13 November 2018 – today’s press releases

We’ve had a deluge of press releases today, perhaps unsurprisingly, given events… Moran: Isolation booths are a symbol of a broken education system Davey: Brexodus already damaging NHS and social care Lib Dems back move to defeat ‘craven’ Govt over FOBT delay Brexit will derail the gravy train Davey: Tory cuts make our borders less […]

We’ve had a deluge of press releases today, perhaps unsurprisingly, given events…

  • Moran: Isolation booths are a symbol of a broken education system
  • Davey: Brexodus already damaging NHS and social care
  • Lib Dems back move to defeat ‘craven’ Govt over FOBT delay
  • Brexit will derail the gravy train
  • Davey: Tory cuts make our borders less secure
  • Both Tories and Labour must be transparent about Brexit mess
  • Layla Moran: Botched Brexit can be stopped
  • Cable: Deal will be torn apart before ink is dry
  • MPs must now let people have final say on Brexit

Moran: Isolation booths are a symbol of a broken education system

Responding to a report by the BBC into the use of isolation booths in schools, Liberal Democrat Education spokesperson Layla Moran said:

Isolation booths are barbaric, counterproductive and symbolic of a broken education system.

More and more schools are picking up the pieces of local government cuts with increasingly stretched resources.

People do not go into education to isolate pupils and dole out punishments reminiscent of custodial sentences. Government must make more funds available for schools so that behavioural issues can be managed in a proper way.

Davey: Brexodus already damaging NHS and social care

Responding to new official figures showing an unprecedented fall in the number of EU workers in the UK, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs spokesperson Ed Davey said:

Even before we’ve left the EU, we’re seeing a Brexodus that is bad for British businesses and especially bad for our public services.

The NHS is already struggling to hire the doctors and nurses it needs. The social care system is desperately short of workers. And it will only get worse if the Tories take us out of the EU – deal or no deal.

The Liberal Democrats demand better. That’s why we’re fighting to keep the UK in the EU, by giving the people a final say on the deal with the option of an Exit from Brexit.

That will ensure we retain the supply of EU workers that strengthens our public services and our economy, while also retaining the rights of British people to live, work and study elsewhere in the EU.

Lib Dems back move to defeat ‘craven’ Govt over FOBT delay

The Liberal Democrats have today announced they will back a cross-party amendment to the Finance Bill to ensure the maximum stake for fixed-odds betting terminals are introduced within six months.

Speaking ahead of the vote next week, Liberal Democrat Leader Vince Cable said:

A few months ago I was approached by a mother who was distraught after her son had committed suicide as a result of distress caused by debts that had accrued from compulsive gambling.

There is now a network of grieving relatives who have been brought together by the same dreadful experience. Like them, I want the NHS to recognise gambling addiction as a serious mental health condition. Preventive action is also needed including urgent steps to curb some of the more exploitative practices like high stake fixed-odds betting terminals.

I and the Liberal Democrats will therefore work with others to stop these abusive practices and introduce a crackdown as promised. The Government has been utterly craven in giving in to lobbying from the industry and must now back the cross-party amendment or face defeat.

Liberal Democrat Culture, Media & Sport Spokesperson in the House of Commons, Christine Jardine, added:

Further delays are causing more and more vulnerable people to face financial stress, mental health problems and worse.

It doesn’t need to be this way. Liberal Democrats demand better, which is why we have been calling for the maximum stake to be reduced to £2 for nearly a decade.

The Tories have already taken too long to act, now they are kicking it into the long grass. It simply isn’t good enough.

Brexit will derail the gravy train

Responding to the reports that Premier Foods, who own Bisto, Oxo and Mr Kipling, have said it intends to stockpile raw materials in the run-up to Brexit as fears grow over gridlock at UK ports, Liberal Democrat Brexit spokesperson Tom Brake said:

Last week we heard how dangerously close the UK is to not having a secure supply of the critical drugs or medical devices our NHS needs. This week, it is a major British food company which is being forced to make plans to stockpile ingredients to ensure they are ready for any Brexit scenario.

Premier Foods, which own the ‘nation’s favourite’ gravy, are expecting to spend up to £10m on Brexit preparations. This is simply further evidence of how Brexit will harm British businesses.

When the Brexiters spoke of “ending the gravy train”, the public did not expect a dry Sunday lunch. Nobody voted for this chaotic Brexit, people are entitled to a final say on Brexit in a People’s Vote to put a stop to this unnecessary, draining mess.

Davey: Tory cuts make our borders less secure

After an inspection report revealed Border Force staff shortages at British seaports, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs spokesperson Ed Davey has called on the Government to recruit more officers to secure our borders.

The report by David Bolt, the Government’s Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, details concerns among Border Force officers that the agency is “resourced to fail” and that, due to staff shortages, “the border is not secured by any stretch of the imagination”.

Home Office accounts show that funding for the Border Force has been cut by 8% in real terms since 2015 and the number of officers has been reduced by 7%, from 8,332 to 7,734.

Responding to the report, Ed Davey said:

The Border Force doesn’t have the officers it needs to cope with the pressures it faces now, let alone the extra pressures it will face if we leave the EU.

Despite all their tough talk on immigration, Tory cuts have left our borders less secure, allowing organised criminals to traffic people, weapons and illegal drugs into the UK.

The Liberal Democrats demand better. We will recruit more officers to an accountable, intelligence-led Border Force. That will help to secure our borders, rebuild trust in the immigration system and make our communities safer.

Both Tories and Labour must be transparent about Brexit mess

Following the passing of a motion in the House of Commons today calling on the Conservative Government to publish the legal advice it has received on Brexit, Liberal Democrat Brexit Spokesperson Tom Brake said:

Tory Ministers must now be honest and upfront with the public and make available the final legal advice they have received on Brexit and the Northern Ireland backstop.

But frankly, Labour too have a problem with legal advice. Does their legal advice confirm whether Brexit is stoppable or whether their six tests are legally compatible? The public are entitled to know.

Both parties need to be transparent with the public on what Brexit will actually mean. It will be up to backbench MPs as to whether they blindly follow their shambolic leaderships or support a People’s Vote, including the option to remain in the EU.

Layla Moran: Botched Brexit can be stopped

Today, at the Best For Britain & People’s Vote joint rally, Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran will declare that Brexit can be stopped but only through a People’s Vote, with an option for remain.

Full speech – **check against delivery**

Cast your minds back to that summer in 2016. I don’t just mean the vote I mean you. Where were you in your life?

Now think how much has changed? For me the single biggest change is that I was a teacher then, now I’m a member of Parliament.

And what made that happen? We had an election. An election where the country took away Theresa May’s majority and gave her a hung Parliament. The people said: work together, across Parliament, across all parties and deliver something we can all get behind.

But instead what did she do? She reached out to the hardliners in her Party and the DUP. And she’s botched it!

Turns out those hardliner demands weren’t deliverable.So now we face a deal that literally no one really wants.

Ok I admit I never wanted any deal other than the deal we have already. But this deal is a world apart from was promised by the Leave campaign.

This deal leaves us as a vassal state. It strips us of our voice and our seat at the table. If the Leave vote was about taking back control, this deal does the exact opposite.

And now the Government’s panicking. They want us to think that the only two options are no deal or bad deal.

But that’s not true. There is another way.

May’s deal will pale in comparison to what we’ve already got.

This botched Brexit can be stopped. This government has messed this up and they can’t deliver.

But we can stop this mess. Through a people’s vote on the deal with a choice that actually make sense. The bad deal – or the deal we’ve already got.

So this is a call to all those MPs who have yet to speak out. We are on the brink of one of the biggest, most pivotal moments in British history. Join us!

This is a call to all their constituents. If you haven’t written, email them tonight. Tell them what you think. Demand to be heard.

Demand that they do what is right by you and your family and the country and that they must do everything in their power to help avoid this catastrophic deal.

Demand for the people not politicians to be given the final say.

Cable: Deal will be torn apart before ink is dry

Responding to reports that the EU and UK negotiators have agreed the text of the EU withdrawal agreement, Leader of the Liberal Democrats Vince Cable said:

Any Brexit deal will leave the UK weakened and the public poorer.

And before the ink is dry, the Conservative Party will tear into what little Theresa May has been able to agree.

The Prime Minister now faces a defeat in Parliament, as a majority will be hard or impossible to secure for what she has come up with.

A People’s Vote is now the only way to escape from this mess.

MPs must now let people have final say on Brexit

Responding to reports that the EU and UK negotiators have agreed the text of the EU withdrawal agreement, Liberal Democrats Brexit Spokesperson Tom Brake said:

No matter the deal, Brexit will hurt the pockets of ordinary people and leave the UK weakened. No one voted for this. No one deserves to be punished because of this Tory Brexit mess.

The Brexiters are now circling around the Prime Minister as the country edges towards chaos. The country deserves better, and the Liberal Democrats demand better.

The Liberal Democrats are the only party committed to a People’s Vote. We have campaigned for it, we have marched for it and we will vote for it. It is time MPs do the right thing and let the people decide.

Nicky Morgan: The Budget – and a Government that failed to listen to the country over problem gambling

We need to be alive to adding to the impression that the fixing of a social harm can wait a few months while we find a way to replace lost revenue.

Nicky Morgan is Chair of the Treasury Select Committee, a former Education Secretary, and MP for Loughborough.

Yesterday was the Sunday closest to All Saints Day. Since the Loughborough church that I attend is called All Saints (with Holy Trinity), the day and its aftermath assumes greater significance than it might for other churches. And the sermon referenced the work of saints, including Saint Theresa of Avila.

The key message was that being saintly is about doing good things, and our curate acknowledged that this could include doing good things in the world of politics. I believe that most elected politicians enter politics to do good things, though of course we can all argue about how different ways of doing so, and how successful we are in trying.

Now, earlier this year, after much cross-party lobbying, the Government made the right decision, and did a good thing – by agreeing to cut the maximum stake on fixed odds betting terminals.  But last week, it appeared to undo much of its good work, and bow to pressure for the cut in the maximum stake to be delayed. These machines have become known as the ‘crack cocaine’ of the gambling world, and we know that they can cause addiction, misery and even death.

In its impact assessment last year, the Government said that –

“following further engagement with independent bookmakers at the consultation stage, we have explored a number of options to mitigate any disproportionate impact on small and micro-businesses and will be taking forward the following…we will engage with industry further on an appropriate implementation period, which is initially expected to be 9-12 months, based on consultation responses we received from gaming machine suppliers.”

But I am told that, in reality, implementation actually involves changes to software which can be done speedily.  In any event, “9-12 months” would take us to May 2019 – not October 2019, as Philip Hammond announced in his Budget last week. So why the delay?

Close observers of the Budget announcements would have heard the Chancellor say this last Monday: “From October next year, I can confirm that we will increase Remote Gaming Duty on online games of chance, to 21 per cent…in order to fund the loss of revenue as we reduce FOBT stakes to £2.”

In the future, we may find out why this happened –  but we do know that one Minister has already resigned over it. I hope Tracey Crouch enjoyed her first weekend without a red box for ages.  I can speak from experience in saying that it is a real treat!

But a deeper conclusion is that a good thing that this Government decided to do, in orderto address a known social problem, has been at least partially undone by either the economics of the decision, or by lobbying from vested interests, or perhaps both. And that doesn’t look great. Last year, I wrote on this site, in the context of the number of ‘Dubs’ child refugees the UK that would be offering a home to –

“As a party known for strong economic management, the Conservatives must work doubly hard to avoid appearing to know the price of everything and the value of nothing…The announcement about the Dubs scheme has, so far, sounded as if the costs of the scheme and the perceived capacity of local councils are enough for us to stop giving refuge, and the opportunity of a brighter and more secure future, to some of the most vulnerable children on the planet…”

“…Empathy, tone and explaining our motivations go a long way in politics.  If a tough decision has to be made, then Ministers have to explain why they have made their decision…”

“This announcement will not, on its own, make people decide which party they will or will not support at a future election. But it, and similar decisions, will have a cumulative impact on the future decisions made by constituents like the one who e-mailed me.  It will form the basis of the judgments they make about the motivations of the Conservative Party.”

Seventeen months on, in the Prime Minister’s words, ‘nothing has changed’. The Conservative Party still runs the risk of making decisions which stress head at the expense of heart, and which miss hearing the emotional heartbeat of the country.

That is a particular danger in any Budget that decisions can be set beside each other in an unfair way. Labour got into a mess last week with income tax cuts and benefits freezes, but came unstuck when they couldn’t agree between them a policy response to the income tax threshold changes.

The Chancellor set two decisions deliberately beside each other – Remote Gaming Duty vs maximum stakes in FOBTs. At a time when the Conservative Party is putting the rest of the country through its own ideological rabbit hole in the form of Brexit, we need to be alive to adding to the impression that the fixing of a social harm can wait a few months while we find a way to replace lost revenue.

WATCH: Brokenshire claims “it’s wrong to say that there’s been a delay” with gambling machine policy

In response to questioning over Crouch’s resignation, the housing secretary says, “We want to see this introduced properly and effectively”.

Adrian Crossley: Crouch was right about Fixed Odd Betting Terminals – and the Government should follow her lead

The Government has been bold on this so far and now it must be bolder still. For some, this pause may have tragic consequences.

Adrian Crossley is Head of the Addiction Policy Unit at the Centre for Social Justice.

On Thursday, Tracey Crouch resigned from the Government as Minister for Sport and Civil Society because of its delay to changes on Fixed Odd Betting Terminals (FOBTs). The moral question is settled across the House that FOBTs exploit an addiction and cause terrible suffering to individuals, their families and the wider community. With the gross gambling yield from FOBTs for year ending March 2017 reaching £1.8 billion, this form of betting has been compared to crack cocaine, and is destroying families and draining them of much-needed money.

Parliament’s decision to set the maximum bet at £2, pulling it down from £100 every 20 seconds, was a bold assertion which made it clear that any fiscal advantage from taxes enjoyed by the Treasury could not defeat the moral duty to protect the vulnerable.

However, an urgent question on Thursday saw Parliament alive with members from both sides of the house expressing disbelief and frustration at the Government’s position. As matters stand, this change will not now take effect until October next year.  Jeremy Wright was clear that this was no concession to the gambling industry: no care was taken to protect their profits. It was explained that this delay to implementation was intended to help the industry prepare, and therefore reduce the risk of job losses.  The postponement of implementation is not without cause but neither is it without consequence.

Tom Watson left no room for doubt about the gravity of the current problem and the risks involved by waiting when he said: “This is extremely disappointing […]research shows that half of people struggling with problem gambling have had thoughts of suicide.” These concerns have foundation in fact. The Campaign for Fairer Gambling has brought this into clear focus, highlighting the case of Wendy Bendal, a lady who tragically lost her partner to suicide after he incurred thousands of pounds in losses through these betting terminals.

Earlier this year, the Guardian explored the case of Martin Paterson, who candidly spoke of the effects of FOBT causing suicidal thoughts brought about, in no small part, by the guilt he often felt for losing money desperately relied upon by his family. I’m confident that the Government will join us all in the sincere hope that no such occurrence takes place between now and October 2019.

It is also a delay and harm that we would not accept in other areas of public policy. As recently as July of this year, the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency advised pharmacies immediately to recall valsartan-containing medicines as a precaution. This precaution was in response to reports of an impurity with potential carcinogenic qualities. Yet in the case of FOBTs, the Government is prepared to accept a substantial and widely recognised risk and simply leave the baby by the fire.

The Chancellor has, only days ago, announced £2 billion towards mental health spending and a new 24 hour hotline. It seems completely at odds with this very welcome and compassionate approach to mental health to simply allow the continuance of this clear source of danger. Only immediate cessation of this exploitation can satisfy Parliament, the public, and social justice. The Government has been bold on this so far and now it must be bolder still. For some, this pause may have tragic consequences.

A popular minister resigns

Outside Westminster, Crouch’s resignation will make little impact on a Budget that has gone more or less according to plan. Inside, it may not be quite the same story.

If a Minister resigns, Downing Street and the Whips hope a) that he or she is unpopular with their colleagues – or at least not popular; and b) that she is easy to replace.

Neither of these conditions apply in the case of Tracey Crouch – who has just quit the Government over a delay to a cut in maximum stakes for fixed odds betting machines.  The former Sports Minister is liked by most of her colleagues and was rated as a Minister: she knows a lot about sport and is an enthuasiast for it.  These qualities are more rare among Ministers than they might be.

The Treasury will doubtless now be cast as dodgy and duplicitous, stealthily putting back the implementation of a policy that it has never liked.  It will surely claim that the timetable hasn’t slipped and Crouch will argue that it has.  She apparently said publicly that the reduction would come into force in April.  Philip Hammond set the month as next October during the course of the Budget.

Rumours of Crouch’s resignation have been floating about all day, having first appeared in the Daily Telegraph this morning, and we learn more in due course about what will have been a three way exchange between Crouch, the Treasury and Number Ten – or four-way, if you count in her former Secretary of State, Jeremy Wright.

Her resignation letter claims that Downing Street has been asleep on the job, and missed the Treasury reneging on guarantees previously given.  Well, actually, it doesn’t quite say that in terms, but such is the implication of Crouch writing that Theresa May’s “personal support” was “incredibly helpful” and evidence of a real willingess to support “vulnerable people against the power of big business”.

The former Minister attributes the delay to “commitments made by others to those with registered interests”.  Questions will be asked, as they invariably are, about how this political banana skin wasn’t spotted lurking on the floor.  Though maybe the Government will simply gird its collective loins, and press on.

Crouch threw herself heart and soul into the campaign for reduction, and will have taken this week’s news as a breach of trust.  Outside Westminster, the news will make little impact on a Budget, and its aftermath, that has gone more or less according to plan.  Inside, it may not be quite the same story.  The Government has no majority, after all.

29 October 2018 – today’s press releases (part two)

As promised, part two of today’s output from the Party’s Press Team… Fiscal Phil’s sticking plaster Budget Responding to the Chancellor’s Budget, Liberal Democrat Leader and former Business Secretary Vince Cable said: This was all very modest stuff, with more in it for potholes than schools and the police. A standstill non-event. With growth remaining […]

As promised, part two of today’s output from the Party’s Press Team…

Fiscal Phil’s sticking plaster Budget

Responding to the Chancellor’s Budget, Liberal Democrat Leader and former Business Secretary Vince Cable said:

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

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.

Conservative Government throwing in the towel on halting climate change

Responding to the the Chancellor’s Budget, former Liberal Democrat Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Ed Davey said:

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.

Budget clouded by Brexit disarray and uncertainty

Responding to the Budget this afternoon, Liberal Democrat Brexit Spokesperson Tom Brake said:

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.

Lib Dems: Gamblers face another year of being held captive to FOBTs

Responding to the Chancellor’s announcement today that the £2 maximum stake for Fixed-Odds-Betting-Terminals will not be implemented until October 2019, former Liberal Democrat Communities Minister Lord Foster said:

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.

‘Hot air’ Tories abandon commitment to latte levy

Responding to the Chancellor’s announcement that the Government will dump their commitment to a latte levy, Liberal Democrat MP Alistair Carmichael said:

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 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 Universal Credit spending barely recovers half the cuts of his predecessor

Responding to the Chancellor’s Universal Credit plans from the Budget, Liberal Democrat DWP spokesperson Stephen Lloyd said:

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.

In addition, there were Budget-related releases from Scotland and Wales, which Caron has covered here. I won’t repeat them…