The latest news stories from the Liberal Democrats nationally.


  • Jan 22, 2021:
    • Party Bodies Review

      'How do we make a difference?' That was the question the Party Body Review Group was asked to answer. Looking at the range of Party bodies, there was only one way to find out!

      As a Review Group we decided to ask those Party Organisations what they thought, where the gaps were, how they could make a difference to the Party going forward and how they might help one another. The Review captures their views, their potential and the opportunity for the Party as a whole to benefit from changes and how they and the Party relate to one another.

      The Review Group members interviewed representatives of Party Organisations and non UK Parties and held Webinars to discuss interim findings. The report presented reflects both the views of those organisations and of Party members who took part in the on line survey.

      The Review Group members are Bess Mayhew, Steffan Aquarone, Tim Pickstone and is ably helped and supported by Jack Coulson. My thanks to them for their unstinting commitment to our task and to all those who took part in interviews and in surveys, or who submitted written evidence.

      Read the full report by clicking here!

      More information about next steps and ongoing work will appear on this blog in the coming weeks and months. For now, if you are leading an SAO or AO and would like to get involved with the new Party Bodies Forum, please get in touch with jack.coulson@libdems.org.uk.

  • Jan 21, 2021:
    • Musicians left high and dry by EU Trade Deal

      More than 170 musicians have urged Ministers to organise paperwork-free travel in Europe for artists on tour.

      The extra costs will make many tours unviable, especially for young emerging musicians.

      The EU Trade deal makes it extremely difficult for touring artists because they now need a costly work permit and face a mountain of paperwork for their equipment.

      The extra costs will make many tours unviable, especially for young emerging musicians.

      This could make many tours unviable, particularly for younger, upcoming artists who don't have big teams and big money behind them.

      The same applies to EU-based artists wishing to perform in the UK.

      That means disruption not only to seeing our favourite foreign bands and orchestras but income to festivals and all the benefits of creative co-operation too.

      Reciprocity is good for Britain and should not be holding back a deal for artists.

      Predictably the government is trying to blame the EU, but the fact remains that when the going got tough during the talks on the trade deal, Tory ministers just ducked for cover and hoped the problem would go away.

      As a result, our creative artists have been left high and dry, including musicians, dancers, actors and their many support staff who together with the rest of the creative industries generate over Β£100 billion a year to our economy.

      The Government must get back around the negotiating table and get this sorted.

      The creative arts sector is a massive success story for the UK economy.

      It's already in dire trouble because of Covid and this 'friendly fire' assault on its viability from our own government could be the last straw for many of our talented performers and backup staff.

      They were sacrificed in a botched negotiation, just like our fishermen, our farmers, and our crucial service industries.

      The artists who signed this letter are either furious or fearful for the future of their business, or both.

      If the Conservative Government cares about these industries and the economy, they must get back around the negotiating table and get this sorted pronto.

  • Jan 20, 2021:
    • Liberal Democrats welcome President Biden and Vice President Harris

      Leader of the Liberal Democrats Ed Davey shared his relief that the new Democratic President will lead America back into the Paris Agreement.

      Ed has called on Boris Johnson to extend the offer of an official state visit to President Biden as soon as possible, to coordinate urgent action on the climate crisis.

      Layla Moran shared her excitement on a the new Biden administration bringing some reason and calm during turbulent times.

      Layla and our candidate for Mayor of London, Luisa Porritt, also noted the historic nature of Kamala Harris' swearing in as Vice President.

      As the ceremony concluded, more our MPs reflected on this momentous occasion.

      Across the Liberal Democrat family people shared their hope for the new Biden administration.

    • The Liberal Democrats are the most pro-European party in British Politics

      The Liberal Democrats are the most pro-European party in British politics. We truly believe that we are stronger together, and internationalism will always be one of our core values.

      That hasn't changed now that we have left the European Union.

    • Spring Conference Motions

      The Federal Conference Committee met via Zoom call on Saturday, 16 January for the agenda selection for our second virtual conference. The meeting was a lengthy one, which was in part due to the large selection of varied and interesting motions we received, but also to give us breaks from staring at computer screens for a number of hours.

      As you will be aware, this year we will not be heading up to the historic city of York, but instead you will be able to take part in Conference from your own home via our third party provider, Hopin. You will be able to find more information about the virtual conference. If you are planning to attend conference, we highly recommend taking part in the interactive exhibitions and the fringes.

      The FCC wants to pay its thanks to the continued amazing efforts of the Conference Office team and members who have worked so incredibly hard.

      You will see from the timings of Conference that it is slightly different to the usual format, and we hope that this will give more people an opportunity to attend virtually, but also it has meant that we have been able to increase the number of motions selected - compared to previous Spring Conferences. The agenda of Conference will be published very shortly.

      A total of 11 conference motions, plus two emergency slots, one later deadline slot on the COVID pandemic, and two constitutional amendment motions were selected. Not including the two constitutional amendments this is 14 policy motions to be debated at Conference.

      The agenda will also include the Committee and Parliamentary reports, the Leaders Q&A and a number of Q&As and set pieces set aside for Spokespeople and/or Leaders of the Welsh or Scottish Lib Dems. The full agenda will be published shortly.

      On the topic of motions selection, we always receive a very large number of motions for selection at Conference, and unfortunately cannot always choose all of them for selection at Conference. This year we received 27 motions and have selected 11 motions, plus the two constitutional amendments, and reserved slots for up to 3 additional motions (two emergency slots and one reserved item on the COVID pandemic).

      Below I have included the selection grid of motions, and if they have been selected or not selected, please note with regards to the selected motions - some of the names may change between now and publication of the agenda. With regards to proposed constitutional amendments these are automatically selected; however, ruled either in order or out of order. I have not included why the motion was not selected; this has been provided to the submitters of the motion. Please note that you can submit amendments, emergency motions, and the COVID later deadline by 8 March at 13:00 via the Conference website.


      Business Innovation, Skills and Higher Education
      A Utilities Selected
      Crime, Justice, Equalities and Civil Liberties
      A Protecting Human Rights Not selected
      B Safe and Legal Routes to Save Lives Selected
      C Lifting Barriers to Work for Disabled People Selected
      Economy and Tax
      Supporting Businesses, Workers and the Self-Employed in the COVID-19 pandemic Selected
      B Fairer Share - Reform of Council Tax and Abolition of Stamp Duty Land Tax Not Selected
      Education and Families
      A A Better Response to the Impact of COVID-19 on Education Selected
      B Accessibility in Education Selected
      Energy and Environment
      A UK Transition to Energy Efficient Power Distribution Not Selected
      Europe
      A The EU - UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement and the Future of the UK-EU relationship Selected
      Health and Social Care
      A Autism Support Selected
      B Young People and Gender Dysphoria Not Selected
      C Beveridge 2.0 - Building a National Care Service Not Selected
      International and Defence
      A Leading International Development Selected
      B Steps towards Peace between Palestine and Israel Selected
      C International Development Selected
      D Acting on the Russia Report Selected
      E Sign the Treaty Not Selected
      F Turkey Not Selected
      Political and Constitutional Reform
      A Defending and Advancing Democracy Not Selected
      Transport
      A Call for a reassessment of the HS2 project Not Selected
      Work, Social Security and Pensions
      A Stand up for Unpaid Carers Selected
      B Supporting Unpaid Carers in the 21st Century Not Selected
      Business Motions
      A Giving Members the Right Not to Stand a Parliamentary Candidate Not Selected
      B Beveridge 2- Plan Within a Social Contract Not Selected
      C Selection of new Liberal Democrat Life Peers Not Selected
      Constitutional Amendments
      A Changes to the Role of Vice-President In Order
      B Amending the Complaints Procedure In Order
  • Jan 19, 2021:
    • The Conservatives are letting down farmers

      Farmers across the country are worried about their future - they're worried that the UK will be flooded with poor quality food that undercuts the goods they produce to high environmental and animal welfare standards.

      Liberal Democrats back British farmers.

      The Conservatives have continually failed to protect our farmers from these risks.

      These amendments would have ensured that our farmers are protected and can continue to produce high quality food for our tables. That's why Liberal Democrats supported them.

      We are already seeing the impact the Prime Minister's Brexit deal is having on the fishing industry and by voting to reject these amendments the Conservatives have shown they are no ally to farmers either.

      Liberal Democrats back British farmers and will continue to fight to protect our food standards and their livelihoods.

      British farmers have a vital role to play in helping us tackle climate change and protect our natural environment, driving them out of business will be damaging for everyone.

    • The UK should not sign trade deals with countries committing genocide.

      The Government are refusing to accept cross-party amendments to the Trade Bill that would put human rights at the heart of our trade policy.

      The UK and the world can't just stand by and do nothing.

      This is particularly important because of what is happening to the Uyghur people in Xinjiang and across China. The Foreign Secretary last week described the mounting evidence to the Commons:

      Internment camps, arbitrary detention, political re-education, forced labour, torture and forced sterilisation-all on an industrial scale.

      And yet he refused to call it genocide. As I told Autumn Conference in September, and following Alistair Carmichael as the first MP to raise the plight of the Uyghurs, it is increasingly clear that that is exactly what this is.

      The UK and the world can't just stand by and do nothing. The products of Uyghur slave labour can be found across our supply chains and yet instead of firm, bold action this government seems content to tweak around the edges.

      As Liberal Democrats we won't stand by and let this happen.

      We are working with MPs from across the political spectrum to do the right thing and allow the UK to withdraw or revoke bilateral trade agreements if the High Court makes a preliminary determination finding that the other country has committed or is committing genocide (it only occurs to genocides that are ongoing or may occur in the future, not past atrocities).

      We vote on this today, and there is a sizeable rebellion on the Tory benches.

      As Liberal Democrats we won't stand by and let this happen.

      We will run the Government close, and we may even win.

      We need to do this not because we don't believe in the international rules-based order (we do, passionately, more than ever) but because it isn't working as intended at the moment when it comes to genocide and China.

      The Chinese government, by virtue of its position, regularly blocks routes to such a determination through the international courts, so this is a necessary step if the UK is going to lead by example and give effect to its international law obligations relating to genocide, rather than become complicit.

      Never again can we wring our hands in horror after the fact, saying we should have done more.

      Never again. Words we say every Holocaust Remembrance Day. Words we must now live by.

      We simply can't allow our country to end up on the wrong side of history.

      Our party has always led the way on upholding human rights

      By working together, even with those who may not agree with us on other matters, we can stand together and make a difference.

      I urge my colleagues in all parties to vote with their conscience, with British values and to support these amendments today.

      We are backed by the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the Muslim Council of Britain and the International Bar Association's Human Rights Institute.

      There are other steps we can take - such as Magnitsky sanctions, a publicly-available watchlist of companies that refuse to clean up their supply chains, a total ban on these products full stop, or human rights labelling on products in our shops - but amending this legislation would have a really significant impact.

      In fact it would be world-leading. I'm proud we are there fighting for it on the front line.

      Our party has always led the way on upholding human rights. From opposing South African apartheid, to Bosnia-Herzegovina, to enshrining 0.7% aid spending in law, we have a proud history and today is no different.

      We won't tolerate genocide and nor should the Government.

      So today Lib Dem MPs will stand together with colleagues from across the Commons in sending a clear message. We won't tolerate genocide and nor should the Government.

      So write to your MP and ask for them to support our cross-party efforts.

      Let's not just say 'never again'. To quote Burke:

      "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing."

  • Jan 15, 2021:
    • Weekly Whip

      Welcome to the Weekly Whip. Your one-stop shop for Lib Dem Parliamentary updates, covering the week that was and the week to come.

      For up to date information from the Lib Dem Whips Office, follow us on Twitter:β€―@LibDemWhips

    • Boris Johnson's EU Trade Deal costing fishing industry Β£1 million a day

      For years, this Government have promised our fishing industry a sea of opportunity, but, today, our boats are tied up in harbour, their propellers fouled with red tape manufactured in Whitehall.

      Our boats are tied up in harbour, their propellers fouled with red tape manufactured in Whitehall.

      Boats that are able to go to sea are landing their catches in Denmark-an expensive round trip of at least 72 hours, which takes work away from processors and other shoreside businesses in this country.

      Our Fisheries Minister describes promises made by Ministers as "dreams" and apparently did not think it was worth reading the agreement as soon as it was made, even though every second counted.

      How on earth was it allowed to come to this? The EU trade agreement allows a grace period on customs checks for EU businesses.

      So yesterday, in an Urgent Question to the Fisheries Minister, I asked:

      "Why was there no grace period allowed for our exporters, and will the Government engage with the EU as a matter of urgency to make good that most fundamental of errors?

      Earlier this week, the Prime Minister told the Liaison Committee that compensation is being considered for our fishing industry.

      Who will be compensated, for what, and by how much? When will our scheme be published and what steps will be taken to help processors, catchers and traders in the meantime?"

      Can the Secretary of State explain how the literally hundreds of producer organisation to producer organisation swaps done every year will be done on a Government-to-Government basis?

      Finally, what will happen at the end of a five-and-a-half year transition period? A transition normally takes us from point A to point B.

      This transition takes us from point A to point A with a new negotiation. Is zonal attachment still the Government's policy on quota shares?"

      I offered to convene a virtual roundtable of all the affected sectors.

      This is a shambles of the Government's own making; there is no one else to blame now.

      The Minister must start listening to the fishing industry. That's why I offered to convene a virtual roundtable of all the affected sectors.

      The time for complacency has passed.

  • Jan 14, 2021:
    • The Government must take on my Bill to give NHS heroes the right to live in the UK

      I tabled the Immigration (Health and Social Care Staff) Bill 2019-21, which was due for its second reading on Friday.

      Lib Dems will continue to fight for healthcare workers' rights

      But the Government have decided to axe all sitting Fridays until the end of March, meaning dozens of Private Members Bills will effectively be shut down.

      My Bill proposed that all health and social care staff from outside the EU would be granted indefinite leave to remain, giving the peace of mind about their immigration status and granting them rights enjoyed by British citizens.

      Like the rest of our wonderful NHS and care staff, hundreds of thousands of people from other countries are on the frontlines of the Covid pandemic, putting themselves in harm's way to make sure we get the care we need.

      Those who have put their lives at risk for our country are welcome to live in it.

      The UK should say, loudly and unequivocally, that those who have put their lives at risk for our country are welcome to live in it.

      That's what my Bill would do, and I am deeply disappointed that the Government is not even letting it be debated in Parliament.

      I am not giving up. I will urge Ministers again to make Government time available to pass this urgent legislation, which has cross-party support.

      The idea that anyone who has worked so hard to save lives during this emergency might one day be forced to leave should be unthinkable.