Philip Latham

Lib Dem Parliamentary Candidate for Blyth Valley Learn more

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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 Greg Cable 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 →

Short term prison sentences for women don't work

by Daisy Cooper on Mon, 23 Mar 2020

The Government’s analysis shows that they lead to higher rates of reoffending than community sentences. The President of the Prison Governors Association has described them as “pointless”. They need to end for both men and women.

But we also need to recognise that prison is especially damaging for women.

Most women in prison are vulnerable people. The majority experienced abuse as a child, and many are survivors of domestic abuse as adults.

Self-harm rates in women’s prisons are almost five times the rate in men’s prisons and rising

Read this article on www.libdems.org →

Our role as community champions

by Ruth Dombey on Mon, 23 Mar 2020

As I’m sure you’ve all heard by now, the local elections we were expecting in May have been postponed until 2021. For many of us, this is disappointing news - especially after months of hard work - but it is absolutely the right call to keep us and our communities safe.

In addition, any by-election that comes up and would be due before May 2021 will also be held off until then. Depending on the public health situation by-elections may restart sooner than May next year.

Our plans for this year’s local elections might not have gone as we expected, but this is an opportunity to let our Lib Dem values shine through and continue to work hard for our residents.

I’d like to pass on a huge thank you to everyone who was planning on standing for election in May. Being a candidate, while rewarding, is always hard work. I hope all candidates and their teams know that all of their work so far has not gone to waste. It is a sound investment to ensure we win those seats, and more, next year.

Some of you, on the other hand, were planning on standing down in May. It must come as a shock to have to continue for another year. We’re so grateful to you all for your continuing commitment to your residents in such difficult times.

Looking to next year, 6th May 2021 will be a ‘Super Thursday’. Many places will have multiple elections. The party is currently advising traditional campaigning is put on pause for now, and replaced with digital, phone-banking and community activism to support the vulnerable people in your area. While traditional campaigning may be suspended, there are some things you can do to get a headstart on the 2021 elections.

If you don’t have a full slate of candidates, you could take this extra time to fill in the gaps. You could get in touch with your members and check they are okay. And, of course, please use this time to check in on elderly or vulnerable people you know in your community. Whether it’s an offer to pick up bits and bobs from the shops or just a friendly chat on the phone, I’m sure it would be greatly appreciated.

Here are some resources to help you get started:

Coronavirus - helping in your community

Finding candidates webinar

In the coming months, people will be looking to us for support. Our role as community champions will be needed like never before. Our plans for this year’s local elections might not have gone as we expected, but this is an opportunity to let our Lib Dem values shine through and continue to work hard for our residents.

Read this article on www.libdems.org →

Our approach to the emergency Coronavirus Bill

by Sir Ed Davey MP on Mon, 23 Mar 2020

Today, MPs will debate the Government’s emergency Coronavirus Bill.

The Coronavirus crisis is an unprecedented threat, leaving the most vulnerable in our communities at risk. People across the country are rightly worried about their loved ones. This is a national emergency and emergency powers are clearly necessary to keep individuals and communities safe from the virus.

Liberal Democrats are working with the Government and other opposition parties in Parliament to pass the emergency legislation we need. But we are also focused on ensuring that these powers do not go any further than absolutely necessary.

Many of the powers in this Bill have serious implications for civil liberties and human rights. We are therefore making it clear that these powers must only be used when necessary during this emergency – and not a moment longer.

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. These are exceptional powers for exceptional times. They must not be allowed to become the new normal.

We have tabled eight amendments to try and improve the Government’s Bill:

Limiting the powers to 3 months

As currently drafted, the Act would expire in two years. We believe that is far too long. Liberal Democrats have serious concerns about Parliament handing over such far-reaching powers to Ministers for a full two years.

We have therefore tabled an amendment (New Clause 10) which would mean the Act expires after 3 months. Parliament would then have to vote on whether to renew it for a further 3 months at a time, up to a maximum of 2 years.

In addition to proper oversight and transparency as to how these powers are used during these shorter periods, this would provide at least some protection.

Extending the Brexit transition period

It is extraordinary that the Government hasn’t already admitted that the Brexit negotiations have to be suspended during this national emergency.

The negotiations on our future relationship with the EU cover everything from trade to security, energy to intellectual property and air travel to extradition. It is vital we get them right. That requires far more time and resources than the Government has to spare, now its priority is rightly the coronavirus emergency.

Moreover, the transition period is due to end at the end of the year – and this Conservative Government has written into law that it cannot be extended. We therefore face the risk of a catastrophic no-deal Brexit in just nine months’ time. With another economic shock to compound the damage of coronavirus.

So the Government must extend the transition period now. Our amendment (New Clause 12) would both enable and require the Government to seek and agree an extension to the transition period. It would also require the Government to seek to keep the UK in the EU Early Warning System, which was set up to provide alerts and monitor pandemics.

Protecting those who rely on social care

One of my biggest concerns is what this Bill proposes for how we care for people – indeed how we care for the most vulnerable people in our society.

The Bill temporarily suspends the duties on Local Authorities to meet people’s care needs.  We have serious concerns about what this will mean for older people, and adults and children with disabilities, who rely on social care.

We have therefore tabled two amendments to ensure care standards are not reduced any more than absolutely necessary during this crisis.

One (Amendment 14) would place a duty on Local Authorities to continue to meet an adult’s needs for care and support conditional as long as it has resources available to do so. The other (New Clause 14) would require the Government to urgently publish a comprehensive report outlining how it will guarantee provisions for social care while this Act is in force.

The Government must give councils the resources and support they need to undertake these duties to our most vulnerable, rather than leaving people without care.

Guaranteeing the incomes of self-employed people

The Government’s measures to support businesses and employees are welcome as far as they go, but they still leave the country’s 5 million self-employed people with no reliable safety net. Each day the Government fails to act for them, many of these 5 million self-employed people get closer to irreparable damage to their livelihoods.

Liberal Democrats have tabled an amendment (New Clause 13) to create a Self-Employed Income Guarantee, with the Government guaranteeing self-employed people 80% of their average incomes over the last three years, up to a cap of £35,000.

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.

Introducing a Citizen’s Income

It is the Government’s duty to do everything in its power to protect those facing destitution as a result of this pandemic. Those most in need must be given financial security.

Liberal Democrats are calling for a Citizen’s Income: an increased benefit of £150 per week for a single person and £260 per week for couples. This should act as the minimum income guaranteed to all UK adults, rather like the universal basic income many are talking about.

Our amendment (New Clause 9) would achieve this by increasing the standard allowances of Universal Credit, Jobseeker’s Allowance and Employment and Support Allowance to these rates. It would also ensure that people can get their first payment on day one without it being clawed back later, and it would abolish benefit sanctions for 12 months.

Increasing Statutory Sick Pay

At £94.25 a week, Statutory Sick Pay simply isn’t enough to make up for people’s lost incomes. We have tabled an amendment (New Clause 11) that would increase it to £220 a week – two thirds of average earnings – to provide a much more adequate safety net.

Making sure children can still learn

Staff and pupil safety must be a priority. The scale of the coronavirus pandemic means that school closures were inevitable. This is another serious but essential intervention to slow down the spread of the disease.

Now that schools are closing their doors, Ministers must take urgent action to minimise disruption to learning and protect vulnerable children. However, the Bill contains no explicit duty on schools to ensure that children continue to receive an education – or funding for them to do so.

Many schools are doing the right thing and are already preparing online resources to help pupils study at home. It would be a disaster for social mobility if some schools continue teaching their curriculum during the closure while others do not.

The Liberal Democrat amendment (New Clause 8) would place a duty on schools and colleges to provide teaching and resources to all pupils, whether they are in school or at home.

Our amendment would also ensure that the Government pays schools and colleges whatever it costs to get pupils and staff the equipment and resources they need for learning to continue.

Conclusion

This emergency legislation will only get 6 hours of scrutiny in the Commons. Munira Wilson and I may get just 15 minutes between us to make our points. For such a dramatic piece of legislation, that is nowhere near enough.

So the case for an early review, with an early requirement for Parliament to have to vote to renew these powers, is essential. The Liberal Democrats – like other opposition parties – have behaved responsibly and constructively throughout. Ministers must now do likewise.

 

 

Read this article on www.libdems.org →

The Liberal Democrat Coronavirus Update

by Liberal Democrats on Mon, 23 Mar 2020

Lib Dems move to ensure Goverment pay out to keep children learning 

On Saturday, we tabled an amendment to the Coronavirus Bill which makes clear the Government must pay schools and colleges “whatever it costs” so that children can keep learning if schools stay shut for several months.

Liberal Democrat Education Spokesperson Layla Moran, a former teacher, has warned if some schools continue to deliver lessons and others don’t it will be a “disaster for social mobility.”

The proposals from the Liberal Democrats includes creating a duty on schools and colleges to ensure that pupils – whether at home or on-site – continue to receive an education, accepting that schools are unlikely to be able to cover the national curriculum.

We are also seeking a commitment from Ministers to refund schools and colleges for any reasonable purchases of equipment, software or other resources needed for remote working of teachers and students.

The Coronavirus crisis is an unprecedented threat. We cannot thank teachers and staff enough for going above and beyond. Many of them are already doing the right thing and are preparing online resources to help pupils study at home.

We have complete faith in the professionalism and creativity of our teachers. Ministers must match their efforts by making explicitly clear what schools will be expected to provide both for pupils who are at home and for those who remain in their care.

We cannot forget it will be a disaster for social mobility if some schools can continue teaching in some form and others cannot. We are urging the Government to pay whatever it costs to get staff and pupils the equipment and resources they need. No child should be left behind.

 

Lib Dems respond to closure of cafes, bars, and restaurants

Responding to the Prime Minister’s announcement that cafes, bars, and restaurants are to close tonight, Acting Leader of the Liberal Democrats Ed Davey said: 

“People will understandably be alarmed at these measures, but at this difficult time people must pull together. These measures are being put in place in order to protect the most vulnerable in our society. I urge everyone to closely follow the advice."

The Prime Minister must also understand the implications for the mental health and wellbeing of people right across our country. He must come forward with clear measures to provide the well-being support people need.

More must be done to signal we care for all

In response to the financial measures announced on Friday, Liberal Democrats called on the Government to do more provide financial support for everyone. 

Whilst the package for employees is welcome, we are worried that far too little is being done for the self-employed, for those on zero hours’ contracts or for those on statutory sick pay and benefits

Ed Davey called on the Chancellor to raise the level of statutory sick pay and extend it to the two million people earning less than £118 a week that are currently excluded. It is also vital that the charities and not for profit organisations who do so much to care for so many are not forgotten during this crisis.

By guaranteeing 80% of income not just for workers but also the self-employed, boosting sick pay to £220 a week for everyone, and increasing out of work benefits, the government would in effect create a temporary Citizen's Income. This would send a strong signal that we care for everyone in our society.

Transition period extension is the right thing to do

Responding to the reports that EU Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, has said the EU is open to a possible request to extend the Brexit transition period, Acting Leader of the Liberal Democrats Ed Davey said: 

“With countries across Europe battling the coronavirus crisis, Commission President von der Leyen’s comments are welcome news. The UK government’s focus must be on tackling this pandemic and saving as many lives as possible."

Extending the transition period would help reduce the burden and uncertainty on businesses, the economy, and most importantly our NHS and social care system.

An extension is the right thing to do. We will continue to urge Boris Johnson to secure one as a priority.

Read this article on www.libdems.org →

Today is the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination - and this year, the importance of this day has been brought into stark focus more than ever before.

The Liberal Democrats will always fight for freedom, fairness and equality for people of all races and ethnicities in the UK.

With the world facing the biggest public health crisis of the twenty-first century, what the UK desperately needs are compassionate communities that look after one another, regardless of people’s race and background. 

While so many stories of kindness are emerging, very sadly this has not been the case for everyone. In recent weeks we have seen a huge rise in racism against East Asian people following the coronavirus outbreak. Tweets from so-called world leaders such as Donald Trump calling it ‘The Chinese virus’ adds fuel to the hatred and fear.

In Manchester, there have been reports of racist targeting of Chinese children. In Birmingham and Central London Chinese students were seriously assaulted. Up and down the country, East Asian people have reported being spat at or verbally abused with comments relating to the coronavirus – even East Asian health workers have not escaped this rising tide of hatred.

The media aren’t helping. Last week I filed a complaint with the BBC over their use of images of Chinese people when reporting on the outbreak, regardless of where in the world they were covering. They aren’t the only ones. Newspapers and other outlets have been full of pictures of Chinese and East Asian people in masks, adding to the fear and prejudice being shown towards our community.

 

 

Unfortunately, this treatment isn’t unusual for ethnic minorities in the UK.

Since the EU referendum in 2016, racism and race-related hate crimes have been on the rise. The Conservatives’ hostile environment policy has made ethnic minority communities in our country fearful. The Windrush scandal and recent high-profile deportations have shown that this government is systematically trying to break apart our diverse communities and sew division. 

In recent weeks we have seen a huge rise in racism against East Asian people following the coronavirus outbreak.

If this were to continue then I fear that there will be serious economic consequences with would-be investors and students from East Asia staying away as well as mass social unrest resulting from a recession due to the double whammy of Brexit and Coronavirus.

As a country, we need to do better. The Liberal Democrats will always fight for freedom, fairness and equality for people of all races and ethnicities in the UK. Just like I acted throughout my police career to tackle racism and my recent calling out of the BBC for discriminatory reporting, we each need to challenge discrimination wherever we see it. And as Lib Dems, the more of us who add our voices to this cause, the stronger we become.

Dr George Lee was the 2019 Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate for Westminster North and is a member of the Chinese Liberal Democrats.

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The Weekly Whip

by Greg Cable on Fri, 20 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 16th March 

It has been a strange week in Parliament, as I am sure it has been in all workplaces. The week was broken up by the announcement that employees should be working from home unless they have an explicit reason not to. Most Parliamentary staff are now rightly working from home. Business in the House continues, and we expect it to continue into next week when both Houses will debate the emergency legislation. 

Monday 16th March  

The week started with a continuation of the Budget Debate which focused on Public Services. In any normal circumstances, the Budget Debate would have attracted a lot of media attention. However, that morning, Matt Hancock put in a request to make a ministerial statement on COVID-19 which asked people to begin social distancing and working from home. 

Tuesday 17th March  

Tuesday continued the theme of huge announcements with the Foreign Secretary recommending against all but essential travel out of the UK. This was part of a wider statement on COVID-19. 

Tuesday also saw the conclusion of the Budget Debate which unusually had no divisions and very little interest. The much bigger financial statement in the House was when the Chancellor announced the fiscal stimulus in response to the pandemic. 

Wednesday 18th March  

By Midday we had one of the most sparsely attended Prime Minister’s Questions ever. All-Party Whips advised against attending to avoid overcrowding and spreading Covid-19. 

Following this, Layla Moran presented her Bill on decriminalising homelessness, through abolishing the Vagrancy Act. Please support her campaign by signing and sharing the petition below. 

Labour had another of their allocated opposition days. These debates/motions were on statutory sick pay and the protection of workers. 

This debate was interrupted by yet another huge announcement from the Government. In an emergency statement from the Education Secretary, it was announced that schools would close from this Friday. 

Thursday 19th March 

We began with an Urgent Question on the government’s support for employers. Sarah challenged the Government to do more: 

Priti Patel then made a statement to the House on the Windrush Report. Wendy spoke for us and demanded that there should be no information sharing between the NHS and the Home Office. 

The backbench business motions debated on Thursday were on Loan Charges and the future governance of the Post Office. Sir Ed Davey, as the Chair of the All Parliamentary Party Group on the Loan Charge, spoke. 

Looking ahead 

As we look ahead to next week, we are expecting to go through all stages for the Coronavirus Bill on Monday. We expect Parliament to become increasingly empty as the week goes on. 

Read this article on www.libdems.org →

Safeguarding our children's futures

by Layla Moran on Fri, 20 Mar 2020

I hope this message finds you and your loved ones safe and well. What a concerning and worrying time we are in.

My mind boggles with the logistical challenge facing our education system

Today millions of students are leaving the schools gates for an indefinite period to help halt the spread of the coronavirus.

Already, many universities have closed their campuses and moved to online teaching.

I was a teacher and member of a senior leadership team. My mind boggles with the logistical challenge facing our education system, especially with nowhere near enough information from the government.

I welcome the news about safeguarding the vulnerable and continuing to teach children of key workers but I want to ensure no one falls through the cracks.

All teachers, parents, guardians and students will experience these closures differently. Will you take a few minutes to let me know how they’re affecting you and your family, as well as anything you think I should raise with the government?

Let me know ➜

Everyone working in our schools deserves our gratitude. I’ve asked the Government to support supply teachers, who risk losing their entire income. We also need clear advice and resources to be made available to students and their families as soon as possible.

I’m determined to do all I can to safeguard our children's futures alongside our nation’s health.

As an MP, I’ve been trying to strike the right balance between supporting the Government’s need to act quickly in a crisis, while raising issues when needed. But our members have an important part to play as our Party’s eyes and ears.

If you have any experience or concerns regarding the forthcoming school, nursery, sixth form, college and university closures please fill in this form: https://digitallibdems.typeform.com/to/HJcilA

The more I know about what is happening on the ground, the more I can press for the most vulnerable children and young people to be protected and for the right information to be given to schools and parents.

I’m determined to do all I can to safeguard our children's futures alongside our nation’s health.

Please look after yourself and one another.

Read this article on www.libdems.org →

We must ensure the Windrush Scandal can never happen again

by Isabelle Parasram on Fri, 20 Mar 2020

People who have every right to live in the UK were wrongly denied access to NHS treatment, housing and other services simply because they don’t have the right documents to prove it. Many were wrongfully detained and even deported.

We need urgent action from the Home Secretary to dismantle the Hostile Environment altogether

The way the Government has treated the Windrush Generation – as well as other immigrants and people from BAME backgrounds – is shameful. It is the direct consequence of cruel, discriminatory policies and the toxic culture at the Home Office. Both of those must change.

This Lessons Learned Review is long overdue, and reports that Home Office has suppressed some of its criticisms and recommendations are very concerning.

The Government owes it to the victims of the Windrush Scandal to ensure that nothing like it can happen again, and that cannot happen without a transparent and honest assessment of the Home Office’s policies and practices.

Now that the report has finally been published, we need urgent action from the Home Secretary to dismantle the Hostile Environment altogether. That should begin with repealing the discriminatory ‘Right to Rent’ law, ending immigration checks and upfront charging in the NHS, and establishing a firewall to prevent public agencies – such as schools, the NHS and the police – from sharing personal information with the Home Office for the purposes of immigration enforcement.

The Government must introduce compassion and common sense into our immigration system.

The Government must introduce compassion and common sense into our immigration system. That means making detention an absolute last resort, with a time limit and an end to the detention of vulnerable people.

And it means ending automatic deportations – and stopping altogether the practice of deporting people who came to the UK as children to countries they have never known.

Liberal Democrats celebrate those who choose to come to the UK to work, study or join their families for the enormous contributions they make to our society, our economy and our communities.

We are fighting for a fair, effective immigration system that treats everyone with dignity and respect.

Isabelle Parasram
Vice President

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The Liberal Democrat Coronavirus Update

by Liberal Democrats on Fri, 20 Mar 2020

Lib Dems: Govt must act to prevent people falling into destitution

Responding to the Prime Minister's most recent update on the coronavirus, Acting Leader of the Liberal Democrats Ed Davey said:


“People cannot wait any longer for news about what they will have to live on if they lose their jobs. Few businesses are in a position to "stand by their workers" when their income stream has collapsed. This is about putting food on the table."


The government must act now to prevent people falling into destitution. We need to see grants immediately for struggling small businesses before they are forced to lay off staff. And we need bold Government action subsiding workers’ salaries before we see tens of thousands of job losses.

These are difficult and uncertain times. We are calling on government to act now to give people financial security.

 

Lib Dems raise concern over migrants’ access to coronavirus testing 

Yesterday we called on the government to guarantee that no data will be passed from the NHS to the Home Office during the coronavirus crisis for the sake of public health.

Speaking in the House of Commons yesterday, Wendy Chamberlain MP called on the Home Secretary to make sure that "no one who needs to be tested in relation to Covid 19, or indeed seek treatment, is put off by uncertainty over their immigration status".

Under the hostile environment, there is a real risk that people who find themselves gravely ill with Covid-19 will be too scared to seek treatment in case it leads to questions about their right to live in the UK. This fear risks putting people off going to hospital for testing, which in turn may lead to greater transmission in the wider community.


The Home Secretary's failure to provide immediate clarity here is deeply troubling. This is purely about what is in the interest of public health, rather than any wider ideology about immigration.

We have urged the government to urgently make clear that, regardless of your immigration status, if you are seriously ill, go to a hospital. That is the only way to effectively provide life-saving treatment to the most unwell, and to limit the prospect of people transmitting this virus to others.

EU citizens must have automatic right to stay, as Settled Status refusals soar

We are calling for EU citizens to be given the automatic right to stay in the UK, as new official figures show the number of people refused Settled Status soaring last month.

Yesterday Christine Jardine MP urged the Government to back the Private Members’ Bill she tabled last month that would guarantee the rights of EU citizens in the UK.

The Home Office statistics, published today, show that 300 applications were refused in February, after a total of only 7 refusals in the scheme up to the end of January.

They also show that just 1.7 million of the estimated 3.6 million EU citizens in the UK have been granted Settled Status so far. A further 1.2 million have only been given the temporary “Pre-Settled Status”, which forces them to reapply within 5 years. Meanwhile, there is a backlog of 345,000 applications waiting for a decision.

 

EU citizens in the UK have been living under a cloud of uncertainty for far too long. They are our families and friends, our colleagues and carers. They must have the right to stay.

Even before the coronavirus crisis, we were warning that tens of thousands of EU citizens will be left without Settled Status when the Conservative Government’s arbitrary deadline hits next year.

That would leave thousands of people effectively undocumented and at risk of eviction, detention and even deportation. It will be a new Windrush Scandal on an even bigger scale.

We will keep fighting for the rights of EU citizens. The Government should back our Bill to give them the automatic right to stay in the UK, as Boris Johnson has repeatedly promised.

Read this article on www.libdems.org →

Coronavirus Community Taskforce

by Sir Ed Davey MP on Thu, 19 Mar 2020

I’m so proud of our movement.

On Monday, I emailed asking members to pause their normal campaigning and prioritise community action to help those affected by coronavirus. Since then I’ve been overwhelmed by the response.

Day in, day out, Liberal Democrats all over the country do all they can for their communities. But now, when it counts more than ever, you’re stepping up to protect the most vulnerable in our society. I couldn’t be prouder to be a Liberal Democrat today.

Our team has put together a resource kit to help you help your community. We’ll be adding to this kit all the time - please share it widely.

View resources

But as this outbreak worsens, there’s more we need to do. This coming weekend should have been our huge National Action Weekend for the elections this spring. In light of the cancellation of those elections, we need to turn our people power and resources to the matter at hand.

That’s why I have launched a Coronavirus Community Taskforce.

It’s time to do what Liberal Democrats do best. We’re campaigners and community champions. We know what works, and our members are fizzing with new and innovative ideas. We need to use our knowledge, resources, and true care for our communities for support for the most vulnerable.

To find out how to get started with the Taskforce, click here: www.libdems.org.uk/coronavirus.

I’ve asked Sir Stuart Etherington, the former Chief Executive of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, to Chair our group.

We also recognise that this is a difficult time for all of you. It’s completely normal to be feeling anxious or worried, especially if you or someone you know is vulnerable.

We’re in the process of putting together mental health resources for our members. In the meantime, I’ve found this advice from Mind really useful - www.mind.org.uk/information-support/coronavirus-and-your-wellbeing.

Each and every one of us needs to do what we can during this difficult time. I’m so proud of everything you’ve already done, and I know you’ll step up to do whatever more you can.

Please take care of yourselves, your families, and your communities.

If you have questions about party activities, you can always find the latest advice here: www.libdems.org.uk/covid19. This advice will be updated on a rolling basis.

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Scottish member? Have your say on your new committees

by Liberal Democrats on Thu, 19 Mar 2020

Elections for Scottish Executive and Policy Committee are going ahead - and here's your chance to hear from the candidates. We've put together the submitted manifestos so you can make an informed decision on who to choose.

Read this article on www.libdems.org →