Government inaction on fixed-odds betting terminals is ruining lives

Vince Cable and Liberal Democrats on Europe March 2017

The delay in implementing a planned and much needed reduction in the maximum stake on fixed-odds betting terminals is completely unacceptable.

These machines are a blight on our society and undeniably damaging to vulnerable people.

The Government’s inaction is ruining lives and they must not be allowed to continue making these excuses that only benefit bookmakers.

When the Minister responsible for a policy steps down, you know the Government is moving in the wrong direction.

The £2 maximum stake for fixed-odds betting terminals must come into force immediately. The damage that is being done to individuals by these machines will persist with hundreds of pounds being lost in seconds, day after day.

Theresa May should explain to the country why this will not be implemented for another year.

Lib Dems lead rebellion against Tory tax cuts for higher earners

Vince Cable and Liberal Democrats on Europe March 2017

Tonight the Liberal Democrats voted against the Government’s indefensible tax cuts for higher earners. Despite the best efforts of their whips, 20 Labour MPs put principle above party and voted with the us.

It is beyond belief that a party which claims to stand ‘for the many, not the few’, decided not to oppose the Government on this.

With public services desperate for investment, now is not the time to reduce taxes for high earners.

The Government’s policy will cost an estimated £1.3 billion pounds next year, money which could instead be used to reverse cuts to Universal Credit or end the benefits freeze a year early. This would have been a far more progressive way of using the money.

Government is about priorities. With public services desperate for investment, now is not the time to reduce taxes for high earners.

In Government Liberal Democrats focused tax cuts on lower earning families, and we support continued efforts to do so.

On Brexit, Universal Credit and now the Budget, the Liberal Democrats have shown that we are the real opposition.

People’s Vote could not be disregarded without a constitutional crisis

Vince Cable and Liberal Democrats on Europe March 2017

Sir David Natzler, clerk of the House of Commons, has made comments that a Commons vote on a ‘People’s Vote’ would still have “considerable political force”.

Only the Liberal Democrats are united in fighting Brexit.

Whether a parliamentary vote on a ‘People’s Vote’ amendment was legally binding or not, the PM could not disregard the result without a serious constitutional and democratic crisis.

The Tories are trying to claim the calamitous Chequers Deal or catastrophic No Deal are the only two options available. This is not true.

A People’s Vote is the third most sensible and consensual option, and if Parliament votes for one, the people should be granted one! Only the Liberal Democrats are united in fighting Brexit.

The people must be given the final say on Brexit, including the option to remain in the European Union.

The dodgy Brexit demagogues should start getting worried

Vince Cable and Liberal Democrats on Europe March 2017

The dodgy Brexit demagogues should start getting worried about transparency and criminal investigations shining a light on their actions.

Aaron Banks is facing a criminal investigation over loans to leave campaigns. Meanwhile the Liberal Democrats are piling on the pressure over the lack of transparency surrounding donations to Northern Ireland political parties.

We have reasonable grounds to suspect that Mr Banks was not the true source of the £8m reported as loans

Electoral Commission

The National Crime Agency are investigating Aaron Banks after the Electoral Commission reported that they have “reasonable grounds to suspect that Mr Banks was not the true source of the £8 million reported as loans” to groups campaigning for a leave vote.

This is an extremely concerning development. People have known for a long time that the Brexiter ranks were filled with dodgy demagogues, today’s news will be little surprise,” said Liberal Democrat (anti-)Brexit Spokesperson Tom Brake.

“Brexit will cause great damage to this country and it cannot happen on the back of a Leave campaign littered with lies, deceit and allegations of much worse. That is why the people must have a final say on Brexit.


Yesterday, Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran challenged the Government to ensure transparency about leave campaign donations made to political parties in Northern Ireland.

It makes you wonder if the Conservatives and their DUP partners have something to hide.

Layla Moran MP

Current laws only require donations from July 2017 to be published, meaning details of who donated £425,000 to the Democratic Unionist Party that was spent on pro-Brexit advertising in the Metro do not have to be disclosed.

It really beggars belief that the Government is allowing political parties in Northern Ireland to mark their own homework and decide whether or not details of their donations should be made public,” said Layla.

“The law already allows for details of donations to be backdated to 2014 and the independent Electoral Commission has urged the Government to do just that. It makes you wonder if the Conservatives and their DUP partners have something to hide.

“With the Leave campaign under investigation by the Metropolitan Police, people in all parts of the United Kingdom have a right to know who donated money to the Leave campaign.”

The Liberal Democrats stand up to power and privilege. We won’t allow the dodgy Brexit demagogues to wreck our countries future. Stand with us today to demand better than Brexit.

Brexit risks a repeat of the Windrush scandal for EU citizens

Vince Cable and Liberal Democrats on Europe March 2017

In an appearance before the Home Affairs Select Committee this afternoon, the Immigration Minister made the cloud of uncertainty facing EU citizens in the UK even worse.

Caroline Nokes was unable to answer how employers would be able to tell the difference between EU citizens who have been living in the UK for five years or more – and are therefore entitled to settled status – and those who haven’t, and would therefore be subject to new controls.

Millions of EU citizens in the UK have been living under a cloud of uncertainty for more than two years. Far from clearing up that uncertainty today, the Immigration Minister made it worse.

The Home Office is currently trialling the scheme for applying for settled status, but it isn’t due to be fully open until March 2019. The Government has said that EU citizens have until 30th June 2021 to apply.

However, the Minister said today that, in the event of ‘no deal’, new immigration controls – including employer checks of immigration status – will apply to EU citizens as of next year.

We’ve already seen in the Windrush scandal how the Conservatives’ hostile environment checks can destroy the lives of people who have every right to be in the UK. The Government’s chaotic approach to Brexit risks a repeat of that scandal for EU citizens.

Liberal Democrats demand better. Conservative Ministers must end this uncertainty and offer a way out of this mess entirely by giving the people a final say on the Brexit deal, with the option to remain in the EU.

Lib Dems fight expansion of Snoopers Charter

Vince Cable and Liberal Democrats on Europe March 2017

New regulations proposed by the Government would be yet another erosion of people’s civil liberties.

The House of Lords cannot stop or amend the regulations, but we can put on record our dissent, and I’m tabling a motion to do that today.

Only the Liberal Democrats are standing up to protect our freedoms

The courts have ruled the police should only have your itemised phone bill, a record of where you’ve been with your mobile phone or which websites you’ve been looking at on the internet if they’re investigating serious crime.

The Government are trying to get around the judgement by re-defining ‘serious crime’ as any offence involving communication, whether it’s serious or not.

I have tabled a ‘Motion to Regret’ the Data Retention and Acquisition Regulations 2018 after Ministers failed to answer privacy concerns I raised in a Grand Committee debate last week.

The regulations would amend the Investigatory Powers Act 2016, also known as the “Snoopers’ Charter”, to give police the power to access communications data when investigating any crime “which involves, as an integral part of it, the sending of a communication or a breach of a person’s privacy”.

This follows a judgement from the Court of Justice of the European Union in December 2016, which ruled that that such data must only be used “for the purpose of fighting serious crime”.

This is yet another erosion of people’s civil liberties, giving the police draconian powers instead of the resources they desperately need to do their job properly and responsibly.

At the last election, Liberal Democrats pledged more money for the police than any other political party. Only the Liberal Democrats are standing up to protect our freedoms and properly fund the police service.

Britain needs our Liberal Democrat alternative

Vince Cable and Liberal Democrats on Europe March 2017

Philip Hammond tried to strike an upbeat note today, declaring “austerity is coming to an end”. Cossetted inside Westminster for the afternoon, he hid away from the storm clouds gathering over our economy.

Brexit is making the situation worse.

In truth, austerity cannot be brought to an end without difficult decisions involving an increase in taxation. Excluding the Government’s promises on the NHS, maintaining real spending on public services will require an additional £19bn in extra tax and borrowing. And Brexit itself is making the situation worse.

The Office for Budget Responsibility estimates that uncertainty caused by Brexit has already weakened the public finances to the tune of £15bn annually. The ‘no-deal’ Brexit with which Ministers are flirting would be far worse still.

By contrast, if we succeed in stopping Brexit, the public finances could be lifted by £15bn annually through increased wages, growth and business investment. Meanwhile, money set aside for “Brexit contingencies” – £3 billion so far – could be redirected into public services.

Whatever the Brexit outcome, Britain’s tax system is in urgent need of reform.

Whatever the Brexit outcome, Britain’s tax system is in urgent need of reform. It penalises business investment, hurts our struggling high streets, is easily avoided by the largest companies and has failed to keep up with massive increases in personal wealth. And public services need a substantial injection of cash.

In a Liberal Democrat “People’s Budget” for the 21st Century, we would:

  • Secure the future of our NHS, focusing on social care and mental health with an extra £6bn per year, funded through a penny in the pound on income tax.
  • Improve living standards for 9.6m parents and children, by reversing George Osborne’s cuts to the “work allowance” under Universal Credit, costing £3bn.
  • Invest an extra £2.8bn in to the schools budget, by reversing the Government’s proposed cuts to school funding.
  • Scrap business rates – replacing them with a tax on land values known as the Commercial Landowner Levy. The reformed system would increase incentives to invest in new equipment and renovations, and cut taxes for businesses in nine out of ten English local authorities.
  • Reverse Conservative cuts to Corporations Tax – still leaving the UK with the lowest rate of corporation tax in the G7.
  • Work with the EU to crack down on tax avoidance by the tech titans, and working to secure agreement on taxing multi-nationals’ profits.
  • Reform wealth taxation – bringing capital gains and dividend taxes into line with income taxes, removing the most generous pension tax reliefs from the highest earners, and replacing the inheritance tax system with a fairer lifetime transfer tax.

The Conservatives have taken their eye off the ball while they pursue Brexit at any cost.

Today’s Budget takes place against a backdrop of falling growth (2.9% in 2014, down to just 1.7% last year, with the UK now among the slowest growing economies in the G7). The long, slow process of deficit reduction has so far failed to decrease overall debt, which is now 85% of GDP.

Meanwhile, high personal debt and historically low savings rates place many households at risk. The Conservatives have simply taken their eye off the ball in running a successful economy, while they pursue Brexit at any cost.

In those circumstances, Britain needs our Liberal Democrat alternative, which would steady our economy and put money back in the pockets of ordinary people.

And at the heart of that plan is the chance to “Exit from Brexit” through a People’s Vote. Freeing the country and future generations from the needless self-harm of leaving the European Union would enable Britain to unite around a recovery plan and to grow again.

Fiscal Phil’s sticking plaster Budget

Vince Cable and Liberal Democrats on Europe March 2017

“A standstill non-event” – Vince Cable

“This was all very modest stuff, with more in it for potholes than schools and the police. A standstill non-event.

If we are to see an end to austerity, then we need a proper injection of cash

“With growth remaining stubbornly low and Brexit weighing down our economy, it is clear the big problems are still to be tackled. It was a sticking plaster Budget, when major surgery lies ahead.

“If we are to see an end to austerity, then we need a proper injection of cash – at least £19bn according to the IFS – in our public services. The Chancellor said he could end austerity without raising taxes, but that is highly unlikely in practice.

“The Chancellor dined out on the borrowing improvements the OBR has given him, but these are overshadowed by the damaging impact Brexit will have on the UK’s public finances. These costs, which could reach £80bn a year in the event of ‘no deal’, risk turning today’s Budget into a sideshow.”


Chancellor ignores rising violence and worsening prison crisis – Ed Davey

It’s almost unbelievable that the Chancellor’s Budget contained not a single penny to tackle these problems

“Given the sharp rise of serious violence on our streets and the worsening crisis in our prisons, it’s almost unbelievable that the Chancellor’s Budget contained not a single penny to tackle these problems.

“Merely promising to ‘review police spending power’ isn’t nearly good enough.

Liberal Democrats demand better. We are calling for an extra £300 million a year to boost community policing and urgent investment to recruit more prison officers.”


Government mental health funding falls well short – Norman Lamb

For all the spin, this £2 billion falls well short of the amount experts say is needed

“While extra funding for mental health is sorely needed, the Chancellor is investing the bare minimum. For all the Government’s spin, this £2 billion falls well short of the amount experts say is needed to deliver vital improvements to services and achieve real equality between mental and physical health.

“Today’s announcement also recycles commitments set out in the Coalition Government’s blueprint for children’s mental health, which pledged a named mental health lead in schools as well as a dedicated professional in specialist NHS services.

“The Conservatives have failed to drive these changes through nearly five years on. Why should we expect things will be any different this time around?

Liberal Democrats demand better. The Government has failed to ensure that money from previous spending commitments gets through to where it is needed. It is vital that the new funding is used properly to invest in community-based care as well as early years support.”


Budget clouded by Brexit disarray and uncertainty – Tom Brake

Brexit must not be allowed to make the UK poorer

May and Hammond can’t agree what a no-deal Brexit will mean for the Budget. Hammond thinks it will require a whole new, emergency budget while May has attempted to save face and insist the Budget will stand regardless. What a mess.

“This fingers-crossed Budget is predicated on the Tories’ hopes that despite the mess they are making of Brexit the economy won’t suffer too severely. In reality, the Tories’ infighting has them gambling with the UK’s finances.

Liberal Democrats demand better. Brexit must not be allowed to make the UK poorer, that is why we need a final vote on the Brexit deal with an option to remain in the EU.”


Gamblers face another year of being held captive to FOBTs – Lord Foster

The Chancellor announced today that the £2 maximum stake for Fixed-Odds-Betting-Terminals will not be implemented until October 2019.

“We know with absolute certainty that this delay will see yet more lives ruined by these highly addictive machines.

“Communities up and down the country see the damage that can be done when hundreds of pounds can be lost in minutes if not seconds, day after day.

“Families will be despairing tonight that a problem gambler that they care about faces another full year of living captive to these machines until the Government step-in and do the right thing.”


Conservative Government throwing in the towel on halting climate change – Ed Davey

This budget is grossly disappointing for those who care about fighting climate change

“This budget is grossly disappointing for those, like me, who care about fighting climate change and protecting the environment. The Chancellor has simply thrown in the towel.

“The Tories have frozen fuel duty, slashed electric car subsides, committed £30bn to new road building and promise to continue at the same level subsidises to the oil and gas industry, while offering a measly £60 million to planting new trees, as if that will negate the damage they’re doing.

Liberal Democrats demand better. We would deliver a green budget, which promises more investment in renewable energy, not fossil fuels, borrowing to invest in infrastructure like rail, buses and electric vehicle charging points.”


Infrastructure plans lack future proofing – Baroness Randerson

“While it is welcome news that the Government will finally set aside much needed investment for our roads, their infrastructure plan lacks any future proofing.

With climate change an ever greater threat, Liberal Democrats demand better. Ministers should be focusing on a model shift away from car use to public transport. That means investment in rail, low emission buses and electric charging points.”


‘Hot air’ Tories abandon commitment to latte levy – Alistair Carmichael

Liberal Democrats will continue to fight for a ban on all single-use plastic

“It is bitterly disappointing that the Chancellor has abandoned the Government’s commitment to introduce a levy on plastic cups.

It proves the Tories are full of hot air and no credible action. It also proves what I have said all along, that headlines are more important to them than the environment.

Our Environment deserves better. Liberal Democrats will continue to fight for a ban on all single-use plastic within three years, the introduction of a levy on all producers and retailers that produce or use single-use plastics and the introduction of a latte levy.”


Chancellor’s UC spending barely recovers half the cuts of his predecessor – Stephen Lloyd

The pain caused by the roll-out of UC is not over yet.

“After stubbornly resisting for far too long, the Government has finally responded to pressure from the Liberal Democrats and put back some of the money into the Universal Credit Work Allowance, which they stupidly cut the moment we were no longer around to stop them.

“However, the £1.7 billion per year the Chancellor committed to still does not make up for the £3 billion pa his predecessor George Osborne slashed from the benefit in 2015. We also heard nothing on ending the gratuitous benefits freeze early, or on making UC fairer for the self-employed.

UC’s serious design flaws were also not addressed, from long waiting times that are pushing people into indebtedness, to problems in how landlords are paid housing benefit. The pain caused by the roll-out of UC is not over yet.


Mile End roundadbout still too small

David Walker & Clive Geary at Mile End

Whilst the news that Highways England will try to fix Mile End roundabout… again… is welcome, they really should have gotten the design right the first time. Constant tinkering with Mile End Roundabout at vast expense hasn’t addressed its underlying problems. These are the same fundamental problems at Bayston Hill roundabout, Meole Brace. Namely, too small a radius to allow sufficient room for the services entrance, leading to too few gaps or gaps that are too small for emerging traffic, increasing driver impatience and increased accident risk.

At Bayston Hill that was partly fixed by lights, but only partly. Ironically it often works better when the lights breakdown! Removing the island altogether would be a better option there. Poor design often fudged to save cost, only ends up costing a lot more money in the long run.

At Mile End, the problems are only growing not diminishing.  The widening of the island and the addition of the entrance to the Innovation Park cost £4m. Why wasn’t it done right the then? It was obvious back in 2009 what size of the business park was envisaged and so they must have known what traffic flows from the park were likely to be.

David Walker, a Civil Engineering Survey from West Felton, said: “It was never going to be big enough to address the needs of the business park. It certainly wasn’t big enough to accommodate the park nor address safety issues on the island. The £4m was a complete waste of public money. Where was the oversight? Who is accountable for the waste?

“Just because the new spur can physically fit doesn’t mean it is safe to add it. The spur for the innovation park is totally inadequate for the volume and type of traffic that will use the park entrance.

“More recently the money spent on the revised lane markings was a waste of time and money. They are too narrow, at that radius, particularly for large articulated vehicles.” He said.

Clive Geary, a Driving Instructor from Weston Rhyn said: “The repositioning of the road markings has been of little help.

“Again, there is too much going on, too many lanes.

“The layout of the roundabout is now really a “spiral” arrangement and is confusing drivers.”

The road markings as you enter the roundabout from the A483 Welshpool direction onto the roundabout slightly cross over each other which is causing drivers to “swerve” as they become disoriented with which lane they need to be in.

Clive continued: “The truth of the matter is that there is insufficient space for three lanes, as they are far too narrow, both on the approach from the A5 Wrexham direction and on the roundabout itself.

“Heavy goods vehicles with their length are finding it difficult to maintain position in a lane.

“A conventional layout of a left-hand lane for left and straight across and a right-hand lane for right, as per the Highway code, would be far better, along with only two lanes to ensure sufficient space is available.” He said.

Now we know that a further £9m is going to be spent redoing something that should have been done correctly in the first place. What confidence will the public have that this £9m won’t also be a complete waste of money? The island’s radius needs widening to cope with the existing traffic from 5 spurs. Adding extra traffic for a 6th spur, shoehorned in, just wasn’t good enough on a major trunk road.

David said: “Let’s hope the new design properly accommodates the anticipated traffic flows from the park and the new houses for the immediate and the long-term future. Do it once and get it right.

“If you want traffic to flow it needs to be a roundabout design and one with a sufficient radius to allow sufficient visibility to allow traffic to merge without hindering the flow. Adding traffic lights – like Bayston Island – is pointless. You may as well do away with the island altogether and just have lights. Lights do not allow traffic to flow freely and could lead to more jams.” He concluded.

New Rules for Facebook Advertising

Vince Cable and Liberal Democrats on Europe March 2017

As many members will be aware starting from November, Facebook is implementing new rules on who can run Facebook adverts on politics.

After that date, nobody will be able to run adverts unless they have completed the authorisation process.

Identity Confirmation

Members can complete the individual authorisation process on their own – but they should be aware that they will need to provide a form of identification to Facebook as part of that process.

Once they have been approved by Facebook, they should notify Party HQ. In order to help with our compliance with electoral law, anyone approved by Facebook should notify HQ by emailing help@libdems.org.uk.

Only members will be authorised to run Facebook adverts on behalf of the party and a list of those who are authorised in your local party will be available via Salesforce, beginning the 9th November.

Disclaimers

Alongside adverts, you will now be required to display a disclaimer of who is paying for the advert.

When not in a regulated period, this disclaimer should always be the name of the accounting unit (local party) that is responsible for the adverts. Only accounting units (local parties) registered with the electoral commission may be used.

If a branch is paying for adverts, then the accounting unit (local party) should be displayed publicly.

If an individual is paying for adverts, then they must either:

  • Be reimbursed by the local party for the cost of the advertising – and any relevant invoices and payment records should be kept by the local party Treasurer for no less than 7 years.
  • Or be recorded on your PPERA return as a donation in kind of the right amount and any invoices kept on file by the local party Treasurer for no less than 7 years.

Local Parties are not permitted to incur expenditure for Facebook against national expenses without explicit permission of the Party’s Chief Executive Officer.

Advice on spending and disclaimers that fall within the regulated period will be following by January. If you have a by-election that is taking place before January 31st and wish to spend on Facebook advertising, please email help@libdems.org.uk for advice.

If there are any questions on this guidance, please email help@libdems.org.uk and we will be happy to answer them.

You can find a step-by-step guide to following this guidance here: www.libdems.org.uk/facebook-advertising-authorisation