From our Lords Correspondent: the Government see sense, and the Brexit Bill comes…

Last week saw the fallout from the previous week’s defeat of the Government over the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill and, all credit to the Minister, Lord Ahmed of Wimbledon, he had returned with a series of amendments designed to remedy the Bill’s original flaws. At the forefront of the cross-Party collaboration were Sharon Bowles and Susan Kramer, both of whom bring vast amounts of expertise to the table. As Sharon Bowles explained;

When we started out with the Bill, there was no policy in Part 2, yet it gave sweeping powers to amend, rewrite or revoke the anti-money laundering legislation. There were no safeguards, save for the Minister saying, “Trust me—and all my successors—in all circumstances”. Clause 43 – Clause 41 as it then was – could have resulted in too little in future, and Schedule 2 could have allowed too much. It took a bit of a journey to elucidate that the problems lay as much with what was not in the Bill as with what was in it, and I thank your Lordships for bearing with me in my endeavours to explain and then distil the main essence of the missing parts.

It wasn’t entirely perfect, and it was acknowledged that not every troublesome clause had been expunged or rewritten, but the noble Lords, Lords Judge and Pannick agreed that it could and should be remedied in the Commons, where it is now headed. All in all, a good piece of Parliamentary scrutiny, and a marker for the Government that attempts to create criminal offences without Parliamentary approval will not go unchallenged.

On Friday, the Registration of Marriage Bill had its Second Reading. A Private Member’s Bill, sponsored by the Bishop of St Albans, it will enable the marriage registers to move from the current paper-based system to an electronic version and, somewhat surprisingly to this writer, allows the inclusion of both parents on the register – currently only the fathers appear. Ros Scott was quick to spot the potential;

We should be mindful that, beyond the provision of mothers’ names, the Bill allows us to future-proof civil registration so that later parliamentary decisions can be dealt with; for example, recognising those who have two female or two male parents, or, as the noble Baroness, Lady Morris, pointed out, no legally recognised father.​

And so to the coming week, dominated as it will be by the Second Reading of the EU Withdrawal Bill on Tuesday and Wednesday. There are, as of last night, 186 speakers scheduled, with a number of Liberal Democrats on the list;

  • Cathy Bakewell
  • Alan Beith
  • Sharon Bowles
  • John Burnett
  • Menzies Campbell
  • Kishwer Falkner
  • Lynne Featherstone
  • Tony Greaves
  • Sally Hamwee
  • Christine Humphreys
  • Barbara Janke
  • Archie Kirkwood
  • Susan Kramer
  • Sarah Ludford
  • Tom McNally
  • Dick Newby
  • Lindsay Northover
  • Jeremy Purvis
  • Tim Razzall
  • Roger Roberts
  • John Sharkey
  • John Shipley
  • Julie Smith
  • David Steel
  • Dick Taverne
  • Robin Teverson
  • Martin Thomas
  • Jim Wallace
  • William Wallace

It’s nice to see some of the old guard still fighting for our European future, notably Dick Taverne, who celebrates his ninetieth birthday this year. It will also be interesting to see what stance Kishwer Falkner takes, after her vote last year against a Liberal Democrat amendment seeking a referendum on the final deal.

David Davis gives evidence to the EU Select Committee on Monday, whilst the House debates the Government’s 25-year plan for the Environment – Baronesses Bakewell, Featherstone, Miller and Scott, and Lords Greaves, Redesdale and Teverson take up cudgels for the Liberal Democrats.

Mark Carney gives evidence to the Economic Affairs Committee on Tuesday, which should be interesting given his suggestion as to the scale of economic growth lost due to Brexit.

And finally, there are Oral Questions from Tim Clement-Jones, on the ability of UK audio-visual services to take advantage of EU country of origin rules following EU withdrawal (Monday), Joan Walmsley on the identity of the individual conducting the UK’s negotiations for EU withdrawal, Lynne Featherstone on the ability of companies to apply recommendations of the Financial Stability Board’s Taskforce on Climate-related Financial Disclosures and Meral Ece on the very topical issue of protection of women in the events industry (all Tuesday), plus John Sharkey on the Government’s intent on reducing the amount set aside in NHS budgets for clinical negligence claims and the annual level of payment (Wednesday).

And that’s it until next time…

* Mark Valladares is the House of Lords correspondent for Liberal Democrat Voice.

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