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  1. The demand came from the Liberal Democrats so customers can avoid handing over cash during the coronavirus crisis.
  2. Ed Davey responds to Foreign Secretary's update on coronavirus

    Responding to yesterday evening's update on coronavirus from the Foreign Secretary, Acting Leader of the Liberal Democrats Ed Davey said:

    "Reports from many British citizens stuck overseas bring home the reality of the global scale of this crisis. Many have been in a desperate position, unsure whether they will be able to secure accommodation or access adequate supplies.

    "The Foreign Office must ensure that British citizens will be able to return home, wherever they have been stranded, without exception

    We welcome the steps the government is taking to charter flights in order to get people home, and to work to ensure commercial flights remain available where possible. 

    The government must now make every possible effort to directly contact British citizens who are stuck, and do whatever is necessary to ensure they can board repatriation flights.

    Misleading test numbers put public trust in government at risk

    Responding to reports that the government did not in fact reach its target of 10,000 tests per day to diagnose coronavirus, Liberal Democrat Health Spokesperson Munira Wilson said:

    "Throughout the coronavirus crisis the Liberal Democrats have always been clear that retaining the public's trust has to be a top priority for the government."

    There needs to be an answer as to how this happened, as well as a commitment to ensure an incident such as this does not happen again.

    Stopping the spread of coronavirus is hugely dependent on the public trusting the information and advice the government provides.

    Extending the Brexit transition period is the right thing to do

    Following a new Focaldata poll showing 64% of voters want Boris Johnson to “request an extension to the transition period in order to focus properly on the coronavirus”, Liberal Democrat Acting Leader Ed Davey said: 

    “Extending the Brexit transition period now is the right thing to do. Boris Johnson must give tackling Coronavirus the government’s undivided focus. Saving lives must be the priority. 

    This isn’t about old debates, it’s about the stark reality our country and the world is now faced with. Liberal Democrats will continue to urge the Prime Minister to immediately extend the Brexit talks.

    Covid-19 testing must come with adequate PPE and extend to social care

    Responding to Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove announcing increased testing capacity, Liberal Democrat Health Spokesperson Munira Wilson said:

    "The coronavirus crisis is an unprecedented threat and people are rightly worried. In times like this, we cannot thank front-line staff enough for going above and beyond to look after us all.

    Those risking their health to work on the frontline deserve assurances that the Government is doing everything it can to keep them safe."

    New capacity for testing is welcome, but it must also come alongside adequate PPEand be extensively expanded to social care workers in order to best protect the most vulnerable.

    Lib Dems say thank you to the NHS

    Our health and social care workers are going above and beyond during this crisis - we want to say thank you.

    To everyone working in the NHS and in our social care system: every doctor, nurse, carer, paramedic, health care assistant, manager, cleaner, administrator, pharmacist, those on the front-line and those keeping the NHS working behind the scene - thank you.

    The best thing we can do for our healthcare staff right now is to follow the official NHS advice. That means staying at home if you’re not a key worker, keeping your distance in supermarkets, and quarantining yourself when you're showing symptoms.

    Not all of these are easy steps to take - but we owe it to our NHS to help them help us.

    We are also circulating a letter of appreciation to NHS staff, to show our thanks to them for putting themselves at risk to keep us all safe.

    If you'd like to add your thanks, you can do so by following this link to sign our card.

  3. Plans for Liberal Democrat autumn conference on hold, online options to be explored instead

    In the light of the coronavirus epidemic, the Federal Board has decided to put on hold plans for the preparation of a traditional party conference in the autumn and will make a final decision on whether to cancel the event in May.

    In the meantime, the Federal Conference Committee will consider the feasibility of an online event, which might include some elements of a formal conference.

  4. Government must provide resources so councils can house all rough sleepers

    Responding to reports that the Government has written to all local councils asking them to find homes for all rough sleepers by the weekend to protect them from the coronavirus outbreak, Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran said:

    "It is right that the Government is taking urgent action to find secure accommodation for rough sleepers, as Liberal Democrats have called for since this crisis began.

    "The Government must also equip local authorities with the financial resources to provide sufficient secure emergency accommodation to meet demand. Ministers must also make specialist support available to those who struggle with addiction or other mental health issues, as is the case for so many people sleeping rough right across the UK."

     

    Ultimately, this annoucement must be the first step towards long term efforts to end rough sleeping, not just in the face of the current crisis. The Government can make that commitment today by supporting my Bill to scrap the Vagrancy Act, repealing a Dickensian law which needlessly criminalises rough sleepers.

    Liberal Democrats suspend Leadership Election until May 2021


    Today, as a result of the Coronavirus crisis, the Liberal Democrat Federal Board has decided to postpone the leadership election until May 2021.

    President of the Liberal Democrats Mark Pack said: 

    “The country is currently going through our biggest crisis since 1945. Our party has decided that we must put all our attention into dealing with fallout from the Coronavirus.

    The Liberal Democrats have always put the national interest first and I am proud of the role we have played in championing NHS and care workers, as well as sticking up for the self-employed.

    We will continue to scrutinise government policy and fight for the most vulnerable in our society.”

    Many self-employed cannot wait until June

    Responding to the Chancellor’s announcement of support measures for the self-employed, Acting Leader of the Liberal Democrats, Ed Davey said:

    “It does seem that Liberal Democrat pressure for a package for the self-employed has paid off, but I am hugely concerned about how long this will take to deliver. Many sole traders like taxi drivers, hairdressers and cleaners will not be able to wait until June."

    We also worry about people who have been self-employed for less than a year who seem to be forgotten by this scheme. Many will have risked their savings to get started and it looks like they will get nothing from the package.

    The Chancellor's promise that the self-employed can access loans is also worthless to the vast majority who won’t be able to provide the personal guarantees banks are asking small businesses for. 

    Liberal Democrats will continue to listen to the self-employed, freelancers and agency workers and put forward their concerns so that people in a desperate financial situation get help as soon as possible, ensuring that no-one is left out.

    Boris Johnson 'irresponsible' to turn down EU ventilators

    Responding to Number 10’s confirmation that the UK will not be participating in EU ventilator procurement programmes, Acting Leader of the Liberal Democrats Ed Davey said:

    "There is no reasonable justification for Boris Johnson’s refusal to participate in the EU’s procurement of ventilators. Surely we should be trying every possible means to get people seriously ill with coronavirus the ventilators they need.

    Let's be clear: getting more ventilators to our NHS will save lives. Why won’t the Prime Minister put his Brexit views aside, given this crisis?"

    By working together with other countries and using the strength of the single market, the government can help get PPE for NHS frontline staff and ventilators to those fighting the virus. 

    Of course we want factories in the UK manufacturing ventilators and let’s source them from abroad where we can, but it looks deeply irresponsible not to work with our European neighbours on this too.

    End prison overcrowding to slow spread of coronavirus

    We are backing calls by prison governors to reduce overcrowding to slow the spread of coronavirus in prisons, following confirmation today of the first prisoner to die after contracting the virus.

    Liberal Democrat Justice Spokesperson Daisy Cooper called on the Government to “urgently end overcrowding in prisons, including releasing prisoners serving short sentences and suspending any new short sentences.”

    This echoes a warning yesterday from the Prison Governors Association, whose President Andrea Albutt told the Guardian: “If we have less prisoners doubled [up in cells], it will be easier to isolate those who’ve been confirmed as having the virus or have the symptoms, so we can delay the spread.

    Liberal Democrat Justice Spokesperson Daisy Cooper said:

    “Already one prisoner has sadly died after contracting coronavirus. The Government must act quickly to prevent prisons becoming a crucible for the virus.

    “We need to protect prison staff, prisoners and our communities from this pandemic. But there is no chance of social distancing in prisons while they are so overcrowded, with many prisoners sharing cells built for one person.

    The Government must listen to prison governors and urgently end overcrowding in prisons. It should release prisoners serving short sentences and suspend any new short sentences.

    With tough licence conditions and electronic tagging, we can keep our communities safefrom crime while also slowing the spread of coronavirus.

  5. The NHS takes care of us and keeps us safe every day.

    Coronavirus is affecting every part of our lives and is already putting a huge strain on the NHS and NHS workers. We want to say thank you to the people working so hard to keep us all safe.

    We are so lucky to live in a country where we have access to such high-quality healthcare that’s free at the point of use. It's saved countless lives and, over the coming weeks and months, it's going to save many, many more.

    To everyone working in the NHS and in our social care system: every doctor, nurse, carer, paramedic, health care assistant, manager, cleaner, administrator, pharmacist, those on the front-line and those keeping the NHS working behind the scene - thank you.

    The best thing we can do for our healthcare staff right now is to follow the official NHS advice. That means staying at home if you’re not a key worker, keeping your distance in
    supermarkets, and quarantining yourself when you're showing symptoms.

    Not all of these are easy steps to take - but we owe it to our NHS to help them help us.

    We are also circulating a letter of appreciation to NHS staff, to show our thanks to them for putting themselves at risk to keep us all safe.

    If you'd like to add your thanks, you can do so by signing the card:

  6. Brexit talks were always going to create economic uncertainty this year, especially with the threat of a No Deal still on the table. But with the unprecedented economic disruption created by Coronavirus, the question now is: should that economic uncertainty be removed?
  7. This week, the UK has gone into lockdown to slow the spread of coronavirus.

    Those of us who can are staying at home and adapting to a new way of life, where we work from home, have hobbies at home and socialise only through video calls.

  8. Welcome to the Weekly Whip. Your one-stop shop for Lib Dem Parliamentary updates, covering the week that was and the week to come. 

    For up to date information from the Lib Dem Whips Office, follow us on Twitter: @LibWhips 

    Weekly Whip w/c 23rd March 

    In the last week ahead of Recess; Westminster Hall debates were suspended, and select committees will now continue over video conferencing. Given the ongoing pandemic, we went early to Recess on Wednesday.

    With Parliamentary pass holders being declared ‘key workers’ the business of both houses continues. However, access to the parliamentary estate has been restricted and social distancing measures put in place.

    Monday 23rd March

    On Monday we passed all stages of the Coronavirus Bill in one day! You can find what the Lib Dem approach to the bill was here, in a blog post from Ed Davey.

    This is an usual Bill in a number of ways.

    • To start with, this Bill is long. It’s over 330 pages long. For context the EU Withdrawal Agreement Bill (now Act) was over 160 pages long.
    • As mainly a health matter, this Bill would usually only apply to England and Wales. However, last Friday the House of Commons agreed to disapply Standing Orders 38J and 38O, meaning the Bill will apply to the whole of the UK and will not have to go through the EVEL (English Votes for English Laws) process[1].
    • The Bill completes all Commons stages in one day. This is highly unusual for a Bill of this size. However, given the exceptional circumstances, MPs across the house agreed to the timetable.

    In the Commons, we tabled 8 amendments to the Bill. Click on the tweet below to see the amendments in full.

    The Government, with pressure from the Liberal Democrat’s and other opposition parties, backed down on a number of aspects in the Bill.

    The biggest concession was to reduce the length of time the powers apply to the Bill. The Government conceded that Parliament should be able to review the powers after 6 months.

    The Coronavirus Bill was amended 48 times in the House of Commons, these were all Government amendments. Some of these were concessions, but a number were also technical changes (inevitable when you draft such a large Bill at such pace). The Bill passed through both Houses without any opposition amendments.

     

    Tuesday 24th March

    The biggest moment of the day, was an Urgent Question from Ed Davey demanding help for the self-employed during this crisis.

    This urgent question, led by the Liberal Democrats, sparked calls from all political parties in the House of Commons for the government to bring forward an economic package for those that are self-employed. Ed, Wendy Chamberlin and Alistair Carmichael all gave passionate speeches on the subject.

    You can show your support for the Liberal Democrats campaign on helping the self-employed through this crisis. By signing our petition to the government here: https://www.libdems.org.uk/support-self-employed

    This was followed by all stages of the Contingencies Fund Bill (Ed Davey speaking for the Lib Dems). The contingency fund allows the government to dip into reserves (through amending the Contingencies Fund Act 1974) to fund unforeseen event for departments. In the statute however, this is a relatively small amount (2% of approved dept spend). This is being temporarily increased to 50% to meet the needs of this crisis. The Bill will allow the Government to draw on an extra £260 billion in extra spending.

    The Contingencies Fund Bill was followed by another spending bill. Completing its final stage before moving to the Lords, The Windrush Compensation Scheme (Expenditure) Bill give authorisation for the Home Office to spend the necessary funds to compensate those caught up during the Windrush scandal. If this bill passes (it has cross party support) these funds will be paid out through the Windrush Compensation Scheme.

    Wednesday 25th March

    This was the final day that the House of Commons sat before the Easter recess.

    Unusually PMQs was one hour today.

    The speaker allowed PMQs to be extended in absence of other Covid-19 statements in the House. Both Alistair and Wendy were selected to ask a question. Alistair again showed the Lib Dems leading the fight for the self-employed by asking again what support they will be given. Wendy raised the issue of those with rheumatic autoimmune diseases being included on the shielded list of people with underlining conditions being protected and offered extra support.

    See you back in Parliament after the Easter recess on Tuesday 21 April 2020. At which point the Weekly Whip will return.

     

     

    [1] Usually under EVEL, a bill would have to get a majority of the whole house and a majority of those MP representing English and Welsh constituencies.

  9. Last week, the Government set out a package of financial measures to support UK workers, highlighting just how threatening coronavirus is to our economy and our society. 

    As soon as these measures were announced, Liberal Democrats stated our concerns that far too little was being provided to help the self-employed through this crisis. Days later, and no new support has been announced by the Government. 

    There are five million self-employed people in the UK. These are our construction workers, our childminders and our delivery drivers.

    Each day that we fail to take action to protect the self-employed, millions of people remain worried and unsure of how they are going to support themselves or their families. Leaving them with no reliable safety net is unacceptable.

    Ministers cannot keep hiding from the insecurity these individuals have been put in by the coronavirus crisis. It is not good enough to say it is "operationally difficult" to pay them.

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    The Liberal Democrats have put down amendments to the Government’s coronavirus legislation to support the self-employed. They are:

    • increasing the weekly rate of Statutory Sick Pay from £94.25 to £220

    • guaranteeing 80% of self-employed individuals' earnings, up to £35,000

    By subsidising salaries for workers, guaranteeing incomes for the self-employed and boosting sick pay we can ensure that we are not only protecting our economy, but our society. That is why we are also urging the Chancellor to back a Citizen’s Income, and quickly, to ensure those most in need have financial security.

    Leaving self-employed people with no reliable safety net is unacceptable.

    While assisting the self-employed does create more challenges than with PAYE employees, the Government must surely err on the side of caution and get help out to people, rather than find reasons and excuses for doing nothing, or too little.

    There are clear gaps in what the Chancellor has announced and the Liberal Democrats will continue to push for these measures to be taken forward so that no-one gets forgotten as this crisis continues.

  10. The Government’s analysis shows that they lead to higher rates of reoffending than community sentences. The President of the Prison Governors Association has described them as “pointless”. They need to end for both men and women.

    But we also need to recognise that prison is especially damaging for women.

    Most women in prison are vulnerable people. The majority experienced abuse as a child, and many are survivors of domestic abuse as adults.

    Self-harm rates in women’s prisons are almost five times the rate in men’s prisons and rising

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