The Liberal Democrat Coronavirus Update

March 24, 2020 9:00 PM
Originally published by UK Liberal Democrats

Ed Davey challenges government to roll out support package for self-employed

Today Ed Davey, Acting Leader of the Liberal Democrats, challenged the Chancellor to "move as fast as possible" to roll out a financial support package for the five million self-employed people in the UK.

In an Urgent Question in the House of Commons, Ed Davey highlighted that the self-employed, who are excluded from current financial support for businesses and employees, are under "real stress" and are "literally running out of money" as a result of the coronavirus crisis.

Following his Urgent Question to the Chancellor, Ed Davey said:

"As the days tick on, millions of self-employed - from cleaners to hairdressers from taxi drivers to builders - face mounting worries about their future. Ministers must move far faster to provide help, as they did for businesses and employees.

Most of the self-employed have very modest incomes and aren't well off. Without help, they won't be able to pay their mortgages, rent and bills, facing ruin."

Without action, those who are self-employed may be forced to ignore government guidance to stay home & plough on with their work, or face real hardship.

Every day of delay increases the strain these millions of individuals are under. That is why - this afternoon - Ed Davey challenged the Chancellor to explain how he will support self-employed people through this crisis. So far we are just being told by Ministers to wait a little longer.

Without action, those who are self-employed may be forced to ignore government guidance to stay home and plough on with their work, or face real hardship.

Last week Liberal Democrats welcomed the Chancellor's financial package for businesses and for employees, but this will remain incomplete and inadequate until we see proper measures for the five million self employed people across the country.

Lib Dems call on the government to ensure they are doing everything to keep NHS volunteers safe

In response to the Health Secretary's announcement that the NHS is looking for 'NHS volunteers' to help with the coronavirus outbreak, Liberal Democrats called on the government to do more to support these individuals.

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.

Effort to encourage volunteers, medical students and retired NHS doctors and nurses to join the health service are more than welcome.

However, those risking their health to work on the frontline will want assurances that the government is doing everything it can to keep them safe, through adequate PPE and increased testing. Equally, these efforts would only be improved if the Government removed current financial barriers for foreign-trained medical staff too.

There remain further, legitimate questions to ask of government. Far more support is needed for care workers who look after the most vulnerable. The Health Secretary must set out how he will make up for lost time and guarantee continued social care at a safe standard in the coming weeks and months.

Lib Dems: Prison lockdown must be followed by rehabilitation investment

Responding to BBC reports that "prisoners in England and Wales will be confined to their cells for 23 hours a day and allowed out only to shower and use pay-phones, with all visits cancelled", Liberal Democrat Justice Spokesperson Daisy Cooper said:

"This is a regrettable but necessary measure to limit the spread of coronavirus in prisons and keep prison staff, prisoners and our communities safe.

However, it must only be a temporary measure for the duration of this emergency. It is vital that the Government recognises the damage this will do to prisoners' rehabilitation and the likelihood that it will lead to more reoffending."

Prisoners already spend too much time locked in their cells, unable to engage in productive activity or receive rehabilitative services. Reoffending rates are already far too high.

When this crisis is over, the Government must focus on dramatically improving rehabilitation, both in prison and in the community, to stop reoffending and prevent people becoming victims of crime.

Ed Davey responds to Prime Minister's statement on coronavirus

In response to the Prime Minister's statement on the UK's response to the coronavirus pandemic, Acting Leader of the Liberal Democrats Ed Davey said:

"Many people will be anxious about the steps the government has taken, but it is the right decision to restrict our normal way of life to tackle this crisis.

We must do all we can to stop the spread of this virus and I urge people to play their part by following the measures that have been set out, and not risk their own or others' health and wellbeing by ignoring these."

There are legitimate questions as to whether this step should have been taken sooner and how well the advice of experts is being communicated with the public.

The Liberal Democrats will continue to do all we can to support the most vulnerable in our communities, and work to try and secure more support for the self-employed, charities and others who still need more support from government in the coming months.

Lib Dems: Government reduction in temporary powers doesn't go far enough

Responding to the publication of the government's amendment requiring a six month Parliamentary review of the emergency powers in the Coronavirus Bill, Acting Leader of the Liberal Democrats Ed Davey said:

"Emergency powers are clearly necessary to protect individuals and communities as far as possible from the coronavirus.

"However, many of the powers in this Bill have serious implications for civil liberties and human rights. They must only be used when necessary during this emergency - and not a moment longer."

It is good that the Government has listened to our concerns and introduced an amendment for the Commons to have a vote on the law after six months. However, that is not enough to give Parliament proper scrutiny of the powers in this Bill.

That's why the Liberal Democrats have tabled our own amendment to allow both Houses of Parliament to consider the legislation in full every three months.

Liberal Democrats will remain vigilant to ensure that any restrictions on civil liberties are only temporary, and that our rights and freedoms are fully restored once this crisis is over.

Government urged to agree emergency Covid-19 funding for charities

Yesterday we called on the Government to set up a dedicated grant for charities during the Covid-19 crisis, following conversations with professionals in the Voluntary Sector.

Writing to the Government, Liberal Democrat MP Wera Hobhouse argued that the voluntary sector will be absolutely vital during the Covid-19 crisis but warned "non-profits have been left in the dark."

Charities are able to provide networks of volunteers to reach out to the at-risk who may be self-isolating. They are also a vital source of information and support networks for people who are homeless, hungry, isolated or sick.

According to discussions the Liberal Democrats have had with professionals in the Voluntary Sector, many charities have been hit financially by the Covid-19 crisis but will only be able to apply for government loans if more than half their income comes from trading activity.