Luis C.deBaca: Modern Slavery. The Government’s victim protection scheme is deeply flawed. It needs reform.

This Bill, tabled by Ian McColl and Iain Duncan Smith will ensure that trafficking victims gain specialist support and an alternative to deportation.

Luis C.deBaca is the Robina Fellow in Modern Slavery at the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition, of Yale University’s MacMillan Center. He served in Barack Obama’s Administration as Ambassador-at-Large to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons.

A few years ago, survivors of the largest slavery prosecution in U.S. history invited me to commemorate the tenth anniversary of their case with them, which I had prosecuted in court. They were no longer the scared and hungry workers we had found behind garment factory fences, but were small business owners, college students, mothers and fathers, joined in America by their families and thriving in their new home. Such an emotional and inspirational reunion could not have happened in the United Kingdom, because the victims wouldn’t have received long-term care, their family members would never have joined them, and they themselves would have been likely to be sent home long before.

As Home Secretary, Theresa May recognised that modern slavery strikes at the heart of our commitment to human dignity, and made combating trafficking her signature issue. As Prime Minister, she again vowed to fight ‘the great human rights issue of our time’. That mantle of leadership, however, is at risk.

As US anti-trafficking Ambassador under Barack Obama, I was honored to testify before the Parliamentary inquiry that resulted in the 2015 Modern Slavery Act. Its supply chain transparency provisions and new criminal tools are a global example. But the same cannot be said for the UK’s victim protection regime, which is rendered almost meaningless by the lack of long-term care and alternatives to removal. Put simply, a country cannot long be a global leader against modern slavery when its own official determination that someone is a victim is undercut by artificial deadlines, lack of services, or even deportation.

That’s why the Modern Slavery (Victim Support) Private Members Bill, currently in Parliament is so important. This Bill, tabled by Ian McColl and Iain Duncan Smith will ensure that official recognition that someone is a trafficking victim will result in a year of specialist support and an alternative to deportation.

Lord McColl’s proposal would not only bring the UK into compliance with UN and global standards of victim care, but would result in more effective prosecutions, as victims would know it is safe to come forward. I saw this directly as a prosecutor and diplomat. In the US, trafficking victims can seek immigration status (the “T-Visa”) if they are willing to cooperate with an investigation. They aren’t just used as witnesses, but are recognised for their bravery and protected for speaking out, often at great risk. Family members can join them, escaping retribution in their home country and knowing that there is a chance to make a new life in America. Before the T-Visa was introduced, some had concerns that it would lead to false claims. These concerns have been unfounded, because each victim goes through a careful review by investigators at each step of the way.

In contrast, the current system in the UK offers no comfort or security to victims once they have been identified. While it is possible for victims identified in the UK to be granted a residence permit (including for working with the police), that appears to have happened for only 12 per cent of confirmed victims. Instead, victims who are officially recognised by one part of the Home Office often find themselves pursued by another arm of the same Ministry for deportation.

Immigration issues aside, those who are identified by UK authorities as trafficking victims lose all government-funded specialist support two weeks later. This makes no sense. The Home Office promises to increase this to 45 days, but that is insufficient. Trafficking victims are still in direct trauma at that stage, and need long-term care if they are to recover. With support cut off at this crucial point it is no surprise that, rather than beginning a healing journey and cooperating with authorities, victims in the UK often return to the shadows, and even re-exploitation, to avoid destitution.

Three years after the Modern Slavery Act, prosecutions in the UK remain low. That means that, in spite of repeated political commitments to stop this crime – no matter how frequent, sincere, or significant – state involvement in Modern Slavery cases brings low risk for criminals and high risk for the victims.

So what are Britain’s counterparts doing in similar situations? New research by Nusrat Uddin, a solicitor at Wilson Solicitors, compares the support available to victims in the UK, Belgium, the Netherlands and the US: countries that each have anti-trafficking systems considered global models (though each system can be improved upon). Each system recognises that victims fear coming forward to authorities. But only the United Kingdom fails to respond meaningfully to that fear, lacking coherent provision of long-term protection and support.

Uddin’s report is not the first to recognise this. Earlier this year, the American Trafficking in Persons Report recommended the British Government provide specialised services for all types of trafficking victims, regardless of immigration status. And last April, the Commons’ Work and Pensions Select Committee recommended that “all confirmed victims of modern slavery be given at least one year’s leave to remain with recourse to benefits and services…“

As a friend of the UK, I have been proud to support your commitment and leadership in this area. But as a friend, I must also honestly point out this glaring shortcoming in the British approach. Accordingly, I urge Government to seize the opportunity presented by the Modern Slavery (Victim Support) Bill to increase prosecutions, prevent trafficking, and become a global leader in victim protection.

How unusual – Downing Street trying to persuade the Home Office to be tougher on immigration

Normally it’s the other way round. How long will it be before the traditional divide reasserts itself?

The Home Office and the Treasury have a fraught history of squabbling over immigration. Home Secretaries place primacy on questions of border integrity and control, and know that various of their predecessors’ careers have been destroyed by failing to live up to popular expectations and their own promises on the topic. The Treasury, meanwhile, believes – both due to its own analysis and its regular contact with large businesses – that their colleagues on Marsham Street are imperilling economic growth with an obsession with constraining immigration at any cost.

The balance of power within government between these two positions ebbs and flows. In the Cameron years, the “tens of thousands” net migration pledge held – at least rhetorically, if not practically – as a form of uneasy truce. The two occupants of Downing Street were instinctively more relaxed about immigration than Theresa May, but they recognised that any prospect of electoral success required at least some presentational effort to square away the issue.

Nonetheless, as the target was repeatedly missed it became a source of friction in both directions, with the Treasury wondering aloud about relaxing an unmet goal, perhaps by exempting students, and the Home Office pointing to the rise of UKIP as a deterrent against any attempt to abandon it. Everybody knew that the net migration pledge was essentially unfulfillable, at least while the UK economy grew and EU membership required free movement, but the already sensitive topic was becoming harder and harder to handle. It duly helped to sink Cameron’s renegotiation, and then contributed in no small part to his defeat in the referendum.

Traditionally the Treasury has tended to have more influence in Number 10 than the Home Office. Chancellors hold a more mighty Great Office of State, they live next door to the Prime Minister, and they control the purse strings. Added to which, the growth of the rights which the Treasury claims over other departments means that its officials often end up going to Number 10 in various capacities, both operational and policy.

Given that context the immigration battle within government normally involves the Treasury pushing for more, with a sympathetic hearing from the Prime Minister, and the Home Office battling for less, waving the polls as a cudgel.

However, this is 2018 so everything is upside down and back to front – hence the peculiar sight of a Home Office-dominated Number 10, occupied by a Prime Minister personally committed to the “tens of thousands” pledge, trying to persuade a more business-minded Home Secretary to be tougher on immigration than he would instinctively like.

One can see in the way that May prioritised immigration apparently above everything else including the costs of EU regulation in her Brexit negotiations that she has no intention of shifting her position. Where David Cameron once joked that he and she were the only two supporters of the net migration target in government, she now seems like the only one. Indeed, it has fallen to a frustrated Downing Street to clarify today that this is still the official policy, after the Home Secretary told the BBC “there’s no specific target.”

I wouldn’t expect this unusual state of affairs to persist for very long, though; the traditional Treasury vs Home Office divide will likely reassert itself in time. Brexit offers the chance to draw some of the fury out of the immigration debate, as can already be seen by a softening of public opinion now that people at least believe the policy will be under their democratic control. As that happens, I suspect we will see more intense inter-departmental scraps about it, as ambitious ministers bid to appeal to different segments of the electorate – in other words, returning the topic to one of normal democratic politics.

Bob Blackman: Homelessness is still a blight on our society

Local authorities are still waiting until people are actually homeless before offering assistance. This is expensive and has an unnecessary impact on vulnerable people.

Bob Blackman is MP for Harrow East.

For vulnerable people to have nowhere to call home is deeply shameful. Without the stability of shelter and security, those who find themselves homeless often spiral further.

At this time of year we often think more of those in this situation. Campaigns often spring up and call on the public to do more to help those affected by homelessness. While this is most welcome, and to be encouraged, we must collectively focus on the issue year-round if we are to achieve the end goal of eliminating it.

Every part of the government must get to grips with the issue as homelessness is not inevitable. We know that in most cases it is preventable and in every case it can be ended.

Crisis published a report in the autumn which set out the changes departments should be making now to prevent homelessness for more people.

This includes the Department for Work and Pensions establishing a network of housing specialists in all Jobcentres, so that homelessness is prevented for more people going onto Universal Credit.

It also recommends the adoption of a Critical Time Intervention approach by the Ministry of Justice, Department for Education, and the Home Office. Through Critical Time Intervention, people at risk of homelessness are provided with time-limited support during a transitional period. The model can be successfully used to prevent homelessness among people leaving prison, care or asylum support accommodation.

These changes must be underpinned by legal duties on public bodies to ensure that homelessness is consistently and effectively prevented whenever it can be.

There are already good examples of where such work is taking place. In Newcastle, Jobcentres have been working in partnership with the city council and the local Crisis service to embed a housing and homelessness approach that is enabling work coaches to identify and support people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. Preliminary findings are that this approach is preventing homelessness in a third of cases.

To ensure a prevention culture is embedded across government departments, the government’s Rough Sleeping and Homelessness Reduction Taskforce must now lead on developing a strong cross-government strategy to prevent homelessness, which recognises the critical role of every department in ending this scourge.

Within the Rough Sleeping Strategy a ‘wider strategy’ is mentioned multiple times. However, campaigners are concerned with the lack of momentum seen to date.

The Homelessness Reduction Act (2017), which I was proud to lead through parliament, makes significant inroads in making prevention a central part of the statutory homelessness framework. New legal duties for local authorities mean they are now required to step in earlier to prevent homelessness and to do so for more people. It also introduced a new requirement for some public authorities to refer people to the local authority if they are homeless or at risk of homelessness.

Whilst the Act represents a huge step forward, we need to build upon it so that every public body that can prevent homelessness has a legal duty to do so. The primary responsibility remains with local authorities, even though in many cases they won’t be the first organisation that is aware when someone is at risk.

Sadly there is evidence that in London, local authorities are still waiting until people are actually homeless before offering assistance. This is expensive and has an unnecessary impact on vulnerable people: we need to change the culture of local authorities, so that they intervene early to prevent people from being left without a home.

Too many opportunities to prevent homelessness are being missed. There are 236,000 people across Britain experiencing the worst forms of homelessness. This includes people sleeping rough, sofa surfing and living in tents, squats, hostels and unsuitable accommodation. For people who experience homelessness, average age of death is just 47 compared to 77 for the general population. They are much more likely to develop complex needs and suffer from ill mental health and drug dependencies. In addition, if a person has experienced homelessness once, they are sadly much more likely to experience it again. Shocking figures released earlier this month by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism revealed that more than 440 people died whilst homeless in the UK within the past year.

Not only are the human costs of failing to prevent homelessness immense but it also comes at a huge cost to the taxpayer. If 40,000 people were prevented from experiencing just one year of homelessness, then it is estimated that public spending would fall by £370m.

This means that too many opportunities to prevent homelessness are being missed. This is especially true for people leaving the care of the state, including those leaving prison and the care system. Figures show that 15 per cent of male and 13 per cent of female prisoners serving short sentences were released without a home to go to. Meanwhile, a shocking 26 per cent of care leavers had sofa-surfed since leaving care and 14 per cent had slept rough.

This does not need to happen. Public services working with prisoners, young people in care, and other groups who have an increased risk of homelessness can act to make sure that no one becomes homeless when they leave the care of the state.

Another interesting and important campaign is one recently launched by St Mungo’s. Under the mantle of ‘Home for Good’, and coinciding with the release of new research into the role of floating support services in ending rough sleeping, they are calling for: an increase of social homes for people who have experienced homelessness; improvements to private renting; and a new programme to provide long-term funding for homelessness services.

At Housing Communities and Local Government parliamentary questions I recently asked the minister what assessment has been made of local authorities in their efforts to help rough sleepers into homes of their own, following the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017. While I received a half response, as they missed the start of the question, they confirmed a review of the Act after 24 months and reported that ‘local councils are impressed with how well it is being embedded’.

We know homelessness can be prevented but to do this we need the commitment of every government department and public authority.

 

Andrew Green: Immigration. Voters will spurn the end of free movement if it brings no reduction in numbers.

Ministers need to be clear about who they intend to admit, and that they will set limits on numbers and on any rights to benefits and access for family members.

Lord Green is Chairman of MigrationWatch UK and a cross-bench peer.

This week’s immigration figures have made uncomfortable reading for a government that has pledged a major reduction in immigration. EU net migration is still, despite Brexit, at 74,000 – roughly the size of the British army. Non-EU migration is a quarter of a million – that is, the highest for 14 years.

Meanwhile, it is curious, to put it mildly, that the Prime Minister should be majoring on her achievement in bringing free movement to an end just as leaked Cabinet documents suggest that the Government is about to lose much of the benefit by caving in to the employer lobbies. They are planning, it seems, to camouflage their surrender by fiddling the immigration statistics.

The Prime Minister has indeed chosen as the top reason for backing her deal with the EU that “free movement will come to an end, once and for all, with the introduction of a new skills-based immigration system”. However, the Daily Telegraph had a leak of Cabinet papers describing how the Government proposes to manage migration post-Brexit. If broadly correct, it could well throw away much of any benefit gained from our departure from the EU.

The Government seems to have in mind fiddling the immigration statistics. They would do this by offering eleven-month visas for those wishing to work in lower skilled occupations. Presumably, this is intended to appease the employer lobbies who want continued, and preferably unlimited, access to cheap labour. The trick is this. When passengers arrive in the UK a sample are asked whether they plan to remain in the UK for a year or more. If so, they are asked further questions, and are then included in the statistics as immigrants, but if they have visas which are only valid for 11 months they will say no and walk on through.

That ruse will keep them out of the statistics but, once the eleven months are up, how could their departure possibly be enforced? A previous scheme for low skilled hospitality workers had to be closed in 2005 amidst Home Office concerns that it was being used to facilitate illegal immigration. The same could happen again with these workers joining the population of illegal immigrants who are estimated by former Home Office officials to number about one million. Alternatively, they could work legally for eleven months (probably at higher pay) and then drop off the radar. The Home Office do not remotely have the resources to find them, let alone remove them. Indeed resources devoted to border control fell by 20 per cent in the five years to April 2017.

The Government has declared its intention of treating all applicants in the same way, whether they are EU citizens or not. For those who qualify for a highly skilled work permit, this is an acceptable risk. But the apparent absence of any limit on numbers is of serious concern. The present cap of 20,700 was not reached for six years, but it has proved too inflexible over the past 18 months. A higher cap would, of course, be necessary if skilled EU workers are to be included, albeit rather more flexibly administered than in the past.

For lower skilled workers, this approach is fraught with danger. The German ‘Gastarbeiter’ system was intended to allow in temporary workers for just a year or two, but it resulted in a very large number of foreign-born workers staying permanently in Germany. Although the scheme was closed in 1973, the foreign-born population continued to increase over subsequent years as these workers brought in partners and children under ‘family reunification’. Indeed, the German government ended up offering to pay them to return to their home countries – an offer that few took up.

Labour governments have repeatedly found that changes in migration rules for work have led to major and unforeseen increases in immigration. Upon coming to power in 1997, net migration trebled in three years from 50,000 to 150,000. Later, unlike nearly all other EU member states, they decided against a seven year transition period for the admission of workers from the East European accession states. Later still, their Points Based System, introduced in 2008/9, came off the rails with tens of thousands of bogus students applying for visas in the hope of working illegally in the UK. This swamped the system in India to such a degree that several Consulates had to be closed down for a period of months.

For this not to be yet another such episode, the Government needs to be clear about who they intend to admit and very clear that they will set limits on numbers and on any rights both to benefits and to access for family members. It is vital also that the mechanisms and resources should be in place to ensure departure.

It is all very well for the Government to claim that it has restored “control” of migration but, if that leads to another increase in numbers, the outcome would be deeply unwelcome to the public, nearly two thirds of whom consider that immigration has been too high over the last decade; among Conservative voters that is 84 per cent.

The Government should be in no doubt that, especially after their stress on ending free movement, a failure to achieve a reduction in immigration will decisively affect the public’s perception of their management of Brexit.

Rudd returns to help sell May’s deal

She didn’t establish herself as a strategic Home Secretary, but is a highly effective media performer.

Theresa May cannot rely on the Brexiteers in her Cabinet to go out and sell her draft Brexit deal enthusiastically.  Liam Fox has been helpful to her today, but within very narrow confines.  Two of the holders of great offices of state want the Prime Minister to return to Brussels to push for concessions – Sajid Javid and Jeremy Hunt.  That has left her reliant this week on the energetic Matt Hancock.

Amber Rudd’s return to the top table will be linked to Downing Street’s need for strong, articulate, media-experienced performers to tour the studios on May’s behalf.  The new Work and Pensions Secretary is a first-class communicator: far more adept than the Prime Minister at getting on the front foot, and completely committed to a central element of the draft deal: frictionless trade – or as near to frictionless as can be achieved.  She was a passionate Remainer during the EU referendum, stepping up for TV debates, and closely linked to the anti-Brexit campaign in which her brother, Roland Rudd, was a big cheese.

In one sense, the appointment is surprising.  Rudd was a senior voice in the pro-deal element of backbench former and present Tory Remainers.  Her departure leaves it weaker.  Furthermore, she has an ultra-marginal seat, and is now to be responsible for the hyper-vulnerable business of managing Universal Credit.

But she is the kind of centre-leftish Conservative who is now at this Government’s centre of gravity.  Esther McVey out, Rudd in makes the Cabinet even less leave-tilting than before, with Boris Johnson, David Davis, Dominic Raab and McVey all gone.  There is a big question about whether a Minister compelled so recently to resign should return to government so quickly.  There has been a campaign to suggest that civil servants were to blame for the Windrush debacle.  But for all Rudd’s force on television, she didn’t establish herself as a strategic Home Secretary.  However, she does fill a gap as a Soft Brexitish future leadership contender.  It is possible there may be a vacancy soon.

Phil Taylor: Fire deaths dropped 28 per cent last year, but don’t expect to hear that number being reported

The Grenfell Tower tragedy was a shocking exception to a general trend of improvement in safety. Fire deaths are down below 250 a year, the second lowest on record.

Phil Taylor is a Conservative activist in Ealing.

In the wake of the Grenfell Tower tragedy last year, it would be easy to come away with the impression that we have a fire safety problem in this country. We don’t, at least not at the systematic level. Of course, we have problems to fix. Some big ones. But what we do largely works. We should go further.

This chart from Channel 4 FactCheck (using Home Office data) shows that the long term trend of fire deaths is consistently down. Health and safety does have its place, and fire safety in particular is an area where we have made very worthwhile progress in recent times.  Fire deaths are comfortably half of what they were in the nineties. Clearly we are doing something right. Building regulations and our wider fire safety culture are driving the progress being made. Of course, with relatively small numbers – down in the 100s – it is always dangerous to look at a single year, let alone one calendar quarter of data, in isolation. Like many data sets, we should be wary of single data points and even warier of people pointing to large rises or falls in small numbers from quarter to quarter.

It is always worth looking for international comparisons if only as a reality check. It is striking that many EU countries do not track these numbers, for instance, France, Germany, and Spain. CTIF, the international association of fire and rescue services, has a World Fire Statistics Center which tries to keep track of what numbers there are. They are a shoestring operation, and do not have the resources to do more than collate what is published elsewhere. So their work comes with a health warning that different countries do things differently, and the numbers may not be comparable.  But, at first sight, the UK does extremely well on fire deaths being comparable with the Netherlands and Italy, and has half the death rate of the USA.

Of course, the Grenfell fire was an awful reminder that if you cut corners with fire, there will be consequences, and the most terrible of consequences too. This time last year, at Prime Minister’s Questions, Jeremy Corbyn effectively used one data point, the quarter ending June 2017 which included the Grenfell Tower fire, as a stick to beat the Prime Minister with.  He said:

“Under this government, there are 11,000 fewer firefighters in England since 2010, and last year deaths in fires increased by 20 per cent.”

He was trying to link cuts in fire service numbers, which he got wrong citing firefighters rather than overall staff numbers, with an annual figure for fire deaths that had just been pushed up by the then estimate of the Grenfell death toll of 80.

Three months later in February 2018, the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) was using the next quarter’s numbers as the basis for this headline:

“Firefighters’ union ‘horrified’ at increase in people dying in fires.”

Go forward another six months and the FBU was trying this line:

“More fires and more fire deaths – yet Westminster continues to cut firefighter jobs.”

Both Corbyn and the FBU know better than this, and that they were being misleading.

On Thursday, the latest fire incident statistics, one year on from the numbers that Corbyn was using, were published by the Home Office. These show a 28 per cent drop in fire deaths in the year ending June 2018.  A large factor in this is the Grenfell numbers dropping out of the year on year comparison, but the numbers are substantially down on 2016 and 2015 as well.

Just as Corbyn and the FBU were being actively misleading to talk about a 20 per cent leap in fire deaths, it is bogus to talk about a 28 per cent drop. What we can say is that the year to June 2018 was the second best year ever, with fire deaths down below 250 and back to where they were in 2014, which was our best ever year.

I hope that we have fewer fire deaths next year, and I also wish that our government, our fire services, and the FBU would collectively make it their aim to eliminate fire deaths from our society altogether. I would like to see planning and resourcing for zero fire deaths. Achieving this would not be about firefighters rushing after fires. It would be about the mundane work of raising construction standards, managing them well, and training us all how to minimise fire risks.

Maybe that is something that Nick Hurd, Minister of State for Policing and the Fire Service, who is responsible for national fire policy, and the FBU can agree on, rather than having an arid debate about cash and staff numbers which are only tenuously related to outcomes – like so much of life.

Daniel Kawczynski: The Home Secretary must not back away from DNA testing for migrants

It is a vital tool for speeding up applications and ensuring more reliable judgements, and is good for both applications and the state.

Daniel Kawczynki is MP for Shrewsbury and Atcham.

Thirteen years ago, I was elected to the House of Commons as the Member of Parliament for Shrewsbury and Atcham. This happened 27 years after I first arrived on these shores from my native Poland, and I am incredibly proud to be the first Polish-born British Member of Parliament.

There are of course many reasons why the UK is one of the best countries in the world to come and live, including our thriving democracy, strong and resilient economy, and open and compassionate society. It is exactly because of these national strengths that the UK must have a fair but robust immigration system.

The UK’s withdrawal from the European Union is a seminal moment at a pivotal point in our nation’s history, and leaving the EU will allow the British Government to build a fair and controlled migration system once EU free movement has come to an end.

I am clear that when people voted to leave the EU, they did so in the knowledge that free movement would end. This means bringing net migration down to sustainable levels while continuing to attract and retain those who come to the UK to work and bring significant benefits. I am glad ministers now share my view that this should not include an open door to those who do not.

It has always angered me that any view expressed calling for strong national borders and controls is met with accusations of bigotry. I accept that for many across Europe, walls and fences are signs of oppression and occupation, but for the British our natural border represents self-determination, safety, and a safeguard of the peace.

I am therefore incredibly frustrated by the apology made in the House of Commons by Sajid Javid, the Home Secretary, relating to DNA testing and immigration.

I am unashamedly in favour of providing our hard-working border and immigration officials with all the tools available to deliver a fair and robust immigration system. My support for the use of DNA testing in immigration cases stems from a desire to see a reduction in the time it takes for immigration cases to be dealt with. Indeed, the use of DNA testing would only provide a more reliable way to keep our borders secure, it would also provide greater certainty to the applicant and ensure they are not left in limbo. Had I been asked to provide DNA when I came to this country in 1978, I would have happily done so.

The use of DNA for immigration cases is obvious – in some cases involving paperwork, a determination cannot be made until the paperwork has been back and forth between the Home Office and the applicant. With DNA, a straightforward analysis can be undertaken, which in turn speeds up the process. This is good for secure borders and good for the applicant.

The use of biometrics is not repressive. On the contrary, it is an efficient and effective use of technology. In Canada, for example, it is now a requirement if you are from Europe, the Middle East, and Africa to provide your fingerprints and photo when applying for a visitor visa, study or work permit, or permanent residence. This information is encrypted and sent to a secure Government database, illustrating how a secure use of personal information can be effectively used to determine the outcome of an immigration-related application.

Removing the use of DNA evidence and biometrics from visa applications would be a backwards step for national security, depriving our border officials of important information. I urge the Home Secretary to give serious consideration to mandatory DNA testing in all visa applications and to ignore criticism from the Labour Party, who are simply trying to capitalise on the very legitimate immigration issues experienced by people of the Windrush Generation.

2 November 2018 – today’s press releases

It’s a sign of how much is going on ‘under the radar’ whilst Brexit unfolds that, of today’s press releases, only one is obviously Brexit-related… Cost of Brexit spiralling out of control Responding to the Government’s admission that Operation Brock will now cost £30 million, £10 million more than was previously stated, Liberal Democrat spokesperson […]

It’s a sign of how much is going on ‘under the radar’ whilst Brexit unfolds that, of today’s press releases, only one is obviously Brexit-related…

Cost of Brexit spiralling out of control

Responding to the Government’s admission that Operation Brock will now cost £30 million, £10 million more than was previously stated, Liberal Democrat spokesperson for Brexit, Tom Brake MP said:

The cost of Brexit is continuing to spiral out of control. The Conservative Government’s plan to turn Kent into a car park, Operation Brock, is now costing the tax payer an additional ten million more than the figure they gave in the summer.

The Government must be honest about the cost of Brexit. During the referendum campaign, people were told Brexit would mean more money for the NHS, not that they would be paying to churn up our motorway in a desperate bid to avoid grid-lock and a mega-traffic jam on the M20.

This is why it’s essential that the people have the final say on Brexit, including the option to remain in the EU.

Lib Dems call for Women’s Equality Day

Liberal Democrat MPs Layla Moran and Stephen Lloyd are calling on the Government to create a ‘Women’s Equality Day’ to fall on the Spring Bank Holiday.

2018 marks the centenary of the extension of suffrage to some women and the 90th anniversary of universal suffrage. To mark this, Stephen Lloyd challenged female pupils from Willingdon School in his constituency to come up with a campaign which he could deliver in Westminster on their behalf.

The winning idea, to create a Women’s Equality Day, has been taken forward by Education spokesperson Layla Moran and an Early Day Motion has already received cross-party support from MPs.

Next week (6th November) Layla and Stephen will host an event in parliament for MP and Peers in which they will call on supporters to commemorate these anniversaries of women’s suffrage. Marking the day will be a yearly recognition of the full and equal participation that we aspire for women to have in both society and public life.

Commenting on the campaign, Layla Moran MP said:

A decade ago great strides were made in the battle to acknowledge the importance of giving women a voice and the independence to vote for their representatives. But perhaps, a century later, we would have expected more progress.

Across the country we see women routinely paid less than men, stifled from progressing in their organisations, and experiencing sexual harassment. This is not the message we want to send to future generations.

The message that we want to send and that the girls of Willingdon school felt was the most important for Stephen to raise, was that of equality and in 2018, that should alarm us. There is a long way to go, and I hope that this day will be enshrined and will act as an annual recognition of gender equality.

Emily Beer, Headteacher at Willingdon School said:

We are delighted that our students have had a real taste of democracy. They chose their ideas, they discussed and debated and subsequently selected the best one.

For our students to be involved in possibly making a national change to a bank holiday name is monumental and demonstrates to them how anything is possible. We are so proud that in the year of the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage, our own girls have been so empowered through this and demonstrated such personal excellence.

Lib Dems demand more police to tackle violence epidemic

Responding to the claims from a senior police officer that children as young as nine are being caught carrying knives, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs spokesperson Ed Davey said:

It is heart-breaking that the epidemic of violent crime is claiming the lives of so many children.

We urgently need more police officers on our streets to restore the community policing that helps to prevent violent crime. That’s why the Liberal Democrats are demanding an extra £300 million a year for the police.

But we also need to tackle the root causes of this epidemic to stop it spreading in our communities. That requires a public health approach involving not only the police, but also health professionals, social workers and teachers.

Davey: Home Office not fit for purpose

Responding to Sir Alex Allan’s review of Amber Rudd’s appearance before the Home Affairs Select Committee in April, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs spokesperson Ed Davey said:

From the Windrush scandal to illegal demands for DNA to this week’s total mess over the rights of EU citizens, the message of the last year is clear: the Home Office is not fit for purpose.

Changing a few faces at the top isn’t enough. The Liberal Democrats demand better. We are calling for the Home Office to be stripped of its powers over immigration altogether.

Policy over visas should be given to the Departments for Business and Education, and a new, non-political organisation should take over processing applications. Only by taking immigration away from the discredited Home Office can we restore people’s confidence in the system.

Lib Dems: Govt must close second homes loophole

Responding to the Government’s consultation on second homes, which was announced in the budget, Liberal Democrat MP Norman Lamb said:

It is encouraging that the Government has listened to concerns raised about this unfair loophole, but this must be followed by action. They cannot simply kick this problem into the long grass with the promise of a review. Liberal Democrats demand better.

Communities are facing higher council tax bills to fund vital local services, while some owners of second homes are allowed to exploit the system by registering them incorrectly as holiday lets, getting away with paying no tax at all on that property.

The Government must act urgently to close this outrageous loophole that results in already struggling councils losing out on huge sums of money that could be spent on critical services.