Reacting to the appearance of Dido Harding and Dr Jenny Harries before the Public Accounts Committee today, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Health Munira Wilson MP said:
“Dido Harding offered up the understatement of the century today when she said some people may find her assertion that Test and Trace has been a success to be ‘rather incredulous’.
“The reality is that it has been a £37bn horror show from the get go.
"Earlier this year, the Public Accounts Committee found that it had made little impact on the number of cases despite this colossal budget. SAGE also adjudged Test and Trace to be having a 'marginal impact'.
“The system consistently failed last year to trace those who had come in contact with the virus. The Government’s efforts would now be better placed in providing proper support for self-isolation, so that workers and families do not have to break the rules for lack of money. That would be a far better use of taxpayers' money.”
"This Government seems incapable of hearing the many voices telling them loudly and clearly how desperately small businesses need support to help them cope with the extra period of restrictions, and beyond.
"It is completely incomprehensible that the Chancellor is prepared to end so many of the support mechanisms before firms even have a chance to open their doors and start trading.
"Why support them for this long and then not see them through to the end?
"The black-hole in business support they have created is particularly unfair to the night-time economy, which is being forced to set aside thousands of pounds before able to welcome a single customer.
"The Chancellor has taken his eye off the ball and needs to come up with a long term plan before it is too late. Thousands of closures and job losses are at stake."
Munira Wilson has secured a commitment from the new Health Secretary, Sajid Javid, to meet to discuss social care reforms, as the Liberal Democrats continue to push for full cross-party talks on the issue.
In the House of Commons this afternoon, the Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Health, Wellbeing and Social Care highlighted the tens of thousands of people who have died from Covid in care homes, as well as the 7 million carers who have seen their mental health worsen during the pandemic.
She asked Javid for a meeting with herself and the party’s Leader Ed Davey to start cross-party work on social care reform, and the Health Secretary agreed.
Following the exchange, Munira Wilson MP, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Health, Wellbeing and Social Care, said:
“We urgently need to build cross-party agreement on a long-term sustainable future for social care.
“As things stand, more than 1.5 million people are missing out on the care they need. People are stranded in hospital, unable to leave because follow-up care just does not exist. The NHS, local councils and unpaid carers are all under huge and growing pressure.
“We had repeatedly asked Boris Johnson and Matt Hancock to meet with us and start cross-party work on this, but our pleas fell on deaf ears. I’m glad that the new Health Secretary at least seems willing to talk.
“People needing care and their families have been left waiting far too long for the system to be fixed. Liberal Democrats will continue to push for the progress they desperately need.”
Reacting to the news that Matt Hancock has resigned as Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Leader of the Liberal Democrats Ed Davey said:
“Matt Hancock's resignation was inevitable. You cannot be a rule maker and rule breaker. His hypocrisy undermined the efforts of millions of Brits who have made huge sacrifices to keep everyone safe throughout this pandemic.
"Just yesterday, the Prime Minister swiftly came to the conclusion that the matter was closed. He was wrong. His judgement is now seriously under question.
“When it comes to standards in public life, it is clear that Boris Johnson does not share the same values as the rest of us. From Covid rule breaking to bullying allegations, the Prime Minister has repeatedly looked the other way.
“Ultimately, Boris Johnson’s judgement during this pandemic will be assessed at the public inquiry. If he wants to maintain the respect of the public, he should set it up immediately.”
Responding to the Home Secretary’s plans to hold asylum seekers in an offshore “processing centre”, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson Alistair Carmichael MP said:
“Shipping asylum seekers off to so-called ‘processing centres’ in Rwanda would be an appalling and inhumane way to treat some of the world’s most vulnerable people.
“The UK has a proud history of providing sanctuary and support to those in need, but now Priti Patel and the Conservatives are turning their backs on refugees who are seeking safety.
“Treating seekers of sanctuary as criminals is wrong and will only strengthen the position of people smugglers and human traffickers who prey on desperate people trying to cross the Channel.
“The best way to tackle these criminal gangs and stop dangerous boat crossings is to provide safe and legal routes for refugees to come to the UK, something the Home Secretary is completely failing to do.
“That should be her focus, not these dystopian proposals.”
Responding to the news that the Government has planned to cut Pupil Premium funding by some £90million, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Education Daisy Cooper MP said:
"Liberal Democrats warned the government months ago that the most disadvantaged children would lose out on support because of the Government’s shameful penny-pinching.
“We wrote to the Education Secretary months ago urging him not to go ahead with this cut and teachers warned of the impact this would have for disadvantaged pupils - but the Government simply refused to listen. The Tories talk about the importance of levelling up in our education system, but the reality is they have cut vital funding which gives support to the poorest pupils.
"This will have a devastating impact for pupils who are recovering from months of disruption to their schooling, and comes on top of the paltry education recovery package the Government have offered.
"The Government must reverse this disgraceful, short-sighted move and backdate payments to schools for the money they have missed out on.”
Responding to the passing of legislation by the Hungarian Parliament that bans materials in schools deemed to promote homosexuality and gender change, Liberal Democrat Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Layla Moran MP said:
"Quite simply this is a disgusting piece of legislation which violates human rights and will lead to lasting harm to LGBT+ individuals. Homophobic persecution of this sort is something we are used to seeing in Vladmir Putin’s Russia, not in an EU member state. It is appalling.
“But this is only the latest repressive step from Viktor Orban, whose record on antisemitism, Islamophobia, LGBT+ and women’s rights, and so much more besides is utterly abysmal. Despite this, Boris Johnson still thought Viktor Orban was worthy of rolling out the Downing Street red carpet last month. What signal does that send out about the type of country we want to be?
“In order to combat this assault on LGBT+ rights, the UK Government must commit to working in lockstep with our EU allies. We will only be able to tackle systemic discrimination if we work together.”
Responding to the announcement that G7 finance ministers have endorsed a unified stance on corporation tax, Liberal Democrats Treasury Spokesperson Christine Jardine MP said:
"This is a long-overdue step towards tackling tax avoidance by some of the most profitable companies in the world.
"It is crucial we push ahead with these steps in order to prevent tech giants exploiting loopholes in our tax system, and these changes must be embraced by the G20, OECD and the rest of the international community.
"This Government did nothing to tax the excess profits made by large corporations that benefited from the pandemic. They must now use this opportunity to the fullest to ensure tech giants finally pay their fair share.
"This is an opportunity to ensure that those giants who have made huge profits in this pandemic cannot dodge their responsibilities and that they pay their fair share towards recovery."
Responding to the news that workforce burnout across the NHS and social care has reached an emergency level according to the Health and Social Care Commons Select Committee, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Health, Wellbeing and Social Care, Munira Wilson MP commented:
“As this report shows, the pandemic has clearly taken its toll on NHS staff, health and social care workers, who have gone above and beyond over the course of this crisis. They are burned out, traumatised, and stressed after over a year caring for hundreds of thousands of severely ill Covid patients. On top of this, they have worked tirelessly to get as many people vaccinated as efficiently and as safely as possible.
“The Government not only need to reward them properly for their service with a proper pay rise but support them for the challenges ahead. Staff are exhausted and will struggle to tackle the growing list of those wating for treatment, which is now nearing 5 million, unless the Government gets a grip of pressures facing the workforce.
“That’s why the Liberal Democrats are calling on the Government to recruit more staff and create a proper long-term workforce plan. Current workloads are unsustainable and many are staff are considering leaving. Recruiting more staff, paying them better and planning for the long-term is the only way to tackle this looming crisis.”
New research by Liberal Democrats/Savanta has shown that 30 per cent of British adults self-identify as someone who has unpaid caring responsibilities for a family member or friend due to illness - almost 1 in 3 UK adults.
The research surveyed over 2,000 UK adults and prompted Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey to call on the Government to give unpaid carers support to take time off.
In further research commissioned for Carers Week (7 -11 June), a Carers UK survey revealed 72 per cent of unpaid carers have not been able to have a break since the Coronavirus pandemic began.
Commenting on the research Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey MP said:
“Unpaid carers have taken on dramatically increased caring responsibilities during the pandemic. Many carers haven’t been able to take a single break since the pandemic started. Most are simply exhausted,”
“This pandemic has shown that we are a nation of carers. But people looking after their loved ones are still too often forgotten and ignored by people in power.
“The government must finally recognise the incredible contribution that unpaid carers make and give them the support they deserve. It must give local councils the emergency funding they need to give carers a break.
“Liberal Democrats are standing up for carers and working to build a more caring society as we emerge from this pandemic.”
Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey has written to the Prime Minister urging him to bring forward a public inquiry into the handling of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Davey first called for a full inquiry into the Government's actions during the pandemic last year in April 2020.
The Prime Minister, who has promised the Liberal Democrats an inquiry at multiple points in the chamber, has recently confirmed a full inquiry will take place in this session of Parliament in Spring 2022.
With serious allegations made by the Prime Minister's former chief advisor yesterday, the urgent need for an inquiry now has been reiterated.
Davey says in the letter that "the chair and any further members of the panel should be appointed within days".
The letter in full is below:
Dear Prime Minister,
I am writing to urge you to establish the independent public inquiry into the Government’s handling of the Covid pandemic that you have promised now, without further delay.
Very serious allegations have been made about the Government’s actions – including by your former chief adviser in Number 10. The chaotic mess of claims, counter-claims, anonymous WhatsApp briefings and cryptic Twitter threads is not the way to establish the truth that the British people – and bereaved families in particular – deserve.
It is clear that we need an independent, statutory public inquiry, and we need it now.
You will recall that in July last year, having secured a commitment from you to hold an independent inquiry, I wrote asking you to confirm that the inquiry would be held under the Inquiries Act 2005 and to publish a timetable, draft terms of reference and the name of your proposed chair before the summer recess. It is deeply disappointing that you have still not done so.
While I welcome your promise earlier this month to set up the inquiry within this parliamentary session, there is no substitute for a statutory public inquiry and no good excuse for any further delay. The Covid threat remains very real, and we must learn lessons now to prevent further unnecessary deaths.
You may also recall that, last July, I wrote to you with draft terms of reference for the inquiry, drawn up with advice from specialist lawyers, including those representing the bereaved families of those who have died from Covid. It is essential that this inquiry must ensure the effective participation of the bereaved, and my proposed terms of reference made clear that they must be consulted from the outset. I urge you again to consult them now.
Given the urgency of this crucial inquiry, the chair and any further members of the panel should be appointed within days. The chair must clearly be someone who has the necessary skills to conduct a detailed and thorough examination of the Government’s handling of the pandemic, as well as someone whose impartiality is beyond reproach. It is also vital that the chair and panel have the trust of the bereaved.
I hope you will consider these proposals in the positive and constructive spirit that they are intended, and I urge you to act quickly to establish the independent public inquiry you have promised without further delay.
I look forward to a response at your earliest convenience. In the spirit of co-operation for the national interest, I would be happy to meet with you and representatives of bereaved families to discuss our proposals in more detail.
Ed Davey MP
Leader of the Liberal Democrats
Liberal Democrat Business spokesperson, Sarah Olney MP, has led a group of 51 MPs and Peers in calling for Gavin Williamson to issue new guidance to the Office for Students (OfS) and reconsider the proposed 50% cuts to the high-cost subject funding of arts subjects.
In a letter sent to the OfS, the Secretary proposed cutting residual funding in half for Higher Education (HE) subjects not amongst the Government’s “strategic priorities” in England.
Courses in music, dance, drama and performing arts, art and design, media studies and archaeology will therefore, under the proposals, suffer a 50% cut to their ‘high-cost subject funding’, which is provided for subjects with higher teaching costs.
Independent campaign group Public Campaign for the Arts, whose efforts Sarah is supporting, has launched a petition calling for the proposal to be scrapped which currently has over 160,000 signatures.
Sarah Olney Lib Dem MP for Richmond Park said:
“This is about what kind of message we as a nation are sending about how we value arts subjects. Without this kind of state support, creative skills development will be largely inaccessible to those from working class and otherwise marginalised backgrounds. Not only will we be reinforcing existing, harmful barriers to entry, but the Government will be directly contradicting its own levelling-up agenda.
“Generating over £111 billion a year, our creative industries are economically vital to our country. But beyond the clear economic imperative, there is a cultural cost to what the Secretary is proposing. England is a world-leader in the arts and that is why we are urging him to reconsider his approach.”
Jack Gamble, Director of Public Campaign for the Arts says:
“We are pleased that Sarah Olney and a cross-party group of MPs and peers have joined over 160,000 supporters of the Public Campaign for the Arts to urge a rethink on this damaging proposal. We are proud of the UK’s creativity and want it to be championed, not cut.
“Arts and creative courses are life-enriching, and they also underpin much of our globally successful creative industries, which before the pandemic were growing five times faster than the UK economy as a whole. For these courses to remain viable and widely accessible, they must be properly supported by the Government.”
Responding to Dominic Cummings' evidence to the Science and Technology Committee and Health and Social Care Committee yesterday, Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey said:
"If Geoffrey Howe took a cricket bat to Thatcher’s Government, then Dominic Cummings has just taken a wrecking ball to Johnson’s. His allegations against the Prime Minister and Health Secretary are damning.
“While the circus around the fallout between the Prime Minister and his closest advisor continues, the public are only interested in one thing: the truth.
“It is clear that we are not going to get it through a WhatsApp briefing war or a public tit for tat between Johnson and Cummings. The only way to get to the truth is through a full independent public inquiry. We need one now.
“Bereaved families deserve to know exactly what decisions were made and how they were made throughout this pandemic. We owe it to them to learn the lessons right away, so we can be prepared for any further waves of this virus or future pandemics.
"The Prime Minister must establish the independent public inquiry he's promised without further delay. He should appear before it to answer questions under oath, and provide it with all relevant government documents.
“There can be no delay in getting to the truth. End the public sparring with Cummings and get on with setting up the inquiry immediately.”
Responding to the news that local lockdowns have been introduced by "stealth" Liberal Democrat Health Spokesperson Munira Wilson MP said:
"Changing policy by stealth is completely irresponsible. Matt Hancock should have made clear the changes he was making to guidance in advance and communicated it to the public and local officials. He needs to make clear the situation immediately to Parliament.
"Clarification on the new rules in these areas is now needed, not only for residents but for those that would normally travel to the affected areas. People cross these invisible boundaries every day for medical appointments or to go shopping. The Government urgently need to make it clear whether they should avoid travelling to or through these areas and under what circumstances this is now permitted.
"It is now critical that the thousands of key workers that travel to these areas everyday, but live elsewhere, should be made eligible for vaccination. Surge vaccination in these areas for residents is key to slowing the spread of the virus but to slow it further it must be extended to anyone who works there too."
Responding to trade stats from the ONS this morning, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Trade Sarah Olney MP said:
“The loss of nearly a quarter of our trade with our biggest trading partner should make the Prime Minister and Trade Secretary hang their heads in shame.
“Despite the impact of Covid-19, the figures are clear: this is primarily the outcome of the Government’s catastrophic trade deal with the EU.
“Hundreds of thousands of British small businesses that rely on trade with Europe have been abandoned by the Government, and their millions of employees will be rightly worried about their future.
“We must finally see an end to empty Government slogans about the opportunities of Brexit and see concrete actions to protect the jobs and businesses that depend on trade with Europe.”
Responding to reports that the Government is planning to grant tariff-free access to the UK to Australian farmers, Tim Farron MP, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, commented:
“So often Conservative ministers take to social media to say how much they love British farming but their proposed new trade deal with Australia shows that when push comes to shove they are perfectly happy to sell our farmers down the river.
“The NFU are clear that letting Australian farmers sell their produce tariff-free into the UK would spell a disaster for small British family farms.
“Australian animal welfare standards are lower than the UK’s which makes for lower production costs and cheaper produce. Therefore the only way that small British family farms could compete would be to lower their own standards – which nobody except the Government wants them to do.
“To go ahead with this trade deal on these terms would be a betrayal of Britain’s farmers who are so vital in feeding us and protecting our environment.
“Liberal Democrats will always stand up for British farmers, and fight to protect Britain’s high quality animal welfare and environmental standards.”
Responding to the Government’s statement today on Covid ID cards, Liberal Democrat MP Alistair Carmichael said:
“Covid ID cards are intrusive and divisive. They are not an effective way to reopen our economy or keep people safe. They would turn our country into a two-tier society, with many denied their most basic freedoms. Ministers must provide clarity on their use, especially for the pubs and restaurants on the brink that don't want them.
“It is extremely worrying that the Government is still forging ahead with plans for Covid ID cards for international travel without any scrutiny. This is the thin end of the wedge. The Government cannot avoid MPs and the voices of the British people by making this announcement on the last day of Parliament.
“The Liberal Democrats demand that the Government bring its plans for Covid ID cards before Parliament and allow a vote immediately.”
Responding to latest figures which show that self-harm by female prisoners reached a record high in 2020, Liberal Democrat Justice Spokesperson Wera Hobhouse MP said:
"Our prisons are in crisis. The amount of self-harm, especially in women's prisons, is shockingly high and rising.
"Far too many women are sent to prison on short sentences for non-violent offences. In many cases these women have been victims of abuse and have suffered trauma which has led them into a life of disadvantage and low level crime, but many also have caring responsibilities.
"Being in prison will set off the next round of trauma and disadvantage for those that depend on them. We have to break this destructive circle.
"Women should only be sent to prison where absolutely necessary: for the most serious crimes, or where they pose a threat to the public. Effective community-based sentences would be far better to stop re-offending, and far less damaging for the people involved."
As the Domestic Abuse Bill completed its final stages in Parliament yesterday, Liberal Democrat MP Christine Jardine, who moved the motion to record misogynistic hate crimes, commented:
"This bill passing into law will mean so much to so many people who have campaigned and worked to combat the scourge of domestic abuse in our society.
“It was hugely emotional at times but at others inspiring to experience the strength of cross-party support and determination over the past four years to make this legislation something that we can all be proud of.
“Crucial steps like recognising that children who witness abuse at home are also affected and need support and extending protections to survivors in all court cases to reduce the distress these hearings can cause, would not have been possible without that broad support.
"It is not the end of the road however, and Liberal Democrats will continue to fight for the support for migrant women which the Government rejected, and to ensure that it follows through with the money to provide the services which survivors need so desperately."
Responding to the petition from the Bereaved Families for Justice calling on the Prime Minister to apologise, Liberal Democrats Leader Ed Davey MP said:
“This is a powerful initiative from the Bereaved Families. I cannot imagine how tens of thousands of families have felt seeing these appalling comments from the prime minister on the front pages of the newspapers.
“The families want an apology and an immediate public inquiry, that is the very least Boris Johnson can do.
“The Liberal Democrats will continue to support the bereaved families and campaign for an immediate public inquiry.”