We store cookies on your device to make sure we give you the best experience on this website. I'm fine with this - Turn cookies off
Switch to an accessible version of this website which is easier to read. (requires cookies)

The Weekly Whip - Lords edition!

March 19, 2021 10:00 PM
Originally published by UK Liberal Democrats

In the Lords we get to grips with the detail of legislation and improve it; we take part in debates on a whole range of issues; and we question and hold to account government ministers.

For up-to-date information about the work of the Lib Dem group in the Lords, follow us on Twitter: @LibDemLords

Monday 15th March

Monday saw the continued reaction and fallout to the terrible scenes from Clapham Common on the previous Saturday night during the vigil for Sarah Everard and for all women who are victims of harassment. Former MET Deputy Assistant Commissioner, Brian Paddick, spoke clearly and for many on the media afterwards.

During a Question on the impact on businesses of the workings of the Northern Ireland protocol, Sarah Ludford castigated the Government for its unilateral approach to the actions the UK is taking regarding the protocol at the moment and suggested that the Government is trying to undermine the Trade and Cooperation Agreement, and possibly wreck it, thus securing the no-deal they actually wanted and the ability to blame it all on the EU. Malcolm Bruce urged the Government to abandon its hostile diplomacy and to return to engaging in a constructive, long-term relationship with Northern Ireland.

A question about the level of self-harm among women prisoners in the UK gave Mike German the chance to push the Government to make more use of the early release scheme and pressed them on the number of times in the last year the 42-maximum solitary confinement rule was breached for women prisoners.

The Domestic Abuse Bill returned for a further day at Report Stage. We defeated the Government on two further issues to do with migrant and immigrant survivors of domestic abuse.

Tuesday 16th March

During a Question on the reports of human rights abuses in Zimbabwe, Jonny Oates pushed for an overall strategy for the region.

A question from Roger Roberts on the appalling conditions at the Penally and Napier sites housing asylum seekers gave him the chance to draw attention to the Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration's report which said the sites are not suitable for human habitation. He urges the closure of both sites.

During a statement on the weekend's event, Brian Paddick urged the Government to make misogyny a hate crime. Much more to come on this is the coming weeks and months!

Wednesday 17th March

During a statement on the Government's new Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy, Dick Newby says the Government has an uphill struggle to persuade others of our good intentions.

Whist Julie Smith focused on the stated intention in the Review to increase the number of nuclear warheads that the UK has - this does absolutely nothing to help nuclear disarmament, something the UK is signed up to via Article IV of the non-proliferation treaty.

The Domestic Abuse Bill returned briefly for the completion of its Report Stage, and there was one further defeat for the Government as we voted to ensure that nobody who is a victim of domestic abuse in the UK would ever be denied help.

The main business of the day saw the Fire Safety Bill return to the Lords in the process known as Ping Pong, when outstanding legislative issues go between both Houses until agreement is reached.

Kath Pinnock and others have fought for months to try and prevent the costs of fire safety work on building from being passed on to leaseholders and tenants.

The amendment that Kath worked on was passed with a majority of 78 and the issue will now return once again to the Commons - the Government needs to show some heart and change their mind on this one.

Thursday 18th March

A question from Don Foster on plans to appoint a new Chair of Ofcom gave him the chance to underline the importance of the broadcasting impartiality regime and to point out how unacceptable it would be for the new Chair to be someone with a long record of extreme political partisanship. He was, of course, thinking of Paul Dacre, the former editor of the Daily Mail, who is rumoured to be the Government's top choice. Tom McNally used the question as a chance to push the Government to be supportive of the BBC in their public statements and policies.

During a question on the impact on food prices of changes to agricultural policy, Cathy Bakewell highlighted the likely rise in prices and the cost of this for low-income families.

Lindsay Northover helped reveal the true colours of the Government during a question on China's treatment of Uighurs - apparently, consideration of human rights abuses has to be "balanced".

During a statement on the Government's "levelling up" priorities, Kath Pinnock laid into the Government for using the statement to "announce" packages of support that have already been announced, for the miserable levels of funding included, and the prioritisation of support for wealthier areas over poorer communities.

Friday 19th March

Sitting Fridays are traditionally given over to Private Members' Bill - legislation that is proposed by individual peers and MPs, rather than by the Government, but due to the changes made to the way the Lords has been operating during the pandemic, we haven't been able to consider any for a year or so.

This changed today and four PMBs arrived in the Lords for their Second Reading debates, having completed their passage through the Commons.

Sue Garden, Judith Jolly and Mike Storey spoke in the debate on a bill that would start to help regulate the cost of school uniforms to try and ensure that prices are not set unduly high by any schools or local authorities.

Martin Thomas spoke in a rather niche but important debate on a bill that will provide the British Library Board with the power to borrow money; Dominic Addington spoke in favour of a bill that would impose certain duties on education and training providers regarding the safeguarding of children; and Angie Harris and Jonny Oates spoke in a debate on a bill that would create a new Forensic Science Regulator in the UK.

Unfortunately, there will not be enough time before the current parliamentary session ends at the end of April for these Bills to complete their passage through the Lords and become law, but the airing of debate is important and all of the Bills can be resubmitted in the new parliamentary session which we expect to start in May.

Next week

The Trade Bill returns for more Ping Pong, including the issue of doing trade deals with countries who have committed genocide; the Financial Services Bill begins its Report Stage; there will be a major debate on a long-term housing strategy; and as the year anniversary of the first COVID restrictions coming into force falls, there will be a debate on the current situation.

Jonny Oates will be asking about the uptake of heat pumps in domestic premises; Judith Jolly will be asking about financial support to assist those with disabilities to stand for elected office; Paul Scriven will be asking about human rights abuses in Bahrain; and Roger Roberts will be asking about the famine in Yemen.