One step closer to enshrining international aid spending in law

Liberal Democrat Peer Jeremy Purvis has today welcomed the successful progress though the House of Lords of the Lib Dem Bill to enshrine the UK’s aid spending target in law.

The Bill, which was proposed in the Commons by Michael Moore MP and which would ensure 0.7% of the UK’s Gross National Income is spend on international aid, cleared its Report Stage despite sustained pressure from a small minority of Peers set on derailing the proposals.

The Bill will now be scheduled for its Third Reading – the final test it must overcome before being signed into law.

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Commenting, Jeremy said:

“Michael Moore’s Bill is now just one step away for becoming law. I am hugely grateful to all those, from all sides of the House of Lords and particularly my Liberal Democrat colleagues, who came out in force to support the Bill and vote down amendments designed to wreck it.

“I am also grateful to the many people outside Parliament who have made clear their support for this vital legislation. We have overcome a crucial stage of the process and now it is important we do all we can do finish the Bill’s passage before the election.

“UK aid has the capacity to change lives, by passing this Bill we can move the debate on from how much support we give to how we ensure our support goes to those who need it most. I look forward to making sure the Bill overcomes its final hurdle and gets onto the statue book.”

Health and wellbeing website for young people launched

The ‘Rise Above’ website, launched today (27 February 2015), offers help for young people on how to deal with personal and societal issues.

Created by young people for young people, the ‘Rise Above’ website aims to build emotional resilience in individuals aged 11 to 16 by equipping them with the skills and knowledge they need to make informed decisions, and help deal with the pressures of growing up. It also encourages conversations about the key health and wellbeing issues that affect teens and young people.

‘Rise Above’ tackles topics that young people are most concerned about, such as puberty, relationships, alcohol, self-harm, smoking, contraceptive choices, drugs, body confidence, peer pressure and mental health.

Meter tampering and energy theft

Tampering with gas or electricity meters can lead to explosions, fires and sometimes death. Those who tamper with meters may save money but in doing so are putting others in real danger. In one year alone a single energy provider reported two deaths and 36 injuries as a result of gas theft. This is not a victimless crime.

What is meter tampering?

When someone alters their electricity or gas supply without the authority of their supplier, they are meter tampering. This tamper prevents the device from recording the correct energy usage and therefore the meter is undercharged.

What are the signs of meter tampering?

Meter tampering occurs in many forms and the list/imagery below details some of the signs to look out for

Signs of gas meter tampering

 

Gas Meter Backtofront 300Px
Back to front meter.

Gas Meter Rubbertubing 300Px
Rubber tubing used where pipes would normally be.


No visible dial.


Credit has run out but gas is still available.

Back to front meter.

Rubber tubing used where pipes would normally be.

No visible dial.

Credit has run out but gas is still available.

Signs of electricity meter tampering


No casing or damaged meter casing.


Extra wires attached in or around the meter with simply constructed metal connectors.


Melted meter casing or burn marks on the casing.


Credit has run out but electricity is still available.

No casing or damaged meter casing.

Extra wires attached in or around the meter with simply constructed metal connectors.

Melted meter casing or burn marks on the casing.

Credit has run out but electricity is still available.

Have you seen a tampered meter? Report a tampered meter to us completely anonymously.

Why are we focusing on this?

Meter tampering is a crime which can lead to a fine and a prison sentence of up to 5 years. Most importantly it can cause harm to innocent people. Even if you have not tampered with your own supply you could be affected by a landlord, employer or neighbour who has tampered with theirs.

What are the dangers of meter tampering?

A domestic electricity meter contains 240 volts and a commercial meter could contain up to 460 volts. If tampered with, this voltage could be left exposed and could cause shocks, severe burns or electricity fires.

Gas explosions can occur when as little as 5-15 per cent of gas gets mixed with air in a room and therefore people tampering with these meters could cause catastrophic explosions. Such explosions have been known to destroy multiple properties in a street and therefore cause harm to innocent homes and people.

One incident saw four people, including two children, injured in a suspected gas explosion in Sheffield that also left one home destroyed and adjoining properties badly damaged. While the cause of the fire could not be confirmed, it was found that five of twenty homes of the same street were stealing gas, and two of them were stealing electricity. Had this not been discovered, the results could have been devastating for more homes and families.

Energy theft and meter tampering also occur outside the home with businesses looking to cut costs by breaking the law. In September 2013, five restaurants along Manchester’s ‘curry mile’ were raided, and four of them were found to have tampered meters, with another having its gas supply altered. Officials at the time said that “lives had been put at risk.”

What can I do about energy theft and meter tampering?

By liking and sharing the campaign, you are helping show others the dangers and consequences of this crime. If you suspect someone to be meter tampering report it to us completely anonymously.

New skills and experiences for half a milllion jobseekers

jobs lib demJobseekers have taken part in more than 469,000 voluntary placements through Jobcentre Plus since January 2011, according to new figures published today by the Department for Work and Pensions.

Around seven in ten participants were young people able to gain skills and experience to help them move into paid work. Accordingly, the number of young people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance is now at its lowest since the 1970s.

The numbers include:

  • More than 300,000 work experience placements
  • More than 169,000 placements in employer-led training schemes
  • Nearly 24,000 opportunities taken up by people over the age of 50
  • More than 84,000 opportunities taken up by people with disabilities

These education and training schemes are providing people of all ages with the necessary skills and confidence to gain further work. Over the period covered, 42 per cent of people undertaking work experience placements were offered a position when they finished.

Liberal Democrats are committed to building a stronger economy and providing opportunity for everyone. Today’s numbers, especially following last week’s announcement of record high employment, indicate that the job is getting done

Millions of TalkTalk customers vulnerable to fraud after data breach

TalkTalk customers are being warned about scammers who managed to steal account numbers, names and personal information from the company’s computers.

Broadband and phone operator TalkTalk emailed customers yesterday to tell them that it suffered a major data breach in which account numbers, addresses and phone numbers have fallen into the hands of fraudsters who have used the data to steal thousands of pounds.

The fraudsters used this personal information to cold call customers, in order to gain access to their computers and bank accounts.

The data breach was uncovered when TalkTalk investigated a sudden rise in complaints from customers about scam calls between October and December 2014 on its forums.

The email stated “Following a detailed investigation, we understand that some customer information, including account numbers, could have been illegally accessed in violation of our security procedures. No financial data was at risk as this is encrypted on our systems”.

“We have been working with an external specialist security company to take urgent and serious steps to prevent this happening again”.

One victim lost over £2,800

One customer, Graeme Smith, told the Guardian that he had fallen victim to one of these scammers and lost £2,815 after fraudsters phoned him and convinced him to install a piece of malware on his computer and pass over bank details. They were subsequently able to transfer cash to their own account.

Customers who have been caught out should contact their bank said TalkTalk, who have also set up a dedicated phone line for customers targeted by the scammers. Victims can call 0800 083 2710, to get help from the telecoms firm. If you have received a cold call or been defrauded you should also report it to Action Fraud.

For further information please visit the TalkTalk website.

Please note that Action Fraud is not responsible for the content of external websites.

To report a fraud and receive a police crime reference number, call Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or use our online fraud reporting tool.

Greg Mulholland welcomes announcement of new trains for North

Plans to give rail passengers in the North of England more seats, more services and a brand new fleet of modern trains were unveiled by the Liberal Democrat Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin today (27 February).

Documents published today set out how bidders for the new Northern and TransPennine franchises will be required to provide plans to:

* replace outdated Pacer trains;
* introduce a brand new fleet of modern trains;
* tackle crowding;
* invest in stations;
* accommodate over 19,000 more commuters in Manchester during the morning peak;
* add over 200 new train services every day across both franchises;
* provide over one-third more capacity across both franchises; and
* introduce free Wi-Fi.

The publication of the Invitations to Tender is the first step in the transformation of train travel between the northern cities. It is also a significant step in the creation of a northern powerhouse for the UK economy.

Greg headshotCommenting Liberal Democrat MP for Leeds North West, Greg Mulholland said:

“I am very pleased that Nick Clegg has announced these changes to train services in the North.

“These improvements will be massively beneficial for business, tourism and commuters. Transport is one of the major discrepancies between the North and South and I certainly welcome any measures to improve transport infrastructure.

“I will certainly be working with Nick and my other colleagues for further improvements in Leeds and the rest of the North of England.”

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said:

“This is an historic moment for the North. Improving rail links in the region has been much anticipated. These old trains have been rattling across rails in the North for over 30 years; a constant source of complaint which have held the region back.


“As part of my Northern Futures initiative I asked the people of the North what they wanted to build a stronger economy and transport was top of the list. So I fought hard to replace pacer trains as soon as possible.


“Today’s plans include a new fleet of trains and improved services that will better connect our great Northern towns and cities. Modernising rail in the North will encourage business, boost tourism and give commuters the journey they deserve; one that is fit for a 21st century metropolis.”

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said:

“This is great news for passengers across the north, who will finally get a rail service that matches up to the booming economy in this region. That means more seats, more services and a brand new fleet of modern trains. Unlike the last Northern franchise in 2004, which included limited plans to invest in services or meet demand, this deal will maintain investment and grow to fit the needs of passengers for years to come.

“Together with the £1 billion investment we are making to improve the region’s railways and our plans to link east and west through HS3, our railways are making the region an economic powerhouse.”

Chair of Rail North Sir Richard Leese said:

“We know from the consultation that passengers want to see a step-change in the quality of train vehicles, stations, more trains on Sundays and at off-peak times, and longer trains at busy peak times to ease overcrowding – and thanks to the hard work put in by Rail North, that’s exactly what they’re going to get.

“But this is only the starting point; the Invitations to Tender specify the minimum required from the new franchisees, and Rail North will continue to push for greater enhancements in future years which will help deliver regional economic growth by helping people get to jobs faster, in comfort and affordably.”

Labour’s tuition fee plans will only help wealthy graduates

Labour and Tuition Fees reductionLabour’s plan to cap maximum tuition fees to £6,000 is deeply regressive. Under their plans only the wealthiest graduates would benefit.

Only graduates with a starting salary of at least £35,000 would pay less. A salary only paid for by a handful of big City firms.

This compares to an average graduate starting salary of £21,700.

Independent experts, such as Martin Lewis of MoneySavingExpert.com, have called Labour’s plan “financially illiterate” because it would help those with more money rather than those with less.

The Universities UK board has said such a cut would “damage the economy, affect the quality of students’ education, and set back work on widening access to higher education.”

The current system is working. There are a record number of applications, with the rate ofdisadvantaged students applying to study in higher education hitting an all-time high.

Tuition Fees Lib Dems

Liberal Democrat Business Secretary Vince Cable said:

“Labour’s policy is based on a soundbite, and as a result, is completely financially illiterate. It will do great harm to universities and create a costly black hole in the national budget.

“For a party presenting itself as a government in waiting they are showing staggering ignorance of how university finance works.

“Talk about the current system being unsustainable is rubbish. The OECD, who has no political axe to grind, said the English system is totally sustainable and works well.

“A £6,000 cut would wreck the financial sustainability of universities, reduce the support for disadvantaged students and benefit only the richest.Tuition Fees and paying fees back Income Table

“We learned this lesson the hard way but we now have a system that works, with university funding made fair and sustainable by Liberal Democrats.

“This shows in a record number of students and a record number of those from disadvantaged backgrounds applying to university.”

World-leading auctions to provide major green electricity boost

Liberal Democrat Minister for Energy & Climate Change Ed Davey has announced plans for 27 renewable electricity projects which together could power 1.4 million homes, comparable to the number of households in Wales.

If built, these projects could support thousands of green jobs, bolster energy security and cut the cost of renewable electricity.

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The green energy auction has driven down prices, by as much as 58 per cent for one technology. The auctions have successfully led to over £315m of new contracts been offered to five renewable technologies, such as onshore wind and solar.

Ed Davey said:

“Under this first green energy auction we’ve seen prices tumble, while securing new energy generation and thousands of green jobs across the UK.

“Onshore wind and solar prices are clearly leading the way for the cheapest green energy out there, and the Conservatives now have some serious questions to answer.

“If they want to tackle climate change and do it through bringing on more green energy then why press the stop button on onshore wind?

“An end to onshore wind means you’re either saying no to tackling climate change, or you’re having to plug the gap with a more expensive form of energy that will put everyone’s energy bills up.”

Pension saving at a record high

Figures released by the Office for National Statistics show the highest level of pension saving since records began in 1997.

Pension membership has risen across all age groups. The figures underline the success of automatic enrolment, where workers are automatically placed in a pensions scheme.

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To date the programme has brought more than five million workers into a pension scheme.

The figures released in the Annual Survey of Hours and Earning statistics which reflect the picture in 2014 show:

  • 59 per cent of all workers are active members of a pension scheme, up from 47 per cent in 2012.
  • 49 per cent of all private sector employees are active members of a pension scheme, up from 32 per cent in 2012.
  • Pension membership has risen across all age groups, the largest increase being in the 22-29 age group, up to 53 per cent from 36 per cent in 2013.
  • Pension membership has increased for every earnings band in the private sector for full-time employees.

Commenting on the new report Liberal Democrat Pensions Minister Steve Webb said:

“The rise in the proportion of people saving for retirement over the past three years is stunning. Pension saving is now at its highest level since records began.

“This is due in no small part to the success of automatic enrolment which is changing the culture of pension saving in Britain. Millions more people are now saving into a workplace pension, allowing them to build a decent nest egg to enjoy in their retirement, on top of a reinvigorated new State Pension.”

Nick Clegg comments on Conservatives record on immigration

Commenting on the Conservatives record on immigration, Liberal Democrat Leader and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said:

“I said to David Cameron he shouldn’t make the commitment because it was inevitable he was going to break it because you can’t control the net figure.

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“They made that commitment – we said we were not going to do it as a coalition government .. and they are now going to have to suffer the embarrassment.

“It is very embarrassing for the Conservatives. They made a huge amount of fanfare about it and they were warned by me and others ‘Don’t do this, it doesn’t make any sense’.

“Now, of course, they quite rightly will have to suffer the embarrassment of having made a commitment on something which people care about passionately – which is immigration – and they have failed spectacularly to deliver.

“What we need to do and get on with – something I’ve been getting on with during my time in government – is, for instance, re-establishing the proper border controls at our borders so that we not only count people in, but we count people out.”