Tag Archives: lib dem lords

Super Lib Dem Lords on Super Saturday: Jonny Oates

This deal is the beginning of a tortuous process, said Jonny Oates when he spoke in the Lords, and it would be the poorest who would be hit hardest. Here is his speech in full:

My Lords, the Prime Minister, we are told, has succeeded where all said he would fail. He has returned apparently triumphant, with a deal that the nay-sayers said could not be done. Or so his champions claim. Not all the nay-sayers doubted he could do it. I certainly did not, and I suspect that many others who have studied him over the years did not either. Experience suggested that he had just the qualities to succeed. As the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, has said, he is the quintessential showman, the man of smoke and mirrors who always prefers style over substance. It is not so hard, after all, to get a deal if you do not care much about what is in it or anything about the people you are prepared to betray to get it.

The Prime Minister is well practised in the art of abandoning people who are no longer of interest to him, as the DUP is now finding out. I cannot pretend to have huge sympathy for the DUP, because if you make government a purely transactional matter to get what suits you, you should not be surprised when the entity you are transacting with repays you in kind.

Nor do I have much sympathy for the DUP’s claims that the deal breaches the consent principle. It did not seem to care much about the consent of the nationalist community, or indeed the people of Northern Ireland as a whole, when it backed the disastrous policy of Brexit. We all failed Northern Ireland ahead of the referendum in not recognising the full extent of the difficulties that would be thrust upon its people, but no party failed it more than the DUP, which has done more to undermine the union than any allegedly unionist party in history. It is living proof of the adage that tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.

So much then for how we have got here. What about where we have actually arrived? It is a dismal location. Someone described it to me as lipstick on Theresa May’s deal, but that implies something more attractive, and the changes that the PM has secured make it less attractive, ​if that is possible. It is nothing like the outcome promised in the referendum: it undermines the integrity of our union; it makes one part of our country subject to the courts of the European Union, which the Brexiters told us was unforgivable; it puts a border down the Irish Sea, which the PM told us would be unconscionable; it will make us all substantially poorer—estimates suggest, as the noble Lord, Lord Reid, has said, that the deal will leave people around £2,000 worse off on average; far from having millions to spend on the NHS, we will have billions less to spend on everything. So much for the promises of the leave campaign. These are not abstract consequences; they are real-life consequences that will impact people up and down the country.

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Super Lib Dem Lords on Super Saturday: Sarah Ludford – No progressive politician could vote for this deal

Sarah Ludford is very much in our thoughts at the moment. It’s only three weeks since her husband, Steve Hitchins died. On Saturday she was in her place in the House of Lords pulling apart this appalling Brexit deal. She reminded peers that it was being sold to the Tory right wing as a delayed no deal. She talked about how it would mean more bureaucracy for businesses in Northern Ireland and all of us as we lose things like our pet passports and seamless access to healthcare. She warned of the effect on workers’ rights, saying that no progressive politician could vote for the deal.

My Lords, I am pleased to follow the noble Lord, Lord Reid; I agreed with every word. I found the opening remarks of the noble Baroness, the Leader of the House, somewhat perplexing. She reproached those of us arguing against Brexit for not arguing for a federal Europe. The clue is in the name: “remain”. We just want the status quo, not to expand or change our existing terms of membership.​

I agree with Tony Blair—not something I used to say. He rightly says that the Government are using the,

“sentiment of ‘let’s get it done, let’s get it over with, end the agony’, to sweep away proper scrutiny of what is a profoundly bad deal for our country”.

Tony Blair is right that:

“You don’t take a decision of destiny through a spasm of impatience”.

Boris Johnson had previously damned the division of Northern Ireland and Great Britain through regulatory checks and customs controls down the Irish Sea, declaring that:

“No British Conservative government could or should sign up to any such arrangement”.

Now, he says that this is a fantastic arrangement. It is a looking-glass world. Can the Minister, in winding up, clarify how these arrangements comply with Section 55 of the Taxation (Cross-border Trade) Act 2018, which makes it unlawful for the Government to enter into arrangements whereby Northern Ireland forms part of a separate customs territory from Great Britain?

It is astonishing that the Chancellor refuses to give us a new economic analysis, but both government and independent figures suggest that every household will be around £2,000 worse off than even under Theresa May’s version—a drop of 6% or 7% in GDP. The weaker Canada -minus trade relationship that this Government envisages, compared with Mrs May’s association agreement, will worsen that prospect. The Home Secretary, Priti Patel, told Radio 4 yesterday that access to the customs union and single market would be good for Northern Ireland’s economic stability and security. Excellent. So why is such access being torn away from England, Scotland and Wales? It would be good for us too. Instead, the Government want to cut the rest of the UK adrift from the continental internal market. This does not honour the heritage of Mrs Thatcher.

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Super Lib Dem Lords on Super Saturday: Dick Newby on the economic impact of the Deal

The House of Lords also sat on Saturday. We’ll be publishing or Lib Dem Lords’ s speeches in full. First up is Lib Dem Lords leader Dick Newby who said that the Government was trying to avoid scrutiny of a deal which would have a detrimental effect on our economy and the union.

My Lords, your Lordships’ House is sitting on a Saturday for the first time since 1983 and for only the fourth time in 80 years. These occasions have typically been to debate a serious foreign threat to the vital interests of the United Kingdom: the outbreak of the Second World War, Suez, the Falklands. Today, we sit on a Saturday to try to resolve a serous internal threat to the unity and future of the Conservative Party. There is no reason, other than the Prime Minister’s macho commitment to leave the EU by 31 October, for the Government’s decision to recall Parliament today.

Such a timetable is a complete abuse of the parliamentary process. It does not allow the appropriate impact assessment to be made, for the relevant Select Committees to consider the proposals, or for the Commons and your Lordships’ House to give proper consideration to the withdrawal Bill. It barely gives us time to read and compare the documents. The withdrawal agreement itself—some 535 pages—was available for the first time for noble Lords to pick up from the Printed Paper Office just this morning.

We certainly have not had time to identify and work out what some of the changes mean. For example, the sections in the political declaration on dispute settlement and the forward process have been substantially rewritten. Why? Parliament is being asked to approve these changes with no effective ability to question Ministers on them. It is a disgrace.

It is, of course perfectly understandable for the Government to want such a timetable, because if they were to give Parliament time to look at the deal properly, a number of its highly undesirable consequences would become clearer. There would, for example, be time to have an economic assessment. Latest figures from UK in a Changing Europe suggest that the hit to GDP of this deal would be about 6.4%. This is broadly in line with the Government’s own analysis of last November, which suggested that, with the kind of restrictive immigration system the Government have in mind, such a deal could have an even bigger effect. For the north-east, north-west and the West Midlands, the fall in GDP would be considerably higher again.

There would be greater time to expose the fact that, as a consequence of the new deal, EU components of goods manufactured in the UK will no longer be treated as of domestic origin. Given the low proportion of UK content in cars, for example, this would have the effect of making it impossible to export any car manufactured in the UK to a third country duty free, even under a free trade agreement. This raises the spectre of the end of bulk car manufacturing in the United Kingdom.

More time would enable us to examine the threat to the level playing field on environmental standards and employment rights, which were guaranteed in Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement but are now relegated to the eminently amendable political declaration, with no presumption there that we should follow future improvements in standards under EU rules. More time ​would give us the opportunity to question whether, as the Conservative John Baron has claimed, the Government see this deal as leading to the equivalent of a no-deal Brexit at the end of the transition period next year.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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LibLink: Sally Hamwee: The UK should never be complicit with the death penalty anywhere in the world

Yesterday Sally Hamwee wrote about why she and Labour were going to have a good go at amending the Government’s Crime (Overseas Production Orders) Bill to ensure that

In an article for Politics Home, she set the scene:

The UK has long opposed the use of the death penalty in other countries, and we have committed ourselves to the goal of abolishing it everywhere. We can do this by using our diplomatic influence, and also by refusing to help foreign governments with prosecutions that will result in someone being executed.

That has been longstanding government policy: the UK must get assurances that the death penalty will not be used before providing security and justice assistance to countries that still retain it. This clear policy is an important statement of Britain’s values. It is vital not only for preventing the use of the death penalty in the individual cases where we provide assistance, but also for strengthening our efforts to persuade all countries to abolish it.

Yet in July, we discovered that the Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, had offered to assist the United States government in prosecuting two British citizens accused of carrying out executions for ISIL in Syria and Iraq, without seeking assurances that the death penalty will not be used. Even worse, he made that decision in secret. We only found out because his letter to US Attorney General Jeff Sessions was leaked to the Telegraph.

There is no doubt that terrorists should face justice, but that could be achieved in this case either by prosecuting them here, under British law, or by assisting the US authorities with their prosecutions – if they guarantee that they will not seek the death penalty.

So what can this Bill do about it?

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Lib Dems secure major victory to limit cold calling

Those amazing  Lib Dem peers have been at it again – winning crucial changes to legislation.

As the Financial Guidance and Claims Bill completes its stages in the Upper House, the Liberal Democrats have secured a significant victory following the government’s acceptance of crucial Liberal Democrats amendments.

Led by John Sharkey, we campaigned in the House of Lords to end  cold-calling in relation to pensions, claims management and other financial services.

The Government have now committed to a total ban on pensions cold-calling, as well as prohibitions on other forms of cold-calling if these are shown to be detrimental.

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Boris “a real embarrassment” says William Wallace

Our Lib Dem Peer and regular LDV contributor William Wallace is an Emeritus Professor in International Relations. He is more qualified than most people to comment on foreign policy. In the Lords debate on the EU Withdrawal on Monday, he was incredibly critical about the Foreign Secretary – and that was before Boris’s bizarre comparison of the congestion charge boundary to the Irish border after Brexit.

Here’s the whole of that speech:

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Lib Dems “most sweary peers in House of Lords”

Something to amuse you on a dark January evening from iNews:

Our Lib Dem Lords make six out of the top ten profane peers

Six of the top 10 “sweary peers” are Lib Dems, with Baroness Sarah Ludford leading the pack with 51 profanities in 2017. It’s a pretty admirable feat given that peers only managed to score 287 swears between them across the whole year.

They have been joking about it on Twitter:

The Leader of the our Lords group was perhaps upset that he didn’t make the list:

Sarah Ludford was modest:

Liz Barker is such a diplomat:

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Lord Dick Newby writes…We have more chance of breaking the mould of British politics than we had in 1981

House of Lords chamberIt was a great honour to be elected Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group in the Lords earlier this week. The challenge facing me and my colleagues is straightforward. How do we help the Party occupy as much as possible of the centre and centre left of British politics – ground which is currently vacant?

Obviously we can do our bit by trying to defeat or amend the worst of the Tory legislation. We face a Tory government unrestrained, Labour are not doing their job as the opposition. It is the Liberal Democrats who have to step up to the plate and be the real voice of opposition. We held the Government to account last session on tax credits, trade union reform and refugee children. We will seek to do so in coming months, for example on Investigatory Powers. And if we ever see any legislation promoting grammar schools, we can guarantee it a rough ride in the Lords.

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LIbLink: Cathy Bakewell: In the last days of the Housing Bill, peers will fight for equality

Liberal Democrat peer Cathy Bakewell has written an article for Politics Home in which she outlines the work that Lib Dem peers are doing to try to make the Government’s Housing Bill less bad.

Lib Dems have been leading the charge on many aspects of the fight, and three of the five remaining obstacles to the legislation passing are Lib Dem amendments. These are measures to make new homes more flood resilient and low carbon, and to give communities a Neighbourhood Right of Appeal when a council deviates from their local plan.

These things have become sticking points for us, because as we know from our local activism it’s not just the quantity of housing that desperately needs attention, but also the quality.

It’s no good ploughing ahead and building thousands of homes which make future homeowners liable to flooding and responsible for higher energy bills, when simple and cost effective changes could be made at the building stage to protect them. We need more homes, but they must be sustainable.

As well as the impact on individuals, it’s the impact on the environment that matters. If we are serious about making the Paris Agreement a reality and tackling climate change, then we absolutely have to reduce the carbon emissions from homes, which are huge contributors.

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Lib Dems slam Tories’ approach to online safety

Liberal Democrat peer Jane Bonham Carter has  slammed the Tories’ plans to enforce age limits for pornographic websites as “a sledgehammer to crack a nut.” She said:

In a free, democratic society the answer is not just to ban everything. This risks being another example of the Government using a sledgehammer to crack a nut.

The Government are jumping on poorly thought through proposals. Popular websites could easily fall foul of new rules when it is hard to define what should be blocked and even harder to technically do it.

The Tories should look at their own track record in this area. When they introduced internet filters many LGBT websites were blocked too, cutting people off from vital information and advice.

Rather than developing a banned-by-default approach we should be investing more in sex and relationship education at school to ensure that teenagers and young adults have a healthy understanding of relationships and sex to empower them to make good decisions.

The Government’splans have already been dismissed as ineffective by industry experts.

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Lord Tim Clement-Jones writes…Out on the campaign trail in Maidstone and St Albans

I have made a promise of spending every Friday out on the doorstep, I thought I would update you all on some of my recent experiences out campaigning.

The other week I had another inspiring day on the campaign trail, this time with Jasper Gerrard and his team. The age of the team ranged from 22 to 78! Who says we can’t generate commitment! Jasper is clearly neck and neck here with the unpopular Tory incumbent. The perfect antidote to those who are paying too much attention to the national polls.

TCJ Maidstone

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