Tag Archives: house of lords

Roger Roberts: Don’t build walls, build bridges

While all the drama was happening in the Commons yesterday, the Lords was debating the Queen’s Speech.

One of the measures in that is an immigration bill that makes any liberal reach for a sick bag. Roger Roberts very eloquently described why freedom of movement is a good thing – what would Londoners have done for their tea without the Welsh farmers who moved their to set up dairies?

My Lords, listening to the Queen’s Speech, what drew my attention was the reform of the immigration regulations and that these would include restriction of freedom of movement. I agree that we need reform of the Home Office Immigration Rules, because they are totally unfit for purpose. For instance, this year we saw Windrush remembered, and only last week heard that a lass born in Glasgow 30 years ago now faces deportation. The whole thing is agony for so many people. They are here and yet the Home Office seems to treat them very unjustly. I therefore suggest that we make a fair adjustment of the regulations so that nobody will feel that they are being used in an unfair way.

We face immigration problems that will increase as the years progress. We see that climate change in Africa could well turn many people from their homeland to look for somewhere else to survive. Warfare in places such as Syria and Afghanistan will also lead many people to leave their homeland to look for somewhere they can have a fair and peaceful existence. We, as the United Kingdom, could be the leaders in this reform of immigration thinking. So often we are the people who react, not the people who lead. We could be the people who lead on these immigration transformations. That means we would need to take the initiative; we would have to forget building walls and start building bridges. That is the only way we can become a whole human family.

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9 September 2019 – today’s press release

Lib Dem Lords Leader boycotts Parliament shutdown

Today, Lib Dem Leader in the Lords, Dick Newby, and the Labour Lords Leader, Angela Smith, have refused to participate in the Royal Commission that will prorogue Parliament.

In addition to this, Liberal Democrat peers will boycott the House during the ceremony which shuts down Parliament.

Speaking ahead of the shutdown, Liberal Democrat Leader in the Lords, Dick Newby, said:

The attempt to shut down Parliament by Boris Johnson is authoritarian and anti-democratic. The fact that the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom wants to silence the people and their representatives shows that Boris Johnson will pursue

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Lib Dem Lords vs Brexit: Middle of night special

It’s 12:55 am and the House of Lords just got to the amendments on the first paragraph of the timetable motion for the avoiding no deal  bill. They have been going for the better part of 11 hours now and the vote they are on now is, I think, the 16th. According to Lib Dem Peer Paul Strasburger, this is the most votes ever in a single session.

This is part of the Government’s attempts to filibuster out the Bill to stop a no deal Brexit in its tracks which was passed by the Commons earlier.

There were rumours on Newsnight that Jeremy Corbyn had done a deal with the Government to allow an election in mid October in exchange for the filibustering to stop, but this appears to have been averted after MPs of all parties prevailed on Corbyn to not trust a word that comes from the Government.

So, No 10, I understand, has told the Lords to keep filibustering.

The Lords chamber is still pretty full. Every single vote has been won by the Rebel Alliance. And by some margin. It is the most colossal waste of time ever.

Some of our Lib Dem Lords may be in their element. It does rather read like a Lib Dem constitutional review, but even after an hour of watching, I am ready to throw things at the telly.

If you are trying to frustrate business with hundreds of frivolous amendments, you might at least make them interesting. I mean, why not include proposals for unlimited marshmallows to be provided, or to play beer pong at the bar of he House?

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3-6 September 2019 – next week in the Lords

Parliament resumes its Westminster based work this week after the Summer Recess, and whilst most people will be focusing on the drama at the Commons end of the building (and why wouldn’t they?), the Lords continues to exist on fairly slim pickings.

Tuesday sees one of those possibly unhelpful Oral Questions, from Conservative Peer, Lord Cormack, who will be asking about the powers available to recall Parliament during a prorogation in the event of a national or international crisis. It’s a good question, and it falls to either the Leader of the House, …

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Lord Roberts is fighting to protect child asylum seekers

On Tuesday, the Lord Bishop of Durham, Paul Butler, asked the following question in the House of Lords:

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of Project 17’s report Not Seen, Not Heard: Children’s experiences of the hostile environment.

Liberal Democrat Lord Roger Roberts responded with a speech fully in support of protecting children seeking asylum in this country, extracts of which are here:

I want a world fit for children to live in, a world where the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child is respected in all parts. We talk of so many people who, because of various circumstances, do not receive this care. This could be because of famine, disease, conflict, poverty and so much else. I think the UN’s latest figure was that about 66 million people are in some sort of statelessness. There are nearly 100,000 unaccompanied children in Europe alone. I would love to say that we can resolve all these problems and help every child, but we do not have a magic wand. However, we do have the ability to remove many obstacles and transform the world of thousands of children.

On a worldwide scale, in the last two months, the conflict in Syria has led to 544 deaths, 100 of which were children. In the same area, unregistered migrants in Turkey have been rounded up and many have been returned to areas where death is a great possibility. On the other side of the Atlantic, on the Mexico-United States border, we have pictures of a little girl drowning in her father’s arms and we read of the President’s intention to round up unregistered immigrants.

But would the UK treat its asylum seekers any better? If we distance ourselves from Europe and co-operation with European countries, will things be better? If we give up our co-operation with countries such as Italy, Greece and France, will conditions improve? Will the kids have a better life? How will Brexit improve the condition of unaccompanied children in Europe? How will Brexit affect the work of the churches, especially the Catholic Church, and their pan-European activity to help refugees? There are many other organisations which deserve the most wonderful praise for all the work they are doing. They know no borders, but the UK is now guilty, with the whole attitude of the hostile environment, of digging ditches instead of building bridges. We are doing something that in itself will cause children to suffer.

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24 June 2019 – today’s press release

Liberal Democrats score victory for access to justice

The House of Lords has today passed a Liberal Democrat amendment to the Courts and Tribunals (Online Procedure) Bill that will protect access to justice for people at risk of being digitally excluded.

The Government Bill brings a number of court procedures online. Liberal Democrat peers, led by Justice Spokesperson Jonathan Marks, have raised concerns that moving certain proceedings online may put those who struggle to easily access digital systems at risk of being excluded from access to justice.

Lord Marks therefore tabled an amendment to the Bill to put a statutory duty on …

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Lib Dem Lords vs Brexit: Sarah Ludford outlines consequences of no deal

Eventually, after nearly eight hours of procedural wrangling by Tory peers, the Lords got down to the debate on the general principles of the Cooper Letwin Bill to avoid leaving the EU without a deal.

The only Lib Dem peer to speak in the debate was Sarah Ludford who outlined the economic and health consequences of no deal and saw off some arguments from Tory Brexiteers.

My Lords, I support the Bill and I thank the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, for taking up the mantle of introducing it in this House. I ​also thank Members of the other place, the right honourable Yvette Cooper and the right honourable Sir Oliver Letwin. I was distressed to hear the attacks being made by Members on the Benches opposite on Sir Oliver Letwin because, as far as I am concerned, these colleagues of ours in the other place are doing a great public service.

We need this Bill as an insurance policy against a no-deal Brexit. Even though the Prime Minister has said that she intends to seek a longer extension, it is essential to give the House of Commons a role in that process; namely, mandating the Government and ensuring the accountability of the Government to the House of Commons so that it can take proper control of the process, which is what has been wanted by all sides over the past three years. We should not be in a situation where this country slips off the cliff edge of no deal either through intent or by accident. I am afraid that the Prime Minister has blown hot and cold on no deal, so there is an issue as regards the confidence and indeed the trust that we can have that the policy will not flip-flop. We also need to ensure that the Prime Minister goes on pursuing a straight course.

The impact of no deal would be very severe. We have heard that from the CBI, the TUC and from the Cabinet Secretary, Sir Mark Sedwill. We have heard about a 10% increase in food prices, a possible recession, customs delays and bankruptcies among businesses.

Lord Robathan (Con)

My Lords, are these not the same people who warned us, when we voted three years ago, that pandemonium would break out? Further, are not some of them, like the CBI, the same people who said that we must join the euro—and continue to say that as well?

Baroness Ludford

I think that the noble Lord is somewhat out of date. There has been a serious impact on the economy. As a result of the Brexit vote, we have lost around 2.5% of GDP, even though we are still in the EU. We are down by around £600 million a week.

As I was saying, there are already shortages of medicines, and that will get worse. The noble Lord, Lord Lilley, who is not with us now, suggested in a debate we had a couple of weeks ago that I was wrong to draw attention to the problem of people not getting essential medicines. These stories continue to appear, and they are very real. The NHS has not stockpiled everything because some medicines such as short-life isotopes cannot be stockpiled. It is therefore irresponsible to contemplate no deal. There would also be effects on our security and on Northern Ireland—the noble Lord, Lord Hain, has talked about the issues as regards the Northern Ireland border and possible direct rule.

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Lib Dem Lords vs Brexit Dick Newby calls for unprecedented measures to deal with unprecedented collapse of Government

Yesterday’s farce in the House of Lords reminded me of the sorts of shenanigans that used to go on in student politics. Basically, Tory Brexiteer peers spent 8 hours arguing about the timetable motion to consider the Cooper Letwin Bill compelling the Prime Minister to seek an extension to Article 50 in the event of a looming no deal deadline. Given that the cliff edge comes next Friday night, the need for speed is pretty darned clear.

For 8 hours, the Tories filibustered. There were around 11 votes in all and on every occasion the Brexiteers lost by a large margin. A massive well done to our peers who faced them down with patience and reason.

Former Tory education secretary Kenneth Baker even had the cheek to lecture the Lib Dems on Mill. Baker said:

I remind them what JS Mill wrote in On Liberty. He warned democracy about the tyranny of the majority. He thought that that was the greatest threat to democracy. There is a clear majority on the Benches opposite that this Bill should pass. There is a minority on this side of the House. To silence the minority is very much against the principles of JS Mill, the founder of the Liberal Party. He would not have approved at all.

Dick Newby responded in style as he set out the Lib Dem position. Remember this is still just on the procedure for debating the Bill, not the Bill itself.

My Lords, I shall begin by responding to the noble Lord, Lord Baker, who very helpfully quoted Mill at me. I absolutely agree that democracy requires the exercise of free speech. It also requires the following of rules and the exercise of its powers with responsibility. We have just heard a 30-minute speech. It may have been an excellent speech, and I am sure that if I now speak for 30 minutes it will be an excellent speech as well, but if I speak for 30 minutes, and all my colleagues speak for 30 minutes, we will never get to the substance of today’s debate. Therefore, your Lordships will be pleased to know that I do not intend to speak for 30 minutes—25 should be enough.​

The burden of all these amendments is that the House is being expected to follow unprecedented procedures. Is this surprising? We are in extraordinary, unprecedented times. We are in a national crisis the like of which has not occurred in my lifetime. It is a national crisis which consists in no small part of the fact that there has been a collapse of government. The Prime Minister, after seven hours in Cabinet, addressed the nation to say that she would like the leader of the Opposition to tell her what to do and that, if she did not like that, she would go to the House of Commons and ask it to tell her what to do within hours of having to put something to the European Council next week in order to prevent no-deal Brexit. This collapse of government is unprecedented, and it would be slightly surprising if Parliament did not respond to it by taking unprecedented measures to fill the vacuum where normally one finds government. The third unprecedented point, which is unprecedented in human history, is that unless we prevent a no-deal Brexit at the end of next week, this country will be the first democracy ever to have agreed to make itself poorer, less secure and less influential. Therefore, it is unprecedented and needs dealing with in unprecedented ways.

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Judith Jolly writes: Lib Dem Brexit health win in the Lords

In the midst of all the Brexit chaos, I want to take a moment to reflect on a significant and unreported win for the Liberal Democrats against the Conservative Government. 

A few months ago, a Bill was introduced into Parliament which seemed fairly uncontroversial – it’s aim was to replicate our reciprocal healthcare arrangements with other countries in the event of Brexit (either in a deal or no deal scenario). However, the Conservative Bill went much further than replicating healthcare with EU countries and was is in fact much more threatening. It opened up health deals with the whole world, one of our fears being that that in Liam Fox’s frantic attempts to sign a trade deal, the Tories were planning to put the NHS on the table as well.  As a result, Sal Brinton, Jonathan Marks and I – along with members of the Labour Party and the crossbenches spent weeks challenging the Government to limit the application of the Bill – with great success! 

One of the privileges of being members of the European Union, is that no matter where we are in the EU, our health needs are safeguarded when we need medical attention. Under EU agreements, the UK has participated in a variety of reciprocal healthcare arrangements with other countries, with the result being that all citizens and visitors are protected. 

The Liberal Democrats with cross-party support worked to amend the Bill significantly. We were clear that this Bill must only allow ministers to replace the health deals we already have with the EU, the EEA and Switzerland. 

The Bill’s scope was extraordinarily wide, and the powers included were unjustifiable. In November, the House of Lords Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee described its scope as “breath-taking”. 

The Bill had a worldwide scope, it did not just apply to EEA countries and Switzerland – countries we will need to establish healthcare arrangements with in the event of Brexit. We made sure to limit this. 

Not only did Liberal Democrats feel that worldwide powers were being snuck through in the guise of Brexit legislation and were unnecessary, but there was a genuine fear that this was an attempt to allow the NHS to be used as part of trade arrangements when creating new trade deals with countries such as the USA or China. We were witnessing the Conservative Government attempting to steal powers for ministers in Whitehall which could see them selling our NHS down the river. 

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9-10 March 2019 – the weekend’s press releases (part 1)

There’s no doubt that the Press Team have been busy over the weekend, and we’ll spread the press releases over two posts accordingly…

  • Lib Dems: Javid’s judgement has had tragic consequences
  • Lib Dems: We must now eradicate period poverty from society
  • Swinson: UK must help secure release of Egyptian woman Amal Fathy
  • Jardine reveals “embarrassing” gender balance of the Privy Council

Lib Dems: Javid’s judgement has had tragic consequences

Responding to the reports that the baby son of Shamima Begum has died, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson Ed Davey said:

The news that a little baby has died will touch the vast majority of people’s hearts –

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6 March 2019 – yesterday’s press releases

  • PM fails to stand up for rural communities over bank closures
  • Cable: Catastrophic no-deal would push economy into recession
  • Davey: Britain must be far more ambitious on offshore wind
  • Lib Dems: Yet another embarrassing rejection of May’s Brexit

PM fails to stand up for rural communities over bank closures

Liberal Democrat MP Tim Farron today used Prime Minister’s Questions to urge the Prime Minister to properly compensate communities that have been abandoned by the banks and forced to use online banking instead.

According to the consumer group Which? around 3,000 bank branches have closed over the past three years.

Meanwhile over the same time period, innocent customers have lost an extra £2billion in online and financial fraud.

Speaking during Prime Ministers Questions, Tim Farron asked:

Will she agree that the banks have taken without giving for too long?

Will she meet with me to force the banks to compensate victims of fraud, to compensate the communities they have abandoned and to prevent banks closing the last branch in town?

In response, the Prime Minister refused to help abandoned communities and victims of financial fraud, instead saying that banks are “commercial organisations and those are decisions that they take.”

Following the exchange, Liberal Democrat MP Tim Farron said:

It’s absolutely staggering and hugely disappointing that the Prime Minister has decided to turn her back on communities like Grange in my constituency that have been abandoned by the banks.

People who have been victims of financial fraud and those who have been let down by the banks deserve better than the Prime Minister shrugging her shoulders.

Cable: Catastrophic no-deal would push economy into recession

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Lib Dem Lords vs Brexit – Dick Newby “Purgatory has its limits”

Yesterday, the Lords debated the Brexit shambles. Here is our Dick Newby’s contribution.

This is the 11th debate or statement on the Government’s withdrawal bill and political declaration. During the three months which these debates have spanned not a single ting has changed. ML, the purgatory continues. 

For a number of months, when my colleagues have become exasperated that Jeremy Corbyn appeared to set his face against supporting a referendum on the Brexit deal, I have sought to reassure them by using the analogy of the 5-year-old schoolboy, who doesn’t want to go to school. As he is being dragged to school by his parent, he stamps his foot and says, “I don’t want to go to school”, “it’s not fair”, “I’m not going to school”. He knows, of course, that he will have to go to school but his amour propre won’t allow him to admit it. Only when he crosses the school threshold does he stop his wailing and runs to join his schoolmates. Mr Corbyn has now crossed the threshold.

I think that the analogy is a fair description of what Jeremy Corbyn has done, but until yesterday I didn’t think of applying it equally to the Prime Minister. Yet, this is exactly what she has done in relation to an extension of Article 50. She has said publicly all along that 29 March was a sacrosanct departure date. She has stamped her foot – as late as the weekend – to repeat this mantra. But she has now proposed giving the Commons a vote to extend Article 50 for an unspecified number of months.

She must have known for some time that she was going to have to shift her position, but she has done so with the greatest reluctance and in a manner which will enable her to blame the Commons for the decision, which she will have flunked.

She should herself be advocating a short extension, on the basis of her conviction that her deal will succeed, for without one it is simply impossible to get the necessary legislation through in an orderly fashion

When I debated this with Brexit Minister Chris Heaton-Harris at the end of last week, he said that everything would be on the statute book on time, but apparently only by dropping half the primary legislation which we had previously been told was necessary, and the by implying the use of emergency powers to get the rest through. Could the Noble Lord Lord Callanan tell the House in his wind-up which pieces of legislation the Government believes it will need to pass before 29 March, if the Government’s deal is approved by the Commons. Specifically, does it include the Agriculture Bill, the Fisheries Bill, the Trade Bill and the Immigration Bill?

Yesterday the Noble Lord the Leader of the House said that, in col 148, in respect of Brexit -related primary legislation, we “need to ensure that this House has adequate time to scrutinise it in the usual manner”. Could the Noble Lord  the Minister explain how we are going to be able to scrutinise the Withdrawal No 2 Bill in the usual manner? We will not know until 12 March whether the Government’s deal has been approved, which gives the Bill a mere two weeks to pass all its Parliamentary stages. Will he acknowledge that we would have to break our normal rules in considering legislation if we were to get this Bill through on time? And will he apologise to the House on behalf of his colleague the Leader for giving a misleading impression yesterday?

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Tony Greaves writes…”There really is no Planet B” Scenes from the Schools 4 Climate action demo

Fantastic atmosphere in Parliament Square today as some thousands of mainly school students gathered to protest against what is happening to our climate and our planet. This was one of the most extraordinary demonstrations I have witnessed.

There was none of the usual organisation, attempts at order and regimentation, agenda of speeches and actions. No stewards and precious few police, who were clearly taken unawares by the scale of the protest and were standing around looking a rather lost at how to cope with quite a big disruption with no organisers to talk to! People just turned up, often in school groups, and did their own thing as they felt fit.

Some just stood about with their placards. Some sat in a circle, chanted or sang or made impromptu speeches – at first on the grass, later on in the road. Some stood in the streets or marched off down Whitehall or towards Westminster Bridge. Parliament Square was completely blocked, partly by the young demonstrators but also – by a curious bit of serendipity – by the black cabs whose drivers were staging another protest against being kicked out of London bus lanes.

For once, the young people were being allowed to stand on the plinths of statues and hang placards on Mr Churchill and his friends. One glorious incident happened when a big red open-top tourist sightseeing bus, blocked on the corner of Bridge Street and the Square, was commandeered by a group of young people waving their placards and leading the chants. What any tourists thought about it, I know not!

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13 February 2019 – (the rest of) today’s press releases

Welsh Lib Dems welcome enhancement of MyTravelPass young persons’ discount scheme

The Welsh Liberal Democrats have welcomed the announcement from the Welsh Government that the MyTravelPass young persons’ bus discount scheme is to be enhanced.

The initial pilot scheme was secured by Welsh Liberal Democrats in opposition during the last Assembly.

The scheme, which has evolved and improved since its pilot in 2015, now offers a third off the fares for all journeys taken by young people aged between 16 and 21 – right up until their 22nd birthday.

Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader Jane Dodds commented:

It’s encouraging to see the MyTravelPass scheme continue to

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Celia Thomas: Every disabled person should be able to live a life of dignity and respect

Last week, the House of Lords debated the future essential services run by local authorities. As local government is so important to Liberal Democrats, it’s no surprise that several Lib Dems took part in the debate.

Celia Thomas talked about two critical issues – social care and, first the provision of public toilets and the impact that cuts have on isolation of people with continence problems.

She warned against the idea that we need to provide support for disabled people so that they can work as this can promulgate the idea that there are deserving and undeserving disabled people. Every disabled person, she said, should be able to live a life of dignity and respect:

My Lords, I shall concentrate on the provision of social care but, before that, I want to mention something that I would call an essential service but which turns out to be discretionary. Here I shall lower the tone of the debate so I hope noble Lords will not mind; I am talking about the provision of public conveniences, lavatories, toilets or loos throughout the country. Those that are left are now often maintained by town or parish councils, but for how long? In 2010, there were over 5,000 public toilets; now, there are 4,486. Is it right that fast-food chains, supermarkets and coffee shops have now virtually taken the place of public toilets? What happens when these places are closed, when managers are reluctant to let everyone use their facilities or when there are no accessible toilets? We should not forget the silent number of people trapped in their homes because of continence problems.

I turn now to social care. As the noble Lord, Lord Kerslake, said, we are no nearer to seeing the Government’s Green Paper; as late as October, we were told it would be with us by the end of the year. The funding issue is a fiendishly difficult problem because social care encompasses so much and is so little understood. We need a different term; I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Patten, about language. The word “social”, according to the dictionary, means,

“marked by friendly companionship with others”.

But, in local government terms, it has a much sterner face to cover the state’s obligation to help care for children, including those with mild or severe learning difficulties, as well as disabled and elderly adults. It may have to cover playschemes for disabled children, personal assistants, aids and equipment, care at home and residential care.

Not only are we all living longer, but there is now a better survival rate for people with serious health conditions. I believe that the dictionary definition of the word “social” is one reason why so many people think the service is free for council taxpayers rather ​than means-tested, or partly means-tested. Anyone who thinks the answer for even quite severely disabled people is NHS continuing care should think again as it is very difficult to get. As for delays in hospital discharges, these are still causing a problem due to care packages having to be negotiated or re-negotiated. Can the Minister say how the Government have evaluated the impact of health and well-being boards in tackling the increasing number of these delays?

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Paul Scriven: We need to fund Councils properly and give them the powers to create great communities

Local Government is an issue of paramount importance to Liberal Democrats. Last week in the Lords, Liberal Democrat peer Paul Scriven led a debate on the essential services that local authorities provide. He outlined how chronic underfunding of local government, combined with rising demand for services was creating unsustainable problems.

Here is his speech:

I am very pleased to be leading this debate because to me it is a vital issue that affects every village, every town, every city and every region: local government has a positive power to change people’s lives. Just think of the older person who is becoming vulnerable and possibly losing their independence. With good public health, good housing services and good social services that person can continue to lead an independent life with dignity. Just think of the young man who might be on a crossroads between violence and going forward to have a fulfilling life. With good youth services and education services that young person can be supported to make the correct decision and have a successful life.

Local government can facilitate enterprise and business locally with good business development services, planning and support services provided by local authorities. They can help to create vibrant, successful and sustainable communities: libraries, parks, clean air, shared spaces and bringing people together to give them opportunities to achieve. That is the vision that I think most people have of a good local service: bottom up and delivering for people—not just a service provider of last resort but a local democratic hub that facilitates and brings opportunities for people and businesses to succeed.

I will mention my own journey in Sheffield in the local authority, first as a back-bench councillor helping individual constituents, then as leader of the opposition, ​many times clashing with the then chief executive, the noble Lord, Lord Kerslake—I am not sure whether he will raise that—then as chair of scrutiny, holding the executive to account, and then having the great pleasure of leading that great city and that great council. I was then put on early retirement when I lost my seat and am now back again as a local councillor. I saw the power that local authorities can have to affect individuals and communities and make a real difference to people’s ability to succeed in their life.

That is what the situation should do, but we must look at what it has now become in many cases. Sadly, in some cases local authorities have not just become the provider of last resort but are struggling to be even that—we only have to look at Northamptonshire, Somerset, Norfolk and Lancashire County Councils, and the National Audit Office warning that reserves are running out. In some cases they are not just unable to provide the opportunities that I talked about but are unable to provide the very statutory services that they are there to provide in an emergency as a safety net.

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Lib Dems vs Brexit: Malcolm Bruce – Time to modernise our democracy

My Lords, across the UK, Scotland and London voted most strongly for remain, which is somewhat ironic given the nationalists’ antipathy towards London and London-based government. ​Northern Ireland voted clearly for remain, only to find its hard-line Brexit party tweaking the tail of a Brexit-traumatised Conservative Government. A lot has been said, I think rightly, about Theresa May’s and Jeremy Corbyn’s cavalier disregard for those who voted remain. “You lost. Get over it”, they say, but they have been unable to come up with anything that can unite a majority. When the DUP is challenged for representing a minority in Northern Ireland, it asserts that remain voters are predominantly nationalists and can therefore apparently be discounted—second-class votes.

Membership of the EU resides with the United Kingdom and it is not possible for parts of the UK to be in and parts to be out. I suggest that raises the question as to whether we should ever have sought a simple binary majority, or one that was qualified by the views of the constituent parts of the United Kingdom as well.

During a recent visit to Derry, I was able to see and hear how differences already affect what is located on which side of the border and how people and services operate. Moderate unionists who voted remain are beginning to consider whether the complexities of Brexit might make the prospect of a united Ireland unexpectedly attractive, especially now they see a much more liberal Republic and a frozen conservative Province in the north. The polarisation of Northern Ireland politics has left the Province without a democratic voice. Disillusioned young people at an integrated school that I visited in Derry told me that they thought that violence would return to the Province. I was quite shocked that they were unanimous in their view.

For a long time—the noble Lord, Lord Lisvane, referred to this—many people thought that nationalism could be contained within the European Union or at least under its umbrella. That is kind of logical given that the raison d’être of the European Union was to find mechanisms to avoid conflicts getting out of control and leading to war—which has been one of its great achievements.

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Lib Dems vs Brexit: Martin Thomas on how Brexit adds to instability

The text is below:

My Lords, in my youth, the union was strong. Not only had the four nations survived two world wars side by side but there was a community of interest that bound people together. ​Coal miners faced the same hazards in pits across Britain. The Gresford hymn is still played and sung annually at the Durham Miners’ Gala to commemorate the 266 miners killed underground at the Gresford pit in 1934. Steelworkers from Merthyr to Shotton, Sheffield and Motherwell had common interests, and workers in the shipyards of Belfast and Glasgow, Liverpool and the Tyne shared common dangers.

However, as those great UK-wide industries declined and departed, the solidarity of the union weakened. Devastated communities were left isolated—high and dry. Then the European project got under way. European development funds underpinned the economies of areas in decline, and nowhere has benefited more than Wales. European structural funds have invested more than £4 billion in supporting many thousands of jobs and creating new enterprises. Europe helped to stabilise the union at a time of profound economic and social change.

Devolution has played an important part in creating stability. In Wales we regard Sir John Redwood not so much as the architect of devolution but as its cause. As Secretary of State between 1993 and 1995, two years before the 1997 referendum, he attacked the non-governmental organisations delivering services in Wales with Thatcherite zeal, halved public funding to the Welsh Development Agency and cut his own Welsh Office staff, outsourcing to the private sector. He banned the use of the Welsh dragon on a leaflet entitled Wales in Europe and refused to second staff to ensure a Welsh presence in Brussels. He boasted that he had returned £100 million of the funding allocated to Wales, unspent, to the Treasury. He travelled home to Wokingham every night to avoid staying in Wales, refused to sign documents in the Welsh language because he did not understand them, and his rendition of the Welsh national anthem remains a YouTube classic that is very dear to our hearts. Therefore, we thank him for ensuring for us the slim majority of 0.3% that brought devolution to Wales two years after his regime, and we wish him a similar outcome for his dreams in the ERG.

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Liz Barker’s tribute to Paddy Ashdown

In a House of Lords debate on the Western Balkans this week, Baroness Liz Barker paid tribute to Paddy Ashdown:

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Helic, for this debate, which, sadly, is timely and appropriate. I thank her for giving me the opportunity to tell your Lordships’ House about an event that took place in Sarajevo on 27 December. Joseph Ingram wrote a report of it and he said this. Citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina held a spontaneous commemorative service in the “iconic, reconstructed city hall”. The hall was,

“filled to capacity, and despite being nationally televised, had people lined up outside trying to be part of it. The ‘Mothers of Srebrenica’, a group that represents survivors of the most horrific massacre of innocent civilians on European soil since World War Two, had announced that they too intend to honour the work of this extraordinary human being”.

The event was dedicated to one man. He was born in India. He grew up as a lad in Northern Ireland. He left school, joined the marines and became a captain, a diplomat and spy. Then he gave up everything and, after a period on the dole, went on to become a youth worker and eventually the gallant MP for Yeovil. In this House, we knew him as Lord Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon, but he was always Paddy.

He had a wide range of interests. He had forgotten more languages than most of us have ever learned. He could quote the poetry of John Donne at will. He was an informed and passionate supporter of activists for democracy in Hong Kong, when nobody else took any notice, and he packed more achievements into a lifetime than most of us could imagine, but he was always first to admit that the source of his great strength was Jane. In public she was a quiet figure, but to those of us who know her she is a charming, funny and formidable woman.

I will give you one vignette which sums up both of them. Like all good leaders, Paddy used to invite people in to advise him, talk to him and argue with him. In 1992 I was one of the small group. Early one morning, he posed us the question: should I go to Bosnia? We went round the room and we all said no. We gave him all sorts of reasons why it was a really bad idea, and I left the meeting certain of only one thing. He was going to go. We all saw the TV pictures recently, but what we did not know until we read his autobiography was that he had come under fire, as the noble Baroness, Lady Helic, told us. But he went because he saw a group of people being treated unjustly, and he thought that he could and should do something.

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LibLink: Olly Grender: The sooner the Renters’ Rights Bill becomes law, the sooner tenants get a fair deal

A bill going through its final parliamentary stages cuts letting agents’ fees for tenants. This is down to the hard work of Lib Dem Peers, mainly Olly Grender. She writes for Politics Home about what this will mean for people:

When I first proposed this change in 2016 through a Private Member’s Bill, it was a flat “no” from the Conservative Government.  However, they could not keep ignoring the overwhelming evidence that people on low incomes or benefits who were renting privately were being ripped off with shocking admin fees.

The worst part is that families who are evicted or cannot afford a rent rise are pushed into homelessness by the astronomical up-front admin fees.  The option to move is not feasible, as even when they try to move to a cheaper home, agents were charging both landlord and tenant these up-front fees. With homelessness continuing to rise, and the leading cause being the end of a private rented sector tenancy, it is clear reform is needed – and fast. This is why this Bill is so vitally important. The double dip with both landlord and tenant being charged these extortionate fees will soon be a thing of the past and this change in the law cannot come soon enough.

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18 December 2018 – today’s press releases

Brexit is coming, the hedge fund’s growing fat, who will put a billion in Phil Hammond’s hat? If you haven’t got a billion, 3,000 troops will do, if you haven’t got 3,000 troops, then God bless you…

But at least we’re giving some opposition to this wastrel administration…

  • Lib Dem peers defeat Government to force Prevent review (this one arrived late last night)
  • Cable: Decision to ramp up no-deal is psychological warfare
  • Dropping migration target an admission Brexit won’t control immigration
  • Lib Dems: Putting troops on standby is simply scaremongering
  • Lib Dems table no confidence motion in Government

We’ve also received a press release from Tower Hamlets

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Tony Greaves writes…Home rule for the north

The North of England is the second English region after London and the south-east together, and has 15 million people—three times as many as Scotland and five times as many as Wales. It shares considerable cultural, economic and social cohesion and history, and many current problems. This is about the North as such because the North should stand together as a whole.

What we have is asymmetric devolution. Scotland, and to a lesser extent Wales have increasingly become functioning units of a federal system, except there is no federal system for them to be the units of. This is not a system that is sustainable in the long run. We still have a highly centralized state, not least in England, with a number of peripheral anomalies. If I call Wales and Scotland peripheral anomalies, I do so with admiration that they have been able to break free from the grip of London to the extent that they have. Then we have gimmicks such as EVEL (English Votes for English Laws in the House of Commons).

Some people believe the answer is a federal system with an English Parliament, but the result of that would in due course be the complete detachment of Scotland and Wales. And it would do nothing to change the concentration of economic and political power within England. We have had a series of feeble initiatives such as the attempt by John Prescott to set up a North-east Assembly with no powers, which was rightly rejected. Labor set up government regional offices in which civil servants from different departments sat in the same buildings and talked to their bosses in London rather than to each other. There was the coalition’s regional growth fund and its local enterprise partnerships—nobody really noticed them.

The North is being fragmented into city regions but it is not devolution: it is almost entirely the reorganisation of local government. It is the concentration of power within local government, with all power going to the big cities, but what is that except the power for those involved to carry begging bowls on the train to Whitehall and Westminster and, if they are lucky, to go home with their railway fares? As power is concentrated in big cities through city regions and mayors, the people who suffer in the North of England are those in the areas on the edges, and the places in between. Particularly towns, which have lost so much of their civic culture, power and society in recent years.

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Roger Roberts: Are we to be known as the Canutes of History?

Here is Roger Roberts’ speech to the House of Lords on the Brexit deal. His theme was what sort of life are we setting up for future generations?

Leave and Brexit are about   my seven grandchildren, all your Lordships’ grandchildren and all the children in our country. Will it be better for them to have fewer benefits than we have had, or should we think first of them when we vote on this deal?

Just after the Second World War, the community of Llangollen in north Wales established the international musical festival, which has brought people from many countries together. It still goes on; I spoke only this morning to its press office. This past year it brought applications from 3,919 competitors from 64 locations; it brought together people who had been at enmity ​with one another. As people who have been fighting each other, we suddenly find ourselves in a situation where we either stretch out to one another in friendship or say we want to carry on building a wall.

When the first eisteddfod was held, one choir hitchhiked from Hungary to reach Llangollen—I find it difficult to think of a choir hitchhiking. The following time, a German choir from Lübeck came over to Llangollen. Members of the choir were not sure what sort of reception they would get because we had been at war. They were going to sing to those who had been their enemies and they were very uncertain. But the compère at the eisteddfod on that day was Hywel Roberts, who greeted them by saying, “We are now going to hear from our German friends”. It has taken a long time to build this: to build relationships and get over the enmity of the past. But it has been done, in many different ways. Will we continue with these feelings of friendship? Will we continue building bridges and not walls?

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From our Lords Correspondent: 22-26 October – explaining how things work…

Welcome to the review of a rather longer week in the Lords…

Our review starts, where else, with Monday, which was opened, after prayers, by Meral Ece, who wanted to know what steps the Government are taking to reduce youth crime in London. The answer, unsurprisingly, was that the Government are giving funds to support various small-scale projects. The decline in police numbers due to the loss of central support, not so prominent.

The debate on the Crime (Overseas Production Orders) Bill has already been covered in these pages, and the other legislation …

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House of Lords questions: Young mental health, the post-Brexit Promised Land and the interloper in the dining room

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House of Lords “Oral questions” don’t get a lot of publicity. However, they happen every weekday when the House is in session. All the seats tend to be full – most of the peers are “on parade”. Some pithy debates do take place.

It is very easy to dismiss the House of Lords but it is one half of our bicameral parliamentary system and has a lot of influence. There is a form of civility in the Lords which does not come over in the Commons during its more active sessions (e.g. PMQs). There is reasonably intelligent debate and some passion. There is also collegiate teamwork. There is very little intervention from the Lord Speaker.

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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 …

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The Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill reaches the Lords…

Parliament returned to Westminster on Tuesday after the conference recess, and the Lords was immediately presented with one of those challenges it so often rises to, another anti-terrorism Bill, the Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill, which received its Second Reading.

From the Liberal Democrat benches, Jonathan Marks outlined the four key tests against which the proposals would be judged;

First, what is the purpose of the measure and what is the mischief it seeks to address? Secondly, is the measure necessary to achieve that purpose? Thirdly, is the measure a proportionate response to the mischief, having regard to the restrictions on liberty

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From our Lords Correspondent: 9-11 October – as the summer draws to a close, a young Peer’s thoughts turn to Brexit…

Yes, it’s back, as the end of the Peer show returns to a Parliamentary chamber near you. And this time, I’m going to try to produce a column every week…

The ninety-eight strong Liberal Democrat group returned to battle this week, having shrunk by one more just before the Summer Recess. Ronnie Fearn, after two terms as the MP for Southport, and seventeen years in the Lords, retired under the terms of the 2014 House of Lords Reform Act on 11 July at the age of eighty-seven. No doubt the wear and tear …

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EU Withdrawal Bill: This isn’t over yet

Anyone feeling a bit jaded after today’s events in Parliament?

I mean, honestly, you have at the start of the day a very smug Arron Banks blithely telling anyone who would listen that Leave.EU “led people up the garden path” (that’s lied to you and I).

A few hours later, at the other side of the Parliamentary Estate, MPs fail to adequately hold the Government to account on their atrocious, democracy-undermining, devolution-busting disaster of an EU Withdrawal Bill.

The day had started quite promisingly with the resignation of a Government Minister who then proceeded to buy the Govenrment’s concession and abstained …

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Vision, compassion and inspiration: Roger Roberts’ essential elements for immigration

Roger Roberts spoke in the House of Lords this week on resettling vulnerable migrants and asylum seekers.

Here is his speech:

I appreciate very much the opportunity to take part in the debate introduced by my noble friend Lord Scriven. We all know that, ultimately, the answer lies in Syria and the Middle East, and somehow bringing together a new understanding there. The whole area is the victim of history. Countries like ours, France, Turkey and now Russia want to impose the most individually advantageous solutions on this part of the world. The United Nations appears impotent in the face of

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