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 position was going to be thoroughly tested, and Wednesday saw the opening skirmishes, with debates on Clause 1 of the element which relates to the repeal of the European Communities Act of 1972. The four topics of discussion were;

  • The actual date upon which the repeal becomes effective
  • The role of the devolved administrations (Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland)
  • Membership of the Single Market and the Customs Union
  • Our membership of Euratom

which took us as far as Amemdment 8. You might assume from this that there’s an awful lot of territory to cover…

In truth, the Government has created many of its own problems by setting deadlines without doing sufficient work to ensure that they can be met, and it will be a feature of the coming weeks that the Lords will be attempting to extricate the Government from the consequences of its own foolishness by offering flexibility in the light of circumstances. Yes, the whole notion may be stupid, but that isn’t a reason to try and make the thing vaguely workable.

And so, Lord Wigley, the Plaid Cymru peer, kicked off by offering the Government a chance to go away and think again about our membership of both the Customs Union and the Single Market by removing the guillotine date from the Bill. As he put it;

It is our responsibility to pass amendments to this Bill that will give MPs an opportunity to address such matters in the light of developments in the negotiating process and give due regard to the Government’s objectives, which may even now be only partially understood.

which I sense is a pretty good summary of the widely held concerns in the Lords. But do read the debate in Hansard if you have time, here and here.

This week, the Lords is expected to raise issues such as medicines licensing, the Erasmus programme, defence and security and the status of EU legislation passed before Brexit takes place.

In other business, the Automated and Electric Vehicles Bill had an uncontested Second Reading, whilst the Nuclear Safeguards Bill reached its Committee Stage. Somewhat strangely, the latter doesn’t refer to Euratom, which led to a probing amendment from Lynne Featherstone to see what the Government had in mind to ensure that we were compliant with international requirements going forward. Again, that won’t be going away any time soon.

Looking forward, apart from two more days of debate on the EU Withdrawal Bill, next week sees the Report Stage of the Laser Misuse (Vehicles) Bill and the second day of the Committee Stage of the Nuclear Safeguards Bill.

Elsewhere, Floella Benjamin has an Oral Question on stage one of the National Child Obesity Strategy on Monday, whilst on Tuesday, Dominic Addington seeks an answer on assessments for the disabled students’ allowance for dyslexic applicants, especially relating to fees for new assessments where the condition is already diagnosed.

Dave Goddard raises the issue of rebuilding the lives of people affected by the Grenfell Tower fire, and Wednesday sees Chris Rennard ask for the Government’s view on the cost benefits to the NHS and police of minimum unit pricing for alcohol in England.

So, that’s it for another week, and I’ll be back in seven days to see how they’ve gotten on.

* Mark Valladares is Liberal Democrat Voice’s Lords Correspondent.

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7 Comments

  • Richard Underhill 26th Feb '18 - 10:52am

    So has the government found a way to impose timetable motions in the House of Lords?

  • Yeovil Yokel 26th Feb '18 - 11:51am

    Thank you for this, Mark.
    “think half-term but without the need for childminders” – surely the childminders are the Men in Tights?

  • “think half-term but without the need for childminders”

    Shows how just unrepresentative of the general population this unelected body is.

  • Tony Greaves 26th Feb '18 - 4:42pm

    David – the recess dates are usually set to follow those of the Commons. Don’t blame the men in tights or indeed the new Lady Usher of the Black Rod in hers!

    Richard – no, they have not. But the number of days in Committee is negotiated within the “Usual Channels” ie between the parties. There is no guillotine and the business of the day cannot be chopped and abandoned as in the Commons. There is a draft timetable published for the number of days (ten in the case of the EU (Withdrawal) Bill) but it is rarely kept to in detail. Some things go more slowly and other more quickly. Stuff not reached is done the next Committee day. If it’s really necessary an extra day or two can be added at the end of the process. Or there could be an all-night sitting! (Not had one of those for a while…) One of the problem sis that the Labour Paryt in opposition tend to be a lot more malleable than the Tories used to be.

  • Mick Taylor 26th Feb '18 - 5:29pm

    David, can’t you accept a joke? Mark was I think being jocular in his reference to childminders as many Lords will be grandparents who DO look after their grandchildren during the half term holiday.

  • Mick, after much very serious and earnest consideration, I have to agree it’s a joke – although given I am rapidly approaching the care home stage, I have to admit I’m quite fond of some of its inhabitants.

    Given also that I’m twenty four weeks into a forty week wait for a hip job, I’m full of admiration for those that can actually get their tights on – It’s a bit of a b—-r just to get my right sock on these days and I’ve given up all hope of ever playing for the mighty Terriers..

  • Tony Greaves 27th Feb '18 - 4:33pm

    I can still get my tights on (essential in this weather!) but I don’t flaunt them.

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