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 6th July
Monday 6th July
There are some two million victims of domestic abuse a year. More than one in ten of all offences recorded by the police are domestic abuse related. In 2017, the Conservative government committed to introduce a bill to transform the approach of the justice system and wider statutory agencies. It has now been 3 ½ years since this commitment, but the Domestic Abuse Bill finally passed through the House of Commons on Monday night with cross-party support.
Although opposition amendments did not find their way into the Bill, including ours on migrant survivors and child welfare provisions, Christine Jardine welcomed the various Government concessions that made the Bill slightly stronger. For example, after being pushed by the Lib Dems, the Government has now improved protections for abuse survivors in family courts, where perpetrators were able to continue intimidating and controlling the person they have abused.
These protections, along with various others which received cross-party support, will now be considered by the Lords and will hopefully receive Royal Assent soon. The COVID-19 pandemic, which is exacerbating and worsening domestic abuse, has exposed a desperate need for a fair, adequately funded system of protection and support, led by the women’s sector and particularly by and for BAME and migrant organisations. Despite the current difficulties we are facing as a country, this is a step-forward and a win we can all be proud of.
ICYMI:@cajardineMP spoke last night to the Domestic Abuse Bill.— Lib Dem Whips 🔶 (@LibDemWhips) July 7, 2020
Though Opposition amendments did not pass, including our own, we still welcome the passage of this Bill and Gov concessions.
It will now move to the Lords. @LibDemLords pic.twitter.com/vd9pSitjt1
Delighted the Government has listened to the argument to recognise children as victims of Domestic Abuse and a Pilot scheme to look at how to support migrant women who are authors of #domesticabuse in line with @LibDems amendments— Christine Jardine (@cajardineMP) July 6, 2020
Tuesday 7th July
It is always disappointing when MPs have to drag Secretaries of State and Ministers to the Chamber to speak on crucial and timely issues. Matt Hancock should be actively coming before the House to give frequent updates on the current Coronavirus situation, but instead our MPs must use Urgent Questions to get him to the despatch box.
Once again, our health spokesperson, Munira Wilson, stepped up and performed exceptionally at the UQ, bringing to light the work of respite care centres in her constituency of Twickenham and across the country. Such centres assist those with dementia and learning difficulties, and offer vital support to unpaid carers like family members. They are determined to open as soon as possible and Munira pressed the Secretary of State about the lack of access to free testing for staff and users. We will be watching this space closely, as he gave assurances that this is an issue the Government are looking to remedy.
Tim Farron was also able to press him on delayed cancer treatments and the urgent need to remove the growing backlog. The Secretary agreed to meet with Tim’s APPG on Radiotherapy to discuss their six-point plan, another positive take from Tuesday’s health UQ.
Whilst Boris Johnson tries to shift the blame for deaths in care homes onto care staff, the government must go further to supply adequate testing to respite care centres. @munirawilson ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/C9s1TFfswL— Liberal Democrats (@LibDems) July 7, 2020
Grateful to the Health Secretary for agreeing to meet with our APPG on radiotherapy to discuss our six-point plan to save lives being lost in the cancer backlog.— Tim Farron (@timfarron) July 9, 2020
Cancer patients must not be forgotten about during this crisis.@APPGRT @RTherapy4Life @prof_price @ProfKarolSikora pic.twitter.com/IgdAzGJZYJ
It took another UQ to bring a Minister from DCMS to the House to speak about the new arts funding package of £1.57bn. It leaves strange questions about why the Government are reluctant to talk to the Commons about their financial measures for various industries. Despite this, Daisy Cooper, our DCMS spokesperson, used this opportunity to highlight the lack of clarity for festivals. Festivals reach millions of Britons and tourists every year but will struggle enormously this time around. As the British Arts Festival Association have argued, the £120 million put aside for a “Festival for Britain” in 2022 should be reallocated to all the festivals of Britain that need the help this year.
UK festivals reach almost 5 million people a year. It’s not clear if they‘ll benefit from Govt’s rescue package; if not the £120m for govt’s 2022 Festival of Britain should be given to ALL the British festivals that need support now @UK_Music #festivals #LetTheMusicPlay 👇 pic.twitter.com/atA0Hd4rtI— Daisy Cooper MP 🔶 (@libdemdaisy) July 7, 2020
Tuesday finished with the first round of Estimates Day debates this week, where the Departments for Education, HMRC, and BEIS were under the spotlight. These debates give MPs the opportunity to discuss the estimated annual funding for each department and voice their concerns over targeted spending strategies. Tim and Wera passionately spoke to the situation in education spending, calling for the School Fruit and Veg Scheme to be reinstated before nutrition suffers more, along with free school meals programs.
Following Wera, @timfarron gave a fantastic speech on our current situation in Education.— Lib Dem Whips 🔶 (@LibDemWhips) July 7, 2020
In 4 mins he covered:
- Hard work of teachers and heads
- Increasing funding to hire TAs
- Free school meals
- Closing the education gap
- Special education during the crisis
- Ofsted pic.twitter.com/qcoodpVb9V
Increasing funding for schools was also raised, so that more TAs can be hired to balance the workload for teachers during the challenging months ahead.
Today in Parliament, @Wera_Hobhouse calls for the School Fruit & Veg Scheme to be reinstated before children’s nutrition suffers even more. 50 million pieces of fruit & veg missed out on in June alone. #SFVS pic.twitter.com/K2ToaW0EF7— Hannah Cameron McKenna (@hannahrcameron) July 7, 2020
Wednesday 8th July
The big day we had all been waiting for arrived: the announcement from the Chancellor on the recovery response. Even Dominic Cummings’s super forecasters did not see it coming that Rishi Sunak would cover the nation’s tab for our first meals since lockdown. No jokes about ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ please.
Meal discounts aside, there were some welcome interventions made by the Treasury. The job retention scheme offers some hope to staff who have been furloughed, the temporary VAT cut is good news for many tourism sectors, and a 6 month training scheme for 16 – 24 year olds is hopefully the first of a bundle of measures to protect young people who will bear the brunt of this crisis.
But, as Ed Davey outlined in his exhange with the Chancellor, the measures have not even come close to the true demands of the crisis and the climate emergency has not even registered with this Government’s response. The Chancellor’s lack of vision for a green recovery is worrying and this crisis is the time to rebuild our society in-tune with the ecological and technological demands of the future. This is the moment to be radical, but the Government have decided to pursue to poorest financial response in the G7.
“Why isn’t the Chancellor being as radical as European countries like Germany and France with a massive green fiscal stimulus for the technologies and industries of the future?” - @EdwardJDavey #SummerStatement pic.twitter.com/llqabajnDP— Liberal Democrats (@LibDems) July 8, 2020
The self-employed have once again been left in the cold, leaving the Lib Dems to fight on their behalf in Parliament. Others, such as freelancers, have also fallen through the cracks of Government support, leading Jamie Stone to take the initiative of starting an APPG for everyone in our society who has been excluded. The APPG stormed its way through Westminster circles by gaining cross-party support from over 200 MPs with the list still growing. We’ll be looking forward to seeing where the new group will go with this burst of momentum and energy to support vulnerable people.
Fantastic turnout of over 140 MPs to the first ever meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on #ExcludedUK - well done to @Jamie4North for organising!— Tim Farron (@timfarron) July 7, 2020
Millions of people have fallen through the cracks - we will fight for them to get the support they both need and deserve. pic.twitter.com/Qpxgm4lokv
Wednesday saw host to a relevant Adjournment Debate for some of our London MPs, such as Sarah Olney and Munira Wilson. Ruth Cadbury’s debate on under 18s travel in the capital focused on the decision to remove funding for free travel for this age group. Both Sarah and Munira shared their neighbouring MPs’ concerns about not only the backward effect this will have on reducing car emissions, but the effects on the poorest constituents who travel for their education.
Thursday 9th July
After the week’s main business concluded on Wednesday, Thursday’s business was relatively lite. Wendy Chamberlain spoke in the second day of estimates which included scrutinising the unnecessary merger between the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Department for International Development. Given the current crisis, this merger is incredibly misguided and the Lib Dems will continue to ask the right questions and ensure British overseas aide commitments are kept.
At a time when DFID faces a deeply misguided merger, ensuring scrutiny of our aid spending has never been more important. We need to make sure the Government is using the 0.7% for its primary purpose: poverty reduction. #saveDFID pic.twitter.com/yyQxLJjNuz
Earlier that day, Nadine Dorries, Minister for Mental Health, Suicide Prevention, and Patient Safety, came before the House to deliver a statement on the Cumberlege Review for the families and victims of sodium valproate, vaginal mesh and Primodos. There have been repeated calls for a public inquiry and answers as to why so many women and children were allowed to be harmed and their concerns dismissed. This is a personal issue for Christine and Ed, who both welcomed the review and made it clear that this is just the beginning of the end. Criminal charges must come next.
The week started and ended with strong, positive steps for women’s issues.
Next week, Parliament will discuss the Intelligence and Security Committee and the long-delayed Russian Report. We will also be moving through all stages of the Stamp Duty Land Tax (Temporary Relief) Bill as part of the Chancellor’s new measures.