“It is impossible to disagree with a single word she says, but there’s no mention of the fact that her Labour Council has brought the town’s youth services to a near shut down.”
– Liberal Democrat leader on Luton Council, Cllr. David Franks.

Luton Council’s press statement on the recent violent crime incidents in the town has brought a sharp response from Liberal Democrat opposition councillors. They say that actions speak louder than words and the Council’s massive cuts to the town’s Youth Services have contributed to the growth of knife and gun crime in Luton.

“It is impossible to disagree with a single word she says, but there’s no mention of the fact that her Labour Council has brought the town’s youth services to a near shut down,” says David Franks, Liberal Democrat leader of the opposition on the Council.

“Youth clubs have closed and others are struggling. Whilst it is certainly true the huge funding cuts imposed by Tory government have made life more difficult, the decisions on detailed spending cuts have been made by our Labour Council. The families of both victims and perpetrators have seen their lives shattered and warm words are not enough. We need more investment in Youth Services, not less.”

As the candidate in this election for the Liberal Democrats in the constituency of Luton South I think it is important for me to clearly spell out to the voters what my priorities are.

I believe that Britain is better off as a member of the European Union. I do acknowledge that the result of the 2016 referendum gave the government a mandate to start negotiations to leave. I also believe that the government had a duty to respond to that result by exploring how leaving the European Union could be accomplished without significantly damaging the rights and opportunities of British citizens, the British economy, or our standing in the world. I also believe, particularly given the narrowness of the result, that Parliament should have a significant say in how those negotiations are conducted; but that a decision on whether to accept the result of those negotiations should be made by the British people, not by politicians.

So my top priority will be to fight the Conservatives choice to pursue a hard Brexit — a choice that is supported by both UKIP and the Labour Party — which will lead to a poorer Britain, and a poorer Luton.

I will defend the principles of free trade and fight for Britain to remain a member of the Single Market and the Customs Union. Membership of which is of vital benefit to Luton’s economy; not least because of its manufacturing and aviation industries.

I will fight to keep Britain an open society and support the principle of freedom of movement. I will defend the benefits that managed immigration brings to Britain, and to Luton in particular. I want us to remain a welcoming, diverse, and tolerant town willing to make use of the talents of people from across Europe and the world.

I will do what I can to promote policies that support creativity and innovation. I will argue for investment in education, enterprise, and scientific research. I will also seek to protect people’s rights in the digital age.

I will push to ensure that environmental issues — so far largely ignored in this election — are kept high on the agenda. I will argue for policies to tackle climate change and air pollution, to protect our green spaces and natural landscape, and to improve the quality of urban environments.

I will work to ensure that our public services are effective, responsive, and properly funded. I will support Liberal Democrat plans to increase funding to the NHS and social care services. I will fight to protect support for the poorest and most vulnerable and to ensure that our taxation system is fair.

I will continue to argue for reform of our broken political system. I will fight for genuine change in areas such as party funding, fairer votes, effective local government, and media regulation. I will work to revitalise our political system – so it works for everyone.

House of Lords, Thursday 24th March 2011, 12.18 pm

Lord Hussain: My Lords, it gives me great pleasure to speak in your Lordships’ House for the first time. I am grateful to all the staff of this House for their kindness and help, and to noble Lords from all sides who have been so welcoming. My special thanks go to my introducing Peers, my noble friends Lord Rennard and Lady Hussein-Ece, who have been extremely helpful to me.

I might be one of very few Peers who have experienced migration in the early part of their lives. I arrived in the UK with my family from Kashmir at the age of 14 to join my father who was working in Rochdale in the textile industry. One Member of this House once said that his father got on his bike to look for a job; mine got on a plane.

I left school at 16 to work to help my family. I did a variety of jobs -anything that would pay a wage to support my family. I struggled through the new way of life with everything from culture to language, and from religion to the British weather, being very different from what I left behind.

From my early days in the UK, I was engaged in many different local issues, beginning with leading a successful campaign for facilities for young people. I helped to set up a youth centre called the Kashmir Youth Project in Rochdale back in early 1980s, the first of its kind. It was officially opened by a Minister of the time, Sir David Trippier. That visit was followed by visits by many other Ministers and dignitaries, including His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales. The project provided several vocational training workshops, including on office skills, childcare, sewing, carpentry, electrical work and computers, as well as recreational facilities and an advice centre.

My passion for equality and fairness led me to be involved in the Community Relations Council in Rochdale, where I served for many years. In Luton, where I made my new home in 1993, I served on the management boards of various schools, the law centre and the local trade union council. I also led campaigns for the rights of oppressed people in many parts of the world, including Palestine, East Timor and, particularly, Kashmir, which is still waiting for the right of self-determination granted to it by the United Nations in 1948.

For many years I have fought extremists of religious and/or political views emerging from many different sides. I believe extremists not only divide our society but damage the very fabric of the multicultural and multi-religious society that we all enjoy. Hence it is the duty of every one of us to challenge this behaviour in order to prevent that from happening.

In 1996 I became an elected councillor for Luton borough; I was the first in my family to become involved in public life in the UK. In 2003 it was the war in Iraq that forced me to leave the Labour Party and join the Liberal Democrats, which proved to be a turning point in my life. In the following few years, I served on the local council as a portfolio holder, a deputy leader of the council, a parliamentary candidate twice, and finally I find myself here in your Lordships’ House.

In my working life I have worked in many different fields, from textile manufacturing to banking and from insurance to community work. I have also worked for myself, as a small business person, for many years. This has given me an insight into the issues and problems, as well as the freedom and benefits, of small business people. My experience has given me an understanding of the importance of small businesses to the national economy. In my home town of Luton, around half the people in employment work for small firms employing fewer than 10 people. There is no reason to believe that in this respect Luton is different from any other towns in Britain.

The vital part that small businesses play in generating and maintaining employment must not be underestimated. In the history of British businesses there are hundreds, probably thousands, of stories of small businesses that have grown into very large ones, playing their part in the general well-being of our society, employing thousands of people and paying millions to the Treasury in taxes.

Small businesses depend on the ingenuity, enthusiasm, expertise and flexibility of their owners and workers. However, to grow into large ones they also need investment. Many of the small business owners that I talk to tell me that in order to get an investment loan from the bank they first have to prove that they do not need it. It is good to see that the Government have made a promising start on the process of re-educating the banks on their responsibilities to help small businesses to grow.

The owners of some very small businesses tell me that they have extreme difficulty in running their businesses and acting as immigration officers at the same time to make sure that their employees have the right kind of paperwork to work in the United Kingdom, or they run the risk of being liable to heavy fines and/or imprisonment.

I am confident that, both in the measures that have already been announced and those under consideration, the Government recognise the critical part small businesses can play -and are eager to play- in setting our economy on the path to steady and sustainable growth.

No single party won last year’s general election: Labour certainly lost it, but nobody won it.

The decision taken by Nick Clegg and his colleagues to join a coalition with the Tories, who had won most seats in Parliament but not an outright majority, was a responsible one. I would argue that it was the right decision for the country.

The biggest challenge facing any incoming government was the huge budget deficit bequeathed to us by Gordon Brown and his friends, including Ed Miliband, who had failed to take the necessary action to bring public expenditure back under control (although it is interesting to note that the difference between what Labour promised they would cut in their 2009 pre-budget report and what the Coalition Government actually cut in their budget last year is just £11bn – out of a total budget of over £750bn!). It was important for decisive action to be taken to restore international confidence, gain the support of the financial markets, and prevent the country from sliding into the economic mess which Greece , Ireland and other European countries are in.

No single party could have taken the necessary action on its own to reduce the huge borrowing deficit which was hanging over us, and which would be crippling the lives and futures of our children and grandchildren.

The Lib Dems took the brave decision to join a coalition to begin dealing with this mess, and to use the opportunity to introduce a genuinely different, fairer and more progressive form of politics into British life.

In the eight short months they have been in government, the Lib Dems have already succeeded in carrying out a large proportion of the pledges they made prior to last year’s election, and for which we have been campaigning for many years:

  • the income tax threshold is being raised, so that by 2015 800,000 low-paid workers will be taken out of income tax altogether;
  • an extra £3.6bn of cash is being put into schools funding (the “pupil premium”), giving directly to schools an additional £430 from April for every child on free school meals or in local authority care, with this sum rising to £1,720 by 2015;
  • ID cards scrapped, together with the intrusive national data-base being prepared to store over fifty pieces of personal information on every one of us;
  • the restoration of the link between earnings and state pensions, increasing the value of old-age pensions;
  • a tax on bank profits, and new measures to close the loopholes used by the super-rich to avoid tax;
  • a huge investment in green energy, including offshore and rural wind farms;
  • the scrapping of the third runway for Heathrow;
  • and finally, a referendum in May on a fairer voting system, which, while it certainly falls short of proportional representation, will ensure that every MP elected is supported by at least 50% of those who cast their votes.

I see this programme of achievements as a real and decisive force for good within government, influencing policy and introducing many of the progressive values which we Lib Dems have been arguing for.

Whether this new form of politics endures in our national life will be up to the voters. But I and my fellow Liberal Democrats are proud that, after so many years of being put down or ignored, we now have a real opportunity of delivering what we have fought for and believed in – a genuinely different and fairer future for this country.

The issue of MPs expenses rightly outraged all residents in Luton South after the shameful actions of our MP Margaret Moran were brought to light.

Since then the Labour Party in Luton has continued to support her and ignore the growing anger of Luton residents and calls for her to resign and not be rewarded with a susbstantial pay-off.

These simply are the actions of people who care more for their party than those who elected them. They put the Labour Party first and had more concern for Ms. Moran’s and their own damaged reputation than the people of our community.

This evening Gavin Shuker was selected as the Labour Parliamentary Candidate for Luton South. But does he agree with those he seeks to represent, including myself as a Luton South resident, that Ms. Moran actions were disgraceful and that the local Labour party’s decision to support was by no means in the best interests of local residents?

Since May we have been without a committed, active MP in our town in a time when we need it the most. The Labour Party though has allowed this state of affairs to continue, does the new candidate think this is fair or right? Should local people have the right to sack an MP who continues to let people down?

In Luton South we do not need someone who is going to put a party before the people they seek the honour of representing and they deserve to know where their candidates stand on the issue of Margaret Moran.

After years of jobs being lost, our manufacturing industry suffering due to a failed economy and politicians putting their own interests first the simple fact is enough is enough. Luton South deserves better than this. It deserves real change.

It is time we put Luton South first again.

Cllr. Qurban Hussain

Luton South Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Candidate.