Tag Archives: house of lords

Dear Lords – please attach a parachute to the Brexit Bill

This week the House of Lords starts its 5 days of deliberation on the Article 50 Bill. The Brexiteers in Government have basically told them not to muck about with it or else. David Davis has even told them that it’s their patriotic duty to simply vote in favour of it.

Actually, there’s a very strong argument that it is their patriotic duty to put a brake on this Government’s relentless pursuit of the most damaging Brexit possible – Tony Blair’s “Brexit at all costs.” Hard Brexit doesn’t quite capture how relentlessly difficult the lives of many of the poorest people in our society are going to become if the Government gets its way.

It’s actually quite shocking to think that a Bill of this significance should pass through all its parliamentary stages in less than a month. Invoking Article 50 will be the biggest and most major change of direction in decades and it deserves much more careful consideration. It’s not being done in a vacuum. We have Theresa May’s statement of intent to pull us out of the single market and customs union. If that had been on the ballot paper, I doubt Leave would have won their majority. The people did not vote for this and so their consent must be sought.

There is every reason for the Lords to say to the Government something along the lines of: “We will vote for Article 50 to be invoked but only when certain conditions are met.”  One of those conditions,  given that they are unelected, would have to be one which brought the people into the equation – giving them a final say on the terms of Brexit, with an option to Remain which, entirely coincidentally, just happens to be Lib Dem policy. 

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Lord John Shipley writes…Five foundations for the Housing White Paper

The lack of affordable housing in the UK is at crisis point. On average, house prices are now almost seven times people’s incomes and over 1.6 million people are on housing waiting lists in the UK, including 124 000 homeless children. This means that the Government’s White Paper on housing has been highly anticipated. But it needs to be extraordinarily ambitious to tackle the severity of the housing crisis.

It is too late then to simply paper over the cracks. We need a radical, far-reaching and comprehensive approach to housing. That is why the Liberal Democrats are calling for a complete overhaul of the housing system, with an emphasis on five key solutions.

Creating more affordable homes for rent

20% of the population lives in private rented accommodation. And yet, private sector rents have become unacceptably high in many parts of Britain, most notably in London. Many renters are now paying more than half their disposable income in rent.

That is why we have been calling for government investment in a new generation of quality homes for rent that are affordable for those on low and middle incomes. This means increasing the access to finance for councils and housing associations and reversing the sell-off of higher value homes.

Because the need for affordable homes for rent is now so severe, this should be accompanied by an increase in the use of offsite construction, or prefabs, to speed up the house-building process.

However, Brexit has complicated this picture. That’s because building costs will increase significantly due to the rising cost of imported materials and because it will be harder to recruit vital workers from Europe who are needed in some parts of the UK and to create the certainty necessary for investment.

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Lords reform back on the agenda?

No doubt Lords reform will be back on the agenda after the peers have had their way with the Article 50 Bill. The Lords will at most be able to delay the legislation, but it may well return to the Commons in a shape that is displeasing to the Tory  brexiteers. In that instance, we can expect to see ministers huff and puff about the impertinence of an unelected house interfering with Government legislation. These will be the same ministers who as Tory MPs frustrated Nick Clegg’s plans to have the House of Lords elected along with so many of their colleagues.

The Lords is a revising and scrutinising chamber and it has a duty to take the Government on if they produce bad legislation and I expect to see them doing that.

The idea of electing the Lords was discussed again on Friday as Green Peer Jenny Jones’ private members’ bill came up for second reading.  It is not dissimilar to Lib Dem thinking on Lords reform and it was therefore unsurprising that our Alan Beith and Paul Scriven spoke up in favour of the Bill.

Alan had a good swipe at the Tories’ plans for a Repeal Bill in the process:

>We are now in a new situation. It would be an extraordinarily optimistic person who thought that we could get through legislation on Lords reform in a Parliament which will be overwhelmed by the vast corpus of primary and secondary legislation that will be involved in leaving the European Union. Perhaps the noble Baroness shares the tendency to political optimism which is often a characteristic of Liberal Democrats.

Her Bill has many similarities with the coalition’s proposals and with Liberal Democrat policy. It provides for what we regard as the essential ingredient of democracy while recognising that the second Chamber should be elected on a different basis from the Commons and on a different timescale. However, retaining all existing Peers except hereditaries as non-voting Members outnumbering the voting Members would produce a very strange assembly with obvious tensions. The noble Baroness may be making a massive concession before the process of negotiation has even begun in order to get turkeys to vote for Christmas.

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Ros Scott on the Article 50 Bill and how Brexit has affected the Liberal Democrats

Liberal Democrat Peer Ros Scott has been talking to FNF Europe about the Article 50 judgement this week, the progress of the Bill through Parliament and the effect Brexit has had on the Liberal Democrats.

First of all, she spoke about the significance of the Supreme Court judgement:

is mixed news for the Government; Parliament may well now be more confident in asserting its rights as the negotiating process unfolds and issues such as access to the Single Market, the acquired rights of citizens and membership of EU bodies will be hotly contested. If the impacts of triggering Article 50

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Claire Tyler writes: Breaking through the class ceiling

Too often, success in accessing our top professions is down to the lucky accident of birth. Too often, structural inequalities mean that young children find themselves imprisoned on an inescapable path. By the age of five, there is a clear academic attainment gap between children from rich and poor families. This increases throughout school. The benefits of being born to wealthy parents do not just accrue to the talented – in fact, less-able, better-off kids are 35% more likely to become high earners than bright poor youngsters. The resultant domination of our top professions like medicine, law, finance and the arts by the elite and independently educated is staggering.

The case for social mobility is not just a moral one. It also makes business sense. The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) in 2010 found that failing to improve low levels of social mobility will cost the UK economy up to £140 billion a year by 2050. Some top businesses understand this, and are working hard to widen access.

More must be done to widen access to elite professions; on the part of schools, universities, businesses and the government. This is the conclusion of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Social Mobility, of which I am co-Chair, and which released its report this week. Titled ‘The Class Ceiling’, the report is the culmination of a detailed inquiry, with the help of the Sutton Trust, over the last year. The inquiry looked at the causes and extent of the problem, investigated what is currently being done, and recommended tangible policy actions.

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Victory for Liberal Democrats in fight to strengthen Victims’ Code

The Government has agreed to back Sal Brinton’s calls for a strengthened Victims’ Code following a hard fought campaign by our Party President.

During ping-pong of the Policing and Crime Bill the Government made concessions on the principles of Sal Brinton’s amendments which put the discretionary Victims’ Code on to a statutory footing. The current situation sees thousands of victims let down every day because of inconsistent and unenforced practice by those in the criminal justice system.

The Government has now agreed to a review of support for victims reporting back within six months, including consultation with victims groups and others. It also agreed to strengthen, through legislation, anything necessary for the agencies dealing with victims to ensure they fulfil their duties, are appropriately trained and monitored in the delivery of their support for victims.

Sal Brinton said:

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Alex Carlile leaves the Liberal Democrats Lords Group: Why now?

The news that Alex Carlile is going to sit as a crossbench peer rather than a Liberal Democrat is perhaps not surprising.  His views on civil liberties and his passionate advocacy for the state to have greater surveillance powers often put him at odds not just with the Lords group but with the wider party. PoliticsHome says:

Lord Carlile felt the party “was not taking a strong enough line in support of surveillance,” a senior Lib Dem source told PoliticsHome.

“He was unhappy with our stance on the Snooper’s Charter,” the source added. “We made a big thing about voting against the Data Communications Bill and he didn’t like that at all.”

A Lib Dem spokesperson said: “We are disappointed but not surprised at Lord Carlile’s decision.

“He has been at odds with party policy on a number of occasions in recent years, especially over civil liberties.

“We are grateful for his years of service to the party and wish him well in future. “

Why now, though? Nothing has really changed. He’s had these views for a very long time and the party has opposed them for a very long time.  I have certainly thought for some time that it would be better if he was a cross bencher but I didn’t have any expectation that it would happen. In fact, for even voicing such an opinion, I was accused of “grisly soviet intolerance” by the Noble Lord in the comments to that article. 

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