22-26 January 2024 – this week in the Lords

Hello, dear readers, and we meet again for another episode of the costume drama that is the House of Lords. And this week, it’s a “Rwanda week” even though the Rwanda Bill only received its formal First Reading on Thursday and isn’t due back until next Tuesday.

Even a relatively keen observer like myself is often surprised by the working of the Lords and, this week, the International Agreements Committee takes centre stage. I suppose, having thought about it, that any Parliamentary chamber would want to take a close look at international agreements signed in its name, and the House of Lords is no different. Chaired by Peter Goldsmith, the former (and rather controversial) Labour Attorney General, the Committee published its report on the UK-Rwanda Agreement on an Asylum Partnership. It doesn’t make good reading for the Government and, in typically courteous Lords fashion, accuses James Cleverly of effectively attempting to mislead the Committee (see paragraph 44). The report, including a series of recommendations, is to be debated on Monday and there will then be a motion, moved by Lord Goldsmith, resolving that:

His Majesty’s Government should not ratify the UK-Rwanda Agreement on an Asylum Partnership until the protections it provides have been fully implemented, since Parliament is being asked to make a judgement, based on the Agreement, about whether Rwanda is safe.

You can expect contributions from the two Liberal Democrat members of the Committee, Chris Fox and Tim Razzall, and there is every possibility of a Government defeat if Labour whip their members to vote for the motion.

Elsewhere, the Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers Bill reaches its Committee Stage in Grand Committee, with Tim Clement-Jones leading for us with a series of amendments. Sadly, there are no Liberal Democrat Oral Questions.

No Liberal Democrat Oral Questions on Tuesday either, and the House will be dealing with the Third Reading of the Trade (Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership) Bill, and the Investigatory Powers (Amendment) Bill reaches its Report Stage. The former will probably go through without much formal opposition – the only vote that was called on an amendment at Report Stage was heavily defeated – but Chris Fox has a series of amendments to the latter, so we’ll see how they’re received.

Elsewhere, the Economic Affairs Committee is taking evidence on the sustainability of the UK’s national debt. Economists amongst you may be interested to see what has been said so far and, for those of you with an informed view, evidence is still being accepted.

Possibly inspired by his regular commute from Berwick, Alan Beith has the first Oral Question on Wednesday, when he asks about discussions that the Government might have with train operators on changes to the East Coast Mainline timetable in December 2023. Perhaps the question of the new pilot fares scheme that LNER have introduced will come up…

The Senior Deputy Speaker has thirty motions to propose following Oral Questions, as it’s the point in the business cycle when Committee memberships rotate. Theoretically, none of this should be controversial, but each motion can be taken separately if any Lord objects. Six new Committees are being created, for one off enquiries or tasks, and we’ll cover that later in the week (I promise!).

Other than that, the Victims and Prisoners Bill reaches its Committee Stage, whilst the Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers Bill has a second day at its Committee Stage “off Broadway” in the Moses Room.

It’s a bit of a Liberal Democrat day on Thursday. In the light of Rishi Sunak’s sudden belief that smoking should be banned for the young, Chris Rennard is curious to know what the Government is doing to pursue this goal, whilst Chris Fox wants to encourage the Government to seize Russian central bank assets that are frozen in the UK’s financial system, using them to fund the reconstruction of Ukraine, a key ask for our Ukrainian sister parties.

Otherwise, Claire Tyler has obtained a short debate on the impact of the closure of high street banks on local communities, and the need for a national network of banking hubs.

And that brings us to Friday, which is occupied by a debate on the current situation in Ukraine. Liberal Democrat contributions are expected from Dominic Addington, Jeremy Purvis and Alison Suttie.

Next week, the Rwanda Bill has its Second Reading. Expect fireworks…

* Mark Valladares is the Lords Correspondent for Liberal Democrat Voice.

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