Author Archives: Paul Tyler

Lord Paul Tyler writes: Party funding is back on the political agenda

On 18th May the 2016-17 Parliamentary session officially started with a somewhat thread-bare Queens Speech. It was well noted by Lord Fowler (Conservative) in the first day of debate that;

The most significant words in the Queen’s Speech yesterday were that, ‘other measures will be laid before you

These are often the most important part of the “Gracious Speech”. One of the GREAT omissions from the gracious Speech is of course the issue of Party Funding. Fortunately for Ministers I am happy to provide them with some private enterprise assistance in this matter. As many of you will remember I sat on the House of Lords Committee on the Trade Union Bill, which focused on the party funding issue across the board.

The recommendations, which were almost all unanimously agreed by the cross-party Committee, were also universally welcomed in the House of Lords. Indeed Ministers in both Houses lauded the noble Lord, Lord Burns, and the rest of us, praising our conclusions. Indeed, the Government backed down when faced with amendments to their Trade Union Bill based on those recommendations. However they have yet to fulfil the most vitally important recommendation of all- to “take a decisive lead” on party funding reform.

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Lord Paul Tyler writes…Liberal Democrats force government climbdown on Trade Union Bill

This evening sees the culmination of five months’ work, led by the Lib Dems, which will finally knock some fairness into the Government’s proposals for reforming the relationship between Labour and the Trade Unions.

Late last year, the Left was raging – with some justification – about a Tory plot to remove up to £6m a year of funding from Labour, by restricting the right of trade unions to collect donations through a political fund.  While the principle of requiring individual ‘opt-in’ consent for such donations is an important one – with which Lib Dems agree – the Government’s endeavour was a naked, one-sided attempt to hobble the opposition.  Real party funding reform cannot be for only one party.  It must also restrict millionaire and big business donations too.

The question our team had to ask was how to amend these elements of the Trade Union Bill without it sounding like simple special pleading for anti-Conservative forces.  Clearly, our party is in a good position to start with, since the Lib Dems do not benefit from trade union political funds.  But we still needed to demonstrate in as non-partisan, dispassionate a way as possible that the what the Government proposed was simply lop-sided and self-interested.

So on the day before the House broke up for Christmas our small Lib Dem Bill team discussed a little-used mechanism to corral principled opposition to the party funding clauses of the Bill.  I suggested that we try to shift this issue to a special Select Committee of the Lords, where Ministers, the Unions, democracy academics, and all the parties could make their case.

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Lord Paul Tyler: Lib Dems stop Tories skewing party funding law in their favour

Naturally, with so much media and public attention on the Budget, few with have spotted some major defeats for the Government in the House of Lords last night.

Most significantly our Liberal Democrat initiative to stop the Tories skewing party funding legislation in their favour was given huge support – across the House, with even some Conservative Peers rebelling or abstaining.   Ministers’ plans suffered a resounding defeat – 320 to 172, a majority of 148

This is our best chance in this Parliament to get the parties thinking again about the wider issue of funding democracy in a way which prevents wealthy individuals and organisations buying preferential access, influence and patronage. I set out some broad objectives for those talks in an emergency motion for the conference ballot (pdf – pg 18) last weekend.

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Paul Tyler writes: Boundary changes focus the minds of Tory hopefuls

If you think Tory rivalry is at fever pitch, you ain’t seen nothing yet.  The accidental coincidence of the forthcoming constituency boundary changes with the aftermath of the EU Referendum campaign may come to haunt David Cameron or his successor.

The imminence of the boundary review – with its planned reduction of Commons Members from 650 to 600 – means that almost every single Conservative MP will be facing his or her new “selectorate” in a  matter of a few months’ time.   The volume of Tory MPs siding with “LEAVE” is hardly surprising in that light.  Tory activists are increasingly Eurosceptic and the Daily Telegraph rates them currently 75% for “LEAVE”. This makes them even more unrepresentative of Conservative voters, and of the electorate as a whole, than previously.

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Preventing the Tories tilting the political scales (again)

House of Lords

Last week saw the largest Government defeat yet in the Lords during this Parliament, putting a brake on Conservative plans to cut trade union funding to the Labour Party. The move they are attempting to make MUST be coupled with a fair cap on individual donations to get ALL the big money out of politics. Ministers repeatedly allege that their bill is not about party funding, but this is arrant poppycock. Plainly, it IS party funding reform but it is for one party only.

This attempt to tilt the political scales in a Conservative direction is hardly without precedent. In this Parliament alone we have seen up to 1.9 million registered voters unilaterally wiped off the electoral roll, cuts to the funding which enables opposition parties to be effective, and of course boundary changes continue apace. In the year up to the election 57% of Labour funds came from trade unions, while 59% of ALL individual donations to all parties put together went to the Conservatives. To stem one form of funding, without the remotest movement on the other form, is another naked attempt to entrench Conservative undiluted power. It is also a breach of the Conservative manifesto which promised:

In the next Parliament, we will legislate to ensure trade unions use a transparent opt-in process for subscriptions to political parties. AND We will continue to seek agreement on a comprehensive package of party funding reform.

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Lib Dems expose Tory self-interest on the Trade Union Bill

Yesterday, Lorely Burt, Cathy Bakewell, Ben Stoneham, Barbara Janke, Chris Rennard and I all spoke on the Government’s Trade Union Bill.

As our BIS spokesperson, Lorely gave an excellent run down of the issues,

and of the Liberal Democrat approach to them, pointing out the flaws in the parts of the Bill which deal with strike action. She argued the measures in the Bill will entrench positions on either side of an industrial dispute, and take workers more frequently and quickly down the path to industrial action as a result.

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Lord Paul Tyler writes…Votes at 16: Labour flunks it again

As soon as it was known that 16 and 17 year old would have a say in the referendum on Scottish independence, I tabled a Bill in the Lords for a comprehensive change in the franchise. I have long believed that there is a strong case for lowering the voting age, in light of the maturity and political awareness of this group, and the many, much rehearsed adult responsibilities they take on. There is a pragmatic argument too, which is simply that creating a seamless link for as many young people as possible between citizenship education in schools, electoral registration in the classroom, and then actual participation at the ballot box, is likely to instil the habit of voting throughout later life.

With the advent of the EU Referendum Bill, I thought that even those who had reservations would surely accept that 16 and 17 year olds who had so successfully been given a say in the 2014 Scottish referendum could not be excluded from the franchise in a referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union.  Labour told us that they agreed.

Our campaign then started out quite well.  With cross-party support for the principle at Committee Stage (when the Lords rarely votes), and then a thumping majority of 82 for the amendment at Report Stage, we were set-fair to force a government rethink. Or so you would think.

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