Energy firms clobbered customers through the cold snap

Commenting on Ofgem figures showing that energy companies are making £105 profit per customer, a 40% increase in the last three months, Liberal Democrat Shadow Energy and Climate Change Secretary, Simon Hughes said: “Energy companies clobbered households even as they struggled through the cold snap.

“Cynical price cuts now won’t disguise bumper profits made on the back of grossly unfair fuel bills.

“Energy firms should be forced to show how much profit they make on every pound they charge at the bottom of every fuel bill.”

Tameside Euro-MP welcomes European move to end horse cruelty

Tameside Lib Dem MEP Chris Davies has welcomed a successful step forward to ending the cruelty suffered by horses transported for slaughter. Last week, a written declaration calling for action was adopted in the European Parliament, having been signed by a majority of MEPs.

The declaration, supported by World Horse Welfare, was launched before Christmas to highlight the scandalous suffering endured by many horses as they are moved in lorries and trailers. Commenting on the development, Chris Davies said, “This is very good news for everyone campaigning to stop animal cruelty in Europe. The European Parliament has come on board alongside a petition signed by 120,000 citizens to demand action to end the suffering of horses.

“Euro MPs from all parties have looked at evidence that EU rules meant to protect the welfare of horses during long distance transport are being flouted, resulting in appalling cruelty.

“In too many countries there are too few inspections or none at all. Now that a majority of MEPs have signed the written declaration, the issue must be looked into at a European level.

“This success is thanks to the hard work of World Horse Welfare and the campaigning carried out by hundreds of individuals, including many in Tameside.”

Over 100,000 horses are transported long distances across the continent to slaughter every year, many of them in inhumane conditions, causing exhaustion, dehydration, injury and death. Among the abuses uncovered were examples of horses being denied rest stops, food and water and packed like sardines into steel lorries where temperatures can be above 40 degrees. Some of the horses suffer terrible injuries or are dead on arrival at their destination.

Greenpeace boss praises Lib Dem green jobs plan

John Sauven Greenpeace Executive Director has said of the new Lib Dem plans to create jobs in wind power: “This is the kind of practical vision that will bring Britain huge benefits.

“Using shipyards to launch a fleet of offshore turbines could make Britain an international powerhouse in wind power, and create thousands of jobs.

“But if we don’t realise the huge potential of renewable energy in the UK, then we risk being left behind by other European countries.”

Nick Clegg talks about the green jobs plan (Youtube video)

Our Green Jobs Plan

Liberal Democrat Leader Nick Clegg today set out a manifesto pledge to create 57,000 jobs by investing £400million upgrading disused shipyards to enable the production of off-shore wind turbines. The proposals would enable firms to manufacture off-shore wind turbines in the UK, instead of seeing them built abroad due to out-of-date facilities. Current plans to expand wind farms in the North and Irish seas could see every one of the 6,400 turbines needed brought in from abroad, as there are currently no turbine manufacturers in the UK.

Wind turbines in wind farmLib Dem renewable energy plans would create 57,000 jobs

British ports are ideally located to host turbine manufacturers due to their proximity to the off-shore wind farms; however, they are currently unable to invest due to the lack of appropriate docks with suitable space.

The proposals to invest in physical infrastructure to support a greener economy also include a pledge to invest £100million in training and testing facilities, including at universities with specialist engineering research facilities such as Loughborough, Durham and Newcastle.

Commenting, Nick Clegg said:

“We need to make sure we come out of this recession with a rebalanced and green economy.

“Our plans would act as a huge boost for Britain’s budding wind industry and create nearly 60,000 jobs in many shipyard cities where unemployment is a huge problem.

“New off-shore turbines, with blades the size of the London Eye, need to be built and launched from modern docks, so we need to upgrade our shipyards to take advantage of this massive opportunity.

“Just imagine the docks and shipyards along the coastline of Britain coming to life and leading the world in this new technology.

“Expanding off-shore wind will create jobs but unless we act now, these jobs won’t be British jobs. It’s a scandal that 90% of the £1.75bn contract for a wind farm off the coast of Kent is going to foreign contractors, with the turbines being manufactured in Germany.

“Investing in infrastructure for a new green economy not only helps create jobs now but will allow Britain to take its place at the cutting edge of this growing industrial sector for the future.

“Britain clearly has the manufacturing and engineering expertise to lead the world in this green technology but government must play its part in supporting this.”

The Policy in brief

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The Liberal Democrats will renovate and adapt facilities in seven North and Irish Sea ports so they can be used to build the giant turbines needed for off-shore wind energy. This will be a huge boost for Britain’s budding wind industry and create 57,000 jobs in many shipyard cities where unemployment is a huge problem.

This plan forms part of the Liberal Democrats’ economic stimulus and job creation package. In the first year of a Liberal Democrat government, over £3.6bn of spending will be redirected to create jobs and build up Britain’s infrastructure. In the following years this money will be redirected to other Liberal Democrat spending priorities and reducing the structural deficit.

Why is it necessary

Energy from wind must meet a much larger proportion of Britain’s energy needs if we are to cut carbon emissions and our reliance on fuel imported from abroad. But there’s a problem: there is hardly anywhere in Britain suitable to build the giant turbines needed. That holds back our industry and also the much-needed expansion of wind energy.

Liberal Democrats are committed to increasing the proportion of our electricity that comes from renewables to 40% by 2020. The majority of that electricity will have to come from off-shore wind – so we need to build at least 6,400 offshore wind turbines, 2.5 a day.

The technology we need is ready and the consortiums who have won the right to build offshore wind farms in the North and Irish Seas are now looking for manufacturers to build the turbines. If action is not taken now all the manufacturing jobs that these orders could create will go abroad where there are already the facilities to build huge wind turbines. Only if existing port facilities close to the off-shore wind farms of the North and Irish Seas are converted will the turbines be built here and the jobs created here too.

Renovating ports: The Liberal Democrats will invest £400million in refurbishing ports in the North of England and Scotland so they can manufacture offshore wind turbines. They will be upgraded so they are suitable for construction and testing facilities and are of a reasonable depth for the large boats used to transport the blades and towers. All port authorities with direct access to the North and Irish seas, the crucial areas for offshore wind development, will be invited to bid to be part of the scheme.

For example, ports in the North of England around Liverpool, Newcastle, Hull, Middlesbrough and ports in Scotland around Edinburgh, Dundee, Aberdeen and Glasgow will all be eligible for funding. Based on the cost of the recent renovation of Great Yarmouth, it is estimated that £400million will be enough for the renovation of seven ports.

The Liberal Democrats will also invest £100million through the Renewables and Energy Efficiency Delivery Authority (an agency we will establish, modelled on the Olympics Delivery Authority) who will invest in training and testing facilities, including at universities which specialise in this kind of engineering research such as Loughborough, Durham and Newcastle. In Government, the Liberal Democrat would work with the education sector and industry to ensure we have the skilled workforce to support new world class facilities.

Jobs: This investment will create 12,000 jobs in port development and facilitate a further 45,000 new jobs in the manufacturing, construction and supply chain of offshore wind energy within the UK.

Labour’s PFI costing the NHS 63 billion pounds

Commenting on Number 10’s refusal to answer questions about the £63bn PFI (Public Finance Initiative) bill facing the NHS, Liberal Democrat Shadow Health Secretary, Norman Lamb, said: “Labour’s scandalous mismanagement of the NHS has left many hospitals facing PFI bills they simply cannot afford.

“Gordon Brown’s speech contains even more spending commitments but he has yet to explain how on earth he intends to pay for the damage he’s already done to the future of the NHS.

“Despite the enormous amounts of money we owe for these hospitals, many of them will never end up in public ownership. Hospitals all over the country are mortgaged to the hilt and there are serious concerns that these repayments will lead to cuts in vital services.

“We need a new approach to public services in this country. By setting up an infrastructure bank the Liberal Democrats will ensure that key projects get access to the funding they need to revitalise our economy.

“The Liberal Democrats will change the way the NHS works so that money goes further and patients come first.”

Figures released yesterday by the Liberal Democrats have revealed that the NHS is facing a £63bn bill for PFI hospitals which are only worth £11bn. The figures also reveal that:

· The first payments for hospital PFIs began in 1999 and the NHS still owes £58bn on 106 PFI contracts over the next three decades

· The NHS will have to pay back £7.3bn in PFI payments over the next Parliament alone (2010-2015)

· The most expensive PFI contract was for Wythenshawe Hospital where the NHS will pay back 16 times the original capital value

Liberal Democrats will fight for fair votes

Commenting on BBC reports that the Government intends to put forward a referendum on the Alternative Vote for the House of Commons, Liberal Democrat Shadow Home Secretary, Chris Huhne said: “If this is confirmed then it is a deathbed conversion to electoral reform from a party facing an historic defeat, which is why scepticism is warranted.

“The Alternative Vote is a small step in the right direction, but it is not a proportional system and it does not give voters real power over both the party and the person elected as MP.

“Only the Single Transferable Vote in multi-member seats would abolish MPs‘ meal tickets for life, and we will fight to amend this proposal to give people a real choice for a more significant change.”

Shelter report highlights Labour failure on housing

“Housing costs are making the elderly more isolated and keeping families apart,” said the Liberal Democrat Shadow Housing Minister.

Commenting on today’s report by Shelter, which reveals the impact unaffordable housing is having on families, Sarah Teather said:

“This report highlights Labour’s failure to provide affordable housing and get a grip on the housing crisis.

“It is appalling that housing costs are making the elderly more isolated and keeping families apart.

“Allowing thousands of houses across the country to sit empty is nothing short of a scandal. The cost of bringing these homes back into use is just a fraction of the cost of building, yet the Government is sitting idly by while they fall into disrepair.”

Labour failure to give extra support to poorer children shameful

“The Liberal Democrats would give schools the extra money they need to cut class sizes and give individual attention to children who are struggling,” said the Liberal Democrat Shadow Schools Secretary.

Commenting on Government figures showing that almost a third of poor boys cannot write their own name after a year at primary school, David Laws said:

“These depressing figures reveal that the gap between poorer children and the better-off is clear when they are only five years old.

“Labour’s shameful failure to give children from disadvantaged backgrounds extra support means that this gap grows wider as children grow older.

“The Liberal Democrats would give schools the extra money they need to cut class sizes and give individual attention to children who are struggling.”

Iraq inquiry evidence suggests Blair and Brown knew war was illegal

Liberal Democrat Shadow Foreign Secretary, Edward Davey says: “Michael Wood’s statement is the final nail in the coffin of the case for a legal war. We need to know just who saw this advice. Did it reach Tony Blair and Gordon Brown? And if not, why not?

“This startling revelation suggests Tony Blair, Jack Straw and probably Gordon Brown knew the war was illegal and may have deliberately and knowingly misled Parliament and the public. This puts Labour’s leadership squarely in the dock.

“Blair and Brown must be closely interrogated on this when they appear before Chilcot.”

Ed Davey was commenting on the statement of Michael Wood, the FCO’s legal adviser from 2001-06, that: ‘I considered that the use of force against Iraq in March 2003 was contrary to international law’, and ‘[I] did not agree with the position, stated in the Parliamentary Answer of 17 March 2003 and the paper of the same date entitled “Iraq: Legal Basis for the Use of Force”, that SCRs 678, 687 and 1441, read together, amounted to such authorization,’

Tameside MEP fights for fuel efficient cars

Car drivers are getting more miles to the gallon out of their vehicles, with big improvements still to come. Tameside’s Lib Dem MEP Chris Davies says that fuel efficiency is set to increase by by 20% over the next six years.

Car manufacturers are gearing up to meet the requirements of a new EU law that forces them to reduce CO2 emissions from the fuel they burn. Latest figures for the 12 million cars sold in Europe in 2008 reveal that average emissions were down by 3.3%, the largest fall since records began to be kept a decade ago.

Our Liberal Democrat Euro-MP Chris Davies, who helped negotiate the new law, says that the manufacturers are introducing long overdue changes.

He said: “They were slow to start, but car builders are now being forced to curb CO2 emissions.

“Vehicles are becoming more fuel efficient and this will help to keep down the cost of driving.”

Average emissions from new cars sold in the UK during 2008 stood at 158.2 gCO2/km compared to a European average of 153.5 gCO2/km. Across Europe currently 47.3% of car sold are fuelled by petrol, 51.4% by diesel, while 1.3% use alternative power sources.