrats on Mon, 06 Apr 2020

We are leading a cross-party call for improved mental health support amidst Covid-19 crisis

Social distancing means millions are now home alone, facing the prospect of only the most minimal contact with another soul for months. This isolation is likely to have a grave impact on their mental health.

Millions more, without being completely isolated, will still be struggling with the rapid changes the coronavirus has wrought upon our way of life. People's anxiety will be further fueled by concern for the health of loved ones, or stress resulting from the impact of the pandemic on jobs and livelihoods. 

Given the unprecedented events we are living through, the need for mental health support could not be clearer. That’s why the government must signpost the appropriate support services to every household, and adequately fund the charities that provide those services.

Writing to the Secretary of Health, Munira Wilson MP and a cross-party group of Parliamentarians have expressed fears that government advice to stay at home will leave people “worried about coronavirus, their jobs, housing” and “anxious about their family’s health and their own.”

Over 40 MPs from across the political spectrum have signed the letter highlighting the “inextricable link” between mental and physical health and urging the Government to:

  • launch a publicity campaign signposting the mental health support available during the coronavirus crisis.
  • send public health leaflets, which include advice on looking after mental  health and signposts to organisations that can offer mental health support during the crisis, to all homes.
  • increase the level of funding for mental health charities offering support during the coronavirus crisis, to reduce pressure on the NHS.

For more information about how you can take care of your mental health during the coronavirus outbreak, the mental health charity Mind has some useful guidance here.

Shifting goalposts for ventilator targets risks public confidence

Responding to the Health Secretary's statement today on the Andrew Marr Show that the required target for ventilators has been lowered to 18,000 from 30,000, Liberal Democrat Health Spokesperson Munira Wilson said: 

"Rather than shift the goalposts for vital equipment like ventilators, the Government must be realistic in the promises it makes during this crisis. Ministers are now risking losing public confidence in their ability to meet the goals already set out, whether on increasing the number of tests or the availability of personal protective equipment for frontline health and social care staff."

The vast majority of people will do whatever they can to support the NHS, protect their loved ones and help in their communities through this crisis.

In return, people want to be reassured that every single avenue is being explored to find solutions to pressing problems. With lives at stake, transparency could not be more critical.

Govt must go further to prevent Covid-19 crisis in prisons

Responding to news that the Ministry of Justice will temporarily release risk-assessed prisoners who are within two months of their release date to reduce the risk of coronavirus spreading in prisons, Liberal Democrat Justice spokesperson Daisy Cooper said:

"It's a relief to see that the Government are finally listening to prison governors, who have been warning of a Covid-19 crisis in overcrowded prisons for weeks. This decision should have come much sooner given the scale of the threat.

The Government must urgently take steps to further reduce risk in prisons, including releasing all low-risk prisoners serving short sentences - not just those already reaching the final months of their sentence. This would significantly reduce overcrowding in prisons, better protecting prison staff, prisoners and - by reducing transmission - help our NHS.

Lib Dems call for scrutiny through virtual Parliament

Responding to the news that the Prime Minister has invited opposition party leaders to attend a briefing on the coronavirus, Acting Leader of the Liberal Democrats Ed Davey said:

"We will of course engage with the Government about its strategy to tackle the coronavirus during this national crisis, continuing the constructive approach to questioning we have adopted from the start."

The best way to work together to combat this crisis is to ensure opposition parties are able to question the Government effectively so we can improve policy."

There are vital issues to address, not least how testing capacity is expanded faster, how our front-line health and social care staff access proper protective kit and how to cushion the economic crisis so groups of people aren’t unfairly excluded and our most vulnerable citizens aren’t left behind.

Opportunities for scrutiny must not just come by invitation from the Prime Minister - this should be an ongoing Parliamentary process.

That is why the Liberal Democrats have been calling for the creation of a New Zealand-style virtual Coronavirus Select Committee, with representation from across the House, chaired by the Leader of the Opposition and an early recall of a streamlined, virtual Parliament.

Our response to election of Sir Keir Starmer as Leader of the Labour Party 

Responding to the election of Sir Keir Starmer as the new Leader of the Labour Party, Acting Leader of the Liberal Democrats Ed Davey said:

"At this moment of national crisis, the role of all opposition parties must be to support measures to tackle the coronavirus, whilst also standing up for the most vulnerable by properly scrutinising the Government. I look forward to working with Keir Starmer on that task."

Saving lives from coronavirus remains the absolute priority. Vital issues such as expanding testing capacity, access to adequate protective equipment for frontline health and social care staff, and ensuring the most vulnerable are not left behind as a result of the economic uncertainty are at the top of the agenda. 

Liberal Democrats will always work with whoever we can to pursue our liberal values, to fight for action on the climate crisis and to build a more caring and just society. In those areas where we share common ground, Liberal Democrats and Labour now have an opportunity to work together, along with other progressive forces. 

As the chapter closes on one Labour leader, we hope the new one can see the Labour party play a constructive role in building an effective multi party opposition. That will be the litmus test of Keir Starmer’s leadership.

Read this article on www.libdems.org →

Social distancing means millions are now home alone, facing the prospect of only the most minimal contact with another soul for months. This isolation is likely to have a grave impact on their mental health.

Millions more, without being completely isolated, will still be struggling with the rapid changes the coronavirus has wrought upon our way of life. People's anxiety will be further fueled by concern for the health of loved ones, or stress resulting from the impact of the pandemic on jobs and livelihoods. 

Given the unprecedented events we are living through, the need for mental health support could not be clearer. That’s why the government must signpost the appropriate support services to every household, and adequately fund the charities that provide those services.

Writing to the Secretary of Health, Munira Wilson MP and a cross-party group of Parliamentarians have expressed fears that government advice to stay at home will leave people “worried about coronavirus, their jobs, housing” and “anxious about their family’s health and their own.”

 

 

Over 40 MPs from across the political spectrum have signed the letter highlighting the “inextricable link” between mental and physical health and urging the Government to:

  • launch a publicity campaign signposting the mental health support available during the coronavirus crisis.
  • send public health leaflets, which include advice on looking after mental  health and signposts to organisations that can offer mental health support during the crisis, to all homes.
  • increase the level of funding for mental health charities offering support during the coronavirus crisis, to reduce pressure on the NHS.

The Mental Health Foundation and Campaigns at Young Minds have both supported the cross-party efforts.

Mark Rowland, Chief Executive of the Mental Health Foundation, said: 

“Supporting and protecting people’s mental health will be critical for people to endure and recover from this pandemic. Peer support approaches and prominent advice should be central to the government’s plan, with a particular focus on reaching those most at risk.”

Tom Madders, Director of Communications and Campaigns at Young Minds said: 

"It is crucial that young people are able to access support at this time and know where to find good quality information and resources on how they can look after their mental health at home.

Now is the time for us all to work together and support those most at risk in our society.

The Government must fully recognise the growing mental health impact that COVID-19 will continue to have on children and young people, and ensure that those professionals and organisations providing mental health support are well enough resourced and supported to do so.”

For more information about how you can take care of your mental health during the coronavirus outbreak, the mental health charity Mind has some useful guidance here.

Read this article on www.libdems.org →

Need something to read? Lib Dem Image has you covered

by Dan Schmeising on Sat, 04 Apr 2020

I'm sure many of us have said that we're going to use lockdown as an opportunity to catch up on some reading. Well, we’ve got the perfect thing!

A good book or two provides a wonderful escape from these uncertain times

Read this article on www.libdems.org →

Ed Davey Responds to Keir Starmer Being Elected Labour Leader

by Sir Ed Davey MP on Sat, 04 Apr 2020

At this moment of national crisis, the role of all opposition parties must be to support measures to tackle the coronavirus, whilst also standing up for the most vulnerable by properly scrutinising the Government. I look forward to working with Keir Starmer on that task.

Saving lives from coronavirus remains the absolute priority. Vital issues such as expanding testing capacity, access to adequate protective equipment for frontline health and social care staff, and ensuring the most vulnerable are not left behind as a result of the economic uncertainty are at the top of the agenda. 

Liberal Democrats will always work with whoever we can to pursue our liberal values, to fight for action on the climate crisis and to build a more caring and just society. In those areas where we share common ground, Liberal Democrats and Labour now have an opportunity to work together, along with other progressive forces


As the chapter closes on one Labour leader, we hope the new one can see the Labour party play a constructive role in building an effective multi party opposition. That will be the litmus test of Keir Starmer’s leadership.

Read this article on www.libdems.org →

The Liberal Democrat Coronavirus Update

by Liberal Democrats on Fri, 03 Apr 2020

NHS debt write off win must come with testing and PPE investment  

Liberal Democrat MP Tim Farron claimed a campaign victory yesterday after the Government announced it will write off over £13bn of NHS debt and he has called for investment in Covid-19 testing and PPE for NHS staff.
 

The announcement came after former Leader of the Liberal Democrats, Tim Farron, revealed last year through a freedom of information request that £607,404,854 worth of interest on outstanding debt was paid by NHS Trusts to the Department for Health and Social Care in the previous five years.

Liberal Democrat MP Tim Farron said:

"It should not have taken an international pandemic crisis for this to happen but it is very good news all the same.

On top of these debts were huge interest rates that robbed our local hospitals of millions of pounds every year. The money should have been spent money on frontline services."

 

The Liberal Democrats have long been pushing for the Government to axe these draconian interest rates. They cost my local hospitals trust the equivalent of running an entire radiotherapy unit every three years.
 
We must now ensure funding is urgently directed towards the roll out of adequate PPE and testing for NHS and social care staff.

Government loan scheme changes miss the crucial problem

Today, Acting Leader of the Liberal Democrats Ed Davey argued that the Chancellor's latest changes to the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loans Scheme still rely too much on traditional lenders.

He also called on the Government and the British Business Bank to fast track cash to desperate businesses by opening the scheme to new lenders including the UK's growing Fin Tech industry.

Acting Leader of the Liberal Democrats Ed Davey said:

"Although the Chancellor's loan scheme is well intentioned, it was badly designed from the start and the latest changes don't address the fundamental flaw in terms of the over-reliance on traditional lenders.  

Despite huge handouts in the 2008 financial crisis, the big banks have shown themselves institutionally incapable of serving the needs of Britain's small and medium sized businesses, at the speed this crisis demands.

The Chancellor needs to bring in other players with the skills and technology to meet this urgent challenge.

While the Government must make clear to big banks that they are expected to offer far better terms, now is the time to turn to smaller specialised alternative lenders, including our world leading Fin Tech industry.

These smaller competitors to the larger banks must be given a chance to show what they can do, with their more modern and agile digital platforms and their can-do attitude.

That's why Ed Davey has urged the state-owned British Business Bank administering the lending scheme to bring in the smaller, specialised lenders to fill in the gaps, and help get these zero interest loans out fast to save thousands of businesses.

Having given the traditional banks unprecedented support just a decade ago, the taxpayer will now demand far better from them - and expect the Government to turn to lenders who really want to help."

Davey response to postponement of COP26

Responding to reports that COP26 in Glasgow has been postponed, former Secretary of State for Climate Change and Acting Leader of the Liberal Democrats Ed Davey said:

"Regrettably it is the right decision to postpone COP26 during the coronavirus crisis. With the virus only just beginning to hit parts of our world, and with real worries about its impact on people here at home and in the world’s poorest countries, a global meeting involving thousands of people would simply be too risky to public health

Yet we can’t let up on efforts to battle the risk climate change poses to the world either - so it’s vital these key UN climate talks happen as soon as it’s safe to do so in 2021."

The British Government as the hosts of COP26 must now work with the UN, to look at other ways to maintain momentum for climate action, that don’t impact the fight against CV19

The Coronavirus crisis has shown that global problems need global solutions. Solving the climate emergency will take the same level of resolve and determination as we are showing during the coronavirus crisis.

 

Moran: Extend free school meal vouchers over the Easter holidays

The Liberal Democrats have called on the UK Government to ensure children on free school meals will continue to receive vouchers over the Easter holidays. 

The call follows confirmation from the Welsh Liberal Democrat Education Minister, Kirsty Williams, that children in Wales will also be offered free school meals during the break.

Liberal Democrat Education Spokesperson Layla Moran said: 

“Pupils on free school meals are some of the most vulnerable in our society and often rely on schools to provide their meals. With families struggling at this difficult time there is a real concern these children could go hungry

"I want to thank my colleague Kirsty Williams for leading the way on this in Wales. The UK Government must now urgently follow suit and ensure money is available for this to happen right across the whole of the UK."

Government must go further to avoid prisons crisis

Following the announcement from the Ministry of Justice that pregnant prisoners will be temporarily released from prison, Liberal Democrat Justice Spokesperson Daisy Cooper said:

“This decision to release prisoners who are pregnant and at increased risk from coronavirus is necessary and welcome, but should have been taken much sooner.

Prisons are overcrowded and prison staff were already massively overstretched before coronavirus. Now with 20% of staff off work due to the virus and rising, we are getting close to breaking point."

The Government must go much further and faster to prevent us sleepwalking into a huge Covid crisis in our prisons.

The Government must urgently listen to prison governors and end overcrowding in prisons, including releasing prisoners serving short sentences and suspending any new short sentences.

Read this article on www.libdems.org →

Migrant NHS heroes should be given indefinite leave to remain

by Liberal Democrats on Wed, 01 Apr 2020

The call follows reports that doctors, nurses and paramedics will automatically have their visas extended, free of charge, for one year.

The coronavirus crisis is an unprecedented threat and people are rightly worried. In times like this, we cannot thank front-line staff enough for going above and beyond to look after us all.

Extending the visas in the NHS is welcome, but the Government must also do so much more for the social care system and urgently rollout adequate PPE and testing.

Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson Christine Jardine said:

"There is a moral principle here. If someone is prepared to risk their life for this country, they must be allowed to live in it. All foreign national NHS workers fighting for our lives during the Covid-19 pandemic are heroes. They should be awarded indefinite leave to remain.

Read this article on www.libdems.org →

The Liberal Democrat Coronavirus Update

by Liberal Democrats on Tue, 31 Mar 2020

Ed Davey responds to Foreign Secretary's update on coronavirus

Responding to yesterday evening's update on coronavirus from the Foreign Secretary, Acting Leader of the Liberal Democrats Ed Davey said:

"Reports from many British citizens stuck overseas bring home the reality of the global scale of this crisis. Many have been in a desperate position, unsure whether they will be able to secure accommodation or access adequate supplies.

"The Foreign Office must ensure that British citizens will be able to return home, wherever they have been stranded, without exception

We welcome the steps the government is taking to charter flights in order to get people home, and to work to ensure commercial flights remain available where possible. 

The government must now make every possible effort to directly contact British citizens who are stuck, and do whatever is necessary to ensure they can board repatriation flights.

Misleading test numbers put public trust in government at risk

Responding to reports that the government did not in fact reach its target of 10,000 tests per day to diagnose coronavirus, Liberal Democrat Health Spokesperson Munira Wilson said:

"Throughout the coronavirus crisis the Liberal Democrats have always been clear that retaining the public's trust has to be a top priority for the government."

There needs to be an answer as to how this happened, as well as a commitment to ensure an incident such as this does not happen again.

Stopping the spread of coronavirus is hugely dependent on the public trusting the information and advice the government provides.

Extending the Brexit transition period is the right thing to do

Following a new Focaldata poll showing 64% of voters want Boris Johnson to “request an extension to the transition period in order to focus properly on the coronavirus”, Liberal Democrat Acting Leader Ed Davey said: 

“Extending the Brexit transition period now is the right thing to do. Boris Johnson must give tackling Coronavirus the government’s undivided focus. Saving lives must be the priority." 

This isn’t about old debates, it’s about the stark reality our country and the world is now faced with. Liberal Democrats will continue to urge the Prime Minister to immediately extend the Brexit talks.

Covid-19 testing must come with adequate PPE and extend to social care

Responding to Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove announcing increased testing capacity, Liberal Democrat Health Spokesperson Munira Wilson said:

"The coronavirus crisis is an unprecedented threat and people are rightly worried. In times like this, we cannot thank front-line staff enough for going above and beyond to look after us all.

Those risking their health to work on the frontline deserve assurances that the Government is doing everything it can to keep them safe."

New capacity for testing is welcome, but it must also come alongside adequate PPE and be extensively expanded to social care workers in order to best protect the most vulnerable.

Lib Dems say thank you to the NHS

Our health and social care workers are going above and beyond during this crisis - we want to say thank you.

To everyone working in the NHS and in our social care system: every doctor, nurse, carer, paramedic, health care assistant, manager, cleaner, administrator, pharmacist, those on the front-line and those keeping the NHS working behind the scene - thank you.

The best thing we can do for our healthcare staff right now is to follow the official NHS advice. That means staying at home if you’re not a key worker, keeping your distance in supermarkets, and quarantining yourself when you're showing symptoms.

Not all of these are easy steps to take - but we owe it to our NHS to help them help us.

We are also circulating a letter of appreciation to NHS staff, to show our thanks to them for putting themselves at risk to keep us all safe.

If you'd like to add your thanks, you can do so by following this link to sign our card.

Read this article on www.libdems.org →

Plans for Autumn Conference on hold

by Mark Pack on Mon, 30 Mar 2020

Plans for Liberal Democrat autumn conference on hold, online options to be explored instead

In the light of the coronavirus epidemic, the Federal Board has decided to put on hold plans for the preparation of a traditional party conference in the autumn and will make a final decision on whether to cancel the event in May.

In the meantime, the Federal Conference Committee will consider the feasibility of an online event, which might include some elements of a formal conference.

Read this article on www.libdems.org →

The Liberal Democrat Coronavirus Update

by Liberal Democrats on Fri, 27 Mar 2020

Government must provide resources so councils can house all rough sleepers

Responding to reports that the Government has written to all local councils asking them to find homes for all rough sleepers by the weekend to protect them from the coronavirus outbreak, Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran said:

"It is right that the Government is taking urgent action to find secure accommodation for rough sleepers, as Liberal Democrats have called for since this crisis began.

"The Government must also equip local authorities with the financial resources to provide sufficient secure emergency accommodation to meet demand. Ministers must also make specialist support available to those who struggle with addiction or other mental health issues, as is the case for so many people sleeping rough right across the UK."

 

Ultimately, this annoucement must be the first step towards long term efforts to end rough sleeping, not just in the face of the current crisis. The Government can make that commitment today by supporting my Bill to scrap the Vagrancy Act, repealing a Dickensian law which needlessly criminalises rough sleepers.

Liberal Democrats suspend Leadership Election until May 2021


Today, as a result of the Coronavirus crisis, the Liberal Democrat Federal Board has decided to postpone the leadership election until May 2021.

President of the Liberal Democrats Mark Pack said: 

“The country is currently going through our biggest crisis since 1945. Our party has decided that we must put all our attention into dealing with fallout from the Coronavirus.

The Liberal Democrats have always put the national interest first and I am proud of the role we have played in championing NHS and care workers, as well as sticking up for the self-employed.

We will continue to scrutinise government policy and fight for the most vulnerable in our society.”

Many self-employed cannot wait until June

Responding to the Chancellor’s announcement of support measures for the self-employed, Acting Leader of the Liberal Democrats, Ed Davey said:

“It does seem that Liberal Democrat pressure for a package for the self-employed has paid off, but I am hugely concerned about how long this will take to deliver. Many sole traders like taxi drivers, hairdressers and cleaners will not be able to wait until June."

We also worry about people who have been self-employed for less than a year who seem to be forgotten by this scheme. Many will have risked their savings to get started and it looks like they will get nothing from the package.

The Chancellor's promise that the self-employed can access loans is also worthless to the vast majority who won’t be able to provide the personal guarantees banks are asking small businesses for. 

Liberal Democrats will continue to listen to the self-employed, freelancers and agency workers and put forward their concerns so that people in a desperate financial situation get help as soon as possible, ensuring that no-one is left out.

Boris Johnson 'irresponsible' to turn down EU ventilators

Responding to Number 10’s confirmation that the UK will not be participating in EU ventilator procurement programmes, Acting Leader of the Liberal Democrats Ed Davey said:

"There is no reasonable justification for Boris Johnson’s refusal to participate in the EU’s procurement of ventilators. Surely we should be trying every possible means to get people seriously ill with coronavirus the ventilators they need.

Let's be clear: getting more ventilators to our NHS will save lives. Why won’t the Prime Minister put his Brexit views aside, given this crisis?"

By working together with other countries and using the strength of the single market, the government can help get PPE for NHS frontline staff and ventilators to those fighting the virus. 

Of course we want factories in the UK manufacturing ventilators and let’s source them from abroad where we can, but it looks deeply irresponsible not to work with our European neighbours on this too.

End prison overcrowding to slow spread of coronavirus

We are backing calls by prison governors to reduce overcrowding to slow the spread of coronavirus in prisons, following confirmation today of the first prisoner to die after contracting the virus.

Liberal Democrat Justice Spokesperson Daisy Cooper called on the Government to “urgently end overcrowding in prisons, including releasing prisoners serving short sentences and suspending any new short sentences.”

This echoes a warning yesterday from the Prison Governors Association, whose President Andrea Albutt told the Guardian: “If we have less prisoners doubled [up in cells], it will be easier to isolate those who’ve been confirmed as having the virus or have the symptoms, so we can delay the spread.

Liberal Democrat Justice Spokesperson Daisy Cooper said:

“Already one prisoner has sadly died after contracting coronavirus. The Government must act quickly to prevent prisons becoming a crucible for the virus.

“We need to protect prison staff, prisoners and our communities from this pandemic. But there is no chance of social distancing in prisons while they are so overcrowded, with many prisoners sharing cells built for one person.

The Government must listen to prison governors and urgently end overcrowding in prisons. It should release prisoners serving short sentences and suspend any new short sentences.

With tough licence conditions and electronic tagging, we can keep our communities safe from crime while also slowing the spread of coronavirus.

Read this article on www.libdems.org →

Postponing our Leadership Election

by Mark Pack on Thu, 26 Mar 2020

Not only are we going through what could become the country’s biggest crisis since 1945, but we’re also entering a very new world that will persist once the immediate crisis is over.

I’m proud of what we have achieved so far by championing NHS workers and pressing the Government on issues such as offering a better deal to the self-employed.

Read this article on www.libdems.org →

Thank you to the NHS

by Munira Wilson on Thu, 26 Mar 2020

The NHS takes care of us and keeps us safe every day.

Coronavirus is affecting every part of our lives and is already putting a huge strain on the NHS and NHS workers. We want to say thank you to the people working so hard to keep us all safe.

We are so lucky to live in a country where we have access to such high-quality healthcare that’s free at the point of use. It's saved countless lives and, over the coming weeks and months, it's going to save many, many more.

To everyone working in the NHS and in our social care system: every doctor, nurse, carer, paramedic, health care assistant, manager, cleaner, administrator, pharmacist, those on the front-line and those keeping the NHS working behind the scene - thank you.

The best thing we can do for our healthcare staff right now is to follow the official NHS advice. That means staying at home if you’re not a key worker, keeping your distance in
supermarkets, and quarantining yourself when you're showing symptoms.

Not all of these are easy steps to take - but we owe it to our NHS to help them help us.

We are also circulating a letter of appreciation to NHS staff, to show our thanks to them for putting themselves at risk to keep us all safe.

If you'd like to add your thanks, you can do so by signing the card:

Read this article on www.libdems.org →

How to help in a lockdown

by Sir Stuart Etherington on Wed, 25 Mar 2020

This week, the UK has gone into lockdown to slow the spread of coronavirus.

Those of us who can are staying at home and adapting to a new way of life, where we work from home, have hobbies at home and socialise only through video calls.

Read this article on www.libdems.org →

The Liberal Democrat Coronavirus Update

by Liberal Democrats on Wed, 25 Mar 2020

Coronavirus demonstrates how valuable our public service broadcasters are

Responding to the news that the BBC News is to suspend its plans to cut 450 jobs, Liberal Democrat DCMS spokesperson Daisy Cooper said:

"It is in times like this that our public service broadcasters demonstrate most clearly just how valuable they are. The BBC is right to ensure it remains properly staffed.

For older people in particular, television is one of the few ways during this crisis we can continue to connect to the outside world. The BBC has a vital role in communicating trusted health advice, scrutinising the Government’s actions, combating fake news and lifting the nation’s spirits."

 

When the coronavirus pandemic is over, we will look back in disbelief at the Government’s plans earlier this year to pull the BBC’s funding rug from underneath it.

In an age of global pandemics and misinformation, public service broadcasting is needed more than ever before. It is time the Conservatives put an end to their attacks on the BBC and protected our public broadcasters for future generations.

Government should turn day-one Universal Credit loans into grants immediately 

Responding to reports that that the Government has refused to axe the five-week wait for Universal Credit payments despite an additional 500,000 claims in 9 days, Acting Leader of the Liberal Democrats Ed Davey said:

“The Coronavirus crisis is an unprecedented threat with millions of families facing financial hardship

There are therefore legitimate questions that the Prime Minister must answer over his Government’s failure to act more quickly and compassionately for the huge numbers of people now facing a sudden financial crisis."

With more and more people needing to apply to universal credit, we must ensure all who are eligible and need support are getting it - and quickly.

A five week wait has always been too slow and unacceptable.

That is why Liberal Democrats have been calling on the Government to turn day-one Universal Credit loans into grants immediately and guarantee anyone who is laid off receives at least 20 days of full pay, starting now.

We must urgently put in place remote working for Parliament

 

In response to the Covid-19 crisis, Liberal Democrats are calling on political parties and parliamentary authorities to work together to urgently put in place remote working for Parliament.

It is right that Parliament physically closes to keep people safe, including parliamentary staff, but this cannot mean an end to scrutiny of the Government.

The political parties and parliamentary authorities must now work together to urgently put in place remote working for parliament – so MPs can continue to represent our constituents, raise urgent issues with Ministers and hold the Government to account for its response to this crisis.

On the issue, Acting Leader Ed Davey said

“Businesses of all sizes have found ways to keep going through video conferencing and other technology, so it cannot be beyond the wit of Parliament to do the same.

Parliamentary scrutiny is more important than ever during a national emergency, especially given the emergency powers needed to keep people safe. Liberal Democrats will be carefully scrutinising the Government’s use of these powers to make sure they do not curtail individuals’ rights and freedoms any further than necessary.”

 

Lib Dems lead call for suspension on VAT on energy bills in the face of coronavirus crisis

Liberal Democrat MP Jamie Stone has secured cross party support for his letter to the Chancellor calling for a suspension on VAT on energy bills through the coronavirus crisis.

The letter comes in the wake of figures from Uswitch forecasting that households could see bills increase as much as £195 as  a result of spending more time at home due to government restrictions to curb the spread of the virus. 

Jamie Stone, Liberal Democrat MP said:

"Right across the UK people are desperately worried about how they will make ends meet in the face of this crisis. Many already find themselves out of work, on reduced pay or having to rely on Universal Credit. Ensuring people using prepaid meters are not cut off is a first step, but there are many who will need further assistance.

"The very least the government can do is offer people a break from VAT on energy bills - this would be a quick and effective step which will immediately assist some of the poorest in our society. It will at least partly alleviate the additional financial pressure created by the need to stay at home."

Read this article on www.libdems.org →

The Weekly Whip

by William Dyer on Wed, 25 Mar 2020

Welcome to the Weekly Whip. Your one-stop shop for Lib Dem Parliamentary updates, covering the week that was and the week to come. 

For up to date information from the Lib Dem Whips Office, follow us on Twitter: @LibWhips 

Weekly Whip w/c 23rd March 

In the last week ahead of Recess; Westminster Hall debates were suspended, and select committees will now continue over video conferencing. Given the ongoing pandemic, we went early to Recess on Wednesday.

With Parliamentary pass holders being declared ‘key workers’ the business of both houses continues. However, access to the parliamentary estate has been restricted and social distancing measures put in place.

Monday 23rd March

On Monday we passed all stages of the Coronavirus Bill in one day! You can find what the Lib Dem approach to the bill was here, in a blog post from Ed Davey.

This is an usual Bill in a number of ways.

  • To start with, this Bill is long. It’s over 330 pages long. For context the EU Withdrawal Agreement Bill (now Act) was over 160 pages long.
  • As mainly a health matter, this Bill would usually only apply to England and Wales. However, last Friday the House of Commons agreed to disapply Standing Orders 38J and 38O, meaning the Bill will apply to the whole of the UK and will not have to go through the EVEL (English Votes for English Laws) process[1].
  • The Bill completes all Commons stages in one day. This is highly unusual for a Bill of this size. However, given the exceptional circumstances, MPs across the house agreed to the timetable.

In the Commons, we tabled 8 amendments to the Bill. Click on the tweet below to see the amendments in full.

The Government, with pressure from the Liberal Democrat’s and other opposition parties, backed down on a number of aspects in the Bill.

The biggest concession was to reduce the length of time the powers apply to the Bill. The Government conceded that Parliament should be able to review the powers after 6 months.

The Coronavirus Bill was amended 48 times in the House of Commons, these were all Government amendments. Some of these were concessions, but a number were also technical changes (inevitable when you draft such a large Bill at such pace). The Bill passed through both Houses without any opposition amendments.

 

Tuesday 24th March

The biggest moment of the day, was an Urgent Question from Ed Davey demanding help for the self-employed during this crisis.

This urgent question, led by the Liberal Democrats, sparked calls from all political parties in the House of Commons for the government to bring forward an economic package for those that are self-employed. Ed, Wendy Chamberlin and Alistair Carmichael all gave passionate speeches on the subject.

You can show your support for the Liberal Democrats campaign on helping the self-employed through this crisis. By signing our petition to the government here: https://www.libdems.org.uk/support-self-employed

This was followed by all stages of the Contingencies Fund Bill (Ed Davey speaking for the Lib Dems). The contingency fund allows the government to dip into reserves (through amending the Contingencies Fund Act 1974) to fund unforeseen event for departments. In the statute however, this is a relatively small amount (2% of approved dept spend). This is being temporarily increased to 50% to meet the needs of this crisis. The Bill will allow the Government to draw on an extra £260 billion in extra spending.

The Contingencies Fund Bill was followed by another spending bill. Completing its final stage before moving to the Lords, The Windrush Compensation Scheme (Expenditure) Bill give authorisation for the Home Office to spend the necessary funds to compensate those caught up during the Windrush scandal. If this bill passes (it has cross party support) these funds will be paid out through the Windrush Compensation Scheme.

Wednesday 25th March

This was the final day that the House of Commons sat before the Easter recess.

Unusually PMQs was one hour today.

The speaker allowed PMQs to be extended in absence of other Covid-19 statements in the House. Both Alistair and Wendy were selected to ask a question. Alistair again showed the Lib Dems leading the fight for the self-employed by asking again what support they will be given. Wendy raised the issue of those with rheumatic autoimmune diseases being included on the shielded list of people with underlining conditions being protected and offered extra support.

See you back in Parliament after the Easter recess on Tuesday 21 April 2020. At which point the Weekly Whip will return.

 

 

[1] Usually under EVEL, a bill would have to get a majority of the whole house and a majority of those MP representing English and Welsh constituencies.

Read this article on www.libdems.org →

The Liberal Democrat Coronavirus Update

by Liberal Democrats on Tue, 24 Mar 2020

 

Ed Davey challenges government to roll out support package for self-employed

Today Ed Davey, Acting Leader of the Liberal Democrats, challenged the Chancellor to "move as fast as possible" to roll out a financial support package for the five million self-employed people in the UK.

In an Urgent Question in the House of Commons, Ed Davey highlighted that the self-employed, who are excluded from current financial support for businesses and employees, are under "real stress" and are "literally running out of money" as a result of the coronavirus crisis. 


Following his Urgent Question to the Chancellor, Ed Davey said:  

"As the days tick on, millions of self-employed - from cleaners to hairdressers from taxi drivers to builders - face mounting worries about their future. Ministers must move far faster to provide help, as they did for businesses and employees. 

Most of the self-employed have very modest incomes and aren’t well off. Without help, they won’t be able to pay their mortgages, rent and bills, facing ruin."

Without action, those who are self-employed may be forced to ignore government guidance to stay home & plough on with their work, or face real hardship.

Every day of delay increases the strain these millions of individuals are under. That is why - this afternoon - Ed Davey challenged the Chancellor to explain how he will support self-employed people through this crisis. So far we are just being told by Ministers to wait a little longer.

Without action, those who are self-employed may be forced to ignore government guidance to stay home and plough on with their work, or face real hardship. 

Last week Liberal Democrats welcomed the Chancellor's financial package for businesses and for employees, but this will remain incomplete and inadequate until we see proper measures for the five million self employed people across the country.

 

Lib Dems call on the government to ensure they are doing everything to keep NHS volunteers safe

In response to the Health Secretary’s announcement that the NHS is looking for 'NHS volunteers' to help with the coronavirus outbreak, Liberal Democrats called on the government to do more to support these individuals.

The coronavirus crisis is an unprecedented threat and people are rightly worried. In times like this, we cannot thank front-line staff enough for going above and beyond to look after us all.

Effort to encourage volunteers, medical students and retired NHS doctors and nurses to join the health service are more than welcome.

However, those risking their health to work on the frontline will want assurances that the government is doing everything it can to keep them safe, through adequate PPE and increased testing. Equally, these efforts would only be improved if the Government removed current financial barriers for foreign-trained medical staff too.

There remain further, legitimate questions to ask of government. Far more support is needed for care workers who look after the most vulnerable. The Health Secretary must set out how he will make up for lost time and guarantee continued social care at a safe standard in the coming weeks and months.

 

Lib Dems: Prison lockdown must be followed by rehabilitation investment

Responding to BBC reports that “prisoners in England and Wales will be confined to their cells for 23 hours a day and allowed out only to shower and use pay-phones, with all visits cancelled”, Liberal Democrat Justice Spokesperson Daisy Cooper said:


“This is a regrettable but necessary measure to limit the spread of coronavirus in prisons and keep prison staff, prisoners and our communities safe.

However, it must only be a temporary measure for the duration of this emergency. It is vital that the Government recognises the damage this will do to prisoners’ rehabilitation and the likelihood that it will lead to more reoffending."

Prisoners already spend too much time locked in their cells, unable to engage in productive activity or receive rehabilitative services. Reoffending rates are already far too high.

When this crisis is over, the Government must focus on dramatically improving rehabilitation, both in prison and in the community, to stop reoffending and prevent people becoming victims of crime.

 

Ed Davey responds to Prime Minister's statement on coronavirus

In response to the Prime Minister's statement on the UK's response to the coronavirus pandemic, Acting Leader of the Liberal Democrats Ed Davey said: 


“Many people will be anxious about the steps the government has taken, but it is the right decision to restrict our normal way of life to tackle this crisis.  

We must do all we can to stop the spread of this virus and I urge people to play their part by following the measures that have been set out, and not risk their own or others' health and wellbeing by ignoring these."


There are legitimate questions as to whether this step should have been taken sooner and how well the advice of experts is being communicated with the public. 

The Liberal Democrats will continue to do all we can to support the most vulnerable in our communities, and work to try and secure more support for the self-employed, charities and others who still need more support from government in the coming months.

Lib Dems: Government reduction in temporary powers doesn't go far enough

Responding to the publication of the government's amendment requiring a six month Parliamentary review of the emergency powers in the Coronavirus Bill, Acting Leader of the Liberal Democrats Ed Davey said:


"Emergency powers are clearly necessary to protect individuals and communities as far as possible from the coronavirus.

"However, many of the powers in this Bill have serious implications for civil liberties and human rights. They must only be used when necessary during this emergency – and not a moment longer."


It is good that the Government has listened to our concerns and introduced an amendment for the Commons to have a vote on the law after six months. However, that is not enough to give Parliament proper scrutiny of the powers in this Bill.

That’s why the Liberal Democrats have tabled our own amendment to allow both Houses of Parliament to consider the legislation in full every three months.

Liberal Democrats will remain vigilant to ensure that any restrictions on civil liberties are only temporary, and that our rights and freedoms are fully restored once this crisis is over.

Government urged to agree emergency Covid-19 funding for charities 

Yesterday we called on the Government to set up a dedicated grant for charities during the Covid-19 crisis, following conversations with professionals in the Voluntary Sector.
 
Writing to the Government, Liberal Democrat MP Wera Hobhouse argued that the voluntary sector will be absolutely vital during the Covid-19 crisis but warned “non-profits have been left in the dark.”

Charities are able to provide networks of volunteers to reach out to the at-risk who may be self-isolating. They are also a vital source of information and support networks for people who are homeless, hungry, isolated or sick.

According to discussions the Liberal Democrats have had with professionals in the Voluntary Sector, many charities have been hit financially by the Covid-19 crisis but will only be able to apply for government loans if more than half their income comes from trading activity.

Read this article on www.libdems.org →

We must support the self-employed

by Liberal Democrats on Tue, 24 Mar 2020

Last week, the Government set out a package of financial measures to support UK workers, highlighting just how threatening coronavirus is to our economy and our society. 

As soon as these measures were announced, Liberal Democrats stated our concerns that far too little was being provided to help the self-employed through this crisis. Days later, and no new support has been announced by the Government. 

There are five million self-employed people in the UK. These are our construction workers, our childminders and our delivery drivers.

Each day that we fail to take action to protect the self-employed, millions of people remain worried and unsure of how they are going to support themselves or their families. Leaving them with no reliable safety net is unacceptable.

Ministers cannot keep hiding from the insecurity these individuals have been put in by the coronavirus crisis. It is not good enough to say it is "operationally difficult" to pay them.

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The Liberal Democrats have put down amendments to the Government’s coronavirus legislation to support the self-employed. They are:

  • increasing the weekly rate of Statutory Sick Pay from £94.25 to £220

  • guaranteeing 80% of self-employed individuals' earnings, up to £35,000

By subsidising salaries for workers, guaranteeing incomes for the self-employed and boosting sick pay we can ensure that we are not only protecting our economy, but our society. That is why we are also urging the Chancellor to back a Citizen’s Income, and quickly, to ensure those most in need have financial security.

Leaving self-employed people with no reliable safety net is unacceptable.

While assisting the self-employed does create more challenges than with PAYE employees, the Government must surely err on the side of caution and get help out to people, rather than find reasons and excuses for doing nothing, or too little.

There are clear gaps in what the Chancellor has announced and the Liberal Democrats will continue to push for these measures to be taken forward so that no-one gets forgotten as this crisis continues.

Read this article on www.libdems.org →

It’s been just weeks since Brexit ended my brief term as an MEP, but today I’m very happy to announce that I’ve been elected as Chair of the Federal People Development Committee.

I wouldn’t be where I am today without the outstanding training and support offered by the party.

Like many of you reading this, I’m a relative newcomer to politics and to the Lib Dems. I joined in 2016, so I think I bring a fresh perspective to this role as a newbie. I’m eager to help the party expand and improve on its strategy, structures and processes for recruiting, engaging and activating members.

Although it’s been a short time, I’m no stranger to campaigns, at any level. In addition to winning election to European Parliament last May, I currently serve as a Hertfordshire County Councillor and stood for Parliament in 2017. I think that I’m a good example of what is possible if you engage a new member and provide the right resources. I wouldn’t be where I am today without the outstanding training and support offered by the party.

Just a few months after joining I was able to attend my first party conference. I spent nearly the entire time in training sessions. Clearly I got a taste for it, attending my first ALDC Kickstart weekend a few months later with other members of my local party. Since then I’ve been lucky enough to attend more conferences and more training events. Our face-to-face training opportunities are unparalleled - but the percentage of members who can access that face-to-face training is minuscule. We haven’t been quite as strong at providing other forms of training and resources. That’s something I’m keen to change. 

The Liberal Democrats are already leading the way in modern campaigning, and I look forward to supporting this in my new role.

In the past four years, our party membership has boomed, meaning that newbies now outnumber long-time members. We need, now more than ever, to quickly develop the knowledge and skills of a larger number of people than ever before. Add to that the fast-changing landscape of UK politics and new and innovative ways to engage voters, and it’s clear that we can’t just do what has worked in the past. The Liberal Democrats are already leading the way in modern campaigning, and I look forward to supporting this in my new role.

Outside of the Liberal Democrats, I have spent 25 years in the corporate world, and 10 years training and lecturing, including developing learning content both for face-to-face and online learning. I have also led a large voluntary organisation. I can’t wait to bring this experience to the role and to work closely with both staff and FPDC members to take our people development strategies, structures and resources to the next level. We have an outstanding committee, including a diverse mix of perspectives and experiences. I have high hopes for the next three years - let’s get to work!


Members of the FPDC, serving a three-year term, are:

  • Abi Bell
  • Barbara Gibson
  • Bess Mayhew
  • Jon Ball
  • Lisa Maria Bornemann
  • Mary Regnier-Wilson
Read this article on www.libdems.org →