News

Why the Liberal Democrats voted against the Coronavirus Act

The coronavirus crisis is taking an enormous toll on people up and down the country. This pandemic has caused huge upheaval and uncertainty for families and communities everywhere.

We all want life to get back to normal as soon as possible.

Liberal Democrats worked constructively with the Government to pass the Coronavirus Act back in March. We helped ensure vital emergency measures were in place, such as enabling the emergency registration of nurses and other healthcare workers, and allowing people to receive Statutory Sick Pay from day one.

The Coronavirus Act waters down the rights to care for elderly, disabled children and vulnerable people.

We have also supported, and continue to support, many of the restrictions the Government has introduced – including the lockdowns and face-covering requirements.

But in renewing the Coronavirus Act for six more months without any amendments, we have deep reservations about the serious implications for people’s wellbeing, rights and freedoms.

“The fact that this Act breaches our legal obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities – that may not matter to Conservative members opposite. But it should.” @EdwardJDavey on why Lib Dems MPs voted against the Coronavirus Act. pic.twitter.com/0dImnAXwuQ

— Liberal Democrats (@LibDems) September 30, 2020

As it stands, the Coronavirus Act waters down the rights to care for elderly, disabled children and vulnerable people. It’s unacceptable that on top of all the other hardships of lockdown, families could have the lifeline of caring support cut off completely.

We must protect the most vulnerable people in our society.

This Act also reduces safeguards for detention under the Mental Health Act, and in duties to provide support to children with special educational needs and disability.

On top of this, the sweeping powers in the Coronavirus Act also provide extra powers for police & immigration officers to detain people. The confusion among police and prosecutors has caused 141 people to be wrongfully charged.

We must protect the most vulnerable people in our society. Without any meaningful concessions from the government to keep them safe, Liberal Democrat MPs voted against the Coronavirus Act.

Hong Kong’s Future

My late friend Paddy Ashdown saw this coming.

When Hong Kong was handed over to China, he campaigned to give Hong Kongers the right to live in the UK should China ever renege on the promises made and enshrined in the Joint Declaration.

It’s up to us to protect the people of Hong Kong and their human rights.

Last year the National Security Law sparked major protests in Hong Kong. The protesters, fighting for their rights, were met with police violence and government crackdowns.

The people of Hong Kong are no longer protected by the ‘one country, two systems’ framework. Beijing has overstepped and encroached on the region’s freedoms. It’s up to us to protect them and their human rights.

The UK Government has recognised that this new law is a violation of the joint declaration between China and the UK. They have pledged that British National (Overseas) status holders and their dependents will be eligible to live and work in the UK for 5 years, and seek citizenship after a further year.

As Paddy showed during the Handover, liberals must fight to protect the people of Hong Kong

But that doesn’t go far enough. The BNO status scheme closed in 1997, and status cannot be inherited. That means many young Hong Kongers are being excluded from this scheme – many of them the same young protesters who have taken to the streets to fight for their rights.

This isn’t good enough. Not only have the Government excluded many Hong Kongers, but they haven’t done enough to ensure accountability when it comes to the Chinese government or Hong Kong police forces.

As Paddy showed during the Handover, liberals must fight to protect the people of Hong Kong. Policy passed at Liberal Democrat Conference calls on the UK government to uphold the promises we made to the people of Hong Kong and:

  • Expand proposals so all Hong Kongers are given right of abode and a pathway to citizenship
  • Develop an international ‘lifeboat’ system if the situation in Hong Kong deteriorates
  • Secure a transparent, independent investigation into the protests, including into police violence
  • Call for the appointment of a UN special envoy or rapporteur on Hong Kong
  • Work with other countries to encourage Beijing to retract the new security law
  • Enact Magnitsky legislation and hold Hong Kong and Chinese officials to account for any gross breaches of human rights

The stakes could not be higher – the UK Government must act now. It is our duty to protect and support the rights of the people of Hong Kong. We can’t set that duty aside when Hong Kong needs us most.

Ed Davey’s speech to Liberal Democrat conference

In his first keynote conference speech as Leader of the Liberal Democrats, Ed Davey shared his vision on rebuilding the Party and how he plans to fight for a greener, fairer country as we move forward through the coronavirus pandemic.

On the government’s failures over COVID-19

Opening his speech with the challenges facing our country right now, Ed slammed the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, saying:

“Given the enormity of the threat to our country, it’s with deep regret and sadness that I must say: this Government and this Prime Minister have just not risen to this challenge. With unbelievable incompetence, this Conservative Government is failing our people, in one of our darkest hours.”

This Government and this Prime Minister have just not risen to this challenge

On the British people’s resilience

While the government’s handling of coronavirus has been incompetent, Ed praised the public in how they’ve dealt with these uncertain times. He said:

“Coronavirus is causing enormous hardship and forcing all of us to make big changes. But it’s also showing the best of the British people. People’s resilience, kindness and hard work make me absolutely sure we can get through this.”

On fighting for carers

Ed opened up about his personal experiences as a carer; for his mother, his grandmother, and now his son. Reflecting on how care homes have been left unprotected throughout the coronavirus pandemic, he told Conference:

“So let me say this, to all of you who need care. To all of you who are carers. To the parents of disabled children. To the thousands of young people, caring for your mum or your dad. I understand what you’re going through.

“And I promise you this: I will be your voice. I will be the voice of the 9 million carers in our country. It’s you I’m fighting for.”

I will be the voice of the 9 million carers in our country

On the post-COVID economy

After Conference passed a motion that set out a list of proposals to get our country on the right course for a green economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, Ed echoed the importance of building back better as we move forward. He said:

“Liberal Democrats: we must also lead the way to a new economy. One that’s fairer. And greener. An economy offering real hope and opportunity for everyone.”

On the 2021 elections

Ed stressed the importance of getting more Lib Dems elected throughout the UK next year, with a strong focus on ensuring our family of nations stays united, saying:

“Next May, we must get more Liberal Democrats elected to councils across England, to the Assembly in London, to the Senedd in Wales and – crucially – to Parliament in Scotland. Elections often determine the future of our country, but these Scottish elections could well determine if our country has a future.

“Once again, the forces of nationalism threaten to tear our family of nations apart. So it is imperative that we get brilliant Liberal Democrat MSPs elected to Holyrood in May…To reject more division and instead put forward a positive partnership. To work for Scotland and work for a better United Kingdom.”

Once again, the forces of nationalism threaten to tear our family of nations apart.

On taking the Liberal Democrats forward

In order for Lib Dems to start winning again, Ed explained that the party must start listening to more voices and show that the party represents the whole country, not just some people. He told Conference:

“We have endured three deeply disappointing general elections, in five tough years. At the national level at least, too many people think we’re out of touch with what they want. We can’t fix this with a catchy new slogan. Or by fighting the same battles, in the same way.

“The answer is to listen to what people are really telling us. And to change. We know that people want a better future for themselves and their families. So let’s show them that the Liberal Democrats can build that better future.”

What you may have missed from Day 3 of Autumn Conference

We’re in the final stretch of the 2020 Autumn Conference with Day 4 now underway. But yesterday saw the biggest day yet with four policy motion debates, an emergency motion on planning and a speech from Leader of the Scottish Lib Dems Willie Rennie.

Here’s what you might have missed on Day 3, as well as what’s coming up today, the last day of Autumn Conference.

Motion on the UK and Europe is passed

Liberal Democrats will always be a pro-European party. Today, conference called for the Government to protect the UK in its Brexit negotiations #LDconf

Read more about the motion just passed by conference 👇https://t.co/4o2Y2YQwBR

— Liberal Democrats (@LibDems) September 27, 2020

The Liberal Democrats fought long and hard to Stop Brexit.

And our values have not changed. At every step of the Brexit process, we have been clear and outspoken in our position that Britain is better off within the EU.

However, we have now left the EU – and our country is facing the chaos of a pandemic that is getting out of control once again. Our job today is to stop the chaos of a no-deal Brexit.

Liberal Democrat conference called for the Government to protect the people of the UK in its Brexit negotiations. They must put country before Party or Leave alliances, and work for the best Brexit deal for Britain. Read the motion in full here.

Motion on racial justice is passed

All too often, we see racism and anti-blackness as a problem specific to America. But here in the UK, many people’s lives are blighted by discrimination and inequality.

With this motion, the Liberal Democrats have reaffirmed our commitment to combating racism – conscious or unconscious, individual or institutional – wherever we find it, including within our own party. Read the motion in full here.

Willie Rennie sets out a ‘third way’ for Scottish politics

In his speech to conference, the Leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats looked to the Holyrood elections in May, laying out our party as an alternative to Britain under Boris Johnson or independence under the nationalists.

He also called on Scottish voters to use next year’s election to take a stand against the SNP’s independence campaign.

Watch his speech in full here.

Motion for a green recovery from coronavirus passes

The climate emergency is one of the biggest issues facing the UK and the world, but our Government is failing to face up to it.

The case for a green recovery from the coronavirus pandemic is clear. It would create more British jobs, allow our economy to bounce back, and protect our planet for generations to come.

This motion sets out a list of proposals to get our country on the right course. Our government must act now – before it’s too late. Read the motion in full here.

A green recovery from coronavirus would:

👨‍💼create more British jobs

💷 help our economy to bounce back

🌍protect our planet for generations to come.

This motion sets out a list of proposals to get our country on the right course. https://t.co/clAXfovBJU#LDconf

— Liberal Democrats (@LibDems) September 27, 2020

Motion to save the BBC passes

The coronavirus pandemic has brought the value of the BBC into sharp focus. Not only have we been able to rely on the BBC’s news and documentary programmes to dispel pseudoscience and rumour about the virus, the BBC quickly adapted its content to help us all through lockdown.

As champions of the UK’s democracy, creative industries, and cultural identities, the Liberal Democrats have pledged to protect the BBC from the Conservatives’ reckless right-wing agenda. Read the motion in full here.

What’s coming up today…

The policy motions up for debate today are:

There will also be an emergency motion on defending the rule of law, a consultative session on The World After Coronavirus and Ed Davey’s first conference speech as Leader of the Liberal Democrats.

To find out the times for these sessions, head to the Autumn Conference agenda.

The UK and Europe

The Liberal Democrats fought long and hard to Stop Brexit.

And our values have not changed. At every step of the Brexit process, we have been clear and outspoken in our position that Britain is better off within the EU. We will always stand firm in our pro-European, internationalist values because we know, we are so much better off together than we will ever be alone.

It is our duty to work across the divides of Leave and Remain, to protect the influence, reputation, safety and security of our country

However, we have now left the EU – and our country is facing the chaos of a pandemic that is getting out of control once again. Our job today is to stop the chaos of a no-deal Brexit.

Today, Liberal Democrat conference called for the Government to protect the people of the UK in its Brexit negotiations. They must put country before Party or Leave alliances, and work for the best Brexit deal for Britain.

The Government must honour the commitments it made in the Withdrawal Agreement and the Political Declaration. No ifs, no buts, no “very limited and specific” excuses. The Conservatives must abide by international law.

No matter whether you were Leave or Remain, or didn’t feel strongly either way, peace in Northern Ireland and the erosion of the world’s trust in the UK are prices too high to pay for any political project.

The rights of UK citizens in the EU, and vice versa, must be protected, and where possible enhanced. The lives of Brits living on the continent and Europeans living here in the UK must not be used as pawns for international political leaders.

As the numbers in Parliament stand, we cannot stop Brexit.

The European Convention on Human Rights and Charter of Fundamental Rights must be respected for all UK citizens. We cannot let the Conservatives take this opportunity to roll back the rights that British people have enjoyed for decades.

And for the sake of UK businesses, our economy, our food and medicine supplies, and so much more – we must maintain the closest possible alignment with the EU towards the customs union, single market and freedom of movement.

As the numbers in Parliament stand, we cannot stop Brexit. What we can do is work to minimise the damage of the country’s exit from the EU to ensure the best deal for the British people, and support the longer term objective of UK membership of the EU

It is our duty to work across the divides of Leave and Remain, to protect the influence, reputation, safety and security of our country, and the livelihoods of British people. Now is not the time to pick sides. It is time to come together and work for the good of our country.

The UK and Europe

Willie Rennie’s Speech to Autumn Conference

Willie Rennie’s Speech to Autumn Conference

In his speech to conference, the Leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats looked to the Holyrood elections in May, laying out our party as an alternative to Britain under Boris Johnson or independence under the nationalists.

By Liberal Democrats, Sep 27, 2020 5:09

Facebook Share
Twitter Tweet
LinkedIn Post

An opportunity to rebuild for people and the planet

The climate emergency is one of the biggest issues facing the UK and the world, but our Government is failing to face up to it.

Social distancing, face coverings, and ‘bubbles’ may be our new normal – but climate change doesn’t have to be

While coronavirus rightly dominated the headlines, the Government has let what little it was doing to protect the planet slip. Even when the country came to a near standstill during lockdown, our emissions only fell by between 4-7%. It’s clear we need to be much more ambitious if we’re going to really tackle the climate crisis.

Social distancing, face coverings, and ‘bubbles’ may be our new normal – but climate change doesn’t have to be. As we navigate a safe economic recovery from coronavirus, we have an opportunity to rebuild for people and for the planet.

The case for a green recovery from the coronavirus pandemic is clear

Liberal Democrat Conference has agreed on a comprehensive set of proposals to set our country on the right course. We’ve reaffirmed our 2019 manifesto pledges, including a 75% cut in emissions by 2030 and net zero emissions by 2045, and we’re calling on the government to:

  • Set out comprehensive plans for a green COVID recovery
  • Work to reskill those who have lost their jobs to work on environmentally friendly infrastructure projects
  • Ensure support packages for business include, where possible, legally binding commitments to reduce emissions
  • Work with the EU and other international partners to tackle climate emergency
  • Ensure the delayed COP26 climate conference sees countries adopting much more ambitious emission targets than in their initial national plans

You can view the whole motion here:

A Green Recovery from the COVID-19 Pandemic

The case for a green recovery from the coronavirus pandemic is clear. It would create more British jobs, allow our economy to bounce back, and protect our planet for generations to come.

Our Government must act now – before it’s too late.

Layla Moran’s Speech to Autumn Conference

Layla Moran’s Speech to Autumn Conference

Layla Moran sets out her vision for a liberal, global Britain and takes the Government to task for failing to stand up for our values internationally

By Liberal Democrats, Sep 27, 2020 3:09

Facebook Share
Twitter Tweet
LinkedIn Post

Save the BBC

A strong, politically independent BBC plays a key role in our democracy, our creative industries, and our daily lives. The Conservatives are putting that at risk.

The Conservatives’ war with the BBC is no secret. Dominic Cumming’s think tank described the BBC as the Conservatives’ “mortal enemy”. This Government has forced the cost of free licenses for over-75s onto the BBC.

The coronavirus pandemic has brought the value of the BBC into sharp focus.

There are plans underway to force the BBC to sell off most of its radio stations, close some TV channels, scale back its website, and even replace the TV licence with a subscription model. And the Government has refused to allow ministers onto some key BBC programmes for scrutiny by the public – a cornerstone of our democracy.

Our public service broadcaster is an asset to this country. The BBC’s funding model allows it to take risks with its creative output, nurturing up and coming British talent. As one of the top four most recognised British brands internationally, the BBC helps promote the UK around the world.

The coronavirus pandemic has brought the value of the BBC into sharp focus. Not only have we been able to rely on the BBC’s news and documentary programmes to dispel pseudoscience and rumour about the virus, the BBC quickly adapted its content to help us all through lockdown.

The BBC is a fundamental part of our culture, education, and democracy.

We must protect the BBC. It is a fundamental part of our culture, education, and democracy.

Today Liberal Democrat conference called on the Government to:

  • Protect the BBC as an independent, universally available, properly resourced public service broadcaster
  • Rule out moving the BBC to a subscription model
  • Maintain stable, secure and long–term funding for the BBC through the continuation of the licence fee to the end of the current Charter period in December 2027, and ensure continued equivalent public funding beyond that
  • Ensure future decisions about the level of the licence fee are made transparently by an independent body
  • Make sure senior politicians, particularly party leaders, are available for scrutiny by journalists, such as through televised interviews and debates, especially during election time
  • Work towards the BBC’s workforce and output at all levels and across all nations and regions becoming more diverse and reflective of the country it serves

The BBC is a precious resource and a vital part of British culture. As champions of the UK’s democracy, creative industries, and cultural identities, the Liberal Democrats pledge to protect the BBC from the Conservatives’ reckless right-wing agenda.

It’s time for justice

The killing of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, by police in the US has sparked an international reckoning with racial injustice.

The Liberal Democrats need to commit ourselves to combating racism – conscious or unconscious, individual or institutional – wherever we find it, including within our own party.

All too often, we see racism and anti-blackness as a problem specific to America. But here in the UK, many people’s lives are blighted by discrimination and inequality.

Whether it’s health or education outcomes, your likelihood of being imprisoned, your access to mental health or domestic violence support – nearly every aspect of British society disadvantages Black, Asian and minority ethnic people.

This is unacceptable. The Liberal Democrats need to commit ourselves to combating racism – conscious or unconscious, individual or institutional – wherever we find it, including within our own party.

Our Conference has just voted through a wide-ranging set of reforms to tackle racism in British society. We’re calling on the Government to:

It is our duty, as liberals, to fight for a fairer society that works for everyone

  • Develop a COVID-19 Race Equality Strategy
  • Implement in full the recommendations of reviews into racial injustice, including the Windrush Lessons Learned Review, without further delay
  • Introduce a range of service- and sector-specific measures to dismantle barriers to Black, Asian and minority ethnic people, for example ending the discriminatory ‘Right to Rent’ scheme and improving support for migrant survivors of domestic abuse
  • Require organisations with more than ten employees and in receipt of public funds to use name-blind recruitment processes
  • Legislate to allow all-BAME shortlists for candidates for public office
  • Scrap compulsory voter identificationplans which would disproportionately impact BAME voters
  • Through education and legislation address the impacts of the British Empire and promote reconciliation

We know this is only the beginning. We know there is a lot of work to do. But it is our duty, as liberals, to fight for a fairer society that works for everyone.

And whether that’s within our own ranks or in wider society, Liberal Democrats across the country will work to tackle the racial injustice that persists in Britain today.