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 18th January
Monday 18th January
Over the weekend, it emerged that more than 400,000 of fingerprint, DNA and arrest history records were accidentally wiped from police databases, because of “human error” and “defective code”. The Home Secretary was warned that the mistake could put the public at risk, but Priti Patel ducked the direct responsibility and sent Policing Minister Kit Malthouse instead.
Alistair Carmichael was on hand to question the Minister on previous reports that the Home Office was warned in July 2019 that their databases were “creaking” and were operating on unsupported, end of life hardware and software. Surely this is unacceptably carelessness with regards to public safety? The Minister acknowledged problems with Home Office technology and assured the House that projects have been undertaken to fix these issues.
The main business for Monday was opposition day, where the official Opposition choose topics and a motion for debate which are then voted on. This week, the Opposition chose:
- That this House believes that the Government should stop the planned cut in Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit in April and give certainty today to the six million families for whom it is worth an extra £1,000 a year.
- That this House believes that families need more support during school and college closures; and that those eligible should be guaranteed to receive the full value of free school meals for the duration of the school year, including during all holidays; and calls on the Secretary of State for Education to set a deadline to ensure that every learner has the resources required to learn remotely, and provide a weekly update to Parliament on implementing this.
Liberal Democrats voted to support both of these motions. The Conservatives abstained on both. Wendy Chamberlain sought to table a last-minute amendment to the motion on Universal Credit:
“…recognises that many carers and disabled people do not receive Universal Credit or Working Tax Credit and so did not see the benefit of the 2020-2021 £20 a week uplift; therefore calls on the Government to uplift legacy benefits in line with the Universal Credit uplift, backdated to April 2020; further recognises the remarkable and important job which unpaid carers are doing in very difficult circumstances; notes that many carers are facing extreme financial hardship but the current rate of Carer’s Allowance at £67.25 is the lowest benefit of its kind and not nearly enough; and calls on the Government to immediately raise Carer’s Allowance by £1,000 a year in line with the uplift in Universal Credit.'
I'll be speaking in this afternoon's debate and highlighting not only the need to maintain the Universal Credit uplift but further support for carers and those on legacy benefits.#standupforcarers https://t.co/LMxXHlgVWf— Wendy Chamberlain MP (@wendychambLD) January 18, 2021
Daisy Cooper took part in the debate on education, highlighting the contrast between Kirsty Williams, the Liberal Democrat Education Minister in Wales, and the Government’s failure in England. Wales was the first UK nation that guaranteed Free School Meals for the summer holidays and has delivered IT kits for the most disadvantaged pupils.
.@LibDems are proud of our record on #FreeSchoolMeals in England and Wales. Now we’re calling for a “no ifs no buts commitment” that every child in poverty who needs a decent meal a day gets one 🥘 #EndChildFoodPoverty pic.twitter.com/z0IsydH6ly— Daisy Cooper MP 🔶 (@libdemdaisy) January 20, 2021
Tuesday 19th January
Of the many issues surrounding the UK’s exit from the European Union, including empty shelves in Northern Ireland and fishermen up and down the country unable to sell their catch, many did not think about the impact on touring musicians. The creative industries contribute £13 million to the UK economy every hour, and it’s a huge own goal to hinder our successful musicians from touring in Europe.
Our DCMS Spokesperson, Jamie Stone, took part in an Urgent Question on the matter. Officials in the EU and UK Government’s are playing the blame game with each other. Jamie called for the end of the ducking of responsibility and for the government to work towards a practical solution. Minister’s reassured the House that the door is still open for a solution.
"I don't want to know about the blame game. I just want to get it sorted for the sake of our musicians, culture and international relations."— PoliticsJOE (@PoliticsJOE_UK) January 22, 2021
Jacob Rees-Mogg says it's the EU's fault UK musicians can't tour Europe freely, but @Jamie4North says it just needs fixing. pic.twitter.com/y5gEZU38zX
The main business for the day was the Trade Bill, where MPs considered the important amendments that the House of Lords have inserted into the Bill. Despite 9 important votes on the Bill including trading standards and protection of the NHS, which Lib Dems supported, the central topics of debate were the amendments that would improve Parliamentary scrutiny on any future trade deals and make it illegal for the UK to trade with a country that has committed genocide. Of course, even this was too much of an ask for the government to support. Layla Moran spoke to the genocide amendments.
Edmund Burke famously said "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing."— Layla Moran 🔶 (@LaylaMoran) January 19, 2021
So today @LibDems MPs will stand together with colleagues from across the Commons in sending a clear message: we won’t tolerate genocide and nor should the Government. pic.twitter.com/9FFbX7mApl
Wednesday 20th January
You probably do not need reminding, but Wednesday was Inauguration Day for the new administration in the United States. The last 4 years have been damaging for institutions, democracy, decency, and global cooperation on existential issues such as climate change. The Liberal Democrats welcome President Biden and Vice-President Harris to their new roles and hope to see an improved working relationship with one of our key allies.
Wednesday = PMQs. This week, Sir Ed Davey questioned the Prime Minister on his previous responses regarding calls for an inquiry into the government’s handling of the Coronavirus crisis.
Months ago @BorisJohnson committed to an inquiry into his Government's handling of this pandemic. Since then cases have soared, the NHS is on its knees, and 50,000 more people have died.— Ed Davey MP 🔶🇪🇺 (@EdwardJDavey) January 20, 2021
He still refuses to launch the inquiry. The British people deserve answers. #PMQs pic.twitter.com/dmI4PT0jHP
A huge area of concern, as a consequence of the pandemic, is the backlog of serious criminal justice cases that are yet to be heard. Justice Spokesperson, Wera Hobhouse, spoke to the Minister regarding Domestic Abuse Cases.
It is not good enough to simply prioritise Domestic Abuse cases.— Wera Hobhouse MP 🔶 (@Wera_Hobhouse) January 20, 2021
Domestic Abuse victims often cannot get real justice because they are lacking the funds to take an abuser to court.
Access to justice must be at the heart of any justice system. pic.twitter.com/mnOSHZluhw
Thursday 21st January
The final sitting day of the week started with Alistair Carmichael asking the Electoral Commission representative in the Commons about the May Elections and what steps are currently being taken by the Commission to make sure the Elections can go ahead safely. The MP gave assurances that the Commission is working to ensure that citizens will be able to express their democratic right and campaigners will be able to safely make their case to the electorate.
There were a few other bits of business that needed to be addressed before the weekend.
Munira and Daisy attended an Urgent Question on an update on the vaccine rollout.
I asked @MattHancock today about concerns re delaying the 2nd dose of Pfizer vaccine, following data from Israel & whether healthcare staff working with Covid+ patients should get both doses within 21 days. He's confident in decision to delay 2nd dose to 12 weeks. Listen here 👇 pic.twitter.com/LpOae1lgUp— Munira Wilson MP (@munirawilson) January 21, 2021
#StAlbans Batchwood Hall @STAVACS still only getting vaccine supply for 2 not 7 days/wk. Rumours of a 2nd big site in #StAlbans are bizarre: NHS needs to focus all its efforts on helping other areas catch up, not duplicate centres that are working well & just need more vaccine! pic.twitter.com/Tj55cqAW4T— Daisy Cooper MP 🔶 (@libdemdaisy) January 22, 2021
This was followed by Wera asking about the government’s actions to ensure that Black and Minority Ethnic communities are being reached out to regarding the vaccine after worrying statistics about the vaccine uptake in these communities so far.
Today I asked what the Govt is doing to reach out to ethnic minorities to encourage take-up of the Vaccine.— Wera Hobhouse MP 🔶 (@Wera_Hobhouse) January 21, 2021
The Leader of the House does not understand the needs of our minority groups and is tone-deaf to the disadvantages caused simply by not being from a white background. pic.twitter.com/ujTojeOwhv
Following a statement from Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson, on ‘Skills for Jobs’, Daisy Cooper reminded the Secretary that Liberal Democrats have been calling for a Skills Wallet that would give ample opportunity for mature students to adjust to the fast-changing job market.
The rapidly changing workplace makes it vital that people can acquire new skills throughout their lifetime. Today I asked the Govt to take up the idea of the @LibDems “Skills Wallet” that would give people up to £10k to access education and training throughout their lifetime 👇 pic.twitter.com/JRq6kc5GhQ— Daisy Cooper MP 🔶 (@libdemdaisy) January 21, 2021
On Monday, the Opposition will have debates and votes on the hike in council tax and employment rights. The Environment Bill continues its way through the Commons, and the awful Cover Human Intelligence Sources Bill comes back from the Lords with important amendments to look out for.