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 make it clear that we on these Benches have no intention of derailing it or unnecessarily spinning out debate. As with any other legislation, we will seek to scrutinise it carefully and, where we feel it necessary, seek to amend it.

As for Baroness Smith of Basildon, Leader of the Opposition, there was little obvious intention to oppose Brexit from her benches. In reference to the Adonis amendment, seeking a referendum on the final deal;

Although a further referendum is not something I am attracted to at this stage, for a number of reasons, I really do not think that this is an appropriate amendment on Second Reading or that it fits into this Bill, given the nature of the issues before us. Should he put it to a vote tomorrow, I do not intend to vote.

In truth, we are little the wiser for the debate in absolute terms, although a series of issues that need resolution, many of which are currently sitting in the “too difficult” tray, were given a decent airing. But do read the debate in Hansard, as it does cover so much ground.

Wednesday also saw the “not goodbye so much as au revoir” resignation of Lord Bates, brought about by his failure to attend the House to answer an Oral Question. He was subsequently persuaded to stay on, but it is interesting that discourtesy is deemed grounds to resign in the Lords, whereas lying to Parliament is merely a game in the Commons…

And, on a final note, a Statement was made to the House on Capita, following its financial statement last week, announcing something of a black hole in its finances. Responding from the Liberal Democrat benches, Susan Kramer rather sensibly pointed out;

My Lords, I hope that the Government will understand that they now have a very strong warning sign from both the Carillion and Capita events that they have been concentrating their outsourcing on far too small a group of companies, but also companies that, partly through their concentration, are too complex not just to manage, but to audit, or for the analysts or the credit rating agencies to get a grip on them. Will the Government strengthen the assessment capability for central and local government, and other parts of the public sector, so that they can comprehend the risk far more accurately at the prequalification stage, when contracts are to be let, and during the period of supervision? Picking up on diversification, which is certainly crucial to small entities, does he understand that diversification in and of itself is necessary to break the systemic risk that comes with over-concentration?

This week, probably the most noteworthy debate will be on the restoration and renewal of the Palace of Westminster, following last week’s slightly surprising Commons vote in favour of evacuating the building completely to allow refurbishment to take place, albeit not until 2025. For some Peers, that will mean leaving, never to return, but the building is unsafe and work must be done if it is to survive. There are currently forty-one speakers on the list, seven of whom are Liberal Democrats.

There are four Oral Questions from Liberal Democrats;

  • Ensuring those facing removal from the UK have access to adequate legal advice – Roger Roberts (Monday)
  • Ensuring that children and young people are not being indoctrinated in schools – Mike Storey (Tuesday)
  • Size of the prison population and conditions within prisons – John Lee (Thursday), and;
  • Representations to the governments of the Gulf States regarding human rights abuses – Paul Scriven (Thursday)

As for legislation, it’s a light week, with just the Second Reading of the Nuclear Safeguards Bill and the Third Reading of the Asset Freezing (Compensation) Bill to occupy their Lordships.

Finally, the House rises on Thursday, not to return until 20 February, which makes next week’s report a bit easier to write, I guess…

* Mark Valladares covers the House of Lords for Liberal Democrat Voice. Not literally, of course, for that would be absurd, especially given the weight he’s lost…

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10 Comments

  • Tony Dawson 5th Feb '18 - 12:33pm

    Barnaby,

    A majority of elderly people were persuaded to back ‘a better yesterday’ in a referendum which was conducted disastrously on the ‘remain’ side – in a referendum which was disigned to be ‘consultation only’ and legislated as such. The campaign was conducted somewhat more effectively on the ;leave; side with somewhat less of a regard for honesty and we are now up a gum tree without a paddle(sic).

    As that great soothsayer David Davis so famously said in 2012: a democracy that ceases to have the right to change its mind ceases to be a democracy. We all have a right to recognise that we’ve been wronged, ‘conned’ or simply foolish before a decision which commits not just ourselves but future generations. That even includes Boris ‘two views on everything’ Johnson with his ‘stick my moist fingers up in the wind’ approach to life, the universe and even politics. That does not simply mean writing off the post-middle-aged’s concerns. The cultural change caused by Tony Blair’s ‘throw the doors wide open’ policy has been significant in a very short period which created considerable unease which was altogether not necessary. But, at the same time, people of my daughter’s generation whose identity is far more ‘European’ than ‘British’ ‘English’ or even ‘Yorkshire’ are the future and do not deserve this birthright to be stolen from them and their children.

  • Alex Macfie 5th Feb '18 - 12:40pm

    Barnaby: to say “promote the interests of the British people” implies (i) that there is a monolithic “British people” all of whom have the same interest, and that (ii) there is only one policy that legitimately promotes their interest. In other words, it is redolent of fascism, the exact opposite of liberal democracy.

  • Barnaby, your story can be read two ways! I suggest it is the Brexit supporters who think their team will, against the odds, actually win the remaining 5 matches and so avoid relegation – to everyone else it is obvious that the team will be relegated.

  • nigel hunter 5th Feb '18 - 10:07pm

    It is time that this building is repaired and used as a tourist cash cow for the country. NEW building in the CENTRE of the country should be developed to move the country into the new World that is rapidly developing. Nostalgia, history is for the tourists.

  • Nigel Hardy 5th Feb '18 - 11:18pm

    How can our politicians move so slowly that they make snails look fast? The HoP is creaking and falling apart, and yet it will remain occupied for another seven years. Not so long ago a piece of masonary fell onto to parked vehicle, fortunately no injuries or fatalaties were incurred, which would have been very serious. If they really put their minds to it alternative accommodation could be found and refurbished in a couple of years as the temporary home of democracy, such as it is in this country. If truth be known, our representatives don’t want to vacate because its past is so comforting to them.

    Time the building was evacuated for good. Bring in a new PR democratic system, new regional assemblies, and elected upper house, proper checks and balances on our governments and a new modern parliament building, that does away with both sides of the commons staring at one another, jeering. Fundamental sweeping changes that kick us into to 21C. Sadly, looking at the third rate calibre in both the main parties at present nothing will change in the next two generations.

  • @Barnaby – You have misunderstood my comment: March 29, 2019 is a wholly avoidable relegation day; either carry on as you are and relegation is practically guaranteed, or accept reality and work to avoid relegation day…

    The current challenge is thus getting the ardent Brexiteers to understand this and so see through their delusions; the UK can have a bright future inside or outside of the EU, just not the buccaneering future based on a Hollywood infused rose-tinted view of history being sold by the Brexit snake oil salesmen.

    As for post-Brexit policies, yes the LibDems could and should be more positive as many of their policies become eminently do-able in a significantly shrunk state and economy.

    In helping Brexiteers see through their delusions, the HoL will be performing their bit, by carefully scrutinising the bill (and not restricting themselves to a predetermined timebox) and getting the government’s Brexit supporters to standup and explain their befuddled thinking and explain their beliefs…

  • Tony Greaves 7th Feb '18 - 10:43am

    No, the Lords will not be “falling without a fight”. But we will be fighting on our ground and our terms. If, that is, the Labour party are prepared to man the barricades.

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