Category Archives: Parliament

Anything connected with business in the Houses of Commons or Lords (eg, PMQs).

Priti Patel failing on legal routes for refugees

As Refugee Week begins, the Liberal Democrats have tabled a motion in Parliament calling on the Government to establish safe and legal routes for refugees to come to the UK.

The motion, tabled by the party’s Home Affairs Spokesperson Alistair Carmichael MP, calls on the Government to resettle 10,000 refugees each year, as well as a further 10,000 unaccompanied refugee children from elsewhere in Europe over the next 10 years.

It follows Home Office data showing that just 353 refugees were brought to the UK last year, compared with 4,968 the year before.

Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson Alistair Carmichael MP said:

The UK has a proud history of providing sanctuary to those in need, but now the Conservative Government is turning its back on refugees.

Priti Patel is threatening to punish refugees who don’t come here by safe and legal routes, but at the same time she is failing to provide those routes.

Liberal Democrats are calling on the Government to make an ambitious, ten-year commitment to resettle 10,000 vulnerable refugees a year from Syria and other dangerous conflict areas.

That is the best way to combat people smuggling and human trafficking, and to prevent people from making dangerous attempts to cross the Channel.

The full text of the motion is as follows;

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Lord William Wallace writes… Working within an unreformed Westminster

The Liberal Government took the first step in reforming the House of Lords in 1910-11. Since then it’s been hard work to push constitutional reform further. Life peerages were introduced in the 1950s, creating a House of over 1000 members in which, as one Tory woman life peer once told me, ‘the hereditaries treat us like day boys’ in a public school.

Tony Blair realised that a frontal approach to Lords reform would tie up his government for months, and negotiated a partial further reform with Lord Cranborne, the Conservative leader in the Lords, behind William Hague’s back (and with Paddy Ashdown’s support). Under this, most hereditaries were withdrawn; the exempted 92 were presented as hostages until a full reform towards a directly or indirectly elected House was achieved, at some point within the next 10-15 years.

When the coalition government was formed, the Liberal Democrats demanded that the next stage of Lords reform should be included. I was the minister responsible for taking the issue further in the Lords, against the resistance of Tory, Labour and many cross-bench peers. Backbench Conservatives in the Commons refused to vote for a timetable motion on the Lords reform bill, threatening to delay other government business for months while arguments rolled on. If Labour had given active support, the Bill would have succeeded; but, as so often, Labour preferred to stick with the old rules of two party politics, and the Bill failed. My hopes of standing for the regional elections for the second chamber as a candidate in Yorkshire sank with it.

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Sarah Ludford summarises our argument against the Future Relationships Bill

The task of summarising the Liberal Democrat argument against the Brexit deal fell to Sarah Ludford, former MEP for London and our frontbench Brexit spokesperson…

The wisest comment on the Johnson deal came from his Conservative Party colleague — if not friend — the noble Lord, Lord Heseltine, somewhat puncturing the bluster and self-congratulation. He said:

“We must welcome the news that Brexit does not end in the chaos of no deal, but only with the sense of relief of a condemned man informed that his execution has been commuted to a life sentence.”

What was promised in 2016 was “the exact same benefits” as EU membership and “frictionless” trade. That was a cruel deception then and it is a very bad joke now. No wonder Mrs Thatcher was so keen to promote the single market; this threadbare Tory deal betrays her legacy, and it is not — I have to say to the noble Lord, Lord Lamont — membership of the Common Market.

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Lords speeches against the Future Relationships Bill (part 4)

Here are the last group of excerpts from Liberal Democrat interventions during the debate on the European Union (Future Relationship) Bill…

Tim Clement-Jones

We have been assured by Ministers countless times of the value they place on the arts, but they have now abandoned one of our most successful sectors, already heavily battered by Covid lockdowns, to its own devices. The noble Baronesses, Lady Bull and Lady Bakewell, are absolutely right. In the trade and co-operation agreement, our hugely successful audio-visual sector is specifically excluded. They represent 30% of all Toggle showing location of Column 1881channels in the EU, but if they are not to be subject to the regulators of every single country, they will need to establish a new hub in a member state.

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Lords speeches against the Future Relationships Bill (part 3)

This morning, we bring you the third tranche of excerpts from Liberal Democrat speeches against the European Union (Future Relationship) Bill in the Lords…

Jenny Randerson

The automotive industry is also at the sharp end. Today’s vehicles comprise parts from many countries. Although there are some useful provisions on rules of origin, it will still require additional paperwork and data gathering, and that means additional costs. The timescale is hopelessly short; the industry believes that a phase-in period is critical, but we are not getting that. Of course, businesses are not ready.

There are huge uncertainties built into this deal, because it is based on today’s standards, and standards change, particularly in vehicle manufacture and aviation, as technology advances. Each change needs a complex approval process, with potential penalties. Of course, this is just a framework deal, subject to endless reviews and supplementary agreements.

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Lords speeches against the Future Relationships Bill (part 2)

We pick up where we left off earlier

William Wallace

This Bill, and the agreement it transposes into domestic law, commits us to continuing negotiations across a very wide range of issues, in which the UK will be the dependent partner. I mention two issues only out of the many that remain unresolved. The issues of data access, and the adequacy of data protection, are vital to the future of our economy. Three-quarters of UK data exchanges flow between here and the European continent. Sovereign independence on data regulation for the UK is not on offer; our choice is between closer alignment with American or European regulation. We will pursue the Government on this.

Mutual recognition for cultural professionals, musicians, actors and artists is left out of the agreement, as has already been mentioned. I declare an interest as a trustee of the VOCES8 Foundation. Many of us will seek written assurance from the Government that mutual recognition will be negotiated.

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Lords speeches against the Future Relationships Bill (part 1)

And, for completeness and, indeed, because they were excellent, we bring you excerpts from the speeches of our Parliamentary Party in the Lords during the debate on the Future Relationships Bill

Jeremy Purvis

Liberal forebears joined together to ensure the widest benefit of free, fair and open trade well over a century ago. We fought relentlessly against Conservative protectionism at the turn of the last century. We split from the Conservative and National Government over their imposition of tariffs all round. Now, a century on, we need to try to militate against the worst elements of this poor agreement. We will have to be in the vanguard of supporting women entrepreneurs in the service sector to tackle the new barriers, helping our businesses export against the new burdens and supporting those wishing to seek advantage not by moving out of the UK but by staying in it and working with others to reconnect with Europe. I never thought we would need to rejoin this fight, but we do—we must, and we will with vigour.

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Lord Newby explains why we have opposed the European Union (Future Relationship) Bill

And, to balance the red benches with the green, we bring you Dick Newby’s speech from the Lords. It is, fortunately, rather longer than that of our Leader in the Commons, thus allowing for a rather more complete exposition of our Party’s stance on the deal.

My Lords, some four and a half years after the referendum result, we can now see in the treaty that we are discussing today the outline shape of the UK’s future relationship with the EU, yet we have had no real opportunity to read it and no chance to consider its implications. It is the

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Ed Davey condemns the Future Relationship Bill

Just before noon today, Ed Davey spoke in the Second Reading debate on the European Union (Future Relationship) Bill, and we bring you his speech now. It should be noted that, due to the number of MPs wishing to speak, his intervention was limited to four minutes.

Watch here. The text is below:

Our country is gripped by two crises: Britain’s hospitals are overwhelmed and Britain’s economy is in the worst recession for 300 years. A responsible Government, faced with those crises for people’s health and jobs, would not pass this bad deal, for it will make British people poorer and British people less safe.

This is not really a trade deal at all; it is a loss of trade deal. It is the first trade deal in history to put up barriers to trade. Is that really the Government’s answer to British businesses fearing for their futures and British workers fearing for their jobs? We were told that leaving the EU would cut red tape, but the deal represents the biggest increase in red tape in British history, with 23 new committees to oversee this new trade bureaucracy, 50,000 new customs officials and 400 million new forms. Some analysts estimate the cost of this new red-tape burden for British business at over £20 billion every year. This is not the frictionless trade that the Prime Minister promised.

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WATCH: Munira Wilson’s short, sharp debut at Prime Minister’s Questions

In case you missed  it, Twickenham’s Lib Dem MP made her debut at Prime Minister’s Questions this week. She was first up and her question was simple and effective:

And she was noticed:

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Wendy Chamberlain leads parliamentary debate on electoral reform

Every night, House of Commons business closes with an adjournment debate for half an hour. It’s a half hour in which an MP raises an issue and a Government minister has to respond.

It was worth staying up last Monday night to watch Wendy Chamberlain lead a debate calling for electoral reform. She made a brilliant case both for PR and votes at 16. She was supported by Wera Hobhouse, Christine Jardine and Layla Moran.

You can watch the whole thing here – and it is worth doing so to see how well they make the case – and how the Government Minister responding is all over the place, presumably because she knows fine that they were right.

Here are some key highlights thanks to Make Votes Matter:

 

You can read the debate in Hansard here and Wendy’s speech in full is below:

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Over-centralisation and the response to Covid-19

England would have managed its response to the Covid-19 epidemic better if our local government had been stronger, and encouraged to play a larger role. Liberal Democrats should now be arguing, even more vigorously than usual, that over-centralization leads to failure on the ground.

The first wave of testing centres was outsourced by the government, through a non-competitive contracting process, to one of our largest consultancy firms. The consultants’ understanding of regional and local geography was evidently limited, and their assumption that all health workers would have their own cars and would be willing to drive long distances for several …

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How would Parliament manage without employees from outside the UK?

If the new immigration regulations are forced through, Parliament itself could be very short of staff. That is why I’ve tabled questions to find out exactly how many of the present staff could on appointment have satisfied these regulations. A question that is not permitted is where new recruits will come from and how many meet the demand that they must earn £25,000!

Questions about parliamentary staff would be for the Senior Deputy Speaker. However, his remit only covers matters relating to the House of Lords so he could not answer about House of Commons staff, or staff employed by members …

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3-7 February – this week in the Lords

Consecutive weeks with a preview… I must be getting a little more reliable. It’s a full five day week in the Lords this week, with one of those occasional sitting Fridays, and there’s a fair bit of Liberal Democrat action, so without further ado…

The Second Reading of the Birmingham Commonwealth Games Bill is the main item of business on Monday, and I have to admit that I hadn’t noticed, or more likely forgotten, that the Games is coming to the West Midlands in 2022. the Bill allows the Government to give …

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27-30 January – this week in the Lords

I’ve been meaning to get back into the swing of this for a while now, and now that the debate over Brexit is over (albeit the consequences will be debated for years to come), perhaps now is a good time to pick up where I erratically left off…

Monday is a relatively gentle opener to the week, with the primary item of business being the Air Traffic Management and Unmanned Aircraft Bill, whose Second Reading takes place. Think drones. Batting for the Liberal Democrats will be Bill Bradshaw, Tom McNally, and our …

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Christine Jardine leads MPs’ debate on assisted dying – most speakers are in favour

On Thursday Christine Jardine MP led a Westminster Hall debate of MPs on the subject of the Assisted Dying Law. This was a debate which she brought about.

You can read the debate in full on the Hansard website, and below are Christine’s opening and closing contributions, replete with interventions from other MPs.

Christine has written an article in The Times (£) on the subject and the Westminster Hall debate was covered on BBC Radio 4’s Today in Parliament programme (starts at 15:22) – which included an interview on the subject with Christine.

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Munira Wilson’s maiden speech

As is traditional, Liberal Democrat Voice is covering the maiden speeches of our new MPs as they happen. In Thursday’s Health and Social Care debate, Munira Wilson, MP for Twickenham, made her first Commons speech:

It is a pleasure—and slightly daunting—to follow so many powerful and emotive maiden speeches. I thought that the hon. Members for Luton North (Sarah Owen), for Vauxhall (Florence Eshalomi) and for Bishop Auckland (Dehenna Davison) made particularly moving speeches. It is an honour to give my maiden speech, and I am especially proud that my five-year-old daughter is in the Gallery to witness this moment. With a record number of female and BAME MPs elected in this Parliament, I hope that I and others will be an inspiration to girls like her and other young women as we strive towards a more diverse Parliament that truly reflects British society.

As the new Member of Parliament for Twickenham, I follow in the illustrious footsteps—or should I say dancing shoes—of the right hon. Sir Vincent Cable. After all, he did get a 10 from Len on “Strictly”! Vince earned the respect of Members of all parties in this House, not just for his economic prowess, but for his dry sense of humour. Who can forget his infamous “from Stalin to Mr Bean” put-down of Prime Minister Gordon Brown?

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Wendy Chamberlain’s maiden speech

As is traditional, Liberal Democrat Voice is covering the maiden speeches of our new MPs as they happen. Yesterday, Wendy Chamberlain, MP for North East Fife, spoke in the Education and Local Government debate:

I begin my maiden speech, perhaps unusually, by congratulating the hon. Member for Bury North (James Daly) on his excellent maiden speech. We can certainly agree on ensuring that deprived children and those with additional support needs are supported. I note his work on the board of governors of Hoyle nursery and commend its achievements as well as those of Springfield Primary and Bury College. I commend the hon. Gentleman’s commitment to education. I appreciate his telling us about his cricket-playing career and the fact that perhaps it does not live up to expectations. I play the amateur Scottish sport of shinty and would be happy to tell Members all about it. I do not play particularly well, so stand well back. I look forward to hearing from the hon. Gentleman again during his time in Parliament.

It is a great honour to make my maiden speech as the new Member of Parliament for North East Fife. I pay tribute to my most recent predecessor, Stephen Gethins, who served North East Fife with distinction from 2015. It is clear from my few days here that he was well liked and well respected by Members across the House. I recognise the work of his parliamentary team, both here and in the constituency. It is easy to forget in the heat of an election that when Members lose or resign their seat that has a direct impact on their employees, so I wish all of them the best for the future.

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Daisy Cooper’s maiden speech

As is traditional, Liberal Democrat Voice will be covering the maiden speeches of our new MPs as they happen. First up, yesterday, was Daisy Cooper in the Queen’s Speech debate, responding to Dominic Raab on the subject of Britain in the World…

It is a great honour to make my maiden speech following many other accomplished and passionate speakers. My constituency of St Albans is very proud of its contribution both to Britain’s history and to Britain’s place in the world. Alban himself is the first recorded Christian martyr and Britain’s first saint. He was executed for giving shelter to

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Lord Martin Thomas warns the Government against interfering with judiciary independence

Liberal Democrat Voice is pleased to see Lord Thomas of Greenford back in his usual place in the House of Lords, following a period of ill-health. Yesterday, he made a typically punchy intervention during the Queen’s Speech debate warning over potential political interference with the judiciary…

My Lords, in 1978 I was the guest of a senior lawyer in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. That evening at home, he answered a phone call and came back wreathed in smiles: “The Republicans are struggling to get their legislation through the State Senate”, he told me. “The Democrats have told them they have to pay a

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Lord Roberts is fighting to protect child asylum seekers

On Tuesday, the Lord Bishop of Durham, Paul Butler, asked the following question in the House of Lords:

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of Project 17’s report Not Seen, Not Heard: Children’s experiences of the hostile environment.

Liberal Democrat Lord Roger Roberts responded with a speech fully in support of protecting children seeking asylum in this country, extracts of which are here:

I want a world fit for children to live in, a world where the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child is respected in all parts. We talk of so many people who, because of various circumstances, do not receive this care. This could be because of famine, disease, conflict, poverty and so much else. I think the UN’s latest figure was that about 66 million people are in some sort of statelessness. There are nearly 100,000 unaccompanied children in Europe alone. I would love to say that we can resolve all these problems and help every child, but we do not have a magic wand. However, we do have the ability to remove many obstacles and transform the world of thousands of children.

On a worldwide scale, in the last two months, the conflict in Syria has led to 544 deaths, 100 of which were children. In the same area, unregistered migrants in Turkey have been rounded up and many have been returned to areas where death is a great possibility. On the other side of the Atlantic, on the Mexico-United States border, we have pictures of a little girl drowning in her father’s arms and we read of the President’s intention to round up unregistered immigrants.

But would the UK treat its asylum seekers any better? If we distance ourselves from Europe and co-operation with European countries, will things be better? If we give up our co-operation with countries such as Italy, Greece and France, will conditions improve? Will the kids have a better life? How will Brexit improve the condition of unaccompanied children in Europe? How will Brexit affect the work of the churches, especially the Catholic Church, and their pan-European activity to help refugees? There are many other organisations which deserve the most wonderful praise for all the work they are doing. They know no borders, but the UK is now guilty, with the whole attitude of the hostile environment, of digging ditches instead of building bridges. We are doing something that in itself will cause children to suffer.

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Government under increasing pressure to fund social care

This blog is a week late – but I’ve been busy! I wanted to highlight the Lords’ Economic Affairs Committee report published July 4th. This cross-party group of Peers calls for an immediate investment of £8 billion pounds into our care services “to restore social care to acceptable standards”.

North Devon, as many areas of the country, has an ageing population. Many move here to retire, and then as they enter their twilight years increasingly rely on stretched care services. I have been meeting with care providers and care users – there is a lot that needs improving in North Devon and it comes down to funding. £8 billion more for our care services nationally would make a real difference in North Devon.

In England, over a million vulnerable older people do not have proper care support. However, in Scotland, where health and social services are a devolved matter, care is free for the over 65s.

Many family and friends in England have caring responsibilities as their loved one does not meet the criteria for social care. This is wrong. The report highlights that most unpaid carers are women. 63% of women who care are aged between 50-64 and care for at least 50 hours a week. Our society is being propped up by the unpaid work of millions of carers.

I welcome another recommendation of the report, notably that a further £7 billion a year should be spent to extend free personal care to all by 2025. This would include help with cooking, washing and dressing. We need an integrated health and care system, with care paid for out of taxes. Any of us could need care at any time – this should not be a lottery where some get good care and others not.

Key findings are here, and include that the lack of funding means “local authorities are paying care providers a far lower rate for local authority-funded care recipients than self-funded care recipients, and those care providers with a high proportion of local authority-funded care recipients are struggling to survive.” North Devon in a nutshell.

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Lib Dems table legislation to tackle air pollution crisis

Air pollution is a big deal in Braunton, North Devon, where a traffic bottleneck (the only way to get to one of the country’s most beautiful beaches) causes terrible air quality problems. So I was pleased to see that today we are tabling legislation to tackle one aspect of air pollution.

Today is World Environment Day, a UN sponsored day where communities around the world are encouraged to #BeatAirPollution. The campaign is drawing attention to all types of air pollution, including household and industrial forms of pollution, air pollution as a result of agriculture practices and waste disposal, and transport pollution.

Wera Hobhouse MP, our Liberal Democrat Climate Change, is tabling a bill to give local authorities more powers to issue fines to idling vehicles. The Vehicle Emissions (Idling Penalties) Bill is a bill

to increase penalties for stationary vehicle idling offences; to grant local authorities increased powers to issue such penalties; and for connected purposes.

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ICYMI: Lord Roberts demands more for those made homeless

It was a busy week last week, with local elections and all, but in the midst of the flurry of leaflet delivery and canvassing, Lord Roberts was busy in Parliament questioning the Government on homelessness.

This has been a big issue in North Devon, as it is across the country, with austerity having gone too far and people not able to afford a roof over their heads.

Lord Robert posited:

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the decrease in local authority spending since 2009 on homelessness and the number of deaths of homeless people.

You can read the entire debate here and watch the video here.

Lord Robert’s office kindly sent over a piece on Rough Sleeping written by his researcher Shany Mizrai. We missed out on publishing it last week, but I think it deserves a read:

The House of Commons Committee of Public Accounts has described the extent of homelessness across England as a ‘national crisis’. Appallingly, at any one time, there are as many as 9,100 people sleeping rough on the streets. In 2017 alone, 597 people died while homeless – a third of them, of treatable illnesses. Unfortunately, facts now suggest that homelessness in England has risen 165% higher than it was in 2010.

Importantly, the National Audit Office highlights that there is a high prevalence of mental illness, alcohol and drug dependency among rough sleepers: of the 70% of rough sleepers who had a support-needs assessment recorded, 47% had mental health support needs, 44% had alcohol support needs and 35% had drug support needs. The question is: what is the government doing to help rough sleepers deal with these dependencies?

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Great news that the Mental Capacity Bill is set to pass final stages

I have been watching the progress of the Mental Capacity Bill closely. One of the reasons I, and many activists I’m sure, became involved in politics was because of our concern over mental health, the marginalised, and mental capacity issues. Indeed, my other half researches in this area, so I have an in-house expert on mental capacity and I’m well aware the law needs improving.

The Mental Capacity (Amendment) Bill as introduced in July 2017 was radically improved by the Liberal Democrats and is set to pass its final stages in Parliament before becoming law.

This is a very important piece of legislation which could apply to any of us. For example, if people are in care homes and are having to be locked in, protections are needed to make sure this deprivation of liberty is necessary for their safety and in accordance with their human rights.

This new piece of legislation aims to improve these protections for anyone who lacks capacity and may be deprived of liberty. It took the Liberal Democrats to lead a cross-party effort to force the Conservative Government to remove their exclusionary definition of the deprivation of liberty.

Our changes also included a commitment to review the Code of Practice.

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Greta Thunberg speech in Parliament today should help everyone to take notice of protecting our planet – Cable


Today, schoolgirl Climate activist Greta Thunberg speaks at the Houses of Parliament. Vince Cable has said that he hopes that this event will greatly increase the profile to our climate emergency.

He remarked:

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Lib Dem bill to bring in mental health checks for new mums

Tomorrow is International Women’s Day. And today, in advance of IWD 2019 our Lib Dem MP Wera Hobhouse will introduce a Bill to improve mental health care for new mothers.

I welcome this legislation. As a mother of three, I am well aware of what is currently offered to new mothers. It is not enough. This campaign will tackle one aspect which could be improved: introducing the requirement that the current routine NHS post-natal check-ups given six weeks after having your baby must include mental health checks and support.

It is called the Postnatal Check-ups (Mental Health) Bill, and the first reading is in Parliament today.

Wera said:

It is extremely worrying that nearly half of new mothers who have experienced mental health or emotional issues have not had their problem identified by a health professional or received any help or treatment.

Postnatal mental health issues are not a new phenomenon and are not uncommon. It’s time to remove the stigma, encourage new mothers to discuss their emotional well-being, and provide them with the mental health support they need.

The full text of the proposed bill is

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Parliament debates Mental Health First Aid

The Backbench debate on incorporating Mental Health First Aid into First Aid At Work legislation is scheduled to take place this morning in Parliament.

The Government statement on this is here, with a debate pack pdf link at the bottom entitled, “Mental health first aid in the workplace”.

One of the reasons I entered politics, as a career musician, was my concern over mental health care and the lack of provision for those experiencing mental ill-health.

In March 2015 I successfully amended Liberal Democrat party policy on Mental Health to include incorporating mental health first aid into physical First Aid at Work courses.

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Brexit – so what happens now?

Being your Day Editor today is a bit like trying to hit a rapidly moving, erratically directed small object… with a crossbow. So, where are we?

  • Theresa May intends to postpone the meaningful vote
  • There will be a Statement to the House of Commons from Theresa May at 3.30 p.m.
  • The European Court of Justice has ruled that the United Kingdom can unilaterally withdraw its Article 50 letter
  • The House of Lords is still scheduled to wind up its Brexit debate this evening with a symbolic vote

But is it as simple as that. One Tory MP thinks not;

The next steps aren’t obvious – a …

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The Ivory Bill passes the Lords

On Tuesday 13th November the Government’s Ivory Bill had its third reading in the Lords and passed through to receive Royal Assent. This was a landmark piece of legislation to go some way towards protecting elephants, especially the African elephant, who are poached for their ivory. Currently approximately 20,000 elephants a year are still being slaughtered for their ivory. This unsustainable rate equates to one every 25 minutes. We have now reached the stage where more elephants are being killed by poachers, than live elephant calves are being born every year.

The aim of the Bill was to take most of the value out of trading in ivory and so make ivory objects worthless. All import and export of ivory, whether raw or in objects, is banned with four exceptions: –

  • Pre-1918 items of outstanding artistic value and pre-1918 portrait miniatures with a surface area of less than 320 square centimetres;
  • Pre-1975 musical instruments where the ivory is less than 20% of the total volume of the instrument;
  • Pre-1947 items with low ivory content with less than 10% ivory of the total volume; and
  • Acquisitions between qualifying museums

All items which qualify as exceptions must now be registered and have a licensed certificate which accompanies that item throughout its future ownership. There are heavy fines and the possibility of imprisonment for anyone found to be illegally trading in ivory.

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