UK must stand up for Hong Kong

It has been confirmed that Beijing is introducing a resolution that would bypass Hong Kong local law-making processes in order to impose a new ‘national security law’ on the territory.

We cannot sit back and watch this violation of rights and freedoms.

It is clear that China no longer cares for the ‘one country, two systems’ agreement made between the UK and China during the Handover.

We cannot sit back and watch this violation of rights and freedoms. We are urging Dominic Raab to take decisive action.

Alistair Carmichael, our Foreign Affairs Spokesperson and Chair of the APPG on Hong Kong said:

“This is a naked power-grab by Beijing, demonstrating a complete lack of respect for the Joint Declaration.

The Chinese government have reneged on the promises made to protect and enhance their rights and freedoms.

The UK has a moral and legal duty to act. The Conservative government must reopen the British National Overseas (BNO) Passport scheme and extend it to give the people of Hong Kong the right to live in the UK. “

We cannot sit back and watch this violation of rights and freedoms in Hong Kong. Liberal Democrats are urging Dominic Raab to take decisive action. #StandwithHK

Stand with the people of Hong Kong👇https://t.co/ZELgzEWHNH

— Liberal Democrats (@LibDems) May 21, 2020

The UK has a legal and a moral duty to act

That’s why we tabled a Bill that would re-open the offer of a British National Overseas (BNO) passports for Hong Kong citizens and extend the scheme to provide the “right of abode”, allowing a person to live or work indefinitely in the UK.

We are calling on the Government to support our Bill, which will have its second reading in Parliament on 11th September 2020.

Government must increase support for asylum seekers

The latest Immigration Statistics, published this morning, show that 51,906 people are waiting for an initial decision on their asylum claims, an increase of 33% since last year. 31,516 have been waiting for more than six months, a 68% increase.

People who’ve come to the UK having fled war or persecution should welcomed, not trapped for months on just £5.39 a day

Currently, asylum seekers are banned from working while they wait for a decision and forced to rely on asylum support payments of only £37.75 a week – just £5.39 a day.

All of our MPs have written jointly to the Home Secretary urging her to increase asylum support by £20 a week during the coronavirus crisis – in line with the increase to Universal Credit. This matches calls from charities Refugee Action, the Salvation Army and others.

In the letter, we also called for asylum seekers to be given the right to work if they are waiting for a decision for more than three months.

This would allow them to fill essential roles during the pandemic, as well as to support themselves, integrate in their communities and contribute through taxation.

Our Home Affairs Spokesperson, Christine Jardine said:

“The coronavirus crisis is leaving the most vulnerable in our society at risk. We must ensure no one is left behind.

People who’ve come to the UK having fled war or persecution should welcomed with compassion and enabled to contribute to our society, not trapped for months on just £5.39 a day – especially now during this pandemic.

The way the Home Office is treating these vulnerable people is appalling and unacceptable. The Government must urgently increase support for asylum seekers in line with the emergency increase for people on Universal Credit.

Ministers should also finally give asylum seekers the right to work, allowing them to fill essential roles during the pandemic, as well as giving them a sense of dignity, more money and the ability to contribute to the economy.”

The Government must extend the Brexit transition period

Today we have introduced a Bill to require the Government to seek a two-year extension to the Brexit transition period, in light of the Coronavirus pandemic.

To choose a No Deal Brexit and crash out, when the option to extend the transition is possible, would be an act of national self-harm – especially when our NHS, economy and food supply chains are already stretched and struggling.

To crash out of the Brexit transition period when our NHS & economy are already stretched due to COVID-19, would be unthinkable

Speaking ahead of the Bill’s presentation, Liberal Democrat Acting Leader Ed Davey said:

“It is clear the government have not made nearly enough progress on the Brexit trade talks.

To crash out of the Brexit transition period when our NHS & economy are already stretched due to COVID-19, would be unthinkable.

It is time the Prime Minister did the right thing. That is why Liberal Democrats are today presenting legislation that would enable the government to seek an extension to the transition period.”

To crash out of the Brexit transition period when our NHS & economy are already stretched due to COVID-19, would be unthinkable.

While Gove has admitted there will be checks on goods going from Britain to NI, there is still significant detail lacking in these documents.

With just weeks to go until the deadline, the Government must extend the transition period as a priority. https://t.co/I8z6e5laPm

— Liberal Democrats (@LibDems) May 20, 2020

European Union Withdrawal (Implementation Period) Bill:

A Bill to require Her Majesty’s Government to seek a two-year extension of the implementation period under Article 132 of the Withdrawal Agreement; to repeal the prohibition on agreeing to such an extension under section 33 of the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020; and for connected purposes.

The Presentation Bill will face its second reading on 12th June 2020. However, the extension request has to be made by the UK before the end of June.

With just weeks to go until this deadline, it is clear that the Government must extend the transition period as a priority.

New Liberal Democrat leader elected this August

Last week, we published the frank independent review into the 2019 general election. It rightly received plaudits in the media for its candour.

This review challenges us to change as a party and to change the country for the better.

We now need to get on with that work – and that’s what we’ve done with a set of key decisions by your Federal Board.

We’ve set a timetable for electing our next party leader – running from June through to August. With the widespread use of online hustings and online voting, we can make this work even if some elements of the lockdown are still in force. What’s more, with online hustings we can experiment much more with formats, topics and ways for members to get involved.

You can learn more about the leadership election and the new timetable here.

That new leader will be in place in time for our autumn conference – which we’ve confirmed we want to run online in the biggest event of its sort in British politics. There are some important details to sort about what will be technically possible. But we’re aiming big, including speeches, policy, training and fringe meetings. We want more members than ever before to take part in our annual showcase.

We also need to get our strategy right and in a democratic, grassroots-led party that means it needs to be driven by our members. So we’ll shortly be kicking off a consultation, which will then feed into detailed strategy work when we have our new leader in place. (They may have a thing or two to say on that too!)

We’ve also agreed on the next steps in improving the party’s technology – a vital task to give us the modern tools we need and to give you more ways to get involved and stay informed. The first project will be around the party’s website, and we’ll then be consulting widely on the steps after that.

Alongside all that, we won’t be forgetting last week’s review. The Board has commissioned a detailed implementation plan and will be regularly returning to the topic. It’s vital we get this right.

All in, this is an ambitious plan of work – electing a new leader, our biggest ever conference, involving you in a new strategy and modernising our systems.

But as the election review showed, it’s what we need to do.

Get it right, and our future can be bright.

What’s in our plan to improve mental health support for health and care staff?

COVID-19 will leave a deep scar on ourhealthand care workforce, who have gone above and beyond to tackle this dreadful virus. Thousands have lost colleagues, endured serious illness, or faced significant trauma.

Whilst we can hope to get a grip on COVID-19 in the coming months, thementalhealthimpacts will last a lifetime.

That is why we’re proposing a series of measures to ensure no-one slips through the net as the scale of thementalhealthimpact of this crisis emerges.

What is in our plan to improve mental health support for health and care staff?

1. 24/7 mental health support for health and social care workers.

  • Make the Covid-19 support phone hotline 24 hours per day and extend it to social care workers.

The Government’s current hotline is only available to NHS staff and operates 7am – 11pm seven days a week in NHS England.

  • Guarantee a universal mental health support service that can be accessed by all health and social care workers.

The Practitioner Health Programme is a Government funded programme for doctors and dentists across England with mental health illness and addiction problems. It’s known to be excellent and trusts often refer their doctors to it to support their mental health. The principles of this should be extended to the universal support available to all health and social care staff.

This support would mirror that provided to our frontline military personnel (MAPS), through a separate specialist service that every individual staff member in the NHS and Social Care can access.

  • Create a signposting service for all health and social care workers, to make it clear what services are available.

The roll out of these services must be for all staff, whether or not they are directly involved in patient treatment, in recognition of the wide scale of the impact of the COVID-19 across all teams.

2. Protect the NHS and care system. Guarantee NHS and social care staff get the mental health support they need.

  • Remove the use of the Bradford Factor and other HR practices that reinforce a culture of presenteeism.

The Bradford scoring system rates workers based on the number of days they’ve had off absent. This can affect their interview prospects, which can make NHS workers anxious to take a day off for their mental health.

People must not be penalised for mental health conditions. Employers and employees should be given transparency on what information on sickness is appropriate to be included in references between employers and what is not.

  • Introduce an ‘occupational health passport’ so workers do not have to relive mental health traumas when they change jobs.

The NHS has an occupational health department in every trust. When workers move trust, they have to repeat an occupational health test before the job. This can be unnecessary and burdensome on staff, particularly if they move trusts multiple times a year. It’s a waste of resources to do repeated tests and staff should not have to repeat traumatic experiences every time they move trusts.

Some parts of the country have set up an ‘occupational health passport’ which trusts share when necessary with workers’ permission. This means they don’t have to repeat assessments.

The passports must be standardised and input from bodies including RCPsych, the Faculty of Occupational Medicine, the BMA, alongside NHS Employers will be vital.

3. It’s ok to not be ok; creating a culture of support in care

  • Ensure every health and social care worker has access to Balint/Swartz groups to help prevent longer term ill mental health.

A Balint/Swartz round provides a structured forum for clinicians to meet regularly to discuss the emotional and social aspects of working in healthcare. There is evidence they improve the psychological wellbeing of participants and they are frequently used in psychiatry settings for healthcare workers. This should be rolled out across other settings, with staff given protected time each month to take part.

  • Encourage every setting to have a qualified mental health first aider.

Every NHS and health care organisation should encourage staff to become mental health first aiders just as they do for physical first aiders.

With so many deaths in care homes, care staff are suffering a constant cycle of bereavement & many are struggling with their mental health.

We’re encouraged that Matt Hancock has said he would look at our proposals.

Find out more about our plan 👇 https://t.co/pxGgT6RMjRpic.twitter.com/XAjSG1SImF

— Liberal Democrats (@LibDems) May 19, 2020

The roll out of these services must be for all staff, whether or not they are directly involved in patient treatment, in recognition of the wide scale of the impact of the COVID-19 across all teams. If adopted, the proposals will improve access to mentalhealth support for all those working in health and care settings.

The clap for carers is not just a gesture – people want to see those on the frontline supported right through this crisis and beyond.

Ministers must get on top of thementalhealthimpact of COVID-19 by backing our measures to support our vital NHS and care staff when they need it most.

The mental health impacts of COVID-19 will last a lifetime.

That’s why we are proposing measures to ensure no-one slips through the net as the scale of the mental health impact of this crisis emerges.#MentalHealthAwareness#MentalHealthAwarenessWeekhttps://t.co/xCjnbFFGAF

— Liberal Democrats (@LibDems) May 18, 2020

Health and care staff need more mental health support

COVID-19 will leave a deep scar on our health and care workforce, who have gone above and beyond to tackle this dreadful virus. Thousands have lost colleagues, endured serious illness, or faced significant trauma.

Whilst we can hope to get a grip on COVID-19 in the coming months, the mental health impacts will last a lifetime.

The clap for carers isn’t just a gesture – people want to see the frontline supported through this crisis & beyond

That is why, today, we are proposing a series of measures to ensure no-one slips through the net as the scale of the mental health impact of this crisis emerges.

Ministers must get on top of the mental health impact of COVID-19 by backing our measures to support our vital NHS and care staff when they need it most.

The mental health impacts of COVID-19 will last a lifetime.

That’s why we are proposing measures to ensure no-one slips through the net as the scale of the mental health impact of this crisis emerges.#MentalHealthAwareness#MentalHealthAwarenessWeekhttps://t.co/xCjnbFFGAF

— Liberal Democrats (@LibDems) May 18, 2020

Our package of mental health measures designed for rapid roll-out across the NHS and care sectors, includes:

  • 24/7 access to mental health support for health and social care workers, through a dedicated helpline.
  • Guarantees that health and care staff will no longer be penalised for time off due to mental or physical ill health by scrapping the Bradford scoring system and other HR practices that can create a culture of presenteeism.
  • Introduce an ‘occupational health passport’ so workers do not have to relive mental health traumas if or when they change jobs.
  • Additional training to ensure there are mental health first-aiders in every health and care workforce.
  • Steps to standardise the quality and service offer to ensure that every health and social care worker can access the same, high standard of mental care support regardless of the region in which they are base.
  • The roll out of these services must be for all staff, whether or not they are directly involved in patient treatment, in recognition of the wide scale of the impact of the COVID-19 across all teams.

If adopted, the proposals will improve access to mental health support for all those working in health and care settings.

Munira Wilson, who is spearheading the campaign, and our Health and Social Care spokesperson said:

“The UK mental health response to COVID-19 should be world-class. That means investing now to prepare for the challenges ahead.

The clap for carers is not just a gesture – people want to see those on the frontline supported right through this crisis and beyond.

Ministers must get on top of the mental health impact of COVID-19 by backing our measures to support our vital NHS and care staff when they need it most.”

“COVID will leave a deep scar on our health & care workforce who’ve gone above & beyond to tackle the virus”-@munirawilson

Ministers must get on top of the mental health impact by backing our plans to support NHS & care staff👇https://t.co/8Q441u6bnn#MentalHealthAwarenessWeekpic.twitter.com/O5Pdryqfab

— Liberal Democrats (@LibDems) May 18, 2020

Why we’re voting against the Tories’ Immigration Bill

The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the enormous contributions that workers from all over the world make to our country and our communities.

Tens of thousands of doctors, nurses and other NHS staff. Hundreds of thousands of social care workers. And millions more in sectors hit hard by this crisis, from restaurants and hotels to construction and manufacturing.

Migrants are putting their lives on the line to protect us every single day. And migrants will be crucial to creating economic growth and jobs as we recover from this crisis.

This bill does nothing to fix problems with our immigration system – instead it exposes EU citizens to the Conservatives’ Hostile Enviornment

So I honestly cannot understand why now, in the midst of this crisis, Priti Patel is pushing ahead with her plans to make it much, much harder for employers to hire people overseas.

Under her new immigration system, it would be much harder for doctors and nurses to come to work in the NHS, and they’d have to pay thousands of pounds in fees for the privilege. And it would be virtually impossible to recruit social care workers, hotel staff or construction workers from overseas.

Now more than ever, we should be celebrating the enormous contributions that people from all over the world make to our NHS, social care & across our society.@LibDems are opposing the Conservatives’ destructive immigration plans. Here’s the amendment we’ve tabled for Monday👇 pic.twitter.com/FbayB3fP0n

— Christine Jardine (@cajardineMP) May 14, 2020

These Conservative plans would be incredibly damaging. Now more than ever, we should be celebrating the enormous contributions that workers from all over the world make to our NHS, social care and across our society; not trying to stop them.

And what makes this Bill even worse is that there are real problems with our immigration system that need fixing.

Employers can’t recruit the workers they need, leaving the NHS short of nurses and social care in crisis. People without documents are denied access to healthcare and housing. Far too many people are detained indefinitely, in inhumane conditions and at great expense. Families are separated by unfair, complex visa requirements. Public confidence in the system has been shattered.

Yet this Bill will do nothing to fix these problems. Instead, by exposing EU citizens to the Conservatives’ Hostile Environment, it will make them worse.

What we need instead is a fair, effective and compassionate immigration system that treats everyone with dignity they deserve.

That’s why Liberal Democrats will vote against this Bill and oppose the Tories’ cruel, destructive immigration policies every step of the way.

International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, Biphobia

In the midst of the Covid 19 crisis it is easy to think it is the only issue in town. But there is another issue that as Liberals we should not need reminding of.

One aspect of it was highlighted to me this week when a friend told me that he cannot give blood.

My friend would like to help by providing blood from which plasma could be used in the fight against COVID-19 but regardless of how rare his blood group might be, of how healthy he is, he cannot donate because he is gay.

I was stunned.

We must surely recognise that there are still elements of our lives which label and marginalise the LGBTQ community

So I checked and, to be fair, the NHS site says all men must wait 3 months after having sex with another man before donating. It doesn’t claim to be a ban, and says it is regardless of sexuality. But the reality is that as someone in a long term committed single-sex relationship that almost automatically excludes him.

And it is not the only example.

More than once in the past three yearsI have pressed the Government to fulfill the promise of its LGBT action plan and ban gay conversion therapy.

Today is International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia.

I would not suggest for a minute that safeguards to ensure donated blood is healthy is by its nature homophobic. I cannot say the same about the lack of a ban on gay conversion therapy.

We must surely recognise that there are still elements of our lives which label and marginalise the LGBTQ community and that this is one of them.

As Liberals we should be aware of the danger of assuming that everybody feels equally respected and protected in the current crisis. These past two months have posed problems for us all that we never thought we would have to face, and demanded strength we did not know that we had.

But we are not there yet.

In striving to reach that moment we would do well to remember the words of US politician Daniel Patrick Moynihan:

“The central conservative truth is that it is culture, not politics, that determines the success of a society.

The central liberal truth is that politics can change a culture and save it from itself.”

That is the task we must set ourselves.

2019 Election Review

Following the 2019 General Election, the Federal Board commissioned Dorothy Thornhill and her team of fourteen to conduct an independent review of the Party’s performance.

The Liberal Democrats are committed to a fair and open society and reflect that in our internal approach to transparency and accountability. The resulting report is therefore available here in its entirety.

If you are unable to view the file below, please click here.

Download the review

If you have any reactions to the report, you can submit them libdems.org.uk/2019-review-feedback

Government must publish scientific advice for reopening schools

Before being an MP, I was a teacher. I’m keenly aware that every day schools remain shut the disadvantage gap widens and the students in need of the most support from teachers and support staff are being left behind. More than this, it’s the most vulnerable children I’m most worried about. Are they eating? Are they safe, let alone learning?

So, I want schools to open, but it has to be safe for them to open too, for children, staff and wider society.

I want schools to open, but it has to be safe for them to open too, for children, staff and wider society.

That’s why in the House of Commons yesterday, I asked the Education Secretary to urgently release the scientific advice for reopening schools.

I questioned the Education Secretary today on the decision to reopen some schools in a few weeks. Govt has failed to consult with school leaders, teachers and unions on the details of its guidance. That’s not good enough. They must publish all scientific advice on this 👇 pic.twitter.com/pdLclHzzWt

— Layla Moran 🔶 (@LaylaMoran) May 13, 2020

The Government has failed to consult with school leaders, teachers and unions on the details of its guidance for reopening schools, and that’s just not good enough.

We need reassurance that the decisions are being made based on public health advice only, and not economic fears.

And, of course, parents are under pressure, and I’m sure many are very keen to get their children back to schools. But we must put everyone’s safety first

I also called on the government to guarantee that all children, of all ages, will be given the equipment and funding to learn safely, either at home or in school.

Schools should not be reopened until we see scientific evidence from the government that it’s safe to do so. Now is the time to be transparent, cooperative and proactive.