Liberal Democrats slam fall in international student numbers

The Liberal Democrats have slammed the fall in non-EU students studying at British universities.

Alistair Carmichael, the party’s Home Affairs spokesperson, lambasted the fall which he said showed the government’s fixation with their immigration target was undermining Britain’s economy and the university sector.

Long-term immigration to the UK for all immigrants for study has dropped to the lowest level since 2007.

Figures from the ONS quarterly migration statistics show international student numbers fell by 28,000 in the year ending in March 2016 to 164,000. Last year 192,000 international students came to the UK.

The fall in numbers hit applications to universities and further education colleges.

Commenting Alistair Carmichael said:

“Theresa May spent the last 6 years as Home Secretary pursuing a stupid and undeliverable target to reduce immigration to the tens of thousands. That broken promise has damaged public confidence, but if it was delivered it would damage the economy.

“What we are seeing here is a fall in international students who pay huge sums to study at our universities off the back of the Conservatives’ obsession with trying to chase an arbitrary immigration target. International students, by the Government’s own estimates, contribute billions of pounds to our economy every year and are a vital to local economies up and down the country.

"Cutting the numbers of international students is the definition of shortsighted. Rather than undermining our universities the Prime Minister should abandon her manifesto commitment, back our universities and encourage the best and brightest in the world to study in the UK.”

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"Dictating how women dress is illiberal and reprehensible" - Meral Hussein-Ece

Commenting on the burkini in France and reports as to how it is being enforced Meral Hussein-Ece, the Liberal Democrats’ Equalities spokesperson said:

“Dictating how women dress is illiberal and reprehensible.  Why would anyone think that banning burkinis and then actively forcing women to remove clothing helps fight a war on terror? 

"I would wonder where the freedom of speech and expression is that the French have historically prided themselves on.”

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City at risk from Brexit - Liberal Democrats

The City will not have the full benefits of membership of the single market under the Government’s plans for Brexit, the body representing the UK’s banking sector has suggested.

Economics spokesperson Susan Kramer said:

"A bilateral deal is simply not good enough if we are to protect key parts of our economy, including our financial services. This jeopardises our ability to retain institutions that underpin the City's success - including the clearing houses.

“It is naive in the extreme to think that France and Germany will not try to tempt our high value City businesses to set up shop elsewhere. The loss of tax revenue alone would make Boris' mythical £350 million for the NHS look like pocket money. We need full membership to the single market."

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Norman Lamb calls for urgent review of taser use

Norman Lamb has called for an urgent review of the use of tasers by police officers, following the death of former footballer Dalian Atkinson.

In June, Lamb called for an outright ban on the use of tasers in mental health settings, and tabled amendments to the Policing and Crime Bill to introduce such a ban.  In response to last night’s death, however, he is now calling for an urgent national review of tasers and electroshock weapons in all settings.

The United Nations Committee Against Torture (CAT) have stated that TaserX26 weapons, used by police officers in Britain, cause extreme pain and constitute a form of torture.

Norman Lamb said:

“Following this tragedy, the Government must waste no time in launching a full review of taser use in the UK.  The recent reports of people dying shortly after being tasered is extremely alarming and raise worrying questions about the appropriateness of this practice and the circumstances in which these weapons are being used, particularly against black and minority ethnic people and those with mental illness.

“Theresa May raised concerns over the use of tasers when she was Home Secretary. She must now set up a review as a matter of urgency if we are to prevent any further tragedies from happening in future.”

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Plastic bag charge is Lib Dem success story

Plastic bag use has plummeted in England since the introduction of a 5p charge last year, under the previous coalition government.

The number of single-use plastic bags used by shoppers in England has fallen by more than 85%. More than 7bn bags were handed out by seven main supermarkets in the year before the charge but this has been reduced to just over 500m in the first six months after the charge has been introduced.

Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron said:

“We always said the test of this policy would be by the amounts of bags that are cut from public consumption and the funds raised for charities - on both these tests this policy has passed.

"I want to pay tribute to Kate Parminter who fought tirelessly for this policy and today's figures are a testament to her. It is down to Liberal Democrats in Government that this policy happened – we announced it at our 2013 conference and we are now seeing what a huge impact it has had.

"The facts are simple; single use bags blight our towns and countryside, they trap and suffocate wildlife, and plastic bags take hundreds of years to degrade. These figures show that this policy is starting to stop that."

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Clegg - No easy options on Single Market access

Liberal Democrat European Union spokesperson and former Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has launched the first briefing paper of his Brexit Challenge project, which analyses the options facing the Government if it intends for Britain to retain significant access to the Single Market.

While Single Market access is essential to the British economy, and retaining access remains the best of a series of bad options for the economy post-Brexit, it comes with significant challenges and trade-offs. The analysis shows that even if the Government were able to achieve concessions on freedom of movement, seeking to retain significant access to the Single Market would still mean adherence to its rules and regulations, while not having any control or influence over them. It also concludes that the biggest benefit of Single Market access is the removal of non-tariff barriers, such as shared rules and harmonised standards, as opposed to tariffs.

In order to trade freely on the continent, our exporters and their supply chains will have to abide by all of the rules of the Single Market. But without British representation in Brussels, they will have no say over how those rules are written.

This represents a huge loss of control for a country which is so dependent on trade with the Single Market. It is entirely possible that decisions will be taken in Brussels in future that are not in the interests of the UK, which heap extra costs on British industry, or actively discriminate against us in favour of operators based on the continent. And when that happens, we won’t be able to do anything about it: compliance with those rules will be a precondition for our ability to trade freely with the EU.

So the challenge now for the government is how to square the need for untrammelled access to the single market - from the “passport” rights for UK financial services to the technical specifications of mechanical goods - with the promise to “take back control”.

Commenting, Nick Clegg said: "Theresa May has said she wants to have the ‘closest possible’ economic relationship with Europe but has not spelt out what that means or what price she is prepared to pay for it. The hard truth is there is no easy, cost-free option. We can't expect one set of rules for us and another for everyone else.

"Not only is freedom of movement a fundamental part of how the Single Market operates, but even if she were able to cut a deal on that we would still be subject to the rules that govern the market without any control over them."

Over the coming months Nick will be working with a range of experts, to set out the difficult questions the Government has to answer in a host of areas that will be affected by Brexit. He will publish a series of papers detailing the challenges and dilemmas facing the UK in a wide range of areas, not only on our trading relationship with the EU but also freedom of movement, policing and anti-terror co-operation, agriculture, university research funding, environmental standards and many other areas.

The experts Nick is working with include:

Dr Heather Grabbe, Jean Monnet Fellow at the European University Institute
Anthony Cary CMG, former Head of Chris Patten's cabinet at the European Commission
Professor Dame Helen Wallace
Andy LeBrecht, former UK Deputy Permanent Representative to the EU
Sir Robert Cooper KCMG MVO, former adviser to Javier Solana and Catherine Ashton

You can read the first paper, Access to the Single Market, by clicking here

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Children must not be held in detention centres – Liberal Democrats

The Liberal Democrats have slammed the Government for slipping out an announcement that Cedars pre-departure accommodation is to close.
 
It raises the prospect of children once again being held in immigration detention centres – a practice ended by the Liberal Democrats in Government.
 
Liberal Democrats in Coalition established the centre to end the detention of children, and the Conservatives have used the final day of the Parliamentary session to reverse the move.
 
Prior to 2010, thousands of children were being detained in prison-like conditions. During Labour’s last 5 years in government, over 7,000 innocent children were held in adult detention centres, sometimes for weeks and months at a time. 

The establishment of the centre was driven by Sarah Teather and Nick Clegg and following the news of its closure the Liberal Democrat Seekers for Sanctuary have set out 10 questions the government must answer.
 
Aside from scrapping the centre the Conservatives have failed to offer any assurances on what will replace it, the emotional support that vulnerable children will be given or any preparations that will be made for them ahead of their return to a country that many of them may not even remember.
 
Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesman Alistair Carmichael said:

“Ending the detention of children for immigration purposes was one of the first priorities of Liberal Democrats in government. It is the mark of our society how we treat the most vulnerable and it is disgusting that the Conservatives are now rolling back such an important measure.
 
“It is outrageous they slipped out this announcement on the last day of Parliamentary business, and they must now set out what exactly is going to happen to children in the future. We cannot have a return to the days of children being locked up in immigration detention centres, as happened under Labour. The Government has a lot of questions that remained unanswered.”

Chair of Liberal Democrat Seekers for Sanctuary, Suzanne Fletcher, who has visited Cedars, and been part of an Independent Monitoring Board until the change of Government last year said:

“Cedars provided an oasis of care and calm at a very traumatic time for those families with children who very sadly were being sent against their will back to their country of origin.  Children should never have to be behind the locked doors of a detention centre, and our Government should be ashamed of such a backward step.”

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Tory Married Couples Allowance total failure - Lib Dems

The Liberal Democrats have branded the Conservative’s Flagship Married Couples Tax Allowance policy a ‘pathetic failure’ after figures revealed that only a fraction of eligible couples had bothered claiming the allowance.

Only 330,000 people have taken advantage of the allowance, equivalent to 8% of those eligible.

The Tories had believed over 4 million would take allowance.

The Liberal Democrats also revealed that the Government had launched an advertising campaigning around the allowance in a desperate bid to increase take-up of the scheme.

The Married Tax allowance was extracted from the Liberal Democrats in coalition in exchange for the Free School Meals for infant school children.

Commenting, Lib Dem Leader, Tim Farron said:

“When the Conservatives demanded to introduce their allowance, Liberal Democrats said that it was a needless gimmick.  These figures show that their plan is indeed a pathetic failure.

“Unsurprisingly, it turns out that people don’t choose to get married in order to secure a tax break.  Rather than spending taxpayer’s cash trying to promote their flop, the Tories should abandon the policy and put the money into something useful.

“Liberal Democrats in Coalition chose to spend our time fighting to give hot healthy meals to young children, not on gimmicky giveaways.  Now the Tories are governing alone it’s time they too started trying to do some good rather than clinging to half-baked ideas like the Married Couples Allowance."

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“Will children be kept in lock-down facilities in UK?” - Carmichael

Alistair Carmichael has demanded the government rule out the prospect of children being kept in prison cells.

This follows the government slipping out an announcement of the closure of the Cedars facility, which supports families who are being returned overseas by the Home Office. Ending child detention was a major Liberal Democrat achievement in the coalition government.
 
The facilities were described as “exceptional” and their closure has also been attacked by Barnardo’s.
 
The Liberal Democrat Home Affairs spokesperson said:

“Cedars was a civilised way of dealing with some of the most vulnerable young people in our care. 
 
“Ending the detention of children in lock-down institutions was something that the Liberal Democrats forced Theresa May as Home Secretary to do against her will. Now there are no restraints on her, she will indulge the more callous instincts of her party."

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