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Tim Farron's Recent Appearances in Parliament

Tim Farron speaking on unaccompanied refugees (Liberal Democrat Newswire)Content supplied and updated by theyworkforyou.com

  • Mar 1, 2021:
    • Asylum: Military Bases | Home Office | Written Answers

      To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, what process her Department uses to assess asylum seekers to determine whether they have particular vulnerabilities which mean they cannot be housed in either Penally or Napier Barracks.

  • Feb 25, 2021:
    • Rough Sleeping | Commons debates

      The Secretary of State promised that no one would lose their home due to the pandemic. The moratorium on evictions has helped to keep people off the streets, but it covers only those people with rental debt up to six months, and of course the pandemic has been going on now for something like 12 months. There are 1,500 people in South Lakeland who are both private renters and members of workforce groups that have been excluded from Government support, with no income to pay the rent. How will he keep his promise to them?

  • Feb 24, 2021:
    • Business of the House | Commons debates

      I too wish to support the Bill and the amendments made in the other place. I am deeply concerned, though, about the practice of the Government's moves to meet their own self-imposed universal service obligation.

      In my constituency, we are looking at around 1,000 properties-domestic properties, never mind businesses-that will not meet the USO. Indeed, even when we factor in those properties that can be supported via 4G to receive that kind of basic broadband connectivity, hundreds of properties in places such as Coniston, the Langdales, north Windermere, Ambleside, Hawkshead and Cartmel Fell are left still unable to access the Government's targets or avail themselves of them, and have no source of appeal and no form of redress. The only thing they can do about it is to shell out tens of thousands of pounds of their own money, if they are able and willing. It turns out that the Government's universal service obligation is not universal, and is not an obligation. That is going to, and does, hit rural communities such as ours all the more.

      I am also concerned that, as has been mentioned by others in this debate, the Government's commitment to full fibre roll-out has fallen by the wayside to a significant degree, and a breaking of manifesto promises is now clearly taking place. The commitment to £5 billion being spent in this Parliament has dropped to less than a quarter of that amount-less backhaul, more backsliding. That is deeply concerning for rural communities such as ours that thought they could rely on the promise that was made to them. The Government's reappraising of its targets-that is, the breaking of its promises-will mean that rural communities such as mine miss out the most, which is deeply regrettable. Through conversations with BT and others, we now calculate that nearly half of my constituents will not get ultrafast full fibre broadband for at least another decade. That is not acceptable, and not in keeping with the spirit of this Bill.

      I will focus on two final points. The first is that our experience during this pandemic tells us something very important about the nature of work. Here I am, speaking to Members from Milnthorpe in Cumbria while simultaneously being in the House of Commons. People working at home and making use of broadband connectivity has been transformative, and in one sense we are very grateful to be in this situation at this time, when we have this technology available to us. Imagine what it might have been like 20 or so years ago, when this technology was not available!

      However, with so many more people working from home, we begin to realise that the Government's fixation and focus on download speeds is somewhat misleading-maybe not intentionally, but it is misleading. For so many people in business working from home, it is upload speeds that matter. They are the benchmark of whether or not we are genuinely, properly connected. I can think of people in our big town of Kendal with upload speeds of less than one megabit per second, who are meant to be working from home, running companies of many dozens of people with large turnovers. That is not conducive to communities like ours. I have one of the most entrepreneurial communities in the country, with one of the highest numbers of people working for themselves when compared with any other community elsewhere in the United Kingdom. We are really proud of that, yet the Government hobble us by not having ambitions that are ambitious enough to allow people to work from home and within their communities, and to enable them to contribute to our economy. Let us focus on the reality of connectivity and realise that the Government's own ambitions are still very unambitious, given the new world that we find ourselves in.

      My final point is this: we are very proud of, and very grateful to, our mountain rescue services, and indeed all our emergency services here in the lakes and the dales. Only recently, a leading member of our mountain rescue teams here in the Lake district suffered very serious injuries rescuing a member of the public, and we remember how vital their service is, both the service given voluntarily by the mountain rescue services and that given by the professional emergency services. We owe them so much, and one of the things we owe them is decent connectivity. In three parts of my constituency, and in many other parts of the country, we have promises from the Home Office for new emergency service masts. In my community, that means the Langdales, Longsleddale, and Kentmere. Those Home Office masts are vital to the safety of people in those communities, and to the emergency services that often operate in those communities. They are also vital because they then provide a platform for commercial delivery for mobile telecommunications in vast, underpopulated-but not unpopulated-areas.

      The Home Office continuously puts off the erection and bringing into operation of the Longsleddale, Kentmere and Langdale masts. At the moment, we understand that the Home Office has no plan to activate those masts for another three or four years. Will the Minister put strong pressure on the Home Secretary to act swiftly to make sure that our emergency services, the people they come to aid and the wider community in the lakes have the benefit of those masts and have them quickly?

    • After Clause 2 - Risk based guidance about the discharge of duties under the Fire Safety Order | Fire Safety Bill | Commons debates

      To follow on from the hon. Member for Warrington South (Andy Carter), I cannot believe the Government think that this is the end of the matter, and I do not understand why they will not commit now to meeting the needs of all of those whose lives have been blighted through no fault of their own. This is a colossal injustice and a very simple one to solve: the Government just need to make sure that it is not those blameless people who bear the burden.

      People bought their leasehold properties in good faith. They are in the situation that they are in-those properties are unsafe-through no fault of the owners and entirely through the fault of the developers, the regulatory framework and the Governments of various colours over the years who permitted unsafe buildings to be built. How outrageous would it be if the blameless and the poorest were left to pay the burden and the bill? The reality is that so many leaseholders in my constituency and elsewhere throughout the country are in no position to move and cannot sell. They are at their wits' end and they are facing the end of their financial resources, too.

      The Government say they will fund the making safe of blocks that are higher than 18 metres, but actually that funding relates only to the cladding of those buildings; it does not cover other things that may make those buildings unsafe. What about wooden balconies or cement particle board behind the cladding? That also needs to be covered. Those in buildings that are higher than 11 metres but lower than 18 metres will potentially have to take out colossal debts to pay privately for the work required to make their properties safe. Those who own flats in buildings that are smaller than 11 metres get no support whatsoever. The vast majority, if not all, of the relevant properties in constituencies like ours, Mr Deputy Speaker-I bet it is similar in your constituency-are much smaller than 11 metres. The provisions in the Bill ignore in particular those in rural communities who are in need.

      It is a massive injustice that we should be forcing people to be fretting, worrying and facing bankruptcy and all sorts of other challenges to their lives because of a burden that is not their fault, that they cannot afford and for which the Government are refusing to pay. As things stand, the Government will meet the costs of the removal and making safe of cladding on properties that account for only 13% of those affected and less than a third of the costs, and leave the massive majority of the burden on people who are blameless and the poorest. That is unjust, and that is why the Bill needs amending.

  • Feb 22, 2021:
    • Business: Energy | Treasury | Written Answers

      To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, how many businesses received support under the Government's Enhanced Capital Allowance Scheme, which ended on 1 February 2021.

    • Covid-19 | Commons debates

      My constituency has the highest proportion of its workforce on furlough of any constituency in the entire United Kingdom. There has been a sixfold increase in unemployment, and it is obvious why. It is because hospitality and tourism is comfortably our biggest employer. We have the Lake district, the Yorkshire dales and vast swathes of Cumbria so beautiful that they could not find a national park to put them in. For the people working in those sectors, the reality is that many businesses have gone to the wall already. Many, many more have survived, and they have done so because of the support that they have received. That was a wise decision that the Government took 10 months or so ago as we entered the first lockdown.

      I encourage the Government not to throw away that investment now by penny-pinching towards the end of this pandemic crisis. The simple reality is that, yes, furlough is of vast importance for so many businesses to be able to keep their heads above water, but perhaps a quarter to a third or even more of their outgoings is nothing to do with staff; it is other overheads that they simply have no income or savings left to fund. Those are the businesses that are going to the wall by the week now in Cumbria and other tourist hotspots around the country.

      I urge the Government to do four things: first, to extend the business rates holiday; secondly, to extend the VAT cut; thirdly, to extend furlough and to say they are going to do it right now, not delaying it until the Budget next week, because that confidence is what businesses lack, and that is what is pushing so many of them to the wall; and fourthly and finally, a specific grant package to deal with the simple fact that without any income or any savings now many businesses, though they can see the light at the end of the tunnel, might not make it to the end of the tunnel.

      I must also make a further plea. After 11 months, what is preventing the Chancellor of the Exchequer from investing something to support the 4,000 people in my constituency-and perhaps 3 million people around the country-who have been excluded from any kind of support whatever, and who now face destitution as they seek to pay the rent or the mortgage and to feed their kids? I am talking about those people who are self-employed, but have been so for less than two years, those who are directors of small limited companies, taxi drivers, hairdressers, personal trainers and the like. Why will the Government not support the excluded? It is not too late for them to do so.

      Let me make a final, very local point. As we pay tribute to all those people doing everything they can to serve our communities at times like this, I think about people working in social care and public health as well as the wider NHS, people working in schools, and people dealing with those who face housing need or who are looked after by our local authorities. Today Cumbria's local government has announced a plunge into a top-down restructuring; what a witless waste of everybody's time.

    • Covid-19: Road Map | Commons debates

      The Prime Minister is right to prioritise education and to say that people can now do outdoor activities more freely-or, at least, they will be able to over the coming weeks and months-but he says nothing about outdoor education, which is an industry of vast importance to us in the lakes and dales, and of great value to young people right across the country. There are 15,000 people employed in the sector; at least, there were, but some 6,000 have now lost their jobs. If we lose that sector, it will be very difficult ever to get it back and we will suffer hugely as a country if that happens. Will the Prime Minister agree to reopen outdoor education or residential stays from the summer term, so that we can take advantage of the skills of the professionals in outdoor education to help our young people to re-engage with a love of learning and to tackle many of the mental health issues that they face? If he is not able to make that guarantee, will he at least do what has happened in Northern Ireland and Scotland by providing a bespoke financial package to support and save our outdoor education sector?

  • Feb 8, 2021:
    • UK Shellfish Exports | Commons debates

      Families in Flookburgh in my constituency have fished on the sands for centuries. In recent generations, they have built a market that means the majority of their catch is sold in France. The Government's failure to secure export rights for Flookburgh fishermen is a negligent betrayal of my communities. My constituents do not care whose fault it is, and are not impressed with the Secretary of State's buck passing while their livelihoods are destroyed. Will he be clear about what he will do to compensate my constituents and restore their access to live shellfish markets, as they had been promised?

  • Feb 4, 2021:
    • Covid-19 Vaccine Update | Commons debates

      Unpaid carers provide a huge service to our community in South Lakeland, especially for the people they care for directly. If they get ill, that is a huge welfare risk for the people they care for. There has been confusion over whether unpaid carers will be prioritised for the vaccine, because although the Government said that they would be in priority group 6, they are missing from other communications, including the summary list in the vaccine delivery plan. Will the Minister clarify once and for all that unpaid carers rightly will be on the priority list?

  • Feb 3, 2021:
  • Feb 1, 2021:
  • Jan 26, 2021:
    • New Clause 8 - Waste Hierarchy | Environment Bill | Commons debates

      On the air quality amendments, the targets in this Bill do not even meet those recommended by the World Health Organisation, as has been said by other Members. That should rightly alarm all of us, especially given that the UK has such a terrible track record in recent years. When we were a member of the EU, it fined us regularly for failing to meet the targets set at that point. Air quality standards are of the utmost importance, and for the Government to under aim and be under-ambitious here is deeply troubling. We are being asked to accept not only decreased air quality standards, but delayed standards, as this Bill is pushed back once again, after years of delay. Yet, tragically, we now increasingly see "poor air quality" cited as a cause of death on the death certificates of many, many people. As many colleagues from both sides of the House, have said, this is a matter of life and death, Delayed action at this time, in the hiatus between the strong targets and standards we had up to the end of 2020 and the point at which we get whatever standards we will get when this Bill is finally agreed, allows bad habits to build up and bed in, and it makes Britain's poor air quality harder still to clear up.

      On waste, the absence of plastic reduction targets beggars belief, given the rhetoric we have heard from many in the Government. The Conservative manifesto made a specific reference-a promise even-to

      "ban the export of plastic waste"

      to developing countries. The Government have broken that promise. So not only are they not tackling our plastic problem here at home, but we are adding to the plastic problem of poorer countries overseas.

      My amendment 30 related to water quality. We simply want the Government to monitor the impact of the abstraction of water on biodiversity in chalk streams and in other waterways. This Bill does not do that, and it is a simple and obvious request. Only 14% of England's rivers and lakes are in a good quality water position at the moment, so the need for this measure is clear.

      So we see an unambitious Bill and a delay, which means even this poor ambition will be hard to bring to fruition, given that we will have to wait many months. This takes commitment to underachievement to new heights, undermining the quality of our environment and animal welfare. These are times when we need to be setting clear and ambitious targets if we are going to lead the world, but I am afraid that we are lagging far behind.

    • New Clause 1 - Environmental Principles: Public Authorities | Environment Bill | Commons debates

      The Office for Environmental Protection concerns me greatly, because I think it is going to offer us very little protection. Its powers include the terrifying capacity to point out that the Government have failed to safeguard environmental protections or to maintain standards, but it cannot force the Government to comply, it cannot fine and it cannot prosecute. It can shame the Government, but if I could be so flippant, Madam Deputy Speaker, this appears to be a Government who know no shame, as demonstrated by the last-minute decision to delay this already criminally overdue Bill by maybe six months or more.

      This is outrageous, but the Government will tough it out and will probably bear no consequences for doing so. However, there will be huge consequences for our environment, for biodiversity, for future generations and, indeed, for farmers and food producers. No formal regulation over these months and pretty much toothless enforcement thereafter will mean the steady erosion of animal welfare and environmental protections just, as it happens, as the Government are engaging in negotiating trade deals around the world. Some might consider this to be a rather convenient hiatus that will allow them to throw British farming under a bus once again. Farmers will lose the ability to look at our regulation as something that they can use to strengthen their hand when it comes to those negotiations. The undermining of our land management community-of our farmers-is a massive threat to our environment. Without them, we lose the practical capacity to deliver biodiversity gains.

      That delay will also, of course, delay the setting of targets, which is key to the building blocks of the new environmental land management scheme, so it becomes less and less likely that the scheme will be ready and available to all farmers and land managers by 2028. Surely, therefore, if the Government are going to protect those farmers we depend on so much for biodiversity, they should finally accept that they must extend the basic payment scheme at 2020 levels-full levels-until the environmental land management scheme is available to all; otherwise, they will put out of business hundreds of those family farms that we rely on here in Cumbria and elsewhere, which are the very structure that has guaranteed Britain's high standards in the past.

      Finally, if the Government are going to encourage a new generation of land managers to deliver those biodiversity gains, may I make a plea for them to directly fund Newton Rigg College in Penrith?

  • Jan 25, 2021:
    • Council Tax: Government's Proposed Increase | Commons debates

      To govern is to choose, and the Government have chosen to make local authorities choose between cutting services at this time of all times and imposing a 5% council tax rise.

      I have always opposed the council tax since the Conservatives introduced it in a rush in the early '90s in the poll tax debacle. It was always a wrong form of taxation; it takes more from those who have the least, and it takes less from those who have the most. It is a regressive form of tax, and for the Government to force local authorities-red, yellow and blue-to increase that burden on the families who struggle the most during a pandemic is utterly inexcusable.

      It is a choice that the Government have made to increase council tax by 5% and to hit the worst those families who struggle the most, but there are other choices that this Government have made at the same time. The stamp duty holiday has given a boost of tens of thousands of pounds to people who want to buy second homes. Therefore, people who are struggling by on the minimum wage, paying a much higher proportion of their salary in council tax now than those who are wealthier, get a hit, yet those who can afford not just one home but two or more get a benefit worth tens of thousands of pounds from this Government, who have chosen to give it to them.

      I suggest to the Minister that there is something better he could do with council tax. In communities such as mine in the lakes and dales, where as many as 85% of the properties are second homes-boltholes for folks who are well-off enough mainly to live somewhere else-the impact is colossal. Every single one of those homes is sending no child to the local school and providing no demand for the post office or the bus service, and so those services and facilities end up closing, as they have done in many communities in my part of the world. Yet there are things the Government could do to ameliorate that. Instead of imposing a huge council tax burden on those who are struggling to pay now, why not increase council tax on those who are well-off enough to have more than one home and recycle that money back into local communities?

      Furthermore, why do the Government not deal with their own consultation that closed nearly three years ago on whether to close the loophole that allows second-home owners to pretend that they are a business? They claim business rate relief, and get business rates taken off altogether-so pay no council tax and no business rates. If this Government cared about levelling up, they would not be levelling down Lake district communities by benefiting those wealthy enough to have more than one home while hitting those who are on low incomes to start with.

      The Government have chosen to impose this council tax rise, and council tax always hits the less well-off more than those who are better off. This is the opportunity that the Government have to change their mind, to benefit not just the lakes and dales but the whole of the country as it struggles through this terrible crisis.

  • Jan 21, 2021:
    • Equitable Life | Commons debates

      So here we are again. First, I would like to endorse the calls for an inquiry on some of the wildly inaccurate payments received by Equitable Life pensioners. That transparency is needed by those who are dependent on what they get through the Equitable Life scheme run by the Government for any kind of income in retirement. That is so important.

      This is a reminder of how Governments of various colours have let these people down. It is clear to me that the Government, in their failure to regulate Equitable Life, allowed people a false sense of security when investing and doing what Governments of all shapes, sizes and political hues had encouraged them to do: provide for their own retirement. Those people then discovered, to their horror, that their plans for retirement-often modest plans-had been destroyed.

      The Government's first response was to provide about half a million pounds of support. I am proud that my colleague Vince Cable was instrumental in ensuring that an additional £1 billion was provided in 2010, but even that is far short of the £4.5 billion that the independent ombudsman recognised was owed to the people who have been so cruelly hit by the Equitable Life crisis. People who have been encouraged to save and provide for themselves and their families in retirement, and who then dutifully take that advice, should not be punished and left to a retirement in penury because the Government of the day did not do their job in regulating Equitable Life properly.

      In my community alone, 2,000 victims of the Equitable Life scandal are making the best they can of a reduced circumstances retirement. It seems to me that the Treasury is callously banking on the number of people in receipt and deserving of compensation reducing year on year. That is a tragedy, and the Government should step up right now. It is not only a historical injustice to the 2,000 people in my community who are Equitable Life pensioners that they have not been given their due payments and the retirement that they had saved and provided for. It is also damaging to our communities. Let us remember that if those 2,000 people in Westmorland and Lonsdale were to receive the payments they were due by this Government, it would make a big difference to our local economy. Morally and practically, it is right for this Government to do what the independent ombudsman called for some years ago and pay the full £4.5 billion to those pensioners.

  • Jan 15, 2021:
  • Jan 14, 2021:
  • Jan 13, 2021:
    • Immigration | Home Office | Written Answers

      To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, whether her Department plans to appoint a Migrants' Commissioner.

    • Elections: May 2021 | Commons debates

      It is great to see the Minister; on behalf of my colleagues, I wish her all the best for a full and speedy recovery. I am personally very keen to have elections in May and even keener that the Government make the decision now and stick to it. Clarity is important to stop the uncertainty that leads to instability within local authorities up and down the country. What adds to that instability, in three parts of England-Somerset, Cumbria and North Yorkshire-is a ludicrous plan for a top-down reorganisation of local government in the midst of a pandemic. Does the Minister agree that it is far wiser for those authorities to focus on delivering social care, education, housing and economic development, rather than labouring under a pointless, badly-timed, top-down reorganisation?