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."
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
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.”
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."
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."
Former Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has returned to the Liberal Democrat front bench as the party’s European Union spokesperson in order to hold the Government to account over its plans for Brexit.
Following Andrea Leadsom’s withdrawal from the Conservative leadership race Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron has called for an early General Election.
A coronation of Theresa May as Prime Minister carries no mandate.
Tim Farron, Liberal Democrat leader said:
“Just 13 months after the last election the Conservatives have plunged the UK into chaos. It is simply inconceivable that Theresa May should be crowned Prime Minister without even having won an election in her own party, let alone the country.
“There must be an election. The Conservatives must not be allowed to ignore the electorate, their mandate is shattered and lies in ruins.
“Britain deserves better than this Tory stitch up.
“May has not set out an agenda, and has no right to govern. She has not won an election and the public must have their say.
“From her time as Home Secretary we know she is divisive, illiberal and calculating.
“The Liberal Democrats will set out an optimistic, positive plan for Britain. We will stabilise the economy, improve education, deliver a new deal for our NHS, restore the green agenda and secure Britain’s place at the heart of Europe. ”
Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron has written to 7 Prime Ministers in fellow liberal sister parties throughout Europe, including the influential Mark Rutte of the Netherlands, asking for their support for a proposal to allow UK expats to reside freely in Europe even with Brexit.
Tim was the first party leader to call for the UK Government to agree that EU nationals be able to remain in the UK after the referendum. Politicians from across the political spectrum bar Home Office Ministers seem to agree with this and they have been savaged by MP’s.
Next Tuesday, Liberal Democrat Foreign Affairs spokesperson Tom Brake is proposing a bill to offer protections to EU citizens.
The Liberal Democrats have now called for foreign governments to do the same for UK expats living abroad.
Tim is also calling for the EU governments to not even look at plans to hike taxes on Brits with property or businesses abroad as a ‘revenge’ for Brexit.
The top destinations for British expats in the European Union are Spain (host to 319,000), Ireland (249,000) and France (171,000)
“Far from being Bush’s passenger, Blair was his co-pilot in taking this catastrophic decision which has destabilised Iraq, provided the hotbed for Daesh and tarnished Britain’s reputation around the word.“
“Daesh has arisen from the complete absence of any post conflict planning by the government.
“Charles Kennedy’s judgement has been vindicated in every respect. I hope those in the Labour and Conservative parties who were so forceful in their criticism of him and the Liberal Democrats at the time are equally forceful in their acknowledgements today that he was right. An absence of scrutiny by the Conservative party opened the door for Blair and the Labour Government to pursue a counter-strategic, ill-resourced campaign.
“I hope Sir John Chilcot’s findings can in some way provide comfort to the families of the British servicemen and servicewomen who lost their lives, and to the people of Iraq. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have lost their lives and a generation has been shaped by this illegal war.
“Blair was fixated in joining Bush in going to war in Iraq regardless of the evidence, the legality or the serious potential consequences.
The Liberal Democrats have called on the UK government to introduce a new Act to tackle poor air quality and ensure vital pollution limits are not watered down post-Brexit.
Today marks the 60th anniversary of the Clean Air Act, which was introduced in the 1950s to tackle deadly smog affecting UK cities.
In a letter to Secretary of State for the Environment Elizabeth Truss - signed by the Liberal Democrat Environment Spokesperson Kate Parminter, Transport Spokesperson Jenny Randerson and MEP Catherine Bearder - the government is urged to ensure it follows through on EU agreements to tackle air pollution and enshrine essential limits into British law.
The letter concludes that the government must not “betray the legacy of the Clean Air Act by allowing the UK to become the dirty man of Europe once again.”
Full text of the letter