Liberal Democrats

The Weekly Whip

The easing of restrictions for schools and businesses, the Government’s feeble ‘New Deal’, and questions over human rights in Xinjang and Hong Kong. This week was an important one for our country at home and abroad, and Liberal Democrat MPs were active all week.

By Peter Munro, Jul 03, 2020 5:07

Palace of Westminster.

Welcome to the Weekly Whip. Your one-stop shop for Lib Dem Parliamentary updates, covering the week that was and the week to come. 

For up to date information from the Lib Dem Whips Office, follow us on Twitter: @LibDemWhips 

Weekly Whip w/c 29th June

Monday 29th June

It was a darker start to the week, as the city of Glasgow came together after a man stabbed six people at a hotel that was housing asylum seekers. Three asylum-seekers, two members of staff, and one police officer were injured whilst the assailant, who was also seeking asylum, was shot dead by the police.

After joining Members across the House in expressing her sympathies with those affected by the incident, Christine Jardine went on to press the Minister to commit to a full public inquiry, highlighting the poor living conditions endured by asylum-seekers.

Monday’s second UQ concerned the human rights situation in Xinjang and the treatment of the Uyghurs. Alistair Carmichael led the Liberal Democrats in demanding action from the Government and stated how the continued subjugation and abuse in the area, from organ harvesting to “re-education camps”, had to be dealt with immediately. Alistair led a Westminster Hall debate on this issue last year, calling for the Government to take this matter to the Security Council.

The main business of the day involved the legislation that sought to re-open parts of our country on July 4th : the Business and Planning Bill. Though the Party welcomes the appropriate easing of restrictions in some areas of our society, Tim Farron and Sarah Olney made it abundantly clear that we must be cautious with our approach for the sake of public health and well-being; a sentiment echoed across the Opposition benches. Not only is health an important consideration, but Tim also pointed out that the Government must recognise that industries will continue to suffer hardships and job losses, such as the hospitality sector in Cumbria.

Tim and Sarah both had opportunities later in the week to push their concerns further. 

Finally, after much delay into the night, the Secretary of State gave his statement on the Coronavirus. Munira Wilson, our ever-present Health Spokesperson, continued to challenge him where the Government have been lacking. This time, she grilled him on the use of data and cooperation between local authorities and central government.

Tuesday 30th June

After the Government’s announcement regarding Civil Service changes and the appointment of David Frost as National Security Advisor, Wendy Chamberlain joined others on both sides of the House in confronting Michael Gove on the possibility of the Civil Service losing independence.

Following this, the Speaker accepted a UQ from David Lammy which sought to ask the Government why it has not implemented his various recommendations from the Lammy Review, an independent review of the treatment of, and outcomes for, Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) individuals in the Criminal Justice System. Christine took this opportunity to demand the Government to end suspicionless stop and search practices which disproportionately affect BAME individuals.

Later in the day, as the Immigration Bill went to Report Stage, Christine remained on the green benches to defend the rights of immigrants and eliminate the hostile environment. She led the Lib Dems amendments which included, amongst other things, repealing the Right to Rent Scheme and lifting the ban on asylum-seekers working. Unfortunately, all cross-party opposition attempts to amend the Bill were defeated.

Wednesday 1st July

July started off with Scotland questions and a heated PMQs. Christine, a busy MP this week, had a question for the Prime Minister concerning the most financial vulnerable who are being hit hardest by the pandemic and whether he would look at Universal Basic Income as a possible, modern solution.

China was on the agenda again in the Commons for all the wrong reasons. After the news out of Hong Kong that the Chinese Government would be breaking the Sino-British Joint Declaration by implementing new security laws, an Urgent Question was brought before the House. Alistair Carmichael has led the Lib Dem campaigns on Hong Kong, following the great work of former leader Paddy Ashdown. He was joined by Jamie Stone, Christine Jardine, and Tim Farron in standing up for the rights of the people of Hong Kong and ensuring that the British keep our promises and commitments in the area.

The United Kingdom is speaking with one voice in support of Hong Kong today. We cannot abandon Hongkongers who are struggling for their freedom, many of whom did not have the chance to take a BNO passport during the Handover. Now is the time to live up to our values. pic.twitter.com/rZgyifxcch

July 1, 2020

The day ended with the first half of the Finance Bill debate, where Tim Farron put into perspective the realities of the Government’s interventions in the economy as a response to the pandemic. Shaming the “new deal” that has been boasted by the Prime Minister, Tim reminded the House that FDR’s economic plans were worth 40% of U.S. GDP, but the recent announcement represented a pathetic 0.2% of U.K. GDP.

Sir Ed Davey also got the opportunity to champion his issue of scrapping loan charges, a campaign close to his heart. It went right to the wire and Ed’s amendment fell through after a dramatic evening of last-minute exchanges and Conservative whipping. Ed pledged not to give up on the issue and will be continuing his campaign.

Thursday 2nd July

After a busy week in Parliament, with Lib Dems being vocal in the Chamber on a variety of issues, Thursday was a little calmer as most MPs returned to their constituencies. Despite this, Layla Moran responded to a statement from the Secretary of State for Education on the re-opening of schools in the Autumn. She made her concerns known to the Secretary, underlining the fact that teachers deserve all the assistance available when it comes to creating online lessons, so that even the most disadvantaged children can continue to learn effectively during the pandemic. She also asked for assurances that every child who needs a laptop can get one. Disappointingly, the Secretary could not give these assurances.

Sarah and Tim rounded off our week with brilliant speeches in the second half of the Finance Bill, picking up where Ed left off. Sarah’s passion was on full display as she spoke to her regrets of the Government response to Coronavirus. She concluded by noting her priorities going forward: our children, our young people, and our environment.

Next week, Parliament will be discussing the Domestic Abuse Bill and we will be anticipating the Chancellor’s latest statement.

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