Opinion: Britain needs jobs, not UKIP/Tory insults

April 24th, 2014 by danielbarker
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Posted April 24, 2014

Published on Liberal Democrat Voice By Antony Hook

Over 4 million British jobs depend on exports to the Single Market.

Those are the words of the Centre for Economic and Business Research regarding their recent report into British Jobs and the Single Market.

When we talk about this issue UKIP and the Tory Right throw around words like “liar”. When people do that it usually means they have lost the argument.

UKIP appear to be temperamentally unable of reasoned debate grounded in the evidence. Their leaders are like children who cover their ears and say “I can’t hear you”.

Their game is to bully and intimidate with insults. They underestimate the care we have for our neighbours and our country. This care compels us to make the case for being in Europe.

The many millions of jobs linked to our EU membership are not only those in firms that sell goods and services into the Single Market. More jobs are in firms that have their operations here because we are part of the EU. There are more jobs in sectors, like science and research that are funded by the EU (€80bn of EU funds will go into science in the next 5 years); if we leave the EU researchers in the UK won’t be able to apply; many will leave.

There are, of course, many further jobs that are supported by the spending of wages by people working in these three categories.

The additional benefit of the Single Market is for consumers. It means we can buy goods that they want to buy, wherever in Europe they are manufactured. Choice improves quality of life (people can choose goods that better meet their needs) and reduces the cost of living (access to cheaper goods).

These are elementary principles of free trade that every liberal understands.

By way of practical example, last week the Investment Management Association, whose members look after £4.5 trillion of our pensions and savings, said that being in the EU get us a better return.

UKIP and Tories claim that if we left the EU we could still enjoy full access to the Single Market and would not have to comply with expensive “red tape”. They say that if Europe did not give us market access, we could prevent our consumers buying their goods – a ludicrous threat of mutual self-harm.

If we left it is easy to imagine competitors to UK companies lobbying their governments to place restrictions on UK Single Market access in their sector. Staying in guarantees permanent Single Market access, with ever closer business opportunities.

Being out would mean that if, like Norway, we had access to the Single Market we would still have to comply with most rules of the Single Market but with no say in the making those rules. UKIP and the Conservatives have not answered the democratic deficit they would create.

What would happen to British famers who, outside the CAP, would face tariffs to export to other parts of Europe?

There is the expert evidence of a long list of British companies who conclude we get real benefits from being in Europe and should stay in.

The weight of evidence is persuasive that we are better off in the EU.

Photo: Some rights reserved by Zoonabar

* Antony Hook is MEP Candidate for the South East and practised as a criminal barrister for ten years. His campaign website is here.

Consumer confidence hits 3-year high

April 23rd, 2014 by danielbarker
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A survey by Lloyds Bank has found consumer confidence at its most positive level in over three years. Its Spending Power report said its measure of consumer sentiment reached 136 points in March, which is a new series high since their records began in November 2010. An overall balance of 5% more people think they will have more money to spend on discretionary items in the next six months rather than less, up from a 2% balance in February and minus 9% a year ago.

LibLink: Tim Farron – In 2010, we promised to deliver the Pupil Premium. In 2015, I want us to promise to deliver the Student Premium

April 22nd, 2014 by danielbarker
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Posted April 22, 2014

Published on Liberal Democrat Voice By NewsHound

Lib Dem party president Tim Farron has given his personal backing to the Lib Dems promising a Student Premium – modelled on the well-received Pupil Premium – at the next election. First proposed by his colleague Stephen Williams, Tim writes the Student Premium “could potentially change the game in terms of student uptake, especially from disadvantaged backgrounds”. Here’s an excerpt of his article for the April issue of the magazine, Politics First:

The Pupil Premium is being delivered only because the Liberal Democrats are in government – and it continues to be one of the biggest successes of this coalition government. The Pupil Premium was our party’s second highest priority policy (after our pledge to increase the income tax threshold), with £2.5 billion of new money specifically ear-marked to help support the most disadvantage children in school. … Now what has that got to do with Higher Education, I hear you ask?

Well, I would like to extend the scheme to Higher Education. Currently, we help and support young people through the pupil premium, catch up classes and even specialist tuition – but then at 18, if they go onto University, we leave them to the institution and hope as part of the access agreement, they will be eligible for support. HEFCE (higher funding education council for England) provides up to £150 million to help disadvantaged young people, but often students do not know the size of the grant they will receive until they arrive at university.

I want to change that – I want to extend the pupil premium to Higher Education. I believe that that will help
create a student pathway and give certainty to pupils and parents/carers that their son or daughter can afford
Higher Education. I think that could potentially change the game in terms of student uptake, especially from
disadvantaged backgrounds.

A student premium would be designed to guarantee financial help for all children on free school meals entering
higher education. I have seen reports that it could be worth around £2,500 per pupil, per year. That could make a massive difference to young people. I would also like funding and support packages to be offered – this way young
people and their families would have certainty and would not have to fill in form after form and then be offered
nothing at the end of it.

Before I became an MP, I worked in HE. I saw its value at first hand and how it can change the lives, not only of
young people, but women and men of all ages and backgrounds. I saw how the experience allows people to grow
and develop. A student premium will help more people to take advantage of that experience. Other MPs have seen
that opportunity, too – my colleague Stephen Williams MP first floated the idea in a pamphlet by Liberal Reform
called “Coalition and Beyond: Liberal Reforms for the Decade Ahead”. …

Education is critical to our hopes of a fairer society. I hope, just as the pupil premium was front and centre of
our 2010 manifesto, that the student premium will be prominently displayed come 2015.

* Newshound: bringing you the best Lib Dem commentary published in print or online.

Employment figures

April 19th, 2014 by danielbarker
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Figures published this week by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that more people are in work than ever before with levels of employment up to 30.4m. This shows that the Lib Dem plan to create a million jobs is working.

Unemployment has fallen by 77,000 in the three months to February 2014 to a rate of 6.9 percent – the lowest level in five years.

There’s also good news on salaries, with wages rising an average of 1.7 percent since last year, while inflation has dropped to 1.6 percent. Coupled with the Lib Dem £700 tax cut, which was delivered earlier this month, this means that working people get to keep more of their take home pay, helping to ease the squeeze on family budgets.

This wouldn’t be happening without the Liberal Democrats in government building a stronger economy in a fairer society.

Commenting, Danny Alexander said:

“These figures are some of the strongest evidence yet that we are embedding the recovery. We have record numbers in work and unemployment falling at the fastest rate in over a decade.

“With earnings now rising in line with prices and employment rising, these figures reinforce the fact that the only way to higher living standards is to take the difficult decisions needed to deliver our long term economic plan.

“There is still a great deal more to do, but today’s announcement is solid progress on building the stronger economy in a fairer society that Liberal Democrats entered coalition to deliver.”

Happy Easter

April 17th, 2014 by danielbarker
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The event of the weekend is taking place tomorrow morning in Walsall town centre – the Good Friday procession (Walking the way of the Cross). This re-enactment of the crucifixion (organised by Walsall Town Centre Ministry) is always well attended, with acting that draws onlookers into the incredible events of almost 2,000 years ago. The action starts at 10.30am at the top of Park Street.

Come along if you believe – to be part of a powerful act of witness, and if you don’t believe – to be challenged!

Former speech writer to Tony Blair says “I agree with Nick”

April 16th, 2014 by danielbarker
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Posted April 16, 2014

The former Speech Writer to Tony Blair said that he believes Nick Clegg is making a difference: “By stopping the Tory Right, the Deputy Prime Minister should be applauded by all liberal voters.”

Philip Collins worked as Tony Blair’s Chief Speech Writer, responsible for Blair’s very last speech as Leader of the Labour Party. In his article published today, he said that without the Lib Dems in Government, green taxes would be slashed, welfare cuts would be more severe, and there would be progress towards abolishing human rights legislation.

Commenting on the Europe debates, Collins said:

“During the debate on the European Union with Nigel Farage, it struck me that Nick Clegg had a clearer and more coherent thread to his politics than any of the other leaders, indeed any other senior politician.”

He also commented on George Osborne’s Budget speech, saying that it was notable that Osborne made a lot of the Liberal Democrat policy, such as raising the threshold at which people pay income tax to £12,500. He said that it is the liberal desire that people should keep more of the money that they earn.

In his article, Collins mentioned that he admires Nick Clegg’s emphasis on making social mobility a success. He spoke highly of the Liberal Democrats emphasis on childcare, stating that thanks to the Lib Dems, more money has been channelled to poorer children via the premium offered to schools in disadvantaged areas.

ITEM Club: Interest rates to remain low for 15 months

April 15th, 2014 by danielbarker
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EY ITEM Club has predicted that inflation and interest rates will remain low for at least a further 15 months. The spring forecast from the ITEM Club expects the economy to show “decent but unspectacular growth” up until the end of the year. But the group has warned that the FCA must use its powers to restrain over-enthusiastic homebuyers and stop them borrowing more than they can afford. Peter Spencer, chief economic adviser to the ITEM Club, said the FCA’s powers to police mortgage lending would “head off problems when interest rates rise”. The report predicts that inflation will average 1.6% in 2014 while wages will rise by an average of 1.7%, bringing to an end a long period in which prices have risen faster than incomes.

Garden cities planned

April 14th, 2014 by danielbarker
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Under Liberal Democrat plans, three new garden cities will be built in the countryside between Oxford and Cambridge. Nick Clegg, the Deputy PM, will say in the new Lib Dem manifesto that the new garden cities, which will have at least 15,000 new homes, will provide a solution to the “chronic” housing shortfall. The prospectus invites councils to put forward proposals for new garden cities with the support of their local communities. It states that they must be “ambitious” in scale, have good transport links, and be able to draw on private funding.

Mansion tax

April 11th, 2014 by danielbarker
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Danny Alexander MP outlined this week his proposals for a Mansion Tax. In a speech on tax on Wednesday, Danny described some of the details of the tax, which would apply on homes worth over £2 million.

The Liberal Democrats first proposed our Mansion Tax in 2009 and have been pushing for it to be implemented in Government, against huge opposition from the Conservatives.

During his speech, Danny said:

“As a Liberal Democrat, we are committed to finishing the job fairly too.

That means that in the next Parliament the job can’t all be done through spending cuts alone. That is in sharp contrast to the Conservatives, who think this can all be done through spending cuts, and in particular that the working age poor should bear the burden.

It is perhaps unsurprising that in addition to inheriting the consequences of a full blown financial crisis we also discovered a tax system which was a mess.

Full of anomalies, and opportunities for those intent on avoiding paying their fair share – it had more holes than Swiss cheese.

I’ve already mentioned capital gains tax and pensions tax relief as two key areas where in coalition we have made some changes.

One of the other most obvious was, and is, council tax.

Let me put this proposition to you …

Someone in a £700,000 home should pay the same council tax as some living in a house worth 7 million or 17 million, or even 70 million.

How do you feel about this?

Most people would agree that it is not right.

Well, over the past couple of years I’ve done a lot of work in the Treasury thinking through a fair reform.

Vince Cable had already done much of the ground work, much of the heavy lifting.

But now, in the Treasury, modelling and analysis has been done, property data processed, to understand how this can be delivered.

And so the new system I, as a Liberal Democrat, am proposing is really simple –

A modest additional banded levy on top of council tax for high value properties.

The annual charges, in addition to council tax will be set out in good time ahead of the General Election next year.

By building on the council tax system, there will be no need for a detailed valuation of the small proportion of properties affected.

Crucially this means that this policy could be implemented quickly after the election.

And people in homes valued at below £2 million would continue to pay just council tax.

Let me be crystal clear – There would be no additional charge on homes valued below £2 million.

The new levy will be collected in the same way as council tax, via local authorities, then pooled nationally.

Of course there will be appeals, and of course these will be heard properly, as they are currently with council tax.

But with a simple banded structure,

And with the level of the bands up rated annually, people living in typical family homes need have no fear of being sucked into this levy.

So, just as with the increases to the income tax personal allowance, I think there’s widespread support for what is self evidently a fair correction to an outdated system.

Even our esteemed Mayor gruffly conceded that new council tax bands were – ‘the kind of thing you need to look at’.

Simple. Practical. Deliverable. Fair.”

The three things Nick Clegg would change about the EU

April 10th, 2014 by danielbarker
Comment?

Posted April 10, 2014

Published on Liberal Democrat Voice By The Voice | Mon 7th April 2014 – 1:17 pm

13 hours after leaving the debate stage last Wednesday night, Nick Clegg was back on his regular Call Clegg radio show. The show had been nominated twice in the Radio Academy Awards to be presented next month.

The first caller, Caron from West Lothian, (who might she be, I wonder?) made the point that she was highly amused by David Cameron trying to pretend that he was the voice of reason on Europe when his plan was to sell all our employment rights down the river and then give us a referendum. Her question to him was that although he’s a powerful advocate of the EU, he acknowledges that it’s not perfect, what 3 things would he do to make it better.

Nick’s answer:
•More Trade
•Scrap the expensive monthly trek to Strasbourg (championed by all Lib Dem MEPs with a special mention for Edward McMillan-Scott)
•Less red tape for small businesses

He also remembered that when he was an MEP it took a decade and a half to decide on a chocolate directive – hardly the work of a monstrous superstate.

Later on in the problem, he came back to discussing Cameron’s plans and basically said that nobody really understood what it was about. That rather suggests that James Forsyth’s suggestion that the Tory plan would not be a barrier to a second coalition is not accurate. This is what Nick actually said:

I think David Cameron’s renegotiation – I still don’t understand what its supposed to be about. From what I’ve read in the newspapers, it’s a little tweak here and a little tweak there. I don’t think it’ll satisfy anyone in the Conservative party many of whom agree with Nigel Farage and want to leave the European Union altogether.

Asked about whether it would be a “red line” in any coalition negotiations, he added:

I believe in reform, but I don’t believe it’s a realistic prospect to do what I think David Cameron initially suggested which is to repatriate a bunch of powers. We’ll keep the good bits and let everyone else keep the bad bits.

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