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'Bedroom tax' exemptions Bill passes first hurdle

A Lib Dem-sponsored Bill which would introduce sweeping new exemptions to the so-called "bedroom tax" has cleared its first hurdle in the House of Commons despite opposition from Conservative MPs.

The Bill would introduce exemptions to the so-called "bedroom tax". Credit: Peter Byrne/PA

A second reading of Andrew George's Affordable Homes Bill will now happen after Labour helped the Bill gain a majority of 75 after a 306 to 231 vote.

Mr George said he had moved "moderate" measures to exclude social housing tenants from the policy until they receive a "reasonable offer" of alternative accommodation with the "correct number of bedrooms".

An exemption would also be given if a tenant needs an extra room for "genuine medical reasons" or if the property has undergone "substantial" adaptations to help them live there, the Lib Dem MP said.

A review of the Government's efforts to provide affordable housing would also be encouraged if the proposals come into law.


Sex education at younger age 'aids informed choices'

Providing sex education to children as young as seven would give children "all the life skills they need when they are at school", Liberal Democrat Schools Minister David Laws says.

We have long made the case, both inside and outside Government, for updated sex and relationship education to be taught in all schools, including academies and free schools, but it is not something the Conservatives are open to.

We believe that by educating children about sex and relationships in an appropriate way, we can help them to make informed choices in their personal lives.

– David Laws, Schools Minister

Lib Dems plan sex education for seven year-olds

The Liberal Democrats have announced plans which would see all children in English state-funded schools receive sex and relationships education from the age of seven.

The Lib Dems would extend compulsory sex education lessons to key stage 2. Credit: Charles Guerin/PA Archive

The party says the "age-appropriate" classes would make up part of a "curriculum for life", which would also feature lessons about money management and citizenship.

The plan would mean that personal, social and health education (PSHE) is compulsory in all state-funded schools including academies and free schools.

Sex and relationships education is compulsory in local authority-run state secondary schools, but not in academies or free schools.

A report published by Ofsted last year found that sex and relationships education needed to be improved in more than a third of schools.

Lib Dems: Safe standing offers fans better atmosphere

The introduction of safe standing at football grounds would guarantee fans a "better atmosphere and cheaper tickets", the Liberal Democrats have said.

Party spokesman John Leech MP told BBC Sport standing areas have proved successful at grounds across Europe and could have beneficial effects for supporters in Britain.

Safe standing is allowed in many other sports and we do not believe that the top level of football should be an exception.

Safe standing offers supporters more choice, a better atmosphere and cheaper tickets.

It is an idea whose time has come and I am proud that it is the Liberal Democrats who are the first political party to commit to delivering this.

– John Leech

Lib Dems pledge to allow safe standing at matches

The Liberal Democrats will allow Premier League and Championship clubs to introduce safe standing at stadiums, under plans in its 2015 general election manifesto.

In the wake of the Hillsborough disaster in 1989, clubs in England's top two divisions were required to ensure all fans were seated at matches.

Rail seats at Bristol City's Ashton Gate stadium, which are only allowed to be used at Bristol Rugby matches. Credit: Football Supporters' Federation

The party says rail seats, which can be locked in an upright position to allow fans to stand and lean against a barrier, should be considered in English football, following examples in leagues across Europe.

It insists it is not campaigning for a return to open terracing.

The Football Supporters' Federation has long campaigned for the introduction of safe standing, claiming it improves the atmosphere at games and cuts ticket prices.


Rennard 'should not be involved in elections at any level'

One of the women who made a complaint about Lord Rennard has said she does not think he should be involved in parliament "at any level beyond being a member of the House of Lords".

Former Lib Dem activist Susan Gaszczak, who quit the party after claiming Rennard made sexual advances towards her, said she had been given "private assurances" he would not play any part in the 2015 elections.

Lord Rennard: Statement in full

Lord Rennard has said he is "pleased" with the decision by the Liberal Democrats to lift his suspension, and said he remained a "committed" member of the party.

File photo of Lord Rennard, who has welcomed the Lib Dems' decision Credit: PA

I am pleased that all disciplinary investigations against me have been brought to an end and that the suspension of my party membership has been lifted.

This has taken a long time. The English Regional Parties Committee began a new disciplinary investigation in January.

I was informed by the Committee that this latest investigation was on the basis of, 'media and social media comments made by you, endorsed by you and made on your behalf that have attacked the party and the party processes publicly since the announcement of the Webster report results'.

All allegations made about me have now been investigated thoroughly, including by the Metropolitan Police, and fell at the first hurdle as to whether or not there was sufficient evidence to proceed further.

The English Appeals Panel confirmed in July that I could not be criticised over my reaction to the previous report by Alistair Webster QC, as I was not given sight of the report for 11 weeks.

The worst that might be said of me in that report was that I may have inadvertently encroached on the personal space of some of the complainants, and I apologised for this to all four of them.

I remain a committed member of the Liberal Democrats and a strong believer in the principles of the party, as set out in the constitution, and based on the values that led me to join the Liberal Party in my teens.

– Lord Rennard

Clegg: It's clear women felt let down by the Lib Dems

Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg has admitted that women in the party felt "let down" by the way officials handled complaints against Lord Rennard.

In a statement, he said changes had now been made.

Nick Clegg has said women in the party felt "let down" by the way their complaints were handled Credit: PA

The Liberal Democrats have taken a long, hard look in the mirror since these allegations were made last year and I am confident that the party has changed.

It is clear that a number of women in our party felt let down that the party failed to act on their complaints appropriately. I am determined that no member of our party should find themselves in that position again.

That’s why I immediately appointed Helena Morrissey to carry out a root and branch review of our culture and processes and made sure we acted on her recommendations.

In addition, at my request the Party President and the Federal Executive established a review into our procedures for handling cases such as this to ensure that the party's rules are fit for purpose in the future.

This review has now been completed by a senior barrister who has recommended that we make changes to the current criminal burden of proof and these changes will now be taken forward.

– Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg

Lord Rennard welcomes end of disciplinary proceedings

Lord Rennard has welcomed the end of disciplinary proceedings against him by party bosses, saying all allegations against him "fell at the first hurdle".

ITV News political correspondent Carl Dinnen has tweeted:

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