Compassion in World Farming

Many people have been writing to me regarding Compassion in World Farming’s campaign survey. Liberal Democrats believe in the highest standards of animal welfare and will continue to fight for these.

Despite an EU-wide ban on battery cages for hens coming into force in 2012, in the UK many hens are still kept in cages that do not give them enough space. We will bring in a ban on all caged hens to ensure that hens have sufficient space and a good quality of life.
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Facts Matter

The Liberal Democrats have always valued honesty and conveying a true account of us and our vision to the British people. Rebuilding trust is a crucial challenge for today’s politicians, and all politicians are responsible for ensuring that they do their utmost to deserve the trust of their voters.

A free and reliable press scrutinising and holding politicians to account is also essential for a healthy democracy. Fake news is a real problem, causing people to mistrust politicians and the media.
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Simultaneous policy campaign (Simpol)

Many people have been writing to me about the simultaneous policy campaign (Simpol). As a committed internationalist I recognise the benefits of working across borders to solve global problems, which is why I am happy to support the Simpol campaign.

In a more globalised, interdependent world, freedom for individuals is not best protected solely by the nation state. So many of the issues we face such as climate change, terrorism, tax avoidance and evasion and international crime do not respect national borders. That’s why it is imperative that we work with other countries to tackle these global issues in a united way. Doing so at different paces runs the risk of disadvantaging first movers. I do not want the UK to be held back by acting ahead of the curve.

That is why, the Liberal Democrats believe it is vital for Britain to continue to work actively and constructively with our allies and partners in the European Union, Commonwealth, UN and NATO to engage with and develop policy responses that promote liberal internationalism and an international rules-based system.

We are strong and passionate supporters of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which replaced the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in 2015. The principle that underpins the Sustainable Development Goals is ‘leave no-one behind’, which is consistent with our values as a party and also our international development priorities, such as protecting and empowering the most vulnerable in society – women, children, minorities and disabled people. Liberal Democrats want the SDGs to apply to all economies, big and small, to build upon the success of the MDGs. It will only be through cross-border cooperation that we can approach issues such as ending FGM within a generation.

I was proud that when in Coalition Government, it was Liberal Democrat Ministers that played a fundamental role in promoting international cooperation, human rights and international law around the world. This included a Liberal Democrat Climate Change Secretary playing a pivotal role in securing an ambitious EU climate change deal to reduce our greenhouse gases by 40% by 2030, which highlighted our commitment to working in unison across national borders to address the issues we face.

As the world becomes more globalised and interdependent nation states cannot fully protect individuals. It is in the interests of all countries to create a system of international law and governance at the global level.

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Refugees Welcome Pledge

Many people have contacted me about the refugee crisis and my party’s position on helping those seeking safety from war and persecution.

I share the deep concern about the refugee crisis in Europe that we have witnessed in recent years, which has stemmed principally from the ongoing conflict in Syria and also from further instability in the surrounding region.

This Conservative Party’s response to the refugee crisis has not just been unsatisfactory, it has been shameful. The Liberal Democrats have always opposed the Conservatives mealy-mouthed approach to the biggest humanitarian crisis since the Second World War. To put this into perspective, the Government’s 20,000 refugee target is equivalent to around 0.4% of registered Syrian refugees in the region.

Under the Theresa May, the Conservatives have also u-turned on two previous pledges, one to take more refugees from Syria and another to help abandoned child refugees. I am proud that the Liberal Democrats are a party that welcomes refugees and accepts its responsibilities.

In our manifesto, the Liberal Democrats have set out a plan to take 50,000 refugees over five years from Syria in the next parliament, as well as reopening the Dubs programme for unaccompanied asylum seeking children stranded in Europe, and working with international partners to create safe and legal routes.

The Liberal Democrats will not let the refugee crisis slip from the agenda. The Liberal Democrats have always been an internationalist party and we will do our upmost to counter the dangerous nationalist and isolationist arguments that have been put forward on this issue. It is critical that the UK works with our neighbours, so that we may feed into the decision making process and deliver a united response to the refugee crisis here in Europe.

The Conservatives’ total reluctance to do so is not only damaging our reputation, it is limiting the ability to find a solution and extending the suffering of those who are making these desperate journeys.

I am more than happy to sign the Refugees Welcome Pledge. I believe this commitment is extremely important in outlining the support candidates should give to welcoming people forced to flee war and persecution and helping them rebuild their lives.

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Rough sleeping

The Liberal Democrats are committed to doing more to prevent and tackle homelessness and rough sleeping in the UK. We can and must do more to get homeless people off our streets and into permanent accommodation.

As you are aware our manifesto for the 2017 General Election is still being written. However, the Liberal Democrats are calling for a cross-party, national strategy to end homelessness by 2020. We are extremely concerned about the impact of social rent reductions on funding for homeless shelters. We supported an amendment to the Welfare Reform and Work Bill which sought to exempt ‘supported housing’ from these reductions. The Government failed to commit to the exemption, instead suspending the cuts for supported housing for one year only.

The number of people sleeping rough in the UK rose to 4,134 in 2016, which is a 16% increase from the previous year, which in turn saw a 12% increase from the year before. There are many more people who do not show up in these statistics – those who are staying with friends or family members, or living in squats – often in very insecure and inappropriate accommodation. Research by Crisis suggests about 62% of single homeless people are ‘hidden’ and may not show up in official figures. The hidden homeless are often subject to exploitation and risks to personal safety and health are high.

The average age of death for a street homeless person is only 47 years old. The needs of homeless people often extend beyond housing and include physical and mental health needs, and without a permanent address many find it hard to access services, benefits and practical opportunities to find a job, get advice or vote. We are aware that at least four in ten homeless people suffer from mental health problems. The Liberal Democrats believe that mental health is just as important as physical health, and we have made it a priority to deliver equality between the two in the delivery of public services.

We believe that it is a national scandal that so many people are sleeping on the streets in 21st century Britain. By increasing support for homelessness prevention and ensuring proper funding for emergency accommodation, we can end rough sleeping across the country. The Liberal Democrats will also ensure that each local authority has at least one provider of Housing First services, to allow long-term homeless people to live independently in their own homes. The evidence suggests that supporting people and giving them long-term, stable places to stay is far more successful in tackling homelessness than constantly moving them to different temporary accommodation.

One of the main causes of homelessness is the ending of tenancies in the private rented sector. This sector is home for 18% of the population. Private sector rents have become untenably high in many parts of Britain, most notably in London, and many renters are now paying more than half their disposable income in rent. Moving from one rented home to another can be very expensive, with high lettings fees and large deposit requirements. The Liberal Democrats have an ambitious plan in place to tackle the housing crisis, with a view to not only to meet current demand, but also to tackle historic under-supply of homes.

Until we get to grips with the housing crisis and build the homes we need, we are not going to be able to end homelessness. We want to see bold action taken in the next Parliament on housing, and we are proud that the Liberal Democrats are leading the way with plans to do just that.

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