Eradicating FGM

Vince Cable and Liberal Democrats on Europe March 2017

Today is International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation

Back in 2013 when I was a DFID minister, together with campaigners like Nimco Ali and Efua Dorkeeno, we kicked off the original government campaign on FGM. We succeeded in securing the biggest ever spending commitment in the world of £35 million to work towards eradicating FGM worldwide.

I am delighted to let you know that legacy has continued.

The current Secretary of State for the Department of International Development recently announced that an extra £50 million will go towards eradicating FGM worldwide.

On this occasion, I am delighted to be overtaken.

In the last week, we also saw the first conviction of FGM in the UK, paving the way for further convictions.

I was clear then and I am clear now – female genital mutilation is child abuse, and now it is beyond all doubt that it is against the law in the UK.

We will continue to shine a light on this issue and make sure that future generations of girls do not suffer.

Join the nature of public debate working group!

Vince Cable and Liberal Democrats on Europe March 2017

We are currently seeking applicants for a new policy working group on the Nature of Public Debate.

The Federal Policy Committee is setting up a new working group to develop new Liberal Democrat Policy on the Nature of Public Debate.

The working group will look into the developing challenges to high-quality public debate, including:

  • The role of facts and truth in public debate, and how promoting their central importance can be balanced with freedom of speech.
  • How “balance” should be understood in public service broadcasting.
  • The manipulation of news and information as a tool of state warfare.
  • Tackling extremely hostile online behaviour
  • The role and regulation of social media companies
  • The viability and future of traditional journalism (local and national)

As a member of the working group you will contribute to regular meetings (usually 10-12 meetings over the course of a year) and online discussions among the group, take evidence from experts, and help produce the final policy paper.

The role is voluntary. Unfortunately we cannot cover expenses for attending meetings, but you can join meetings by video.

The working group is likely to start meeting in March, will produce a consultation paper for Autumn Conference 2019 and produce a policy paper for Spring Conference 2020.

The deadline for applications is 1pm Tuesday 29 January.

Please apply using the link below.

World Cancer Day

Vince Cable and Liberal Democrats on Europe March 2017

Today is World Cancer Day.

Half of the people in the UK will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lives. 38% of those diagnoses will have been preventable.

But waiting times for cancer treatment are at the worst level they have ever been. Our NHS is struggling to diagnose rising rates of cancer. Thanks to Conservative mismanagement, it’s recruiting fewer doctors, radiologists and nurses.

The Government says it’s committed to diagnosing cancer earlier and faster. To do this the UK needs health professionals to respond to rising rates of cancer.

Today is #WorldCancerDay. A day to show support, raise our collective voice, take personal action and press our governments to do more.

— Wera Hobhouse MP (@Wera_Hobhouse) 4 February 2019

The Conservative Government also give lip service to preventing illness. But this year alone, it’s cutting £85 million from vital preventative services.

These include measures to combat obesity, air pollution and help people stop smoking. But the situation won’t improve until the Government allocates them much-needed funding,

The Liberal Democrats demand better. We’ll produce a national workforce strategy – so this shortage of desperately needed staff never happens again.

We’ll also reverse cuts to services aimed at preventing illness and prepare our health and NHS for the future.

Our NHS is a source of national pride and should be funded as such. Will you sign our petition calling for the Government to adopt Lib Dem policy – and put a penny on every pound of income tax for the NHS?

Local Plan Review Consultation deadline fast approaching

David Walker in West Felton

Shropshire Council’s Local Plan review consultation closes on the 8th of February. It is important that as many people as possible respond. If you want sites added or removed from the plan, or to have an impact on the overall strategy, now is the time to comment. Once things get locked in and become policy it will be much harder for people to make changes.

Over the last few weeks, I have been out in Whitting Division gauging opinion in West Felton, Whittington and Park Hall with a Housing Survey. Thank you to everybody who has filled in the survey. Your responses are much appreciated. I will be collating all of the responses for when I send in my own comments. I will also share my findings with respondents, putting a summary on my website and in a future Focus newsletter.

If you are a resident of Whittington or West Felton Parishes you can still let me know your views on Shropshire Council’s Local Plan Review here:

West Felton parish Housing Survey (Dec 2018)

Whittington parish Housing Survey (December 2018)

More importantly, please can you respond to Shropshire Council’s Local Plan review consultation is here:

For Park Hall, Whittington and West Felton the specific documents are within the Oswestry Place Plan area:

Preferred Sites Consultation – Oswestry Place Plan Area.pdf

Preferred Sites Questionnaire – Oswestry Place Plan Area.pdf

Local plan review summary

Shropshire Council has opted for the ‘High’ housing growth option of 28,750 dwellings
The Conservative administration picked the highest of the 3 options Shropshire Council considered.
All three options were higher than the Government’s own assessment of 25,400 dwellings
Their chosen growth figure is more than DOUBLE the 18,000 suggested by the CPRE
West Felton village is slated for 130 new houses over the plan period – a 45% increase since 2011 census.
Whittington Parish is slated for 360 new houses over the plan period – a 34% increase since 2011 census.
Local plan review consultation - Housing Survey. Working hard all year round not just at electionsLocal plan review consultation - Housing Survey. Working hard all year round not just at elections
Local plan review consultation – West Felton Housing Survey. Working hard all year round not just at elections

I will be objecting to the plans in the local plan review consultation.

  • The overall housing target is too high. 80% of residents I have surveyed want the CPRE target, with some supporting the Government target. Nobody so far wants ‘Significant’ or ‘High’ growth levels.
  • Housing Need public consultation is largely being assessed after the sites have been picked. The public should have been consulted properly about need months ago.
  • Shropshire Council has opted for a strategy that is all about their own finances, not the needs of communities in Shropshire. By setting the maximum rate they can broaden their tax base to fill their budget blackhole without putting up the council tax rate. They are also picking sites, in the current review and as sites with long-term potential, that they already own ahead of other sites that may be equally or more sustainable sites for housing growth. This leaves the whole plan vulnerable to challenge from sites that have been passed over and ultimately rejection by planning inspectors.
  • More specifically, I am also objecting to West Felton becoming a Community Hub. Residents have already said they wanted the village to be Open Countryside, The parish didn’t want to have any more housing. The Parish Council flew in the face of that opinion by supporting the change to a Community Hub. 100% of respondents to my survey want to remain as Open Countryside. Some are very angry about that decision. A minority of parish councillors, including myself, opposed the move to becoming a hub.
  • Generally, I am in favour of the principle of creating Garden Villages. However, the two sites chosen by the Conservative-run Council, in Park Hall and Stanmore, next to Bridgnorth, are the wrong places. By creating a zone of expansion for Oswestry in Park Hall they are creating urban sprawl that threatens the distinct identities of Park Hall, Whittington and Gobowen. A sift in the centre of gravity will also have a negative impact on the future viability of Oswestry Town Centre. At Stanmore, they will trash a much-loved country park and ruin the heritage of RAF Stanmore for future generations. Both put pressures on existing infrastructure. If Garden Villages are built they are better built as new villages where suitable infrastructure and employment can be designed in from the start.
  • Just because it is easy to deliver doesn’t make a site the best, the most sustainable or the best fit. Planning policy should be based on local need and strategic need not the short-term financial need of Shropshire Council.
Delivering the Whittington Housing SurveyDelivering the Whittington Housing Survey
Delivering the Whittington Housing Survey

Why it is important residents have their say now

When a new site is developed and an application for planning permission is made, comments and objections are submitted by residents. Those arguments for and against a site are more sustainable if they are supported by policy. So getting the policy right at the beginning is critical. All too often heartfelt objections are ridden over because they have come far too late into the process. So please have your say in the Local Plan review consultation.

I believe that the public should have a much stronger role in deciding the overall planning strategy and shaping the communities they live in. Equally a greater input into applications before they are made can only help improve the overall quality of applications. More often than not, because of low engagement levels, people are unaware of things happening until the application is made or even when the first turf is cut. This only leads to tension in the planning system which doesn’t help anybody.

The Local Plan review consultation is an important step in setting policy. Strong policy, based on need, will make sure housing growth is appropriate for our needs.

Shropshire Council is consulting on housing need over the coming weeks and months through Right Home Right Place. It is beyond frustrating that Shirehall has put the cart before the horse. I would urge residents to participate in this survey as well.

West Felton Housing Survey

West Felton Housing Focus Dec18-A3-rgb1

Whittington Housing Survey

Whittington Housing Focus Dec18-rgb1

Park Hall Survey

Whittington Housing Park hall Focus Dec18-A3rgb1

See more in my previous post: West Felton 45% and Whittington 25% more houses since 2011

LGBT History Month

Vince Cable and Liberal Democrats on Europe March 2017

We have come a long way in recent years.

I was the originator and architect of the same-sex marriage act

I was the originator and architect of the same-sex marriage act, which legalised same-sex marriage in the UK on the 5th February 2013, when I was the minister for equalities in the Home Office. I came in at the end of the story when countless activists had been fighting to for this change – I just happened to be in the right place at the right time to take the bill to parliament. But it took the courageous Liberal Democrat politicians to make this change against big lobbying interests.

For many LGBT+ people, this fundamental change in law has made the most enormous difference to their lives.

But just six years on, it feels ridiculous that anyone apart from extreme fringe groups would take issue with same-sex marriage.

I’m extraordinarily honoured and proud to have been part of such a legacy.

For many LGBT+ people, this fundamental change in law has made the most enormous difference to their lives.

And that’s not the first time the Liberal Democrats have stood with our LGBT+ community.

We opposed Section 28, a discriminatory law which prohibited the so-called promotion of homosexuality) right from the start.

We were the first political party to support trans people changing their legal gender

We were the first political party to support trans people changing their legal gender, today we are still campaigning to streamline the law to allow individuals to self-identify without unnecessary bureaucratic hurdles.

The fight for equality goes on.

Only recently, a report from Stonewall showed that 42% of LGBT+ students hide their identity, for fear of discrimination. One in eight trans people are physically attacked in their place of work. LGBT+ asylum seekers face a humiliating process to enter our country and many are turned away, to go back to countries where they face discrimination and jail sentences, simply for being who they are.

We have a long way to go.

It is our duty and responsibility to fight for equal rights everywhere we can. For LGBT+ people to express who they are, without fear. For trans people to be seen as people and welcomed into all spaces. For people of any sexuality and gender to come and live here without persecution.

We must fight oppression in every form so that no LGBT+ person has to live in fear

We must fight oppression in every form so that no LGBT+ person has to live in fear.

Our members make our policies, and incredible LGBT activists and allies have written comprehensive policies that will make our society a kinder and more equal place than it is today.

Our MPs, Peers and members are fighting for these rights every day:

  • Trans people being able to change their legal gender and streamlining the Gender Recognition Act to make it easier.
  • Businesses with more than 250+ employees to monitor and publish data on BAME and LGBT employees, not just gender.
  • A standard curriculum addition for Sex and Relationship Education (SRE), which will include in SRE teaching about sexual consent, LGBT+ relationships, and issues surrounding explicit images and content.
  • Gender neutral bathrooms, gender-neutral school uniforms, and ‘X’ option on passports, official documents and forms for those who do not wish to identify as male or female.

Let us celebrate our identities and our freedom of expression. Let us embrace people from all communities and be proud of who we are.

I also have a message to those people who believe they can restrict trans women’s rights, deny their human rights, or exclude them from women-only spaces in the name of feminism: You are not feminists. Your views are not welcome in the Liberal Democrats.

This LGBT+ History Month, let us celebrate our identities and our freedom of expression. Let us embrace people from all communities and be proud of who we are.

That is the Liberal Democrat way.

By-Election Summary, 1st February

Vince Cable and Liberal Democrats on Europe March 2017

If you submit this form, the Liberal Democrats, locally and nationally, may use the information submitted, including your political views, to further our objectives, share it with our elected representatives and contact you in future using any of the means provided. Some contacts may be automated. You may opt out of some or all contacts or exercise your other legal rights by contacting us. Further details are in our Privacy Policy at

11 things that happened slower than the EU shooting down Theresa May – Liberal Democrats

Vince Cable and Liberal Democrats on Europe March 2017

MPs passed an amendment last night that required Theresa May to go back to the EU and try to renegotiate the backstop.

The EU didn’t mess around – the vote result came out at 8:41pm, and by 8:47pm they’d said the backstop was there to stay. Here’s 11 things that Theresa May could have done to pass the time:

1. Hard-boil an egg.

2. Read a chapter of a book.

3. Phone a friend.

4. Listen to Baby Shark on repeat 3 times.

Then have it stuck in your head for the rest of the day (we’re sorry).

5. Hang some clothes out to dry.

6. Put some more washing on.

Not that this GIF is a metaphor or anything.

7. Brew a strong cup of tea.

And why not put it in a lovely Lib Dem mug?

Want one of these stylish mugs? Get one here:

8. Watch this YouTube video.

Puppies heal the soul.

9. Or this one, if you’re a cat person.

10. Walk from the Houses of Parliament to 10 Downing Street.

And after that emphatic a rejection from Brussels, that’s what we call a walk of shame.

11. Lobby these Labour MPs to support our call for a people’s vote on the Brexit deal with an option to remain.

Simply put, it’s the only way out of this mess – and we need the Labour frontbench’s support for that to happen. Take 10 minutes to tell them that now:

The Leader – vol 2

Vince Cable and Liberal Democrats on Europe March 2017

Brexit latest

In Parliament last night there were lots of heads shaking in bemusement. The Commons gave the government diametrically contradictory instructions to the Prime Minister: no to ‘no deal’; then yes to a proposal that will in all likelihood lead to ‘no deal’. As we milled around central lobby afterwards, queuing to speak to the TV cameras, I saw MPs claiming victory for two opposite positions. Someone is going to be disappointed.

Corbyn’s speech was the culmination of two years of procrastination

If there is a big loser from yesterday it is Jeremy Corbyn; his speech was beyond abysmal, embarrassing to his own side. It was the culmination of two years of procrastination: sitting on the fence over Brexit. A Labour rebellion last night helped the government snuff out a whole series of constructive amendments which would have probably opened a way forward, perhaps to a People’s Vote.

So where do we go next? The Prime Minister has been sent to Brussels to renegotiate, reopening the Withdrawal Agreement on the ‘Irish Backstop’ which she has been told repeatedly is not negotiable. There is a possibility that, in search of a quiet life, the EU Heads of Government and the Commission give in and abandon Ireland. I think not.

So after two weeks pursuing her backbenchers’ fantasies (more time wasting), Theresa May then comes back without a new agreement and we finally reach a dead end: the deal which she originally negotiated versus ‘no deal’. No Deal then becomes a live possibility – no longer just bluff in a dangerous game of chicken. I believe that if we reach that choice, sanity will prevail. Theresa May will see the logic in taking her deal to the country in a People’s Vote against the option of remain.

I had TV interviews this morning telling me that the People’s Vote campaign is flagging. It isn’t. It is a question of timing. The Lib Dems have been at the forefront of this campaign and we are certainly not giving up. Our time will come

World view

This morning I was invited to give a video conference speech to a gathering of 90 Japanese companies in Tokyo trying to make sense of events in the UK. Having worked with and encouraged Nissan, Fujitsu, Honda, Toyota and Hitachi to invest heavily in the UK when I was Business Secretary I was painfully aware that they have invested here primarily because the UK was seen as a ‘gateway’ to the EU single market.

They are already shifting operations out of the UK. They won’t walk out dramatically: they have too much invested here and Japanese businesses don’t do drama. But – hard or soft Brexit – there will be a steady, quiet, draining away of activity. In 5 to 10 years’ time we will miss them.

In other news

Outside the Westminster bubble, life goes on. One of the most infuriating byproducts of Brexit is that the rest of the government has ceased to function normally. Big problems are pushed into the long grass. Civil servants are too busy to attend to necessary detail.

Big problems are pushed into the long grass because of Brexit

Amongst the quiet crises building up is the deterioration of law and order – a rise in crime – while police resources are run down. I am getting local residents, in a previously safe area of London, contacting me worried stiff about burglary, theft and muggings. And when they contact the police the response is slow and the crime is not followed up. We now have ‘phantom’ police officers: vacancies that are deliberately kept empty to save money. I am being taken back to my early days in parliament when I set up an All-Party Police Group to bang the drum for the police. Same old.

And finally

Last week I passed on my tip for a good book, a gripping thriller: Firefly by Henry Porter. This week I have another fine read: City Without Stars by Tim Baker. It is set in Mexico and the world of drug cartels, very nasty killers, crooked priests and one honest cop. If that sounds like an advertisement for Trump’s wall it isn’t; but it paints a credible but alarming picture of societies where the illegal drug trade has taken over.

I have been fascinated by Central America since I travelled and researched there in the early 1970s (one of the few things I have in common with Jeremy Corbyn).