Archive for the 'Q&As' Category

Your questions answered: incineration and landfill (podcast)

Saturday, February 25th, 2006

Here, as promised, is the first of the answers received on the Ming Campbell podcast question hotline:

Jim Elliott asked about how we should deal with residual household waste:

Listen to Jim’s question in full and Ming’s reply (MP3, 595kB)

If you want to ask your own question, please call the ‘Ask Ming’ podcast question hotline on 07747 867259.

As party leader, how would you promote the Lib Dems’ essentially pro-European message in an electorally attractive way?

Monday, February 6th, 2006

This is the million-Euro question in British politics! How to promote the strengths and virtues of European integration to an electorate subject to a relentless barrage of misinformation about the EU, from politicians and the media alike, remains one of the greatest challenges we face.

There is no easy answer. Even if we present our case more effectively, we still have to face the fact that there are entrenched anti European interests in the British media, and the EU is going through a phase of pronounced uncertainty which makes it easier for Eurosceptics to make a noise.

But we clearly need to assert the underlying rationale for European integration peace, prosperity, sustainability with greater clarity and self confidence. It is my strongly held view that in a globalised world where we face such acute new environmental and security threats the case for coherent, collective EU action is even more compelling than when the EC was founded in the 1950s. The suggestion that European integration is somehow out of date is one of the most absurd allegations made by our opponents. The EU, whilst by no means perfect, is crucial to addressing many of our most urgent contemporary challenges.

At the same time, we should marry our advocacy of European integration to a forthright reformist agenda in which we take the lead in arguing for the reform and improvement of the EU. This, in my view, flows naturally from our pro Europeanism: as advocates of the EU, we want it to act as legitimately and effectively as possible. That is why I have always strongly supported the action of our MEPs in highlighting the unacceptable levels of secrecy in the EU Council of Ministers and the real facts behind the way in which EU monies are spent, and misspent. The draft EU Constitution itself, of course, shaped heavily by Lib Dems on the Convention, included many reformist ideas which I continue to strongly support (for example greater clarity on the EUs functions, greater decision making transparency, more budgetary accountability etc).

By blending our historical role as outspoken advocates of European integration with leadership in arguing for reforms in the EU, my objective would be that the Lib Dems would remain the most articulate and thoughtful pro European political party in Britain.

As new Party leader, how do you see all of the Parliamentary groups working together better?

Monday, February 6th, 2006

Everyone agrees that there is a need to improve the working relationship between all the Lib Dem Parliamentary Parties. We need to communicate better between London, Brussels, Strasbourg, Edinburgh and Cardiff. But the most pressing need for improvement is in the relationship between the Westminster and European Parliamentary parties. This is especially true after the difficult debate at our last Federal Party Conference in Blackpool.

Some useful steps have already been taken. Immediately after the Blackpool conference, I asked Nick Clegg MP, our European Affairs Spokesman in the House of Commons, to work with each of the partys departmental “teams” of MPs to develop more effective working relationships with their opposite numbers in the European Parliament.

Discussions have been held with Graham Watson, leader of the ALDE Group, and Chris Davies, leader of the UK Lib Dem group, on how matters could be improved further in the future. In supporting me in my leadership bid, Graham, Chris, Andrew Duff, Emma Nicholson and others have stressed that they want me to continue to make further efforts in this direction if I am elected as leader, something I wholeheartedly welcome.

What strikes me as particularly important is that there should be greater coordination between the two Parliamentary parties on legislative issues. Legislation dealt with by our MEPs often does not cross the desks of MPs until several months, sometimes years, later. We could do much more to ensure that the work of our MEPs is not only fully discussed with their counterparts in Westminster, but is also used proactively by MPs as advance warning on the position taken by Government Ministers in EU negotiations. That way our MPs could use the information provided by MEPs to press Government Ministers at an early stage in the decision making process, before it is presented to the House of Commons as a done deal.

Finally, as Leader I will urge our MPs and MEPs to campaign jointly more on a range of issues. The scandalous secrecy of the Council of Ministers is a classic example where reform is urgently needed in the EU, and that reform can be most effectively promoted through a joint effort on both sides of the Channel. Campaigns can also work well at ground level when MEPs and MPs, where their constituencies overlap, work together on local or regional issues. There are some good examples where our MEPs and MPs have worked well together at constituency level, and I will seek to promote such cooperation further in the future.

What positive steps have you personally taken to ensure that the Parliamentary Party is more reflective of wider society? What other things should the party be doing in general to encourage diversity?

Monday, February 6th, 2006

Throughout my professional life, as a lawyer and an MP, I have worked to combat inequality. Sometimes that has been through individual casework, sometimes by supporting individual candidates and campaigners in elections. As one of the longer serving MPs I have come to realise the importance of working supportively with younger, newer colleagues. Having the support of our new colleagues this year, such as Jo, Julia, Jenny and Sarah, is refreshing and I welcome the challenge which they bring to me and the parliamentary party as whole.

For me, being supportive of people from minority communities, such as lesbians and gay men or black and minority communities, is a fundamental and integral part of liberal democracy. Im pleased to have had the opportunity to support important legislative changes such as civil partnerships. As Leader, I would work with colleagues to build a bigger and stronger parliamentary party which has diversity at its heart.

We are a party of diversity. We cannot remain static. We need to keep pace with social and political change. The best way to do this is through our membership. Working at the grassroots, we must ensure that liberal-minded people from all backgrounds feel the Liberal Democrats are a comfortable home. Our membership is our most valuable resource. We must involve them, at all levels, from local fundraising committees, to the partys Federal Executive and Parliamentary Parties. Monitoring is vital to identify where there are problems to address. We have some way to go but I want to ensure that we have policies and practices which will meet the challenges of our multi-racial, multi-cultural and multi-religious society.

The Gender Balance Task Force has always struggled with resources. In 2001 it was agreed that it should be given an annual budget of around 30,000, including the cost of a member of staff, but in practice it has never received this. Are you personally committed to ensuring that the Gender Balance Task Force receives greater funding than in the last Parliamentary cycle and that the Ethnic Minority Election Task Force is funded to a comparable degree? How do you propose ensuring that sufficient funds can be raised?

Monday, February 6th, 2006

I believe that we must tackle the problem of under-representation, and the way to do so is with positive action. That action needs to be resourced, and I am personally committed to that. Detailed budget-setting is done by the partys finance committee, but if funds cannot be found from existing budgets, I will personally lead fundraising efforts to make sure this essential activity is funded. Many of our members share the concerns about lack of proper representation for women and ethnic minorities, and I am confident that such fundraising for these specific causes would be effective.

7 out of 12 Lib Dem MEPs are women, while 1 MEP is Asian. In 1999 the English party used zipping to ensure that 50% of candidates were women. In 2004 it used a quota system to ensure that at least 1 of the top 3 candidates of each regional list, and a third overall, had to be of either sex. How would you favour selecting candidates for the 2009 European Elections?

Monday, February 6th, 2006

We can be proud of our representation of women at European level; of course zipping was initially used to guarantee this. However we should remember that had we zipped in 2004, we would not have elected our first Asian MEP nor have two women MEPs in the South East region. The system used in 2004 offers more flexibility, while ensuring a mix of both genders at the top of the list.

At the next Lib Dem conference in Harrogate, a motion has been proposed to set up an Ethnic Minority Election Task Force on a comparable basis to the Gender Balance Task Force. Will you personally be voting for this motion? What will you do to ensure greater representation of ethnic minorities within the Parliamentary Party?

Monday, February 6th, 2006

The motion before the Harrogate Conference is the direct result of the work undertaken by Navnit Dholakia who has endorsed my candidature. During his presidency of the Party, Navnit was instrumental in producing a document on diversity, racial equality and the party. That document has been approved by the Federal Executive. It has been hailed by Operation Black Vote as the best document ever to emerge from any political party. The report provides a key insight into how we, as a party, can become properly representative of all our diverse communities in Britain. I will ensure the party machinery is equipped to deal with the recommendations contained in this report.

What system would be your ideal way of making the Parliamentary Party more gender balanced? Do you support all women shortlists as a way of increasing the number of Lib Dem women MPs?

Monday, February 6th, 2006

I do not support all women shortlists, and this approach has been rejected by Lib Dem Conference in 2001 and again in 2005.

While we made good progress at this election, electing 7 new women MPs, 9 women out of 62 Lib Dem MPs is not nearly enough.

It is clear that a positive and dynamic campaign is needed within the party to actively seek out potential women candidates, and support and encourage them through approval and selection. Touring the country at hustings events, I have met many bright and talented women members and activists we must encourage them to become candidates and investigate what factors are currently putting them off. Until we have as many women as men coming forward to be Lib Dem candidates, it will be difficult for us to achieve gender balance. Just like any by-election or target seat campaign, this campaign to recruit more women candidates must be properly resourced.