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.
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.
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."
Liberal Democrats propose flexible employment rights for carers in new Bill
Today Ed Davey, Acting Leader of the Liberal Democrats, will introduce a Bill in the House of Commons to give carers more rights to flexible working, helping balance employment with caring responsibilities.
Britain's employment law doesn't give carers the support they need as they try to juggle their caring responsibilities with going to work. A genuinely caring society should allow them to do both. This Bill would ensure that when a carer makes a request to work flexibly, the law is behind them.
This is good for carers, who will have more freedom, but it's also good for employers, who can tap into the talents of the estimated 6.5 million carers in the UK.
As this is National Carers' Week, we urge the Government to adopt this Bill and offers carers more than warm words.
Empty pharma stockpiles show govt must rethink transition extension
Today the BBC reports that No Deal Brexit stockpiles "significantly reduced and/or used up entirely" by Covid pandemic according to senior figures in teh pharmaceutical industry.
These reports show the recklessness of the government's approach to Brexit negotiations and protecting our economy and NHS.
The stockpiles created to protect against the risk of a no deal Brexit have now been used up, and building them back up to safe levels by the end of the year is going to be very difficult.
So by pushing the UK into a no deal Brexit the Conservatives could be putting more lives and more jobs at risk.
The calls to extend the transition period have come from people who voted leave and remain a like. The government must put national interest ahead of Brexit ideology and extend the transition period."
The Liberal Democrats have called out the Government's "ill-thought-out" decision to reopen schools amidst the COVID-19 crisis, as new statistics from an NEU survey show that a large proportion of primary schools in the North West remain open only to children of key workers.
In the North West, 64% of primary schools remain closed to all except the children of key workers, despite the Government's attempt to reopen schools to more year groups at the start of this week.
The Liberal Democrats are calling on Ministers to ensure that parents, teachers, headteachers and governors are fully prepared for a phased return and have the support they need to reopen safely, taking into account specific school contexts.
To help facilitate social distancing, the Liberal Democrats have put forward plans for the creation of "spare space registers" at a local level, which would open up office space, community halls, sports-grounds and more to allow schools space for social distancing, with the Government stepping in to cover associated costs.
John Skipworth, Liberal Democrat spokesperson for Wigan & Makerfield said:
"It's no surprise that the majority of primary school headteachers and governors in the North West have not yet been able to open their doors to more pupils, given confusion around the Government guidelines and the immense challenges social-distancing presents in many school contexts.
"The vast majority of people in Wigan & Makerfield want to see pupils back in the classroom, but safety is paramount. Where it's been possible, many teachers, headteachers and governors have bent over backwards to safely reopen to some year groups. However, not all schools have the facilities or means to do so - the Government must recognise that no two schools are alike.
"Ministers must also learn from this that schools must have more time to prepare for future changes. Ministers must ensure all schools have greater support if they choose to move towards the next phase of reopening."
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