The Liberal Democrats have called for the Government to speed up the rollout of Covid-19 vaccines over half term after new Department for Education figures reveal over 216,000 pupils are absent from school for Covid-related reasons.
The figures, released today (12:00pm), show infection rates in schools are rising at a concerning rate and this is having a huge impact on young people’s education - with 2.6% of pupils absent for covid-related reasons over the last two weeks.
Across the UK schools are grappling with soaring case numbers, which has seen institutions like Eton bring in a wave of new strict measures, including social distancing and cancelling events, to prevent an outbreak of cases.
The Liberal Democrats are calling for greater steps to be taken to protect our children’s education, including a £5bn Catch Up Voucher plan to directly support their learning.
Responding to these figures, Liberal Democrat Health Spokesperson Munira Wilson MP said:
“We cannot allow our children’s futures to continue to suffer because of Conservative neglect. The Government must urgently ramp up vaccinations for 12 to 16 year olds over the half term holidays, to curb the spread within schools and prevent further disruption in the classroom.
“With teachers across the country facing rising absences from the classroom, it’s clear that the Conservatives have failed to get to grips with the difficult situation facing our schools and our children are being left to pay the price for it.
“Schools have been given the impossible task of keeping children in the classroom whilst also dealing with rising Covid rates. As a result, thousands of children are now missing out on vital learning yet again due to infections and parents will rightly feel abandoned by the Government.
“For too long the Conservatives have buried their heads in the sand and seemingly given up trying whilst our children’s education has suffered. They now need to show some real leadership to address this chaos and help our children catch up on lost learning before it’s too late.”
Reacting to the Education Policy Institute's report, which says "significant, additional spending" is needed to help pupils recover lost learning, Liberal Democrat Education Spokesperson Daisy Cooper MP said:
“Next week’s budget will be high stakes for our children’s futures. Rishi Sunak needs to step up so children aren’t left paying the price for the pandemic.
"Lib Dems are demanding a no ifs, no buts commitment to stump up the £15 billion recommended by the government’s own catch-up tsar.
"That must include the Liberal Democrat proposal for Catch-up Vouchers to empower parents and bring them into the heart of their child's education."
Reacting to new statistics released which show that there has been a 9% rise in hate crimes since last year - now the highest on record - Liberal Democrat Justice and Equalities Spokesperson Wera Hobhouse MP said :
“Violence and abuse of any kind has no place in our society. It is unacceptable that so many people are victimised simply because of who they are. This has to change.
“There are even more hate crimes – against women – that are not included in these statistics, because the Government still refuses to make misogyny a hate crime. It’s time for the Prime Minister to listen to our calls for change, so that crimes motivated by hatred against women are treated as seriously as those motivated by racism or religious hatred.
“Everyone should be able to be who they are and live the life they choose, without fearing for their safety. That demands responsible leadership that celebrates our diversity and condemns the divisive, intolerant rhetoric that inflames hatred.”
Reacting to news that the High Court has just ruled that trafficking victims should be granted leave to remain in the UK, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson Alistair Carmichael MP said:
“It shouldn’t have taken a court to tell the Home Office that victims of trafficking – some of the most vulnerable people in our country – should be protected. Instead of appealing this judgment, the Government should implement it in full, so that victims are supported when they come forward, helping to bring their slavers to justice.
“The Conservatives’ hostile environment is undermining the fight against modern slavery. Priti Patel must abolish it and put tackling these evil criminal gangs first.”
Reacting to Lord Frost's speech in Lisbon yesterday on the UK-EU relationship and the Northern Ireland Protocol, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs and Northern Ireland Spokesperson Alistair Carmichael MP said:
“This Conservative Government is playing out like a badly-written farce. The same minister who just months ago was trumpeting the Government's botched Brexit deal now says it’s intolerable and has to be changed.
“After all the upheaval British businesses have suffered and all the challenges they face now, they need certainty and support from the Government, not more pointless posturing. The solution to disruption and shortages is working together with our friends and neighbours, not picking needless fights.
“Boris Johnson's Conservatives have got to stop talking so casually about breaking international law. Every time they do this, it weakens the UK’s standing with our closest neighbours and around the world."
Responding to the Royal College of Physicians findings that one in three doctors say their organisation is not prepared for winter, Liberal Democrat Health and Social Care spokesperson Munira Wilson MP said:
“Health and care staff find themselves facing a huge backlog of care and record waiting times as they head into this winter. These stark figures show just how many are feeling burned out, overstretched, and deeply concerned about their ability to cope.
“The fact that one-in-three doctors have concerns about the upcoming winter shows that the Government is not providing enough support to those working on the front lines. This is not only letting down staff, but letting down patients too.
“We urgently need a long-term workforce plan to ensure that health and social care providers are both staffed and supported. With tens of thousands of vacancies in the NHS alone, the Government must stop berating GPs and threatening sanctions - instead investing to give our health and social care staff the support they so desperately need.”
Figures show the number of households assessed as rough sleeping across England have soared by 39.4% in the past year, up from 8,310 to 11,580.
Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran, who earlier this month held a House of Commons debate on rough sleeping, has called on the government to take action to live up to their manifesto commitment of ending rough sleeping across the country stating that we are “in dire need of action”.
The Lib Dem MP also called out the "heartless" cut to Universal Credit saying that it would "plunge even more people into poverty."
The figures show a huge rise in rough sleeping across the nation's capital London, with a 66% increase in rough sleeping bringing the total to a staggering 11,580.
Commenting on the stats, Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran said:
"With rough sleeping figures tragically spiralling one thing is clear; we are in dire need of action from this Government who made a manifesto promise to end rough sleeping.
"Yet, despite making this promise, they are working against this goal. They have failed to scrap the Vagrancy Act, which criminalises rough sleepers, and their heartless cut to the Universal Credit uplift will plunge even more people into poverty.
"The Conservatives need to get serious about eliminating rough sleeping or risk breaking yet another promise to some of the most vulnerable people in our society.
"The Liberal Democrats understand that we need to treat rough sleepers like people, giving them the support they want and need on an individual basis. That starts by scrapping the Vagrancy Act, rolling out Housing First across England, and the Government committing to long-term funding for councils to give them the certainty they need."
The Liberal Democrats are calling on Boris Johnson to give a “cast-iron guarantee” to parents that schools will not be shut again as part of the Government’s Covid winter plan, after the chaos of the last year which saw pupils miss out on 33 million days of schooling.
The Liberal Democrats are also calling for more funding to ensure schools can stay open safely as Covid cases rise, including to improve ventilation and install an air purifier in every classroom.
The Government still refuses to fund these vital safety measures, and instead suggested children learn outside in the cold during the winter months.
Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey said:
“Our children have been failed by the Conservatives throughout this pandemic. Pupils have missed out on millions of days of vital teaching and their parents have been left to pick up the pieces.
“Boris Johnson must give a cast-iron guarantee to parents that schools will remain open this winter so that younger generations aren’t let down yet again.
“More funding and equipment is urgently needed to ensure schools can stay open safely, including providing an air purifier in every classroom.
“Instead, Gavin Williamson’s master plan so far seems to be forcing our children to learn out in the cold. Our children deserve better than this.”
Yesterday, Leader of the Liberal Democrats Ed Davey MP has called on the Prime Minister to provide proper funding so that children can catch up on the education they missed during during the pandemic.
Ed Davey said:
“Boris Johnson’s refusal to fund his own adviser’s education catch-up plan is a shocking betrayal of our children’s futures.
“As children go back to school, parents are understandably anxious about all the learning they've missed out on during Covid.
“Children, parents and teachers have done everything that’s been asked of them during the Covid crisis, but have been let down repeatedly by the appalling failures of Gavin Williamson and this Conservative Government.
“Tory Ministers must listen to what parents are telling them and stump up the cash schools need to make up for the learning all children have lost during the pandemic.”
Responding to HM Inspectorate of Probation’s report exposing the lack of specialist drug treatment for people on probation, Liberal Democrat Justice Spokesperson Wera Hobhouse MP said:
“The Conservatives abject failure to tackle the causes of crime is making our communities less safe.
“We know that effective drug treatment – both in prison and in the community – is crucial for stopping people from reoffending. We know that drug-related crime costs taxpayers £9 billion every year. So why won’t the Government invest what is needed to treat drug addiction and stop more people becoming victims of crime?
“Sadly, Conservative Ministers are spending too much time trying to sound tough on crime, and not doing what will actually work to prevent it.
“To break the cycle of reoffending, we must turn prisons into places of recovery and rehabilitation, and ensure that people get the treatment they need while on probation too. We must also tackle the childhood trauma that often drives both drug use and offending, and causes lasting damage throughout people's lives.”
Responding to Dominic Raab's comments on the BBC Radio 4 Today Programme where he said he would increase the aid budget he "slashed to the bone" by 10%, Liberal Democrat Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Layla Moran MP said:
"It is outrageous that the Foreign Secretary has come out of hiding to announce this pitiful amount of support. This is the same person who cynically slashed aid to vulnerable women and girls in Afghanistan, making life even harder for people in the country.
"Raab and his heartless Government cut aid funding to the bone and now they're trying to put a sticking plaster over their failures.
"They should do the honourable thing and immediately recommit pre-aid cut levels to Afghanistan to support those women and girls who need it now more than ever.
"Dominic Raab's legacy as Foreign Secretary will no doubt be one of shame and downright incompetence."
The Liberal Democrats are calling on the government to work with international allies to secure a safe corridor of land in Afghanistan, to allow more people an escape route from the Taliban to an international border.
Layla Moran MP, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs, said:
"The scenes from Kabul airport this morning are heartbreaking and we must offer a new way out for those desperate to escape the terror of the Taliban.
"A safe corridor of land from Kabul to an international border may offer an escape route from this murderous, tyrannical and barbaric regime. The government must make this their top priority today, and secure such a humanitarian corridor with international allies."
"All those who need to escape the Taliban, especially women and girls, must be given the chance. The Prime Minister needs to show international leadership and start work with our allies on this immediately."
Responding to the latest news that the Taliban have entered the outskirts of Kabul in Afghanistan, Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey said:
“My thoughts are with the Afghan people. Millions will be fearing for their lives - those who have any connection to coalition forces in particular. Women and girls will be terrified that their liberties and rights are about to be permanently extinguished. It is utterly dreadful. My thoughts are also with those in the British armed forces who gave so much to keep them safe for so long.
“We must not conclude that this rapid collapse was inevitable. It was not. We must never forget that the scenes playing out before our eyes are a direct result of the decisions taken by President Biden, the UK Government and other coalition forces. Today, our leaders should all hang their heads in shame.
“To say it is too late is not good enough. In the UK the Prime Minister should call in all political parties and ensure that we respond with unity and purpose.”
The Liberal Democrats have slammed the Government as new statistics reveal just 292 new “rapid” electric vehicle chargers were installed in the last three months, in spite of Tory promises to dramatically increase the number of fast chargers.
The news comes as the Prime Minister’s COP26 Spokesperson Allegra Stratton said she was sticking with her diesel car because of concerns about range and recharging - suggesting she would buy an EV if “the stop times for recharging improve so much that it’s half an hour.”
Rapid chargers will charge an EV from 0% to 80% in roughly the same time Ms Stratton desires, rather than the 8 hours that a standard “fast” charger takes.
Earlier this year, the Conservatives cut grants available to new electric vehicle owners and the number of new electric vehicle charging devices installed dropped by 30% last year compared to the year before.
Sarah Olney, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Transport, said:
“Once again the Tories are doing one thing but saying another. They say that by 2030 all new cars sold should be electric, yet they’re doing everything they can to put people off buying electric vehicles. Even the PM’s climate spokesperson says she doesn’t ‘fancy’ owning one.
“For a Government all too happy to grandstand about ambitious climate change targets, their record on electric vehicles is frankly embarrassing and tells you all you need to know about how seriously the Tories are taking the climate crisis.
“Liberal Democrats call on the Conservatives to reverse the damage they’ve done by increasing, not cutting, the Plug-In Car Grant and investing in more charging points - particularly rapid chargers in rural areas.”
Munira Wilson MP, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Health and parent of a child told to stay at home due to covid rules, responds to news that 1 million children are currently not attending school:
"We are in the midst of an education crisis which is worsening by the day.
"As a parent myself with a child told to stay at home right now, I know how tough it is when the dreaded text from school arrives.
"Behind this number are children without laptops, untold impacts on their mental health and parents forced to stay at home instead of working.
"The Prime Minister needs to act today on this if schools are to return in Autumn. He must act without delay to protect millions of children's mental health and wellbeing. As he told the country last night - If not now, then when?"
Today there will be a vote in Parliament on establishing an independent inquiry into the Government’s mishandling of the cladding scandal.
Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats, Daisy Cooper MP, will put forward a Ten Minute Rule Motion for MPs to vote on this afternoon.
It follows the passing of the Fire Safety Bill in April, which failed to provide vital protection for leaseholders and tenants against the costs of remediation.
Ms Cooper will call for the inquiry to focus on three areas in particular:
The Government’s failures to date
The faulty design of the Building Safety Fund
The gaping hole between the Prime Minister’s promises and his Government’s actions
Ahead of her speech in the House of Commons today, Daisy Cooper MP said:
“After the Grenfell tragedy, the Conservative Government said “never again” - but four years later its own handling of the building safety crisis has degenerated into a national scandal of epic proportions.
“It’s incomprehensible that the government still doesn’t know the scale of the challenge, has cobbled together a feeble package of support that excludes so many of those who are affected, and is now actively back-tracking on its promise to protect innocent leaseholders from the extortionate costs of fire safety problems that are not of their making.
“The Government has turned its back on blameless fire safety victims at every turn, leaving innocent people at personal risk and in financial ruin, burdening them with sky-high bills and unsafe, unsellable properties. An inquiry is now needed to investigate why the Conservative Government has made so little progress in tackling the fire safety scandal and why it keeps putting the interests of the big developers ahead of innocent fire safety victims.
“Liberal Democrats are calling for a public inquiry so those affected can get the justice and answers they deserve.”
Responding to the publication of the Government’s Nationality and Borders Bill earlier this week, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson Alistair Carmichael MP said:
“This Anti-Refugee Bill is a truly nasty piece of legislation from a Conservative Government that is ripping up the UK’s proud tradition of providing sanctuary to refugees.
“We need to fix our asylum system, combat the criminal gangs who profit from trafficking and smuggling, and stop people from making dangerous attempts to cross the Channel.
“Priti Patel’s proposals will do nothing to help. In fact, the Anti-Refugee Bill will make those problems worse. It will add even more delay, increasing the Home Office’s already huge backlog. And it will play into the hands of human traffickers, by making it harder for their victims to come forward and get the support they need.
“Instead of pressing ahead with her cruel and counterproductive legislation, Priti Patel should focus on providing safe and legal routes for refugees to come to the UK. That’s the best way to tackle these criminal gangs, stop dangerous boat crossings, and uphold our obligation to protect the world’s most vulnerable people.”