Category Archives: Parliament

Anything connected with business in the Houses of Commons or Lords (eg, PMQs).

Liz Barker questions Government on transgender prisoners after death of Vicky Thompson

Last week, transgender woman Vicky Thompson died in the men’s prison where she had been taken to serve her sentence. Ministry of Justice policy is to put trans prisoners in the gender they live as if they have a Gender Recognition Certificate. Obtaining a GRC can be a costly, difficult, bureaucratic process.

Liz Barker outlined some of the issues in an article for the Huffington Post:

In Tara’s case, she was put in a prison with 600 men, many of whom had committed violent offences and was eventually moved after a campaign which highlighted the risk to her safety.

Jonathan Marks, my colleague in the House of Lords and a highly respected barrister, raised this issue in Parliament following the case of Tara Hudson. He pushed the Government to make urgent changes to how they handle trans prisoners, calling for full and careful thought to be given to allocation before sentence rather than after placement. A policy that makes perfect sense.

I am deeply concerned that this wasn’t already common practice, but it is utterly shocking that a few short weeks after Tara’s case came to the public’s attention, action wasn’t taken to urgently review Vicky’s case too. There should now be an urgent review on a case-by-case basis for every trans prisoner in the prison estate to assess their situation

The Minister’s answer was not much more than waffle.

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Lib Dem Lords’ maiden speeches: Lorely Burt on Trade Unions

Last week, Lorely Burt made her maiden speech in the House of Lords. She spoke in the debate on trade unions. Here it is in full:

My lords, I am grateful for the opportunity to make my maiden speech today.  I feel enormously privileged to be here, and I hope to make a productive and positive contribution to this house. I am grateful also for the welcome I received from noble lords and ladies at my induction and for the enormous support, courtesy and patience of parliamentary staff in the way they prepared me and helped this particular ‘new girl’.  I have found the politeness and helpfulness of all the staff in this place without parallel. However, I’m sure it will take me a while to get used to the ways and customs here, so I feel now is a good opportunity to apologise in advance for any faux pas I’m likely to make as I feel my way! Now I have been told that one’s maiden speech should be relatively non-controversial. My lords – I’ll try!

Having been bruised and battered many times in the fray of the Other Place I have been impressed by the politeness and civility I’ve witnessed here, in this chamber.  It is refreshing and I hope to measure up to the standards you maintain here. Politics, in my past experience, has been a brutal game.  I have served in local as well as national elected chambers – as a local councillor in Dudley (Lenny Henry country) and for ten years as MP in the rather more genteel Solihull, overturning a 9,400 majority in 2005.

This result came as an enormous surprise, not only to the ruling party but also to many in my own party!  At least one colleague on election duty with the media that night asked them to double check the result before they would discuss it on air! But although it was the street-fighter from Dudley who originally won the seat, I chose Solihull for my peerage title.  Because today I am a silhillian – live there, love it and love the people I’ve served these 10 years.

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What’s on in our Parliaments this week?

Scottish Parliament 3What are our MPs, MSPs, MEPs and AM’s going to be talking about this coming week?


Women will be a key focus of the Scottish Parliament this week with a debate on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against women on Wednesday which starts 16 days of activism lasting till Human Rights Day on 10 December.

There is also a debate on how welfare reform affects women on Thursday.

On Wednesday, controversy about the SNP Government’s decision to tender for the contract to run Clyde and Hebridean ferry services will be highlighted in a Labour Opposition Day Debate. No doubt Liam McArthur and Tavish Scott will want to mention the fundamental unfairness which has seen the Scottish Government cut ferry fares for islanders off the west coast, but not for the northern isles.  

The Senedd

AMs will be debating affordable housing, with North Wales Lib Dem Aled Roberts tabling some radical amendments calling for the planned rate of housebilding to be doubled. 

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Reinforcements arrive for the Parliamentary Party in the Lords…

Now that Parliament has returned after the summer recess, the process of introducing the new Peers has come. And, to allow LDV readers to keep up with the new intake, here is the list of new Peers and when they are to be introduced;

26 October – Shas Sheehan (Baroness Sheehan)
27 October – Jonny Oates (Lord Oates)
5 November – Sir Menzies Campbell (Lord Campbell of Pittenweem) and Don Foster (Lord Foster of Bath)
10 November – Lorely Burt (Baroness Burt of Solihull)
19 November – Sir Malcolm Bruce (Lord Bruce of Bennachie)
23 November – Sir Alan Beith (title yet to be confirmed)
26 November …

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Tom Brake on why Liberal Democrats opposed George Osborne’s Fiscal Charter

It’s all quite simple, really – the Liberal Democrats, unlike Labour, were not going to fall into Osborne’s trap. Here is Tom Brake’s speech from last night’s debate:

The Liberal Democrats will not support the charter tonight. Whatever the machinations in the Labour party, our reasons for opposing it are clear: the charter is just as much about fantasy economics as was Labour’s magic money tree. We remain committed to abolishing the structural deficit by 2017-18, and to seeing debt fall as a percentage of GDP in the following years. We will not, however, abandon the critical need for continued investment in infrastructure, and we will ensure that our economy remains competitive in the medium and long term. We are for sound and stable economic policy—something that sadly has been abandoned first by the official Opposition and now by the Government.

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Tim Farron’s tribute to the Queen: New Elizabethans, casework and a maypole

Tributes to the Queen for becoming the longest serving monarch were made today in the House of Commons and provided the first big national occasion when Tim Farron spoke as Leader of the Liberal Democrats. When you are as far down the pecking order as we find ourselves these days, you just can’t say the usual stuff. Tim’s tribute was slightly unconventional, quite funny and very fitting. It also makes us at LDV think he’s overdue an encounter with a maypole. Here it is in full:

It is a great honour to be able to pay tribute to Her Majesty on this very important day. I have only managed to meet Her Majesty on two occasions; obviously in the years to come I expect an audience more regularly. On the first occasion I met her, she gave me advice on how to cope with casework. On the second occasion, on her visit to Kendal in Westmoreland, there was very nearly an incident when a very well-meaning local councillor, Councillor Walker, decided to—I can only say—lunge across a crowd of 30 or 40 people carrying a bar of Kendal mint cake to offer to Her Majesty, which she accepted with great grace, looking forward, I am sure, to enjoying it. I have to say that the security services were less excited—or rather very excited—by that lunge. I also thank Her Majesty for the occasion of her silver jubilee in 1977, when she gave me my first, and so far only, experience of being able to dance around a maypole.

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Jim Wallace: Statement on refugees falls short of a moral response

Here is Jim Wallace’s response to the Government’s statement in the House of Lords on the drone strikes and the refugee crisis. Here it is in full:

My Lords, I also thank the noble Baroness the Leader of the House for repeating the Prime Minister’s Statement on these very profound and serious issues. I also endorse what the noble Baroness the Leader of the Opposition said—we appreciate the fact that there will be an extended period for Back-Bench questions.

Probably nothing is more important than the Government’s primary responsibility of security of the realm and its citizens. The Prime Minister acknowledges that in his Statement. Clearly, we do not have the evidence, nor would it be appropriate to share that evidence publicly, and therefore we must accept the judgment of the Prime Minster in responding to perhaps one of the most serious calls that has been made on him. However, it would be interesting to know whether this is a matter that the Intelligence and Security Committee will be able to look at.

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Cities and Local Government Bill report back

The Government’s plan to impose Mayors where they were previously rejected is progressing apace in Parliament. Fairly unusually for a controversial Bill, it has started out in the Lords.

Our Lib Dem team, led by John Shipley, is seeking to make three campaigning points about the Bill. First, that if areas are to have powerful Mayors imposed upon them, these should be scrutinised by directly elected assemblies, as in London. Secondly, that all of local government should be elected by STV, ending modern rotten Boroughs. Thirdly, that the franchise for these (and all other) elections should be expanded to include 16 and 17 year olds.

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Liberal Democrat Committee appointments in the Lords spotlight the talent on our benches

Whilst the lack of women in prominent positions in the House of Commons has already drawn comment elsewhere on the site, in the Lords, the story is rather different, especially from a Liberal Democrat perspective. With nominations now confirmed for all but the sub-committees of the European Union Select Committee, our Leader in the Lords, Jim Wallace, and Chief Whip, Dick Newby, have drawn upon the array of talent within our Parliamentary Party – now 35% female – to reflect its new position as the legislative engine for scrutiny within the Party. So, who should we be watching out for over the next session? We’ll start with the four new Ad Hoc Committees, set up to look at particular topics.

The Equality Act 2010 and Disability Committee has been set up to consider the impact of the Act on people with disabilities, and Party President and wheelchair user, Sal Brinton, and Celia Thomas, a Vice President of the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign, will be representing us there.

The Built Environment Committee will look at the development and implementation of national policy for the built environment – think planning and infrastructure. Matthew Taylor, who led the 2012 review of government planning practice guidance, and Kate Parminter, a former Chief Executive of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, will be authoritative voices.

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All-male shortlists for half of Commons Committees

Next Wednesday, MPs will choose who chairs their influential select committees. These are important, high profile positions as the Committees are there to carefully scrutinise the Government’s work. The more effectively they do their work, the better it is for our democracy. An effective chair will be able to work well with all their committee members from all parties and will be able to show capacity for tenacity and forensic attention to detail. Sadly, though, it looks as though the committees will not reflect diversity either in the Commons or society as a whole. You can find the whole list of people nominated here.

There are a few reasons to feel pretty gloomy at the selection on offer. The lack of any Liberal Democrat in the running anywhere is a predictable reflection of our decline in status. The calibre of some of the nominees and the fact that fewer than half of the Committees have had a woman even nominated for Chair shows that the Commons has not yet caught up with the modern world.

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The Liberal Democrats who stood up for John Bercow

I asked the other day why on earth the Liberal Democrats had indulged the Tories’ last minute motion on the re-election of the Speaker which brought this Parliament to a rather undignified end.

We still haven’t had any real justification as to why we allowed this to take that leap from William Hague’s head to Commons Order paper, but I thought that you would be interested to read the Liberal Democrat interventions in the debate, both of which were against the motion.

David Heath’s remarks were very brief but to the point:

Further to the point of order, Mr Speaker. There is, of course, another way. The Leader of the House could withdraw the motion— I have to say that although I would always support a secret ballot, I very much dislike the way in which this matter has been brought before the House today.

For Duncan Hames, it was all about the potential consequences of such a rule change and how that would affect the balance of power between Speaker, House and the Executive:

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David Heath’s final speech in the House of Commons

David Heath
On Thursday a valedictory debate for retiring members took place in the House of Commons. Members whose service totalled several hundred years bade farewell to the Commons. Three of them were Liberal Democrats and we’ll be publishing their speeches in full. Today we have David Heath, MP for Somerton and Frome for 18 years. You can read the whole debate, with speeches from long-standing and distinguished MPs such as Gordon Brown, Joan Ruddock, Sir George Young and Elfyn Llwyd, here.


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Sir Alan Beith’s final speech to the House of Commons

Alan Beith

Yesterday a valedictory debate for retiring members took place in the House of Commons. Members whose service totalled several hundred years bade farewell to the Commons. Three of them were Liberal Democrats and we’ll be publishing their speeches in full. Today we have Sir Alan Beith, elected in a by-election in 1973 and who faced two defences of his seat in the first year. You can read the whole debate, with speeches from long-standing and distinguished MPs such as Gordon Brown, Joan Ruddock, Sir George Young and Elfyn Llwyd, here.

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We’re heading for a minority Labour government backed by the SNP

The Guardian have a very useful web page called Election 2015: The Guardian poll projection. On it, each day, they update their state-of-the-parties graph with the latest polling data, which then flows into an infographic showing the parliamentary arithmetic and possible government options after May 7th.

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Why have Liberal Democrats indulged the Tories’ Bercow bashing?

By any standards, the last minute motion to change the rules on Speaker election is pure bad manners. Filed with less than a day’s notice when many MPs will already have left Westminster, it asks MPs to approve a secret ballot on the re-election of the Speaker. Up until now, MPs have voted in the traditional manner. The election of a Speaker when there is a vacancy is already conducted by secret ballot.

The actual proposal itself is not unreasonable, for consistency’s sake and was recommended by the Commons Procedure Committee as the Guardian article linked to above says:

Tory and Lib Dem sources rejected Labour claims they had acted in an underhand way. They said they were following the convention of allowing MPs to vote on the recommendations of the procedure committee. But Nick Clegg, who is spending the day in his Sheffield Hallam constituency after his weekly LBC phone-in, will not be present for the vote.

So when did the Procedure Committee make that recommendation? I looked through their recent report which suggested revisions to Commons standing orders and it wasn’t in there. There was stuff about elections and by-elections for Deputy Speakers and even a change in lunch breaks on Thursdays in public bill committees (up till now the poor little loves might go hungry – how cruel), but nothing about Speaker elections or re-elections. You have to go back almost five years, to 2010, to find that recommendation. There has been more than enough time to have that vote, so why leave it till the last possible moment?

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Nick Clegg’s last Deputy Prime Minister’s Questions of this Parliament brings a flurry of Labour own goals

On 22 June 2010 a new parliamentary phenomenon was born. The Deputy Prime Minister in a new-fangled coalition government got his own Commons question and answer session. It was Labour MP Jim Cunningham who asked the first question then on plans for the AV referendum.

Since then these monthly sessions have generally involved Labour lobbing whatever verbal grenades they can, ably assisted by certain Conservatives who were not, to put it mildly, fans of the coalition.

Today marked the last Deputy Prime Minister’s Questions of this Parliament and it was unique in leaving Nick actually lost for words. He has generally dealt with the abuse with his customary good humour and wit but today, Harriet Harman asked a question so daft that he could barely believe it.

In an interview last week the Deputy Prime Minister pronounced that

“the way in which politics works is bust”

and that “Westminster is a joke”. When he said that, was he referring to himself?

Nick treated that with the contempt it deserved:

I wonder what answer I should give to that. No, of course not.

He then made a bold prediction:

I think that the era of single-party government in this country is over. I know she does not like that idea and that the establishment parties—those Members sitting both behind me and in front of me—do not like it either, but I think it is over. This coalition Government have, in very difficult circumstances, presided over what is now the fastest growing economy in the developed world, with more people in work than ever before, and more women in work than ever before, after the absolute economic mess she bequeathed us. That is quite an achievement.

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Clegg’s letter to Burnham: “you may have inadvertently misled” Commons on Labour’s NHS privatisation record

clegg on leveson 2Nick Clegg fielded Prime Minister’s Questions today, during which he noted that Labour’s shadow health secretary Andy Burnham is “the only man in England who has ever privatised an NHS hospital”. Mr Burham complained that Nick had misled the House of Commons over the issue of Hichingbrooke Hospital, accusing him of “sheer inaccuracy”. The Lib Dem leader lost no time in responding:

Dear Andy,

I see that you raised a Point of Order in the House of Commons and that you accused me of “sheer inaccuracy”. I am always happy to confirm the accuracy of what I have said.

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PMQs: Nick Clegg comes back from Cornwall

clegg on leveson 2I stopped doing PMQ write-ups some time ago. They were getting so repetitive and mind-numbingly pointless that I was losing the will to live.

Today’s exchange between Nick Clegg and Harriet Harman was typical of the genre. Harriet Harman made some very good prepared points, and Nick Clegg blasted away on Labour’s record and mentioned some good bits from this government’s record. There was a lot huing and crying and then everyone went to lunch.

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“This is not a snub. I thought it would be a nice change to get out of the Westminster bubble”: Clegg on his Autumn Statement absence

clegg on levesonNick Clegg has taken my advice.*

Back in July, I offered the Lib Dem leader five unsolicited pieces of advice. Most he’s ridden roughshod over: Vince Cable wasn’t appointed the party’s shadow chancellor for the next election, Jo Swinson wasn’t promoted to the cabinet, and (as far as I know) Nick continues to rule out options other than a full coalition in the event of a hung parliament.

But item number 4 was this:

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Brian Paddick on Homelessness, Domestic Violence and Social Exclusion: “We need a change of attitude in society and across the political spectrum”

brian-paddickBrian Paddick — former Deputy Assistant Commissioner in London’s Metropolitan Police Service, twice Lib Dem candidate for Mayor of London and now a Lib Dem peer — spoke in this week’s House of Lords debate, ‘Women: Homelessness, Domestic Violence and Social Exclusion’. Here’s what he said…

Lord Paddick (LD): … As the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Leicester has already said, the issues of homelessness, domestic violence and social exclusion of women are linked. In particular, it is male violence against women that lies behind many of these problems. For example, as my noble friend Lady Tyler of Enfield said, the homeless charity, St Mungo’s, reports that half of its female clients have experienced domestic violence compared with only 5% of its male clients. Research already referred to by the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, shows that between 50% and 80% of women in prison have experienced domestic or sexual violence. Two-thirds of domestic violence survivors say that their problematic substance misuse began following domestic violence. The evidence is compelling, not only that women are disproportionately victims of domestic violence and abuse, almost always but not exclusively perpetrated by men, but that violence and abuse lies behind much of the homelessness and social exclusion faced by women.

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Olly Grender on Homelessness, Domestic Violence and Social Exclusion: “Housing supply lies at the heart of the solution of some of these complex issues”

olly grenderOlly Grender — former director of communications for housing charity Shelter, now a Lib Dem peer — spoke in this week’s House of Lords debate, ‘Women: Homelessness, Domestic Violence and Social Exclusion’. Here’s what she said…

Baroness Grender (LD): My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Baroness, Lady King of Bow, for initiating this debate. I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Rebuck, and the noble Lord, Lord Farmer, on their moving and inspirational speeches. We look forward to many more. I also take this opportunity to congratulate my noble friend Lady Garden of Frognal on her return to the government Benches. It will not surprise her to hear me, as a woman on these Benches, say the more the merrier—more please.

The noble Baroness, Lady King, has managed to take three complex areas of social policy and combine them in one impressive debate. They are complex in part because the reasons behind the homelessness of women are sometimes hard to detect and far too often hidden away. They are complex indeed, but at the heart of this debate is a very simple truth, which is that there is a terrible cost when a woman has no home, no escape from violence and no apparent way back from social exclusion, as was so movingly described by the noble Baroness, Lady Newlove. It is likely that the cost is not just to her but to the children she may have with her, and to us as a nation as they grow up.

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‘Drones could be used to deliver Focus leaflets’ – peer

FocusIn a House of Lords debate on drones this week, Liberal Democrat peer, Lord Lee of Trafford said:

It may even be possible to develop a delivery system that delivers Focus leaflets which I would have thought would be very much appreciated by these benches.

That could eventually provide material for a Glee song…

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UK decision to stop migrant rescue operations attacked by Teather (“unethical”) and Ashdown (“inhuman”), defended by Clegg (“Italian decision”)

Conservative home office minister James Brokenshire defended the Government’s decision to withdraw support – along with all other EU member states – for future search-and-rescue operations for migrants in the Mediterranean. The BBC reports:

James Brokenshire told MPs the change would “save lives rather than putting them in peril.” About 3,000 migrants have drowned in the Mediterranean so far this year. That is out of an estimated total of 150,000 to have made the trip by boat across to Europe. Mr Brokenshire said operations to rescue migrants encouraged more people to make the “perilous journey” across the Mediterranean in the hope of being granted asylum. He said the “despicable work” of human traffickers had made the problem much worse, and must be tackled. On the new approach, he added it was “inconceivable to suggest that if a boat were in peril, that support would not be provided”.

Italian officials have made clear they intend to scale down their government’s current operation, known as Mare Nostrum, as the EU introduces a new operation known as Triton. Triton will focus more on border control – tasks such as vetting asylum seekers once they are ashore, and coastal patrols – rather than search and rescue in international waters. Mr Brokenshire said that 28 EU member states had “unanimously agreed” to the new proposals, and criticised those attacking the policy for seeking to “politicise” the issue.

Lib Dem MP Sarah Teather was not impressed by the minister’s defence:

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Paddy Ashdown on Bosnia and Herzegovina: “These are dangerous times; they are very dangerous times indeed”

Paddy Ashdown talks on "The global power shift" in Brussels March 1st 2012 -  Some rights reserved by PhOtOnQuAnTiQuE Lord (Paddy) Ashdown, former international High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina from 2002 to 2006, led this week’s House of Lords debate on the situation in the country following its recent election. Here’s what he had to say…

Lord Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon (LD): My Lords, a few months before the last election in the last months of 2009, my right honourable friend William Hague and I—well, at least he was not my right honourable friend then, but he is today; he was then the shadow Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs—wrote a joint article for the British and foreign press on Bosnia and Herzegovina. We complained bitterly that Bosnia was stuck, that the progress that we had made during the previous 10 years had gone backwards, that the tone of nationalistic rhetoric had risen, that this was dangerous and that Bosnia remained stuck in a mire of dysfunctionality and corruption.

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28 Lib Dem MPs vote for recognition of state of Palestine, 1 against

As we trailed here, last night saw the House of Commons debate a backbench motion (which is therefore not binding on the government): ‘That this House believes that the Government should recognise the state of Palestine alongside the state of Israel.’

By my count, 28 Lib Dem MPs backed the motion – their names are below – with just one against (Sir Alan Beith). As the BBC notes: “It is convention that ministers abstain when voting takes place on a backbench MP’s motion and those of both the Liberal Democrat and Conservative parties did so. It is, however, Lib Dem policy to support recognition of Palestinian statehood.”

The debate was a relatively short one, so there was time for only one speech from a Lib Dem: Cheltenham MP Martin Horwood’s contribution is reproduced below. You can catch up with the debate via Hansard here.

Lib Dem MPs backing the motion to recognise the state of Palestine:

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Coalition-Lite – a better way of doing coalition government?

Shortly before midnight on 11th May 2010, just five days after the General Election, Liberal Democrat MPs and Party chiefs voted to enter Coalition Government with the Conservatives and to support the difficult but inescapable compromise Coalition Programme for Government.

This was a sobering moment. No jubilation. Just a recognition that we had to make this work; and determined that, contrary to past history and evidence from elsewhere, it wouldn’t inflict terminal damage on the Party.

This was, of course, a “least worst” option. The public finances were in a mess; the economy in danger of catastrophic decline. The last thing the country needed was the routine tribalism of the Westminster Village. No party had a majority. The country needed stable government. We did what had to be done.

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Nick Clegg explains Liberal Democrat ministers’ decision to support air strikes on ISIL

RAF lightning II aircraft photo by defence imagesNick Clegg has sent an email to all party members this evening to explain why the parliamentary party will be supporting air strikes on ISIL in Iraq.

It contains the entire broadcast interview which he did this afternoon. He talks about what a”vile and murderous” outfit ISIL is, about how the action is legal and how this isn’t being done by “the west” to “the rest”. It comes as part of a coalition of countries acting on a formal request from the legitimate government of Iraq.

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What’s on in our Parliaments this week?

Senedd - Photo by Laurence EdmondsonA quick look at what’s going on in our Parliaments this week.


The Scottish Parliament is in recess. MSPs return in early August for 3 weeks before breaking again before the Referendum.

The Senedd

Some interesting events this week, not least a motion to create an independent investigator into breaches of the Ministerial Code. This is something that Liberal Democrats have been calling for for years but the rest of the opposition parties have finally caught up in the wake of the scandal over Alun Davies. He breached the …

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What’s on in our Parliaments this week?

Scottish Parliament 3What are our MPs, MSPs and AM’s going to be talking about this coming week?


It’s the last week of term for the Scottish Parliament this week until an earlier than usual return, on 3 August. MSPs will sit for 3 weeks before taking a further 4 week break for the Referendum.

One of the last items to be discussed in the Chamber this session will be a motion from Liberal Democrat MSP Alison McInnes, not on her usual justice portfolio, but on the BMA’s Your GP cares campaign. Her motion …

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Lib Dem opposition to mandatory jail terms for second knife offences show our principles are intact

The Court House - Warwick - Coat of ArmsThe Lib Dems have sold our soul, abandoning all principle, since going into Coalition – so goes up the cry from the party’s detractors, both internal and the very many beyond.

That trite claim doesn’t sit very comfortably with the party’s actions today, voting against Labour and Conservative MPs’ united support of mandatory jail terms for any adult convicted in England or Wales of a second offence involving a knife. As the BBC reports:

Conservative MP Nick de Bois championed the policy, which won

photo by: ell brown
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