Liberal Democrats

The Weekly Whip - Lord's Edition

Welcome to the latest Lords edition of the Weekly Whip, covering the goings-on in the Upper Chamber in the last week, and a little taste of what’s to come next week.

By Humphrey Amos, Apr 16, 2021 4:04

Palace of Westminster.

In the Lords we get to grips with the detail of the 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 12th April 

It was a day of memorials in the Lords. First, we remembered the life and achievements of Shirley Williams, a titan of the Liberal Democrats, before paying tribute to the Duke of Edinburgh. 

Without Shirley, the SDP breakaway from Labour in 1981 and the SDP/Liberal merger forming the Liberal Democrats in 1988 may not have happened. She was a member of the House of Lords from 1993 until her retirement in 2016. She served as leader of the group between 2001 and 2003.

We will miss so much about her, but she was perhaps best known for her ability to connect with people. She communicated her ideas and vision so brilliantly. The national discourse is poorer without her contribution. 

The House paid formal tribute to Shirley on Wednesday (see below).

Dick Newby led the tributes to the Duke of Edinburgh for the group. He spoke about Prince Philip’s contribution to national life and his life work to develop the individual spirit and promote the common good. 

Tuesday 13th April

Today Robin Teverson had an Oral Question about the preparations being made for the COP15 UN Biodiversity Conference in China later this year. He pushed the Government on various goals for the conference and calling for a senior minister to be sent to represent the Government.

During an Urgent Question on the recent violence in Northern Ireland, Alison Suttie urged the Government to work closely with the Northern Ireland Executive to better integrate their education system with the rest of the UK. More integration would help break down the divisions that still exist when people are young.

The main business of the day was the Report Stage of the Overseas Operation Bill. The Bill brings in criminal measures and raises the threshold for the persecution of current or former service personnel.  

We defeated the Government four times, including ensuring that torture and war crimes are excluded from the presumption against prosecution after five years. It will be easier for service personnel to make civil claims against the Ministry of Defence, even after an extended period, ensuring a duty of care during internal investigations into personnel. 

 

Wednesday 14th April 

Business started with tributes to Shirley Williams from the prominent political leaders in the Lords. It was a lovely half hour, full of warmth, respect, stories, and memories. Dick Newby spoke on behalf of the Liberal Democrat Benches, recalling the public's affection for her - she was trusted and admired by millions, he said, describing her as a legend.

The leaders of the Conservative and Labour groups also spoke, as well as senior Crossbencher (and former Lib Dem) Julia Neuberger and the Bishop of Gloucester - a testament to Shirley’s boundary-breaking political career.

The primary order of business was the Financial Services Bill was passed by the House of Lords by a majority of 38. The Bill includes a Lib Dem amendment, headed up by John Sharkey, to offer aid to mortgage prisoners. 

 

Thursday 15th April 

Ming Campbell successfully posed an Urgent Question on the recent amassing of Russian forces on the Ukrainian border. He urged the Government to engage with NATO allies on this issue. Julie Smith and Lindsay Northover also contributed to the exchanges. They demanded the government ensure that the UK plays a pivotal role in de-escalating this situation rather than acting as a bystander.

The main legislative business of the day was the Report Stage of the National Security and Investment Bill. Our team on the Bill, including Chris Fox and Tim Clement-Jones, successfully defeated the Government, introducing a cross-party amendment. The amendment allows the parliament to scrutinize the decisions made under the Act without impugning national security. 

Friday 16th April 

A rare Friday sitting for the Lords (in recent times, anyway) - and a chance to consider three different Private Members’ Bill (PMBs) at their Second Reading (debate stage). 

Mike German and Martin Thomas participated in the debate on a bill that will improve the testing processes for illegal substances in prisons. Dominic Addington, Sal Brinton and Joan Walmsley spoke in favour of a bill banning botulinum toxin for cosmetic purposes on children. Cathy BakewellJonny Oates and Kate Parminter spoke, advocating for extending the length of prison sentences for some animal cruelty offences. 

All PMBs ‘die’ at the end of a parliamentary session (currently expected at the end of April), and days like today still provide an important opportunity to air issues that otherwise might not get much debate time.

NEXT WEEK

The Fire Safety Bill returns to the House of Lords on Tuesday - and we will be pushing further on the cladding issue that continues to be a matter of dispute between the Lords and the Commons. Robin Teverson will be leading a significant 5-hour debate calling for integrating national and local net Zero carbon initiatives. Dominic Addington will also debate about the effectiveness of Body Mass Index as a medical guideline. 

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