Posted March 11, 2014
Earlier today, the video below was published on YouTube in which the Liberal Deomocrat MEP for North West England Chris Davies highlights UKIP voting record – and what a UKIP vote costs.
Posted March 11, 2014
The Liberal Democrats are never going to be loved in the pages of the Daily Mail: our open, liberal and progressive brand of politics tends to be at odds with their editorial worldview (to put it mildly). However, even I have been surprised at the level of criticism – much of it misleading – aimed at Liberal Democrat plans to provide free school meals to children in infants school.
This is a policy that will save a Daily Mail reader who has two children at infants’ school nearly £900 a year. It will improve the health, behaviour and results of Britain’s schoolchildren, across the board. It will help level the playing field, allowing poorer children to get ahead. This isn’t just a good policy – it’s one of the Coalition’s best. Yet the Mail doesn’t like it, arguing that free school meals are a waste of money, are being rushed through and will be forced on schools before they are properly prepared.
The critique is utterly wrong. Indeed, the opposite is true – and it’s important that parents and teachers get the facts.
First, the money. Far from being a waste, free school meals will deliver an extraordinary bang for the taxpayers’ buck. For this investment we’ll provide a healthy lunch, every day, to the four in ten children who live in poverty but are not eligible under the current rules. We’ll help all children, from every background, fulfil their potential: we know that free school meals help all pupils do better in English and Maths, no matter which social group they belong to. At a time of continuing financial hardship, this policy will also save families hundreds of pounds per child, every year. By any standards, that’s an impressive return.
Second, on the origins of the policy, I would love the Liberal Democrats to be able to take all the credit, but the truth is that Whitehall has been looking at this for the last five years. Free school meals were first piloted by the Department of Education and Department of Health back in 2009, a year before the Coalition was formed. These pilots found clear benefits: on average children in the pilots areas were found to be two months ahead of their peers, with the best improvements seen among children from disadvantaged homes. These findings were then backed up by the Government’s School Food Plan – a report published in 2013. This isn’t back of the fag packet stuff. The evidence shows that free school meals make a real difference in our classrooms.
Finally, schools will be ready. The majority are already making excellent progress, but when there are 23,500 schools in the country there will always be a few who greet change with hesitation and who feel ill-equipped. Of course there will be implementation challenges, but that is the nature of all public service reform and overcoming these hurdles is what governing is all about. If government only pursued the reforms that could be implemented tomorrow, without any preparation or work, frankly we’d never change anything at all.
The Coalition is working hand in glove with teachers and schools as we head towards the September launch. We’re providing £150m for upgrades to kitchens and dining rooms, on top of a billion pounds of new money to fund the meals – money that has been welcomed by head teachers and councils around the country. We’ve legislated for the policy to give schools certainty that it won’t be here today and gone tomorrow, but is instead a lasting change in our schools system. In the Department of Education David Laws has also set up an advice line providing individual schools with practical support and he’s made it clear that any headteacher can contact him directly with their concerns.
We’ve also set a sensible timetable. Some schools will be able to do this very quickly: pilot areas were given just 12 weeks to implement the policy. Some schools will, of course, need more time – so we have given them 12 months.
For all these reasons, I remain absolutely convinced that this is the right policy for Britain’s families and our schools. The Children’s Society backs it, as does the Child Poverty Action Group, the Chief Medical Officer and Britain’s major teaching and head teaching unions are behind the principle. I want us to go further in the future, extending free school meals to all primary school children when money allows. Ignore the naysayers: this is a great policy, of which the Liberal Democrats are extremely proud.
Nick Clegg MP
Posted March 11, 2014
Lib Dem MPs have secured a number of important concessions in the Care Bill today to give people more say on hospital changes. A raft of checks and balances will be introduced to make sure that changes to local hospital services are not made without local people being able to have their say. These include:
- Making sure that this process is only used in the most extreme cases, after all other options are tried
- Councils and the patients forum Healthwatch must be consulted as the representatives of local people
- The plans must have agreement of all relevant local health commissioners
Liberal Democrat Paul Burstow MP will be chairing a committee of MPs and Lords to ensure these changes are secured.
Posted March 11, 2014
A consultation launched today (11 March 2014) is setting out the government’s proposals for an alternative dispute resolution for consumers.
Plans to give consumers greater access to redress if something goes wrong with their purchase of goods or services were outlined by Consumer Minister Jenny Willott today (11 March 2014).
In a consultation launched today (11 March 2014), the government is setting out its proposals for an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) scheme to help consumers resolve their complaint without the cost and hassle of going to court.
There are some well established schemes in regulated sectors where the use of ADR is compulsory, such as the Financial Ombudsman Service, but in other areas such as passenger transport, water, construction, private parking, and vehicle repair, access to ADR remains patchy or limited.
Creating a consumer facing complaints website and phone line is 1 option being considered to reduce confusion that may be caused by the number of ADR schemes in place.
The consultation is also calling for evidence on whether further reform is needed to simplify the ADR landscape to make it easier for consumers while balancing it against the cost to business.
“Consumers need to be confident that when a purchase goes wrong, the problem will be resolved quickly and easily without having to take it to court. Alternative dispute resolution is a faster, cheaper and more straightforward means of putting it right.
“We are trying to strike a balance that is fair to both consumers and business and which makes sure that we see the best result for all parties involved.”
The consultation is part of an EU Directive to be implemented by July 2015.
If Someone Sent Your Child An Explicit Image On Snap Chat Or Tumblr: Would You Know What To Do And Are You Sure Your Child Would Tell You?
Posted March 11, 2014
One parent has been faced with this scenario after her 16 year old daughter had been in conversation with a man believed to be in his 20′s from another area of the country on SnapChat. Some of the content exchanged was explicit, and when her mother found an image on her tablet from the man, she immediately reported the matter to the police. Police Officers have spoken to the 16-year-old girl and given words of advice not to send explicit images of her body to strangers online when asked to do so and reminded her of the dangers of potential grooming.
This will not be a unique case; gone of the days as the only access to the internet was using the family computer in the living room. So many children now have access to the internet on mobile phones, tablets, laptops and traditional computers, it can be hard for parents to be 100% who is talking to their children online.
What can parents do to help their children online?
The definition ‘friend’ has changed drastically since the boom of social media, and the meaning of a real friend vs. a virtual friend are very different.
To an adult you might not appreciate your child may not know the difference and this is where potential issues could occur.
If you are concerned and would like further advice and guidance on how to safeguard your children online, please visit websites like:
What is online grooming?
Grooming is a process used by an offender to build a relationship with a child with their main aim to potentially sexual abuse them.
Grooming can take many different forms, from one off contact which may include sexual advances, to a series of events over time. It may start with an adult scanning websites to identify a vulnerable child or befriending a child, perhaps by pretending to have common hobbies or interests or using flattery to trick a child into trusting them.
Online it is easier for an offender to lie and gain one to one contact with a child, for example through a social networking or gaming sites. They can share images or videos relating to their claimed common interests and build a ‘relationship’ away from any adult supervision.
Once a relationship is established an offender may then introduce sexual themes to the conversation, for example, asking the child about their sexual experiences, sharing pornography with them or asking them for sexual pictures of themselves.
Different offenders will have different approaches so whereas this process may be very quick it can also take days, weeks or even months. Often an offender will attempt to get a child to meet them in the real world in order to abuse them. Increasingly some offenders are also persuading children to perform sexual acts on webcam.
Signs of grooming
Look out for an unhealthy or heightened level of internet usage. Has your child become more secretive about who they are talking to and where they conduct their online conversations?
To your knowledge has your child engaged in any sexual behaviour online or via text, chat or webcam?
Have they got any new electronic devices or gifts that they may not have been able to obtain for themselves?
Talk to your child about meeting their online friend’s offline. If they intend to meet any of these online friends you need to set clear boundaries, tell them why you are concerned for their safety and that they must take you or a trusted adult with them to the meeting.
What can parents and carers do to protect their child online?
Parents and carers need to be mindful that part of the fun of being online is communicating and often sites are designed for you to do so with people you don’t know. It is important to talk to your child about who they are friends with and how to manage these online relationships.
Not sure where to start? Talk to your child about:
- What sites they use
- The friends they have and how they know them
- How they communicate with these friends
- The type of information they can share
If you are concerned and would like further advice and guidance on how to safeguard your children online, please visit website like:
Posted March 11, 2014
Police are advising people not to worry unnecessarily after a number of reports of emails containing threats to kill.
Police received a number of calls of the past week from people across Humberside who said that they received an email from a ‘Muhammed Yunus Jinnah’, which stated that he had been hired to kill the recipient.
The emails were investigated, and the recipients (who were not linked) were advised that it is an email hoax.
Police spokesman said: “Sadly these type of email hoaxes do happen, and could easily scare someone who is unaware that they exist. If you receive an email from this ‘Muhammed Yunus Jinnah’ address please just delete it and ignore the contents.
“If anyone has any concerns about threatening emails it is important that they do not reply to the email as it could be a scam. If you receive an email such as this and cannot think why this would happen, chances are it is a hoax or a scam.
“However, if you are concerned that it may be a real threat please do it report it to the police immediately.”
Anyone with any concerns or suspicions should contact Humberside Police on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.
For more information about scams please visit www.actionfraud.org.uk.
Posted March 11, 2014
Fraudsters are sending emails that claim victims have to pay a fictitious parking fine that contain a suspicious attachment.
Our contact centre has received several calls from victims reporting having received emails that claim they have to pay a parking fine.
The emails originate from [email protected] and have been spoofed to make it appear as though they have been sent from justice.gov.uk. These emails are not from the Ministry of Justice or GovDelivery.
The emails ask you to download “photographic evidence and forms for making payment” but the attachment is likely to contain a virus. If you receive one of these emails, delete it, do not download the attachment and report it to ACTION FRAUD.
A recent example of the phishing email
Subject: REMINDER NOTICE DO NOT IGNORE
Your vehicle was recorded parked on our Clients Private Property at Katherine Road
driveways from 12.13.23PM to 14.40.36PM on the 11.02.2014 and remained on site for 2 hour 27 min. A notice was sent to you on 6.03.2014 which gives 28 days to pay full PARKING CHARGE or challenge the issue.
The amount of £70.00 is now due if payment not received within 28 days, an additional 40.00 administration charge will be incurred. Failure to pay the full outstanding balance within 14 days of the date of this notice could result in the outstanding balance being registered as a debt against you. You will also become liable for additional costs and interest invoiced. Your ability to obtain credit in the future could be affected.
We are holding photographic evidence on file to support this claim.
YOU CAN FIND COPIES OF PHOTOGRAPHIC EVIDENCE AND FORMS FOR MAKING PAYMENT IN ATTACHMENT BELOW.
To report a fraud and receive a police crime reference number, call Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or use their online fraud reporting tool.
Posted March 11, 2014
When the Liberal Democrats entered government in 2010, it was clear we had inherited a housing crisis. House prices and private sector rents were becoming more and more unaffordable. House building had slowed to its lowest level since the 1920s and social housing waiting lists had soared to 1.7 million households. Added to that, successive governments had also let the social housing stock wither on the vine, with 1.5 million homes lost by Labour and Conservative governments alike since 1979.
I know that if we are to solve the housing crisis, we need to reverse the decline in social homes and build more. That is why I was delighted recently to see new statistics published by my department (DCLG) showing that the number of social homes has increased for the fifth year running, taking the overall stock back above the 4 million mark for the first time in a decade.
The total number of homes rented from councils or housing associations now stands at 4,013,000, up by 47,000 since the Lib Dems entered government in 2010. This is in part down to our affordable homes programme that will see 170,000 new social and affordable homes delivered over four years to 2015.
This is a good first step, but there is still much more work to do. House building rates are improving, but are still short of keeping up with the number of new households that form each year. At our Liberal Democrat Autumn Conference in 2012, our policy motion ‘Decent Homes For All’, set out an aim of building up to 300,000 homes a year to meet demand. If we want to meet that ambitious target, more work will need to be done to boost supply, but it won’t happen overnight.
The next step is to increase our social and affordable building rate further. That is why we insisted on a new £3.3bn affordable homes programme in last year’s spending review that will see 165,000 new affordable homes delivered over three years from 2015. At an average of 55,000 homes a year, this will be the fastest building rate for 20 years.
Although I’m pleased that we’re getting on with the job of building more homes, I won’t be satisfied until we’ve done enough to end the housing crisis and guarantee that everyone is able to afford a secure, warm (and environmentally-friendly) home to live in. But I believe that we can still be proud that the first government for over thirty years to be increasing the stock of social housing is the one in which Liberal Democrats are playing such an important role in.
Posted March 11, 2014
The following article was written by the Liberal Democrat Minister for International Development Lynne Featherstone and published today on her website.
Here’s my third blog from New York – where I am representing the UK at the UN Commission on the Status of Women. Also available here.
There is immense power in the act of naming. Naming something so widespread that is passes almost without comment, like breathing or gravity, or the colour of the sky. And yet, for women everywhere, it has a huge impact on our lives.
Such is everyday sexism, the topic of a UK-Denmark panel event I just participated in at the UN Commission on the Status of Women.
I pay tribute to the work of the Everyday Sexism Project, which has collected thousands of testimonies from across the world. Some of them are really chilling, others more banal. But of course the crux of the issue is the banality of the evil: that any one catcall can be shrugged off. But the cumulative impact of the drip drip drip of unwelcome sexual advances and unrelenting critiques of women’s bodies and abilities have a corrosive effect upon all of us – men and women – and on the societies in which we live.
From a very young age, most girls learn to mentally brace themselves before they walk out the door each day. Women and girls develop coping strategies – smile nicely, find a cheeky riposte, get angry, pretend not to hear, put our heads down and quickly hurry past. Frankly, we’re expected to be big girls about it and lighten up. Well, I’m not lightening up.
And don’t think women politicians are immune from this treatment. We experience everyday sexism and then some. The online trolling some of my colleagues have suffered is disgusting. And in the House of Commons itself, if ever a female MP makes a pertinent point, it’s not uncommon for her to be told “calm down, dear”.
Everyday sexism is not inevitable, it is not harmless, it does matter, and it can and must stop.
It matters because it drives girls and women into a crippling self-consciousness and self-objectification. When the world tells you how you look and what you wear are all that matters, it’s no wonder so many girls’ psychological development is damaged.
In the UK, our primary focus has been on creating a supportive framework of equality legislation, and we are world leaders in doing so. There has to be a bottom line that women are entitled to equal treatment and the state will step in to enforce that.
We also have an inspiring campaign to prevent sexual violence among young people, called ‘This Is Abuse’. This year we are particularly focused on reaching boys, encouraging teenagers to re-think their views of violence, abuse, controlling behaviour and what consent means. Men and boys are crucial to this change: we’ll get nowhere if women and girls are just talking amongst ourselves and everyday sexism.
We have also taken action to tackle stalking and harassment, which includes harassment and abuse via social media.
I could go on for sometime outlining all the Coalition Government is doing, but suffice it to say we are enforcing the law and encouraging conversations about gender roles and stereotypes generally. To be clear, it’s not for government to tell parents how to raise their children, or to tell men and women how they should feel about being men and women. But I believe it is entirely appropriate for us to question barriers to an individual’s control over her own life and do all we can to empower that individual – I am a liberal after all! And I’m grateful that countries like Denmark are helping us spread this work internationally.
Posted March 11, 2014
The evaluation follows new rules designed to ensure ‘off-payroll’ contractors pay proper tax.
The first evaluation of how new rules designed to ensure that those working as contractors or ‘off-payroll’ pay the proper tax was published today by the Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander. It shows that in 94% of cases (1,815) government contractors provided satisfactory assurance that their tax affairs were in order.
In the remaining 6% of cases (125), former government contractors have been unable to satisfactorily explain their tax affairs, leading to the contracting department passing their details on to HMRC for investigation.
The review has also confirmed that the overwhelming majority of public bodies are following the guidance on senior level appointments. Two departments have, however, been fined for failing to ensure that senior appointments are on-payroll within six months of appointment.
The Department for Environment & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) have received a fine of £102,080 for a breach at the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency (AHVLA), an arm’s length agency. The individual was brought on to payroll more than six months after being engaged.
The Department for Transport (DfT) has received a fine of £398,500 in relation to two senior appointments at the Directly Operated Railway. These two officials were also off-payroll for more than six months, but they have now all been brought on to payroll.
“The vast majority of off-payroll contracts are in place for legitimate reasons and these workers are playing an important role by satisfying short term needs for specialist advice and services.
“However, it is right that the public sector sets the highest standards in terms of its tax arrangements and that departments continue to assure themselves that all their workers are paying their fair share of tax.
“I am pleased that this guidance is working and that compliance has been so high. The minority of cases which do not appear to be consistent with the guidance have been passed on to HMRC who will now investigate these.”
The government remains committed to ensuring that the public sector demonstrates the highest standards of integrity and that public sector employers are able to assure themselves that their senior and highly paid staff are meeting their tax obligations.
It is also important that these rules are complied with in the wider public sector. The Chief Secretary has therefore asked the Secretary of State for Health to conduct a full investigation into all senior off-payroll NHS appointments to ensure that all employers are taking adequate action to prevent possible tax avoidance.
Each department will continue to be responsible for seeking assurance on the tax arrangements of the off-payroll appointees in the department and arm’s length bodies, and judging whether the evidence presented is satisfactory to demonstrate that the appointee is meeting their tax obligations.
The Treasury will continue to monitor compliance with the guidelines and conduct a similar review for the 2013-14 financial year.