Tag Archives: house of lords

++ Breaking News: Who are our new deputy leaders in the House of Lords?

This caught our eye on Twitter this afternoon:

That’s right. The Parliamentary party in the House of Lords was electing two deputy leaders.

And, hot off the Twitter press, here is the result:

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Baroness Kath Pinnock: Childcare Bill must focus on impact on children’s lives

Kath PinnockThe Childcare Bill had its Second Reading in the Lords yesterday. Liberal Democrat peer Kath Pinnock, in her first major speech in her new role as spokesperson for Children, outlined her concerns with it. Her long experience in local government gives her an understanding of how these things work and who has to organise them that many MPs will not have. She also made a very important point. The Conservatives often talk about childcare as being a mechanism to get women back to work without looking at either the practicalities for the women concerned or the impact of the lives of their children. She argued that the Bill must address more than the economic argument.

She also gets that often women work in low paid, unstable jobs either early in the morning or outside school hours and the system needs to be flexible enough to cope with that. She also outlines the cost of childcare in the school holidays, particularly the Summer.

The House of Lords will be particularly important in this Parliament as the Government does not have a majority there. They have a real opportunity to improve poor legislation.

Here’s Kath’s speech in full. 

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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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Lord Paul Tyler writes…Tackling the Tory Democratic Deficit

The advent of a Conservative government might once have meant no reform at all to our political system.  However, David Cameron is almost accidentally opening the door to a review of party funding regime, the electoral system and the procedures of the House of Commons.  During the Queen’s Speech debates, the Lib Dem team in the Lords has been tackling all three issues.

The Government wants to dry up some of the money available to Labour by placing restrictions on trade union funding.  The principle that trade union members should consent to their subscriptions funding a political party is quite right.  Yet it will be totally unbalanced to introduce that reform without something on the other side of the ledger, namely a cap on the large individual donations which fund the party arms race in spending.

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Liberal Democrat spokespeople in the Lords

House of Lords chamberOur team in the Lords have today announced their Lib Dem spokespeople.

They will, of course, take on a greater role now that the Commons team is so depleted and we will be hearing more from them over this Parliament than we may have done in the past.

Here is the full list:


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Five Liberal Democrat ex-MPs turn down the ermine

Honourable mentions for Messrs Cable, Laws, Alexander, Baker and Hughes who have, according to the Guardian, turned down or said they are not interested in offers of peerages in the dissolution honours:

Four senior Liberal Democrat politicians defeated in the general election, including former business secretary Vince Cable, have turned down offers of a peerage from Nick Clegg in the dissolution honours list. It is understood that David Laws, the former education minister, Simon Hughes, the former justice minister, and former Treasury chief secretary Danny Alexander have also decided to reject a chance to sit in the House of Lords.

The Lords is likely to be a battleground for the government since the Conservatives do not have an overall majority in the upper chamber, even though in practice there are strict limits on how far peers can resist central planks of legislation agreed by the Commons. The Liberal Democrats currently have 101 peers, Labour 214, the Conservatives 178 and crossbenchers 224.

Hughes, a former deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats, who lost his Southwark and Bermondsey seat to Labour, told guests at a recent birthday party: “I don’t believe in an unelected second chamber. When you see the list I will not be on it. I am not going there.”

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Opinion: Starting from ‘the Other Place’


Where can the Liberal Democrats start to rebuild? How can they reassert their identity as a party with a distinctive philosophy? How do they remind voters that they can make a real difference? The answers can in part be found in an unexpected place.

It’s worth remembering that there are two Houses in Parliament. And, treating cross-benchers as neutral, the House of Lords now has an opposition majority of something like 90-100. Every single piece of legislation that Mr Cameron wants to introduce will not only have to negotiate his own wafer-thin majority in the Commons, but this hurdle in what MPs call “the other place” too.

Here’s where the 101 Liberal Democrat peers can make a difference. Now they are no longer shackled to the compromises of coalition, they can act entirely on the basis of liberal and social democratic principles. They can also be watchdogs for the “one nation” principle that Mr Cameron says he wants to honour.

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Landmark report makes powerful case for Lords and party funding reform

The Oxford University Department of Economics have just published a discussion paper entitled “Is there a market for peerages? Can donations buy you a British peerage? A study in the link between party political funding and peerage nominations 2005-14“. The authors are Andrew Mell, Simon Radford and Seth Thévoz

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Lord Roger Roberts writes…A step towards abolishing the Azure Card

Azure cardLast November I wrote that we must abolish the Azure Card and secured a debate in the House of Lords to that effect.

For those who may be unaware, The Azure Card is a prepayment card provided destitute asylum seekers who require support because they are temporarily unable to leave the United Kingdom. It is a discriminatory and wholly inadequate system of support which the Red Cross – as well as many other refugee organisations have called to be abolished.

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Baroness Cathy Bakewell writes… Lib Dem Lords act to stop retaliatory evictions

Yesterday, we moved forward in protecting vulnerable tenants by protecting them from the questionable practice of retaliatory evictions. This is the culmination of a process started by Sarah Teather MP on 28th November when she secured a private Members Bill on Tenancies (Reform) to deal with the problems caused by Retaliatory Evictions.  Sadly there were members in the Commons that day who were themselves landlords, did not share the ethos of the Bill and talked it out of time.  So it was a great privilege for Lib Dems in the Lords to be able to support the essence of Sarah’s Bill in the amendment we debated yesterday. Sarah Teather deserves a lot of credit for her efforts to end this pointless suffering. And for the work she did in the commons to stand up to right wing Tories all too willing to see this continue.

The amendment is not about penalising conscientious landlords, nor is it about protecting bad tenants who do not respect the property they are renting.  It is about protecting the rights of both groups and giving security to tenants, who when reporting a fault which affects their ability to live happily in their home, will not dread an eviction notice landing on the doormat as a result.  It gives a clear signal to those landlords who currently ignore the state of their properties, that this is no longer acceptable.  If such landlords engage in a regular programme of maintenance, they are likely to have a much better relationship with their tenants, reduce the incidence of costly tenancy turnover and be less likely to face expensive repair bills for major incidents, such as collapsed ceilings due to persistent leaks.

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Baroness Sally Hamwee writes…”Pesky Lib Dem” Lords win crucial civil liberties changes to Counter Terrorism Bill

David Pickett photo Scooby Doo gang PEsky LIbDems legoThey call it the heavy lifting, or – less physical, more forensic – using a fine-tooth comb.  The second chamber is where detailed and precise scrutiny of legislation occurs.  For Bills which raise vital questions about civil liberties, such as the Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill this is all the more important.  It was therefore to the surprise of Lib Dems in the Lords that it was, aside from a misplaced attempt to reintroduce the so-called “Snooper’s Charter”, almost exclusively Lib Dem peers doing the heavy lifting .  At one point I passed a note to Brian Paddick and Sarah Ludford, the team with me on the entirety of it: A lot of people want to talk about the issues we’ve raised but they couldn’t be ****d (complete to taste) to write their own amendments.

Our concern, really to make sure that this sort of legislation is fit for purpose and balances the need to protect the public with precious civil liberties, is often derided.  It is important to get every dot and comma right.  It is therefore a badge of honour to be accused by Norman Tebbit of “dancing around on pins” or, in Michael Howard’s words, “the pesky Lib Dems”.

The Bill that came to the Lords was very different from when it was first trailed by the Prime Minister, speaking to the Australian Parliament about “excluding” people from the UK.  Lib Dems in Government ensured that such claims, made for electoral reasons, were not reflected in the legislation that was finally published.  This is not to say it came to the Lords in a perfect state and our work has ensured that checks and balances on the State have been increased.

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LibLink: Brian Paddick – Tackling terrorism without compromising the privacy of law-abiding citizens

Writing on the Liberal Democrat website, Lord Brian Paddick talks through the recent attempted jiggery-pokery in the House of Lords which could have seen the Snoopers Charter

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Surely it’s time for the Liberal Democrats to part company with Alex Carlile

alex carlile - house of lords
After much provocation over the years, I have finally reached the end of my patience with Alex Carlile. The sooner he and the Liberal Democrats part company the better.

It was embarrassing enough to watch him give the green light to so many of Labour’s illiberal anti-terror laws, but when he supports something which threatens to scupper a key concession won by the Liberal Democrats, it is time for us to actively campaign for him to go.

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Lord Hugh Dykes writes: Chilcot delay is an utter disgrace

We have waited too long for the Chilcot Inquiry. I do not have to tell you this, the Lib Dems were after all the only one of the three major parties (despite the Tories fuss now) to disagree with going to war in Iraq.

I am proud to say that it was the Liberal Democrat party who marched officially as a party to protest against the war. The estimated 1.5 million marchers going along Piccadilly were subsequently all disappointed that the then Prime Minister, Tony Blair, completely ignored their representations on the biggest march that had taken place in Britain in recent times.

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Lord Roger Roberts: May’s Counter-Terror powers could enable her to ban liberalism

Lord Roger Roberts gave the following speech expressing his concerns about the Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill in the House of Lords at its Second Reading on Tuesday:

I was delighted that Lord Carlile mentioned, in his contribution to the debate, the four Albanians—two Muslims and two Christians—who walked together in the demonstration in Paris

Multi-faith groups exist in many places and people are able to say, “My brother, my sister, my family; we are one family”. We could really tackle a lot of these stresses before they become threatening. There is an opportunity in some way or another to encourage it.

However, the world is full of uncertainties. I am not the only one who remembers the time when it was better to be red than dead—so some said. Others said that it was better to be dead than red. Today it is the difference, between security and liberty. We are trying to see where is the line that needs to be drawn. This Bill seeks to draw that line. I sometimes measure our civilisation by Alan Paton’s (the author of Cry, the Beloved Country) values. In a lecture in 1953, he declared himself a liberal and defined the term thus:

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Lord Dominic Addington writes…Disabled students must have an equal shot at life

Last week I asked a question in the Lords on the Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA). The DSA allows those with a disability, a long term health condition, or dyslexia (like myself) an equal shot at higher education. The support people receive through this allowance can be vital in ensuring a student’s chances of academic success aren’t dictated by their disability or health, but by their effort and ability.

Like all areas of Government spending, the DSA is being examined for potential savings and to make sure money is going where it is needed most.  However, my question in the Lords was inspired by the amount of confusion there is within all the groups involved in the DSA, ranging from suppliers to students, over what exactly is going to be in place once these reforms go through.

At the moment there is a great deal of fear mongering about not having sufficient resources to enable people to be able to complete their course, let alone work independently as you’re supposed to in higher education. Any change that does not embrace this principle is effectively excluding certain groups unnecessarily.

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Festive confusable peers quiz – the answers

all peersThanks to all who had a go at the Festive confusable peers quiz.

Well done to Matt Jones for being first out of the hat with a spot-on set of answers. Matt receives the adulation and respect of his….er…..peers.

The answers were:

Posted in Humour | 1 Comment

Festive confusable peers quiz – Smith & Jones edition

timthumbThe House of Lords have published a picture book called “A guide to confusable peers with similar names“. Well they might. It’s bad enough knowing who all these peers deciding our laws are. But anyone who has tried to pick out peers from a list will know what a nightmare it can be. – Particularly for those with common names like Smith and Jones. You have to know the place in their title to distinguish them.

For example, it’s no good referring to “Baroness Williams”. You need to specify whether that is “of Crosby” or “of Trafford”. The first is our very own Shirley, who’s been a peer for 21 years. The second is a Conservative peer of eight months sitting.

So it is understandable that the House of Lords have issued a handy picture guide.

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Judicial Review: Parliamentary Ping Pong delayed until New Year

It had been originally thought that the House of Commons would debate the Lords amendments to the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill yesterday.

This has now been delayed, probably until the New Year, indicating that there may be some chance of a Government compromise on the points of dispute.

The Lords have now voted twice to give judges some discretion about letting cases proceed even if they fail the “highly likely” test. The Government hasn’t yet given way on this one but you would hope that they would accept Lord Pannick’s amendment passed last week which would allow cases to proceed if it was in the public interest for them to do so.

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24 Lib Dem peers “rebel” as Lords reject government’s judicial review proposals

The Guardian reports:

A rebellion in the House of Lords has inflicted a second defeat on the government’s plans to restrict access to judicial review challenges.

The vote by 274 to 205 means that for a second time peers have rejected keys proposals in the criminal justice and courts bill. It will restore to judges their discretion in handling such cases.

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Liz Barker leads first ever Lords debate on Lesbian, bisexual and transgender women’s health

Last Wednesday, Baroness Liz Barker, who made one of the most fantastic speeches of the entire debate on same sex marriage,  led the first ever debate on health services for lesbians and bisexual and transgender women.

The ignorance and even ridicule LBT women have faced from health professionals in the accounts Liz and others shared during the debate is truly astonishing. There does not seem to be a widespread understanding of even the very basic issues they may face.

The Minister’s reply was a bit frustrating because he basically agreed with everything that was being said but didn’t offer any actual, concrete proposal to make things better.

You can read the whole debate here, but Liz’s speech in full is published below:

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Baroness Sally Hamwee writes…Lords push for a stronger Modern Slavery Bill

Parliament is never short of Bills coming from the Home Office, but the Modern Slavery Bill is different.  At the end of the second reading in the Lords last week, the Minister pointed to the warm reception given by every speaker who followed this with seven minutes on all the things that could be added to it.  The view on the Lib Dem benches, like others, was to welcome the Bill both for what it is and for the opportunity it provides to do even more to address the abomination (and very big business – this is often highly profitable …

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Dee Doocey writes … Protecting children should be at the centre of the fight against slavery

DisappointmentAccording to the US State Department at a global level people trafficking ranks as the third largest source of income for organised crime, coming after only drugs and the arms trade.

So as someone who has campaigned over many years to highlight the significance of human trafficking, especially of children, it is obviously welcome that we finally have a Bill recognising the shocking reality of modern day slavery going through Parliament.

photo by:
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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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Opinion: Electoral reform – How to

House of Commons at NightWe all know that electoral reform to both houses is important to us a party, quite rightly so. The current system is appalling, First Past The Post for the Commons does not bring fair votes for the electorate and at best only around 40% of voters voted for any government of the day (meaning of course 60% didn’t). The House of Lords is even worse, un-democratic and reeking of an old boys’ network.

However, that’s not to say that we shouldn’t have a two house system – of course we should. The scrutiny of a second chamber of government is vital to well thought out and properly debated laws and policy. But how do we get to the utopia of two proportionally elected chambers?

The answer is, I think, remarkably simple: piecemeal.

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Lord Paul Tyler writes…Farce in the Lords

Any interested fellow citizen who was told how the latest recruit to their Parliament was chosen would be first baffled, then outraged.  Is it any wonder that there are more electors who favour the complete abolition of the House of Lords than support retention of the existing arrangements?

The provisions for the replacement of one of our hereditary Peers, when deceased, are confusing, complicated and downright contradictory.

The latest election result, announced by the Lord Speaker on Wednesday afternoon, may seem to be relatively simple:  our new Liberal Democrat colleague will be Raymond Asquith, otherwise known as the Earl of Oxford and Asquith and descendant of the distinguished Liberal Prime Minister.  He was chosen in an AV election, but gained 50%+ on the first count, so no reallocation of the votes of lower scoring candidates was required.

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Liberal Democrat storms to by-election win – in the House of Lords

House of Lords - Some rights reserved by UK ParliamentWe have a new Liberal Democrat Parliamentarian tonight after a by-election win. It’s a wee while since we could say that. But it’s a very different type of by-election and one that raises more than a little disquiet. I have to say I find it pretty objectionable that you can get a seat in Parliament not through election by actual voters but because of the circumstances of your birth.

The House of Lords Act of 1999 left 92 hereditary peers in place after the Labour government backed down from full reform. That’s the Labour party, blocking reform at every turn whether in government or opposition. When one of them dies, there is a by-election held to admit a new one. The electorate is the whole House of Lords.

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Dave Goddard writes … Challenging, probing and plain speaking

House of Lords - Some rights reserved by UK ParliamentDave Goddard was made a peer in August this year, and writes here about his aspirations:

When I was offered my peerage the first thing that went through my mind was, what I could offer the House of Lords? After all I was just a Stockport lad born and raised, who happened to end up the leader of the council.

On reflection however I believe I would bring exactly the same attributes that have served me well for almost thirty years in local politics. Honesty, strait talking, passion and an unshakable belief that we can all make a difference as Liberal Democrats, step by step, inch by inch, day by day as we fight to give people a stronger economy and a fairer society.

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