Author Archives: Paul Tyler

Lord Paul Tyler writes…Will Labour Lords stick to their EU principles?

As the Lords prepared to vote this week on the Queen’s Speech, I have been asked often about whether the so-called “Salisbury-Addison Convention” applies during this Parliament, to proposals from a Government which did not obtain a majority in the Commons.

Briefly, the Convention holds that the Lords does not reject Bills predicated on manifesto commitments, nor introduce “wrecking amendments”. The convention was first formulated in 1945 between the post-war Labour Government and Conservative leaders in a heavily Tory- and hereditary- dominated House.  The Liberal group was never party to it.

Speaking in the Queen’s Speech debate, I urged Peers – Labour Peers in particular – not to be bound into believing that the Government’s Faustian pact with the DUP gives it the right to railroad legislation through Parliament.  Unlike the 2010 Coalition Government, this administration cannot claim that its composition enjoys anywhere near majority support in the country, and the ‘deal’ is in any case only on big ticket votes.  There is no agreed programme for government between parties who together can claim a mandate.  That means that the Official Opposition should see no need simply to roll over during parliamentary “ping-pong” at the very first whiff of ‘pong’ from the Commons!

On Brexit, I pointed out that Labour voters had a far more positive view of the UK’s relationship with the EU than the Labour leadership. Messrs Corbyn and McDonnell may still regard the single market as a capitalist conspiracy, but most of their supporters do not.  With some 69% now thought to support the UK’s continued membership of the EU customs union and 53% favouring a referendum on whether or not to accept the Brexit deal, the Lords will should be fearless in making sure the public is heard.  

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Some progress on party funding reform – comments please!

 

The adage “if you want to keep something secret, say it in the House of Commons” certainly extends to the Lords on Fridays, when Private Members Bills are taken.

However, our team made significant progress last week in pushing the government to take seriously their own manifesto commitment “to continue to seek agreement on a comprehensive package of party funding reform”.  We have been plugging away at this by whatever means possible, including by initiating a special Select Committee on party funding reform last year, and by introducing my Political Parties (Funding and Expenditure) Bill last week.  I opened the debate, and Chris Rennard and Ian Wrigglesworth both spoke too.  We received support also from Labour Peer Larry Whitty, and from the Chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, Paul Bew.

For decades, Lib Dems have sought a cap on individual donations – to limit the auction of influence and access to government and senior political figures which now takes place.  In return, a limited element of public funding – linked to support in the country – would be needed to ensure the parties could continue their campaigning.

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Lord Paul Tyler writes: Chilcot and Iraq: The Verdict

The House of Lords debated the Chilcot Report on 12th July 2016: here are some of the key quotes from Peers who spoke, giving some flavour of the debate:-

“The noble Lord, Lord Touhig, said that there was an atmosphere of mutual respect at the time of the vote. I beg leave to question that judgment. Charles Kennedy was described as being guilty of appeasement. He was told that he was similar to Neville Chamberlain, and a national newspaper printed a photograph of him with the word “Traitor” underneath. There was by no means mutual respect. So the reactions on these Benches to the report from Sir John Chilcot are, as might be imagined, somewhat mixed. But the one thing on which I hope we can all agree is that Charles Kennedy’s principled leadership on this issue has been vindicated, as indeed has the similarly principled stance taken by Robin Cook.”- Lord (Ming) Campbell of Pittenweem (Liberal Democrat)

“In Parliament, as we have rightly been told, the Liberal Democrats—the noble Lord, Lord Campbell, and his colleagues—stood out. Charles Kennedy was a great party leader, who showed great courage. It was the Liberal Democrats’ finest hour, and reminds me of the South African war, when Campbell-Bannerman and Lloyd George condemned the British Government for “methods of barbarism”. In government there was, of course, Robin Cook. Chilcot is a complete vindication of what he said on every aspect—on weapons, on security and on the flouting of the United Nations. He was indeed a great man, and a very considerable loss.” – Lord (Ken) Morgan (Labour)

“ I note that last weekend the noble Lord, Lord Prescott —second-in-command in the Blair Government —wrote:

In 2004, the UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said that as regime change was the prime aim of the Iraq war, it was illegal. With great sadness and anger, I now believe him to be right.

I salute the noble Lord for that. I would be even more impressed by his candour if he admitted that Charles Kennedy, and Liberal Democrat MPs, of whom I was one, took precisely that same view in March 2003.”- Lord (Paul) Tyler (Liberal Democrat)

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Lord Paul Tyler writes…An early general election

All the runners in the Conservative Leadership steeplechase may be denying that they would seek a General Election before 2020, but I suggest that you should examine their track record in terms of broken promises.   If the Labour Party is still suicidal, and if the dishonest Brexit commitments are beginning to unravel with devastating effect on people’s expectations, what Prime Minister could resist the temptation to go to the country?

In any case, there will be a strong reaction to the imposition of a new PM and Government on the whim of a 130,000 electorate.  Where is our much vaunted “Sovereign Parliament”, and the demand that our democracy must “take back control”, in that process?  When Cameron was elected there were 253,689 eligible members of the Tory Party, down from 328,000 when they selected Iain Duncan Smith.

In such circumstances, the new Leader could justifiably claim a moral duty to seek a new mandate from the whole country.

I have challenged Ministers to confirm that an early General Election – this year or next – would be contested in the current constituencies, with no boundary changes or reduction in the number of MPs.  Not for the first time, they seem clueless – you can see our exchanges here

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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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