The Liberal Democrat Coronavirus Update

March 27, 2020 5:00 PM
Originally published by UK Liberal Democrats

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 Campaign 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 safe from crime while also slowing the spread of coronavirus.