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 considers who might have the power to decide whether someone is unable to consent, but where they need to be protected from the risks that would arise if they were free to come and go, for example in the case of dementia. The emphasis from the Liberal Democrat benches was on making sure that those making the decisions were properly trained to do so, and that they are the appropriate people to make such decisions.

There was also the statement on Brexit negotiations which as noted by Vince Cable, and reiterated by Dick Newby, nothing much was said. As Lord Newby put it;

I am grateful to the noble Baroness for repeating the Statement, which is sober and sobering. It begins by saying that the Prime Minister wishes to set out clearly the facts as they stand. Unfortunately, as the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, said, there are virtually no facts in the Statement at all. It is extraordinarily difficult simply by reading or listening to it to have the faintest clue as to what is really going on.

On Tuesday, Sue Garden asked the Government what plans they have to fund further education teachers’ pay increases. The answer, unsurprisingly, was… none.

The legislative programme consisted of the Courts and Tribunals (Judiciary and Functions of Staff) Bill. Frankly, being a lawyer would help to unpick the issues, but fortunately, the Lords is full of very good ones. If you’re a lawyer, or you have an interest, check out Hansard.

The final item of the day was a Motion to Regret, in the name of Brian Paddick, relating to the Regulation of Investigatory Powers (Juveniles) (Amendment) Order 2018, which extends the maximum length of juvenile covert human intelligence sources (CHIS) authorisations from one month to four months. The use of juveniles as CHIS is troubling enough, given their potential vulnerability and issues relating to consent, but extending the period between reviews is potentially highly risky. In the course of the debate, Sally Hamwee referred to a case where a seventeen year old was used as a CHIS and, as her involvement developed, became involved in ever more dangerous situations. Reassurances from the Minister were sufficient for the motion to be withdrawn, but expect this to be followed up.

Devolution for Yorkshire came up on Wednesday, following the One Yorkshire campaign, headed up by the Yorkshire Post. William Wallace wanted to know if the Government would respond to this, given the overwhelming support for a Yorkshire-wide devolution package. As Kath Pinnock put it;

My Lords, there is amazing unity in Yorkshire — a bit of a historic moment, that.

The publication of the Draft Parliamentary Buildings (Restoration and Renewal) Bill was probably the most exciting thing to happen on Thursday. The Bill seeks to establish the governance structures responsible for the restoration and renewal works within the Parliamentary estate, and given the likely budget, some £4 billion, this is no small matter. It should be noted that a shadow Sponsor Body already exists and is at work, consisting of seven Parliamentarians (two Conservatives, two Labour, one SNP, one Crossbencher and Ros Scott) and five external appointees.

* Mark Valladares is the Monday Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice.

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One Comment

  • David Becket 22nd Oct '18 - 11:16am

    I trust that the Mental Capacity Bill will make it illegal for any young person with Pathological Demand Avoidance (PDA) to be locked up in solitary confinement and fed through a hatch. It should be a requirement that PDA is treated in the community.
    If the bill does not cover this there needs to be an urgent Lib Dem amendment.

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