Monday, 21 February 2011

Much done, much to do.

In common with every other Lib Dem blogger, here's the party's latest video on the achievements of the past year and ambitions for the next four. 

Featuring Lady (Floella) Benjamin OBE, Party President Tim Farron, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Chris Huhne and Pensions Minister, Steve Webb, it focuses on policies for a fairer, greener, more liberal country.


Thursday, 17 February 2011

Equality of Marriage

Today Lynne Featherstone, Home Office Parliamentary under Secretary of State responsible for equalities and Liberal Democrat MP, announced that the government is to drop the explicit ban on Civil Partnerships in religious settings. This will allow those religious bodies (in England and Wales) that do wish to hold partnership ceremonies to do so.

The bigger announcement, however, is that the government will look at addressing the differences between Marriage and Civil Partnerships.

While a commitment to look at the issue is a long way from legislation allowing for same-gender marriage or mixed-gender Civil Partnerships, I think we can be reasonably certain that had the Conservatives (or, of course, Labour for that matter) been governing alone, this would not be on the agenda at all.

Full equality of access for marriage and Civil Partnerships was only adopted as Liberal Democrat policy adopted at the autumn conference.  Today's announcement means that the party is not now influencing government thinking just in those areas covered by the manifesto or coalition agreement but also in the development of future policy.

As we move towards the first anniversary of the government there will increasingly be issues and policies which were not in either manifesto or the coalition programme. It is reassuring therefore to see that a Liberal tone is being adopted in relation to this issue and this will hopefully apply  to other subjects too.

You can read Lynne Featherstone's blog here and you can read more on the announcement on the Government Equalities Office website.


Friday, 11 February 2011

Protection of Freedoms Bill

Today the government unveiled it's Freedom Bill. As is tradition with these posts, I'll quote from both the Conservative and Liberal Democrat Manifestos... and the Coalition Programme for government:

First the Conservative Manifesto:
"To protect our freedoms from state encroachment and encourage greater social responsibility, we will replace the Human Rights Act with a UK Bill of Rights."
Now the Liberal Democrat Manifesto:
"Restore and protect hard-won British civil liberties with a Freedom Bill"
"Introduce a Freedom Bill. We will regulate CCTV, stop councils from spying on people, stop unfair extradition to the US, defend trial by jury, and stop children being fingerprinted at school without their parents’ permission."
"Remove innocent people from the police DNA database and stop storing DNA from innocent people and children in the future, too."
"Ensure that everyone has the same protections under the law by protecting the Human Rights Act."
And finally the Coalition Agreement:
"We will introduce a Freedom Bill."
While the Conservative idea of a UK Bill of Rights sounds attractive on some levels, repealing the Human Rights Act and (potentially) leaving the European Convention on Human RIghts would have been a retrograde step. Now we have a bill which has the following statement on its very first page:
"Secretary Theresa May has made the following statement under section 19(1)(a) of the

Human Rights Act 1998:

In my view the provisions of the Protection of Freedoms Bill are compatible with the

Convention rights."
While it may not (quite) cover all the areas listed - although it also covers a number of other areas - the Protection of Freedoms Bill would not have happened without Liberal Democrats in Government.

Here's a video of Nick Clegg addressing the issue of criminal record checks for those working with children, courtesy of the BBC:

Caron's Musings , Richard Baum , and Duncan Stott have more and if you're so minded, you can read the bill here.