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  • 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."

  • Article: Jun 10, 2020
    By Danny Simm

    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.
  • Article: Jun 8, 2020
    By Danny Simm

    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."
  • Article: Jun 4, 2020
    By Danny Simm

    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."

  • Article: Jun 4, 2020
    By Danny Simm
    Lib Dems call on PM to condemn Trump protest rhetoric

    Yesterday senior figures in the Liberal Democrats wrote to the Prime Minister urging him to condemn Trump's violent rhetoric towards Black Lives Matter protesters.
    • Liberal Democrats stand in solidarity with black communities in the UK, the US and around the world. That is why we have written to Boris Johnson to urge him to publicly condemn the violent rhetoric and use of military force by President Donald Trump. To remain silent is to remain complicit.
    • British foreign policy must always promote human rights, democracy, and the rule of law all over the world. The USA is no exception.
    • Given evidence of their use against unarmed protesters and journalists, UK Ministers must look to suspend the sale of tear gas, rubber bullets and other such equipment to the United States.
    • However, we cannot ignore the systemic racism and inequality in our own society. Boris Johnson must set out what he is doing to prevent deaths like George Floyd's happening in the UK and what changes he will enact throughout the UK police and justice system so that BAME and white individuals are treated equally.
    • The Liberal Democrats would like to see a government-wide plan to tackle BAME inequalities be developed urgently, with sufficient funding put behind it, so that true change and progress can be achieved for those facing discrimination and injustice.

    New quarantine measures "window dressing"

    Yesterday the Government confirmed plans to quarantine those arriving in the UK for 14 days.

    • Any easing of the lockdown - including international travel - can only happen once the Government significantly increases testing and tracing to prevent a new surge.
    • Like the much famed NHSX app and now with quarantine spot checks, the Government are far from walking never mind running when it comes to taking the steps now needed to slow the spread of the virus.
    • It is abundantly clear that public health measures should have been implemented at our borders early on before community transmission was widespread. Announcing a blanket quarantine that has not been endorsed by SAGE and cannot be properly implemented is just window dressing. The British public deserve honesty and transparency.

    Govt must not risk going backwards on containing COVID-19
    • Major concerns remain about the prospect of a new surge in COVID-19 cases given that the risk level remains "high" and, tragically, hundreds are still dying every day in the UK. The Government seem unable to get a grip on key issues further undermining public confidence.
    • It has taken months for the Government to introduce measures to quarantine new arrivals and it's not clear that this move even follows scientific guidance. For ten days now the Department of Health have failed to provide raw data on the numbers tested. The test, trace and isolate system that is vital to keep people safe has yet to be proven effective.
    • The Government must not risk going backwards in containing the spread of this the virus by lifting lockdown too early, before critical systems are up and running.

    China is being wilfully ignorant with Hong Kong response

    China yesterday warned the UK to "step back from the brink" over UK criticism of Beijing's national security law for Hong Kong.

    • China's Foreign Ministry are being wilfully ignorant. The Sino-British Joint Declaration was not a unilateral announcement but a clear joint legal text, lodged at the UN. The clue is in the name.
    • Both the UK and China made promises to the people of Hong Kong during the Handover. Under the Joint Declaration, Hong Kong's 'one country, two systems' way of life was to be protected and enhanced.
    • Beijing has shown increasing contempt for the Joint Declaration and it is clear that the government must now ensure all Hong Kongers are given the right to live in the UK. Liberal Democrats will continue to urge the UK Government to expand the BNO offer they have outlined.
  • Article: Jun 3, 2020
    By Newshound

    Wera Hobhouse has set out her vision for the party on her website.

    It's about making a clean break with the last decade and abandoning one key element of our strategy and reigniting another.

    The time for equidistance is over:

    The mistake was to see our party in the political centre, standing equally between right and left. In this day and age, the biggest threat to liberalism - not just in Britain - comes from the right.

    Our reasons for entering coalition with the Conservatives in 2010 were well intended, but we ended up undermining our values. We ultimately legitimised the Conservatives' long-term illiberal, nationalist agenda.