Tag Archives: house of lords

Jonny Oates on rejecting the easy option of cynicism and taking the harder route of making the world a better place

Late on Thursday night, Liberal Democrat peer Jonny Oates put his very powerful reaction to Jo Cox’s murder on his Facebook page. With his permission, it’s reproduced here.

Enough, now, with the angry people. Enough with the raging and the cries of betrayal. Enough with the cynicism. Enough with the shout that every politician is dodgy, or on the take or untruthful. Enough with those who fuel the cynicism in their puerile, childish headlines or their languid, over-sophisticated commentaries. Enough with those who would never step up to the plate, do the work or accept the accountability. Enough with those who twist the slightest openness in the words of politicians and then complain when their words become closed and their language obtuse. Enough with those who have never done anything for anyone but are happy to question the motives of any person who attempts to do so. Enough of those people who listen only to their own opinion and then castigate MPs for being out of touch – MPs who week in and week out are in their towns and villages, on the doorsteps, in their surgeries, listening to others, soaking up pain and grief and suffering and often abuse. Enough of the people who fuel the rage, enough of those who can take the image of suffering and desperate people, robbed of dignity and hope and of the lives of those they love and use it for their political advantage. Enough of all the rage and division and hatred.

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Sally Hamwee explains why she’s introducing her Missing Persons Guardianship Bill

Yesterday, Sally Hamwee introduced her Private Members’ Bill which would enable guardianship orders to be made for missing people so that their affairs could be managed.

Earlier she wrote for the Missing People website:

With no legal system for managing a missing person’s affairs, they can fall into disarray with disconcerting speed.  Salaries may stop being paid into a bank account, but direct debits, mortgage payments and rent will continue to be paid out – until the funds run out.  However sympathetic a bank may be, it needs the signature of its account holder to change arrangements. Some may even regard themselves as unable to provide information.

Once you grasp the legal position, you can begin to see the practical impact.  You can’t use the missing person’s money to pay his rent and other bills.   You can’t sell a house which is in your and your missing husband’s joint names, but because your family’s circumstances have changed neither can you afford the mortgage.

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Olly Grender introduces her Renters’ Rights Bill “You have more rights buying a fridge than renting a home to put it in”

On Friday, Olly Grender introduced her Private Members’ Bill aimed at giving tenants in the private rented sector greater protections, particularly from the extortionate fees charged by letting agents. She gave some examples in her proposing speech which is copied below:

My Lords, the natural consequence of the chronic lack of social housing and the prohibitive cost of buying a home means that we now have a growing number of people who live in the private rented sector. Sometimes it would appear that this ever-growing customer base—almost one in five of the population, one-third of them families with children—have more consumer

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Lord Dick Newby writes: A simple solution to an otherwise blurred vision

adjustable spectacles

Yesterday, I introduced a Bill in the Lords to permit over-the-counter sale of adjustable focus spectacles. At present only reading glasses can be sold in this way, with all other types of eyewear requiring a visit to a qualified optician or optometrist.

The spectacles in question achieve the required focus for each eye by turning a dial found at the side of each lens. They are produced to a very high quality and are useful for both to deal with some medical issues – eg types of diabetes where sight varies from day to day – and more generally as a spare or temporary pair of glasses. They are manufactured by an Oxford-based company, Adlens. They are sold in 57 countries worldwide including Japan and the US, where 500,000 units have already been sold, many without prescription.

However, in the UK, the only glasses which can be sold without a prescription are reading glasses. Although technically the Department of Health could just amend the legislation, it relies on advice from the General Optical Council (GOC) – the opticians’ regulatory body. Despite supportive expert opinion, the GOC has come up with a raft of issues – some of which are entirely spurious and none of which are decisive – to prevent the Adlens glasses being readily available.

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Time for tougher regulation of the Arms industry

The UK’s arms industry is one of the most prolific and lucrative in the world. From fighter jets to armoured vehicles to small arms, our arms dealers have a lot to offer the world by way of military equipment.

No one will deny the power this industry wields in Britain. Until as recently as 2002, UK citizens and companies could arrange the transfer of arms between any other countries in the world (apart from those under a binding UN arms embargo) with complete impunity and no oversight. It took decades of campaigning and the undeniable involvement of UK dealers in bloody conflicts in Rwanda and Liberia to change that, but we still have a long way to go to open ensure full oversight of this still very shady industry. You only need to look at the UK’s supply of military equipment to Saudi Arabia now being used indiscriminately on civilians in Yemen to understand how far.

That’s why I have been working with our Defence Spokesperson Judith Jolly on her Private Member’s Bill to introduce a UK Register of Arms Brokers. Despite progress made on licensing individual arms deals, there is ongoing risk that unscrupulous arms brokers operating under the radar may engage in unlicensed arms brokering beyond the knowledge and reach of UK export control enforcement. Such is the risk that it has prompted a significant number of countries, including Australia, South Africa, the United States and 18 EU Member States, to introduce a requirement that arms brokers first register with national authorities before applying for a transaction licence.

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Baroness Judith Jolly writes…Why we need a UK register of arms brokers

I never expected to come anywhere near the top of the ballot for private members bills. My record for the Lib Dem raffle over thirty odd years is less than five or six wins. And I came third! That means I have second reading next Friday (10th June).

My bill calls for arms brokers to be registered and a fit and proper test applied to would be brokers. At present there are few restrictions so you or I could set up as a broker. In the US they are regulated.

Save the Children and Amnesty International are supporting us. Save the Children said:

Our Yemen work in Parliament has mainly focused on humanitarian access and the credible reports of breaches of international and human rights law. Whilst we recognise the positive impact that the Government’s humanitarian response and interventions have made, we remain concerned that the Government’s current support for Saudi Arabia-led military action is undermining the protection of civilians and is inconsistent with its support to the humanitarian response. We believe more robust action is needed to ensure that existing standards and norms are upheld by all parties to the conflict, in line with Government commitments under the new National Security Strategy and Strategic Defence and Security Review, and to ensure full compliance by the UK with legal obligations under national and international law relating to the sale of arms.

Amnesty International added:

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Jonny Oates tells House of Lords about his experience of depression

In a speech to the House of Lords yesterday, Liberal Democrat peer Jonny Oates talked about his experience of depression as a young man.

This experience was not unrelated to the times in which he was growing up. As a young gay man, having the government legislate against him was not easy to deal with. He also suggests that the churches should reflect on the impact they can have on people’s mental health, referring to Archbishop Michael Ramsey who was Archbishop of Canterbury at the time homosexuality was legalised and who was supportive of that change in the law.

Here is the speech in full:

My Lords, I welcome the opportunity to take part in this important debate on the Five Year Forward View for Mental Health initiated by my noble friend Lady Brinton. As my noble friend said, mental health is a topic which touches almost everyone in this country, whether through direct personal experience or through families and friends who have suffered from mental ill-health.

For much of the time when I was growing up, it was pretty much a taboo subject. Few people talked openly about mental illness; it was too often a personal burden not to be shared, understood or tackled but to be hidden away even from those closest to one. In recent years there has been a welcome shift in our attitudes, and I pay tribute to the mental health charities and the many activists and campaigners, such as Alastair Campbell, who have helped break down taboos and get mental health on the agenda, but I also pay a real and heartfelt tribute to Norman Lamb in particular who, as a Health Minister in the previous Government, strongly supported by the then Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, did so much to push the issue of mental health right up the government agenda, placing mental health literally on the front page of the Liberal Democrat manifesto.

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