Welcome to the Weekly Whip. Your one-stop shop for Lib Dem Parliamentary updates, covering the week that was and the week to come.
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Weekly Whip w/c 20th April
With Parliament back from recess, many procedural changes have been made to the House of Commons. COVID 19 has led to a rapid use of technology in the chamber in what is a fast-evolving situation.
This week’s post is very heavy on parliamentary procedure, there just was no avoiding it, I’m afraid! If there are any terms that you would like to learn more about, head to the glossary on Parliament’s website, https://www.parliament.uk/site-information/glossary/
Tuesday 21st April
The whole of the first day back in Parliament saw the Leader of the House, Jacob Rees Mogg (who, fun fact, has a Lib Dem Cllr in his ward) at the government dispatch box. Firstly, there were motions on how the new hybrid parliament would work. In practice this means that:
• The number of MPs in the chambers is restricted to 50 and for the time being the number of MPs that can contribute virtually will be limited.
• A day in the House of Commons will be limited to two hours for Ministerial Statement, Urgent Questions and Ministers Question Time. However, it is hoped that will be extended as soon as the technology allows.
• Ministers Question Time, which happens each morning (see previous weekly whip) will be cut from 1 hour to 30 mins. MPs will no longer be able to asks a supplementary question of a minster as they usually would.
• There will be a ballot and pre-published list of MPs for each Ministerial Question Time (including PMQs), Ministerial Statement and Urgent Question to minsters.
• Westminster Hall debates and Adjournment debates will be cancelled until further notice
Afterwards, Jacob Rees Mogg laid out the business of the house for this week and next week. The government is still planning to bring forward some legislation next week.
However, the government has delayed the passage of some of their more controversial bills, including The Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill, the biggest change in our Immigration rules in over 50 years.
This is a bill that Lib Dems have previously called on to be paused and plan on heavily amending and scrutinising when it does come to Parliament.
Wednesday 22nd April
Many MPs (including all Lib Dems) are ready to start accessing the House of Commons via Zoom. We start the day, as normal, with ministerial questions.
We started with Welsh Office questions to kick off proceedings followed after 30 mins by PMQs.
Dominic Rabb standing in for the Prime Minster, batted questions from the new Leader of the Labour Party Keir Stamer in his first PMQs. Ed also asked the Foreign Secretary to back Lib Dem calls for a judge led inquiry of how the COVID-19 crisis was handled.
After PMQs there was a ministerial statement from Matt Hancock with an update on the government work during coronavirus.
After this, Commons returned to more procedural motions. The two main motions were on the structure of the working day in parliament (the Business of the House) and MPs using remote voting. Again, if we look at what these mean in practice:
On the Business of the House. This motion spilt the parliamentary day into two parts. The first part is ‘scrutiny proceedings’, this is the questioning of minsters, Ministerial Statements and Urgent Questions. The second part is ‘substantive proceedings’, this is the process of debating bills (laws in draft) and motions in the House of Commons. This motion sets out new deadlines and methods of submitting bills, motions and amendments to bills and motions. The motion also limited the time allowed for ‘substantive proceedings’ to four hours per day.
On the motion on remote voting. This motion sets out the Speaker’s authority to introduce, when ready, a method of electronic voting. MPs will still be able to vote in the house but they will be encouraged by the Speaker to vote electronically where possible.
This brought the House of Commons’ proceedings to a close for the week. Parliament will sit again (both virtually and physically) next Monday at 2:30pm. Next the House of Commons will be debating the Domestic Abuse Bill, the Fire Saftey Bill and the legistation needed to enshire the government latest budget.