Tag Archives: house of lords

A plan for electing members to a second Chamber (Senate)

Given that Labour is proposing to replace the House of Lords with an elected 2nd Chamber but, as yet, have no plan at to what form that 2nd Chamber will take.  Here is my plan.

1. The election of Senators will be by the Nations and Regions of the UK as used for European Elections.

2. Each Nation or Region will initially elect three times their MEPs in 2019 to the Senate. That is:

  • East Midlands 15
  • East of England 21
  • London 24
  • NE England 9
  • NW England 24
  • SE England 30
  • SW England 18
  • West Midlands 21
  • Scotland 18
  • Wales 12
  • Northern Ireland 9

Total    219

These numbers will be reviewed every 10 years by the Boundary Commission and adjusted as needed to match population changes.

3. Members will be elected in thirds except in the initial election with elections every two years. No other election may take place in the same day.

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The Independent View: Groundhog Day in the Lords?

Paul Tyler’s recent letter to the Guardian about reforming the House of Lords raises at least two meta questions about British politics.

He suggests Keir Starmer revives the 2012 Lib Dem legislation but before we do that should ask why did that initiative fail and why should things be different in 2024.

The truth is it, it failed for the same reasons that every previous attempt failed, starting in 1911 but most conspicuously in 1999 when a cohort of counts and their ilk managed to stay on in the second chamber.

Britain is very good at self-sabotage, at not learning from its previous mistakes. This is because its guiding constitutional principle is tradition, which is both infallible and a way of predicting the future.

There are 18 reasons/obstacles (maybe more) why reform failed in the past. If Starmer’s team is serious, it will have to dismantle these obstacles first.

There is not space to explain all the hobbles on Lords reform but I will give you three of them.

As soon as anyone progressive announces that they really are going to finish off the Lords, no ifs and buts, a stock objection will be made: there are more urgent priorities to deal with. The economy, stupid. The next government will inherit a crises in living standards; the NHS and the environment. These will take up all its time and money.

Related to this is a second objection: it is never a good time for constitutional reform which is widely seen as both unnecessary – if it ain’t broke you can’t fix it: unbelievably the Lords in its present form has its apologists – or risky. Throw out umpteen centuries of trial and error and there is a good chance that you’ll make things even worse.

Thirdly, the interests of a party in Opposition are very different to the those of a party in government. Win an election and you go from outsider to insider. The system is yours for a while; you can do what you want.  You lose interest in changing even the tiniest aspect of the system that has put you where you are. Why would you want to share or devolve power that you have just won unfairly and unsquarely?

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Antidisestablishmentarianism

Yesterday’s report from the ONS showed that less than 50% of the population of England and Wales identified as Christian in the 2021 Census. This had led to calls for the disestablishment of the Church of England. It also gives me the opportunity to use the longest word in the English language. The fact that the word dates back to the 19th century shows that there is a long history to the call to reduce the formal role of the Church of England in public life – and opposition to it.

Note that disestablishment only relates to the Church of England. It does not refer to the worldwide Anglican communion, which includes the Church in Wales, the Scottish Episcopal Church and the Church of Ireland. To confuse things further, we all noticed that at his Accession King Charles sign a declaration of protection of the Church of Scotland, which is Presbyterian and not Anglican.

A personal disclosure – I am an active member of the Church of England. However, as you will see, that does not mean I support its current political role.

I imagine we all know the 500 year history of the origins of the Church of England. Henry VIII enacted the Brexit of his day, and separated the English branch of the church from its Roman “masters”. Of course, the English Church had existed for over a thousand years before that, in its former Catholic form, and had had a huge impact on the culture, from its amazing buildings, its ancient learnings, its art and music, to its moral direction. However, Henry politicised the church in a way that hadn’t happened before.

Whilst the history is fascinating it has led us to a situation which in some ways is not in tune with today’s values.  The established church in England is central to many aspects of our cultural life including major public ceremonies from Remembrance Sunday to Coronations, and there is a question mark over all of these. In August the House of Commons Library published a briefing paper on The relationship between church and state in the United Kingdom. It covers all the attempts at reform over the past century.

However the current arguments for disestablishment tend to focus on two areas – membership of the House of Lords and compulsory worship in schools.

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28 November – 2 December: this week in the Lords

It’s a full week ahead for the Liberal Democrats in the Lords, with business on all five days but, before I start, I should note the sad loss of Nigel Jones, who passed away three weeks ago. Max Wilkinson has written movingly about him, and our Leader in the Lords, Dick Newby, offered his own thoughts. Our belated condolences go out to his family and friends.

Sally Hamwee chairs the Lords Justice and Home Affairs Committee and, on Monday, introduces its report, “Technology rules? The advent of new technologies in the justice system”. The report looks at the use of Artificial Intelligence by police forces and draws some worrying conclusions. Tim Clement-Jones, Sarah Ludford and Brian Paddick will also be reflecting their concerns during this Grand Committee debate.

In the main Chamber, the Clean Air (Human Rights) Bill, sponsored by Green peer, Jenny Jones, reaches its Report Stage, whilst the Government’s Procurement Bill also reaches its Report Stage.

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7-9 November – this week in the Lords

A short week in Parliament, with the short November recess starting on Thursday, but there’s plenty of Liberal Democrat interest.

Monday starts with the usual oral questions, this time including a question from Shas Sheehan regarding Government steps, as President of COP26, to acknowledge and address greenhouse gas emissions by developed countries, in the light of recent flooding in Pakistan.

The Seafarers’ Wages Bill receives its Third Reading, with Ros Scott from our benches expected to pursue the issue of how the legislation sits with international agreements in the maritime sector. So far, there’s been little sense that the Government gets this, but given their persistent disregard for such things, it’s unlikely that they’ll change their mind at this stage. And there’s Day 4 of the Committee Stage of the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill, with Jeremy Purvis, Alison Suttie, Sarah Ludford and Dee Doocey attempting to prevent a blatant power grab by the Government, allowing them to, effectively, rewrite the legisaltion as they go along.

In Grand Committee, the Electronic Trade Documents Bill has its Second Reading, with Chris Fox up for our benches.

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31 October – 3 November – this week in the Lords

I used to do this regularly, primarily because the party’s press releases seldom mention the work of the Lords Parliamentary Party. Perhaps it is time to reincarnate this feature…

Time once again to return to the red benches at the more dignified end of the Palace of Westminster, for a preview of events this week, and in particular the Liberal Democrat highlights.

Monday is a relatively low-profile day for the Liberal Democrat peers, with the Third Reading of the Social Housing (Regulation) Bill and the more controversial Northern Ireland Protocol Bill reaching its Committee Stage. Incidentally, it’s a sign of the rapidly changing makeup of the Government that the sponsoring Minister in the Commons on behalf of the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office is someone called Elizabeth Truss. Whatever happened to her, I wonder?

There is also a debate on plans to review the powers and functions of Police and Crime Commissioners, something that Liberal Democrats opposed at the time of their introduction. Brian Paddick, unsurprisingly, will be speaking from the Liberal Democrat benches.

In Grand Committee, the Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Bill starts its Committee Stage, intended to enable the sort of people that you’d cross the street to avoid to have the freedom to be unpleasant on campuses. Think of it as part of the culture war that some people think we really need.

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Welcome to my day: 25 April 2022 – perhaps it doesn’t need to be so bad?

It’s always nice to see some positive news, and the re-election of Emmanuel Macron to the French Presidency yesterday was reassuringly clear cut. Mind you, given that 42% of those who voted chose such an overt friend who of Vladimir Putin, one should remain alert in terms of what happens after Macron’s second term ends, especially given the current weakness of France’s traditional “big two” political parties. But that’s a problem for another day.

Slovenia also had elections yesterday, and a political party formed only a year ago, the Freedom Movement has swept to power, defeating the outgoing Prime Minister, Janez Janša and his Social Democrats. The Party names might give the impression that this is not good news, but whilst the Social Democrats lean very much towards a Victor Orban style of politics, the Freedom Movement are social/Green liberals.

So, not a bad night for liberals across Europe.

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Brian Paddick: the Lords takes up cudgels against the Nationality and Borders Bill

I am sure we have all been appalled by the scenes in Ukraine and share a feeling of helplessness.

Over the weekend the Home Office have said that Ukrainian nationals, without close relatives in the UK, fleeing the war in Ukraine must apply for a visa to come to the UK “in the normal way” and one Minister went as far as to say people could come here – on the condition they agreed to be seasonal workers picking cabbage and kale.

Today in the House of Lords we vote on the Government’s Nationality and Borders Bill.

In recent times, only 6% of immigrants to the UK have been refugees and yet 94% of the Bill is aimed at making it more difficult for those fleeing situations like Ukraine to come to the UK.

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What’s on in our Parliaments this week?

Holyrood and Westminster are back from their half term break this week and the Senedd starts its break. Here’s what to watch out for.

Westminster

The Lords get to grips with the Elections Bill. Unlock Democracy have written to peers expressing their concerns with the measures it contains.

The bill gives this Government, and future governments, unprecedented power over the way our elections are run.

I want to give you one clear example of this.

Elections in the UK are overseen by an independent watchdog, the Electoral Commission. This bill would give the power to the Government of the day to set the commission’s policy and strategy. Furthermore oversight of the Commission’s work is carried out by the Speaker’s Committee, which now, for the first time, has a Government majority.

Put simply, this leaves the fox guarding the henhouse.

It means that a Conservative Government could tell the Electoral Commission to focus its efforts on investigating union funding of Labour. It could mean that a future Labour Government tells the Commission to focus investigations on Conservative donors.

This power shouldn’t be in the hands of any Government – it should stay in the hands of the independent watchdog.

Most readers of this site will agree and you can sign up to support this here.

On Wednesday Lib Dem peer Mike Storey has a question on the effect of Covid-19 on school children in the most deprived communities and Sarah Ludford will be leading for us on the Refugees Family Reunion Bill.

On Thursday, Don Foster has a debate on the link between gambling advertising and gambling related harm.

On Friday Alison Suttie has a debate on “An Electoral System fit for Today”

In the Commons, Munira Wilson has a Westminster Hall debate on the future of the old Teddington Police Station. She and local Council Leader Gareth Roberts want it to be used for affordable housing and wrote to the Mayor to express that view recently:

Munira Wilson MP and Cllr Gareth Roberts, Leader of Richmond Council, have written to London Mayor Sadiq Khan calling for the site of the former Teddington Police Station to be retained for community use. The site is currently being advertised for sale on the open market.

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What’s going on in our Parliaments this week? 17-21 January 2022

Lib Dem highlights in our legislatures this week include Jamie Stone holding a debate on gas and electricity costs while Lib Dem peers take on some of the Government’s nastier Bills. Watch out for Brian Paddick on the Police Bill and Sal Brinton on the Health and Care Bill.

In Wales, Jane Dodds has a debate on free public transport for young people on Wednesday

So what’s happening?

Westminster

Monday kicks off in the Commons with Priti Patel and the Home Office ministerial team answering questions from MPs.

They then go on to debate the Elections Bill, which would disenfranchise many people from deprived backgrounds, who are less likely to vote Conservative, by requiring voter ID. It’s sickening voter suppression.

The Lords take on the dreadful Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill and you can read our take on that here.

On Tuesday, MPs question Sajid Javid and then go on to debate the Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill and a money resolution on the Charities Bill.

Jamie Stone has a Westminster Hall debate on the cost of gas and electricity.

Peers have the first of two days this week on the Health and Social Care BIll.

Commons business on Wednesday kicks off with questions to COP 26 President Alok Sharma, then you have to wonder what PMQs will throw up this week. MPs then turn their attention to the Building Safety Bill

The Lords deals with the Northern Ireland Bill and the Subsidy Control Bill. Several Lib Dems, including Malcolm Bruce and Jenny Randerson, are down to speak.

Thursday sees  international trade questions in the Commons followed by two general debates, the first on a motion relating to the Uyghur Tribunals and the second on Lawfare and the UK Court System.

Meanwhile the Lords have another day on the Health and Care Bill.

Holyrood

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Paul Tyler’s valedictory speech: The Tories and integrity

I chose to initiate a short debate, on the integrity of our electoral process for my final “valedictory” speech in the House of Lords.

After so many years of working with leading reformers in other parties – Robin Cook and Ken Clarke, for example – I deplored the lack of cross-party co-operation that this government have created. They have made few attempts to conserve the union, the reputation of Britain around the world or the rule of law, but also the traditional purpose of their own party. Ministers even wish to opt out of the European Convention on Human Rights, that Churchill worked so hard to create.

Of the Johnson Junta I summed up:

It is this cavalier relationship with the truth that divorces today’s Conservative Party from its past and betrays the legacies of Macmillan, Heath, Major, and, yes, even Thatcher.

Their Elections Bill will increase elusive foreign investments, being deliberately partisan, overturning work done since 1883 to prevent the rich buying constituencies. This aims to reverse the judgement of the Supreme Court in 2018 that reinforced those safeguards. The Bill also attempts to remove the Supplementary Vote from the PCC and mayoral elections, replacing it with First-Past-The-Post (FPTP). This move makes a mockery of the government’s own manifesto pledge making sure that every vote counts the same – a cornerstone of democracy.”

I ended with a challenge:

I plead with true Conservatives – in both Houses and beyond – to reclaim their party.   For many years, I have had staring at me on my desk the reminder of Edmund Burke: ‘The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good people to do nothing’.

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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.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , , and | 29 Comments

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 …

Posted in Daily View | Also tagged , , and | 6 Comments

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 …

Posted in Daily View | Also tagged , and | 3 Comments

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 …

Posted in Op-eds | 24 Comments
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