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 23rd November
Monday 23rd November
The Prime Minister’s announcement on Monday did not quite go to plan. After his statement to the House on Coronavirus, delivered virtually from Downing Street, the PM’s connection dropped out and the Secretary of State had to stand in his place, fielding questions from around the Chamber.
Lib Dem Leader, Ed Davey, raised with the Secretary of State the issue of care homes and reminded the House of the great tragedies earlier in the year, as the ‘protective ring’ around elderly residents failed.
The Government got it badly wrong with care homes during the first wave of coronavirus.— Ed Davey MP 🔶🇪🇺 (@EdwardJDavey) November 23, 2020
That simply cannot happen again. pic.twitter.com/CwTL11FNVv
Lib Dem Health Spokesperson, present throughout the pandemic, Munira Wilson, also listened to the PM warn that we cannot let the virus rip over Christmas, given the sacrifices we have made over the last month.
With a view to possible normality after Easter, new tier systems were also announced, as was information of vaccine progress, but Munira was sure to press the PM on specific allocations of funding to the most effective levers to control the virus, like local authority contact tracing and financially supporting those who need to self-isolate.
As ever, the PM demonstrating his phenomenal grasp of the numbers when I asked how much of the extra £7bn for Test & Trace will— Munira Wilson MP (@munirawilson) November 23, 2020
1⃣ support local authority contact tracing
2⃣ be spent on consultants & Serco's failed national system
3⃣ support those who self isolate
Not a clue 🙄 pic.twitter.com/wRs3CWIMUO
Tuesday 24th November
After over 3 years of promises from the Government, the lack of action and responsibility following the Grenfell tragedy is disturbing. MPs from all parties have consistently raised with Housing Ministers their constituents’ fears of flammable cladding in their local buildings.
Daisy Cooper, who has been leading on this specific issue, and Tim Farron, Housing Spokesperson, were present for the Urgent Question on whether leaseholders are expected to pay for the removal of dangerous cladding in their homes. Many residents simply cannot foot the bill for this.
Some leaseholders in #StAlbans are paying extortionate costs because of fire safety defects in their homes which are not their fault. @LibDemLords have re-tabled my amendment to Fire Safety Bill calling for leaseholders to be protected from costs: ask your MP to support it 👇 pic.twitter.com/hJHzH6GwNv— Daisy Cooper MP 🔶 (@libdemdaisy) November 25, 2020
3 and a half years on from the Grenfell tragedy and thousands of people are still stuck living in properties with flammable cladding, facing eye-watering costs to make their home safe.— Tim Farron (@timfarron) November 24, 2020
Government must protect leaseholders from the cost of cladding removal and end this injustice. pic.twitter.com/1qczPkWZnI
Regarding the impact of the pandemic on working life, Parliament is by no means immune.
Credit must be paid to the Speaker, the Leader of the House, and all Parliamentary staff for all the adjustments they have made to maintain Parliament as a safe and effective place to work. However, an issue of contention has been virtual participation for MPs in substantive debates in the Chamber. Thankfully, MPs who have to isolate and shield, such as our own Jamie Stone from Caithness, are able to join and interact for oral questions, statements, and urgent questions, but that accessibility has been blocked for debates for main business, such as debates on legislation.
Lib Dems have always supported the development of a hybrid Parliament during the pandemic, and were disappointed to see Jacob Rees-Mogg introduce a motion that would only allow “clinically vulnerable” MPs to participate virtually, rather than extending the scope. After a bit of procedural horseplay and filibustering between Labour and the Conservatives, the motion was eventually dropped and it seems like any chance of a fair, hybrid Parliament, has diminished. Watch this space.
Wednesday 25th November
The big event: Spending Review 2020.
All eyes were on the Chancellor as he announced, alongside OBR statistics, the state of the UK’s public finances. Before this however, the usual drama of PMQs had to play out.
With the PM still in isolation, Ed Davey looked up at the big screens in the Chamber and asked him about the carers allowance. Hundreds of millions have been handed out in failed PPE and procurement contracts, while carers go unsupported by the Government. Ed launched his Stand Up for Carers campaign the following day: Carers rights day.
"I asked the PM to support unpaid carers," says Lib Dem Ed Davey, "the ministers haven't found that money... but have found hundreds of millions for contracts handed out to Conservative Party cronies"— BBC Politics (@BBCPolitics) November 25, 2020
PM says "neediest" families are being supported#PMQs https://t.co/O5SviKiDCU pic.twitter.com/Gp56jQA9Nj
Christine Jardine, Treasury Spokesperson, was first to respond to the Chancellor’s statement from the Lib Dems.
For months, while the furlough scheme is welcome, there have been huge gaps in support for those who are not eligible, such as the self-employed. 3 million people are being left behind and face tremendous financial hardships with zero support from the government. The announcement demonstrated that the Government are continuing to stick their head in the sand on this, which means we still need to apply the pressure and be a voice for those who are suffering.
I’m outraged that the Chancellor still refuses to accept that the Conservative Govt have #excluded over 3 million people for 10 months. These people have endured so much during this #COVID crisis & now face enormous hardship- when will he stop turning his back on those in need? pic.twitter.com/coppEXBBoU— Christine Jardine (@cajardineMP) November 25, 2020
Tim Farron was next up, raising once again the impact that the pandemic has had on cancer services and treatments. The huge backlog needs to be recognised and dealt with, otherwise thousands of lives will be lost.
In the #SpendingReview today, the Chancellor missed a massive opportunity to invest in cancer services to tackle the treatment backlog and save tens of thousands of lives.— Tim Farron (@timfarron) November 25, 2020
Our cross-party campaign won't give up fighting for cancer patients #CatchUpWithCancer pic.twitter.com/HlOHEwc8Wk
Thursday 26th November
One of the many contentious aspects of the Spending Review was the announcement that the Government will no longer commit to the 0.7% of the budget for International Development spending.
Liberal Democrats believe that diminishing our soft power in an increasingly globalised world this is a poor strategic move, especially given our post-Brexit fate. Layla Moran, along with MPs from all parties, responded to Dominic Raab’s statement on this, indicating that the move is short-sighted. Concerned Members of the House will be fighting back at every opportunity.
The promise of 'Global Britain' has been hollowed out. Cutting development spending is not only callous and unnecessary but also entirely against the UK's own interests. Coronavirus is a crisis that must be tackled globally. Watch my question to @DominicRaab in the Commons 👇 pic.twitter.com/2QvqOOJ7JT— Layla Moran 🔶 (@LaylaMoran) November 26, 2020
The announcement of a new tier system for December brought Matt Hancock back the Chamber to face a series of questions from MPs, not least about the strange written statement which was published for the House earlier that morning, which Layla picked up on. See below.
Munira took the opportunity to focus on public information campaigns, especially given the poor handling of communications throughout the pandemic
"Today we have a new tier system, we have a five-day relaxation at Christmas, we have a government website that's just crashed..."— BBC Politics (@BBCPolitics) November 26, 2020
Lib Dem MP Munira Wilson calls for clarity and consistency to "ensure public trust"
Latest: https://t.co/vUrA6UMcgD pic.twitter.com/xeC3kwB15e
Next week, the Commons will be voting on the new tier system, and hopefully the Government will be announcing news on a Brexit deal.