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Lib Dems undermined access to justice and human rights

Yesterday's Daily Mirror covered the awful results legal aid cuts have had on families and individuals. The full article can be read here and it was great to see The Mirror show how this policy affects so many people unable to access justice either as swiftly or even at all under changes made since Labour left Government in 2010. 

The legal aid changes were labelled ‘Tory cuts’ in The Mirror but were administered by the Lib Dem/Tory Coalition. No 'Liberal' worth their salt should have been undermining access to justice but these cuts would not have been possible without Lib Dem support, including Commons votes and at Ministerial level. 

The array of old faces reappearing as frontbenchers at Lib Dem conference includes Cable, Davey and Swinson. It does not include the former Lib Dem Justice Minister and my predecessor Sir Simon Hughes. Hughes oversaw the legal aid cuts which left hundreds of thousands of people without the support they need, including local people I've seen who need help to escape violent relationships or secure custody of their children. Cuts that Amnesty say have created a two-tier legal service with only the wealthy able to afford full justice. Cuts that the Children’s Commissioner stated in 2014 were leaving the most vulnerable children in our society without access to justice and undermining human rights. 

The Lib Dem Justice Minister's response to the Children's Commissioner's severe warning? He announced a 'review' - but Hughes' commitment was printed on Lib Dem press office paper and not from his Government department. It was never honoured and should be a stain on real liberals' collective conscience. 

The Mirror is right to castigate Tory-led cuts. But the, albeit limited, exposure of former Lib Dem Ministers at their conference this week is also reminding voters of this guilty party's role in Coalition and with policies like slashing access to justice, trebling tuition fees and introducing the bedroom tax. People in Southwark and beyond still await apology and redress.  


Lib Dems undermined access to justice and human rights

Lib Dems undermined access to justice and human rights Yesterday's Daily Mirror covered the awful results legal aid cuts have had on families and individuals. The full article can be read here and it...


Last night, I voted again against leaving the EU. My short comments below were designed to flesh out some of the reasons why (in the limited time MPs get to speak – which could be just 3 minutes).

Over summer I spent a lot of time discussing the Bill and Brexit with people across Bermondsey, Walworth, Rotherhithe, Borough and the Elephant, especially those who voted to Leave. I remind them I made a promise in both 2015 and 2017 to all constituents: I will never support anything in Parliament that could harm our community. It is a simple promise made in replacing a Lib Dem who voted for policies that did severe damage to local people left paying the Bedroom Tax, denied access to justice under legal aid cuts, or paying extortionate tuition fees. But it equally covers Brexit: the biggest issue facing our country and which would leave the whole UK worse off.

  • I also met further constituency employers about the Bill.      Businesses like ABTA (the Association of British Travel Agents) who      highlight that it is EU not WTO rules that cover transatlantic flights and      fear the Bill may not keep UK-US flights airborne.
  • I met organisations like the British Toys and Hobbies Association      who fear the UK could: lose trade we currently do within the EU; lose our      place as global leader in this sector; and be flooded with counterfeit      toys from new deals outside the EU.
  • And met employers who worry the Bill does not answer fears about      future workforce issues. The Bill and leaked Home Office proposals pose      new concerns for employers and taxpayers. The Government wants a new      expensive registration and visa system. The NHS alone would have to foot      the bill for 54,000 new visas for existing staff. The taxpayer would pay      for this, but loses doubly: also funding extra civil servants to      administer the new system. And businesses would lose out by paying for      employees’ visas and being less competitive with rivals within the EU and      facing lengthy delays to get visas for new recruits. It often takes over 6      months for my constituents to get visas currently.  

These are all issues which the advocates of Brexit should have had the answers to before the Government irresponsibly triggered Article 50. Big Ben might not be bonging but the clock is now ticking on leaving the EU and Ministers still don’t have a clue.

In June voters may have shorn the Government of its majority, but didn’t dent its arrogance, as we see from Henry VIII clauses and attempts to dominate Bill committees. But we shouldn’t be surprised at this authoritarian streak from a Government that tried to:

  • rig electoral registers;
  • inflate the number of unelected Lords whilst reducing elected MPs;
  • cut funding for opposition political parties;
  • gagged charities from speaking up about the impact of Coalition and      Tory policies;
  • and had to be dragged through courts to allow MPs to even debate      Brexit, let alone scrutinise any detail.

And look at the people who try to justify this shoddy approach. They’re the same people who told us this would be easy. The same people who said we needed to ‘take back control’ but now say Parliament should adopt 40 years of legislation without scrutiny. And the same people who said they wanted the UK ‘Parliament to be sovereign’ who now try to impose a tinpot Maybot dictatorship over the Commons having ignored voters’ rejection of a hard Brexit in June.

It wasn’t just hard Brexit rejected though, it was ‘neglexit’ – the Government’s complete neglect of a positive domestic agenda, instead offering:

  • More foodbanks for working people;
  • Less chance to own your own home;
  • Cuts to schools and social care;
  • Longer NHS waiting times.
  • A Government bereft of ideas, dominated by men with 1950s mindsets.     

In failing to respect June’s result, in continuing to fail to have positive policies for British people, and in banging the drum for the hardest of possible Brexits and all the damage it would cause, Ministers and their backbenchers appear to be fighting amongst themselves on how best to lose the next general election.



Voting against Brexit again

  Last night, I voted again against leaving the EU. My short comments below were designed to flesh out some of the reasons why (in the limited time MPs get to...

Recess is a fantastic time for young adults, who are on their summer holidays from school, to come into my office and gain some work experience. I try and accommodate everyone who asks and am so grateful for their fantastic input! Below is a blog from Joseph from Elephant and Castle who came in last week to gain some experience before going on to study Politics in sixth form.  

Knife Crime by Joseph

Knife crime is on the rise and not much is being done to stop it. In Southwark alone the amount of knife crime incidents in the last year has risen by 48%. The latest Metropolitan police statistics show that there were 254 knife crime with injury incidents in the last year. It is clear to see that knife crime is a major concern for our community and it needs to be tackled.

It was reported recently that Southwark has the worst record in London for solving knife crime cases. The current conviction rate for Southwark knife crime cases currently stands at 15.4%. This statistic is horrifying as it means that the majority of people who commit these crimes are never brought to justice and face no punishment. This also includes murders, which means that parents who will suffer for the rest of their life as a result of losing their son or daughter will also have to live with the pain of knowing that justice was not served and their child’s murder was left unsolved.

These tragedies are occurring more and more often, there must be an explanation for this. Well, there is really only one real explanation to why knife crime is on the rise and why conviction rates are falling. The Metropolitan police simply do not have the resources to solve these tragic cases. This is because since 2010 when the Conservatives regained power to run the country, instead of making citizens feel safer they have made citizens feel less safe and have placed crime along with other youth issues to the back of their priority list. Under the Conservative government the number of police officers have been cut by 20,000, while in Southwark the number of police PSCO’s in local areas have been reduced by 200. Crime has increased because there is no longer a police presence in the local area due to police cuts by the Tory government, and the conviction rate has fallen due to the lack of resources in the Metropolitan police due to cuts by the Tory government.

It is clear that to see that knife crime is not on the government’s agenda and so it is clear that the best way to tackle knife crime is to place it on the government’s agenda and make it the government’s priority. The job of the Tory government is to represent the people and so we, the people must make it clear that we want more police officers on our streets, more opportunities made available for us young people so that we do not need to result to crime to make a living, and regular engagement with the youth in the local community. Our local MP Neil Coyle will continue to question Prime Minister Theresa May on this issue to ensure that knife crime is placed on the government’s agenda, while we, the local community must get in contact with the local council, and ensure that crime is placed on their agenda. I believe that once knife crime is given priority there will be a change.

As a young person in the local community I think there are two main ways to solve knife crime. Firstly on a practical level I think that there needs to be more police officers in local areas to prevent knife incidents and ensure safety among citizens. Secondly, I think that there needs to be more opportunities and education provided for people, such as more youth clubs and events to push people young and old away from crime but towards a brighter future. There needs to be an understanding among the community that no matter where you come from, no matter who you are, there is a place for you in society and that not everyone will become a millionaire but that there is an opportunity to move away from a life of crime to a happier, more fruitful life.



Knife Crime by Joseph, Work Experience from Elephant and Castle

Recess is a fantastic time for young adults, who are on their summer holidays from school, to come into my office and gain some work experience. I try and accommodate...

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