Category Archives: Parliament

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

Martin Thomas reflects on Royal Deeside

When I was a student, my Summer job was as a youth hostel warden in Braemar. In July, I wandered round the gardens of Balmoral when they were open to the public. In August, if I was off on a Sunday morning, I’d take the bus to Crathie Kirk to see the Royal Family go to Church and was actually able to attend the service myself.

I was used to seeing members of the Royal Family in the village. Locals were keen to give them privacy on their much needed break.

Martin writes of his own love of Royal Deeside. He’s felt the benefit of its restorative qualities for decades, in good times and bad. I have my own reasons to be grateful to this beautiful part of the world. I met my husband there. He walked into the hostel for a night, stayed for a week and a half and left with a lot more than he had bargained for.

Anyway, back to Martin’s tribute:

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William Wallace: Social change during the Queen’s Reign

Next in our series of tributes to the Queen from Lib Dem parliamentarians is from William Wallace. He has a unique perspective. Like Mary Reid, he remembers the death of her father and as a Westminster Abbey chorister sang when his coffin arrived in Westminster Hall and at the Queen’s coronation. He talks about the social change that the Queen helped along during her reign.

My Lords, I am conscious that admitting that I can remember the monarchy before Queen Elizabeth is to admit that I am well over the average age, even in this House. My first image of the monarchy was, indeed, of the Queen’s grandmother, Queen Mary, who used to come to listen to sermons in Westminster Abbey whenever a particularly radical canon, Canon Marriott, was preaching the social gospel—something which would now be considered far too left-wing for any current bishop to talk about. I learned a little more when, as a junior chorister, I sang when the coffin of George VI arrived at Westminster Hall for the lying-in-state, and rather more about the symbolic importance of the monarchy when, as a more senior chorister, I sang at the Coronation.

People have talked a lot about how much the country has changed since then. When I think back to that period, it is astonishing what sort of change we have been through. As I walked past the abbey this morning, I remembered that it was black in 1952, covered in soot. Outside, a gallery had been built for people to watch from over a bomb site, which is now the Queen Elizabeth II Centre. Inside, nearly a thousand Peers were in the north transept, in their full robes and with their coronets, and nearly a thousand Peeresses were in the south transept. In a few months’ time, when the ballot for perhaps 100 of us who wish to attend the next Coronation arrives, we should remember that social deference has ended and the social order in this country is different from what it was then.

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Joan Walmsley: The Queen was on my side and your side

The next in our series of tributes to the Queen from our parliamentarians comes from Joan Walmsley.

My Lords, I shall say a few words from these Benches on behalf of myself and my co-deputy leader, my noble friend Lord Dholakia, who is unable to be with us today.

Her late Majesty, like many women, was thrown into a difficult role at a time when she least expected it, yet, like many women, she pulled herself together despite her grief and got on with her job—or her calling, as she saw it. She did it in her own way, as I am sure our new King, King Charles, will also do, adapting her approach as appropriate over the years. As the noble Lord, Lord McConnell, just said, she managed to achieve a balance between consistency and flexibility, and she did it with grace, charm, dignity and dedication. She was at the heart of her family and the nation, and supported us all in good times and in bad. We will miss her among us, as she has so often been.

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Brian Paddick: The servant Queen

We are publishing tributes to the Queen from Liberal Democrat parliamentarians across the UK in the run-up to her funeral tomorrow. This is from Brian Paddick.

My Lords, I have been trying to make sense of all this, as someone who never met Her late Majesty. My mother was seven years older than Her Royal Highness Queen Elizabeth II, but when I lost my own personal life anchor, when my mother died, I felt that I still had Her Majesty the Queen.

Her late Majesty was the safest of a safe pair of hands. She was the most reliable of the people upon whom we relied; she was the greatest example of duty and dedication. I was concerned in recent years that the Queen could not possibly continue to the very end without having to abdicate as old age took its toll, yet she served to the very end—something that I feel sure she would have been very happy to achieve. Our Lord Jesus Christ is sometimes described as the servant king. Her late Majesty was surely the servant Queen. May she rest in peace.

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Jane Dodds: She was a stateswoman like no other

Jane Dodds paid tribute to the Queen in the Senedd.

The text is below:

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Christine Jardine: The Queen shared our thoughts, our memories and our pain

Our parliamentarians paid tribute to The Queen in debates held last weekend. Here is Christine Jardine’s speech:

The text, from Hansard, is below:

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Ed Davey announces a shuffle of his Commons Parliamentary team

A larger Parliamentary Party means a spreading of the burden of covering the waterfront of Government activity, and Ed Davey has this morning announced a reorganisation of responsibilities amongst our MPs. The new lineup is as follows;

  • Ed Davey – Leader
  • Daisy Cooper – Deputy Leader, Health and Social Care
  • Alistair Carmichael – Home Affairs, Justice and Northern Ireland
  • Wendy Chamberlain – Chief Whip, Work and Pensions
  • Tim Farron – Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
  • Sarah Green – International Trade and Wales
  • Wera Hobhouse – Energy and Climate Change, Transport
  • Christine Jardine – Cabinet Office, Women & Equalities, Scotland
  • Layla Moran – Foreign Affairs and International Development
  • Helen Morgan

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Richard Foord is sworn in as the new MP for Tiverton and Honiton

It’s official, Richard Foord has now formally taken his seat in Parliament, bringing the Parliamentary Party in the House of Commons to fourteen strong.

We’ll cover his maiden speech in due course but, in the meantime, here is the moment we’ve all been waiting for…

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What’s on in our Parliaments this week?

Lib Dem Highlights

On Tuesday at 9:30 am, Sarah Olney holds a Westminster Hall debate on reports of misogyny and sexual harassment in the Metropolitan Police – a sobering start to International Women’s Day.

Also on Tuesday, Jenny Randerson has a question on funding for bus improvement plans.

Westminster

Commons

Monday sees all the stages of the Economic Crime (Transparency and Enforcement) Bill which sets up a register of all those non UK people and entities who own property in the UK and strengthens Unexplained Wealth Orders. The Commons Library briefing explains the measures in more detail.  While Labour are supporting it, Transparency International has concerns about the 18 month implementation period and possible loopholes.

On Tuesday we have a Labour opposition day and Wednesday after PMQs is Estimates Day – debates around spending of individual government departments with defence and education coming under the spotlight. The main business on Thursday is a backbench business debate for International Women’s Day.

Lords

The Health and Care Bill gets its report stage on Monday and the Nuclear Energy Financing Bill on Tuesday with various orders and regulations, such as social security uprating and goods vehicle rules coming under scrutiny.

Expect Lib Dem peers to be in action on Thursday against the Elections Bill, which might as well be called the Diminution of Democracy Bill, as it gets its line by line scrutiny.

The full timetable is here.

Holyrood

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Brian Paddick: the Lords takes up cudgels against the Nationality and Borders Bill

I am sure we have all been appalled by the scenes in Ukraine and share a feeling of helplessness.

Over the weekend the Home Office have said that Ukrainian nationals, without close relatives in the UK, fleeing the war in Ukraine must apply for a visa to come to the UK “in the normal way” and one Minister went as far as to say people could come here – on the condition they agreed to be seasonal workers picking cabbage and kale.

Today in the House of Lords we vote on the Government’s Nationality and Borders Bill.

In recent times, only 6% of immigrants to the UK have been refugees and yet 94% of the Bill is aimed at making it more difficult for those fleeing situations like Ukraine to come to the UK.

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Police Bill – a good night for freedom… so far…

So far, so good, as the block of Labour and Liberal Democrat Peers, plus four dozen or so Crossbenchers, are solidly defeating the Government on its so-called “reforms” relating to the right to protest, amongst other things.

But first, Baroness Newlove’s amendment, including misogyny in hate crime law has been passed, as Baroness Meral Hussein-Ece celebrated;

A duty of candour for the police has been added to the Bill as well;

Moving on to the draconian limits on protest tacked onto this Bill by the Government, the amendment by Lord Brian Paddick, removing the proposed right for the police to ban or restrict …

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What’s going on in our Parliaments this week? 17-21 January 2022

Lib Dem highlights in our legislatures this week include Jamie Stone holding a debate on gas and electricity costs while Lib Dem peers take on some of the Government’s nastier Bills. Watch out for Brian Paddick on the Police Bill and Sal Brinton on the Health and Care Bill.

In Wales, Jane Dodds has a debate on free public transport for young people on Wednesday

So what’s happening?

Westminster

Monday kicks off in the Commons with Priti Patel and the Home Office ministerial team answering questions from MPs.

They then go on to debate the Elections Bill, which would disenfranchise many people from deprived backgrounds, who are less likely to vote Conservative, by requiring voter ID. It’s sickening voter suppression.

The Lords take on the dreadful Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill and you can read our take on that here.

On Tuesday, MPs question Sajid Javid and then go on to debate the Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill and a money resolution on the Charities Bill.

Jamie Stone has a Westminster Hall debate on the cost of gas and electricity.

Peers have the first of two days this week on the Health and Social Care BIll.

Commons business on Wednesday kicks off with questions to COP 26 President Alok Sharma, then you have to wonder what PMQs will throw up this week. MPs then turn their attention to the Building Safety Bill

The Lords deals with the Northern Ireland Bill and the Subsidy Control Bill. Several Lib Dems, including Malcolm Bruce and Jenny Randerson, are down to speak.

Thursday sees  international trade questions in the Commons followed by two general debates, the first on a motion relating to the Uyghur Tribunals and the second on Lawfare and the UK Court System.

Meanwhile the Lords have another day on the Health and Care Bill.

Holyrood

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What’s on in our Parliaments this week ? 10-14 January 2022

All three Parliaments are now fully back in session this week. Lib Dem highlights include Rupert Redesdale’s Lords debate on farming on Tuesday and it’s a busy week for Wendy Chamberlain who has an adjournment debate on Long Covid on Wednesday, a Westminster Hall debate on global vacccine access on Thursday and a Private Members’ Bill on Friday. Tim Farron also has a debate.

So what’s happening?

Westminster

Monday has Defence questions, the remaining stages of the Nuclear Energy Finance Bill which basically gives the Government the right to finance new nuclear power stations. You can find out more in the Commons Library briefing.

There’s also a couple of nasty finance measures such as the approval of the welfare cap, which is exactly what millions of vulnerable people do not need.

The Lords look at the National Insurance Contributions Bill.

On Tuesday, it’s Business questions and a yet to be defined Opposition Day Debate for MPs

In the Lords, there is an interesting question from the Bishop of Durham on social security support for larger families. A good chance to highlight the appalling two child limit for state benefits.

Then there is a chance for the Lib Dem peers to get stuck in to the Health and Care Bill as it starts its line by line scrutiny before Rupert Redesdala has a debate on the support needed by the  farming industry to combat increased costs and competition.

On Wednesday, the drama of PMQs gives way to a bill which sets out an arbitration process on rent arrears for commercial properties which have accrued during the pandemic. The Commons Library briefing is here.

Then Wendy Chamberlain has an adjournment debate on Long Covid.

The Lords deals with the final stage of the appalling Police, Crime, Courts and Sentencing Bill.  You can read Brian Paddick’s unequivocal denunciation of it as the most illiberal and authoritarian Bill he has ever seen here.

There’s more on the National Insurance Contributions Bill later.

Thursday sees Cabinet Office questions in the Commons followed by Jacob Rees-Mogg’s weekly business statement, the Government’s response to the Transport Committee report on smart motorways which says they should be paused for 5 years and backbench business on education catch up and the Online Safety Bill.

In the Lords, Paul Scriven has a question on the impact of people waiting to be seen in ambulance queues, and there’s more Health and Care Bill.

It’s a sitting Friday in the Commons and both Wendy Chamberlain and Tim Farron have Bills, Wendy’s on requiring the Government to ensure public bodies have representatives from devolved nations and Tim’s to ensure proper scrutiny of the welfare and environmental effects of trade deals on farming. Both of these are so far down the list that it is unlikely that they will even be covered and will be deferred to another date.

You can get into the full parliamentary calendar from here.

Holyrood

On Tuesday MSPs will hear Nicola Sturgeon’s latest Covid-19 update before
debating the impact of labour shortages on Scotland’s economy, a legislative consent motion to the recent Westminster Animal Welfare Bill and a private member’s debate on Endemetriosis

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What can we expect the Lib Dems to say in today’s Parliamentary debate on Afghanistan?

Parliament returns to day to spend five short hours debating the crisis in Afghanistan.

What can we expect Liberal Democrats to be saying?

The first priority is about getting people to safety. Yesterday, Layla Moran tweeted that we should be taking at least 20,000 refugees, a figure based on what we had called on for Syrians and what the Canadians had proposed.

Crucially, she added that this had to be backed up by proper funding to local councils to resettle refugees and provide them with the support that they need.

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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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