Ben Stoneham writes: Lib Dem Lords will hold Government to account on EU Withdrawal Bill

The first major stage of the EU (Withdrawal) Bill will reach the House of Lords next week. I thought this would a good time to explain what the next few weeks will look like in this often ignored corner of Westminster.

Second Reading

The Second Reading of the EU Withdrawal Bill will take place early next week. This is a chance for peers to discuss the issues in the Bill and the processes that the Bill, if passed, would enable – namely, the transcribing of EU law into UK law.

The Second Reading stage is just the first of many in the Lords, and it is not where the bulk of work is done on attempting to change and improve the Bill. Unlike in the Commons the Lords do not traditionally vote on the Second Reading of a Bill.

Some have accused the Liberal Democrat leadership in the Lords, along with the Labour leadership, of guillotining debate on the Bill because we are not supporting Lord Adonis’s call to extend the Second Reading from 2 days to 4 days.  To be very clear about this, I, along with my Labour counterpart, secured early starts on both days of debate next week, giving us an extra 7 hours of debate during Second Reading.  This stage is not where the real work is done on scrutinising the detail of the Bill.

Committee Stage

This is where we will start to consider a whole raft of amendments to the Bill.  We will have many cross-party amendments and we have many Liberal Democrat amendments on issues including on the Single Market and Customs Union, getting people a final say on the deal and clearing up the attempted Tory power grab through Henry VIII powers.  There will be at least 10 days of Committee Stage on the Bill – this is about 70 hours – and the Liberal Democrats will be fighting for more days if more are required.

Report Stage

At least another 5 days of detailed scrutiny on the Bill at this point – another 35 or so hours. This is where to expect a heavy period of voting, and we fully expect there to be votes. This is going to be a heavy period of confrontation with Brexit supporters in the government. We are anticipating a far more intense session of voting that we would normally expect but we are ready for it.

Third Reading

With the voting out of the way, and the dust somewhat settling, the Bill is read for a third time with the changes won in report stage included. In exceptional circumstances, where key issues are still unresolved, votes can be called at Third Reading, but this is rare.


Not the official title but this is what often makes the news, the period in which the Bill bounces back and forth between the Lords and Commons as the final disagreements are ironed out. Historically this has gone on long into the night and the Liberal Democrats have always been willing to keep fighting when the situation dema

The Liberal Democrats in the Lords are fully intending to provide robust and proper opposition and scrutiny to the Bill.  As it reads at the moment, it is not fit for purpose.

Have no doubt that the Liberal Democrats in the Lords will be doing our duty over the coming weeks to hold the government to account.

* Ben Stoneham is the Liberal Democrat Chief Whip in the House of Lords

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  • Quite a marathon Lord Stoneham, I feel a lot better about the scrutiny knowing that you will be in the thick of it. Can I ask what the attitude of Labour will be. Are we going to hear tough rhetoric and then have them cave in ?

  • Richard Underhill 27th Jan '18 - 11:28am

    Peers do not have geographical constituencies, so they cannot be told that their area voted to leave or remain.

  • Ed Shepherd 28th Jan '18 - 7:52am

    Lords are not elected. Therefore they should play no role in decision making in a democracy. The SNP do the right thing by boycotting this outdated institution.

  • nvelope2003 28th Jan '18 - 9:21am

    Ed Shepherd: The SNP would not get many peers so they make a virtue out of necessity.

  • Remembering that the SNP’s number one policy is for Scotland to separate from the rest of the UK, complaining about the bad decision-making from Westminster is more useful to their long-term ambitions than using their influence to encourage good decision-making.

  • Tony Greaves 28th Jan '18 - 10:56pm

    Having a second Chamber in which the ruling party in Scotland is not represented is a complete nonsense. Whatever the reasons for this, it is yet another example of how the UK political system is dysfunctional. The curious thing is that if the SNP really want to get the Brexit Bills (yes we are going to get a string of them) changed, they are going to need the help of the Lords. In large quantities. So they are going to have to work with us.

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