Two wins for the Lib Dems in government: human trafficking and visas

Two pieces of good news today where a combination of Liberal Democrat and some Conservatives in government have won out over the right of the Conservative Party.

First up, human trafficking – where the opposition of Conservative Euro-sceptics to Britain opting in to the new EU directive has been overcome. Co-Chair of the Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Committee on Home Affairs, Justice and Equality, Tom Brake said:

The Government’s intention to opt in to the EU’s Human Trafficking directive is an excellent step forward for the UK and for the victims – past, present and future – of traffickers.

The Liberal Democrats have been working very closely with the Home Office and the Home Secretary to secure the opt-in because we know UK can only continue to lead the fight against human trafficking by working closely with our neighbours.

Today’s decision will send a very strong message to traffickers that the UK will not waiver in the fight against their horrific crimes and will stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the European efforts to eradicate this practice.

Second up, visas – where plans for cutting back on foreign students have been significantly changed in the face of opposition from the Lib Dems, business and universities. Businesses had feared losing out on much needed skilled workers whilst universities had feared losing out on valuable fee income from foreign students.

Instead of ending the ability for foreign graduates to work here for two years, the government will let those who find a job paying at least £20,000 a year stay. Similarly, plans for a cap on foreign student numbers have been axed.

As Paul Waugh puts it for Politics Home,

The Home Office has been allowed to save face with a rider that reserves the right to look again at a cap later. But the Lib Dems say that all of the spin this morning about numbers of students being slashed by 80,000 or 100,000 was “arbitrary” and based on dubious projections.

A senior Liberal Democrat source said: “Nick and Vince were absolutely adamant about this. The last thing we need to be doing when we are encouraging growth is to pull the rug out from under the feet of our great universities.

“We’ve got to get away from an obsession with numbers. Yes loopholes can and will be closed but Nick was very clear that we shouldn’t have a Dutch auction at the expense of one of the most vibrant and thriving sectors of the British economy.
“The draconian restrictions originally planned by the Home Office would have been a slap in the face for British colleges, universities and businesses. This is a victory for reason over prejudice.”

As an aside, I’ve pointed out before the media problem the party has in government in that good news stories are often reported without the political affiliation of the minister being named, so where it is Liberal Democrats achieving something it is easy for someone not that interested in politics to miss that it was Lib Dems. That was, for example, the fate of Chris Huhne’s micro op-ed in The Sun – good coverage, no mention of the party. This time The Sun did label as Liberal Democrat the relevant minister – Vince Cable – because this time it was reporting a story of Conservatives and Liberal Democrats disagreeing. A handy side-effect of having coalition disagreements show a little in public.

UPDATE: Nick Thornsby and Caron Lindsay have blogged with further details.

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