Tag Archives: house of lords

Lord Paul Tyler writes….Reflections on 65 years as a party member

As with so much else in politics, our conference this year was by turns very different and strikingly similar to the first I attended some 60 years ago. This year’s conference was beamed into my living room; my first Liberal Assembly took place in the Usher Hall in Edinburgh. This year’s conference took place in the shadow of Western humiliation in Afghanistan. My first took place when Britain was still reeling from the Suez scandal.

Either way, this year’s was my last as a Parliamentarian. The House of Lords is a place of many anachronisms, and I wouldn’t like to risk becoming one of them. Since I turn 80 at the end of October, the moment has come – after 65 years as a party member – to take a back seat.

Don’t despair: this is not just a forlorn trip down memory lane, but a reflection on how the present and future should be faced, after that experience. In the 1950s and 1960s the UK political landscape was remarkably two dimensional. In General Elections a large majority voted for – and against – the two major parties. In the former decade that total was regularly well over 90%. Even in my first parliamentary contest in 1966 some 89.8% of those who voted supported Labour or Conservative candidates.

Canvassing experience reflected that dichotomy. “My husband is in the union, we’re Labour” or “We’re in business, we’re Conservative”. In Cornwall and Devon there was a very welcome variation: “Our family have always been Methodists, we’re Liberals”. Only very much later, during my 1982 Beaconsfield by-election campaign, did I encounter the show-stopping response “We are not interested in politics, we’re Conservatives”.

All that has fundamentally changed. The population, and especially the regularly voting component, are nowhere near so consistently aligned. Their motivation is far from that previous clear economic/social divide. Their support churns around between elections, and even during the last few days of a campaign.

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Liberal Democrat staffer wins award!

At a time when there are so few things to celebrate – no shock by-election wins to enjoy, and the prospect of delay of the elections currently scheduled for May – it’s nice to be able to congratulate a fellow Liberal Democrat for winning an award.

Naimah Khatun is a Parliamentary Assistant in the Liberal Democrat Whip’s Office in the Lords, and today she’s been announced as The House magazine’s Westminster Staffer of the Year (Crossbench, Independent, Liberal Democrats and Other Parties). Here’s the announcement of the award, and her response.

And here’s the response from the Parliamentary Party in the Lords…

Congratulations …

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Sarah Ludford summarises our argument against the Future Relationships Bill

The task of summarising the Liberal Democrat argument against the Brexit deal fell to Sarah Ludford, former MEP for London and our frontbench Brexit spokesperson…

The wisest comment on the Johnson deal came from his Conservative Party colleague — if not friend — the noble Lord, Lord Heseltine, somewhat puncturing the bluster and self-congratulation. He said:

“We must welcome the news that Brexit does not end in the chaos of no deal, but only with the sense of relief of a condemned man informed that his execution has been commuted to a life sentence.”

What was promised in 2016 was “the exact same benefits” as EU membership and “frictionless” trade. That was a cruel deception then and it is a very bad joke now. No wonder Mrs Thatcher was so keen to promote the single market; this threadbare Tory deal betrays her legacy, and it is not — I have to say to the noble Lord, Lord Lamont — membership of the Common Market.

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Lords speeches against the Future Relationships Bill (part 4)

Here are the last group of excerpts from Liberal Democrat interventions during the debate on the European Union (Future Relationship) Bill…

Tim Clement-Jones

We have been assured by Ministers countless times of the value they place on the arts, but they have now abandoned one of our most successful sectors, already heavily battered by Covid lockdowns, to its own devices. The noble Baronesses, Lady Bull and Lady Bakewell, are absolutely right. In the trade and co-operation agreement, our hugely successful audio-visual sector is specifically excluded. They represent 30% of all Toggle showing location of Column 1881channels in the EU, but if they are not to be subject to the regulators of every single country, they will need to establish a new hub in a member state.

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Lords speeches against the Future Relationships Bill (part 3)

This morning, we bring you the third tranche of excerpts from Liberal Democrat speeches against the European Union (Future Relationship) Bill in the Lords…

Jenny Randerson

The automotive industry is also at the sharp end. Today’s vehicles comprise parts from many countries. Although there are some useful provisions on rules of origin, it will still require additional paperwork and data gathering, and that means additional costs. The timescale is hopelessly short; the industry believes that a phase-in period is critical, but we are not getting that. Of course, businesses are not ready.

There are huge uncertainties built into this deal, because it is based on today’s standards, and standards change, particularly in vehicle manufacture and aviation, as technology advances. Each change needs a complex approval process, with potential penalties. Of course, this is just a framework deal, subject to endless reviews and supplementary agreements.

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Lords speeches against the Future Relationships Bill (part 2)

We pick up where we left off earlier

William Wallace

This Bill, and the agreement it transposes into domestic law, commits us to continuing negotiations across a very wide range of issues, in which the UK will be the dependent partner. I mention two issues only out of the many that remain unresolved. The issues of data access, and the adequacy of data protection, are vital to the future of our economy. Three-quarters of UK data exchanges flow between here and the European continent. Sovereign independence on data regulation for the UK is not on offer; our choice is between closer alignment with American or European regulation. We will pursue the Government on this.

Mutual recognition for cultural professionals, musicians, actors and artists is left out of the agreement, as has already been mentioned. I declare an interest as a trustee of the VOCES8 Foundation. Many of us will seek written assurance from the Government that mutual recognition will be negotiated.

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Lords speeches against the Future Relationships Bill (part 1)

And, for completeness and, indeed, because they were excellent, we bring you excerpts from the speeches of our Parliamentary Party in the Lords during the debate on the Future Relationships Bill

Jeremy Purvis

Liberal forebears joined together to ensure the widest benefit of free, fair and open trade well over a century ago. We fought relentlessly against Conservative protectionism at the turn of the last century. We split from the Conservative and National Government over their imposition of tariffs all round. Now, a century on, we need to try to militate against the worst elements of this poor agreement. We will have to be in the vanguard of supporting women entrepreneurs in the service sector to tackle the new barriers, helping our businesses export against the new burdens and supporting those wishing to seek advantage not by moving out of the UK but by staying in it and working with others to reconnect with Europe. I never thought we would need to rejoin this fight, but we do—we must, and we will with vigour.

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Reform the House of Lords

With Britain battling both a pandemic and an economic crisis, and bracing itself for the chaos of a no or thin deal Brexit, introducing the idea of Lords reform sounds, at best, out of touch, and, at worst, misguided.

Recent events however suggest that we can no longer afford to ignore it.

First was Lord Kilclooney’s offensive tweet referring to Kamala Harris as “the Indian”. It was enough that it was racist and misogynistic. Pretending that he simply could not remember her name when a Google search would have revealed it in less time than it took for him to write the tweet tells us that it was a calculated move. We already know that black and Asian political candidates face the brunt of online abuse. In July this year Dawn Butler MP closed her constituency office in part because of bricks thrown through the windows, and threats against her and her staff. In this context, the impact of the tweet is a chilling effect on democratic engagement: you are not welcome. The Commissioner for Standards has proved incapable of enforcing any behavioural standard, with Lucy Scott-Moncrieff responding to News Letter on 12th November 2020 that “n this instance, Lord Kilclooney’s conduct on Twitter does not fall within the scope of the Code and it is outside my power to investigate”.

Second was the Conservative peer David Freud’s involvement with five Conservative MPs in a letter to senior judges seeking to influence the decision of Mrs Justice Whipple, the judge tasked with ruling on whether the references made in Charlie Elphicke’s criminal trial could be made public. The secretary to the Lord Chief Justice, the head of the judiciary in England and Wales, responded that it was improper to “seek to influence a judge in a private letter and do so without regard for the separation of powers or the independence of the judiciary”. The matter has been referred to the Commissioner for Standards by Helen Hayes MP.

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New Liberal Democrat Peers should be elected by Liberal Democrat members

Editorial note – I forgot to add the critical link to the motion, which has now been restored to its rightful place. Apologies to all…

As Liberal Democrats, we have long supported the abolition of an unelected House of Lords and its replacement by an elected second chamber of Parliament. However, there is little chance of it happening soon, or even in the next ten years.

Until that time, we must carry on with the current House of Lords and at some stage the Leader of the Liberal Democrats will invited to nominate people to sit the House of Lords as working Liberal Democrat Peers to replace those who retire or, sadly, die.

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Tony Greaves writes: A week to remember in the Lords

Oh what a week that was!

Liberal Democrat peers can hold up their heads in some pride after a remarkable week in the Lords in which the Government suffered a massive defeat on the Internal Market Bill, three issues were ping-ponged back to the Commons, and Liberal Democrats fought the battles while the Labour Party disgraced themselves by abstaining on several vital motions.

There’s a pattern. Since the August recess the government have been defeated in the Lords no fewer than 17 times. But they’ve won eleven votes and on all but one of those the Labour Party sat on their hands. Of course they have a right to whip their members as they decide – or as instructed by their party bosses in the House of Commons. But when, as this week, they have already gone through the lobby at an earlier stage of a Bill, questions must asked about their courage and determination to oppose the Government on matters of principle.

In these strange times, we don’t queue through the division lobbies – a foolish practice we leave to the Commons. The Lords is meeting as a Hybrid House, centred on the Chamber where up to 30 peers can sit at any time, suitably distanced from each other. Other members ask questions and speak, visible on the monitors strung around the balconies. But everyone votes via their computers and devices on a natty little app called PeerHub. 

The first vote of the week on Monday was on the Second Reading of the United Kingdom Internal Market Bill, the measure that the Government itself admits could mean breaking international law. The Lords customarily do not vote on the Second Reading of Bills, holding that the government of the day has the right to have its legislation scrutinised by the Upper House. 

But Lord Judge moved an amendment to add at the end of the motion to give the Bill a Second Reading “but that this House regrets that Part 5 of the bill contains provisions which, if enacted, would undermine the rule of law and damage the reputation of the United Kingdom.” Lord Judge is Convenor of the Crossbenches – 181 peers who sit as Independents – and a former Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales. (And yes his family name really is Judge).His amendment was passed by 395 votes to 169, a massive 226 vote majority. As often happens the Liberal Democrat group had the highest percentage turnout (91%). And 39 Conservatives voted against the Government. On its own this vote has no legal effect but it threatens the government with a very difficult time as the Bill starts its detailed scrutiny in the coming week.

On Tuesday we played Ping-Pong with the Agriculture Bill. Ping-Pong is the technical term for the final stages of a Government Bill when it is sent back and forth between the Lords and the Commons until both Houses agree the exact wording. In this case the Lords had passed a series of amendments before sending the Bill back to the Commons, which promptly reversed them.

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Lord (Martin) Thomas writes…How the government smuggles potentially tyrannical powers into legislation using the word “modify”

Embed from Getty Images

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Mike German writes: Democracy, digital technologies and trust

A new report from the House of Lords has shone a searchlight on the effect of online activity on the health of our democracy. Over the past year Paul Scriven and myself have been members of a Select Committee taking evidence, investigating the level of harm, and developing proposals for tackling this critical issue. As Liberals we see technology can be a tool to help spread power, and improve democracy. But that can only happen with the correct framework around it.

Trust in our democracy is being eroded. Our key conclusions are that democracy should be supported rather than undermined by technology platforms, and that misinformation poses a real and present danger to our democratic processes.

There have clear examples of dangerous misinformation online during this Covid-19 pandemic. The online references to the 5G network and its connection with the virus, led some people to damage the telecommunications infrastructure. Other spurious medical advice has abounded. In the last General Election the Tories changed their website for the day. They claimed it to be an authoritative source of independent information in which -guess what – the Tory policy was the only right course!

The net effect of online misinformation is to threaten our collective democratic health. It is damaging trust in our democracy and takes us on a downward path where no-one listens, and no-one believes what they read and see. The government has promised an Online Harms Bill, but progress is moving at a snail’s pace. Ministers have been unable to even say whether we will get the new law before 2024. It is clear to us that the Tories are running scared of tackling the big online platforms. Our report calls for OFCOM to be given the power to hold these platforms legally responsible for content which goes out to their huge audiences in the UK.

Trust in what you find online has declined. People, particularly those coming up to voting age (16 in Scotland and Wales – catch up England!) need the skills and confidence to navigate online and find sources they can rely on. Too much of our education curriculum is about computing skills and not critical digital literacy.

There are lessons for all political parties as well, but the report singles out the Tories and Labour for their inability to see problems within themselves. Political parties must be held accountable for what we say, if we are to gain and expect the trust of the British people.

Electoral law has simply not caught up with the impact of online activity.

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Daily View: 16 June 2020

I’ve been writing this feature for nearly three months now, and hope that you’ve enjoyed it. Today, I’m going to change the style a little, to make it a little less formulaic. Bear with me…

We’ve got a leadership contest underway, if the wave of press releases from the various campaign teams is any guide. By the way, we won’t be publishing them here at Liberal Democrat Voice in line with our policy of neutrality in internal elections. But I would like to see a contest of ideas, especially as I am a genuine floating voter this time. I can’t help …

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Daily View 2×2: 8 June 2020

2 big stories

Black Lives Matter. A simple statement that probably ought not to be necessary, but is. The demonstrations in our bigger towns and cities will have drawn most of the coverage, but the picture is from that well-known radical heartland of Bury St Edmunds, where a demonstration took place yesterday afternoon. Perhaps it is a sign of promise that, even in a community like this, where the non-white population is small, hundreds of people felt moved to express their anger at the injustice of a society which treats black people …

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Paul Tyler writes: The Peers are Revolting or Who is Taking Back Control ?

A pause for thought: during the weekend of VE Day memorabilia were we celebrating 75 years of European peace, the retreat of fascism and the advance of parliamentary democracy ? Hopefully yes: realistically – in the case of the Brexiteers and their newspapers – NO !

And yet we have no cause for complacency. The UK is already looking as if we have reverted to being “the sick man of Europe” in terms of both our public health and the health of our democracy.

While in those 75 years the dictatorships of Western Europe have all collapsed, and effective representative democracy has taken their place, voters in Britain are increasingly marginalised and cheated. The Conservative manifesto in December 2019 aspired to make all votes of equal value: the actual result produced a ratio of inequality at the extremes of 33:1.

However, it is not just at elections that our representative democracy is under attack. Boris Johnson may choose to give a presidential-style address to the nation on a Sunday evening – to avoid questions and challenge from MPs – but we do not have a presidential constitution. He and his Government should be accountable to our Parliament, not the other way round.

No 10 obviously finds this inconvenient. Dominic Cummings is notorious for his disdain for Members of both Houses. MPs are already chaffing at the constraints that the combination of “virtual” exchanges and the business managers’ politicking are imposing.

The position in the Lords is far worse. Here, of course, there is no substantial Tory majority with plenty of lobby fodder to bully, and the response of Ministers to the Covid-19 emergency is under constant, sustained examination. And yet, there is no provision for effective scrutiny of legislation, let alone for votes on amendments, and the majority of Peers have been frozen out of debates or ludicrously squeezed by derisory time limits.

The response from Big Brother Cummings (the much more powerful BBC) has been to threaten that all Peers over 65 should be forcibly excluded.

That was too much for even the most tribal of Tories, and – led by former Cabinet Minister Michael Forsyth – a cross-party revolt resulted. Mr Cummings may think he can casually rip up the constitution, but that requires legislation.

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Daily View 2×2: 30 April 2020

2 big stories

So, will Matt Hancock reach his target of 100,000 tests today? And even if that capacity is reached, will they be carried out? It’s not looking terribly optimistic when even NHS Providers, which represents foundation trusts in England, dismisses the 100,000 target as a “red herring” that distracted from the failures of ministers.

Setting targets and missing them is bad enough, but setting meaningless, and possibly even misdirected ones, and msssing them anyway, seems to be the story of this Government’s handling of the crisis.

It’s a sign of the general uselessness of the British print media that, for …

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Daily View 2×2: 23 April 2020

On this day in 1516, the Reinheitsgebot was enforced across all of Bavaria, stating that beer must be brewed from three ingredients only – water, malt and hops. And yes, Wilhelm IV, Duke of Bavaria was a bit of a stickler for purity, but that wasn’t a bad hill to die upon, was it?

2 big stories

Whilst the Job Retention Scheme appears to be operating smoothly thus far – noting that payments aren’t due to reach employers until next week – for the self-employed, there’s no news as to when their scheme will start. And the decision to have a ceiling …

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Lord Roger Roberts writes … employees from 26 countries work for the House of Lords

I didn’t have to wait too long for an answer to my question on how  the House of Lords would function without the work of folk from other countries.

They are straight answers  from the house authorities, very different from some departmental answers!

Employees come from 26 different countries – we can’t manage without each other!

Nearly 200 of House of Lords employees would not have reached the £25,000 proposed minimum income level for Immigration clearance.

Those who read will make up their own minds. The House of Commons will give us its own answer.

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A House of Specialists – A New House of Lords

House of Lords reform has been a cornerstone liberal democrat policy since I can remember and has been a hot topic in the country for the last year. Whether it’s the issues of unelected hereditary peers, promoting political cronies, or the many expense scandals. All parties now agree that if you had to design a second house today, you wouldn’t choose the one we have now. So if you could design the second house from scratch, what would it look like? Well, I’m going to have some fun and describe how I think it should be —my own House of …

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How would Parliament manage without employees from outside the UK?

If the new immigration regulations are forced through, Parliament itself could be very short of staff. That is why I’ve tabled questions to find out exactly how many of the present staff could on appointment have satisfied these regulations. A question that is not permitted is where new recruits will come from and how many meet the demand that they must earn £25,000!

Questions about parliamentary staff would be for the Senior Deputy Speaker. However, his remit only covers matters relating to the House of Lords so he could not answer about House of Commons staff, or staff employed by members …

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3-7 February – this week in the Lords

Consecutive weeks with a preview… I must be getting a little more reliable. It’s a full five day week in the Lords this week, with one of those occasional sitting Fridays, and there’s a fair bit of Liberal Democrat action, so without further ado…

The Second Reading of the Birmingham Commonwealth Games Bill is the main item of business on Monday, and I have to admit that I hadn’t noticed, or more likely forgotten, that the Games is coming to the West Midlands in 2022. the Bill allows the Government to give …

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27-30 January – this week in the Lords

I’ve been meaning to get back into the swing of this for a while now, and now that the debate over Brexit is over (albeit the consequences will be debated for years to come), perhaps now is a good time to pick up where I erratically left off…

Monday is a relatively gentle opener to the week, with the primary item of business being the Air Traffic Management and Unmanned Aircraft Bill, whose Second Reading takes place. Think drones. Batting for the Liberal Democrats will be Bill Bradshaw, Tom McNally, and our …

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Lib Dem peers inflict defeats on government’s Brexit bill

House of Lords. Photo: Parliamentary copyright images are reproduced with the permission of ParliamentThe Guardian reports:

Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal has received a setback in the Lords after three amendments to the bill were passed.

In the government’s first parliamentary defeat since the general election, peers voted for EU citizens to have the right to be given official documentation if they lawfully reside in the UK after Brexit.

They backed a cross-party amendment to the withdrawal agreement bill allowing for physical proof of status.

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18-19 January 2020 – the weekend’s press releases

  • Lib Dems launch campaign to scrap cash machine fees
  • Chancellor must take blinkers off and pay attention to industry
  • Johnson cannot be trusted to fix broken politics

Lib Dems launch campaign to scrap cash machine fees

The Brecon & Radnorshire Liberal Democrats have launched a campaign calling on the UK Government to provide the funding necessary to scrap transaction fees at local cash machines. With the number of bank branches across Powys dwindling, a growing number of residents are forced to reply upon Post Offices and local cash machines to access their money.

Last year Jane Dodds, then MP for Brecon & Radnorshire, led …

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Rumour: Jo Swinson set to be awarded a peerage

This fortnight’s edition of Private Eye is proving to be quite a goldmine. I thoroughly recommend buying a copy at your local newsagent or similar outlet.

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Lord Martin Thomas warns the Government against interfering with judiciary independence

Liberal Democrat Voice is pleased to see Lord Thomas of Greenford back in his usual place in the House of Lords, following a period of ill-health. Yesterday, he made a typically punchy intervention during the Queen’s Speech debate warning over potential political interference with the judiciary…

My Lords, in 1978 I was the guest of a senior lawyer in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. That evening at home, he answered a phone call and came back wreathed in smiles: “The Republicans are struggling to get their legislation through the State Senate”, he told me. “The Democrats have told them they have to pay a

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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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