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  • Article: Jun 23, 2020
    By Danny Simm

    The Liberal Democrats have called on James Grundy to backs calls for a review of the no-deal Brexit impact assessments in light of the threat of the coronavirus pandemic.

    In a letter addressed to Mr Grundy, Liberal Democrat spokesperson, Sharron Honey for Leigh, said:"as the Prime Minister continues to refuse to rethink his position on accepting an extension to the transition period, it is time the facts were laid bare about what this will mean for our country."

    The intervention coincides with the fourth anniversary of the EU referendum result this week, the 23rd of June. Despite concerns, the Government formally rejected the option to extend the transition period earlier this month.

    Acting Leader of the Liberal Democrats Ed Davey said:

    "Even before coronavirus, the Government had a tight timetable for the Brexit talks. As the Prime Minister continues to oppose extending the transition period, he must at least be honest about what this means for our country.

    "By reviewing the impact assessments done last Autumn, as well as undertaking an economic assessment, the Government can be transparent with the public about the consequence of refusing to extend the transition period."

    Liberal Democrat spokesperson, Sharron Honey, for Leigh added:

    "Boris Johnson's refusal to even consider requesting an extension to the Brexit transition as we face a global health and economic crisis shows he is putting his Brexit ideology before the UK's national interest.

    "The pandemic has had an unprecedented impact on jobs, businesses and the wider UK economy. Tackling the coronavirus crisis must be the Conservative Government's priority, and people have a right to know to what extent a no deal puts this at risk.

    "In the interests of everyone living across Leigh, the Liberal Democrats are urging James Grundy to join us in calling for this review."

  • Article: Jun 17, 2020
    By Danny Simm

    PM must think again on DFID in face of COVID-19 global health emergency

    Yesterday the Prime Minister gave a COVID-19 update, including the announcement that Dexamethasone has proven effective in treating COVID-19.

    • News that a drug has been identified that can help treat COVID-19 will be welcomed by all. But - to get a grip on this global pandemic - finding a vaccine remains vital.
    • Given the ongoing public health emergency, the Prime Minister must show global leadership, not least by working with our international partners to develop and distribute a COVID-19 vaccine. Instead, he has chosen to set out plans to abolish the Department of International Development, which for years has funded vital work in public health, including the work of GAVI - the global Vaccine Alliance.
    • It was the Liberal Democrats who enshrined the 0.7% aid commitment into UK law. This is a commitment the UK should be proud to uphold. Yet Boris Johnson's decision threatens to undermine that commitment, and with it our global influence. It is no surprise three former Prime Ministers have condemned this move. The Prime Minister should think again.
  • Article: Jun 13, 2020
    By Danny Simm

    The Liberal Democrats are urging the Government to extend furlough support until it is safe to do so and bring forward bespoke packages of support for key sectors, such as hospitality, or face local unemployment.

    Acting leader of the Liberal Democrats Ed Davey MP, who is asking the public to join his campaign to protect workers, said thousands of families face "financial uncertainty" and called for the Government to do more.

    According to government statistics published this week, 11,500 people in Wigan have benefited from the job retention scheme.

    Government statistics also show a further 3,100 people in Wigan are receiving financial support through the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme, following a successful campaign by the Liberal Democrats.

    However, the Party has warned that many self-employed people are still excluded from this support, including those who became self-employed since April 2019, and called on the Government to urgently expand the scheme to cover them too.

    Acting leader of the Liberal Democrats Ed Davey MP said:

    "The Coronavirus crisis is leaving thousands of families facing financial uncertainty. Financial support must be agreed to ensure no one is left behind.

    "Liberal Democrats are calling for statutory sick pay to be increased to £220 a week to ensure everyone can self-isolate, following guidance, regardless of their type of work.

    "Ministers must also resolve the gaps in their plans by helping those who recently became self-employed by expanding the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme."

    Liberal Democrat spokesperson John Skipworth for Wigan & Makerfield added:

    "The furlough scheme is a lifeline for so many. However, I worry what will happen to people here in Wigan who rely on furlough support if it ends before it is safe to go back to work.

    "Many parts of our economy, such as hospitality, will simply not be back up to speed by October. The Government must bring forward bespoke packages of support for these industries to save jobs and prevent mass unemployment."

  • Article: Jun 12, 2020
    By Danny Simm
    PM must not jeopardise economic recovery with threat of no-deal

    This morning, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) statistics showed the UK's economy shrank by 20.4% in April.
    • We face the most serious economic challenge in generations. This is not a time to exit the world's largest market. This is not a time to increase trade barriers. This is not a time to deny business skills they need with a damaging new immigration system.
    • We can create jobs and protect the environment by investing in new, green technologies but we need imaginative new policies and strong political leadership. The Liberal Democrats will continue to make the case for a Green Recovery Plan and policies that back responsible businesses.
    • The Prime Minister should not be putting Britain's chances for an economic recovery in jeopardy by insisting on an arbitrary Brexit transition deadline and risking a devastating no-deal.

    Yet more dishonesty from the Govt on test and trace system

    It was reported yesterday that the Health Secretary has been misleading about the number of contacts that have been traced using the governments test and trace system.
    • This is yet more obfuscation from the Health Secretary on the testing and tracing system. In normal times this kind of dishonesty from the government is extremely problematic, during a pandemic it is dangerous.
    • If people do not trust the government they are less likely to have faith in a test and trace system and less likely to follow guidelines, people want clarity and honesty from Ministers.
    • Without a comprehensive test, trace and isolate system it is almost impossible to keep people safe as we move out of lockdown. Ministers have failed to make this happen and apparently won't be able to until September.
  • Article: Jun 11, 2020
    By Danny Simm

    Govt must commit to inquiry into handling of COVID-19

    Yesterday the Prime Minister announced the next phase of easing the COVID-19 lockdown.

    • Parents and teachers will be asking why the Prime Minister is talking just about theme parks and zoos when so many parents want to hear about the practical steps to reopen schools safely in the weeks ahead.
    • The fact remains that a comprehensive test, trace and isolate system is still the only way to keep people safe as we move out of lockdown. Yet the Government still hasn't delivered on this, and apparently won't be able to until September. Ministers can't even provide figures for the number of people being tested day-to-day.
    • The Prime Minister needs to be utterly transparent about the barriers to opening schools, the limits to testing capacity and the issues affecting the test, trace and isolate system. As more and more questions are raised about key decisions throughout this crisis, Boris Johnson must now commit to an independent inquiry into his Government's handling of this pandemic.
  • Article: Jun 10, 2020
    By Danny Simm

    The Liberal Democrats are calling on the Government to help businesses draw up risk assessments to keep their employees safe as they return to work, and to establish a Coronavirus Safety Hotline for whistleblowers to report unsafe workplaces.

    The party has emphasised that anyone who can work from home must continue to do so in line with the current public health guidance, and that this must remain the case until the Government has scaled up testing and tracing sufficiently to stop the spread of coronavirus.

    The measures, set out today by Acting Leader of the Liberal Democrats Ed Davey, are intended to support small and medium-sized businesses who are bringing employees back to work now - as well as all employers as the lockdown is eased in future.

    The Liberal Democrats' "Safe Return to Work" package has been drawn up with advice from the party's Business Taskforce, chaired by former Siemens UK CEO Juergen Maier. It calls for:

    • A free support service for small and medium-sized enterprises - especially those less used to rigorous risk assessment processes - to draw up risk assessments, provided by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).
    • HSE to run a volunteer recruitment drive for retired safety professionals to provide support with risk assessments.
    • Labour and workplace inspection to be classified as 'essential work', to enable inspectors to ensure workplaces are operating safely and appropriately.
    • A dedicated 'Coronavirus Safety Hotline' for whistleblowers to anonymously alert HSE to concerns about their workplace.
    • A clear strategy and support service for immediate, targeted testing and tracing if there is an outbreak in a workplace, to contain the outbreak and minimise disruption.

    To enable the Health and Safety Executive to properly support employers and protect workers as they go back to work, the Liberal Democrats are also calling for an emergency £30 million funding boost (an additional £16m on top of the £14m of extra funding announced by the Government this month) for the agency, which has seen its government funding cut by 17% in real terms (£27 million in 2019-20 prices) since 2015.

    Announcing the proposals, Acting Leader of the Liberal Democrats Ed Davey said:

    "The coronavirus crisis is leaving families and businesses across the country facing terrible financial hardship. We must ensure no one is left behind as the lockdown is eased and we begin on the long road to economic recovery.

    "Any easing of the lockdown can only happen once the Government delivers a comprehensive strategy to test, trace and isolate to prevent a new surge. Sadly, the Prime Minister is creating more confusion than clarity by badly communicating his Government's plans.

    "The Government is asking a lot of the public during this crisis, and the British people deserve clear, honest answers. Ministers must ease concerns by urgently setting out how they will support employers to adapt and create a safe work environment."

    Juergen Maier, Chair of the Liberal Democrat Business Taskforce, added:

    "Workers and employers are understandably worried about whether they can return to work safely.

    "Boris Johnson's announcement to return to work without a coherent plan only weakened their confidence further by showing little understanding of the challenges they face.

    "To get through this crisis safely and begin to grow the economy again, the Government must help employers to keep their workers safe.

    "It should focus support on the smaller businesses who are less used to conducting rigorous risk assessments. And it must reverse recent cuts to the Health and Safety Executive so it can provide the support employers and workers need."