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 July
Monday 20th July
The final week of Parliament before the summer recess kicked off with the Foreign Secretary coming to the House to give a Ministerial Statement on China. After the imposition of a new security law in Hong Kong, the U-turn decision to ban Huawei from 5G infrastructure, and the serious concerns of human rights abuses in Xinjang, the China-UK relationship is under strain to put it lightly.
In addition to welcoming the Statement from the Government, Alistair Carmichael pressed his concerns to Dominic Raab, drawing attention to the sobering drone footage of prisoners being tied-up and blindfolded before boarding a train, and the recent interception of a shipment of human hair. Though we must be cautious in the usage of the word, Alistair noted, these are the early stages of genocide and the recent developments are extremely disconcerting. The world is watching.
The Foreign Secretary must take seriously our options for further sanctions against the Chinese regime. The violations of human rights against the Uyghurs cannot be ignored any longer. We can start by acknowledging them for what they are: genocide. @AppgXinjiang pic.twitter.com/XMhxYNkdHK— Alistair Carmichael (@amcarmichaelMP) July 20, 2020
Monday’s main business was the Trade Bill which makes provision on the implementations of international trade agreements now that the UK is leaving the EU. The sad poetry was laid bare for all to see, as the Bill came through during a week where the Government is said to be close to abandoning trade deals with both the EU and the US. The severe mismanagement of the future of our country is so difficult to ignore that even Tory backbenchers are questioning the leadership. A number of Tory rebels put amendments down to back Parliamentary scrutiny, but it was not enough to stop the Government’s power grab.
Sarah Olney, as International Trade Spokesperson, gave a damning speech in the Chamber, outlining the various ways in which this Government is undermining our democracy and subverting Parliamentary authority at any opportunity.
“It is an assault on our very idea of what a Parliament is for to determine that these decisions are best made behind closed doors, without consultation or discussion."
The Lib Dems, led by Sarah, walked through the aye lobby on a number of occasions on Monday night to defend Parliament’s right to scrutinise any future trade agreement, safeguard high standards of produce, and ensure that the NHS is off the table in all discussions. However, the way the Tories are performing, there will not be any trade deals to scrutinise anyway.
As of tonight’s votes, parliament will have no say over future UK trade deals. MPs now have less scrutiny over trade deals than when we were part of the EU. #TakeBackWhaaaaat— Daisy Cooper MP 🔶 (@libdemdaisy) July 20, 2020
Tuesday 21st July
Daisy Cooper, our Spokesperson for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport, was granted an Urgent Question on the future of the BBC. From August 1st, the BBC will only fund free licenses to the over 75s that receive pension credit. Two-fifths of those entitled, nearly 1.2 million people, are not receiving it because many do not know how to claim and struggle to apply.
Focusing on changes to license fee exemptions, programming, and job losses, Daisy made our position clear that the BBC license fee exists to give the BBC protection from political interference and the Government should have never put the long-standing institution in this position. The BBC is not a de-facto arm of the DWP and should not be making decisions on welfare, that is the role of government.
“The BBC license fee exists to give the BBC protection from political interference. It shouldn’t be making decisions on welfare. That is the role of the government.” - @libdemdaisy ⬇️⬇️ pic.twitter.com/imZsJ9356U— Liberal Democrats (@LibDems) July 21, 2020
An active day in the Chamber for Daisy, she then took the lead on the main business of the day: The Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Bill, where Liberal Democrats had some concerns. The UK has suffered a number of tragic terrorist attacks in recent weeks and months. The first duty of government is to protect people from this kind of violence, and Lib Dems will always work to ensure that our security services have the tools and resources they need to do their jobs.
However, Daisy highlighted that the Bill would massively expand the Home Secretary’s power to impose Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures with weakened standards of proof and no regard for civil liberties. The changes do not walk the crucial balance between our national security and cherished freedoms which our party will always champion.
Wednesday 22nd July
The last day of term opened with the Lib Dems receiving yet another commitment from the Prime Minister during PMQs. Chair of the APPG on Coronavirus, Layla Moran received assurances from the PM after pressing him on reviewing the upcoming recommendations from the cross-party Group’s findings the handling of the pandemic. Learning the lessons from the previous months will be vital in preventing more lives being lost and the dangers of a second wave.
Important concession from PM in response to my question at #PMQs. He's committed to considering conclusions of the cross-party rapid inquiry I'm chairing into the handling of pandemic. It's vital lessons are learned before a potential second wave this winter. pic.twitter.com/MqlyMYsB0j— Layla Moran 🔶🟡 (@LaylaMoran) July 22, 2020
Before winding down for summer, the Speaker granted a UQ on the much-anticipated Russia Report which was released on Tuesday morning. It revealed shocking negligence on the part of the British Government in preventing foreign interference with our democratic process as far back as 2014. While questions remain about our national security and 21st Century technology, Alistair Carmichael, in solidarity with Julian Lewis, the new Chair of the Intelligence and Security Committee, cornered the Minister on protecting the ISC from another kind of interference. This time, we are worried about the antics of certain party-political special advisors who seem to be developing a consistency in undermining the rule of law, national security, and Parliamentary sovereignty. We will have not forgotten this come September 1st.
The House will not be sitting until September 1st, so this will be the last Weekly Whip until then. Our MPs will take the time off to return home to their constituencies and focus on local issues, but we will be ready and raring to go come the return of Parliament.