Election an opportunity to win back privacy

Liberal Democrat Leader Nick Clegg will today say this election is ‘an opportunity for the British people to vote to take their privacy back’.

In his speech to Privacy International to mark their 20th Anniversary, Nick Clegg will say: “Labour has spent 13 years trampling over people’s privacy. From allowing children’s fingerprints to be taken at school without their parents’ consent; to making us a world leader in CCTV; to wasting vast sums of taxpayers’ money on giant databases that hoard our personal details. And now we hear that ministers want pensioners to swap their bus passes for ID cards.

“The Government’s staggering record on losing private data – leaving it in pub car parks and on commuter trains – just makes matters worse.

“And there’s an even bigger issue at stake: Labour’s flagrant disregard for our privacy flies in the face of hard won British liberty. It betrays a deep distrust of the British people, as well as an obsession with controlling every aspect of everyday life from Whitehall.

“Those same reflexes underpin this Government’s obsession with law-making. Since 1997 they have flooded the statute books with nearly 4,300 new ways of making us criminals. Some of them are completely bizarre, like ‘disturbing a pack of eggs when directed not to by an authorised officer’, and ‘causing a nuclear explosion’, as if we needed a new law for that.

“And where do all these new laws get us? Only one in a hundred crimes ends in a conviction in court.

“The Conservatives talk a good game on privacy, but scratch beneath the surface and it’s clear they can’t be trusted to roll back Labour’s surveillance state. Just look at their plans to make it even easier for the police to watch and record people getting on with their daily lives, all in the name of cutting red tape.

“Only the Liberal Democrats will bring an end to the endless snooping on innocent people.”

Labour has let down unpaid carers

“The Liberal Democrats will guarantee that a million unpaid carers who work the longest hours get a week’s break every year – to be taken in whichever way they choose,” says the Liberal Democrat Shadow Health Secretary. Commenting on today’s Princess Royal Trust for Carers report, which reveals that next year Primary Care Trusts only plan to spend 25% of the £100m they have been allocated to increase services for carers for this purpose, Norman Lamb said: “This report makes clear that Labour has completely let down millions of hardworking unpaid carers across the country.

“Yet again we see that ministers have chased headlines with grand spending commitments but completely failed to make sure the money gets through to the people who really need it. This is tantamount to a fraud on vulnerable people.

“The Liberal Democrats will guarantee that a million unpaid carers who work the longest hours get a week’s break every year – to be taken in whichever way they choose. Only a guaranteed right will stop vital funds for respite being diverted into other parts of the NHS.”

Liberal Democrats pass plans to clean up politics

Liberal Democrat Spring Conference this weekend passed plans to clean up politics and urgently create a fairer and more local political system. The proposals include:

· A fairer voting system

· A requirement for those who stand for Parliament or sit in the House of Lords to pay tax in Britain

· A fully elected second chamber

· The right for voters to sack their MP.

Commenting, Liberal Democrat Manifesto Chair, Danny Alexander said, “Our broken political system desperately needs to be cleaned up. Public confidence in politics is at an all time low, and the way the country is governed needs urgent reform.

“The Liberal Democrats have passed plans today to make politics fairer, local and more transparent.

“Labour has had 13 years to change our broken politics, and it’s failed to do so.

“Only the Liberal Democrats would end safe seats, reform the voting system and give local people a real say over how their neighbourhoods are governed.”

Longest serving Tory in Europe joins the Liberal Democrats

The former leader of the Conservative MEPs has announced his defection to the Liberal Democrats at the Party’s Spring Conference in Birmingham. Edward McMillan-Scott, who was the Conservative’s most senior MEP, has joined the Liberal Democrats. He announced his defection to the Liberal Democrats at the Party’s Spring Conference in Birmingham.

Edward McMillan-Scott, the Vice-President of the European Parliament with responsibility for human rights and democracy, was welcomed to the Liberal Democrats by Leader Nick Clegg.

Edward, who is MEP for Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire said: “I have been around the higher circles of the Conservative Party for long enough to fear that on Europe Cameron says one thing in opposition and will do another in Government.

“I have long fought against totalitarianism and the extremism and religious persecution it brings. It was wrong of Cameron to associate with MEPs who have extremist pasts in his new European alliance.

“My reasons for joining the Liberal Democrats are that in Nick Clegg they have a leader whom I like, admire and respect. They are internationalists, not nationalists. They are committed to politics based the values of fairness and change.

“From being a liberal Conservative I become a conservative Liberal. Most of my family are liberals: I am pleased to join the Liberal family.”

Liberal Democrat Leader Nick Clegg said:”I am delighted to welcome Edward McMillan-Scott to the Liberal Democrats.

“For many years he has fought for human rights and democracy world wide and he is rightly a respected politician across Europe.

“As someone of principle he has refused to cosy up to right wing extremists, despite pressure from the Tory machine.

“This flies in the face of David Cameron’s claims of change. It shows that people of principle, who believe in fairness and want real change for Britain are at home in the Liberal Democrats.”

Tameside BNP Euro-MP accused of expenses cover-up

Nick Griffin has been accused by Tameside’s Lib Dem MEP of an expenses cover-up. British National Party leader Griffin has yet to publish any details of how he is using expenses from the European Parliament that could be worth more than £280,000 per year. He is the only one of the North West’s 8 MEPs to provide no financial information at all on his website.

Despite an allowance of £14,000 a month for the payment of staff Griffin lists only 3 employees, one of whom is part time and one of whom also works for Yorkshire MEP Andrew Brons.

Nick Griffin’s failure to make details of his expenses available comes despite a BNP election campaign last year that attacked MEPs for having “snouts in the trough.”

The Electoral Commission is currently investigating the party for a breach of regulations after its own auditor refused to sign off the 2008 accounts.

Tameside Liberal Democrat MEP Chris Davies has led a campaign for openness and transparency in the European Parliament and publishes all details of his expenses.

Today he called on Nick Griffin to reveal all. He said, “No-one likes hypocrites, and the BNP will do itself no good by gaining a reputation for sleaze as well as hate.”

“It is time that the stone was lifted on Griffin’s expenses and light was allowed to shine on what lies beneath.”

Holidays for cats, dogs and ferrets

New EU rules will allow family pets to take continental holidays for years to come. Agreement has been reached to extend the ‘Pets’ Passport’ scheme for cats, dogs and ferrets that have been vaccinated against rabies.

British pets are likely to benefit the most. They make up 60% of all the animals in Europe taking advantage of the arrangements.

Tameside’s Liberal Democrat Euro-MP Chris Davies says that it is an idea that the UK gave to the rest of Europe.

He said: “The UK‘s Pets’ Travel scheme is 10 years old and ended the misery of quarantine for thousands of pets and their owners. More than 600,000 have crossed our borders since then.

“The arrangements were copied and extended throughout the EU in 2005 and have proved a great success.”

Rabies incidents across Europe have fallen from 2,679 cases in domestic animals in 1990 to just 251 in 2008, with none attributable to animals with ‘passports.’ But some EU countries still maintain restrictions. In Portugal, for example, ferrets are classified as ‘vermin’ and may be destroyed by the authorities.

Pets’ ‘passports’ are usually embedded microchips that provide proof of rabies vaccination.

Tory party has been bought like a banana republic

Commenting on Lord Ashcroft’s admission that he is non-domiciled for tax purposes, Liberal Democrat Shadow Home Secretary, Chris Huhne said, “The Conservatives’ biggest donor is a tax-dodger from Belize who has not paid a penny of British tax on the vast bulk of his estimated £1.1bn fortune held offshore.

“This raises extraordinary questions about the judgement of successive Tory leaders – William Hague, Michael Howard and David Cameron – whose view seems to be that only little people should pay tax.

“The Tory party has been bought like a banana republic.”

If Brown believed in fairness he would stop RBS bonuses

Commenting on reports that RBS is set to pay out over £1bn in bonuses despite expectations of poor performance to be announced tomorrow, Liberal Democrat Shadow Scotland Secretary, Alistair Carmichael said, “The idea of a bank which is still propped up by taxpayers paying out over a billion in bonuses is offensive. There should be no rewards for failure.

“With people across the country having to tighten their belts, bankers are living on another planet if they think they deserve millions in bonuses.

“RBS is effectively owned by the public. If Gordon Brown really believed in fairness he would intervene to stop these bonuses going ahead.”

EU failing on CCS goals

A pledge by EU leaders to have up to 12 plants to demonstrate carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology operating by 2015 is set to fail, local MEP Chris Davies has warned. CCS development is regarded as crucial to curbing the emission of CO2 from the world’s growing number of fossil fuel power stations. Instead of being released into the atmosphere the gas is buried permanently deep underground.

Earlier this month a subsidy package likely to be worth more than £4 billion was approved by EU governments.

But Chris Davies, the MEP who leads on CCS issues in the European Parliament, has warned that the funding approval process for demonstration projects is too slow.

He told a CCS conference in London today: “As things stand there is no prospect of the EU meeting its target. We will be lucky to have 2 or 3 commercial-scale projects in operation by 2015.

The MEP called on the European Commission to sweep aside “bureaucratic obstacles” to accelerate the selection and construction of CCS-equipped power plants.

Davies said: “Every week of delay increases the risks of global warming and denies European industry the opportunity to become the world leader in CCS technology.”

Overcrowded housing reveals Labour’s failure

Commenting on today’s report by Lloyds TSB Insurance which reveals the number of families living in overcrowded homes has hit a record high, Liberal Democrat Shadow Housing Minister, Sarah Teather said: “The news that a record number of families are trapped in overcrowded housing is yet more devastating evidence of Labour’s failure on social housing.

“We urgently need to build new family-sized homes, and get a grip on the number of properties sitting empty and unused.”