Coming up in the Lords… 5-16 March

Welcome back to Liberal Democrat Voice’s coverage of the House of Lords, our attempt to let you know what is coming up and when in the second chamber. Think of it as your reminder to lobby our Peers, or any others, in advance of the debate. And with no further ado, we’ll turn to the legislative agenda…

With the Welfare Reform Bill having gone through its final stages this week – and we’ll be covering that separately – attention returns to the other items of unfinished business. The Report Stage of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill starts on 5 March, with Days 2, 3 and 4 scheduled for 7, 12 and 14 March respectively. Interestingly, your correspondent has today received an invitation to attend a reception, hosted by the Law Society, so it is clear that attempts to change the Bill continue. There is a panoply of amendments, one of which rather unexpectedly addresses the issue of cash payments by scrap metal dealers, courtesy of Lords Bradshaw and Faulkner of Worcester, as well as the Bishop of London. However, others might consider attempts to protect access to legal aid in domestic violence cases, amongst others, to be more pertinent.

With concerted efforts by Liberal Democrat Peers to gut the competition clauses of the Bill now out in the open, Days 5, 6 and 7 (6, 8 and 13 March) of the Report Stage of the Health and Social Care Bill promise to demonstrate the ability of the relevant Minister, Earl Howe, to tap dance on quicksand. Of course, this depends to some extent on how badly the Labour benches want to follow up on Ed Milliband’s letter, so it’s very much, wait and see on this one.

The Committee Stage of the Scotland Bill continues to provide (relative) relief, and Day 4 is scheduled for 15 March. This week’s amendment is courtesy of Lord Selsdon…

Insert the following new Clause—

“Referendums: definition of Scottish nationality

(1) For any referendum under this Act in which voting is restricted to those of Scottish nationality, the provisions of this section shall apply.

(2) A person shall be considered to be of Scottish nationality if they are—

(a) ordinarily resident, or

(b) resident

in Scotland, or if the domicile of their father was Scotland at the time of their birth.

Hmmm… or their mother, perhaps? However, it does seem that although there are more pandas in Scotland than Conservative MPs, the Conservative Peers from north of the border continue to be determined to demonstrate how that came to pass, with the blocking tactics of Lord Forsyth of Drumlean and the Earl of Caithness continuing.

And finally, the Protection of Freedoms Bill has its Third Reading on 13 March.

There are Oral Questions from Chris Rennard on electoral systems for the 2014 European elections (5th), from Mike Storey on diagnostic testing for dyslexic children (7th), from Hugh Dykes on economic talks with our European partners (12th), from John Lee on the RAF contribution to dealing with the Japanese nuclear accident (13th) and from Dominic Addington, again on dyslexia and children (14th). However, my favourite this week is a piece of joined-up questioning on the improvement of ancient woodland from the Liberal Democrat spokesperson on red squirrels, Rupert Redesdale on 13 March.

In the Committee corridors, still not much to report. For fish fans, EU Freshwater Policy in being considered by EU Sub-Committee D (Agriculture, Fisheries and Environment) on 7 March, whilst the European Union Committee itself discusses the EU Financial Framework from 2014 the previous day. Finally, EU Sub-Committee G, under the glorious leadership of Baroness Young of Hornsey, interrogates Ed Vaizey on the Creative Europe programme on 15 March.

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