Category Archives: Lib Dem Voice

Kate Parminter: We will work to make Britain less unjust, more liberal and greener (via Lib Dem Voice)

Baroness Parminter
Baroness Parminter

Writing for Lib Dem Voice, Environment Spokesperson and newly elected Deputy Leader of the Lib Dems in the Lords, outlined her plans in this parliament.

Last week I was elected as one of two Deputy Leaders (alongside Navnit Dholakia) of our group in the Lords.

We have many battles ahead of us and whilst I’m a supporter of an elected second chamber (and have long campaigned for one and will continue to do so) we Liberal Democrats in the Lords have a real opportunity to hold this Government to account. We can improve the laws that the Tories bring forward and campaign alongside others to make Britain less unjust, more liberal and greener.

I’m looking forward to working with Navnit & our Leader Jim Wallace as our 102 strong group in the Lords calls into question any illiberal moves by this Tory Government (and so far it looks like there will be many opportunities to do so). This will play a part in the Liberal Democrat fightback and keep the liberal voice loud in Westminster, helping re-build support for our party to win votes and seats right across Britain.

The full article is here

Kath Pinnock: Childcare Bill must focus on impact on children’s lives (via Lib Dem Voice)

Baroness Pinnock
Baroness Pinnock

Lib Dem Voice covered Liberal Democrat Children’s Spokesperson Kath Pinnock’s speech on the Second Reading of the Childcare Bill: 

My Lords, of course we welcome the basis of this Bill – the additional 15 hours a week free childcare for 3 and 4 year olds whose families are in work. However, the devil is in the detail of this particular offer and I have 4 broad areas of concern:

Funding – there must be sufficient allocated to cover costs for a high quality offer.

Flexibility – to really help working families there must be flexibility built in to the offer.

Focus – of any childcare provision must be primarily for the benefit of the child.

Fairness – this provision must be of equal benefit to low income as to higher income families.

The full article, and speech, are available at Lib Dem Voice

Tony Greaves: Can’t poll, won’t poll? (via Lib Dem Voice)

Lord Greaves
Lord Greaves

I wrote about prospects for a minority government if no party gets an overall majority at the General Election, and some of the things that might need to change at Westminster if it’s to work. Moves away from its majoritarian and adversarial culture to one based much more on negotiation and mediation, compromises and trade-offs, and an acceptance of a more dominant role for Parliament as against the government. But will it last?

Traditionally the Prime Minister asked the Sovereign for a dissolution. In the modern era such requests were always granted. Sometimes the government had lost the confidence of the Commons (1924 and 1979), run out of steam (1951), or politics had been turned upside down and the new arrangements needed popular endorsement (1931).

But in most cases in the past 100 years the decision was in the hands of a PM who was looking to call the election at the best time for their party, as when Harold Wilson in 1966 and 1974 went to the country for a bigger majority. That is no longer the case. The date of the election on 7th May was set down in the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 (FTPA) and, so long as that Act remains in force, all future elections will take place on the first Thursday in May in the fifth year after the last election – subject only to two special circumstances that are in the hands of the House of Commons.

The first is that MPs vote for an “early parliamentary general election” by a special two-thirds majority of the whole membership – 434 members or more. The second is a vote of no confidence in the government. If that happens there is a breathing space of 14 days in which an alternative government can seek the confidence of the House – if that occurs, the early election is off.

The question is this: if the numbers in the Commons are anything like I used as a basis for my previous piece (Con 275, Lab 275, LD 35, SNP 40, UKIP 5, Green 2, Speaker 1, all Northern Irish 17) what is the likelihood of the Commons voting for an early election?

The full article is here

Paul Tyler: Devolution – Who’s next? (via Lib Dem Voice)

Lord Tyler
Lord Tyler

The eagle-eyed among LDV readers may have noticed last week good coverage for Nick Clegg’s trip to Cornwall on St Piran’s Day. As well as the usual round of school and business visits, Nick took the opportunity to publish a joint article on Cornish devolution with local Lib Dem Council Leader, Cllr Jeremy Rowe. For some reason the local papers, which published it, haven’t put it online, so here’s a link to it on my own website.

For the first time, Jeremy and Nick spell out how Cornwall could use the Lib Dems’ proposed Devolution Enabling Act to form a Cornish Assembly, with powers over housing, education, health and public transport. They write:

Cornwall could alter right-to-buy, keeping back vital homes for 29,000 people waiting on the local housing list. We could change planning law and Council Tax so buying up second homes in Cornwall comes with a greater price. And Cornwall could blaze a trail, integrating local NHS services and funding with the social care which people rely on all year round – that alone could save millions of pounds and improve thousands of lives.

It’s great to see the political concept of devolution brought alive with real examples of how an Assembly could vary “one size fits all” rules made in London, but which just don’t suit the economy and environment elsewhere.

Cornwall’s great advantage is that there is a measure of political consensus – with the notable exception of the Tories! – about what they want. The Devolution Enabling Act, if we get it on the statute book after May, will let them take it.

The full article is here

Paul Burstow and Claire Tyler: Standardised tobacco packaging (via Lib Dem Voice)

Baroness Tyler of Enfield
Baroness Tyler of Enfield

Do you know only one in ten smokers in the UK started after the age of 19, and two in five of smoking habits started before 16?

Every year, more than 100,000 people die from smoking related diseases across UK; at the same time, 200,000 children aged 11-15 are risking their health and spending hundreds if not thousands of pounds a year on this toxic habit.

When smokers take up in their early years, they face more serious health impacts and find it harder to quit, so reversing this alarming trend has to be one of our biggest priorities in public health. And that’s why the Lib Dems have fought hard over years to get us all ahead of the curve. Thanks to hard work from colleagues across Parliament, in the past ten years the UK has banned tobacco companies from using most forms of advertising – including sponsoring sport teams – and put the display of tobacco products in shops under control while Paul was Health Minister.

Then it was true that the health and economic benefits of stopping tobacco displays far outweigh the costs, and the same is true of standardising cigarette package designs now. The unconscious trigger of attractive packaging is an extremely successful marketing tool that encourages children and young people to glamourise and take up smoking. Bright colours, sleek designs and slim cigarettes, to name a few, all make people falsely believe that such cigarettes are less harmful. Attractive packaging is responsible for one in 20 people who take up the habit and a matter of 2,000 lives in the UK each year.

The full article is available here

Tony Greaves: What happens if …? (via Lib Dem Voice)

Lord Greaves
Lord Greaves

There’s growing talk in Conservative and Labour circles about a minority government. Let’s make an assumption about numbers – not a prediction, just approximate numbers based on current polls: Con 275, Lab 275, LD 35, SNP 40, UKIP 5, Green 2, Speaker 1, all the Northern Irish 17 (of which the present numbers are DUP 8, SF 5, SDLP 3, All 1).

Take out the Speaker and assume that Sinn Fein get five again, and the target for an overall majority is 323. On these numbers a majority Coalition looks hard to achieve – though don’t underestimate the ability of politicians to moderate or even overturn pre-election statements when it comes to getting into government. But add the heightened level of distaste in both Conservatives and Labour for both the concept of coalition and recent practice (at least in Westminster) and the idea of a minority government is not a fantasy.

Of course, a Labour or Conservative minority administration will still need to find a majority in the Commons, whether by positive votes or abstentions, but that’s a different issue. And the PM in a minority government does not need to be leader of the largest party, as indeed the Labour leader Ramsay Macdonald was not in 1924. We should also note – something else that the British media has so far not noticed – that a minority government may itself be a coalition of two or even more parties. On the figures above a Lab-SNP government would still be 18 votes short of a majority, and either a Con-LD or Lab-LD government 23 votes short.

Full article here

William Wallace: Liberal Democrats’ investment in education has been socially progressive (via Lib Dem Voice)

Lord Wallace of Saltaire
Lord Wallace of Saltaire

I took part in a five-party panel at York University the other weekend, organised by the University’s Politics Society, in front of a packed lecture hall with over 200 students.  No other panellist or questioner mentioned the subject of tuition fees, believed by some Liberal Democrat activists (and right-wing journalists) to be an issue that hangs like an albatross round Nick Clegg’s neck. The overwhelming impression I came away with, reinforced by informal conversations with several students after the meeting, was not that we face an outraged student body which can never forgive us for the tuition fees ‘betrayal’, as the NUS would like to portray it; it was of a student body which is switched off from party politics, unsure of whether to vote or not, but with some intelligent questions to ask.  ‘I wasn’t planning to vote until I came to this’, one student told me afterwards, ‘but maybe now I will.’

Since nobody else did, I addressed the tuition fee issue.  I said that we had found it impossible to persuade our Conservative partners in the coalition to pay for this, against the background of a yawning gap between revenue and expenditure in 2010, and had therefore focused on striking a deal that was as progressive in its impact as possible; that the package had ensured that graduates only start to pay back when they are earning good money; that the rise since then in the number of students from disadvantaged backgrounds applying to university has shown that we got that right; and that there was no no way any future government would want to take us back to free fees in the face of other competing demands for government funding.  I went on to say that we had worked in government to put money into ‘the other 50%’ – the young people who never go to university; that doubling the number of apprenticeships, paying a Pupil Premium to encourage schools to put more resources into helping those who most need it, and expanding nursery education to give children a better start in life had proved to be more progressive and cost-effective than free fees for the better-off.

The full article is here

Cathy Bakewell: Lib Dem Lords act to stop retaliatory evictions (via Lib Dem Voice)

Baroness Bakewell
Baroness Bakewell

Yesterday, we moved forward in protecting vulnerable tenants by protecting them from the questionable practice of retaliatory evictions. This is the culmination of a process started by Sarah Teather MP on 28th November when she secured a private Members Bill on Tenancies (Reform) to deal with the problems caused by Retaliatory Evictions.  Sadly there were members in the Commons that day who were themselves landlords, did not share the ethos of the Bill and talked it out of time.  So it was a great privilege for Lib Dems in the Lords to be able to support the essence of Sarah’s Bill in the amendment we debated yesterday. Sarah Teather deserves a lot of credit for her efforts to end this pointless suffering. And for the work she did in the commons to stand up to right wing Tories all too willing to see this continue.

The amendment is not about penalising conscientious landlords, nor is it about protecting bad tenants who do not respect the property they are renting.  It is about protecting the rights of both groups and giving security to tenants, who when reporting a fault which affects their ability to live happily in their home, will not dread an eviction notice landing on the doormat as a result.  It gives a clear signal to those landlords who currently ignore the state of their properties, that this is no longer acceptable.  If such landlords engage in a regular programme of maintenance, they are likely to have a much better relationship with their tenants, reduce the incidence of costly tenancy turnover and be less likely to face expensive repair bills for major incidents, such as collapsed ceilings due to persistent leaks.

The full article can be found here

Sally Hamwee: ”Pesky Lib Dem” Lords win crucial civil liberties changes to Counter Terrorism Bill (via Lib Dem Voice)

They call it the heavy lifting, or – less physical, more forensic – using a fine-tooth comb.  The second chamber is where detailed and precise scrutiny of legislation occurs.  For Bills which raise vital questions about civil liberties, such as the Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill this is all the more important.  It was therefore to the surprise of Lib Dems in the Lords that it was, aside from a misplaced attempt to reintroduce the so-called “Snooper’s Charter”, almost exclusively Lib Dem peers doing the heavy lifting .  At one point I passed a note to Brian Paddick and Sarah Ludford, the team with me on the entirety of it: A lot of people want to talk about the issues we’ve raised but they couldn’t be ****d (complete to taste) to write their own amendments.

Our concern, really to make sure that this sort of legislation is fit for purpose and balances the need to protect the public with precious civil liberties, is often derided.  It is important to get every dot and comma right.  It is therefore a badge of honour to be accused by Norman Tebbit of “dancing around on pins” or, in Michael Howard’s words, “the pesky Lib Dems”.

The Bill that came to the Lords was very different from when it was first trailed by the Prime Minister, speaking to the Australian Parliament about “excluding” people from the UK.  Lib Dems in Government ensured that such claims, made for electoral reasons, were not reflected in the legislation that was finally published.  This is not to say it came to the Lords in a perfect state and our work has ensured that checks and balances on the State have been increased.

 

The full article is here

 

Tim Clement-Jones: Out and about on the doorstep (via Lib Dem Voice)

Lord Clement-Jones
Lord Clement-Jones

Far be it from me (or at their peril anyone else!) to ignore an injunction from our General Election Chair Paddy Ashdown, so my New Year’s resolution has been to commit every Friday up to the start of the campaign proper to campaigning in a target or held seat. All the polling data shows that we have good prospects in a number of target seats.

There was an excellent response and name recognition for Sandy Walkington on my first Friday in St Albans, a constituency I helped in when he first fought it thirty years ago, and with a terrific local team. Last Friday I was with Dorothy Thornhill’s team in both ends of the Watford constituency (it takes in part of Three Rivers) and it was great to see, and campaign alongside, really committed councillors and activists.

I have also been canvassing with Cllr Jeanette Aron who is also up for election this May and it is clear from the response that there is terrific goodwill on the doorstep. A great antidote to the doom and gloom of some of the national coverage of the party.

I have to say I’m looking forward to my next dose of campaign tonic this Friday in Maidstone!

Full post here