Tag Archives: barbara janke

5-9 February: this week in the Lords

I had rather expected that this would be a short week – the Lords usually goes into recess for just over a week, covering Valentines Day, most years. But not this year, it seems…

The Committee Stages of the Victims and Prisoners Bill (day 3) and the Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers Bill (day 5) are the main business on Monday, whilst the Restoration and Renewal Client Board is holding a private meeting in Portcullis House (another building with its own maintenance issues).

You might already have guessed that there’s a lot of legislation grinding through the Lords at the moment, and Tuesday sees the Third Reading of the Pedicabs (London) Bill and the Report Stage of the Automated Vehicles Bill. But the most interesting piece of business for the day is the moving of the draft Electoral Commission Strategy and Policy Statement. Labour have a Motion of Regret down in the name of Lord Khan of Burnley, and given the concerns raised by the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee, I suspect that we will need significant reassurance before it is safe to believe that the Conservatives aren’t about to remove another of the significant guardrails that protect our democracy.

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15-18 January 2024 – this week in the Lords

Back for the second week in a row – and who said that I couldn’t manage that? – our (aspirational) regular review of the week ahead at the more genteel end of the Palace of Westminster.

After last week’s easing back into the routine, it’s a more normal week for the Peers, although there is one relatively unusual session included.

But Monday starts with the usual round of Oral Questions – there are usually four each day – and two come from Liberal Democrats. Malcolm Bruce opens with a question regarding Government plans to promote the end of absolute poverty through international development aid. I suspect that the answer might be a bit vague, given that “no” is far too honest. Jenny Randerson is asking about the possible introduction of a graduated driving licence for young and newly qualified drivers. The other two questions are about the use of engineered stone, given allegations of links to silicosis, and on what consultations the Government propose to have before the next renewal of the BBC’s Royal Charter about news and current affairs programmes, in the light of cutbacks to Newsnight.

Day 2 of the Committee Stage of the Automated Vehicles Bill takes up the remainder of business in the chamber. So far, Sharon Bowles has been seeking assurances that automated vehicles will undergo suitable real-life testing before being cleared to use our roads, and that the impact on road environs, i.e. on pedestrians, will be considered. At this stage, most of the amendments are likely to be probing in nature, seeking reassurances that the Government have taken various factors into account, and Day 2 will see more of the same, as will Day 3, scheduled for later in the week (Wednesday).

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Sally Hamwee: “I feel contaminated by the Bill”

Many of us are watching the progress of the appalling Illegal Immigration Bill as it makes its way through the Houses. On Wednesday it reached the Lords for a second reading, and there were some barnstorming speeches from Lib Dem peers. Here are some extracts.

Brian Paddick moved an amendment that would have effectively killed the Bill immediately.

My Lords, Trevor Phillips recently wrote in the Times that, in 2000, 175 million people lived outside the country of their birth and that, by 2020, it was 280 million. He likened the Prime Minister’s pledge to “stop the boats” to King Canute ordering back the incoming tide. He argued that we need to bring order to the flow, rather than focusing on the impossible task of locking the doors to keep asylum seekers out. We agree.

We have yawning gaps in our labour markets that refugees could fill. We believe that we should adopt the approach many other countries are adopting, that responsibility should be taken away from the Home Office and given to the Foreign Office or the Department for Business and Trade and that “Migration is no job for a home secretary”. Phillips agrees. We should be harnessing the power of the incoming tide, not refusing to accept that it cannot be stopped.

The Government talk about “pull factors”. We talk about “push” factors: the intolerable conditions in their home countries that compel asylum seekers to find sanctuary elsewhere in the world. Even in detention in the UK, you do not have to worry about where you are going to live, how you are going to survive without adequate food or water, or whether you are going to be killed or persecuted, or otherwise have your life endangered. Can the Minister say what evidence the Government have that the measures in the Bill will deter small boat crossings?

The Bill seeks systematically to deny human rights to a group of people desperately seeking sanctuary. It would breach our international obligations under the UN conventions on refugees, on the rights of the child and on the reduction of statelessness, and the European convention against trafficking. This is the first, but not the only, Bill that explicitly states that it does not have to be compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights. The Human Rights Act is being revoked, one law at a time. The Bill would undermine the rule of law, with Ministers able to ignore the rulings of judges. At the same time, we are asking Russia and China to abide by the international rule of law.

I have one final thought. I studied moral philosophy at university. One of the acid tests of whether something was morally right was the question: “What would happen if everyone did the same thing?” Can the Minister say what would happen if every country adopted the approach outlined in the Bill?

This Bill is a low point in the history of this Government and we should not allow it to proceed any further. I beg to move.

Paul Scriven followed Alf Dubs, who was himself a child refugee, saved from the Nazis on the Kindertransport:

My Lords, what an absolute pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, who is a living example of what happens when a country opens its hearts to refugees and how those people can then settle here and contribute to the future prosperity of the nation that they make their home.

As well as impractical and inhumane, the Bill is ineffective. It is built on the ridiculous premise that the only way to stop the traffickers profiteering is to criminalise their vulnerable victims and treat them in a subhuman way. The Bill undermines our commitment to international law and our obligations under the UN conventions on refugees and the child, and it degrades what it means to be British. It trashes our proud and long-held values and our record, dating back to 1951, on how we deal with those seeking asylum. It undermines our country’s international standing for upholding and abiding by international law.

Susan Kramer, the daughter of a refugee, was particularly scathing about the language used around this subject:

My Lords, I decided to speak today after reading the words of the Immigration Minister, Robert Jenrick, speaking for the Government to Policy Exchange, demonising migrants and failing to recognise our responsibilities to refugees seeking asylum. He said that “excessive, uncontrolled migration threatens to cannibalise the compassion of the British public”.

“Cannibalise”—what a deliberate and demonising choice of word. He went on: “And those crossing tend to have completely different lifestyles … to those in the UK … undermining the cultural cohesiveness”.

It was deliberately divisive language and certainly not borne out by the UK experience.

I want the Minister today to show me the body of evidence and research that shows how British compassion has been “cannibalised” by asylum seekers and by people like my mother and me. I want to see his evidence of damage to cohesion that genuine asylum seekers, never mind migrants, have inflicted on the UK. I suspect that we will find it has no substance. He needs to show why diversity is a weakness not a strength. Ironically, if the Government continue to argue that migration creates such problems, it should never by its own logic return a single refugee to any country that already has a significant migrant population—and that eliminates most of Europe and indeed Africa, including Rwanda.

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Lib Dem Lords vs the Article 50 Bill: Barbara Janke: Remain voters have spoken too and nobody is listening

The Lib Dem Lords have made some cracking contributions to the debate on the Article 50 Bill. Ahead of its next Lords stages, we’re bringing you all the Lib Dem contributions over the course of this weekend. That’s no mean feat. There were 32 of them and cover more than 30,000 words. You are not expected to read every single one of them as they appear. Nobody’s going to be testing you or anything. However, they will be there to refer to in the future. 

Our Lords excelled themselves. Their contributions were thoughtful, individual, well-researched and wide-ranging and it’s right that we present them in full on this site to help the historian of the future. 

Barbara’s theme was the effect of Brexit on young people and businesses in her home town of Bristol and the need to recognise the worries of those who voted Remain and not to forget about them.

My Lords, I wish to speak about some of the issues that have been raised by people and organisations in my own city of Bristol. The first thing to say is that the moralistic argument that “the people have spoken” has a rather hollow ring in my city, where a large majority voted to remain in the EU. They have spoken too and they feel that no one in government is listening to them.

Bristol is a highly successful city with an economy driven by an innovative business community which is based on strong links with the EU, particularly aviation and its supply chains throughout the south-west. Through the partnership of its two world-class universities, it is also a test bed for technological and environmental development and a trailblazer in the creative, media, digital and microelectronic industries. It is Britain’s leading smart city and was the European Green Capital in 2015. Bristol is a city of small companies. Having read some of the case studies in a local chamber of commerce survey, I do not recognise the description that I heard from the noble Lord, Lord Cavendish. The small firms in Bristol very much value working with the EU. Due to the skills shortages in this country many of them are dependent on recruitment from the EU and EU workers’ freedom of movement. They feel that the constraints that may be put in their way may well lead some of them to consider operating from Europe, where access to skills and freedom of movement fit much more with the kind of businesses they run.

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What our busy peers will be up to this week

Here are some of the things our team in the House of Lords will be doing this week:

Monday: Roger Roberts will be pushing the Government to take action to relieve the situation of unaccompanied refugee children. Tim Farron has been pushing the Government to accept 3,000 at risk refugee children but David Cameron has recently rejected the proposal. The Liberal Democrats will continue to fight to find a solution which does not leave these children vulnerable.

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Barbara Janke to step down as Lib Dem leader in Bristol

Via the BBC:

Barbara Janke said she would stand down as council leader and as leader of the Liberal Democrat group.

Ms Janke announced her decision to the Lib Dem-controlled authority’s cabinet earlier. She said she made the decision as she approached her 65th birthday.

She said it had been an “enormous privilege” to serve as council leader in 2003-2004, 2005-2007 and from 2009 to the present.

She will remain leader of the Lib Dem group until the group’s annual meeting on 8 May, when a new leader will be chosen.

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