Category Archives: Parliament

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

Roger Roberts on bringing hope to the most vulnerable

Lib Dem peer Roger Roberts spoke powerfully in the House of Lords this week on the subject of child refugees. He pleaded with the Government to reinstate the Dubs 3000 refugee children commitment. Here’s his speech in full.

My Lords, I am grateful for this opportunity. First, I will quote a friend who was there when the bulldozers came to demolish the camps in Dunkirk and Calais 12 months ago. He said that,

“after I visited the Calais refugee camp, I still have an image in my head, which I’m sure will be with me for the rest of my life. When I arrived at the camp, there were police in riot gear everywhere. There was a pastor standing, holding what was left of two religious buildings—a blue cross, which once stood atop the camp’s church. The look of complete despair. This was a man who had had the last bit of hope ripped away from him. To remove a religious symbol, a place of hope and prayer, from people who have only the clothes they are wearing and a shelter that is surrounded by mud, must be one of the worst, most inhumane things that I have ever witnessed”.

The demolition is not only of the camps, but of hope—replaced by despair. The refugees housed there were dispersed to different locations in France. The agreement was that the UK Home Office would go to all the “welcome centres”, as they were called, and do proper assessments of the young people and their claims. However, the evidence is that the interviews lasted no more than five minutes, and no interpreters were present. A few of the claimants were brought to the United Kingdom in the winter period, but those who qualified under the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, were ignored. Many who had a strong Dublin III claim were also overlooked. People who backed Brexit must realise that the Dublin EU regulations will no longer be there for the UK if we come out of the European Union. Another strand of hope will be gone.

There is evidence, reported by Professor Sue Clayton in her film, “Calais Children”, that in the welcome centres facilities were mixed. Some were good, but others not so, with no medical facilities, not enough food, opposition from local populations and many other problems. Hope was not rebuilt. Calais Action and other refugee organisations are still active in Calais; they are back there. Many refugees returned to Calais and, this very day, sleep in fields, forests and ditches. They dream of being physically present in the United Kingdom, where they have family—and they have the language. They gather at points of transit, in Calais itself, Dunkirk, Brussels and Zeebrugge. They risk their lives on illegal routes.

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Burns Commission proposes a smaller House of Lords, and how to get there

It’s time, once again, for another attempt at House of Lords reform. Late last year, the House debated a motion aiming to reduce the size of the House from its current 800-plus, and the Burns Commission, chaired by Crossbencher Lord Burns, a former mandarin, set to work. So, what are the proposals, and what are the potential issues?

Size

Six hundred peers is the figure that the Commission have alighted on, equivalent to that of the Commons if Boundary Commission proposals are adopted but, in any event, no more than the number in …

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This week in the Lords (30 October – 2 November) – the preview…

Welcome, once again, to Liberal Democrat Voice’s preview of the week in Parliament or, to be more precise, the (usually) more dignified end of the Palace of Westminster.

It feels a bit like a phony war at the moment, with the Lords to some extent killing time until the EU Withdrawal Bill finishes its passage through the Commons, but there is still plenty to interest the connoisseur.

Diving straight in, Monday sees the first day of the Committee Stage of the Data Protection Bill. Leading for us will be Tim Clement-Jones, accompanied by Brian …

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WATCH: Liberal Democrat MPs slam Government’s contemptuous approach to Parliament

This afternoon, Alistair Carmichael led an emergency debate, which he had secured, to raise the many ways in which the Government is marginalising Parliament. From ignoring Opposition Day debates to curtailing debate on legislation to the Henry VIII powers.

His speech introducing the debate was excellent. Watch it here.

My favourite bits are this:

The best Governments—and if ever there was a time in our country’s history when we needed the best possible Government, this is surely it—are those that are tested by Parliament, by the Opposition parties and by their own Back Benchers. Time and again, our system fails when the Government and the Opposition agree and arguments remain untested. How different might the debates on the case for going to war in Iraq in 2002 and 2003 have been if the then Opposition had been prepared to take a more questioning approach to Tony Blair’s case? I am sad to say that this Government, however, do not welcome scrutiny by Parliament, but rather seek to avoid it.

and the bit where he challenged MPs to get assertive:

In one sense, the Government have done us a favour by bringing this issue to a head, because it forces us as a House to decide what our role in the future of this country is going to be. Is it to be an active participant, with a strong voice and a decisive say, or is it to be a supine bystander as the Government continue to do as they wish, regardless of their lack of a mandate and, as is increasingly obvious, their lack of authority.

I have been a member of many debating societies over the years. They have all been fine organisations that provided entertainment and mental stimulation in equal measure. I mean them therefore no disrespect when I say that I stood for Parliament believing I was doing something more significant than signing up for a debating society. The difference is that in Parliament—in this House—we can actually effect change. Whether we choose to do so is in our own hands.

I loved the fact that the Tories responded by slagging off the Liberal Democrats in the most immature way as they clearly had no defence.

Christine Jardine said that MPs were there to serve the electorate, not to play games. She talked about seeing Parliament as others see it and the impression it gives to people outside who were not involved in politics.

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It’s Swinson vs Lamb today

Today, MPs elect their Select Committee chairs. The Liberal Democrats are to chair the Science and Technology Committee. The House will have the chance to choose between two of our MPs, Norman Lamb and Jo Swinson.

Each has produced a statement in support of their candidacy:

Jo Swinson

Statement

“more collegiate than tribal” – Telegraph

Collegiate

Even the Telegraph said I’m collegiate, and they’re not known for their love of Lib Dems.  If you’ve been in Parliament for many years, I hope you agree that I engaged constructively with MPs regardless of party when I was a Minister: from pubs to payday lending, employment rights to equalities.  If you’re newer, you don’t need to take my word for it, do ask your colleagues.  And feel free to get in touch if you have any questions or ideas.

Fair

Select Committees are about the art of asking good questions to get to the heart of an issue.  It’s a wonderful privilege – and fascinating – to be able to quiz experts on any given subject, and I hugely enjoyed my time on the Environmental Audit Committee from 2007-2010.  Every member of a Select Committee has an important role to play.  In creating reports and recommendations for Government, Select Committees should be both challenging and constructive: giving credit where it’s due, and being bold about where change is needed.

Enthused by science and technology

Science and technology offer hope for the advancement of society, as an engine of growth for the economy, and to solve the big problems we face as humanity, from climate change to disease.  The UK has a pivotal role to play, with a well-respected scientific community that should be supported and celebrated.  I’m enthused by these opportunities, as an early adopter of technology for democratic engagement, a former Vice-Chair of the Prime Minister’s Digital Taskforce, and having served as a Non-Executive Director of a data science start-up.  My constituency is home to the Beatson Institute, a world-class science facility focused on cancer research.

Can v Should

Science rightly pushes the frontiers of knowledge, and asks “Can we?”.  In public policy terms, we must also ask “Should we?”  Ethical questions range from balancing online privacy with security to preventing artificial intelligence entrenching current inequalities, from how to assess the benefit of new pharmaceuticals to understanding fully the impact of drones and driverless cars on employment.  The Select Committee should play a crucial role in exploring these dilemmas and finding a path forward.

Norman Lamb

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What have our lot been up to in the Commons this week?

We’ve had Jamie Stone’s maiden speech, but what else have our MPs been up to in Parliament this week?

Jo Swinson  intervened on Emily Thornberry to make a point about the recognition of Palestine.

I am interested in and listening with great care to what the right hon. Lady is saying about recognition of Palestine, and particularly about what the Government’s position was some years ago. Does she share my concern that, given the Minister’s comments today, it seems that that position has moved and that recognition is being ruled out until the end of talks on a peace process rather than

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WATCH: Jamie Stone’s maiden speech

Jamie Stone completed the quartet of Liberal Democrat Commons maiden speeches today. Watch it here:

Note the tribute to Charles Kennedy and the illustrious people who contested the seat in centuries gone by.

Thank you for calling me to speak, Madam Deputy Speaker, and may I congratulate you on your appointment?

It is a great honour to speak in this House. I am the first member of my Stone family ever to be elected as an MP, and standing here I like to think of my mother and father looking down on me with pride. I also owe sincere thanks to my wife Flora and my three children. Without their support and great help, the likelihood of my being elected to this place would have been rather smaller.

It is customary for new Members to mention their predecessors. Dr Paul Monaghan is a passionate nationalist and while here he took a close interest in middle east matters, the welfare of former inhabitants of the Chagos islands and, in particular, animal welfare. That is his record. I acknowledge it and thank him for it.

In addition, I really must mention my great friend who once represented part of my constituency, the late Charles Kennedy. He is much missed and will never be forgotten, by me in particular. I was for a time his constituency chairman.

Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross is the second largest and most remote constituency on the UK mainland. For that reason it presents special challenges to the Scottish and UK Governments. Sparsity of population, distance and severe winter weather all necessitate taking a different approach to the delivery of vital services. What works in Surrey or Glasgow is not necessarily going to work at all where I come from.

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    The ex Post Holder has witnessed the biggest most sudden crash in electoral support ever. Why? We all know and have to learn from that....
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    The EU has both, a bold vision expressed in its treaties and by its leading representatives, and the slowly grinding, meticulous administration that forces a...
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    @ Katharine Hope you sing heartily....... All well with the two wee ones in the big City. Going down (or up ?) in two weeks...
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    Wonderful news!
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    @Peter Martin I think you have misunderstood the War Debt situation. UK citizens individually did not borrow to finance WW2, the UK government did. The...
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    Sorry forgot Denmark with opt out.