Tag Archives: Parliament

Ed on tonight’s drama in Parliament: We need an urgent end to the humanitarian catastrophe

So I managed to sleep thoughout tonight’s drama.

Waking up to a phone glowing with WhatsApp messages, I realised there had been a bit of a rammy in the Commons. I checked out the BBC summary and my immediate and instinctive reaction is that the Speaker had been right to allow votes on three distinctive positions on such a huge issue. The SNP’s motion called for an immediate ceasefire, the Government’s called for a humanitarian pause and Labour’s had a bit more meat on its bones about how you actually get to a lasting peace. Normally on an opposition day, you’d get the motion and a Government amendment. It is unusual to have a third option, but in this instance, it made sense to reflect as broad a consensus as possible. He could have done better by including a fourth option, ours.

Ours said:

Expresses its devastation at the mounting humanitarian disaster in Gaza with tens of thousands of innocent Palestinians killed, millions displaced and thousands of homes destroyed; calls on the Prime Minister to oppose publicly and at the UN Security Council the proposed IDF offensive in Rafah; further urges Hamas to unconditionally and immediately release the over 100 hostages taken following the deplorable attacks on 7 October 2023; notes the unprecedented levels of illegal settler violence in the Occupied Palestinian Territories left unchecked by the Israeli Government; welcomes the recent sanctions by the UK Government against four extremist Israeli settlers who have committed human rights abuses against Palestinian communities in the West Bank; urges the UK Government to sanction all violent settlers and their connected entities; calls on the UK Government to uphold international law and the judgments of international courts under all circumstances; further notes that the only path to regional security is a two-state solution based on 1967 borders with Hamas not in power; condemns Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s repeated assertions that there is no future for a Palestinian state; and further urges the UK Government to call for an immediate bilateral ceasefire in Gaza, which will allow an end to the humanitarian devastation, get the hostages out and provide an opportunity for a political process leading to a two-state solution, providing security and dignity for all peoples in Palestine and Israel.”

You would hope that when discussing one of the biggest humanitarian disasters and most dangerous conflicts we have seen in a long time, the Mother of Parliaments would model generous, collaborative behaviour. It was not beyond the wit of the SNP to work with the other opposition parties to bring together something that truly reflected the will of the House.

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Christine Jardine introduces Bill to give British citizens right to Consular assistance

Back in November, there was not a dry eye in the house when Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and her husband Richard Ratcliffe spoke to Scottish Lib Dem Conference.

From our piece at the time:

One of the most moving sessions was an interview, hosted by Christine Jardine, with Nazanin Zaghari Ratcliffe and Richard Ratcliffe. Christine said she still has the blue flower Richard gave her when she went to visit him outside the Iranian Embassy when he was on hunger strike during Nazanin’s six year imprisonment in Iran.

Nazanin and Richard want British citizens to have a right to consular protection after the Foreign Office was so slow to help her. At the moment, the commitment is dependent on ministerial whim, and, if ministers are reshuffled, you have to build the relationship up all over again.

Next week, Parliament will debate a Bill tabled by Lib Dem MP Christine designed to give British citizens abroad a right to consular assistance when their human rights are under threat.

Yesterday’s Sunday Post had a feature on the Bill. Christine told the paper:

We assume that if something happens, someone will speak to the Foreign Office and you’re guaranteed assistance – but you’re not.

I think it’s something most of us would take for granted that we already have.

After Richard and I spoke about it, I thought about the number of cases where people have found themselves in that situation over the years.

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Carmichael warns about increases in helicopter response times

If you regularly face danger at sea, the last thing you will want to hear is that the Government plans to quadruple helicopter response times.

Alistair Carmichael seeks answers from the Government as he holds a parliamentary debate on the future of coastguard services in Parliament.

The debate follows revelations about the Maritime and Coastguard Agency’s plans to quadruple the emergency response time for the helicopter service based at Sumburgh in Alistair’s Shetland constituency from 15 minutes to 60 minutes.

The MCA previously “clarified” that the current “readiness” state of 15 minutes is due to remain in place until at least October 2026 — but “discussions relating to readiness states beyond this date are ongoing.” Following further meetings, however, it has emerged that the MCA has already signed a new contract for the future of the Sumburgh service.

Other concerns have been raised that the new service will only run one type of helicopter, raising issues with resilience should a model be grounded. Mr Carmichael has called on the MCA and the Department for Transport to release the full documents relating to the proposals.

Ahead of the debate, Alistair said:

Reports that there were discussions under way in the Maritime and Coastguard Agency to cut back on the helicopter provision from Sumburgh were bad enough. It has now emerged, however, that the “discussions” are effectively already over – as a contract was signed months ago.

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Lib Dems react to King’s Speech

Ed Davey has been on Sky News talking about the King’s Speech.  He called for a General Election to put a Government that has run out of ideas out of its misery.

In the debate in the Commons yesterday, Ed said:

May I, like others, start by paying tribute to His Majesty for delivering his first King’s Speech? It was clearly an historic moment, but for our King it must have been an emotional one. He made reference to his late mother, our late, amazing Queen, and many of us listening to him felt that he delivered that speech with grace and aplomb, and we are very grateful to him.

May I also pay tribute to the right hon. Member for Scarborough and Whitby (Sir Robert Goodwill) and the hon. Member for Stroud (Siobhan Baillie) for their speeches? I have always rather admired the right hon. Gentleman, for many reasons. His speech today was extremely entertaining, but I have always liked the fact that he, like many on our Benches, opposed the third runway at Heathrow and that he was a constructive, if unfashionable, Conservative in his views on a constructive relationship with our European partners. But perhaps what makes him more at home with the current Government is his romantic enthusiasm for the steam engine, as we have heard: more noise than substance and going nowhere in the modern world.

My mother-in-law, an expert beekeeper and honey producer—and the swarm officer for North Dorset, no less—would join the seconder of today’s motion in congratulating Stroud on being the world’s first bee guardian town. I am sure that Stroud has a real buzz about it, but the House will be pleased to hear that I do not intend to drone on and on. Given your strictures at the beginning of this debate, Mr Speaker, I should like to clarify that I was not referring to any other Members in talking about droning on.

Today’s Gracious Speech is overshadowed by horrifying events around the world, with the monstrous terrorist attacks by Hamas on Israel one month ago—more than 1,400 Israelis were slaughtered and hundreds were taken hostage, and they are in our thoughts today—and now the dire humanitarian situation in Gaza. Innocent Palestinians have been cut off from food, water and medicine. Their homes have been destroyed, and more than 10,000 have been killed.

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Can Parliament take back control?

In a futile attempt to prevent Boris Johnson’s defenestration last year Jacob Rees Mogg tried to browbeat his ministerial colleagues by demanding that a change of Prime Minister required a General Election.  Johnson himself seemed equally deluded that he had achieved a personal mandate in 2019 to which no successor could lay claim.

Our constitution – at the moment at least – doesn’t work like that.  We don’t elect a President.  We vote for individual MPs who collectively give authority to an executive team, and (in theory) hold them to account.

But is it working like that ?

In recent months a range of commentators from across the political spectrum have identified a series of faults and follies, which call in question our democratic norms.  With some 53 years of parliamentary service between us we attempt a more comprehensive analysis in our book Can Parliament Take Back Control?, published this week.

Amidst all the other challenges which politicians will face after the next election the damaged relationship between Parliament and the executive may seem relatively less urgent.  Yet the insidious shift of power from the former to the latter in recent years may prove to undermine the very foundations of Britain’s democratic constitution.

In so doing, it could make it increasingly difficult to secure public support for practical responses to those other challenges.

This book highlights the various ways in which governments have neutered, side-lined and ignored Parliament to an extent which now demands a deliberate restoration of the balance of power.  We suggest that events since 2015, in particular, have caused slippage towards the “elective dictatorship” about which Lord Hailsham warned in his Dimbleby Lecture in 1976. Hence our subtitle:  “Britain’s Elective Dictatorship in the Johnson Aftermath”.   The text of the Lecture is reprinted as an Annex with the encouragement of the present Lord Hailsham.

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Drop the oath to the Crown – put the people first

At the beginning of September, Sarah Dyke, the recently elected Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament for Somerton and Frome, began her work as an MP. Before she could take to the green benches of the House of Commons, she was required to be sworn in. Lib Dem social media channels showed a video of Sarah taking this oath. The ceremony is bland and matter of fact, what was of greater interest were the comments expressing outrage at the proceedings. Party supporters, activists, and voyeurs of the event on Instagram showed particular distain for the words of the swearing in.

Every Member of Parliament must make one of the following declarations. The first is known as the oath and the other the affirmation. Which is chosen is a decision for the newly elected MP:

I swear by Almighty God that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to His Majesty King Charles, his heirs, and successors, according to law. So help me God.

Or, 

I do solemnly, sincerely, and truly declare and affirm, that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to His Majesty King Charles, his heirs and successors, according to law.

The confusion and hostility on social media over these words of allegiance to a King and his family where clear. “Politics needs modernising, what does the King have to do with anything?” “Not one mention of the people” and, “Does that mean republicans can’t be MPs?” All reasonable statements and questions.

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Jardine: People of Scotland want competent, effective Governments

It took less than the 14 minutes of Mhairi Black’s opening speech in the SNP Opposition Day debate on the cost of living crisis today for her to reveal what the debate was really about. Independence. I guess we should expect no better from a nationalist party, even one that has the power to do much more than it is doing to alleviate poverty and help those struggling at the moment.

Our Christine Jardine was there to keep them honest. In a blistering speech, she pointed out where both SNP and Conservatives were going wrong.

I have often stood here and criticised the Conservative Government, on their energy price hike; inflation; interest rates; and the situation that faces our young people throughout the UK, where too many of them live with the fear that they will never be able to own the house of their own that they would like or that the ever-increasing rent rates in this country, which in my city of Edinburgh are outrageous, put too many options beyond their reach. We must then consider the fact that the Chancellor did not listen when the Liberal Democrats asked him to cut energy bills by £500 per household, which would have made a significant difference to so many families; that the growth in the economy in the first three months of this year was only 0.1%; that, according to the Office for National Statistics, average pay, after taking inflation into account, fell by 3%; and that the take-home salary fell by more than £1,400.

I was delighted when I saw this motion, because our economy in the UK is on its knees and so are far too many families, and not just in Scotland. My disappointment is that SNP Members do not seem to appreciate that they in a unique position, of which I, like many other Members, are jealous, as their party can do something about it in Scotland. By that, I do not mean independence, which it turns out this debate is actually about after all.

She went on to highlight some of the SNP Govermment’s key shortcomings

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A duo of Lib Dems at PMQs highlight GP shortage and medicine issue

Lib Dems are doing very well at Prime Minister’s Questions at the moment. Yesterday, we had two questions to Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab in Rishi Sunak’s absence.

First up, Sarah Olney carried through the theme of the day – GP shortages, highlighting the impact:

From Hansard:

In a shocking article in Surrey Live last year, it was reported that staff at a GP practice in Walton were left in tears and “crumbling under pressure” owing to the increased workload caused by staff shortages. Is that any wonder when there are 850 fewer GPs in the country than there were in 2019? What does the Deputy Prime Minister say to patients left in pain and staff left in tears—including some in his own constituency—as a result of the Government’s failed promise to recruit more GPs?

The Deputy Prime Minister

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Wera Hobhouse calls for action to tackle eating disorders

Anyone who has supported a loved one with an eating disorder will appreciate Wera Hobhouse’s tireless efforts to get better support and services for those living with these terrible and distressing conditions.

I know first hand how horrendous it is to watch someone suffering in this way. The agony that my loved one went through will stay with me forever, as will all the related anxiety. And I really appreciated that Wera drew attention to eating disorders in men for that reason.

What made things much worse is that there was so little in the way of practical support available. It is great to know that we have a champion in Parliament who gets this and who is fighting for more.

This Eating Disorders Awareness Week, Wera held a Westminster Hall Debate. She called for action to tackle an epidemic of eating disorders. She asked for a targeted strategy for eating disorders to tackle the waiting times for treatment for children and adults, provide training for health and education staff to recognise the signs that an eating disorder might be developing, earlier intervention and evidence based treatments.

The full text of her speech is below:

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Sarah Olney criticises “appalling” rush to pass anti Strike Bill

Lib Dem Treasury spokesperson Sarah Olney has criticised the “appalling” way the Government is trying to “sneak” through its new anti strike measures with the bare minimum of Parliamentary scrutiny. MPs will have two days to debate the measures.

Reported in the Standard, Sarah said:

It’s appalling for Conservative ministers to try and sneak this sweeping new law through with barely any scrutiny from MPs. It’s almost like they know their Bill would fall apart under even the lightest examination.

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Wera Hobhouse’s bill to tackle sexual harassment in the workplace passes Committee stage

We’re now into the annual 16 days of activism against gender based violence which runs from the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on 25 November through to International Human Rights Day on 10th December.

We will be bringing you a series of articles to mark this important annual event, including a horrific story of the death of a young woman in Scotland after she was let own by all of the services who should have been there to protect her.

Today we report on the Committee Stage of Wera Hobhouse’s Bill to tackle sexual harassment in the workplace, which took place on Wednesday. It would make employers liable for sexual harassment of their employers by third parties, eg contractors, as well as their co-workers.

Introducing the Bill, Wera said:

Workplace sexual harassment is a blight on our society. It remains widespread and vastly under-reported. Half of British women and a fifth of men have been sexually harassed at work or a place of study. Too many people have been left to suffer for too long. The question of whether employers have taken adequate steps to prevent sexual harassment arises only as a defence if an incident of sexual harassment has already occurred. Employers are therefore not required to take actions to prevent sexual harassment. That leaves individuals with the burden of challenging it.

The Bill, which passed its Second Reading last month, introduces two new measures to strengthen protections for employees against harassment. The first is the introduction of explicit protections for employees from workplace harassment by third parties, such as customers and clients. The second is the introduction of a duty on employers to take all reasonable steps to prevent their employees from experiencing sexual harassment.

Fellow Lib Dem MP Christine Jardine emphasised why the Bill was needed:

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Change when we hold Autumn Conference

Like every member of the party, I was sorry that the party Conference had to be cancelled because of the Queen’s sad death.

But it was the right decision. Conference Chair Nick da Costa and the whole team, volunteers and staff, deserve our thanks for taking that decision and dealing with the massive practical consequences.

This has sparked ideas about next year. Should Spring Conference 2023 be earlier? Longer? An extra conference? These questions were discussed in an interesting special Lib Dem Podcast.

But this may be the right time to take a big step back and reconsider when we hold Autumn Conference every year.

The choice of date impacts on the success of the Conference, which is an important tool in achieving the party’s aims. 

Conference helps us elect more Liberal Democrats by networking members, building relationships and team spirit, sharing know-how through training, enriching our policy platform, interaction between Lib Dem parliamentarians and grassroots members, providing a media showcase for our Leader and key spokespeople and the forum for members to exercise democratic control of the party.

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Life resumes…..

It’s been an intense 11 days  since the Queen died.

For many people, a national bereavement takes a similar pattern to any other. The adrenaline gets you through to the funeral and it’s only afterwards that you have to adjust to the loss and its consequences. However we may feel about Queen Elizabeth’s legacy or, indeed, the institution of monarchy itself, it will take some time to get used to the new normal, not least because we have a brand new monarch and a brand new Government.

Anyone under the age of about 75 will not be able to remember having any other monarch than Queen Elizabeth. It’s  astonishing that we have had two Queens, covering 134 of the last 185 years. Both reigned during periods of intense social and economic change. I was thinking about this yesterday  as I woke up and looked up exactly how long they had been on the throne. Victoria had been on the throne for 63 years, 7 months and 2 days – and Elizabeth for 70 years, 7 months and 2 days. In all the wall to wall coverage I’ve absorbed since 8th September, I hadn’t heard that mentioned. Or maybe I’m the only one that finds it worthy of note.

We haven’t in any sort of memory had a new Head of State and Prime Minister in such quick succession. Elizabeth had wartime giant Winston Churchill as her first PM. When George V died, Stanley Baldwin was on his third prime ministerial stint. The last liberal Prime Minister, Asquith, had a couple of years under his belt before Edward VII died and Viscount Melbourne was extremely experienced when the 19 year old Victoria acceded.

The new King Charles has had decades to learn his trade and he has acknowledged that he can’t be as vocal on issues close to his heart as he was as Prince of Wales. A climate change denying Government is bound to be a test.

The cost of living emergency has not gone away. It is biting the most vulnerable every single day.  Inflation may have dipped a tiny bit down to 9.9% in August but households are still finding that the basics in life are a lot more expensive than they were last year before you even think about heating your house.

The last big political announcement was Liz Truss’s plan to deal with meteoric energy price rises. She intends to limit price rise so that the average household will pay no more than £2500. It’s likely you will pay more if you live in an energy inefficient, damp house. That includes many people on low incomes in private lets and social housing.

Ed Davey called Truss’s plan a “phony freeze” saying:

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Richard Foord is sworn in as the new MP for Tiverton and Honiton

It’s official, Richard Foord has now formally taken his seat in Parliament, bringing the Parliamentary Party in the House of Commons to fourteen strong.

We’ll cover his maiden speech in due course but, in the meantime, here is the moment we’ve all been waiting for…

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What’s on in our Parliaments this week?

Lib Dem Highlights

On Tuesday at 9:30 am, Sarah Olney holds a Westminster Hall debate on reports of misogyny and sexual harassment in the Metropolitan Police – a sobering start to International Women’s Day.

Also on Tuesday, Jenny Randerson has a question on funding for bus improvement plans.

Westminster

Commons

Monday sees all the stages of the Economic Crime (Transparency and Enforcement) Bill which sets up a register of all those non UK people and entities who own property in the UK and strengthens Unexplained Wealth Orders. The Commons Library briefing explains the measures in more detail.  While Labour are supporting it, Transparency International has concerns about the 18 month implementation period and possible loopholes.

On Tuesday we have a Labour opposition day and Wednesday after PMQs is Estimates Day – debates around spending of individual government departments with defence and education coming under the spotlight. The main business on Thursday is a backbench business debate for International Women’s Day.

Lords

The Health and Care Bill gets its report stage on Monday and the Nuclear Energy Financing Bill on Tuesday with various orders and regulations, such as social security uprating and goods vehicle rules coming under scrutiny.

Expect Lib Dem peers to be in action on Thursday against the Elections Bill, which might as well be called the Diminution of Democracy Bill, as it gets its line by line scrutiny.

The full timetable is here.

Holyrood

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

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

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

So what’s happening?

Westminster

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Holyrood

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Lib Dems table motion of no confidence in Boris Johnson

Liberal Democrat MPs have tabled a motion of no confidence in Boris Johnson and have written to Jacob Rees-Mogg to ask that it is given parliamentary time.

The motion been so far been signed by 18 MPs from four parties. These include all thirteen Liberal Democrat MPs, two Labour MPs, two from Plaid Cymru and Stephen Parry from the Alliance Party.

The Liberal Democrats have also written to Leader of the House of Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg, demanding he put the motion to a vote within the next week. Labour Shadow Health Secretary Wes Streeting says that Labour would back it in a Commons vote.

The question is, would enough Conservatives? And what would the public think if their Conservative MP backed a PM who has had such a chaotic approach to government and treats the laws of the land as an optional extra?

Ed Davey said:

It’s time for Conservative MPs to show where they stand. Are they going to continue to put up with a Prime Minister who lied to Parliament and to the public, who admitted he broke lockdown rules and refuses to hold himself accountable?

By remaining in Number 10 Boris Johnson is a threat to the health of the nation – no one will take anything he says seriously and that is simply unacceptable during a pandemic.

Conservative MPs should not only support our motion of no confidence but they should pressure Jacob Rees Mogg to give the motion time for a vote and soon. The country deserves a chance to move on from this deceitful Prime Minister.

The full text of Wera’s letter is below.

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What’s on in our Parliaments this week?

This week it is only Westminster that is back in business after the Christmas holidays. Holyrood and the Senedd don’t return till next week.  There will, however, be a brief virtual Covid-19 statement from Nicola Sturgeon this afternoon.

You do have to wonder why they bothered dragging MPs back to London for just two days of business when Covid case levels are so high.

Today

However, the exciting thing for Liberal Democrats is that Helen Morgan, our new MP for North Shropshire, will be taking her seat in the Commons, and that will be a joy to behold. She’ll be sworn in at the start of the day’s business at 2:30 pm. It would normally be 11:30 on a Wednesday, but because it’s the first day back, it’s not till the afternoon.

Boris Johnson then faces his first PMQs of 2022 at 3pm and can expect to be quizzed on the growing crisis in the NHS and in schools. Ed Davey has a question and I wonder what line he will take…

Pensions legislation then takes up the afternoon until an adjournment debate on the award of public contracts during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Westminster Hall debates will take place on issues regarding new build homes, historical allegations of sexual abuse and the justice system, deforestation in the Amazon, housing in Sittingbourne and Sheppey and immigration requirements for non UK national members of the armed forces.

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Lib Dems demand public enquiry into Tory sleaze ahead of Commons debate

Last week, Wendy Chamberlain secured a parliamentary debate following the fiasco over the standards process votes. Here she is proposing it:

And later she spoke to Sky News:

Ahead of tomorrow’s debate, the party has given an indication of what we hope to achieve.  We have called for an independent public inquiry into government sleaze and allegations of political corruption, warning that Boris Johnson’s Conservatives are “releasing sewage into our rivers and sleaze into our politics.”  The inquiry would look into various scandals including the awarding of lucrative Covid contracts to those with political links to the Conservative Party, Boris Johnson’s failure to declare that holidays abroad and the redecoration of his Downing Street flat were paid for by party donors, and last week’s attempt to block the suspension of former Conservative MP Owen Paterson after he was found to have breached lobbying rules.

The inquiry would have the power to summon witnesses and require them to give evidence under oath, including current and former government ministers and officials, and demand the disclosure of any relevant official documents and communications.

The party is also demanding that any MPs under investigation for breaking parliamentary rules should be barred from taking part in Commons votes on disciplinary issues.

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ICYMI: Sarah Green’s maiden speech

Here, in case you missed it, is our newest MP, Sarah Green’s maiden speech from Tuesday of this week.

A wonderful sight for those of us who helped get Sarah Green elected as MP for Chesham and Amersham. A short while ago, she made her maiden speech. It was warm, generous, gracious and funny. She paid a lovely tribute to her predecessor Dame Cheryl Gillan, talked about her beautiful constituency with huge affection and got in a criticism of HS2, a description of the roads as an assault course for drivers and a takedown of the Government for its absurd plans for voter ID.

And here it is in full, thanks to the magic of me asking her office for a copy:

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Lib Dems will oppose Elections Bill in Parliament today

How should decisions about how our elections are run be made?

You would hope that all the parties would get together and come up with something that we should all agree with. Or at least a truly independent body would annoy everyone equally by coming up with things that some like and some don’t.

Here’s how not to do it – let a Government which has more MPs than its vote share deserves change the rules to suit itself. That is far from democratic.

The Conservatives are looking to the example of the experts in voter suppression, the US Republicans, with their Elections Bill which comes before Parliament today. It is blatantly partisan in many aspects.

The first is that it compels voters to show ID to vote. They couch it in language around preventing fraud, which is pretty much non existent anyway. But you have to look at the impact that would have. Who would be most likely not to vote? People of colour, poorer people, younger people. In short, people who are less likely to vote Conservative.

The second is that it gives the Government more control over the Electoral Commission, which is supposed to be independent. Again, not a good sign.

The third is that it will constrain third party campaigners such as trade unions.

Don’t just take my word for it, take the word of someone who is both a former electoral commissioner and a Liberal Democrat. David Howarth was MP for Cambridge until 2010. He cautions us to make sure we don’t forget the other nasties the bill contains while we argue over Voter ID.

In an article for Open Democracy he sets out why the “poisonous” bill would cement Tory rule.

He describes how the Bill hands control of the Electoral Commission to Government ministers:

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What a peaceful transition of power should look like

I might have known that after I had written about Obama’s inauguration speech earlier, how I would fall down the rabbit hole of the Obama White House You Tube Channel.

I came across the unveilings of the official portraits of George W and Laura Bush. Now, I am not a fan of him or his presidency at all. It is, however, very difficult not to love Laura.

Despite all that, when you watch all the speeches from the Obamas and the Bushes, you pick up a real warmth between them.

There was not a lot of common ground between them when Obama took office, but he went to great pains to point out how helpful Bush had been to him, then and since, and how there was quite a rapport between all the living occupants of the Oval Office. It is enjoyable to watch.

I think back to 1992, when Bill Clinton won after a pretty fraught election campaign with not a lot of love on either side. The first President Bush was similarly helpful and graceful to his successor and they struck up an enduring friendship as a result.

Obviously, this is not going to happen this time round, but Donald Trump, as in so many other ways, is very much the aberration here.

We need to see more examples of people with totally opposing views can behave with grace towards one another without compromising their principles. We need to follow the example of our own Charles Kennedy, whose friendship with Labour spin doctor Alistair Campbell had been so important to both of them, as we found out after he died.  Charles had been subjected to the most appalling abuse for his opposition to the Iraq War, yet away from the heat, those two had a close personal friendship.

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A critique on the events of today

British politics will hit several crunch points in the next two weeks. If Trump loses the US presidential election, the hopes of the hard-line Brexiters of a fast US-UK trade agreement will be shattered. Moreover, we must reach a minimal trade agreement with the EU, which the government will have to defend against hostile attacks from the right, or we will be faced with a No-Deal departure, with the prospect of chaos and confusion at Channel Ports in the New Year.

It’s taken me a long time to appreciate how deeply the hard-line Brexiters believe in the reality of ‘the Anglosphere’. Liberal Democrats don’t read the Telegraph or the Spectator or attend European Research Group (ERG) meetings, where enthusiasts speak and write about the EU as an ‘Empire’ which has reduced Britain to a ‘colony’ from which we are escaping – to the warm embrace of our cousins in the United States. Australia and New Zealand are also seen as key partners for future Global Britain – with Australians already deeply embedded in Whitehall. White Anglo-Saxon Protestants were still a leading force in Washington politics 50 years ago, but not now. UK ministers and right-wing MPs cling to the image of America they had gained through meetings with white Republicans, and seem not to have noticed that Joe Biden is an Irish Catholic, with a mixed-race vice-presidential candidate, neither of whom have an emotional attachment to Anglo-Saxon exceptionalism.

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Tony Greaves writes: A week to remember in the Lords

Oh what a week that was!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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WATCH: Munira Wilson’s short, sharp debut at Prime Minister’s Questions

In case you missed  it, Twickenham’s Lib Dem MP made her debut at Prime Minister’s Questions this week. She was first up and her question was simple and effective:

And she was noticed:

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Mike German writes: Democracy, digital technologies and trust

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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23 June 2020 – today’s press releases

  • Lib Dems table amendments to stop MPs debating complaints in the chamber
  • Govt must be transparent on guidance behind decision to relax lockdown
  • Govt must guarantee scrutiny in Parliament as daily COVID updates cease

Lib Dems table amendments to stop MPs debating complaints in the chamber

The Liberal Democrats have tabled amendments to the Independent Complaints Scheme which will prevent Members of Parliament from debating and voting on motions concerning complaints made in Parliament.

The amendments tabled to a motion set to be debated later today are crucial for protecting anyone who makes a complaint. It would give the independent panel the power to …

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Jamie Stone to Jacob Rees-Mogg “You’re talking bollocks!”

One of the most awful things about Jacob Rees-Mogg’s intransigence over ending the virtual Parliament is the position it has put MPs with caring responsibilities in.

Although Mogg reluctantly agreed that MPs who were shielding could get  a proxy vote, but he will not because he is caring for his disabled wife and not shielding himself.  This is incredibly unjust.

In normal times, Jamie was able to travel to Westminster with the help of carers who came in to look after his wife, Flora. Because of the risk of spreading the virus, the carers are not coming in any more. Jamie and others in that position should not have to choose between doing their jobs and looking after the people who depend on them when it is perfectly possible for him to do both.

Jacob Rees-Mogg moaned about MPs tweeting about casting parliamentary votes while out for a walk. It’s kind of like when people said that the coronation shouldn’t be televised because it would be watched by men in public houses with their hats on. A horrible, them and us elitist view of people’s place in life. The ruling elite runs thing and the governed just have to put up with it.

Anyway Jamie has been talking to Politics Joe about the whole thing – in some fairly frank terms. Enjoy the video here.

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Daily View 2×2: 3 June 2020

2 big stories

The slide towards banana republic status for the United Kingdom continues. Yesterday, whipped by their leadership, Conservative MPs voted to return to the old ways of operating, causing a queue of MPs to form in order to vote that ran through Westminster Hall, the gardens of the Palace of Westminster and as far as Portcullis House. Frankly, if I were the Opposition, I’d be calling divisions on anything and everything, up to and including what day of the week it is.

Excluding MPs who are pregnant, shielding or in vulnerable groups is an attack on our democracy, and …

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Daily View 2×2: 2 June 2020

2 big stories

The controversy over the death of George Floyd continues and the Chair of the Liberal Democrat Campaign for Race Equality, Roderick Lynch, notes;

Just as we have a moral obligation to speak out against the injustice we’re witnessing in the US, we also can’t ignore the failings here in the UK. In the UK 26% of instances of police using firearms are against black people, despite black people making up only 3.3% of the population. 51% of young men in custody in the UK are from black, Asian or minority ethnic backgrounds, despite these groups making up only

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