The new year has brought with it a new relationship with the European Union. This has presented huge challenges which risk causing economic damage to both the UK and the EU. The border chaos that we have seen, sacrificing free trade of services in preference to fishing rights, and a trade border in the Irish Sea are all Government choices that will have a real impact for many years to come. I worry that this trade deal and new relationship will make our country poorer, less open, and less tolerant.
It is in all our interests to have close relations with the EU. We had a louder voice on the world stage as part of the European Union than we now do on our own. As an MEP I represented the European Union at a United Nations conference in Nairobi, Kenya. I know first hand what a difference working together can have. I championed women’s reproductive rights and gender equality. Our country’s values mattered, and were heard by over 170 world leaders. This was in no small part because I was speaking as the united voice of 500 million people.
My greatest concern is that we as a country, and the world as a whole will be worse off in the years to come. By going it alone; our influence on the world stage is diminished. This is the challenge we now face as a country. As Liberal Democrats we must now fight to make sure that our values of liberty, equality and community are still heard.
Daisy Cooper MP, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Education, has written to the Secretary of State for Education asking that he sets out proposals for a "Spring Forward" year of an optional fully-funded year of education for 17 to 18-year-olds who have missed out during the pandemic.
"Unlike younger students, they do not have years ahead of them in school to gradually make up for the months of in-person teaching time they have lost during the last two academic years," the letter states.
"So it is particularly urgent that you set out proposals to ensure they are not put at a disadvantage as they take their next steps in education, training or into the world of work.
"As students return to school from 8 March, we are asking you to make a firm offer of a “Spring Forward Year” to these students: that every 17 and 18 year old, leaving school or college this year will be entitled to an optional fully-funded year of post-16 education, if they choose it. This could be delivered in schools, colleges or universities."
The letter concludes:
"It is clear that the summer school plans you have suggested as a way for pupils to regain lost learning time, will simply not go far enough. These students have faced unprecedented levels of disruption and need far more ambitious solutions from the Government.
"Every young person should approach the end of their time at school full of excitement for the next stage of their life. The Government owes it to those whose learning has been heavily impacted by the pandemic to ensure they still feel fully prepared for whatever this stage may hold."
Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for the Treasury Christine Jardine MP attended an online meeting with key figures from the travel industry yesterday morning to discuss the issues facing the sector.
At the event, hosted by the travel industry publication Travel Trade Gazette, attendees spoke of their frustration at lack of sector specific support and clarity from the Government over quarantine, the mounting debts many travel companies and tour operators are facing, and welcomed the idea of the revenue replacement scheme which the Liberal Democrats called for in the Budget.
Christine Jardine MP said:
"Listening to the issues faced by the travel industry it is clear that the Government need to provide a much more tailored approach for the sector, and that the sort of revenue replacement scheme that the Liberal Democrats called for in the Budget would make a real difference for many in the sector.
"They need clarity and consistency from ministers over travel restrictions, quarantine, international vaccine passports and so much more, to give both the industry and consumers the confidence they need to be able to open up again.
"But there are also longer term issues over the debt burden, not just through bounce back loans but the cost of transaction payments on cancelled credit card bookings."
Liberal Democrat candidate for York and North Yorkshire's Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner, James Barker, has condemned the Government's cuts to the funds given to councils in York and North Yorkshire to carry out transport maintenance as 'potentially unsafe'.
On 18 February the Government announced their plans to cut road maintenance funding for local councils. For 2021/22 the funding to North Yorkshire County Council has been reduced from £49.6m in 2020/21 to £37m in 2021/22. In York the funding has been reduced from £4m in 2020/21 to £2.8m in 2021/22.
Jamie Stone MP, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Sport, has criticised the Government’s response to his request in Parliament for a commitment to supporting athletes who choose to boycott the 2022 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games in Beijing.
Foreign Office Minister Nigel Adams said it was a matter for the British Olympics Association and individual sports people.
Jamie Stone MP said: “China is responsible for genocide. We know they run so-called re-education camps where they try to eradicate the Uyghur culture and conduct forced sterilisation on Uyghur women.
“I know some athletes are deeply troubled by this 21st century genocide happening in China. Many of them are wonderfully talented athletes with a serious chance of winning big, so this will be a tough dilemma for them.
“I want to make sure that if our Olympians and Paralympians choose to demonstrate and choose to oppose this situation, that the Government will envelop them in support - whatever they need must be given to them. It is only right that we support those that take a stand against genocide.
Layla Moran MP, Lib Dem Foreign Affairs and International Development Spokesperson, has described the Government’s decision to cut direct aid to Yemen as “short-sighted” and “appalling”, asking whether this is what should now be expected from the UK, “leaving other, more compassionate countries, to pick up the slack”.
During an Urgent Question in the Commons, Layla also said that the “enormous cut, in a year when 400,000 children under five might starve to death, is not just heartless but also damages the UK’s international reputation.”
Moran noted that the UK’s decision to cut aid, weeks after announcing over £1bn in new arms sales licences to Saudi Arabia, is the exact opposite of the action taken by the Biden administration in recent weeks to halt arms sales and increase aid.
Ahead of Wednesday’s budget Wera Hobhouse MP, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for the Climate Emergency, has written to the Chancellor imploring him not to scrap the Green Homes Grant scheme.
According to reports, the Government is to withdraw funding for the scheme that aims to support people in retrofitting their homes to cut bills and reduce emissions.
Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for the Climate Emergency Wera Hobhouse MP said:
“In the year the UK is hosting COP26 – the most important climate negotiations since the Paris Agreement, the Conservatives must not undermine our legitimacy on ambitious climate policy. For the sake of those in fuel poverty and the UK's efforts to stop the climate crisis, the Green Homes Grant must not be scrapped.
“Retrofitting homes is vital in the fight to tackle the climate emergency and is one of the easiest steps the country can take now to cut emissions. If this programme is ended prematurely it will be a missed opportunity and lead to more delays – delays the planet cannot afford.
“Not only that, but thousands of small businesses can benefit from this programme. Small businesses are the backbone of our economy and can create the jobs we need for our green recovery. By continuing the scheme thousands of new jobs will be created and provide opportunities for reskilling for those who have lost their jobs in the last year.”
Liberal Democrat Digital, Culture, Media, & Sports spokesperson, Jamie Stone MP, has led a group of 34 MPs and Peers in calling for the Chancellor to include Government-backed insurance for live events in his forthcoming Budget.
The Chancellor has come under increasing pressure to underwrite insurance cover for the live events industry amid warnings that the festival summer season could be cancelled without sufficient Government support.
The cross-party letter warns that unless the Chancellor heeds the warnings from industry experts to facilitate the reopening of the sector, he could be responsible for plunging “the nation deeper into an existing jobs and mental health crisis.”
I am proud of the time I spent as part of the travel industry. From humble holiday rep to Chair of the Board of Leeds Bradford Airport, I took great pleasure in enabling thousands of families to take a break from everyday life to spend quality time together, experience new cultures, and relax in the sun.
This background means I’m well aware of the thousands of jobs that depend on the habit of us Brits to escape our unpredictable weather for more pleasant climes. That habit will be hard to break, but that unpredictable weather could get a whole lot worse if we don’t change our behaviour. How we manage that change will have a big impact on those travel jobs.
During my time at Leeds Bradford Airport, I could only have dreamed of bringing forward plans for a shiny new terminal such as that now going before Leeds Plans Panel this week. How strange that I now feel it must be stopped.
“The good news that the vaccine programme is gaining momentum is tempered somewhat by the number of people who say they will refuse it. The speed of the roll-out has clearly unsettled many and allowed conspiracy theorists and people who oppose vaccines to unsettle them still further.
What many may not realise is that a huge amount of research on coronaviruses and vaccine delivery was taking place in the years before covid-19 struck. It’s because scientists know that this family of viruses causes pandemics. A lot of the basics on which to build were already in place. The willingness of countries to share information allowed research to accelerate, as has the rapid release of data for evaluation.
Tim Farron, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, responded to the developments on the Trade Bill, as the Government refuses to back key amendments to protect British farmers.
Farmers across the country are worried about their future - they’re worried that the UK will be flooded with poor quality food that undercuts the goods they produce to high environmental and animal welfare standards.
The Conservatives have continually failed to protect our farmers from these risks.
Too many people feel unsafe in their own homes and walking down their local streets. So many communities feel exposed and vulnerable.
The Conservatives’ cuts to police numbers have contributed to a rise in violence and decimated community policing. 47% of people say they never see police foot patrols, up from 30% in 2014-15.
The Tories and Labour made big promises on police numbers, but have failed to commit the funding needed to deliver them. Police officers are leaving in their droves because they are not being properly rewarded for putting their lives on the line to keep us safe. We need to encourage experienced officers to stay, as well as recruiting the extra officers we need.
The other parties just don’t get it.
But we do.
We’re committing £1 billion a year to fund our police force. That’s £250 million more than Labour or the Tories…
That’s enough for two officers in every ward, and to provide an immediate 2% pay-rise for our hard-working cops.
We’re the only party willing to put our money where our mouth is. We’ll back our bobbies with money, not just words.
We are the only party that will make our communities safer by stopping Brexit. Then, together, we will build a brighter future.
The Resolution Foundation, an independent think-tank, has released a report on child poverty. You can find this here.
It found that our policies would mean 600,000 fewer children in poverty by 2023-24.
This makes ours the most progressive policies of the three main parties.
That’s not all the report found. Child poverty risks reaching a record high under Conservative plans. It is a damning indictment of the Tories’ heartless welfare policy.
As the Resolution Foundation recognises, we have the most progressive policies here. We would scrap the cruel two-child limit, benefit cap and bedroom tax. We would also invest in free school meals and childcare for millions of families.
We will ensure that everyone has the same opportunities regardless of where they come from.
The Tories are hell-bent on continuing their backwards economic policies. They are ruining the lives of millions of people, young and old.
But our manifesto helps the most vulnerable in our society. We are deeply proud of that fact.
We are the only party that is committed to helping the next generation get ahead in life.
The social security system is not working as it should: it is driving people further into poverty and forcing families to rely on foodbanks to get by. The Conservatives have designed the welfare system based on their backward-looking view of work and families and are making the matter worse. Liberal Democrats are looking to the future and will build a system that works for the modern world to support those who need it and help people back into work. We will:
- Make the welfare system work by:
- Reducing the wait for the first payment from five weeks to five days.
- Tackling child poverty by removing the two-child limit and the benefits cap.
- Making work pay by increasing work allowances and introducing a second earner work allowance.
- Establish a legal right to food to enshrine in law the government’s responsibility to ensure that existing and new public policy is audited for its impact on food security.
- Reform Universal Credit to be more supportive of the self-employed.
- Increase Local Housing Allowance in line with average rents in an area.
- Abolish the bedroom tax and introduce positive incentives for people to downsize.
- Ensure that everyone gets the help they need by separating employment support from benefits administration and increase spending on training and education.
- Introduce an incentive-based scheme to replace the current sanctions system, which does not encourage people into work, penalises people with mental health issues and deters people from claiming support.
- Reverse the cuts to Employment Support Allowance for those in the work-related activity group.
- End Work Capability Assessments and replace them with a new system that is run by local authorities and based on real-world tests.
- Reinstate the Independent Living Fund.
- Radically overhaul the Bereavement Allowance, slashed by the Conservatives, so that widows and widowers receive far more support and extend the payments to unmarried couples when a parent dies.
- Aim to end fuel poverty by 2025 by providing free energy retrofits for low-income homes as part of our emergency programme to reduce energy consumption from all the UK’s buildings.
Only the Liberal Democrats will stop Brexit and build a brighter future for those struggling in our society.
Recent figures show that 64,885 have closed in Yorkshire and the Humber between 2016 and 2018, a 22% increase compared to the three years previous. Across the UK one million businesses have closed their doors between 2016 and 2018, an increase of almost a third compared to 2013- 2015.
The Federation of Small Businesses has warned that a no deal Brexit, which Boris Johnson has repeatedly refused to rule out, would mean more damage to firms. Firms are also being held back by the Conservative government's failure to reform business rates, and by new taxes on the self-employed that business groups have described as "disastrous".
Liberal Democrats have said that they will Stop Brexit and invest the £50 billion Remain Bonus in improving public services and tackling inequality. The party would also put in place a package of measures to support small businesses and boost high streets in Yorkshire and the Humber, including:
The Liberal Democrats have announced plans to scrap business rates and replace them with a landowner levy, to "breathe new life" into high streets across the 21 Local Authorities that make up Yorkshire and the Humber region.
The party would replace business rates with a commercial landowner levy, based on the value of the land only. This would take the cost off businesses and help support high streets.
The proposals would cut taxes for businesses by an average of 26% across the region, with North Lincolnshire seeing a massive reduction of 42%.
By taxing landowners rather than businesses, half a million small businesses across the country would be spared the burden of property taxation.
Liberal Democrat candidate for Cleethorpes, Roy Horobin said:
"Many retailers and small businesses across our region are under pressure from economic uncertainty, the rise of online retail and the burden of business rates.
"Yet this Conservative government is failing to get to grips with the crisis facing our high streets. Time and again they have promised reviews of business rates but have failed to take action.
"The Liberal Democrats will shift the tax burden from tenants to landlords, so we can breathe new life back into our high streets. We will stop Brexit and build a brighter future, giving local businesses the certainty and support they need to thrive."
The climate crisis is doing irreversible damage to our planet, and our country deserves a government that has a clear, ambitious plan to tackle the climate emergency. That's the Liberal Democrats.
We previously announced our bold green plan to build a brighter future, and now we go a step further as Ed Davey unveils the Liberal Democrats' latest economic pledge in taking urgent climate action.
A Liberal Democrat government will jump-start an economy-wide programme to tackle the climate emergency. Across a five year parliament, we will spend and invest an extra £100 billion of public finance on climate action and environmental preservation.
"A Liberal Democrat government will jump-start an economy-wide programme to tackle the climate emergency."
This will include a new £10 billion Renewable Power Fund to leverage in over £100 billion of extra private climate investment.
This will fast-track deployment of clean energy, to make Britain not just the world leader in offshore wind, but also the global number one in tidal power too. There will also be a £15 billion investment to make every building in the country greener, with an emergency ten-year programme to save energy, end fuel poverty and cut heating bills.
This election debate on the economy and public spending has Brexit at its heart, and the simple fact is, no party’s economic plan is remotely credible unless it starts with stopping Brexit.
With stopping Brexit as our number one economic policy, the Liberal Democrats won’t just grow the economy faster, but we’ll generate a £50 billion Remain Bonus and invest it in public services and tackling inequality.
Learn more about our Plan for the Future here.
Our rights are at risk from creeping authoritarian populism - and only the Liberal Democrats will stop it.
We will invest millions in youth services and adopt a public health approach to youth violence.
For Leeds, this would mean they would spend and extra £4.3 million on youth services, to help tackle rising levels of violence and knife crime.
This would be £4.3 million on top of the £3.6 million currently spent on youth services in Leeds (£7.9 million in total). This would form part of a total ring-fenced of £500 million for Local Authorities across England to spend on youth services, providing young people with positive, safe and healthy alternatives to gangs.
Under the Conservatives, council spending on youth services has been cut nationally by £300 million - or 40 per cent - since 2015. Knife crime has risen by 80% over the same period, with a record high of 47,500 offences recorded in the year to June 2019. Research has also found the areas with the biggest cuts to youth services have seen some of the biggest increases in knife crime.
The Liberal Democrats would also take a public health approach to tackling youth violence, modelled on the successful approach taken by Scotland’s Violence Reduction Unit. This would involve identifying risk factors and treating them early on, with youth workers, police, teachers, health professionals and social services all working closely together to prevent young people falling into gangs and violence.
Liberal Democrat candidate for Leeds North West, Kamran Hussain commented:
“Too many people in Leeds feel unsafe walking down their own streets.
“But for years, Conservative and Labour Governments have been competing to seem tough on crime, without doing enough to actually prevent it.
“Liberal Democrats will build a brighter future for young people by investing £4.3 million extra a year in youth services for young people in Leeds.
“With a Liberal Democrat government, young people will have the support and opportunities they deserve, our local communities will be stronger and people here will feel safer.”