Tag Archives: house of lords

Newby: Brexiteers will not intimidate the Lords

In an interview for The House magazine, Lib Dem Lords leader Dick Newby has said that support in the Lords is growing for a referendum on the Brexit deal. However, he says that even if that amendment is lost, the campaign for the people, not MPs or the Government, to have a final say on the deal, will continue:

But the fight for a second vote will not stop once Article 50 has been triggered, Newby insists. Indeed, “it’s just the beginning”, he adds, saying the Great Repeal Bill and other Brexit legislation could be amended. In the meantime, the Lib Dems will be campaigning across the country arguing the case for a do over.

Newby says it would be “implausible” for MPs not to grant a second referendum if public opinion shifts in favour of Remain in the coming months. Parliament bequeathed the decision on EU membership to the public once, why would it prevent it again, he queries.

“We will look at every opportunity to get this provision for a vote of the people at the end,” he declares. But are Tony Blair, who has called on Remainers to “rise up” against Brexit, peers et al the right figureheads of this movement? “I think that everybody involved in public life has a right to make the argument, but this is a people’s issue now… it’s not in the hands of the Commons.”

He was speaking before Monday’s vote in which an amendment calling for us to stay in the single market was lost because Labour peers were whipped to oppose it. There are still hopes that at least the right to remain for EU nationals will pass.

There has been a bit of an onslaught from the Brexiteers, predicting all manner of consequences if the Lords dares to do its job and scrutinise the Government’s legislation.  Dick says that peers won’t be overly bothered by the invective coming their way.

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Meet the Lords

This evening’s BBC2 “documentary of the week” Meet the Lords is the first of a series of three, with unprecedented access to the Palace of Westminster, to Peers and to the inner workings of the Lords’ operation.  Having seen a sneak preview, we are hopeful that some of the contents will renew public support for our longstanding campaign to replace the Lords with a modern, elected chamber.

The century-long Lords reform saga took another turn at the beginning of this year, when a new group was set up by the Lord Speaker.  It is to consider “the extent to which changes can be made without legislation”, and in particular it aims to find ways by which to reduce the size of the Lords.  It therefore has an impossible task, because the size of the Lords cannot be substantively reduced without legislation to amend the Life Peerages Act 1958.

What can be limited is the pace of growth of the Lords, which would require a self-denying ordinance on the part of Number 10.  In our evidence to the Group, we suggest that it should start by asking the Government either to commit to a moratorium on appointments during this Parliament or to accept a cap equivalent to 50% of the number leaving the House (by virtue of retirement or death) in a given year.  Without such a commitment, there is hardly any point in handwringing over how to persuade Peers to retire, since they will immediately be replaced.

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Lib Dem Lords vs Article 50 Bill: Dick Newby: Government plans ” horrifying mixture of pious aspiration and complacent illusion”

The Lib Dem Lords have made some cracking contributions to the debate on the Article 50 Bill. Ahead of its next Lords stages, we’re reminding you of some of the best over the course of this weekend. 

Their contributions were thoughtful, individual, well-researched and wide-ranging – unlike the stream of Tories who got up to repeat what seemed to have been a script handed down from the Whips which basically said “The Lib Dems said they wanted an in-out referendum and now they aren’t accepting the result. Na na na na na.” 

We kick off with Leader Dick Newby’s cracking speech. He addressed the issue of …

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Dear Lords – please attach a parachute to the Brexit Bill

This week the House of Lords starts its 5 days of deliberation on the Article 50 Bill. The Brexiteers in Government have basically told them not to muck about with it or else. David Davis has even told them that it’s their patriotic duty to simply vote in favour of it.

Actually, there’s a very strong argument that it is their patriotic duty to put a brake on this Government’s relentless pursuit of the most damaging Brexit possible – Tony Blair’s “Brexit at all costs.” Hard Brexit doesn’t quite capture how relentlessly difficult the lives of many of the poorest people in our society are going to become if the Government gets its way.

It’s actually quite shocking to think that a Bill of this significance should pass through all its parliamentary stages in less than a month. Invoking Article 50 will be the biggest and most major change of direction in decades and it deserves much more careful consideration. It’s not being done in a vacuum. We have Theresa May’s statement of intent to pull us out of the single market and customs union. If that had been on the ballot paper, I doubt Leave would have won their majority. The people did not vote for this and so their consent must be sought.

There is every reason for the Lords to say to the Government something along the lines of: “We will vote for Article 50 to be invoked but only when certain conditions are met.”  One of those conditions,  given that they are unelected, would have to be one which brought the people into the equation – giving them a final say on the terms of Brexit, with an option to Remain which, entirely coincidentally, just happens to be Lib Dem policy. 

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Lord John Shipley writes…Five foundations for the Housing White Paper

The lack of affordable housing in the UK is at crisis point. On average, house prices are now almost seven times people’s incomes and over 1.6 million people are on housing waiting lists in the UK, including 124 000 homeless children. This means that the Government’s White Paper on housing has been highly anticipated. But it needs to be extraordinarily ambitious to tackle the severity of the housing crisis.

It is too late then to simply paper over the cracks. We need a radical, far-reaching and comprehensive approach to housing. That is why the Liberal Democrats are calling for a complete overhaul of the housing system, with an emphasis on five key solutions.

Creating more affordable homes for rent

20% of the population lives in private rented accommodation. And yet, private sector rents have become unacceptably high in many parts of Britain, most notably in London. Many renters are now paying more than half their disposable income in rent.

That is why we have been calling for government investment in a new generation of quality homes for rent that are affordable for those on low and middle incomes. This means increasing the access to finance for councils and housing associations and reversing the sell-off of higher value homes.

Because the need for affordable homes for rent is now so severe, this should be accompanied by an increase in the use of offsite construction, or prefabs, to speed up the house-building process.

However, Brexit has complicated this picture. That’s because building costs will increase significantly due to the rising cost of imported materials and because it will be harder to recruit vital workers from Europe who are needed in some parts of the UK and to create the certainty necessary for investment.

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Lords reform back on the agenda?

No doubt Lords reform will be back on the agenda after the peers have had their way with the Article 50 Bill. The Lords will at most be able to delay the legislation, but it may well return to the Commons in a shape that is displeasing to the Tory  brexiteers. In that instance, we can expect to see ministers huff and puff about the impertinence of an unelected house interfering with Government legislation. These will be the same ministers who as Tory MPs frustrated Nick Clegg’s plans to have the House of Lords elected along with so many of their colleagues.

The Lords is a revising and scrutinising chamber and it has a duty to take the Government on if they produce bad legislation and I expect to see them doing that.

The idea of electing the Lords was discussed again on Friday as Green Peer Jenny Jones’ private members’ bill came up for second reading.  It is not dissimilar to Lib Dem thinking on Lords reform and it was therefore unsurprising that our Alan Beith and Paul Scriven spoke up in favour of the Bill.

Alan had a good swipe at the Tories’ plans for a Repeal Bill in the process:

>We are now in a new situation. It would be an extraordinarily optimistic person who thought that we could get through legislation on Lords reform in a Parliament which will be overwhelmed by the vast corpus of primary and secondary legislation that will be involved in leaving the European Union. Perhaps the noble Baroness shares the tendency to political optimism which is often a characteristic of Liberal Democrats.

Her Bill has many similarities with the coalition’s proposals and with Liberal Democrat policy. It provides for what we regard as the essential ingredient of democracy while recognising that the second Chamber should be elected on a different basis from the Commons and on a different timescale. However, retaining all existing Peers except hereditaries as non-voting Members outnumbering the voting Members would produce a very strange assembly with obvious tensions. The noble Baroness may be making a massive concession before the process of negotiation has even begun in order to get turkeys to vote for Christmas.

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Ros Scott on the Article 50 Bill and how Brexit has affected the Liberal Democrats

Liberal Democrat Peer Ros Scott has been talking to FNF Europe about the Article 50 judgement this week, the progress of the Bill through Parliament and the effect Brexit has had on the Liberal Democrats.

First of all, she spoke about the significance of the Supreme Court judgement:

is mixed news for the Government; Parliament may well now be more confident in asserting its rights as the negotiating process unfolds and issues such as access to the Single Market, the acquired rights of citizens and membership of EU bodies will be hotly contested. If the impacts of triggering Article 50

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Claire Tyler writes: Breaking through the class ceiling

Too often, success in accessing our top professions is down to the lucky accident of birth. Too often, structural inequalities mean that young children find themselves imprisoned on an inescapable path. By the age of five, there is a clear academic attainment gap between children from rich and poor families. This increases throughout school. The benefits of being born to wealthy parents do not just accrue to the talented – in fact, less-able, better-off kids are 35% more likely to become high earners than bright poor youngsters. The resultant domination of our top professions like medicine, law, finance and the arts by the elite and independently educated is staggering.

The case for social mobility is not just a moral one. It also makes business sense. The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) in 2010 found that failing to improve low levels of social mobility will cost the UK economy up to £140 billion a year by 2050. Some top businesses understand this, and are working hard to widen access.

More must be done to widen access to elite professions; on the part of schools, universities, businesses and the government. This is the conclusion of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Social Mobility, of which I am co-Chair, and which released its report this week. Titled ‘The Class Ceiling’, the report is the culmination of a detailed inquiry, with the help of the Sutton Trust, over the last year. The inquiry looked at the causes and extent of the problem, investigated what is currently being done, and recommended tangible policy actions.

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Victory for Liberal Democrats in fight to strengthen Victims’ Code

The Government has agreed to back Sal Brinton’s calls for a strengthened Victims’ Code following a hard fought campaign by our Party President.

During ping-pong of the Policing and Crime Bill the Government made concessions on the principles of Sal Brinton’s amendments which put the discretionary Victims’ Code on to a statutory footing. The current situation sees thousands of victims let down every day because of inconsistent and unenforced practice by those in the criminal justice system.

The Government has now agreed to a review of support for victims reporting back within six months, including consultation with victims groups and others. It also agreed to strengthen, through legislation, anything necessary for the agencies dealing with victims to ensure they fulfil their duties, are appropriately trained and monitored in the delivery of their support for victims.

Sal Brinton said:

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Alex Carlile leaves the Liberal Democrats Lords Group: Why now?

The news that Alex Carlile is going to sit as a crossbench peer rather than a Liberal Democrat is perhaps not surprising.  His views on civil liberties and his passionate advocacy for the state to have greater surveillance powers often put him at odds not just with the Lords group but with the wider party. PoliticsHome says:

Lord Carlile felt the party “was not taking a strong enough line in support of surveillance,” a senior Lib Dem source told PoliticsHome.

“He was unhappy with our stance on the Snooper’s Charter,” the source added. “We made a big thing about voting against the Data Communications Bill and he didn’t like that at all.”

A Lib Dem spokesperson said: “We are disappointed but not surprised at Lord Carlile’s decision.

“He has been at odds with party policy on a number of occasions in recent years, especially over civil liberties.

“We are grateful for his years of service to the party and wish him well in future. “

Why now, though? Nothing has really changed. He’s had these views for a very long time and the party has opposed them for a very long time.  I have certainly thought for some time that it would be better if he was a cross bencher but I didn’t have any expectation that it would happen. In fact, for even voicing such an opinion, I was accused of “grisly soviet intolerance” by the Noble Lord in the comments to that article. 

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LibLink: Roger Roberts: The future of our European citizenship

Roger Roberts is pressing the government on the future of European citizenship this afternoon in a question in the House of Lords.

In an article for Politics Home, he sets out the issues at stake:

Our citizenship as members of the EU, is totally dependent upon the United Kingdom remaining a member of the EU. Once that is lost we, also, are denied that citizenship. There is a move in the EU Parliament to make citizenship available on an individual basis. We apply, pay our fee, and are granted a form of EU citizenship. The problem is that there can be few advantages – how does one person enjoy EU laws on Climate change and his neighbour not? How does one member of the family enjoy freedom of travel whilst the rest are left standing at the airport?

Over half the UK’s population were born after the UK joined the Union in January 1973. They were born as citizens of the EU – a birth right. The rest of us, already born, acquired that citizenship. Now that status risks being torn away from us. That is why I am raising this with the Government today. There is much that is still unclear about the Government’s plans for Brexit but they should clarify the position of the millions of people born 1973 that have always been European.

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Baroness Celia Thomas writes…Disability rights and Labour wrongs

Who would have thought that a valuable addition to the Licensing Act which would have made life better for disabled people had been scuppered by Labour Peers?  And yet that is what happened on Wednesday evening.

The amendment, which sought to improve the accessibility of licensed entertainment premises (pubs, clubs, restaurants etc.) for disabled people, was tabled by the Chair of the Lords Equality and Disability Committee, Baroness Deech, a crossbencher, and signed by me, as Liberal Democrat Disability Spokesperson, a Labour Peer and another crossbencher.

The Committee, which was set up last year at my suggestion, to look at how the Equality Act was working for disabled people, took evidence from, amongst many others, local authorities and from the National Association of Licence and Enforcement Officers. They were keen to help make premises more accessible but said they needed a small addition to the licensing objectives in the Licensing Act to be able to take action. Without the amendment, a licensing authority can only ‘suggest’ the provision of a ramp, for example, or that a restaurant should not store toilet rolls in the disabled toilet thus making it unusable.  With the amendment, the licensee would be told that if no reasonable adjustments were made, the licence would be in danger of being lost.  

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Dick Newby is new Lib Dem Lords leader

Whoever runs the Lib Dem Lords’ Twitter account has a sense of humour:

Dick Newby beat Robin Teverson in the race to succeed Jim Wallace.

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Two Liberal Democrat peers quit the party

News came through yesterday that Baroness Zahida Manzoor, has quit the party as she is opposed to our policy following the EU Referendum: This comes after Emma Nicholson apparently left us for the same reasons last month. Politics Home has the details.

A Liberal Democrat spokesperson told PoliticsHome: “Baroness Manzoor has resigned the whip as she disagrees with our view that we should be at the heart of Europe.

“We are disappointed with her decision as it is the Liberal Democrats who are standing up for hope and unity in the face of Brexit.

“More than 18,000 new members take the opposite view and have joined the Liberal Democrats since the EU referendum because of our position on Europe.”

Emma Nicholson’s decision was revealed by The Times last month, with the response from the party headquarters: “Emma who?”

She was elected as Conservative MP for Torridge and West Devon in 1987 and served as vice-chair of the Tory party before defecting in 1995. She joined the House of Lords in 1997.

Baroness Manzoor, who was ennobled less than three years ago, has also resigned her frontbench post as Liberal Democrat work and pensions spokeswoman.

Last year she took a leading role in the Lords’ battle against tax credits.

There is some speculation that Baroness Manzoor may join the Conservative Party. Nick Clegg’s decision to give her a peerage surprised people in 2013 as few had been aware that she had any connection to the party or commitment to it. It would be very strange if she were to join the Tories after she was so pivotal in forcing that u-turn on tax credits. She apparently stunned colleagues by announcing that she was leaving on the last day before the parliamentary recess.

The Tories’ opposition to the EU was one of the reasons Emma Nicholson joined us in the first place, and she served as MEP for a decade. This Herald profile of her from 1995 looks at her life and career.

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In full: Baroness Margaret Sharp’s valedictory Lords speech – on relationship between poor education and poverty

Margaret SharpAs Mark told us yesterday, Margaret Sharp has retired form her position as a Liberal Democrat member of the House of Lords. Yesterday she made her valedictory speech in a debate on poverty. She emphasised the importance of improving education, making the curriculum more vocationally orientated, as a tool to get people out of poverty. Here is her speech in full:

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Bird, for initiating what has proved to be a very timely debate, given the commitment made by our new Prime Minister yesterday evening. I applaud the work the noble Lord has been doing over such a long time with the Big Issue and with fighting poverty. I congratulate him on his determination to use his time in this Chamber to continue that fight

As noble Lords are aware, this is my last speech in this Chamber. I was introduced in October 1998, so I have served nearly 18 years and, as many noble Lords know, I am leaving because my husband has just celebrated his 85th birthday and I want to spend more time doing things with him: going to plays and concerts, travelling, seeing friends, reading books—not papers—and even perhaps watching television more often. In saying farewell, I want to say what a privilege it has been to be a Member of this Chamber over this time and how much I have valued the companionship and intellectual stimulus that it has given me. I would like to add a special note of thanks to the staff of the House: the clerks, many of whom I have got to know through work on Select Committees; the officers under Black Rod who are for ever helpful, patient and courteous; and the catering staff who have looked after me and my guests so well over the years. Thank you very much.

The subject of today’s debate is to take note of the causes of poverty. I have spent much of my time in this Chamber on issues of education, being a Front-Bench spokesperson for the Liberal Democrats between 2000 and 2010 and pursuing in particular the cause of part-time, further and adult education. It therefore seems appropriate that I should say a few words about education, or perhaps more importantly the lack of education, as a cause of poverty. This becomes increasingly relevant in this world of globalisation, where we observe a growing dichotomy between the well-qualified who hold down professional and managerial jobs and those with low or no educational qualifications who move in and out of low-paid jobs, often on zero-hours contracts and earning the minimum wage. Many call it the “hour- glass economy” and it helps to explain the phenomenon we see these days of poverty among those who are fully employed. As I think two other speakers have mentioned—the noble Baroness, Lady Warwick, certainly raised it—it is reckoned that 20% of UK full-time employees are in low-paid jobs and 1.5 million children live in families with working parents who do not earn enough to provide for their basic needs.

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A few words of gratitude as Margaret Sharp takes her leave

Margaret SharpIt does seem that the news over the past fortnight or so has been dominated by people saying goodbye to spend more time with their families or whatever. In some cases, they will be more missed than in others, and, on this occasion, it is time to mark the retirement from the House of Lords of our longtime spokesperson on Universities, Baroness (Margaret) Sharp of Guildford, who has decided to take up the option to retire at the still relatively spritely age of 77.

Margaret is another of those whose work over many years led to a triumph celebrated by others, in that it was her success in reducing the Conservative majority in Guildford from over 20,000 to a rather more slender 4,500 that helped Sue Doughty to her famous success in 2001.

An economist of some regard, Margaret taught at the London School of Economics, as well as working in the National Economic Development Office in the 1970s, before becoming politically active with the onset of the Social Democrats.

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Lord Paul Tyler writes: Chilcot and Iraq: The Verdict

The House of Lords debated the Chilcot Report on 12th July 2016: here are some of the key quotes from Peers who spoke, giving some flavour of the debate:-

“The noble Lord, Lord Touhig, said that there was an atmosphere of mutual respect at the time of the vote. I beg leave to question that judgment. Charles Kennedy was described as being guilty of appeasement. He was told that he was similar to Neville Chamberlain, and a national newspaper printed a photograph of him with the word “Traitor” underneath. There was by no means mutual respect. So the reactions on these Benches to the report from Sir John Chilcot are, as might be imagined, somewhat mixed. But the one thing on which I hope we can all agree is that Charles Kennedy’s principled leadership on this issue has been vindicated, as indeed has the similarly principled stance taken by Robin Cook.”- Lord (Ming) Campbell of Pittenweem (Liberal Democrat)

“In Parliament, as we have rightly been told, the Liberal Democrats—the noble Lord, Lord Campbell, and his colleagues—stood out. Charles Kennedy was a great party leader, who showed great courage. It was the Liberal Democrats’ finest hour, and reminds me of the South African war, when Campbell-Bannerman and Lloyd George condemned the British Government for “methods of barbarism”. In government there was, of course, Robin Cook. Chilcot is a complete vindication of what he said on every aspect—on weapons, on security and on the flouting of the United Nations. He was indeed a great man, and a very considerable loss.” – Lord (Ken) Morgan (Labour)

“ I note that last weekend the noble Lord, Lord Prescott —second-in-command in the Blair Government —wrote:

In 2004, the UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said that as regime change was the prime aim of the Iraq war, it was illegal. With great sadness and anger, I now believe him to be right.

I salute the noble Lord for that. I would be even more impressed by his candour if he admitted that Charles Kennedy, and Liberal Democrat MPs, of whom I was one, took precisely that same view in March 2003.”- Lord (Paul) Tyler (Liberal Democrat)

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+++Breaking: Jim Wallace steps down as Lib Dem Leader in the House of Lords

Jim WallaceJim Wallace has announced this afternoon that he is to step down as Leader of the Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords.

Jim, the former MP and MSP for Orkney & Shetland, has been leader of the group of 107 Liberal Democrat peers since October 2013, during which time he was also Advocate General for Scotland and Deputy Leader of the House of Lords in the Coalition Government. he of course previously served as Deputy First Minister of Scotland between 1999 and 2007.

Jim explained his decision:

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Ming Campbell on Chilcot: “My ally right or wrong is not sustainable”

The House of Lords has been debating Chilcot this week.

Ming Campbell, our foreign affairs spokesperson at the time, spoke in the debate. Here’s his speech:

Contrary to popular belief, I have never believed that what we were presented with was a false premise—implying that there was some effort at deception—but I have always believed that it was flawed, and the distinction is important. But it is clear that throughout these events Mr Blair thought that it was the right thing to do—and he still does. That was inevitably a moral judgment, but the strength of it gave rise to the error of making the evidence fit the judgment rather than the judgment fit the evidence.

The belief that the United Kingdom should be with the United States “whatever” was a flawed belief. Indeed, some would say that that single word reveals all that lay at the heart of the disastrous decision to go to war against Saddam Hussein. On reflection, there seems to have been a complete misunderstanding of the position of the United States. George W Bush always wanted regime change—it was no secret—but why was that? It was because around him was a cluster of influential neocons who thought that his father had made a fatal error in not instructing American forces to go to Baghdad at the end of the first Gulf War. If anyone doubts the good reasons for that decision, I suggest they read the memoirs of Sir John Major, who sets out with great clarity his support for that decision.

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Why our peers need to embrace rather than shun social media

 

There has never been a day when the Liberal Democrats have been happy with their media coverage. We just don’t get our fair share, and when we do our liberal ideals are often squeezed in a way that makes us uncomfortable. It has always been hard talking about liberalism. It is why we focus so much attention to get our own message out through leaflet and now via email and social media. It is amazing to now have access to channels where we can broadcast what we are doing that can get to a mass audience without the filter of a biased media.

So I am disappointed to see that another Liberal Democrat member of the House of Lords announced they are pulling the plug on their social media account. As our presence in the upper chamber has grown, our ability to communicate our every day liberal deeds seems to diminish. Ex Chief Executive and communications professional Chris Fox announced the closing of his social media accounts on the day he was elevated (thanks mate!). Others have never even tried to get to grips with sending out an email, let alone new form of social media. Every day our peers are working hard and telling no one. I despair.

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Jonny Oates on rejecting the easy option of cynicism and taking the harder route of making the world a better place

Late on Thursday night, Liberal Democrat peer Jonny Oates put his very powerful reaction to Jo Cox’s murder on his Facebook page. With his permission, it’s reproduced here.

Enough, now, with the angry people. Enough with the raging and the cries of betrayal. Enough with the cynicism. Enough with the shout that every politician is dodgy, or on the take or untruthful. Enough with those who fuel the cynicism in their puerile, childish headlines or their languid, over-sophisticated commentaries. Enough with those who would never step up to the plate, do the work or accept the accountability. Enough with those who twist the slightest openness in the words of politicians and then complain when their words become closed and their language obtuse. Enough with those who have never done anything for anyone but are happy to question the motives of any person who attempts to do so. Enough of those people who listen only to their own opinion and then castigate MPs for being out of touch – MPs who week in and week out are in their towns and villages, on the doorsteps, in their surgeries, listening to others, soaking up pain and grief and suffering and often abuse. Enough of the people who fuel the rage, enough of those who can take the image of suffering and desperate people, robbed of dignity and hope and of the lives of those they love and use it for their political advantage. Enough of all the rage and division and hatred.

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Sally Hamwee explains why she’s introducing her Missing Persons Guardianship Bill

Yesterday, Sally Hamwee introduced her Private Members’ Bill which would enable guardianship orders to be made for missing people so that their affairs could be managed.

Earlier she wrote for the Missing People website:

With no legal system for managing a missing person’s affairs, they can fall into disarray with disconcerting speed.  Salaries may stop being paid into a bank account, but direct debits, mortgage payments and rent will continue to be paid out – until the funds run out.  However sympathetic a bank may be, it needs the signature of its account holder to change arrangements. Some may even regard themselves as unable to provide information.

Once you grasp the legal position, you can begin to see the practical impact.  You can’t use the missing person’s money to pay his rent and other bills.   You can’t sell a house which is in your and your missing husband’s joint names, but because your family’s circumstances have changed neither can you afford the mortgage.

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Olly Grender introduces her Renters’ Rights Bill “You have more rights buying a fridge than renting a home to put it in”

On Friday, Olly Grender introduced her Private Members’ Bill aimed at giving tenants in the private rented sector greater protections, particularly from the extortionate fees charged by letting agents. She gave some examples in her proposing speech which is copied below:

My Lords, the natural consequence of the chronic lack of social housing and the prohibitive cost of buying a home means that we now have a growing number of people who live in the private rented sector. Sometimes it would appear that this ever-growing customer base—almost one in five of the population, one-third of them families with children—have more consumer

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Lord Dick Newby writes: A simple solution to an otherwise blurred vision

adjustable spectacles

Yesterday, I introduced a Bill in the Lords to permit over-the-counter sale of adjustable focus spectacles. At present only reading glasses can be sold in this way, with all other types of eyewear requiring a visit to a qualified optician or optometrist.

The spectacles in question achieve the required focus for each eye by turning a dial found at the side of each lens. They are produced to a very high quality and are useful for both to deal with some medical issues – eg types of diabetes where sight varies from day to day – and more generally as a spare or temporary pair of glasses. They are manufactured by an Oxford-based company, Adlens. They are sold in 57 countries worldwide including Japan and the US, where 500,000 units have already been sold, many without prescription.

However, in the UK, the only glasses which can be sold without a prescription are reading glasses. Although technically the Department of Health could just amend the legislation, it relies on advice from the General Optical Council (GOC) – the opticians’ regulatory body. Despite supportive expert opinion, the GOC has come up with a raft of issues – some of which are entirely spurious and none of which are decisive – to prevent the Adlens glasses being readily available.

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Time for tougher regulation of the Arms industry

The UK’s arms industry is one of the most prolific and lucrative in the world. From fighter jets to armoured vehicles to small arms, our arms dealers have a lot to offer the world by way of military equipment.

No one will deny the power this industry wields in Britain. Until as recently as 2002, UK citizens and companies could arrange the transfer of arms between any other countries in the world (apart from those under a binding UN arms embargo) with complete impunity and no oversight. It took decades of campaigning and the undeniable involvement of UK dealers in bloody conflicts in Rwanda and Liberia to change that, but we still have a long way to go to open ensure full oversight of this still very shady industry. You only need to look at the UK’s supply of military equipment to Saudi Arabia now being used indiscriminately on civilians in Yemen to understand how far.

That’s why I have been working with our Defence Spokesperson Judith Jolly on her Private Member’s Bill to introduce a UK Register of Arms Brokers. Despite progress made on licensing individual arms deals, there is ongoing risk that unscrupulous arms brokers operating under the radar may engage in unlicensed arms brokering beyond the knowledge and reach of UK export control enforcement. Such is the risk that it has prompted a significant number of countries, including Australia, South Africa, the United States and 18 EU Member States, to introduce a requirement that arms brokers first register with national authorities before applying for a transaction licence.

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Baroness Judith Jolly writes…Why we need a UK register of arms brokers

I never expected to come anywhere near the top of the ballot for private members bills. My record for the Lib Dem raffle over thirty odd years is less than five or six wins. And I came third! That means I have second reading next Friday (10th June).

My bill calls for arms brokers to be registered and a fit and proper test applied to would be brokers. At present there are few restrictions so you or I could set up as a broker. In the US they are regulated.

Save the Children and Amnesty International are supporting us. Save the Children said:

Our Yemen work in Parliament has mainly focused on humanitarian access and the credible reports of breaches of international and human rights law. Whilst we recognise the positive impact that the Government’s humanitarian response and interventions have made, we remain concerned that the Government’s current support for Saudi Arabia-led military action is undermining the protection of civilians and is inconsistent with its support to the humanitarian response. We believe more robust action is needed to ensure that existing standards and norms are upheld by all parties to the conflict, in line with Government commitments under the new National Security Strategy and Strategic Defence and Security Review, and to ensure full compliance by the UK with legal obligations under national and international law relating to the sale of arms.

Amnesty International added:

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Jonny Oates tells House of Lords about his experience of depression

In a speech to the House of Lords yesterday, Liberal Democrat peer Jonny Oates talked about his experience of depression as a young man.

This experience was not unrelated to the times in which he was growing up. As a young gay man, having the government legislate against him was not easy to deal with. He also suggests that the churches should reflect on the impact they can have on people’s mental health, referring to Archbishop Michael Ramsey who was Archbishop of Canterbury at the time homosexuality was legalised and who was supportive of that change in the law.

Here is the speech in full:

My Lords, I welcome the opportunity to take part in this important debate on the Five Year Forward View for Mental Health initiated by my noble friend Lady Brinton. As my noble friend said, mental health is a topic which touches almost everyone in this country, whether through direct personal experience or through families and friends who have suffered from mental ill-health.

For much of the time when I was growing up, it was pretty much a taboo subject. Few people talked openly about mental illness; it was too often a personal burden not to be shared, understood or tackled but to be hidden away even from those closest to one. In recent years there has been a welcome shift in our attitudes, and I pay tribute to the mental health charities and the many activists and campaigners, such as Alastair Campbell, who have helped break down taboos and get mental health on the agenda, but I also pay a real and heartfelt tribute to Norman Lamb in particular who, as a Health Minister in the previous Government, strongly supported by the then Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, did so much to push the issue of mental health right up the government agenda, placing mental health literally on the front page of the Liberal Democrat manifesto.

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Lord Paul Tyler writes: Party funding is back on the political agenda

On 18th May the 2016-17 Parliamentary session officially started with a somewhat thread-bare Queens Speech. It was well noted by Lord Fowler (Conservative) in the first day of debate that;

The most significant words in the Queen’s Speech yesterday were that, ‘other measures will be laid before you

These are often the most important part of the “Gracious Speech”. One of the GREAT omissions from the gracious Speech is of course the issue of Party Funding. Fortunately for Ministers I am happy to provide them with some private enterprise assistance in this matter. As many of you will remember I sat on the House of Lords Committee on the Trade Union Bill, which focused on the party funding issue across the board.

The recommendations, which were almost all unanimously agreed by the cross-party Committee, were also universally welcomed in the House of Lords. Indeed Ministers in both Houses lauded the noble Lord, Lord Burns, and the rest of us, praising our conclusions. Indeed, the Government backed down when faced with amendments to their Trade Union Bill based on those recommendations. However they have yet to fulfil the most vitally important recommendation of all- to “take a decisive lead” on party funding reform.

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20 Lib Dem Lords file Private Members’ Bills

Liberal Democrat peers have secured an impressive 20 slots out of 51 for Private Members’ Bills for the Parliamentary session ahead. Talk about punching above our weight!

The Bills cover all the sorts of subjects that you would expect Liberal Democrats to be talking about. On Monday Olly Grender and Judith Jolly introduce theirs on Renters’ Rights and Register of Arms Brokers respectively.

Later on, we have Antony Lester’s on preserving the independence of the BBC, Lynne Featherstone on reducing carbon emissions, John Sharkey on student finance, Brian Paddick on online privacy, Meral Hussein-Ece on addressing the BAME pay gap, Paul Tyler on party funding, Emma Nicholson on humanitarian support for genocide victims and Claire Tyler attempts to secure an entitlement to Carers’ Leave.

Roger Roberts wants students to be automatically registered to vote – like we were in the olden days when I was a student.

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Lord Paul Tyler writes…Liberal Democrats force government climbdown on Trade Union Bill

This evening sees the culmination of five months’ work, led by the Lib Dems, which will finally knock some fairness into the Government’s proposals for reforming the relationship between Labour and the Trade Unions.

Late last year, the Left was raging – with some justification – about a Tory plot to remove up to £6m a year of funding from Labour, by restricting the right of trade unions to collect donations through a political fund.  While the principle of requiring individual ‘opt-in’ consent for such donations is an important one – with which Lib Dems agree – the Government’s endeavour was a naked, one-sided attempt to hobble the opposition.  Real party funding reform cannot be for only one party.  It must also restrict millionaire and big business donations too.

The question our team had to ask was how to amend these elements of the Trade Union Bill without it sounding like simple special pleading for anti-Conservative forces.  Clearly, our party is in a good position to start with, since the Lib Dems do not benefit from trade union political funds.  But we still needed to demonstrate in as non-partisan, dispassionate a way as possible that the what the Government proposed was simply lop-sided and self-interested.

So on the day before the House broke up for Christmas our small Lib Dem Bill team discussed a little-used mechanism to corral principled opposition to the party funding clauses of the Bill.  I suggested that we try to shift this issue to a special Select Committee of the Lords, where Ministers, the Unions, democracy academics, and all the parties could make their case.

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