Category Archives: Parliament

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

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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From our Lords Correspondent: 22-26 October – explaining how things work…

Welcome to the review of a rather longer week in the Lords…

Our review starts, where else, with Monday, which was opened, after prayers, by Meral Ece, who wanted to know what steps the Government are taking to reduce youth crime in London. The answer, unsurprisingly, was that the Government are giving funds to support various small-scale projects. The decline in police numbers due to the loss of central support, not so prominent.

The debate on the Crime (Overseas Production Orders) Bill has already been covered in these pages, and the other legislation …

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House of Lords questions: Young mental health, the post-Brexit Promised Land and the interloper in the dining room

Embed from Getty Images

House of Lords “Oral questions” don’t get a lot of publicity. However, they happen every weekday when the House is in session. All the seats tend to be full – most of the peers are “on parade”. Some pithy debates do take place.

It is very easy to dismiss the House of Lords but it is one half of our bicameral parliamentary system and has a lot of influence. There is a form of civility in the Lords which does not come over in the Commons during its more active sessions (e.g. PMQs). There is reasonably intelligent debate and some passion. There is also collegiate teamwork. There is very little intervention from the Lord Speaker.

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From our Lords Correspondent: 15-18 October – the phoney war continues…

It increasingly appears as though the Government is a rudderles hulk, limping towards a harbour of dubious safety, and business in the Lords is reflecting that, as a series of Bills, related to Brexit, either are delayed in the Commons or await publication.

Monday‘s main business related to the Mental Capacity (Amendment) Bill, which seeks to “amend the Mental Capacity Act 2005 in relation to procedures in accordance with which a person may be deprived of liberty where the person lacks capacity to consent, and for connected purposes”. In other words, it …

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Travel for Sport Post-Brexit

Following on from the European Athletics Championships last week in Berlin comes this letter from the Government on the free movement of those involved in sport after Brexit.

It was in answer to a letter from the Chair of the House of Lords EU Home Affairs Sub-Committee, Lord Jay of Ewelme. It begins,

The Home Affairs Sub-Committee of the House of Lords EU Committee recently concluded an inquiry into Brexit: freedom of movement in the fields of sport and culture. The Committee will publish a report on freedom of movement in the field of culture; this letter refers to the evidence that we took on sport, and asks for elaboration of a number of points that witnesses raised.

The inquiry considered how the UK’s decision to end free movement from the EU might affect the two sectors. We received written evidence from a range of individuals and organisations, and held two oral evidence sessions.

He goes on to ask the following questions:

  • Has the Government made an analysis of the number of EU27 citizens working in the UK sports sector?
  • Has the Government considered the effect of ending free movement on sports such as horseracing?
  • Has the Government assessed whether extra Tier 5 or Tier 2 visas will need to be issued for EU27 sportspeople wishing to enter the UK post-Brexit, and if so, how many extra visas might be needed?
  • How will non-elite EU27 sportspeople enter the UK after the end of the transition period? Will the Government introduce a preferential system for EU27 sportspeople, or will they fall under the rules that currently exist for non-EU sportspeople?
  • How, if at all, will the Government protect what Angus Bujalski called the “business of sport” from any negative effects associated with ending free movement?
  • Has the Government given any consideration to introducing a seasonal workers scheme for EU27 workers in the sports sector?
  • Has the Government assessed how UK sports, from the elite to the grassroots level, would be affected should the UK no longer be able to make use of the Kolpak ruling?
  • The Government’s current proposal is for an “association agreement” with the EU. Under the terms of an association agreement, would UK sportspeople be able to play in EU sports teams as “homegrown” players, post-Brexit? And could EU sportspeople continue to play in the UK as such?
  • How, if at all, will the Government protect what Angus Bujalski called the “business of sport” from any negative effects associated with ending free movement?
  • Has the Government given any consideration to introducing a seasonal workers scheme for EU27 workers in the sports sector?
  • Has the Government assessed how UK sports, from the elite to the grassroots level, would be affected should the UK no longer be able to make use of the Kolpak ruling?
  • The Government’s current proposal is for an “association agreement” with the EU. Under the terms of an association agreement, would UK sportspeople be able to play in EU sports teams as “homegrown” players, post-Brexit? And could EU sportspeople continue to play in the UK as such?
  • How, if at all, does the Government plan to ensure that sportspeople, other sports sector workers, and fans, will be able to travel and work in the EU after the transition period?
  • What will the Government offer to the EU in return?
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From our Lords Correspondent: another step towards the restoration of the Palace of Westminster

Six months ago, in my increasingly erratic reporting of events in the House of Lords, I touched upon the debate on the restoration and refurbishment of the Palace of Westminster.

So, what happened next?

There was agreement that, as bits of the building were either falling on people or were in danger of burning down or filling with sewage (or both at the same time), that it was really high time that Parliament vacated the building so that it could be modernised for the new age, with technology built in and new services …

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Make time for football! The social impact of participating in culture and sport

As a professional musician and the mother of a keen athlete, I was interested to learn that the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee are looking into the social impact of participating in culture and sport.

On Tuesday they took evidence from three people: Darren Henley, Chief Executive, Arts Council England; John Herriman, Chief Executive, Greenhouse Sports; and Deborah Williams, Executive Director, Creative Diversity Network. The questions asked were around the power of culture and sport to address deep-seeded social issues.

Deborah Williams made the point that we need a broader understanding of what culture is, that it is not elitist, but that there are a breadth of cultural opportunities available and space for all to participate. She highlighted the need for education to be for the whole child.

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What’s happened to the “Official Opposition”?

We have all got used to the Labour leadership opting out, abstaining, even penalising their MPs who actually vote to oppose the Conservative Government. So I suppose we should not be surprised when they stay mum, sit on their hands and pretend it is not important to investigate whether the Russians interfered with the 2016 EU Referendum.

This was the issue I raised with the Minister in a Topical Question in the Lords on Tuesday. I warned that the “piecemeal approach” currently adopted could prove dangerous; I had in mind the lack of effective protection of our electoral system if …

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60 years of women in the House of Lords

The Mother of Parliaments had seen many fine sons, not least those who sat on the Liberal benches, but the number of daughters was far too few for the health of the nation.

Elizabeth Shields, Liberal MP for Ryedale (1986-87)

Today is the 60th anniversary of the Life Peerages Bill, which enabled women to sit in the House of Lords. Since that time 250+ women have sat on the red benches in Parliament, this represents something like 18% of all life peer appointments since 1958. The House of Lords is currently 26% female, so things are (slowly) improving, but the House …

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From our Lords Correspondent: 18 April – Brexit rears its ugly head again…

The Lords return after their Easter Recess, and one can only hope that they’re well rested, because this week sees the debate on the EU Withdrawal Bill become properly serious, with Day 1 of the Report Stage scheduled for Wednesday.

And the battle will be joined immediately, with the very first amendment sponsored by four peers from each of the main groups in the Lords, Lord Kerr of Kinlochard (Crossbenchers), Lord Patten of Barnes (Chris, not John, from the Conservatives), Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town (Labour) and our own Sarah Ludford.

The amendment is …

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From our Lords Correspondent: 20-23 February – you might want to think about this… and this… and that…

Yes, the Lords was back after its usual February recess (think half-term but without the need for childminders), and ready to do battle with the EU Withdrawal Bill. Bearing in mind the agreement on all sides of the House that the intention was not to reject the Bill but to improve it, the Committee Stage has become a marker of the likely problems that will get a thorough airing over the coming weeks.

With three hundred and seventy-one amendments already tabled at the beginning of the week, it was clear that the Government’s …

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Christine Jardine: What happened to our humanity, our open arms and our desire to give children the best start in life?

Christine Jardine spoke movingly in a parliamentary debate this week about the plight of refugee children separated from their families. She called on the UK Government to make it easier for refugee children to find their families and to reunite these families.

Here’s her speech in full.

Imagine having to say goodbye to your child, or finding yourself suddenly separated from them without knowing what will happen to them, whether anyone will look after them or whether they will find the rest of your family, if you still have one. That is the situation facing parents among the 22 million refugees across the world. Families are fleeing war or persecution, looking for nothing more than safety and somewhere to live together in peace. Recently, I visited the Red Cross in Scotland and met families who came to this country looking for that very peace and sanctuary. They are now living together in Scotland and making a valuable contribution to their communities. However, we know that it is not the same for all families; for many, things have become impossible.

As a nation, we have been moved by photographs such as the one mentioned by the hon. Member for Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill (Hugh Gaffney)—pictures of children who have lost their lives or been orphaned because of the conflict in Syria. In the Holocaust Memorial Day debate, we heard moving stories from hon. Members about the flight of their families from Nazi persecution and the sanctuary they found here, yet our approach to reuniting refugee families and immigration procedures is one that I, for one, find depressing. What happened to our humanity, our open arms and our desire to give children the best start in life, regardless of geography?

As we have heard, the EU’s Dublin III regulation determines which EU state decides a person’s asylum application. In 2016, under the regulation’s criteria, 700 children were transferred from other European countries to join family members in the UK, but none of us knows what the situation will be after Brexit. We need the UK Government to improve the system to make it easier for children to find their families. They need to amend the immigration rules on refugee family reunions to make it easier for close family members—siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles—with refugee or humanitarian protection status to sponsor children in their family to join them in the UK. They also need to lessen the conditions that must be met by non-refugee sponsors, and help with legal aid for refugee family reunions.

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From our Lords correspondent: the Bill cometh, but will the building fall down before it can be passed?

And so, the EU Withdrawal Bill came to be debated in the Lords over two days. One hundred and eighty-seven speakers, all heard courteously enough but, at the end of it, it was just the hors d’oeuvres before the real work on the Bill begins.

It seemed to be broadly accepted accepted across the Chamber that the House of Lords does not see its role as stopping Brexit – the lack of an electoral mandate hangs heavy on all corners – and as Dick Newby put it, opening for the Liberal Democrats;

I should

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From our Lords Correspondent: the Government see sense, and the Brexit Bill comes…

Last week saw the fallout from the previous week’s defeat of the Government over the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill and, all credit to the Minister, Lord Ahmed of Wimbledon, he had returned with a series of amendments designed to remedy the Bill’s original flaws. At the forefront of the cross-Party collaboration were Sharon Bowles and Susan Kramer, both of whom bring vast amounts of expertise to the table. As Sharon Bowles explained;

When we started out with the Bill, there was no policy in Part 2, yet it gave sweeping powers

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From your Lords correspondent… the Government falls foul of Lord Judge…

As noted earlier, a change to the format, in that I’ll be looking back at the highlights of the last week in the Lords and briefly pointing out the likely big issues in the week ahead. I may not get it all right…

As the noble lord, Lord Greaves, is watching, we’ll start with last week’s major Government defeat on the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill, over the issue of ‘Henry VIII powers’. Lord Judge, from the cross-benches, and the former Chief Justice of England and Wales, was ‘disappointed’ to see the Government again attempt to gain the power to create …

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A progressive alliance for decency in the news media defeats the Government in the Lords

In writing my preview of last week’s events in the Lords, I rather glossed over the debate on the Data Protection Bill on Wednesday. That will rather teach me to do more research, as it turned out that there was to be an attempt to set up a new Leveson-style inquiry into the nefarious activities of some of our news outlets…

As the noble Lord Greaves pointed out last week, Wednesday saw the Government defeated on a vote to require them to set up and inquiry into issues arising from data protection breaches …

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This week in the Lords: 8-11 January – prod, prod, prod…

Yes, they’re back after all of that leaping, and we’re back to offer you a preview of events in their Lordship’s House.

We start on Monday, with two Liberal Democrat Oral Questions. Floella Benjamin raises the question of an official commemoration of the arrival of the SS Windrush in June 1948, whilst Roger Roberts seeks clarity on post-Brexit arrangements for supporting child refugees.

Most attention though, I suspect, will be on the debate on the Government’s Industrial Strategy and the case for boosting earning power and productivity across the UK with investment in the …

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Lib Dem Amendment for people’s vote on Brexit deal defeated

Last night, the House of Commons voted on Amendment 120 of the EU Withdrawal Bill, whether people should be given a vote on the final Brexit deal.

It was defeated, with 23 for and 319 against – most of Labour didn’t vote!

You can watch Wera Hobhouse’s passionate speech for giving people a say on the Brexit deal here.

And Tom Brake’s speech here.

Commenting on the vote, LibDem Brexit Spokesperson Tom Brake said:

This is a shameful showing from the Labour party. They are meant to be opposing the government, but instead they

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This week in the Lords: 11-15 December – probing away on Brexit…

Yes, we’re back, with our regular preview of the week in the upper chamber, following last week’s absence. Apologies to those of you who take an interest in the more elegant end of the Palace of Westminster. No time to hang about though…

The very first item of business after prayers on Monday is an oral question from Robin Teverson, whose will be seeking a Government view on whether UK citizens will be able their EU citizenship post-Brexit should they wish. Whilst this was originally an idea of Luxembourg MEP Charles Goerens, it …

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Lack of Services for Disabled Children – Parliamentary Campaign Launch

Yesterday, the Disabled Children’s Partnership campaign was launched in parliament. Lib Dem Leader Vince Cable came along to show his support, as well as many other MPs, peers, charities and family representatives. I was also pleased that former Care Minister Norman Lamb MP, was also able to come meet families. 

The Disabled Children’s Partnership (DCP) is an exciting new coalition of over 50 disability and children’s charities. I sit on their Public Policy Group as a member of the Fragile X

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This week in the Lords: 27-30 November

Welcome once again to our regular preview of events in the Upper Chamber, and it’s another low-key week for the denizens of the red benches.

The only legislation up for consideration on Monday is the European Union (Approvals) Bill, which has its Third Reading. Now, to give you an idea as to how uncontroversial this is, the Committee Stage lasted just one minute, with a solitary intervention by the relevant Minister, Lord Henley.

There are two debates and a short debate, with Malcolm Bruce leading for the Liberal Democrats on DfID’s Economic Development Strategy, …

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    Laurence (Cox), Michael BG is absolutely right. Our desire for equality cannot (and must not) be constrained to just a desire for equality of opportunity...
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    @ Joe "One place to start to reverse this trend is by bringing failing care homes back under Local authority ownership and control. Another prime...
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    Shrill. One of those words only ever applied to women for having the audacity to have speaking voices that aren't as deep as proper manly...
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    I hope Jo does well but I'm afraid her speech and her performance on the BBC "hustings" underlined why I feel it was right to...
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    I am inclined to think that what @Martin means is not that he personally has a problem, but that there may well be people with...
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