Welcome to the Lords edition of the Weekly Whip, covering the goings-on in the Upper Chamber in the last week, and a taste of what’s to come in the week to come.
In the Lords we get to grips with the detail of legislation and improve it; we take part in debates on a whole range of issues, and we question and hold to account government ministers.
For up-to-date information about the work of the Lib Dem group in the Lords, follow us on Twitter: @LibDemLords
Monday 8th March
The week started with a shot across the bows from our Lords leader, Dick Newby, after new cabinet minister Lord Frost triggered a major row with the EU after announcing Britain would unilaterally extend the “grace period” for checks on food-related goods that ship between Britain and Northern Ireland. Lord Frost now sits the House of Lords, and with MPs unable to question him directly, the Lords will provide the only opportunity for parliamentarians to scrutinise and hold to account this particular minister.
#Lordfrost seems intent on making a bad situation worse by being patronising, arrogant and belligerent. How can this possibly help vital #EU cooperation on trade barriers? Looking forward to being able to question him on this in the Lords #Brexit @LibDems @LibDemLords— Dick Newby (@RichardNewby3) March 8, 2021
During a Question on how COVID has affected teenagers in the care system, Joan Walmsley says that those with learning difficulties have been left behind.
Teenagers with learning disabilities in residential care homes have not been prioritised, Baroness Walmsley says there must be measures to ensure equal care resources are available for young people in #care homes as well older people. @joan_walmsley #COVID19— Lib Dem Lords (@LibDemLords) March 8, 2021
And during an Urgent Question on the mass arrests of leaders of the Hong Kong democracy movement, Lindsay Northover, pushed for a new scheme for young human rights activists separate from the British Nationals Overseas scheme already in place.
On International Women’s Day, Cathy Bakewell talked about the challenges faced by women at local level in politics and urged more support to be put in place.
When elected to local Govt, Baroness Bakewell found meeting times, lack of financial recompense and cost of childcare mitigated women taking part.— Lib Dem Lords (@LibDemLords) March 8, 2021
The Government must do more to ensure women have parity & representation at all levels of work #InternationalWomensDay
The Domestic Abuse Bill was back in the Lords later on Monday and Lib Dem peers, notably Brian Paddick, Lorely Burt, Jonathan Marks and Sally Hamwee, have been playing a full part in improving it.
We defeated the Government to ensure there is better protection for disabled people within the Bill. The issue will now return to the Commons for MPs to consider.
BREAKING: Peers vote 318 to 234 to strengthen the protections for disabled people within the Domestic Abuse Bill.— Lib Dem Lords (@LibDemLords) March 8, 2021
Tuesday 9th March
During a Question on tackling unemployment among those aged over 50, Barbara Janke pushed for financially supported training for this age group.
A Question about strengthening the role of the World Health Organisation for future pandemic management gave Sal Brinton a chance to go back to basics
The @WHO recommends hand washing to help prevent #COVID19, but 3 billion people lack access to soap & water worldwide.— Lib Dem Lords (@LibDemLords) March 9, 2021
B. @SalBrinton asks the Government to continue to fund the Hygiene and Behaviour Change Coalition which will continue to help people receive hygiene products.
Reports of a massacre at Axum in the Tigray region on Ethiopia may amount to crimes against humanity according to Amnesty International, yet the world has yet to properly pay attention. David Chidgey called for the Government to do more to focus on what is happening with vital food sources there.
Wednesday 10th March
During a Question about the representation of women in the development of policies to respond to the pandemic, Meral Hussein-Ece focussed on the real-life impact of women losing their jobs.
#COVID19 policy-making has been gender blind the Govt have not considered the needs of women, leading women to lose their jobs, suffering from #domesticabuse and mental #health decline.— Lib Dem Lords (@LibDemLords) March 10, 2021
B. @meralhece says plans are needed to mitigate women from losing jobs after furlough ends.
During an Urgent Question on the use of force by the military in Myanmar against protesters, Lindsay Northover urged sanction of those with business arrangements with the Myanmar military.
The main item of business in the Chamber saw the Domestic Abuse Bill return to the Lords.
A number of Lib Dem amendments were passed relating to survivors of domestic abuse and court proceedings. This is a great win for us on a hugely important issue.
The Lords has just passed amendments to the Domestic Abuse Bill, following Lib Dem amendments at Committee, that introduce an automatic ban on the direct cross-examination of witnesses in person in certain civil cases.— Lib Dem Lords (@LibDemLords) March 10, 2021
We also defeated the Government to ensure that all child contact centres are accredited and on progress towards providing training on domestic abuse for judges and magistrates.
BREAKING: Peers vote 310 to 237 to pass Domestic Abuse Bill amendment to ensure all child contact centres and organisations that offer child contact services are accredited.— Lib Dem Lords (@LibDemLords) March 10, 2021
Thursday 11th March
The Lib Dems have been at the forefront of a campaign to ensure musicians and performers aren’t prevented from touring in the EU due to burdensome visa and work permit requirements. During a Question, Jane Bonham-Carter widen things out and asked about those that teach our artists who themselves come from the EU, arguing that teaching must be made cost effective for them, and less of an administrative and financial burden for British institutions.
Post-Brexit mobility rules are difficult for students but also for teachers coming from the #EU.— Lib Dem Lords (@LibDemLords) March 11, 2021
Baroness @jbonham_carter says measures must be put in place to ensure it is cost-effective for EU #teachers to come into the UK.
Robin Teverson had an Oral Question about the prohibiting of the flaring of gas on offshore gas rings, pressing the Government for a clear timetable. Other countries already practice ‘zero flaring’ and we are the ‘dirty man of the North Sea’ he says.
The operation of the Northern Ireland Protocol was the focus of a Question later on in the day, and Alison Suttie pressed on what progress has been made in agreeing an EU-UK veterinary agreement which would make a real, positive difference to UK food producers, whilst William Wallace accused the Government of being more interested in the principle of sovereignty than the practice of food imports and exports.
There was an Urgent Question about the non-publication of some COVID contracts, which the Government has come under fire for. Sal Brinton asked the Minister how many private meetings Dido Harding had on test and trace matters with companies who subsequently won contracts, to which she is not given an answer.
During another Urgent Question on the changes being made to the governance of Hong Kong, Lindsay Northover suggested the UK was now in too weak a position to sanction those involved in an appropriate way.
Baroness @LPNorthover asks if the UK is in too weak of a position to sanction those undermining the international agreement in #HongKong.— Lib Dem Lords (@LibDemLords) March 11, 2021
Minister says the UK has several tools, including sanctions which will be given full consideration... #StandWithHongKong #democracy
During a debate to mark International Women’s Day
- Floella Benjamin talked about the toll COVID has had on women and the children they love and argued that families must be at the heart of the strategy for recovery.
- Dominic Addington highlighted the problems of diagnosing women with learning difficulties (so many more men are diagnosed).
- Judith Jolly focused on equal pay and empowerment.
- Cathy Bakewell made a passionate plea for the Government to do more to speak up for women who are oppressed both in the UK and the world over.
- Tom McNally spoke about the support women need to overcome challenges in the justice and prison system.
Sal Brinton, in a summing up speech, spoke about the challenges for women in public life, the health system, those with disabilities, and how inspiring women really can make a difference to young girls and women contemplating their futures.
Friday 12th March
The day was taken over with a general debate on last week’s Budget. Nineteen Lib Dem peers took part including Chris Fox, Sharon Bowles, Malcolm Bruce, Ming Campbell, Ros Scott, John Shipley and Susan Kramer. Speakers spoke about the lack of strategic, long term investment in the Budget and the opportunities missed to increase and amplify the support as we begin to come out of the COVID pandemic. The Budget was broad-brush with grand aims, but with a lack of detailed evidence about how to achieve much of it. The Lib Dem response has been focused on small businesses in particular and we have set out how we would approach the situation the country finds itself in and what we are urging the Government to do, specifically establishing a Revenue Loss Scheme for small businesses to compensate them for the money they are currently losing; zero Business Rates for small business in 2021-22; and extend furlough schemes until the end of the year.
The Domestic Abuse Bill returns for one final day of Report Stage; the Fire Safety Bill returns to the Lords where Kath Pinnock and others will continue our cladding campaign, and Don Foster will ask a question about the new chair of Ofcom.