7 March 2019 – yesterday’s press releases (part 2)

And now, as promised, the rest of the press releases… Figures highlight extremely difficult time for high streets Swinson: Employers must be held to account over gender pay gap Chancellor must end the freeze on benefits and tax credits Davey: Strip Home Office of immigration powers Figures highlight extremely difficult time for high streets Responding […]

And now, as promised, the rest of the press releases…

  • Figures highlight extremely difficult time for high streets
  • Swinson: Employers must be held to account over gender pay gap
  • Chancellor must end the freeze on benefits and tax credits
  • Davey: Strip Home Office of immigration powers

Figures highlight extremely difficult time for high streets

Responding as the BDO High Streets Tracker reveals that sales declined by 3.7%, the worst February for lifestyle in-store sales since November 2008, Leader of the Liberal Democrats Vince Cable said:

Our high streets are clearly going through an extremely difficult time, thanks to a combination of long-term structural challenges and the damaging effects of Brexit uncertainty.

But with the right action from government, councils, businesses and local communities, they can prosper once again. Instead of trying to recreate the high streets of the past, Britain’s towns and cities need to refresh their offer at a time of growing demand for online shopping.

Liberal Democrats believe we should enable towns to thrive in the 21st century. We would replace business rates with a tax on land value, reform restrictive planning rules, and provide additional support for local entrepreneurs.

Swinson: Employers must be held to account over gender pay gap

Responding to a new YouGov survey for Young Women’s Trust that 30% of employers have not tried to reduce their gender pay gap, Liberal Democrat Deputy Leader Jo Swinson said:

It is disappointing that one in three organisations have not tried to improve their gender pay gap.

Gender pay gap reporting has injected transparency in the debate on pay and equality in the workplace. But publishing numbers is not enough.

We must require employers to also report what they will do to reduce the gap in their organisations, so that employees and consumers can hold them to account when they fail to improve.

The Government must also provide better guidance and support to employers on how they can close their gender pay gap.

Chancellor must end the freeze on benefits and tax credits

Liberal Democrat DWP Spokesperson Christine Jardine has called for the Chancellor to use his Spring Statement to end the freeze on working-age benefits, including Universal Credit and tax credits.

It comes as the Joseph Rowntree Foundation publishes new statistics [08 March 2019 00:01] revealing that, should the final year of the freeze go ahead, the benefits freeze will end up pushing 400,000 more people into poverty since 2015.

Liberal Democrat MP Christine Jardine said:

The Conservative freeze on working-age benefits is causing real pain and misery that must be stopped. Liberal Democrats demand better than the Tories’ cruel policy of balancing the books on the backs of the poorest.

Liberal Democrats have long campaigned for an urgent end to the benefits freeze and a full restoration of the billions the Tories’ cut from Universal Credit. Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s report proves all families and children would benefit, particularly the most vulnerable.

The Spring Statement is the last chance to scrap the benefits freeze before the final year of the freeze kicks in. The Chancellor must end the misery. If he doesn’t, he should be in no doubt that every life made harder and every child pushed into poverty will be on his watch.

Davey: Strip Home Office of immigration powers

Responding to an Institute for Government report highlighting “flaws in the immigration system”, published today (Friday 8th March), Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson Ed Davey said:

The Institute for Government is right. The Windrush scandal and countless other failings show that the immigration system is not fit for purpose.

Now Brexit risks another scandal on an even bigger scale, as millions of EU citizens are exposed to the poisonous combination of Home Office incompetence and Theresa May’s hostile environment.

The Liberal Democrats demand better. We will scrap the hostile environment and strip the Home Office of responsibility for immigration.

Policymaking on work visas, student visas and asylum should be given to the Departments for Business, Education and International Development respectively – parts of Whitehall that aren’t infected by the Home Office’s toxic culture, and that understand far better the needs of our economy, our universities and refugees.

Matthew Scott: We don’t need new ‘Tsars’ to oversee the fight against knife crime – we’ve already got PCCs

It would be more effective to make good use of the elected, accountable and effective system that is already in place.

Matthew Scott is the Police and Crime Commissioner for Kent.

This week Sajid Javid summoned Chief Constables from the forces that police our largest metropolitan areas most affected by knife crime to the second Chief Constables’ roundtable.

Every death is a tragedy, and the violence on the streets is seeing too many young lives end, devastating both families and neighbourhoods alike. The Home Secretary is right to call this a disease; its symptoms are many and varied. But its cure lies in a multi-pronged approach that backs our police, boosts our criminal justice system and empowers Police and Crime Commissioners to prevent and rehabilitate.

The debate on the police settlement cannot be ignored. Over the last ten years, crime has changed, demands are differing and resources have reduced, creating a perfect storm of challenges that have seen our brave officers and staff overstretched. Putting more boots on the ground is therefore something that has to be at the very top of the agenda for fixing this epidemic.

Yes, it takes time for the officers to be recruited and to get them out on the street. Since I was elected in 2016 I have made police numbers a priority. At every opportunity, I have raised the funding necessary to boost the number of officers again. By next year, there will be 450 more police officers in Kent, visible in our towns and villages and increasing their ability to catch criminals and investigate crime. But I’m not alone in this – every PCC who is in a position to do so is raising funds to increase officer and staff numbers again. I wouldn’t increase council tax if I didn’t think I needed to in order to do the right thing – I don’t think my colleagues would, either. Javid is right to push on this issue at Cabinet.

New powers to prevent knife crime are welcome. We also need to empower and support officers again to use the powers that they already have to get weapons off of our streets, and with more colleagues to do it. You can’t oppose stop and search to get elected and support it again when there is a problem to solve – this inconsistency sends the wrong message. It is also possible to make powers like stop and search accountable whilst giving officers the confidence they need to use it, free from the fear of complaints, thanks to body-worn video cameras.

Solving this problem is not just the responsibility of the police and PCCs; we need to address failures elsewhere. Seeing repeat perpetrators of violent crime on the steps of the courts grinning and taking selfies as they’ve walked away with a suspended sentence is a bitter pill to swallow for victims, witnesses and taxpayers. In recent years, efforts have been made to increase the sentences available for violent crimes, including knife crimes and attacks on emergency services workers, but they are meaningless unless they are being exercised.

And if people do go to prison, it has to be a place of meaningful punishment and rehabilitation. Many, but not all, of the perpetrators of knife crime are young when they are caught, which means that at some point, even within their youth, they will be released at the end of their sentence. If violent criminals are off the streets and in prison, we have an opportunity to prevent them from committing more offences and, with the right resources and programmes, the chance to change their lives. Prison hasn’t worked for a very long time, because of what it has become, not because it can’t work.

When they are released, we need to put them into contact with probation and rehabilitation services that work. There is still far too much re-offending post-prison. But there is little if any accountability for the performance of these services. PCCs and others are filling this gap through the provision of mentors.

PCCs are a voice for victims, the vulnerable and the voiceless. We champion the needs of residents, businesses and charities in the areas we represent. We are the golden thread that runs through policing, community safety and criminal justice through our work holding Chief Constables and other agencies to account, providing services for victims and working in partnership with others. We’ve published a summary of our work on violence here.

Therefore we are in a position to tackle some of these difficult challenges – a ready-made vehicle that is both accountable and transparent. We do not need any more unelected Tsars working nationally and detached from local neighbourhoods; we are working with and supporting them every day.

Rather than offer the short-term grants, the Home Office could bundle up the money already on offer, worth at least £30 million a year, and give it to Police and Crime Commissioners to deliver, alongside our own work and the leverage we can gain from other sources. We could also help improve the performance of criminal justice agencies if we were given the responsibility for holding them to account, and the funding for rehabilitation.

Javid has made great strides forward as Home Secretary to get to grips with a challenging Department and serious issues that need addressing. He is getting some traction and backing policing, but we can’t ignore the important sticking points of prevention and police numbers that need action now, as well as the reforms needed from the Ministry of Justice.

5 March 2019 – yesterday’s press releases

We’re running a bit late today, mainly because a number of these releases were embargoed until after midnight… Tory cuts are forcing schools to beg and borrow from communities – Moran Lib Dems: Tories failing to fund adult social care Tory cuts driving down quality of care homes Govt must act to prevent another Windrush […]

We’re running a bit late today, mainly because a number of these releases were embargoed until after midnight…

  • Tory cuts are forcing schools to beg and borrow from communities – Moran
  • Lib Dems: Tories failing to fund adult social care
  • Tory cuts driving down quality of care homes
  • Govt must act to prevent another Windrush
  • Make school uniforms gender neutral – Lib Dems
  • Davey: End ‘right to rent’ checks and Hostile Environment
  • Swinson: PM’s guarantees to protect workers’ rights not worth the paper they’re written on

Tory cuts are forcing schools to beg and borrow from communities – Moran

Responding to reports that parents are being asked to pay for staff wages and books by schools, Liberal Democrat Education spokesperson Layla Moran said:

These stories are becoming all to common.

Schools are having to beg and borrow from their communities to make ends meet. But some schools especially in poorer areas don’t have a parent body who can afford to help plug the gaps.

This is the raw reality of this Government’s failure to engage on the school funding issues. It’s time we funded our schools properly.

Lib Dems: Tories failing to fund adult social care

Responding to the reports from the LGA that council tax rises in 2019/20 will not bring in enough money to prevent the need for further cutbacks to adult social care, Liberal Democrat Health Spokesperson Judith Jolly said:

The current way the Tories are running the care system is unsustainable. As it becomes more and more difficult for people in the UK to get the help they need, it becomes clear something needs to change, and it needs to happen now.

For months the Liberal Democrats have been calling on the Conservative Government to publish the Social Care Green Paper so that we can begin to address this crisis. But instead the Tories have delayed and delayed this since the summer of 2017 as they fail to address the ballooning funding gap for adult social care.

The Liberal Democrats are ready and willing to challenge the problem in social care. We will transform the care older people receive and reduce the inequality in provision. We will put a penny in the pound on income tax to directly invest in social care as a first step to address the funding problems.

Tory cuts driving down quality of care homes

Responding to the report from Independent Age stating that the quality of care homes has worsened in the last year in more than a third of local authorities (37%), Liberal Democrat Health Spokesperson Judith Jolly said:

We are now seeing the serious consequences the Tories’ cuts are having on the care older people receive. It is unacceptable that older people and families are having to choose between one poorly-performing care home and another poorly-performing care home.

The Tories’ sustained cuts to local government funding is contributing to the fall in standards of care, as is their failure to publish the Social Care Green Paper.

The Liberal Democrats are ready and willing to challenge the problems in social care. We will transform the care older people receive and reduce the inequality in provision. We will put a penny in the pound on income tax to directly invest in social care to reverse the deterioration in care.

Govt must act to prevent another Windrush

Responding to the Public Accounts Committee’s Report on the Windrush Generation and the Home Office, Liberal Democrat MP and member of the Public Accounts Committee, Layla Moran said:

The Windrush Scandal demonstrated the extent of the Home Office’s indifference to the human impact of its hostile environment policies. The Conservative Government’s continued failure to put things right for the victims of this scandal is shameful.

The Government must meet the urgent housing requirements of members of the Windrush Generation, as well as providing them with proper compensation.

We must ensure that this scandal never happens again, but the Settled Status scheme for EU citizens risks leaving many thousands of them facing the same problems as the Windrush Generation after Brexit. The only way to prevent it is to end the hostile environment completely and take responsibility for immigration away from the Home Office and its toxic culture.

Make school uniforms gender neutral – Lib Dems

Today (6th March), Liberal Democrat Education Spokesperson Layla Moran will introduce a Bill on gender neutral school uniforms to mark International Women’s Day.

Commenting on her Presentation Bill, Ms Moran said:

The Conservative Government must take a step into the twenty-first century. It is harmful that in some cases schools are still dictating what children can and cannot wear just because of their gender.

This is not about forcing girls to wear trousers or boys to wear skirts. We must support all children to feel happy in what they wear to school. It is also important that transgender and non-binary pupils feel they can dress comfortably.

Liberal Democrats demand better. It’s high time that all children were given the option of which school uniform they want to wear. We must create a culture of acceptance in our schools where all students are confident and comfortable no matter what they choose to wear.

Davey: End ‘right to rent’ checks and Hostile Environment

Responding to the Immigration Minister’s written statement on the Right to Rent Scheme, published today, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson Ed Davey said:

What will it take for the Tories to reverse their nasty, discriminatory Hostile Environment policies?

The Windrush Scandal should have been enough. Last week’s High Court judgement that the ‘right to rent’ checks breach human rights should have been more than enough.

But still Tory Ministers refuse to budge. Worse, they are now wasting taxpayers’ money on a legal appeal to keep their pointless, discriminatory ‘right to rent’ checks.

The Liberal Democrats demand better. We demand an end to the Hostile Environment and an effective, compassionate fix to the immigration system.

Swinson: PM’s guarantees to protect workers’ rights not worth the paper they’re written on

Responding to the Government’s announcement that Parliament will be given a vote on adopting future EU rules on workers’ rights, Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats and former Employment Relations Minister Jo Swinson said:

This is yet another desperate attempt by the Prime Minister to save her deal by bribing Labour MPs.

Her so-called guarantees to protect workers’ rights are not worth the paper they are written on. There is nothing stopping a future Conservative government from ripping them to shreds.

The PM claims credit for shared parental leave but I was the one fighting Conservative Minister after Conservative Minister so we could make shared parental leave a reality for families.

Trusting the Conservatives to protect workers’ rights would be like trusting a fox to guard the hen house. The only way to protect the millions of workers in the UK is to stay in the European Union.

Ultimately, Begum is a distraction. The main issue is not terrorists’ brides, but terrorists themselves. Where are they?

The Home Secretary is afloat on a sargasso sea of returning jihadis, human rights laws, bewildering intelligence, gaps in the law – and a shrieking media.

There are three main takes on Sajid Javid’s recent decision to revoke Shamima Begum’s British citizenship.  The first is tabloid. (Good on yer, Saj!)  The second is broadsheet.  (Frightful! Uncivilised!)  The third is merely cynical.  The Home Secretary, this view has it, wins either way.  If the courts uphold his decision, he gets the credit.  And if they don’t, those limp-wristed, bleeding-heart, liberal elite judges get the blame.  Either way, he wins – and up go his ratings in the ConservativeHome Cabinet League Table.

We are as world-weary as the next media outlet.  So we suspect that the impact of this decision on his future leadership prospects will have floated across Javid’s mind.  But one soon grasps, on trying to think it all through, that there is much more to his decision than that.

Let’s start by focusing on Begum herself – this exploited, warped, unrepentant, atypical and seemingly not-very-bright teenager who is evidently as much of a stranger to British norms as she is to the traditional, classical Islam.  She fled Britain when she was 15, married a Dutch jihadi, and reportedly now has a baby, two of her children already being dead.

At one end of the spectrum, she could be brought to Britain and put under surveillance. Or placed on a deradicalisation programme.  At the other, she could, were the condition of the law otherwise, be put on trial under Policy Exchange’s proposed updated treason offence, were it on the statute book.  ConservativeHome is not a legal authority.  However, there’s a good case for believing that there is no present law which renders her likely to be prosecuted successfully – or, were this to happen, for her to be sentenced to prison for very long.  At first glance, the new Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Act would catch her for being in a designated area or for encouraging others to join ISIS.  But it only came into effect on February 12, and can’t be applied retrospectively.

The Home Secretary was thus faced with a choice: take Begum back, with no likelihood of Government success in court, or keep her out.  The main risk of letting her return may be not so much her becoming an agent of terror as a magnet for publicity – complete with Al-Muhajiroun, or whatever they call themselves now, Tommy Robinson, Channel 4 guest appearances, and so on.  Maybe Javid could have slapped a TPIM, as the successor to control orders are called, on her – but she might have appealed it, and they are time-limited anyway.

So he decided instead to try to stop her returning.  He could perhaps have done so through a Temporary Exclusion Order, but these don’t usually keep those on whom they are served out of Britain.  Instead, the Home Secretary has revoked her citizenship.  Two points follow.  The first is that the Home Office argues that she won’t thereby be made stateless, which would be illegal.  Its view is that, until Begum is 21, she is a Bangladeshi citizen whether the Bangladeshi government wants her or not (whatever the status of her child).  The second is that the Home Secretary doesn’t seem to be setting a precedent whereby some future autocratic government can, say, force Jews to Israel or Irish people to Ireland.  The Home Office has already deprived scores of people of British citizenship – 104 last year alone.

It’s true that the details of these decisions are obscure.  The department won’t go into details, and it’s not clear whether any girl of Begum’s age who is also of Bangladeshi origin has been so treated previously.  Enquiries get a lot of nod nod, wink wink, couldn’t possibly comment, Tinker Tailer Solider Saj stuff by way of reply – which, in context, is understandable.

But now step back from the Begum case, and consider its wider implications.  The facts are hard to pin down.  But it is claimed that 400 or so jihadis have returned to Britain from SyriaSome 40 have reportedly been prosecuted.  Where are the rest?  Under surveillance?  State assets?  Whereabouts unknown?

It looks as though Javid has been running, like the Red Queen in Alice Through The Looking Glass, just in order to stand still.  The Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Act was clearly a plugging of previous gaps in the law.

Why did it come into effect only earlier this month?  What happened on the watch of previous Home Secretaries, including the present Prime Minister?  We started with one possible take on Javid’s decision about Begum and end with another.  We began with a picture of a swaggering cynic polishing up a leadership bid.  We end with one of a politician tensely afloat amidst a sargasso sea of returning suspects, human rights laws, blurry intelligence, gaps in the law and a shrieking media – striving apprehensively to negotiate it.

Mike Yeomans: Why Begum’s return to the UK would help, not harm, our counter-terrorism plans

She could give us invaluable insights into jihadi recruitment techniques, and if deradicalised become a valuable asset.

Mike Yeomans is a researcher on violent extremism and terrorism, focussing on jihadism and the Middle East.

Shamima Begum should be allowed return to the UK. Ignoring legal arguments (which under the principle of “right of return” entitles her to come back), it is in the UK’s security interests to let her to do so.

British values

Begum left to go to Syria when she was fifteen years old. Groomed online by ISIS’s well-documented tactics, she was:

  • Placed in an alien environment in cultural and linguistic isolation;
  • “Married” to an adult Dutchman within 10-days of her arrival (meaning she was being raped);
  • Exposed to brutal violence;
  • In daily fear for her life from the US airstrikes that killed friends;
  • Forced to witness her first two children die (one of starvation).

Criminal though she is, she is by any definition a victim of the most appalling child sexual exploitation (CSE).

Refusing her the right of return all but certainly signs Begum’s death warrant. She has made enemies everywhere through openly supporting and now seemingly abandoning ISIS. Bringing her back to the UK to stand trial and be held accountable for her crimes, under the safety of the rule of law, is a sign of strength the protects the UK – not a security threat that weakens it.

Denying Begum’s return fuels the narrative of terrorist organisations and hardens their resolve (now and in the future) by accentuating that idea of “us and them”, as it is made clear that what is faced is a fight to the death.

Diminishing security

Reinforcing this idea of societies that are totally juxtaposed forgets a critical part of counter-insurgency: the battle for “hearts and minds”. This tactic makes it impossible for insurgent groups to recruit new followers, as their ideas and recruitment narratives are devalued because their target audience are prevented from being drawn to them.

Successful counter-insurgency efforts by British forces in places such as in Malaya have demonstrated this: communist guerrillas were offered safety in exchange for surrendering to be held accountable. Showing prospective terrorists justice and the rule of law did not undermine security but rather reinforced it, and ended the conflict far sooner than it would otherwise have done.

By contrast, in cases like Guantanamo Bay, where ‘security threats’ were detained without trial and tortured, security was not improved, but recruitment for terrorist groups such as Al Qa’eda was actively increased.

Developing safeguarding

A bigger consideration than denying terrorists recruitment narratives should be the value that Begum and her story can offer in fighting extremism domestically by strengthening the Prevent programme. Understanding her would be invaluable in helping improve counter-terrorism methods to stop extremist groomers recruiting vulnerable people.

Prevent is a powerful and effective tool for safeguarding the young. Its success depends on deep knowledge and understanding of the messages and ideologies the groups it battles employ. Begum and her actions are a wealth of knowledge that should be fully examined and understood to identify valuable insights that can feed back into the programme.

This would allow Prevent to sharpen its cutting edge of known terrorist recruitment tactics, enabling it to continue to be a world leading programme in helping protect as many as possible from being lured into groups such as ISIS.

Refining knowledge of those recruitment tactics is also valuable to help tackle the UK’s growing gang problem. At their core, jihadists, the far right, and gang leaders recruit people by presenting appealing narratives of fraternity, purpose in life, economic opportunity, and riches. Their recruitment messages are at heart the same.

While Prevent is not the tool used to engage young people and stop their descent into a world of drugs and stabbings, the principles the strategy applies to find counter-narratives to dissuade vulnerable individuals from being recruited into violent movements applies to would-be gang nominals and jihadists. Outreach groups in London and Glasgow have demonstrated this already, and Begum’s story can help to draw attention to this need.

A final consideration. If Begum could be deradicalised, she would be a powerful ally in counter-extremist efforts. Deradicalisation is possible and while she has shown little remorse, having a child in a stable environment can be a critical factor that begins the deradicalisation process. With sustained engagement, under law enforcement supervision, there is a chance that Begum can reform to become a former violent extremist. Formers are critical to deradicalisation programmes such as Prevent’s Channel programme, and although her reform is by no means guaranteed, it is an opportunity that should not squandered by refusing her right of return.

Begum should be allowed to return home to the UK. Aside from cruelly denying a CSE victim the help she needs, denying her request harms, not helps, the UK’s security. Recruitment narratives of those opposed to the British state will be strengthened and an invaluable opportunity to improve domestic counter extremism and safeguarding work will be needlessly wasted.

This – all because UK law enforcement is apparently incapable of policing a 19-year-old girl.

Roger Roberts writes…Massive changes needed at the Home Office

I quote from one not of my own party, David Lammy, who, in a speech last week in the House of Commons, stated: “Your Department’s treatment of the Windrush generation has been nothing less than a national scandal. In November, we learned that at least 164 Windrush citizens were wrongly removed, detained or stopped at […]

I quote from one not of my own party, David Lammy, who, in a speech last week in the House of Commons, stated:

“Your Department’s treatment of the Windrush generation has been nothing less than a national scandal. In November, we learned that at least 164 Windrush citizens were wrongly removed, detained or stopped at the border by our own Government. Eleven of those who were wrongly deported have died. You have announced three more today. Every single one of those cases is a shocking indictment of your Government’s pandering to far right racism, sham immigration targets and the dog whistle of the right-wing press”.—[Official Report, Commons, 5/2/18; cols. 170-71.]

In addition, I received a letter earlier this week from one who said:

“I am a Portuguese citizen from Lisbon, came here in 1993 on a full scholarship paid for by the Royal Academy of Music to study, when I was just 19 years old. I stayed and have been working as a performer and teacher ever since.

I came here legally, settled with no issues and have had a national insurance number since 1993. I have paid tax since 1997 … When I applied for settled status I wasn’t given a reason for being refused”.

Nor was she asked to provide evidence. She continues:

“It made me both frightened and angry. I’ve been here continuously for nearly 26 years and couldn’t think of any reason why I wouldn’t be immediately put through … I was promised and reassured by this government that the ridiculous process of having to apply for a status I already have (!) was simple, easy and that bar criminal conviction everyone would get through straight away.

I was lied to.

The app doesn’t work for the self-employed.

The app doesn’t come with a helpline number or email to write to, it also doesn’t tell you that if you’re self-employed you’re not likely to get through.

It doesn’t offer help in any way.

What I want to know is why on earth the Home Office cannot just look at my 25 continuous years of NI and understand it is me!

I have lost sleep, been hugely stressed over this, and none of this is of my choice and making.

17.5% of all EU citizens here are self-employed and they are all having the same issue. Half a million people! To me this is a human rights issue, we’re being lied to, the app system is immature, bugged and biased against the self-employed … Every time an EU citizen gets rejected and is asked to submit evidence of their lives here, it creates a huge amount of confusion and stress.

It seems that this whole sorry process is unethical, biased, and unlawful. The government is scrambling to put together anything that may be seen to make sense but has no actual substance.

People’s lives matter, and they are playing with our future!

I worked very hard all my life, this government is happy to take my money and work but won’t give me a voice or a choice in my future”.

She concludes:

“I have a British husband and two small children”.

This instance and many others clearly show that the whole situation is not fit for purpose. Nothing proves that better than the results of appeals against Home Office immigration decisions and how those appeals have increased in number over the years. In 2005, 17% of appeals were approved by the tribunal or the higher court. In 2009 that was up to 29%; in 2014, it was 28%; in 2015, 35%; and in 2016, 40%. We are assured that the Government are attempting to improve the situation, but nothing changes.

This results in a destruction of confidence in the whole system. When people cannot trust government decisions, we are in grave danger. When people feel, as David Lammy asserted, that one section of the community is discriminated against, that danger is even more threatening. I do not lay the blame on the officers or decision-makers; they try to fulfil this part of their Home Office responsibility. But there must be great stress in the job they are undertaking. I can immediately suggest two changes. First, every interview should be audio recorded so that there is no uncertainty over responses or the ability of those interviewed to understand a language foreign to them. Secondly, I suggest we should have not one decision-maker in every interview, but two.

I refer to a film directed by Professor Sue Clayton of Goldsmiths university. The main character of her film is ZS—let us call him that. He is a vulnerable Afghan boy with bullet wounds from the Taliban and a record of repeated suicide attempts in France. The Home Office refused to accept him and the other 36 children in the film, who, Sue suggests, were eligible under the Dubs amendment.

Professor Clayton continues “we became increasingly concerned that the procedures they had in place for assessing our kids and others were flawed and profoundly inadequate; that the criteria for acceptance were being constantly changed; and these changes not relayed to the applicants, so that many were not able to apply, or their applications discounted. It was also clear that the Home Office were not meeting the Dubs quota of 480 lone children from Europe. In February 2018, the Home Office were sued in the High Court on behalf of our client ZS and the others, for their failure to lawfully implement the Dubs Amendment”.

The result was, Professor Clayton continued, first, that the Home Office was judged not to have provided,

“the Calais children with written decisions or any reason for their refusal. This meant they were unable to appeal (and cases such as this are generally won on appeal)”.

Secondly, she says, the result was:

“That the Home Office acted unlawfully by failing in its ‘duty of candour’ by not making its policy and procedures available to those who needed to know”.

She says that her film shows that the Home Office,

“changed its policy no less than 8 times in 18 months, so that the young people, their lawyers, carers and even the French government were all unaware of the procedures for applying to Dubs. Latterly it’s only through the French government that kids in France can apply”.

Professor Sue Clayton also says:

“So we did succeed in getting condemnation for the unlawful practices of the Home Office—one small further step on the way to dismantling the Hostile Environment”— what a terrible word “hostile” is. She ends:

“Shockingly, after nearly 3 years, only … half of the 480 Dubs places have been filled, even though the Amendment stressed the agreed number shall be brought ‘as soon as possible’. So, the fight goes on”.

It could well be that immigration matters should no longer be a Home Office responsibility but in a department of their own. There are so many other changes that we want. We want no indefinite detention, the right to work much sooner than after the present 12 months and far better legal advice and protection for young refugees when they reach 18 years of age. I have a Bill that I hope will reach the statute book this year. All these measures would give hope and huge self-respect to those who have had the most devastating experiences. I do not want to be part of a society that dehumanises people. We should not treat them as citizens of nowhere; I prefer Socrates’ claim:

“I’m not a citizen of Athens or a citizen of Greece, but a citizen of the world”.

The last private rescue ship, the “Aquarius”, was forced to halt its operations in December. More than 29,000 people are estimated to have been rescued by the ship, which was not allowed to dock in Italy last June. But how can we criticise such moves when we ourselves have a questionable record on immigration? We can be a country that restores and builds, or we can be otherwise. In the 17th century, the Dutch of Amsterdam welcomed immigrants and said:

“We are seekers after truth and are richer in having you among us”.

Are we also not richer because of others who have contributed and are contributing to our lives? Remember: we were all immigrants once.

* Lord Roberts of Llandudno is a Liberal Democrat Member of the House of Lords

For richer, for poorer

For Valentine’s day, Lib Dem Immigrants is showcasing some canine (and feline) couples, with a serious message. Many people who’ve not had cause to find out the hard way don’t realise that mixed-nationality couples can be forbidden from living together in the UK if they don’t earn enough. We want to raise awareness of this, […]

For Valentine’s day, Lib Dem Immigrants is showcasing some canine (and feline) couples, with a serious message. Many people who’ve not had cause to find out the hard way don’t realise that mixed-nationality couples can be forbidden from living together in the UK if they don’t earn enough. We want to raise awareness of this, and we’re proud that Lib Dem policy is to oppose it. If you’re married to a British person, you should be allowed to live with them. No means-testing. For richer, for poorer. 🐾

Lina is a Dachshund from Munich, Germany; Jamie is an English Bulldog from Croydon. Jamie worries about whether Brexit will mean Lina can’t come and live with him.

Kuniko is a Shiba Inu from Kyoto, Japan. Gary is a Jack Russell Terrier from Bolton. Gary’s income is just enough for Kuniko to be allowed here — but not enough for their puppies too. They don’t know what they should do.

Malcolm is an Old English Sheepdog from Hexham; Brigitte is a Bichon Frise from Toulouse, France. Brigitte is looking forward to the country life, but first she needs to find out what paperwork she’ll need, and the Home Office isn’t answering her questions.

Maryam is a Persian cat from Isfahan, Iran. Tom is a Yorkshire Terrier from Leeds. Maryam expects to get a good job in the UK — but the Home Office won’t count that as income while she’s still in Iran. The stress is affecting both of them.

Rick is an English Bulldog from Solihull; Ernesto is a chihuahua from Ciudad Juarez in Chihuahua, Mexico. Unfortunately Rick lost his job as a security guard, and his benefits don’t come to enough for Ernesto to join him.

Rachel is a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel from Southampton; Dietrich is a Bernese Mountain Dog from Bern, Switzerland. Dietrich is trying to sort out Settled Status but that needs an Android smartphone and his big paws aren’t good with phones.

Shirley is a Bearded Collie from Durham; Jane is a Shih Tzu from Shenzhen, China. Same-sex marriages aren’t recognized in China; Shirley and Jane wonder if this will affect their rights in the UK.

Morag is a West Highland Terrier from Ardnamurchan, and Paweł is a Pomeranian from Gdańsk in Pomerania, Poland. Morag hopes that Paweł won’t experience the abuse that many Poles in the UK have had.

Rhys is a Collie from near Aberystwyth; no-one is quite sure where Ziggy is from, but Rhys loves them anyway.

* Liberal Democrat Immigrants exists to represent those members of the Liberal Democrats who have chosen to come to live in the UK from elsewhere. It also seeks to represent the interests of immigrants to the UK in general and to highlight those issues that disproportionately affect immigrants.

WATCH: Javid insists UK will be “a very safe country” in the event of no deal

The Home Secretary wants to maintain security cooperation with the EU, but says there are plans to mitigate any loss of capability.

Immigration policy must be made for everyone – not just for bigger business

Javid is right to bury the “tens of thousands” target – but he needs to set out a clear pathway to lower migration.

The relationship between a Prime Minister and a Home Secretary is different from that between a Prime Minister and, say, a Communities Secretary.  To put it plainly, Theresa May can ultimately impose a view on James Brokenshire, as she could on Sajid Javid when he held the post.  As could David Cameron on Greg Clark, Gordon Brown on John Denham, Tony Blair on David Miliband – and so on.

But Prime Ministers have less room for manoeuvre with the holders of the great offices of state.  Certainly, they have the power ultimately to reshuffle or sack them.  None the less, David Cameron treated May with circumspection – as Tony Blair did Jack Straw and David Blunkett.

Only when Prime Ministers are exceptionally strong or weak does the power balance of the relationship swing one way or the other.  May herself offers examples both ways.  May Mark One, before the 2017 general election, was in a strong position despite commanding only a small majority, and was of course a former Home Secretary herself.

She thus dominated Amber Rudd.  May Mark Two, after the disaster of June 2017 and the loss of that majority, was suddenly in a weak one.  And she needed Javid after Rudd’s resignation over the Windrush fiasco – or felt she needed him, at any rate, which in practice yields much the same consequences.

Furthermore, Cabinet discipline has now broken down completely.  Some Ministers now brief journalists before meetings about what they will say about Brexit rather than simply leak details afterwards.  One experienced hand describes Cabinet as a “political Mogadishu” – with rogue Ministers, imaginarily clad in shades and ammo belts, firing rounds off into the air in the manner of Black Hawk Down.

This is the context in which to view Javid’s breaks for new ground on matters as diverse as Windrush, cannabis oil, police funding – and immigration.  He has torn up the “tens of thousands” net target.  Downing Street keeps up a rearguard action, but it has lost the battle: the target is not in Javid’s White Paper (though it was in the Conservative Manifesto).

We are unlikely to know what will fully emerge from that paper for quite some time.  Ministers’ disagreements about key policy decisions will stretch, in the event of a deal, into the transition period during the years ahead: for example, we are unlikely to know about salary thresholds for migrants until 2020.

If the background to those clashes is declining public concern about migration, the essence of them concerns business – or, rather, bigger business.  On the one hand, some Ministers, especially those in the economic departments, want a business-driven policy based on the economic model prevalent since Labour took the lid off the previous system of immigration control.

Philip Hammond and Greg Clark are both in that camp, reflecting the institutional interests of their department.  On the other hand, there is a weakened Prime Minister, whose instincts were shaped by her Home Office experience.  She is being forced to retreat – apologising for a reference to EU immigrants “jumping the queue” when she might formerly have toughed it out.

Where does Javid stand?  A lot is read either way into his background as the son of a migrant from Pakistan – rather speculatively in our view – but it might make more sense to look at his life story in the round.  He was a high-achieving banker and that working experience reinforced his belief that the capitalist system works (for all its faults and flaws).

The Home Secretary has learned the tricks of the political trade very fast, but the broad outline of the White Paper suggests that his approach leans towards that of the bigger business lobbies.  Some of the decisions look sensible.  If there is to be no cap on high-skilled migration from outside the EU, it makes no sense to have one on migration from it, in the event of a Brexit deal.

Similarly, it might make sense to extend the Youth Mobility Scheme in place for some countries to the EU27 on a reciprocal basis.  But the fundamental question is how high-skilled work is to be defined.  Graduate level is one thing. A level is another, as is NVQ.  And, as we say, the salary threshold level is still being debated.

Opening up a route for unskilled workers from “low risk” countries looks more questionable – and an attempt to get round the way in which immigration figures are compiled.  So do proposals to drop requirements on employers to advertise jobs in Britain before recruiting from overseas.

Javid is reported to want to cut EU migration levels by 80 per cent, but it is unclear how this will happen, given the indecision about salary levels.  The bottom line is that while public attitudes “have softened in recent years”…”British views are not favourable towards immigration and a substantial majority would like immigration to be reduced”, according to the Migration Observatory.

Polling by Lord Ashcroft found that this view was the second-biggest driver of the EU referendum vote.  The belief that the UK will now “take back control” appears to be driving the softening of attitudes we describe.  Furthermore, EU net migration has fallen since 2016 – though claims by Remainer diehards of a “Brexodus” are unfounded: more EU citizens are still entering the UK than leaving.

Meanwhile, non-EU migration is running at the highest level for 14 years.  There is thus no reason to be sure that the pendulum of public opinion, having swung one way, may not swing another.  Javid is right to ditch the net target: it has never made sense to have a policy half-based on a factor one can’t control – outflow.

But the essence of a post-Brexit migration policy should be roughly that set out by Iain Duncan Smith on this site in the aftermath of the referendum: work permits, a cap, and arrangements whereby “people allowed in to work should have to have a record of contributions over a period of time before being able to claim support from the state”.

The UK economic model since at least the New Labour years has been based on London-centred growth, financial services, higher migration and downward pressure on wages.  If the referendum result outside the capital was a vote against anything, it was a vote against that.

In short, immigration policy isn’t just the business of business.  It’s the business of everyone.  Weaning firms off the immigration settlement it’s been used to since the mid-2000s will take time, and depend to some degree on the short-term needs of the Brexit economy.  But the long-term trajectory should be clear – lower inflows.  Javid must show a clear pathway to them.

28 January 2019 – today’s press releases

Never let it be said that we’re not public spirited here at Liberal Democrat Voice. So, for those of you who haven’t filed your Self Assessment tax return for the year ended 5 April 2018, the deadline is just seventy-two hours away. Don’t delay, don’t let it peck away at you! Meanwhile, back on Planet […]

Never let it be said that we’re not public spirited here at Liberal Democrat Voice. So, for those of you who haven’t filed your Self Assessment tax return for the year ended 5 April 2018, the deadline is just seventy-two hours away. Don’t delay, don’t let it peck away at you!

Meanwhile, back on Planet Zog…

  • Lib Dems: Culture in our schools system is toxic
  • Lib Dems reject Tory Immigration Bill
  • Ed Davey: Labour abstention on Immigration Bill “pathetic” (see here)
  • Govt defeat in Lords shows backstop tinkering will not work
  • Lib Dems: Britain deserves a better opposition as Labour U-turn on Immigration Bill
  • Swinson: Proxy voting a baby step in bringing Parliament into the 21st century

Lib Dems: Culture in our schools system is toxic

Responding to the Department for Education’s Teacher Recruitment and Retention Strategy that was published this morning, Liberal Democrat Education spokesperson Layla Moran said:

Although any changes that improve the learning environment for children and working conditions for teachers are to be welcomed, we won’t see any fundamental changes in schools under this government.

For years teachers have faced real terms cuts, feeling undervalued and overworked whilst battling funding cuts and swelling class sizes. The problems that we see in our education system won’t go away until the government reverse these cuts and invest properly in the education of our future generations.

The culture that exists, of endless testing, Ofsted and league tables needs to be abolished – it’s toxic and we must instead focus on pupil and teacher well-being.

Lib Dems reject Tory Immigration Bill

Liberal Democrat MPs will today vote against the Government’s Immigration Bill, because it “fails to establish an immigration system to replace free movement” and grants “excessive powers to the Government to make changes to immigration law without primary legislation”.

The Liberal Democrats have tabled a reasoned amendment to the Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill, which has its Second Reading in the House of Commons this evening.

Ahead of the vote, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson Ed Davey said:

The Windrush scandal and countless other failings show that the immigration system is not fit for purpose.

The Tories shouldn’t even be thinking about extending it to cover millions of EU citizens before they have fixed the existing problems, starting by scrapping Theresa May’s hostile environment and taking responsibility for immigration away from the Home Office.

Govt defeat in Lords shows backstop tinkering will not work

Responding to tonight’s Government defeat in the House of Lords by 152 votes, Liberal Democrat Leader in the Lords Dick Newby said:

Over the past 8 weeks, we have moved no closer to having a Brexit outcome which can command a majority support in the Commons.

Theresa May is irresponsibly running down the clock whilst, as confusion continues to reign, businesses and individuals are voting with their feet. For Ministers to encourage filibustering in the House of Lords shows how desperate they are to scaremonger people into supporting the Prime Minister’s defeated deal.

This tactic hasn’t worked – tonight’s vote demonstrates that and is another clear rejection for the Government, showing that tinkering around the backstop will not get their deal the support it needs tomorrow. The only real alternative way out of this mess is a people’s vote, with the option to remain in the EU.

Lib Dems: Britain deserves a better opposition as Labour U-turn on Immigration Bill

Responding to the Immigration Bill passing its second reading this evening, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson Ed Davey said:

The Government’s Immigration Bill is so bad that even MPs from their own party joined the Liberal Democrats in the ‘No’ lobby to vote against it this evening.

But the most bizarre element of today’s debate was Labour’s U-turn on the Bill – from their original plan to abstain, to a mid-debate decision to vote with Liberal Democrats, against this Bill.

It is beyond belief that some Tory MPs were more organised on opposing the Government’s hostile immigration policies than the Labour shadow cabinet. Just like on a People’s Vote, when it comes to the crunch, Jeremy Corbyn and co are absolutely useless.

Britain deserves a better opposition, and the Liberal Democrats demand better. We will continue to fiercely oppose Tory plans to end free movement and fight for a People’s Vote and an exit from Brexit.

Swinson: Proxy voting a baby step in bringing Parliament into the 21st century

Responding to the motion on proxy voting being passed in the House of Commons this evening, Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats Jo Swinson said:

The motion passed this evening is very welcome and long overdue. No Member of Parliament should have to choose between ensuring their constituents are represented on important votes and caring for their newborn child.

The vote today marks a baby step in the right direction in bringing Parliament into the 21st century.