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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

  • May 22, 2020:
  • May 21, 2020:
    • Coronavirus: Screening | Department of Health and Social Care | Written Answers

      To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what steps he is taking to (a) source clinically approved covid-19 tests from UK companies, (b) introduce a mechanism to allow those companies to apply for the covid-19 tests they produce to be clinically approved and introduced into circulation and (c) publish the requirements necessary for covid-19 tests to be clinically approved for use.

  • May 19, 2020:
  • May 13, 2020:
    • Import of agricultural goods after IP completion day | Agriculture Bill | Commons debates

      It is a pleasure to follow my constituency neighbour, the hon. Member for Penrith and The Border (Dr Hudson). I support much of what he said.

      We support the spirit of the Bill, especially the movement to reward farmers for public goods. Today, the Government can introduce one of the most successful changes in agricultural policy in history. Equally, today could be remembered for one of the most catastrophic disasters. The principles are good, but the real value of the Bill will be determined in its implementation.

      Farmers in Cumbria and throughout Britain could fall at the first hurdle if the Government insist on beginning the phase-out of the basic payment scheme from next January, long before its replacement is ready. Universal credit is the example of what happens when a good idea is introduced in a hasty, penny-pinching, cloth-eared way. I want to spare the Secretary of State the ignominy of being the person responsible for doing the same with the new environmental land-management scheme. Even more, I want to spare our farmers the hardship, spare our environment the damage and spare our people the loss of British food-producing capacity. In the end, it will cost less to do the right thing than it will to do it badly.

      The Government's plan is to remove 50% of basic payments by 2024, costing farmers 46% of their net income, yet the new scheme will be fully rolled out only by 2028. There are currently 89,000 basic payment claimants; how many of those farms do we expect to survive the long period during which their incomes are slashed before a replacement is ready? It is obvious that the disruption will be huge, undermining the good purposes of the Bill. We cannot care for our environment, guarantee food production and deliver public goods if, by 2028, we have allowed hundreds of farms to close by accident. The answer is a no-brainer: do not phase out basic payments until the environmental land-management schemes are ready. The Secretary of State must listen to farmers on this issue before it is too late.

      The ultimate public good that farmers provide is, of course, food. Those empty shelves in March and the disruption to the supplies of imported food must be a wake-up call. Almost 50% of the food consumed in the UK is now imported, compared with 35% just 20 years ago. Successive Governments have contributed to us sleepwalking into a real problem when it comes to food security.

      We will suffer a huge blow if the Bill fails to impose import standards, which is why I tabled new clause 10 and will support other amendments of similar intent. We must protect our British standards on food and food production. That will not be possible if Ministers allow the market to be flooded with food produced at a lower standard than we would tolerate here. Let us be clear: if Ministers will not accept amendments ensuring that Britain does not compromise these standards in trade deals, they are clearly saying to British farmers, "Please give us the freedom to sell you out in trade negotiations." Britain has the best standards in the world, and they will be completely irrelevant if we allow Ministers to strike trade deals that lead to imported goods with lower production, animal welfare, environmental and labour standards.

      For us in south Cumbria, the landscape of the lakes and the dales is a breathtaking public good-although, given that we have one of the oldest and most vulnerable populations in the country and the third highest covid infection rate, I strongly urge people not to rush to visit us here until it is safe to do so, at which point we will welcome them with open arms. These landscapes are of global significance. As a UNESCO world heritage site, they underpin, in normal times, an economy worth £3 billion a year. Their contribution to the heritage of our country, its economy and the nation's wellbeing are astounding, and it is our farmers who are responsible for stewarding and maintaining those landscapes. Will Ministers commit to there being criteria within the environmental land management scheme for payments for aesthetic maintenance and for heritage, especially in the uplands?

      Finally, I urge Ministers to ensure that the good principles of the Bill are reflected in wise and effective practicalities. I am convinced that this Bill will be seen as truly historic, but it is up to the Government to ensure that it is for the right reasons.

  • May 11, 2020:
  • May 7, 2020:
  • May 5, 2020:
    • Social Security | Commons debates

      The employment allowance, of course, was born during the years of the coalition to help small businesses, charities and sports clubs to take on their first employees. The Liberal Democrats are proud of our legacy and commitment to understanding and meeting the needs of entrepreneurs and small businesses. This has never been more important than it is now, so the increase is a welcome development and we are very happy to support it. However, it will be of use only to those businesses that are able to stay in business. Our challenge is to ensure that small businesses and charities are able to stay afloat until we are out of lockdown, so that they can benefit from it. That is not a call to end or ease the lockdown soon; we have to be led by science and safety, not politics and impatience. My fear, though, is that the increase in the allowance could end up being the cherry on a cake that no longer exists. Put bluntly, it will be of no use to businesses that have gone to the wall.

      The allowance increase, sadly, will have escaped the attention of many, given that it arrived just as the economy went into shock in the face of the covid-19 crisis. Here in the south lakes, that shock is being felt acutely. We are a community where volunteering is second nature, where small charities, community groups and sports clubs form the glue that binds us together, but for most, their income has disappeared, and Government support has not reached everyone. We are a community where one in four people work for themselves, hundreds of them new start-ups. Small employers, new employers and potential employers are the very people the employment allowance is there to help, and most of them have been closed or curtailed by the virus.

      We claim to be the biggest visitor destination in the UK outside London, but the market squares, pubs, restaurants and hotels of the lakes and dales are still and silent. It is right that they are; we all know that the priority is to protect people, to save lives. The problem is that if hospitality and tourism are phased back into action in the autumn, the industry will have missed out on the business of the summer months that it relies on to get through the winter. If we do not provide long-term support for those businesses, we will be faced with tens of thousands of furloughed workers losing their jobs as soon as support ends. That will have a colossal impact on our communities in the south lakes and will push countless families into poverty.

      I hope that Ministers share my determination to ensure that we keep businesses going now, so that employers are able to re-hire furloughed staff and to employ new staff after this is all over. For those in the tourism and hospitality business, that must mean committing to a 12-month funding settlement, to see them through to spring 2021. Anything less, and we will simply be delaying the collapse of hundreds of businesses until the autumn. I want those employers to be around to benefit from the raised employment allowance.

      If you could live in a beautiful place like Cumbria and make a living, you just would. Well, thanks to improved broadband speeds, increasing numbers of people have done just that. We are one of the most entrepreneurial places in the country. Hundreds of people have set up their businesses here, underpinning our local communities. There has been an explosion in the number of new businesses based in spare bedrooms, on kitchen tables, in sheds or shared spaces. Often, these businesses do not expect to make much money-if any-in the first year or two; many work at a loss until the third or fourth year. Those are the very businesses that, until now, have not qualified for any support from Government during this crisis-those self-employed for less than a year, those working in shared spaces and those who work from home. Small B&Bs have also missed out. Many of these businesses have already had to close, leaving people's dreams shattered and families experiencing desperate hardship and even destitution.

      The announcement last weekend of a £617 million package for those who have fallen through the cracks is welcome, and I am grateful to Ministers for listening to us. But I confess that the details of this fund trouble me and my constituents. South Lakeland has such a large number of businesses hit, because of our reliance on tourism and hospitality, that the local council has distributed one of the largest hardship budgets in the country-£70 million, which is much more than places like Newcastle and Nottingham, with populations of three times our size. If this new money is divided out according to the size of population, South Lakeland will get about £2 million, which would leave hundreds of businesses with absolutely nothing. This announcement would, in that case, have given false hope.

      I ask the Government to distribute on the basis of need and be willing to increase the sum available across the country if it turns out that people are missing out. I also ask for clarity on which businesses will be eligible for this support. For example, will it include those who are operating from home? I warmly welcome these regulations. We must do everything in our power to ensure that small employers survive this crisis, so that they are still around to use this money and create opportunities for others.

  • May 4, 2020: