Wednesday, 29 October 2014

The truth about the Tories and the EU Referendum Bill

The Conservatives have pulled the plug on their own EU Referendum Bill, despite being given the opportunity by the Liberal Democrats to take it before the House of Commons.

Questions are now being asked as to whether this was a short term tactic to distinguish themselves form UKIP by being able to promise a referendum at the next election, which they couldn't have done if the Coalition had made it law.

For the first time, we are lifting the lid on some of the negotiations behind the scenes in order to reveal the truth to the public.

Quite simply, a deal was being made in government, where the Liberal Democrats offered to grant the required money resolution for Conservative MP Bob Neill's EU Referendum Bill in return for the Conservatives agreeing to a money resolution for Lib Dem MP Andrew George’s Affordable Homes Bill.

This is standard practice in government and is a completely reasonable deal - each party getting a money bill for a Private Member’s Bill they feel strongly about.

But the Tories decided to putting forward a proposal they know for certain will be turned down by the Lib Dems – a completely unfair deal where Andrew George's Bill would only get a money resolution, but Bob Neill's Bill would have both a money resolution and government time for the EU Referendum Bill.

The Liberal Democrats have been more than willing to sign up to a fair deal that is the same for both sides – i.e. a money bill being granted for both Andrew George and for Bob Neill. This is not the case with the Conservative's last ditched proposal.

A spokesperson for the party has said:

"The Liberal Democrats were never going to block Bob Neill's Referendum bill. We were happy to allow them to try and get it passed in the House of Commons. But the truth is they have folded like a cheap deck chair and are trying to make us take the blame by adding ridiculous conditions they knew we would not and could not accept."

The only logical conclusion that can be reached is that the Tories don’t really want their bill to pass and are trying to set the Lib Dems up as the scapegoats. Why else would they put forward a proposal they know cannot be agreed?

We can only assume they would prefer it hadn’t become law by the time of the General Election. They would prefer not to be talking about their bottom lines in their proposed grand renegotiation and instead try and deal with UKIP by saying the only way to get a referendum is to vote Tory. They couldn’t do the latter if their bill had become law. They clearly never wanted the referendum bill to pass.

It is amazing that the Conservatives are prepared to sacrifice this Bill, which they say they care about, for some short-term tactical distinction from UKIP.

Unlock Democracy: William Hague is deciding the future of the UK

Over 7000 people have now signed our petition for a Constitutional Convention! The call for a Constitutional Convention is building momentum. Party leaders have heard the call with Nick Clegg, Ed Miliband, Caroline Lucas and Nigel Farage giving their support. It is time to step up the campaign.

A committee of cabinet ministers, chaired by William Hague, is still trying to reach a deal on what should happen next. And we want them to recommend a Constitutional Convention. We are working with the Electoral Reform Society to keep up the pressure. We have joined forces with 27 organisations and experts to write to William Hague. Will you join us in telling William Hague’s committee that when it comes to deciding the future of the UK, citizens must take the lead?

Take Action: Write to William Hague

Our letter asks William Hague’s Committee to back a Constitutional Convention that meets five key criteria.

  • UK-wide: the Convention should involve the people of England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales
  • People-led: a majority of the Convention participants should be randomly selected from the population, in a way which represents the UK as a whole
  • Focused on where power lies: the Convention should focus on deciding the balance of powers between the Westminster Government and our nations, regions, localities and people
  • Nations and regions recognised: the main Convention should be informed by discussions at a regional and national level, involving people from every section of society
  • Binding: there must be mechanisms in place – including a binding referendum – for ensuring that decisions made by the Convention are acted upon

The future of the UK shouldn’t be decided behind closed doors. We have a real opportunity to shape the discussion. We believe every UK citizen should have a say in how their country is governed. Please join the thousands people taking action and calling for a Constitutional Convention.

Best wishes,

Emily Randall

Senior Campaigner, Unlock Democracy

P.S. If you also receive similar emails from Electoral Reform Society, we thought you might like to know that we are working with them on this action.

New £2 million fund launched to tackle homophobic bullying in schools

Schools will be offered £2m to help them tackle homophobic bullying.

The funds will be offered to charitable and not-for-profit organisations that suggest creative ideas to stamp out homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying in schools across the country.

Liberal Democrats want to stamp out homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying once and for all. You can show your support for this too by backing our campaign here.

For many victims of bullying, the memories of their experiences in the playground, classroom and corridors will stay with them throughout their lives.

Bullying can result in children from being uncomfortable in themselves and deterred from achieving their full potential.

Liberal Democrat Minister for Women and Equalities, Jo Swinson said:
“We know the damage bullies can have on young people’s self-esteem and educational attainment. There should be absolutely no excuse for this taking place in our schools. 
“Young people should grow up feeling safe expressing who they are, and we know that homophobic bullying stands in the way of this. 
“I am excited to see the creative proposals that this fund will bring about, to make sure we can bring homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying to an end.”

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

There must be parity of esteem between physical and mental health

Mental health charity Mind has said that the amount of public budgets spent on mental health prevention is too low.

In a report published by Mind today (October 28), figures reveal that £40m of council funds will go on mental health compared to £900m for physical health.

Responding to the report, Liberal Democrat Care Minister Norman Lamb Tweeted:

Liberal Democrats are calling for parity of esteem between physical and mental health and want to stamp out the stigma surrounding mental health.

That's why Liberal Democrats in government have enshrined in law, the equal status of mental and physical health.

And because we believe that mental health conditions should be taken as seriously as physical health, we have also announced that from April 2015, there will be the first ever waiting time standards for mental health treatment.

This means that patients needing talking therapies will be guaranteed treatment in six weeks with a maximum waiting time set to 18 weeks.

Our 2015 general election manifesto includes a commitment to £500m of extra funding for mental health care.

Gender pay laws will help close equality gap

Reacting to the news that the UK has fallen to 26th in the ‘World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap Report’, Liberal Democrat Minister for Women and Equalities Jo Swinson said:

"Today’s report shows that we need to take further action to tackle the inequality that still exists between men and women. That is why Liberal Democrats would introduce laws requiring large companies to publish their gender pay gap.

"Forty years after the Equal Pay Act was passed it is utterly unacceptable that women are not being equally rewarded in the workplace. The Liberal Democrats have successfully secured shared parental leave, extra childcare, a new right to request flexible working, and we are determined to tackle the gender pay gap. If women in the workplace are to have the same opportunities and choices as men, they must be properly rewarded for their talents and skills - it's as simple as that."

Back our campaign to close the gender pay gap.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Safe standing would cut the cost of watching football

Liberal Democrat plans to introduce safe standing areas at football grounds would help to cut ticket prices, as new research shows ticket prices have grown by 4.4% in the past year.

The BBC ‘Price of Football’ study has revealed that the average ticket to a game in the football league is now £21.49, up 13% since 2011.

Commenting, Lib Dem Culture, Media and Sport spokesperson John Leech MP said:
"Modern football is expensive to watch, and this BBC study shows that prices are only going one way. We have to take action so that the average fan is not priced out of the national game. 
"Safe standing in other countries allows clubs to offer cheaper season tickets to fans who want to watch the game in standing areas. For example, Bayern Munich charge just £110 for a season ticket in their standing area, nearly 10 times less than a season ticket to watch Arsenal. 
"Safe standing offers supporters more choice, a better atmosphere and cheaper tickets. It is an idea whose time has come and I am proud that it is the Liberal Democrats who are the first political party to commit to delivering this."