15-18 January 2024 – this week in the Lords

Back for the second week in a row – and who said that I couldn’t manage that? – our (aspirational) regular review of the week ahead at the more genteel end of the Palace of Westminster.

After last week’s easing back into the routine, it’s a more normal week for the Peers, although there is one relatively unusual session included.

But Monday starts with the usual round of Oral Questions – there are usually four each day – and two come from Liberal Democrats. Malcolm Bruce opens with a question regarding Government plans to promote the end of absolute poverty through international development aid. I suspect that the answer might be a bit vague, given that “no” is far too honest. Jenny Randerson is asking about the possible introduction of a graduated driving licence for young and newly qualified drivers. The other two questions are about the use of engineered stone, given allegations of links to silicosis, and on what consultations the Government propose to have before the next renewal of the BBC’s Royal Charter about news and current affairs programmes, in the light of cutbacks to Newsnight.

Day 2 of the Committee Stage of the Automated Vehicles Bill takes up the remainder of business in the chamber. So far, Sharon Bowles has been seeking assurances that automated vehicles will undergo suitable real-life testing before being cleared to use our roads, and that the impact on road environs, i.e. on pedestrians, will be considered. At this stage, most of the amendments are likely to be probing in nature, seeking reassurances that the Government have taken various factors into account, and Day 2 will see more of the same, as will Day 3, scheduled for later in the week (Wednesday).

With the Foreign Secretary in the Lords for the first time since 1982 (Lord Carrington, for the benefit of some of our younger readers), it’s up to Peers to hold him directly to account. The chosen format is for four questions, and on Tuesday, Barbara Janke gets the nod on behalf of the Liberal Democrats, seeking David Cameron’s views on what the United Kingdom is doing to secure a lasting ceasefire arrangement between Israel and Gaza. Other questions are on the Rohingya refugee crisis (there have been two major fires at the refugee camp at Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh), implementation of the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the rules-based international order (and what would this Government know about rules?).

Two Bills are to be debated, with the Report Stage of the Trade (Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership) Bill first, followed by what should be the Second Reading and all other subsequent stages of the Post Office (Horizon System) Compensation Bill. For all the failures of supervision, of apparent obfuscation and malevolent prosecution, on this at least, Parliament has moved very quickly once it has resolved to act. Sal Brinton and Monroe Palmer are currently down to speak on this Bill, hopefully to point out some of the steps needed to reduce the risk of such misjustice in the future.

Elsewhere in the Palace, the Economics Affairs Committee will be taking evidence from the Governor of the Bank of England, Andrew Bailey. Liberal Democrat involvement is the hands of Susan Kramer and Rumi Verjee, both of whom can be safely relied upon to keep the Governor on his toes.

There are no Liberal Democrat Oral Questions on Wednesday, although the winner of the ballot for the topical Oral Question won’t be known until later today. As noted earlier, the Automated Vehicles Bill is expected to complete its Committee Stage, and will be followed by a Motion of Regret regarding the Private Crossings (Signs and Barriers) Regulations 2023.

The day concludes with a debate seeking to persuade the Government to hold an independent inquiry into the unresolved allegations against Sir Edward Heath relating to Operation Conifer.

Again, no Liberal Democrat Oral Question is currently scheduled for Thursday, although Shas Sheehan has secured a one hour debate on how the Government intends to cooperate with international partners to mitigate the impacts of climate change in the light of recent reports that global heating is likely to pass the 1.5-degree Celsius threshold this year.

In Grand Committee, Mike German will be seeking to elicit information from the Government on what they’re doing to help recently recognised refugees to integrate and establish themselves into society. I fear that he’s going to be disappointed.

And that brings us to the end of another week in the Lords…

* Mark Valladares is the somewhat invigorated Lords Correspondent of Liberal Democrat Voice.

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