Tag Archives: lib dem lords

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , and | 7 Comments

Dick Newby slams Government over “casual” and “exruciatingly complacent” approach to Afghanistan

Lib Dem Lords leader Dick Newby laid bare the Prime Minister’s contradictory statements, a month apart, that there was “no path to victory for the Taliban” and that “this was the way we always knew it was going to go.”

While there were many questions to answer about the extent of our failures, he called for urgent, humanitarian action, again criticising the inadequacy of the Government’s scheme.

 

The full text of his speech is below:

Posted in News | Also tagged and | 9 Comments

Tony Greaves has died

I am still reeling a bit from the shock. For the second time in almost exactly a month, we’ve lost a liberal legend. Last month it was Derek Barrie. A short while ago, Lib Dem Lords Leader Dick Newby posted the sad news that Tony Greaves had died very suddenly this morning.

Tony was a legend who held this party together through its dark days in the 60s and 70s. He moved the motion in 1970 which committed the Liberals to community politics, which led to us having such a strong local government foundation and surviving long enough to form the Alliance and then the Liberal Democrats – though he had a few words to say about that process. He wrote a book, Merger: the inside story, with Rachael Pitchford in 1989, which was reviewed here by the Journal of Liberal History.

He went to the Lords in 2000 and was in fine form there only last week, speaking on everything from the Coronavirus Regulations to his last, withering, contribution, on the Heather and Grass etc Burning (England) Regulations 2021. He was unimpressed and, as usual, didn’t hold back.

My Lords, where I live, we are surrounded by moors. I would describe them as peat moors; a lot of them are heather moors and a lot are grass moors. Every year, there are fires on them. Some of them are managed fires on the grouse-shooting estates. Others are unmanaged fires caused by people who accidentally drop cigarette ends, or whatever, or have barbeques. It is not quite central to this statutory instrument, but I have asked questions of the Government previously about banning people from having barbeques on open country of this kind. The answer I get is that it is up to local authorities. The problem is that many of these moors are, by definition, the places where local authority boundaries are drawn, because they are up on the hills and the tops between the valleys, and getting local authorities together to organise jointly on this is not easy. I will just make that point.

The Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments has written a pretty damning report on the SI that has been presented. I think it is another example of how regrettable it is, with the way that parliamentary business is being organised at the moment, that there has not been the opportunity or the time available for the Government and the Joint Committee to discuss it and negotiate properly in the way in which it always happened in the past. We are told by the Government that they do not agree with it; the department says that it does not agree with it. That is not satisfactory—they should be having a discussion, getting together and sorting it out before it comes here. It is very unsatisfactory for us to have a statutory instrument where the JCSI is basically saying, “Don’t pass it”.

He was not known for his subtlety. Every so often, he would email me in no uncertain terms telling me where I or Lib Dem Voice had gone wrong. I would respond in equally robust terms. In fact, the last thing I said to him was “Bloody cheek…..” when he complained about the all member email I’d written about phone canvassing last month. But after those robust exchanges came the good chats. I will miss those emails more than I could imagine.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 52 Comments

Sal Brinton: Make sure Ministerial maternity leave bill includes everyone

Earlier this week, we reported on Liz Barker’s speech on the Ministerial and other Maternity Allowances Bill, in which she compared the demonisation of transgender people today to the discrimination she and others faced during the 80s.

The Bill was a simple one – designed to give ministers leave when they have a baby, something that our Jo Swinson and Jenny Willott did not benefit from when they had their babies. There was a concerted effort by socially conservative peers to change the Bill’s gender neutral language. In the first of two speeches, Sal explained why it was important to be as inclusive as possible. It is good to see our peers arguing that extending rights to trans and non binary people does not diminish women’s rights.

My Lords, I too support this Bill, even though it does not go far enough in giving Ministers who are parents the same rights that other workers have now come to expect. As others have already said, these include adoption leave, sick leave and shared parental leave. The last is particularly important and affects any Minister who becomes a parent and who is still missing out on the rights to share in the care of their new baby with their partner. I hope the Minister will remedy this urgently.

There is one other parental benefit that has not yet been mentioned—statutory parental bereavement pay and leave. I worked with the noble Lord, Lord Knight of Weymouth, for a number of years to win this right for parents, but it is omitted from this legislation for Ministers. I urge the Minister to ensure that it is added to the other forms of parental allowance and leave for future discussion. One hopes that it is never needed but it is vital to have it in place to cover such awful circumstances.

My former colleagues, Jo Swinson and Jenny Willott, both had their first babies while they were Ministers. No arrangements were made for them. They had to cover for each other without maternity pay at exactly the time when they were working in government for better rights for women and parents in the workplace.

I agree with my noble friend Lady Hussein-Ece about the lack of equality impact assessments. We need to remedy this and to reflect on why, as a society, we have moved over the years to gender-neutral language. The gender-neutral language in this Bill is inclusive. Changing it, as many speakers have asked, would make it exclusive—perhaps not to many, but to some people for whom it matters a great deal. No one is trying to erase women but rather to accept that, over recent years, there have been advances in medicine. I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, for referring to trans men in Brighton. We also have to remember that non-binary and intersex people who were born women would be excluded. Both equality law and clinical care have kept pace with them and their circumstances. Medical care, in particular, has adapted in order to provide the best possible care for them in rare and difficult circumstances. That is why I would gently correct the noble Baroness, Lady Noakes, in her reporting of the Brighton hospital trust introducing “chestfeeding” and “pregnant people” and removing “breastfeeding” and “women” from its documentation. It is not. Snopes, that excellent debunker of myths, explains this carefully:

“A maternity department at a U.K. hospital announced in February 2021 that it was expanding terms it used in maternity care to include, for example, ‘chestfeeding’ and ‘pregnant people’, in order to be more inclusive of trans and nonbinary patients … To be clear, the NHS said that such language—like referencing ‘pregnant women’ and ‘breastfeed’—will not change for those who identify as such … Adding terms like ‘chestfeeding’ and ‘birthing parent’ was not intended to take away from women-oriented language already in use. Rather, the move was meant to be additional support that offers more inclusion for trans and nonbinary individuals.”

Posted in News | Also tagged | 1 Comment

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.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , , , , , and | 6 Comments

Dick Newby: Individual stories of Windrush victims shame politicians who use pejorative language and stoke up resentment

In the Lords recently, Dick Newby talked about the lives of Windrush Generation people damaged because of the actions of the Home Office and the need for a compensation scheme.

His whole speech is below:

Posted in News | Also tagged , and | 5 Comments

Lib Dem peers highlight problems with social care

The House of Lords debated how Covid-19 affected social care this week and Lib Dem peers made several contributions on such issues as DNRs being inappropriately proposed to local authority financing and the needs of charities helping seriously ill children and PPE in care homes.

Sal Brinton as Health and Social Care spokesperson summed up the Lib Dem stance on these important issues.

Here is her speech in full:

On behalf of the Liberal Democrat Benches, I also thank all the staff and volunteers working across the wider social care and community sector. Frequently low paid but definitely not low skilled, these amazing people show us their professionalism and big hearts, day after day.

Back in mid-February, we on these Benches asked the Minister repeatedly about care. On 26 February, the noble Lord, Lord Bethell, said in Hansard that

“we are planning … a massive communications campaign on how to protect people, particularly vulnerable people, in our population.”—

The evidence of recent weeks shows that those most vulnerable in our communities and care homes have been seriously and tragically let down.

Others have covered plenty of the detail, which is symptomatic of the centralised way in which Whitehall, the Department of Health and Social Care, and the NHS have treated anything not in hospitals as a second or even third order of priority. My noble friend Lord Shipley explained the problems that have arisen since Whitehall took over the supply chain for the social care sector and then decided to create a separate system, known as Clipper, that we were told was due to come online on 6 April, but yesterday discovered is still three to four weeks away from going operational.

Worse, where providers and local resilience forums have ordered their own PPE, it has been confiscated by government and rerouted centrally for hospitals first, leaving community settings high and dry. This includes lorries being stopped at border ports and drivers being rerouted. Consequently, a lack of PPE and a policy of moving patients from hospital into care homes without any testing has meant that Covid-19 has spread rapidly in the social care sector.

I support my noble friend Lady Jolly’s call for clarity on DNRs and echo her concerns about GPs asking disabled and learning-disabled people completely inappropriate questions. It is very clear from the government advice, NICE advice and all good palliative care advice that the way in which this happened was inappropriate. I hope that this DNR factor will be examined as part of any inevitable public inquiry. It seemed to happen in groups. Were CCGs asking GPs to ring their patients and find out whether they wanted to go to hospital? To do it all in one conversation is completely inappropriate. For many disabled people, it was completely inappropriate to even ask them this, if they do not have the clinical frailty that my noble friend Lady Jolly spoke of.

However, the Government’s lack of understanding of the wide range of other disabled people, and extremely fragile people, living within our community extends ​completely in the opposite direction. As a result, people who have ventilators or tracheostomies, for example, have found that their care support is entitled to only the most simple and flimsy face masks, because they are regarded as exactly the same as the standard care in residential homes. The Government’s PPE for the social care sector is almost always designed for the elderly.

Matt Hancock said last week that health and social care workers should not overuse PPE. The gasp that went through the social care community when he said that could be heard across the country. Most community orders are receiving a tiny fraction of what is ordered and needed. My noble friend Lady Barker summarised well the problem between the department and local government.

Posted in News | Also tagged , and | 19 Comments

Super Lib Dem Lords on Super Saturday: Wiliam Wallace

On Saturday, William Wallace closed the debate in the Lords for the LIb Dems. He said that during all the hours of debate, he’d not heard any positive arguments for the deal. People were just saying that we needed to get Brexit done.

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Lamont, has just said that remainers do not admit that the EU is not just an economic project. The European Union has always been a political project. The memorandum presented to Harold Macmillan in 1961 made it very clear that it was in our political interests to join the European Economic Community and that the Washington Administration were strongly of the opinion that Britain should do so. In Sir Alec Douglas-Home’s speech moving the Second Reading of the European Union accession Bill, he also spelled out that there was a political dimension to it. It was never the case that we were never told that it was more than just a common market. This is a peace project. It is how we deal with our neighbours, and it is important that we do deal with our neighbours.

This has been a long debate. I have listened carefully but have found it extremely difficult to hear any positive arguments for the deal. The arguments are mainly of exhaustion—“let’s get Brexit done”—or that there is too much uncertainty and at least this will end it, or that at least it is better than no deal. Another argument is, “It’s not too damaging economically. Well, it’s a bit damaging but not as damaging as some of the economic forecasts have suggested”. So what are the Government promising us that we will gain in return for these economic costs, whether they are modest or severe?

Here, I fear that we enter a looking-glass world in which facts and evidence are turned on their head. I heard Jacob Rees-Mogg on the radio yesterday saying that leaving the EU with this deal will strengthen the UK. No one in this debate has agreed with that idiotic remark. Many of us are deeply concerned that this is the beginning of the break-up of the United Kingdom. It takes us towards the potential reunification of Ireland, and certainly it takes us further towards the independence of Scotland. As the son of a Scot and as someone who has a son currently living in Edinburgh, this is a matter of personal, as well as national, concern.

We are told that we will regain sovereignty over regulations and standards but it has not been explained why that is so important. We are also assured that we want not to lower any of the standards but to raise them. However, perhaps we want not to raise them idiosyncratically so that we have different good ones compared with those of the European Union and America. Why that is so important, the Government have totally failed to explain.

The Prime Minister says in his Statement that,

“the greatest single restoration of national sovereignty in our parliamentary history”,

is part of the aim. I much prefer what was said by Geoffrey Howe—a man I much admired on the Conservative Benches—when he talked about the need for Britain to learn how to share sovereignty and how we would hold on to greater influence over our own affairs if we learned to share with our natural friends and partners. After all, we do not control our future prosperity. That lies in the hands of companies such as Hitachi, Nissan, Tata, Mercedes-Benz and Airbus, with their headquarters outside this country. When, and if, we leave the European Union, we will discover whether they are willing to stay committed to this country. If they move out and if foreign investment dries up, we will be in deep trouble and the economic assessments will prove to have been too modest in their gloom.

Then we are told that we can negotiate our own free trade agreements to our greater advantage. With whom? With India, China, Russia and the United States? Would the United States be more generous to the UK than it has been with the EU? That looks extremely unlikely. The world is at present moving away from free trade, as is the United States, and we in our turn are moving away from the world’s largest free trade bloc and single market.

Then we are told that leaving the EU will free us from bureaucracy. We have heard about the need to have new rules of origin, VAT receipts and refunds, ​and customs checks. That is a substantial extra collection of bureaucracy on cross-border trade. The withdrawal agreement and the future framework talk about a Joint Committee with a range of specialised committees that will manage our new relationship. We will need very large numbers of extra officials to manage those, as well as doubling the staff in our bilateral embassies because we will no longer be able to negotiate multilaterally in Brussels.

I want to turn to the future framework. I strongly agree with the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, and the noble Baroness, Lady Bull, that there has been a remarkable lack of attention to this document, although it is extraordinarily important. The Prime Minister has offered us no coherent vision of the future relationship. Someone has to look at this to see where we are going. One hundred and forty-one paragraphs of the political declaration cover a very wide range of issues, including data protection; participation in European programmes on science and innovation, culture, youth exchanges and education development; the European Neighbourhood Policy; intellectual property; family law co-operation; transport; energy; fishing; global co-operation on climate change; sustainable development; health and epidemics; foreign policy, security and defence; the UK contribution to joint defence operations; intelligence exchanges; whether we have access to the European Union Satellite Centre; space co-operation, about which it says very little because we have not got very far; cybersecurity; illegal migration, counterterrorism; et cetera. That is all to be negotiated, ideally by December 2020. That is not going to be very easy, but it is at least the intention.

Posted in News | Also tagged , and | 4 Comments

Super Lib Dem Lords on Super Saturday Julie Smith: This deal is not in the national interest

We continue with our Lords speeches on the special Saturday sitting. This next one is highly significant. Julie Smith had not voted against the triggering of Article 50 because she felt that we would have to leave. She has changed her mind and explains why;

My Lords, it is normally courteous to thank the Leader of the House for repeating Statements from the Prime Minister. However, on this occasion, I rather wish she had not. The Prime Minister articulated a view, reiterated by the noble Baroness, Lady Pidding, that he hopes that the two halves of our country—the 52% and the 48%—can now speak with one voice. I made a similar comment in July 2016, straight after the referendum.

I am a democrat and was willing to respect the result of the referendum. It is a matter of record that I did not vote against triggering Article 50. During the referendum, like the Government, I was very clear and said time and again that a vote to leave meant that we would leave. However, the fact that I believe in democracy does not necessarily mean that I have changed my mind, any more than any of my fellow Liberal Democrats have done, about the importance and value of membership of the European Union. That the Prime Minister could stand in the House of Commons this morning and say, “I have not heard anybody over the last three and a half years make a case about Brexit other than in practical terms” is deeply disingenuous. The fact that people have been arguing on the basis of the situation we are in does not mean that we have changed our minds. I have not rehearsed the pre-referendum arguments over the course of the last three and a half years, because we had already had that debate. That does not mean that I do not think that membership of the European Union is by far the best thing that this country can aspire to.

Posted in News | Also tagged and | 3 Comments

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.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 1 Comment

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.

Posted in News | Also tagged , and | 6 Comments

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.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , and | 1 Comment

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. 

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , , and | Leave a comment

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?

Posted in News | Also tagged and | 4 Comments

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.

Posted in News | Also tagged , and | 1 Comment

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?

Posted in LibLink | Also tagged and | Leave a comment

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.

Posted in News | Also tagged and | 8 Comments

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:

Posted in News | Also tagged , , , and | 13 Comments

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:

Posted in News | Also tagged , and | 8 Comments

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.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 6 Comments

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.

Posted in LibLink | Also tagged , and | Leave a comment

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.

Posted in News | Also tagged and | 18 Comments

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

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 2 Comments
Advert



Recent Comments

  • Paul Murray
    As I have commented before, I am amazed at the lack of mask wearing in crowded, enclosed public spaces. For example, last Saturday I took a crowded train to a f...
  • Michael Meadowcroft
    The three papers on the practical application of the paper on the Liberal Democrat crisis are now on line, as requested, particularly by Michael Berwick Gooding...
  • Lorenzo Cherin
    This is all good, but not in this or any context enough! Covid can and ought to, be beaten! It means reduction in cases to that point where it does not mutat...
  • Lorenzo Cherin
    Yes to every word, Matt. And David, one and two and Roland! This is really worrying, the level of infection and no action!...
  • Roland
    >This crazy government seem hell bent on waiting until it is too late to be at the most effective every time there is a need to act. Many others ha...