“I am delighted that Nick Clegg has stood up for the British public on this.
“He was right to demand that these proposals be published as a draft, which gave us all a chance to see just how badly thought through the Home Office proposals were. And he is now right to say that what the Home Office propose is unacceptable.
“Spending billions of pounds to keep track of every website we go to and what we do on Facebook or Google, is simply wrong. If we want to actually cut crime then we should spend the extra money on the police.”
- Make the super-rich pay their fair share.
- Lower taxes for the average worker.
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In three and a half weeks, people up and down the country will elect their local councillors. Each council seat will be fought on different terms. Each neighbourhood has its own, unique needs.
But I bet you that, when all those people are deciding which name to put a cross by on 2 May, ultimately they’ll be asking themselves the same question: ‘While cuts are being made to public spending, who can I rely on to spend the money that is available on the right things?’
‘Which party can I rely on to strike the right balance: taking the difficult decisions to make savings, but doing so the fairest possible way?’ These elections are about one thing: priorities.
Difficult decisions will need to be made in local government, just as in national Government, and people understand that. But they – rightly – expect that their representatives should make the fairest possible decisions.
Next month, in wards across the country, people will be confronted with the same choice. Despite all their stated differences, a vote for Labour or the Tories will be a vote for the same thing.
Their record in local government shows that, even when millions of families are feeling the pinch, they’ll both squander taxpayers’ money on waste, inefficiency and their own vanity projects.
A vote for the Liberal Democrats, on the other hand, is a vote for a party which – wherever we’re in power – does it’s best to spread the burden of austerity fairly, investing in jobs and help for hard-pressed families. Only the Liberal Democrats will build a stronger economy and a fairer society, enabling everyone to get on in life.
Only the Liberal Democrats have the right priorities in tough times. Just take our tax changes. Today is the first working day of the new tax year. Today, because of Liberal Democrat tax reforms, more of the money you earn will go into your own pocket, and less to the taxman.
That’s because we’ve raised the point at which you start paying income tax, and now over 20 million people will pay £600 less in income tax than they did under Labour.
In households where two people are working, that’s an extra £1200 a year. £1200 to cover energy bills, or car insurance, or mortgage repayments, or to go towards a family holiday.
And next April it’ll go up again. People won’t pay a penny of income tax on the first £10,000 they earn. Millions of the lowest earners won’t pay any at all. At the same time we’ve asked for a bit more from those who can afford it. We’ve increased capital gains tax; introduced a higher rate of stamp duty and a £12.5bn banking levy; we’ve closed loopholes and capped tax relief to stop the very rich from gaming the system. And the Liberal Democrats will continue to argue for our mansion tax. The right priorities in tough times.
I know that Labour are trying desperately to gloss over these changes. They want to pretend that the only tax change this week is the reduction of the top rate, from 50p to 45p. But it’s the same old selective amnesia we always get from the two Eds about Labour's time in office.
Out of the 13 years they were in power, Labour had the 50p rate in place for just 36 days. For most of the time, Labour’s top rate was 40p. Not 45p. Not 50p. 40p – 5p less than now. And under the previous government a cleaner paid a higher rate of tax on their wages than a hedge fund manager selling their shares – a gross unfairness that we have fixed.
The sudden, synthetic fury we’re seeing from the Labour party is nothing more than an attempt to distract people from the most important change coming into effect: the tax cut for ordinary working people delivered by the Liberal Democrats.
That policy was on the front page of our manifesto, it’s been my priority from the moment we entered the Coalition, and now millions of people will feel the benefits.
In every single year of this Parliament the rich will pay a greater share of our nation's tax revenues than in any one year of the last government. The IFS have confirmed that, as a result of our changes, the wealthiest 10% of people are making the greatest contribution. So I will take no lectures from the Labour party on tax – the Liberal Democrats are making the tax system fair.
And it’s not just in Whitehall that we’re making the right choices, but in Liberal Democrat Town Halls too. Our councillors, like all councillors, have had to take some controversial decisions – I don’t deny that.
But look at our record and it’s clear that, wherever we can, Liberal Democrats are spreading the burden fairly, investing in ways that enable everyone to get on in life, not just the well off. That’s why, for example, this year the Liberal Democrats haven’t closed a single library.
Who have we done that for? For the bright teenager who comes from a chaotic home, but who wants a place to study so they can do well in their exams and go on to something better.
For the ambitious young men and women whose parents can’t afford to buy them the books and technology they need, but who want to forge a different path. And, despite money being tight, we’re investing in jobs for these young people too.
In Eastbourne and Watford, the Liberal Democrat councils are giving their town centres a boost – supporting thousands of local jobs. In Eastleigh, the Liberal Democrats are revitalising the local cricket ground so that it can host international test matches – that alone will create 500 new jobs. In Bath we’re supporting high tech start-ups so that they can grow and take on more staff. In Northumberland we're building new council houses this year, providing homes as well as giving the local construction industry a shot in the arm. The right priorities in tough times.
You won’t get that from the Conservatives. In Leicestershire, the former Conservative Council Leader spent £210,000 on his own personal chauffeur. In Somerset, because the Tories have insisted on cutting opening hours for rubbish tips and introducing charges to use them – a “tip tax” – flytipping has rocketed, leaving local residents stuck with the bill for cleaning it up. In the Cotswolds, after announcing nearly one and a half million pounds worth of cuts, how did the Conservative council try to boost staff morale? They hired a motivational magician – costing £19,000.
Here in Cornwall we’ve even seen the Conservative’s waste money hiring taxis to ferry teas and coffees between council buildings – again, while trying to push through an increase in Council tax. A rise Cornish Liberal Democrats successfully stopped. When savings need to be made, you just cannot rely on the Tories to make the fairest decisions. Their instincts drag them in the wrong direction.
And what about Labour? What are their priorities? Today we’ll hear from Ed Miliband about why people should vote for his party. Here’s what he won’t say. He won’t say: Labour are sorry they crashed the economy. And he won’t present a serious and detailed plan to fix the mess they created. That much we know.
The Labour party continue to be a blank page in British politics: they won’t accept for responsibility for what went wrong; they haven’t learnt from their mistakes; they have no ideas for the future. Above all, they are incapable of delivering a stronger economy. And it’s the same from the leadership all the way down.
Do you know how the Labour council in Derby are choosing to spend residents’ money? On emotive street posters passing all the blame for their cuts on to the Coalition Government, costing thousands of pounds – while at the same time they’re looking to make drastic cuts to homelessness services.
The Liberal Democrats are different. Only we can deliver a stronger economy and a fairer society – both. Only we have the right priorities in tough times. And we now have a national and local record to prove it. Our party has a strong story to tell – a story not of promises, but of action.
But people won’t hear our message unless you tell it to them. I know how hard you’re all working. I am grateful for all of the hours you put in. But I need to ask you to work even harder.
If you are fighting an election in your area – deliver more leaflets, canvass more people, make more calls. If you’re not fighting a council election – go somewhere that is, or make calls from wherever you are. Every wing of this party now needs to pull together, reminding our opponents that we have a unity, a resolve and a sense of purpose they could never compete with.
When the Liberal Democrats organise, no one campaigns like we do. Labour know it. The Tories know it. And they are going to throw everything at us – they haven’t forgotten Eastleigh. But guess what? Nor have we. And when you feel that you’ve given all you can, I want you to think back to that great victory.
I want you to remember how good it felt to confound our critics; remember how good it felt to win. It’s time to do it again, Liberal Democrats. Get out there and win.
The review follows a series of high profile allegations that the party failed to act on allegations of sexual impropriety.
The review will look at attitudes towards women in the party, as well as the employment relationship between staff, elected officials and volunteers; training; and how to lead a wider change in Westminster.
We are keen to hear from all those who have relevant experiences and views to help form an accurate picture, whether Party members, staff or public, relevant to the scope of the review.
The review will not be making judgements on specific cases or making any assumptions regarding the innocence or guilt of individuals.
You can find more about the review and how to contact us here:
Commenting, Chief Executive of the Liberal Democrats, Tim Gordon said:
“Following recent allegations it is clear that we in the Liberal Democrats failed to live up to our political ideals.
“We recognise that we need to adapt how we operate. As a political party which prides itself on equality, we must give everyone confidence they will be treated fairly and equally and that they will be listened to.
“It is vital this review is done independently of the party, in a way which can be frank and can scrutinise thoroughly. I am delighted Helena has agreed to chair the review. She has been a leading light in the development of women and breaking barriers, and I am sure that she will make an immensely positive difference to both our party and to politics.”
Helena Morrissey said:
“Too much of our society has operated in old-boys’ networks. It leads to an atmosphere where women don’t feel valued or listened to. We can only make changes in society when those at the top in business and politics lead by example.
“While prompted in difficult circumstances, this review is a very important step in giving everyone, especially women, a greater confidence in politics and the Liberal Democrats.
“I will be talking to people at all levels of the party to recognise where there have been failings to help guide a culture shift and develop a much more equal and trusting set of standards.”
We are keen to hear from all those who have relevant experiences and views to help form an accurate picture, whether Party members, staff or public, relevant to the scope of the review.
- Do you have examples of specific incidences where processes around complaints were not followed or where there appeared to be gaps in policies or procedures for dealing with such complaints?
- Can you provide examples which illustrate weaknesses in the Party’s attitudes and culture – past and present?
- Do you have ideas about what needs to change for the Party to look to the future with confidence that any form of harassment within the Party will be properly dealt with?
All submissions will be treated in confidence. Helena Morrissey will follow up with a number of those who submit written evidence where it is needed to explore specific aspects of testimony, either in-person or via other means.
The review will also be gathering all formal party policies and how these have evolved. We will conduct a range of interviews will people inside the party at all levels.
It is also important to hear from people no longer connected to the Liberal Democrats, but who may have information connected to past events.
Please submit all written evidence by Friday 5th April to email@example.com.
Evidence can also be sent, by Friday April 12th to:
8-10 Great George Street
A confidential voicemail is also available until 8pm on Friday April 12th on:
The phone number is a LDHQ number, but it is a voicemail only service which can only be accessed by Helena. Anything sent through the post will go through the standard Royal Mail screening. It will not be opened by anyone other than Helena.
Helena Morrissey CBE, Chief executive officer Newton Investment Management Helena joined Newton in 1994 as a fixed income fund manager and was appointed CEO in 2001. During her time running Newton’s bond funds she was twice-winner of Investment Week’s Global Bond Fund Manager of the year.
Helena is involved in many aspects of the UK fund management industry and was named the Financial News ‘Most Influential Woman in European Asset Management’ in 2010. She was the first female director of the UK’s Investment Management Association, serving from 2005 till 2012. She represents the investment industry on the FSA’s Practitioner Panel, a statutory body providing input to the regulators from practitioners’ perspectives . She is a member of the University of Cambridge Endowment Investment Board and chairman of the Eve Appeal, which funds research into gynaecological cancers. Helena is also the Chair of the Corporate Board of the Royal Academy of Arts. In 2010, Helena founded the 30% Club, a cross-business initiative aimed at achieving 30% women on UK corporate boards by 2015 through voluntary, business-led change. She was appointed CBE in the 2012 New Year’s Honours list.
A Cambridge philosophy graduate, she began her career as a global bond analyst with Schroders in New York. She is married with nine children.
Helena Morrissey will be assisted by barrister Jane Smithard, a former chair of the Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Candidates Association. Jane’s role is to advise Helena on the party structure and process, and not be involved in witness statements.
All submissions will be treated in confidence. Helena Morrissey will follow up with a number of those who submit written evidence where it is felt needed to explore specific aspects of testimony, either in-person or via other means.
If requested to attend a further interview with Helena, witnesses will have their travel costs covered by the review.
Meetings will not take place within Liberal Democrat associated buildings.
If attending an interview, you are allowed to bring a family member or friend with you. And their travel expenses will also be covered. You are also able to bring a legal representative.
We have set up access to counselling support through an independent provider of qualified counsellors. You can access this service at any time. Contact Public Concern at Work on 020 7404 6609 who are acting as the gateway to this service.
The Liberal Democrats have sought the assistance of Public Concern at Work, the UK’s leading whistle-blowing authority, to ensure that the whistle-blowing arrangement is sufficiently independent to provide the required support to those wishing to come forward in relation to the alleged behaviour of Lord Rennard.
Public Concern at Work have agreed to take over the role, temporarily filled by Kate Parminter, as the main point of contact for anyone wishing to come forward with further allegations or information.
Public Concern at Work are also able to provide witnesses with independent and confidential advice. They are able to provide guidance and help to victims with regards to who they should go to in the context of the reviews and investigations under way. They will assist individuals in contacting investigators, only where the individual wishes to do so.
Those wishing to come forward under this arrangement can do so by calling: 020 7404 6609.
If you have already contacted Kate Parminter, she will continue to support you and pass on information to the two investigations as instructed by you. There is no need to repeat this process with Public Concern at Work, unless you would like to do so.
We have set up access to counselling support through an independent provider of qualified counsellors. Anyone affected by the allegations who wishes to use this should contact Public Concern at Work, who are acting as the gateway to this service.
Inquiries by the Metropolitan Police are currently underway to ascertain whether criminal activity might have taken place. This is still at an early stage and there is no set time limit on when they must decide whether or not a criminal investigation should take place.
If you have information that may help the police with their inquiries as to whether criminal activity has taken place I would also strongly encourage you to contact them. You can do so by calling: 0208 721 4601. The initial call will be taken by clerical staff, and will then be followed up by specially trained officers.
We have appointed Alistair Webster QC to lead the formal internal investigation under the Party’s disciplinary rules into the specific allegations made about the conduct of Lord Rennard.
UPDATE: The internal disciplinary investigation has been put on hold to allow the police to continue with their investigation.
Alistair has prosecuted and defended many prominent cases. He has been a recorder of the Crown Court since 1991 and a QC since 1995. He is a former Chairman of the Liberal Democrat Lawyers Association and practices from chambers in Manchester and London. He is one of the country’s most experienced criminal lawyers and is currently the joint head of Lincoln House Chambers.
In accordance with the party constitution, internal party disciplinary investigations are conducted by people who hold current membership of the party.
Tim Gordon | Fri 8th March 2013 http://www.libdemvoice.org/update-on-party-response-to-allegations-of-sexual-impropriety-33592.html
“For years the UK Border Agency has failed to get control of immigration and asylum. Labour put the whole border control operation at arm’s length: they ended exit checks and pushed control of our borders away from the Home Office. But they had a backlog of hundreds of thousands of people – they completely lost control of the system.
“After years of neglect the Coalition Government has recognised the scale of the problem and is getting rid of the failed UK Border Agency. I hope this change will begin to get to grips with the immense backlog we face.
“When the agency responsible for immigration – established by Labour – can’t say who is actually in the country, and who should or should not be here, it is no wonder that immigration remains one for the public’s biggest concerns. To fix this, Lib Dems have always argued you have to have a proper enforcement agency and exit checks, and that’s what the Coalition is doing.
“Building a fairer society means making sure everyone plays by the rules. That means an immigration system that works for those who should be here, and acts against those who shouldn’t. Today’s announcement is a big step towards that.”
Robert Francis QC, who led the inquiry, recommended that there should be a legal duty of candour to ensure that patients and families are informed if treatment or care has caused death or serious injury.
The Coalition Government has also announced there will be a new role of Chief Inspector of Social Care to oversee the care received by elderly and vulnerable people, whether care homes or in their own home, and to improve standards.
Commenting, Liberal Democrat Care and Support Minister Norman Lamb said:
“This is a Liberal Democrat manifesto commitment that we are delivering on in Coalition. Poor care is simply unacceptable and staff at every level have a professional duty to speak up about it – and we will support them in doing so.
“The last Labour Government ignored calls from the Liberal Democrats and campaigners to introduce a duty of candour.
“The new statutory duty of candour sends a very clear message about the importance of transparency and openness in the NHS.
“The Liberal Democrats are building a stronger economy and a fairer society, enabling everyone to get on in life. And it’s because we want to make society fairer that we have campaigned for rules to prevent cover ups of poor care.”
“Dr Beeching’s report sent shockwaves through the British rail industry and resulted in the closure of thousands of stations and the loss of thousands of jobs.
“Liberal Democrats recognise the central importance of an easily accessible public transport system to building a stronger economy in a fairer society.
“That’s why Liberal Democrats in the Coalition Government are making huge investments in projects like High Speed Rail and making £20m available to reopen stations closed following the Beeching report.
“We must continue to build on this work and make public transport, including rail, as widely available as possible and a recognised alternative to journeys by car.”
Today I want to talk about immigration. Not asylum; that’s an important distinction to make – immigration. The debate is opening up, and that’s a good thing.
We’ve now heard from the Labour party about some of their mistakes in office. And the Prime Minister and I are setting out how the Coalition is correcting those mistakes. Me today, David Cameron on Monday.
The political mainstream has a duty to wrestle this issue away from populists and extremists. A duty to shift what can be a highly polarised debate – particularly in difficult economic times – onto practical and sensible ground. And the Liberal Democrats take that responsibility very seriously.
This morning I will explain why, in order to remain an open and tolerant Britain, we need an immigration system that is zero-tolerant towards abuse. Tolerant Britain, zero-tolerant of abuse. That’s the vision the Coalition is working towards.
Before I do, I want to make one thing clear: the Liberal Democrats will never seek to outflank our opponents because we think that’s what people want to hear.
Yvette Cooper said, recently, that we must avoid an “arms race of rhetoric” on immigration. I agree. That kind of low populism patronizes the British people and it is an insult to the many migrants who have contributed to our country. British society has been shaped by migrant communities in ways more profound than any cliché about chicken tikka masala, or Notting Hill Carnival, or Polish builders can ever express.
I’m the son of a Dutch mother – she, herself, raised in Indonesia; a half-Russian father; husband to a Spanish wife. Like millions of Brits, if you trace our blood lines back through the generations, you end up travelling around the globe. And I’m a liberal. I’m immensely proud of this nation’s wonderful diversity and openness. Those are great British traditions too.
Of course, if you believed every headline, you’d think that when immigrants aren’t stealing British jobs. They’re all living the high life in 12-bedroom Kensington mansions, courtesy of the state. But that’s a complete caricature of the truth.
The majority of people who come here work hard and make a contribution. Many have served – and still serve – in our armed forces. And if every member of an immigrant community suddenly downed tools, countless businesses and services would suffer. The NHS would fall over. And in a globalised economy, where talent is as mobile as capital, no nation can succeed by pulling up the drawbridge.
British firms depend on outside skills and expertise in order to compete. British universities too. The reason this country has a world-beating research base is because we are a magnet for the brightest and the best. That’s why, when the Coalition put limits on the number of migrants coming here from outside Europe, it was important to Vince Cable and me that students – genuine students – were excluded from that.
It’s why, more recently, the Coalition has rejected proposals to impose a visa regime on visitors from Brazil. Where a minority are abusing the system, we need to deal with that – whatever nationality they are. But a new visa regime would deter Brazilian tourists, discourage Brazilian investors and Brazil would simply do the same to us, hampering the access British companies have to one of the world’s fastest growing markets.
So, yes we are bringing immigration under control, and I will explain how. But I want UK firms to be in no doubt. The Coalition’s priority continues to be growth and building a stronger economy. I’m clear that well-managed immigration is a key part of that.
The problem is that the system has not been well-managed. It has been grossly mismanaged. I welcome Labour’s recent admission that they got it wrong. But the fact that this mea culpa is immediately followed by mud-slinging, by an attempt to blame the Coalition for the problems that remain, suggests to me Labour still don’t understand just how wrong they got it.
The previous government left us an immigration system in disarray. I cannot stress enough just how chaotic it was. The first thing they did, after coming into office, was stop checking if people were leaving the country. They got rid of exit checks. They weren’t counting people in and they weren’t counting people out either.
Seven different immigration Bills; six different Home Secretaries and yet, in the course of a decade, just 114 prosecutions for employing illegal immigrants.
And Labour were completely caught off guard by the impact of their decision to lift transitional controls on new EU member states when other EU countries did not. By the time they finally woke up to the mess they’d created, to the real strain immigration was placing on some communities, it was already too late.
Is it any wonder that there has been a crisis of public confidence in our immigration system? People’s anxieties are not, generally-speaking, driven by prejudice or racism. We are, by nature, a tolerant people. But, for too long, British people’s legitimate concerns have been downplayed. For too long their worries were met with words but not action.
There’s a common allegation that, among the political elite there’s been a conspiracy of silence on immigration. But over the years there’s been lots of talk, lots of posturing, lots of promises. Plenty’s been said. The problem is: not enough’s been done.
Where there is resentment towards the immigration system, we must now confront it. For a diverse society like ours to function successfully, for different groups to integrate and co-exist, British citizens must believe that the rules by which migrants come and settle here are reasonable, just, and properly enforced. The immigration system must command public confidence.
Since we came into government, net migration has fallen by a third. We’ve limited immigration from outside Europe. And within the EU, we have kept the transitional limits on Romania and Bulgaria, until the point where every member state has to remove them.
But it’s not just about the overall numbers. People need three basic assurances:
One: that we are getting a grip on who’s coming in and who’s going out.
Two: that we can deal with people staying here illegally.
Three: that the system as a whole benefits the UK and doesn’t put too much pressure on our state – particularly in these straitened times.
Give British citizens those assurances, and you will see this nation’s most welcoming side.
The Coalition is creating a system people can be confident in. A system that contributes to both a stronger economy and a fairer society – we need to deliver both. Tolerant Britain, zero-tolerant of abuse.
Assurance number one: that we’re getting on top of who’s here. The Coalition is building a much clearer picture of who’s coming in and going out. We’re building up Britain’s entry checks, increasing the information we get in advance of people travelling. And we are reintroducing exit checks.
Exit checks tell us whether the people who should have left actually have. Britain used to have them, but they were dismantled by previous governments. The process began under the Major government and was carried on by the Blair administration and the Liberal Democrats have been campaigning to bring them back since 2004.
To us it always seemed obvious that exit checks are an essential feature of an efficient and competent immigration system. And so we ensured that this Liberal Democrat manifesto commitment was written into the Coalition agreement. Bit by bit we are filling in the gaping holes Labour left.
Assurance number two: that we can prevent people from staying here illegally. Before I come onto what we are doing in Government, let me say a word on Liberal Democrat party policy.
My party will always advocate immigration policies that respect the rights and dignity of individuals – particularly the vulnerable. It’s because of us that children are no longer detained for immigration purposes. It’s because of us that the UK no longer deports people to countries where we know they’ll be persecuted for their sexuality. Both straight from our manifesto and two of my proudest achievements in government.
But, at the last election we suggested that any illegal immigrant who had been here for 10 years should be able to earn their citizenship. We called it an earned route to citizenship. Our opponents dubbed it an ‘amnesty’.
We felt it was an honest and pragmatic solution given the chaos in the Home Office and the obvious failure by Labour to identify where thousands of illegal immigrants were. Better surely, we asked, to get them to pay their taxes and make a proper contribution to our society, than to continue to live in the shadows?
But, despite the policy’s aims, it was seen by many people as a reward for those who have broken the law. And so it risked undermining public confidence in the immigration system.
The very public confidence that is essential to a tolerant and open Britain. That is why I am no longer convinced this specific policy should be retained in our manifesto for the next General Election.
So I have asked Andrew Stunell, the former Integration Minister, to lead a review of this and our other immigration policies in the run up to 2015.
In Coalition, the Liberal Democrats are seeking to restore people’s faith in the system, confronting illegal activity with a vigour never seen from Labour, and in 2015 people will know that a vote for the Liberal Democrats is a vote for an immigration system they can believe in. A vote for a tolerant Britain that is zero-tolerant towards abuse.
We’re clamping down on the most exploited routes into the country: tightening up what’s known as the ‘tier one route’, for example. It was supposedly for highly skilled visa applicants, but was routinely exploited by people who did not have those skills.
The student route was riddled with holes. So we’re cracking down on bogus colleges. UKBA officers visited a college which had requested permission to bring in over 200 students. How many did they find studying that day? Two. Since 2010, almost 600 colleges have been removed from the list of registered visa sponsors.
While we have to be realistic about UKBA’s enforcement budget in the current climate, we’re making sure money is better spent. For instance, reducing the opportunity for long, vexatious and costly appeals by those who have been refused the right to remain in Britain, while still safeguarding the right to a fair hearing.
We’re cracking down on the profiteers. I can confirm today that the Coalition will increase the cash penalties for unscrupulous employers who hire illegal immigrants because they’re cheaper. Currently, the maximum fine is £10,000 per illegal worker. I’ve asked the Home Secretary to look into the right amount but personally I’d like to see it double.
Employers need to get the message: they have an inescapable duty to employ people who are working here legally, not to turn a blind eye to those working illegally.
And I’m determined that our police can come down on the criminal gangs who smuggle and traffic people into the country. We’re currently reviewing policing cooperation with our European partners. But I’m clear that we must not jeopardise any arrangements that help us tackle this kind of cross-border crime. Criminals go across borders; so must we.
In addition to these crackdowns, I can also confirm we’re looking at a powerful new tool to help deal with the problem of people overstaying on their visas.
Visa overstayers make up a major part of UKBA’s enforcement caseload – clogging up the system. As early as 2006 we had reports from Select Committees, arguing that visa overstaying would be one of the biggest challenges for our immigration system in the 21st century. As people travel more – for work, for holidays – you have more people coming into the country for temporary periods and so you need to find ways to make sure they leave.
The challenge isn’t just stopping people coming into Britain illegally, it’s about dealing with individuals who come over legitimately but then become illegal once they’re already here.
One idea, which appeals to me, is a system of security bonds. And so I’ve asked the Home Office to do some work on it with a view to running a pilot before the end of the year.
The basic premise is simple: in certain cases, when a visa applicant is coming from a high risk country, in addition to satisfying the normal criteria, UKBA would be able to request a deposit – a kind of cash guarantee. Once the visitor leaves Britain, the bond will be repaid. Clearly, we need to look into the detail and seek a wide range of views, including from the Home Affairs Select Committee.
The bonds would need to be well-targeted – so that they don’t unfairly discriminate against particular groups. The amounts would need to be proportionate – we mustn’t penalise legitimate visa applicants who will struggle to get hold of the money. Visiting Britain to celebrate a family birth, or a relative’s graduation, or wedding should not become entirely dependant on your ability to pay the security bond.
And I would want a system that is welcomed by legitimate visitors rather than place a great burden on them. Done right, this would speed up the application process, giving UKBA greater confidence about people’s intentions, allowing them to make better, faster decisions.
In today’s world, illegal immigration happens in different ways – and we need to think innovatively to keep up.
Finally, assurance number three: that immigration as a whole benefits Britain and British citizens.
Migration contributes to the public purse – we mustn’t forget that. But it is important, with budgets under strain that as many people as possible contribute to the economy and support themselves. We’re asking that of British citizens – it is right that we ask the same of visitors to Britain.
So the Coalition has reformed work visas so that every worker coming here has a proper job offer and a minimum salary. And we’ve changed family visas to introduce a minimum income for anyone bringing over a partner or spouse.
While it’s right that, if businesses can’t find the skills they need they can bring people in from outside the UK.
As we tackle unemployment and rebuild our economy, we also need to be asking why that’s the case at all. Why aren’t our young men and women equipped to do these jobs? So the Coalition is creating record numbers of apprenticeships – over one million since the election. And I want to make sure we have the right plans in place for so-called ‘shortage occupations’ – the specific professions where we lack skills.
There are 34 currently on the list. Paediatricians, maths teachers, chemical and mechanical engineers, to name a few. And we are now asking employers and their representative bodies, including Sector Skills Councils, to work with the Government on our plans to build up Britain’s homegrown skills for each profession: making sure we’re on track.
I believe people will have more faith in our immigration system if they see that we are doing everything we can to help young British men and women into work. To that end, the Coalition has also capped unskilled migration from outside the EU. The Government is also looking at the access migrants have to services and benefits. Fairness isn’t just about what people put into the system: it’s what also about what they take out.
This work is extremely complex. Labour left us a huge, unwieldy welfare state, full of contradiction. In some place the arrangements are already quite strict, in others they are much more loose and opaque. So now we are systematically working through to see where reform is necessary.
No decisions have been taken yet and the PM will be saying more about his views on Monday. But I want to make clear that this is very much a Coalition agenda, with both sides working together. For the Liberal Democrats, it is entirely right that we close loopholes and ensure that the welfare system is not open to abuse.
For social cohesion, as much as anything else. One area where I’ve asked for further work, for instance is on the translation services available to individuals accessing public services. The Government currently spends tens of millions of pounds on translation services and materials. And, of course, people should get help, if they need it to understand what their doctor is saying, or how to sign their children up for school, or what's going on at a court hearing.
But there's a missed opportunity here to improve people's English so that, in the long term, they don't need those translators and the taxpayer spends less.
We've already raised the level of English required from a number of different groups: skilled workers, the husbands and wives of migrants coming to the UK. But we need to do more to help people who are already here.
In 2011 we introduced powers for Jobcentre advisers to mandate people on job-related benefits to learn English if their level of language skills is stopping them from finding work.
I've asked Iain Duncan Smith to report back to me on how this is being implemented. I want to make sure it's being rolled out effectively across the country.
And where people need a translator to interact with services, I've asked Mark Harper, the Immigration Minister, to look at whether we could refer them onto an English language course. And, if people refuse to stick with those courses, we should consider making them pay for their translation services instead. To a lot of people, that’s just common sense.
We’ll be saying more about this, and the other areas under review, over the coming weeks and months.
So in conclusion, we are grappling with the difficult challenges in our immigration system.
Brick by brick, we are rebuilding it. Day by day we are making sure, quite simply, that it works. All the British people ask is for a system they can have confidence in. We hear that, and we are delivering it.
I’m determined we lay the foundations for an immigration system that embodies this nation’s instincts and its values: our openness and tolerance on one hand; our sense of fair play, on the other.
The Liberal Democrats are at the forefront of that. We want to stay a tolerant Britain, and to that end we will be zero-tolerant of abuse.
This means 24.5m working people will get a further Income Tax cut, bringing the total tax cut to £700 a year since Liberal Democrats joined the Coalition Government.
It also means 2.7m low-paid workers will be lifted out of paying Income Tax altogether.
Cutting taxes by £700 for working people is the Liberal Democrats’ top priority. We put it on the front page of our 2010 manifesto, argued for it in the coalition negotiations and are delivering it in Government.
Commenting, Liberal Democrat Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander said:
“Liberal Democrats are building a stronger economy and a fairer society, enabling everyone to get on in life. That’s why we are cutting taxes for working people.
“When times are as tough as they are now, our focus must be on helping those on low and middle incomes. The right to earn £10,000 income tax free has gone from the front page of our manifesto to the pockets of 27m hardworking people. By keeping this promise we are giving practical help to millions of families.
“It’s also why we have scrapped another of Labour’s fuel duty rises, so filling up your car will be £7 cheaper than under Labour plans. And why we are cracking down on tax dodgers so that everyone is paying their fair share.”
The announcement that the Income Tax Personal Allowance
will rise to £10,000, confirmed in the Budget, means the Liberal Democrats’ top
priority at the 2010 General Election has been delivered in full by the
Coalition Government. It means:
A £700 tax cut for 24.5m working people across
the UK since the Liberal Democrats came to power.
2.7m low paid workers will no longer pay Income
Tax at all.
For the average family, we have cut the Income
Tax bill by a third.
It is enough for a working couple to pay their
council tax or combined gas and electricity bills for a year.
The Coalition commitment to raise the threshold
to £10,000 by 2015 will be achieved a year early, in April 2014.
Letting you keep more of the money you earn is a key part
of our plan to build a stronger economy in a fairer society, enabling everyone
to get on in life.
The £700 tax cut comes alongside more help for working
families in the Budget, which confirmed a freeze in fuel duty and £1,200 off
the cost of childcare for every child.
Commenting, Liberal Democrat Chief Secretary to the
Treasury Danny Alexander said: “When times are as
tough as they are now, our focus must be on helping those on low and middle incomes.
That’s why we’ve made delivering on this promise our number one priority in
“It’s also why we have scrapped
another of Labour’s fuel duty rises, so filling up your car will be £7 cheaper
than under Labour plans. And why we are cracking down on tax dodgers so that
everyone is paying their fair share.
“All of this has been done while sticking to our tough but necessary
plan to deal with this country’s financial problems. Britain can’t afford
unfunded giveaways – unlike the last Labour government, we have made sure
everything is paid for.
“The success of the Liberal
Democrats in delivering fairer taxes is in stark contrast to record of the
Labour Party. In Government, Labour increased tax on low income households; in
Government the Liberal Democrats have led the largest programme of tax cuts for
working people for a generation.
“I’d like us to go further
after the election – with the goal that you don’t pay Income Tax until you earn
more than the minimum wage. That is the sign of a fair tax party. Today we
should celebrate the fact that this Budget is getting real help to millions of
working people at a time when they need it most.”
While today’s announced rise in the Personal Allowance to
£10,000 comes into effect next year, people on low and middle incomes will see
more money in their pay packets next month. This April sees the biggest ever
rise in the Personal Allowance – to £9,440. That’s a £600 tax cut for working
people since the Liberal Democrats came to power, with more to come next year.