GDP figures show our economic plan is working

GDP figures released today by the Office for National Statistics provide further evidence that our economic plan is working.

The latest statistics show that in the three months to September the UK economy grew by 0.7%.

Commenting, Liberal Democrat Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander said:

“Our recovery is now well established and creating jobs in record numbers.

“These GDP figures show the UK economy has good momentum to deal with a less certain global outlook. Our plan is working and we need to stick to it.

“The families and businesses of Britain whose hard work is powering this recovery will judge harshly any Party that threatens to squander this progress.

“Britain can’t forget the deficit or believe unfunded promises.

“Being sensible with the nation’s money is the bedrock of the Liberal Democrat approach. We will keep a steady hand on the economic tiller because that is the only way to produce the stronger economy and fairer society that Britain needs.”

More than 700 employers to design top quality apprenticeships

Top quality new apprenticeships are being designed by employers as part of the government’s successful apprenticeship trailblazers scheme.

  • more than 700 employers are to design 76 new apprenticeships in professions ranging from TV production to welding
  • employers including PwC, BAE Systems and Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue are designing the new apprenticeships as part of the government’s trailblazer initiative
  • more than 1,000 employers now involved in the trailblazers scheme

Job opportunities in policing, boatbuilding, TV production and surveying are among 76 top quality new apprenticeships being designed by more than 700 employers as part of the third phase of the government’s successful apprenticeship trailblazers scheme.

The employers from across 37 more trailblazing sectors are designing new apprenticeships to best meet the skills needs of their industries. They will develop apprenticeships in sectors ranging from nuclear to fashion and the armed forces, and will bring the total number of employers involved in designing apprenticeships as part of the trailblazers project to more than 1,000.

Business Secretary Vince Cable said:

“Across the country apprenticeships are a driving force behind getting young people the skills that employers want and the economy needs. Our reforms have empowered businesses large and small to design and deliver world-beating apprenticeships that offer a real route to a successful career.”

Employers including PwC, BAE Systems and Greater Manchester Fire & Rescue will work with organisations from across their industries to develop the new apprenticeships. In addition to this, employers involved in the earlier phases of the trailblazers initiative are to develop a further 47 high quality apprenticeships.

On a visit to Sky, 1 of 18 employers working together to design new apprenticeships in television production and broadcasting as part of the new phase of trailblazers, Skills Minister Nick Boles said:

“There has never been a better time to do an apprenticeship. Apprenticeships give you the experience and top-quality training you need to get the career you want. I’m thrilled to be working with UK companies including Jaguar Land Rover and Grant Thornton to make our apprenticeship system the best it can be. We’re on track to deliver 2 million apprenticeships and we are building a better future for Britain.”

While visiting Sky Nick Boles also met software developer apprentice Priscilla Ossai, one of the stars of the government’s newly launched Get In. Go Far campaign. The campaign is working to change the perception of apprenticeships among young people, their parents and teachers by showcasing the variety and quality of apprenticeships on offer today in some of Britain’s biggest and brightest companies.

Trailblazers are groups of leading employers within a sector working together to develop new apprenticeship standards for occupations ranging from welder to police officer. Launched in October 2013, the trailblazers initiative aims to ensure that every apprentice in England is enrolled on a scheme that has been designed and approved by employers. More than 300 apprentices have now started on approved standards since September 2014 in the automotive and energy and utilities sectors with further starts planned soon.

The trailblazers play a key role in replacing complex apprenticeship frameworks with short, simple, accessible standards written by employers in language they understand.

Graham McWilliam, Group Director of Corporate Affairs, Sky commented:

“At Sky we’re delighted to be supporting the trailblazer programmes. It forms part of our wider commitment to providing apprenticeships across our business – around 150 next year – as well as offering a huge range of other opportunities and training to young people across the UK.”

Steven Read, Trainee Programmes Manager at UK Power Networks which delivers electricity supplies in London and are part of the Energy and Utilities trailblazer under the first phase of the scheme said:

“We are delighted to welcome our first 29 new recruits to the new power distribution craftspeople apprenticeship. The trailblazer initiative has allowed employers like us to introduce a common industry standard in the skills we teach to the dedicated men and women who keep Britain’s electricity distribution networks running. It is refreshing, as an employer, to be involved in designing and a developing the benchmark against which all our apprentices are trained.”

TSI and Jo Swinson launch free, easy to use legal guidance website

On Wednesday (22nd October) Consumer Affairs Minister Jo Swinson and Trading Standards Institute (TSI) CEO Leon Livermore launched Business Companion, a free online resource that allows business owners to quickly and effectively find and understand the trading standards laws and consumer protection regulations.

“We know that businesses can find navigating their way around trading standards law a daunting prospect,” said Consumer Affairs Minister Jo Swinson. “It is important that there is help available to support them in understanding the law and keeping up to date with any changes.

“Business Companion will provide an invaluable free and easy to use resource to help companies remain compliant. That’s not only good for business but reassuring for consumers too.” Business owners frequently experience confusion when determining which of the thousands of existing laws apply to them.

Unfortunately, the law doesn’t define businesses by their trade but how they sell, what they sell and where they sell. Do they sell products or services? Do they sell by distance or face-to-face? These questions serve as a guidepost for Business Companion site navigation. By answering these simple questions, business owners are directed to guidance that generally affects their business.

Business Companion has been designed so business owners can also query laws specific to their industry. For example, a query for ‘potatoes’ results in law related to food labelling and weights and measures. When these queries are complete, the business owner can create a printable ‘guide’ for easy reference.

“The majority of businesses strive to do what is right and what is legal,” said TSI CEO Leon Livermore. “The Trading Standards Institute is thrilled to present a free, accessible tool that can help them do just that.”

Business Companion also allows businesses to set up legislative alerts so they can immediately be notified via email when a change to that law goes into effect.

“This feature makes Business Companion the most effective tool for businesses to keep on top of the laws and remain compliant,” Mr. Livermore said.

Another advantage to Business Companion is that searches are country specific. A Scottish convenience store owner will only get laws relevant to Scotland. Guides are broken down into 15 key quick guides for businesses interested in a general overview of particular laws and in-depth guides, which give the user a more detailed explanation of the law.

John Allan, national chairman, of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) said:

“Small firms are so busy running their own businesses they can’t be experts on all the many complexities of the regulation landscape. This one-stop shop on consumer and fair trading information will be really useful and warmly welcomed by our members. It will help free them up and enable them to get on with the job in hand – creating jobs and growing their businesses.”

Business Companion is part of the business education role commissioned from TSI by the Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS).

Norman Lamb’s article on NHS spending

Today Simon Stevens, the Chief Executive of NHS England, published his 5-year Forward Look setting out the challenges facing our health and care system in the coming years.

It makes sobering reading. Simon Stevens sets out the huge scale of the financial challenge facing us in the years ahead as we continue to adapt to an ageing population, and increasing numbers of people living longer with multiple chronic conditions. We also need more investment to ensure that people with mental health problems can get the same standard of care and support as with physical health.

Earlier this month, the Liberal Democrats set out their priorities for the NHS. We committed to investing at least £1bn extra in our health and care system in each year in the next parliament. £500m of that will go to mental health to ensure mental health patients get fair treatment, and can access the support they need. And by the end of the next parliament we will give each carer £250 a year to recognise the immense contribution they make to society.

We also made clear that we would be arguing strongly this year for significant additional funding for the health and care system as part of the Autumn Statement. We are the only major party arguing for money next year for the NHS. And Simon Stevens has today made our case for us in the most powerful terms possible.

I know that when I speak to voters in my North Norfolk constituency, and when I meet people across the country, health and care are consistently among their highest priorities for government investment. But the Conservatives are not making the case for investment in health and care: they are just promising to maintain the current level of spending. If that’s the deal, the NHS would crash. Liam Fox has argued for an end to the NHS ringfence – but this could damage our NHS beyond recognition.

Labour, too, have not argued for any increase in funding next year. In Wales Labour has cut NHS spending by 8%, missing targets on A&E and cancer treatment and presiding over the worst ambulance response times in the UK. Over 13 years in government, Labour wasted money with PFI schemes and special favours to private companies. What is more, they just don’t understand that you can’t secure the future of our NHS without securing our economic recovery too.

I am passionately committed to our National Health Service, and the role it plays in giving every person the opportunity to enjoy a decent and fulfilled life regardless of their health needs.

And I recognise, as most people do, that if we want to have a sustainable NHS which is able to provide good care to those in need, we have to pay for it. Britain currently spends less than almost any other major country on its health and care system.

And we will be making the case relentlessly in the coming weeks to make sure the NHS gets the funding it needs next year so it can continue to provide excellent care to those in need. Liberal Democrats want to create opportunity for everyone by building a stronger economy and a fairer society. We cannot do this by neglecting our health and care system.

Diwali 2014: message from Nick Clegg

Watch Nick Clegg’s video message for Diwali

Read the full message:

Saal Mubarak. This is the time of year when the lights of Diwali burn brightest, bringing joy to communities across the world. Important to Hindus, Sikhs and Jains, Diwali means different things to different people. Yet the core values it embodies – kindness, compassion and the enduring power of knowledge to banish ignorance and fear – matter to all of us, regardless of our faith or background.

In Britain, our pride in holding some of the biggest Diwali celebrations outside of India is a constant reminder of the diversity, generosity and openness that makes our country great. So whether you are in Leicester or New Delhi, marking the return of Lord Rama from exile, attainment of moksha by Mahavira or the Bandi Chhor Divas – this is a chance for all of us to come together, learn from each other and have fun, enjoying the lights and joyous music of Diwali.

So, I want to wish every one joining their family and friends for food, prayers and fireworks over the next five days a very happy and peaceful New Year.

Diwali Mubarak.

The Deputy Prime Minister held a reception to mark Diwali on 22 October: view pictures from the event.

Early years pupil premium – local allocations announced

school childrenThe government has announced the regional allocations for the Early Years pupil premium.

Nurseries, childminders and other early years providers throughout the country are set for a cash injection to help three and four-year-olds from disadvantaged families.

Children from low income families have often fallen behind more well off classmates before they even start school.​

But from April 2015, the Early Years Pupil Premium – which has been backed by groups like Barnados, 4Children and the Child Poverty Action Group – ​will mean extra money to make sure every child gets a fair start.

Over the country, 172,646 children are eligible for such help, with a total of £49 million available for them.

The regional allocations can be read here.

N E Lincs Holiday Rider returns for October half term

Throughout October half term, 25 October 2014 to 2 November 2014, the Holiday Rider will return on the back of a record breaking Summer

Young people aged 5 to 18 inclusive just need to ask for a holiday rider ticket when they get on Stagecoach buses in North East Lincolnshire and they will pay just £1.50 for unlimited travel around the area that day.

The ticket is not valid outside of the main Grimsby, Cleethorpes, Immingham area, so it cannot be used for long distance journeys on the Humber Flyer or InterConnects 3 and 51.

The young people’s Holiday Rider has seen another record breaking year with sales of almost 34,000 tickets over the six week summer holidays, saving young people over £55,000 and illustrating a 25 per cent increase on sales from the previous year.

A college rider scheme has also now been introduced to help students save money while at college. The college rider is available online at www.stagecoachbus.com from £135 a term.

Dave Skepper, commercial director for Stagecoach East Midlands said:

“Stagecoach East Midlands is delighted to be continuing our partnership with YPPS to deliver great value bus travel for young people in Grimsby, Cleethorpes and Immingham. The growth in ticket sales is directly attributable to the promotional campaigns by young people at YPPS using social media.”

£50m boost for children across the country

Nurseries, child minders and other early years providers across the country are set for a £50m cash injection to help three and four-year-olds from disadvantaged families.

Children from low income families have often fallen behind more well off classmates before they even start school.

But from April 2015, the Early Years Pupil Premium – which has been backed by groups like Barnados, 4Children and the Child Poverty Action Group – will mean extra money to make sure every child gets a fair start.

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Nurseries and schools will be free to choose how to spend the money, which is part of a £50m Government pot.

It comes on top of Lib Dem-led changes in Government to help families, which include shared parental leave, tax free childcare, Free School Meals, and a pupil premium for school age children.

Liberal Democrat Schools Minister David Laws said:

“Every child deserves the opportunity to reach their full potential, whatever their background.

“Liberal Democrats in government have already extended free early years education for all children across the country.

“Now this cash boost will mean extra support for those children who need it most.”

David Ward: Why I support the right to recall MPs

David Ward writes:

Liberal Democrats support the right of recall and I’m pleased the Coalition Government ensured that this year’s Queen’s Speech contained measures to get it into law. For too long, voters have not had any way to hold to account the small number of MPs that bring the good name of other MPs into disrepute. At the moment, those MPs could stay in their seat until the General Election. I think that is wrong.

The Government’s Recall of MPs Bill proposes two triggers that would allow voters to open a petition and try to force a by-election. The first of these triggers would be if an MP is convicted of an offence and receives a custodial sentence of up to 12 months. MPs are already automatically expelled if they are given a jail sentence of more than 12 months.

The second trigger would be if the Parliamentary Standards Committee – a group of MPs from various parties as well as lay members from outside Parliament too – recommends (and the House of Commons accepts) the suspension of an MP from the House of Commons for at least 21 days.

Under the Government’s Bill, if either of these triggers became active then a recall petition would be activated and if 10% of the local electorate signed this recall petition within an 8 week period, then a by-election would commence.

It is extremely noteworthy that it’s this Coalition that are the first ever UK Government to allow such a measure anywhere near the statue book.

This is why I supported the Bill at its Second Reading which will now progress into its Committee stage. I believe that more can be done to amend the legislation to enable constituents to have more of a say in the recall of their MPs and I will be looking very closely at any amendments put forward in order to strengthen the Bill.

Norman Lamb responds to NHS England report

Following the publication of a report by NHS England which outlines CEO Simon Steven’s five-year forward view on the health service, Liberal Democrat Care Minister Norman Lamb said:

“Liberal Democrats want to create opportunity for everyone by building a stronger economy and a fairer society. That means properly funding our NHS for the future, and providing better care, both for physical and mental health.

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“Over 13 years, Labour wasted money with PFI schemes and sweetheart deals for private companies and now they are wrecking the NHS in Wales – cutting the budget by 8%, missing targets on A&E and cancer treatment and presiding over the worst ambulance response times in the UK. They refused to protect NHS funding in this Parliament and they can’t be trusted with it in Government again. Ed Miliband and Ed Balls would wreck the recovery and you can’t have well-funded public services without a strong economy.

“The Conservatives are not promising anything more than protecting the NHS budget in real terms. If that’s the deal, the NHS would crash. The Tories are totally failing to recognise the need for more resources to deal with the growing pressures on the NHS as we all live longer, often with chronic conditions.

“Only the Liberal Democrats are calling for more funding next year and at least one billion more in each year after that.

“We are the only party that will invest more in our public services once we have finished the job of clearing the deficit in 2018.

“We are the only party putting equality for mental health treatment front and centre of our manifesto, with £500m of extra funding.

“And we are the only party calling for real improvement from the bottom up, joining up health and care to give people care closer to home.

“Much of Simon Steven’s report is in line with Liberal Democrat policy. The priority given to mental health is extremely welcome. Recognising and supporting the needs of carers is vital. And getting hospital teams to work more closely with GPs, and GPs to work together to deliver care is an important step in providing care closer to home.”