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 March
In the last week ahead of Recess; Westminster Hall debates were suspended, and select committees will now continue over video conferencing. Given the ongoing pandemic, we went early to Recess on Wednesday.
With Parliamentary pass holders being declared ‘key workers’ the business of both houses continues. However, access to the parliamentary estate has been restricted and social distancing measures put in place.
Monday 23rd March
On Monday we passed all stages of the Coronavirus Bill in one day! You can find what the Lib Dem approach to the bill was here, in a blog post from Ed Davey.
Liberal Democrats have tabled 8 amendments to the government's #CoronavirusBill, including:— Liberal Democrats (@LibDems) March 23, 2020
💷introducing a basic Citizens Income
👩💻guaranteeing incomes for the self-employed
👴🏻protecting those who rely on social care
This is an usual Bill in a number of ways.
- To start with, this Bill is long. It’s over 330 pages long. For context the EU Withdrawal Agreement Bill (now Act) was over 160 pages long.
- As mainly a health matter, this Bill would usually only apply to England and Wales. However, last Friday the House of Commons agreed to disapply Standing Orders 38J and 38O, meaning the Bill will apply to the whole of the UK and will not have to go through the EVEL (English Votes for English Laws) process.
- The Bill completes all Commons stages in one day. This is highly unusual for a Bill of this size. However, given the exceptional circumstances, MPs across the house agreed to the timetable.
In the Commons, we tabled 8 amendments to the Bill. Click on the tweet below to see the amendments in full.
Parliament today will spend 6 hours on the Coronavirus Bill. The Bill is over 300 pages long and includes sweeping powers for Government. We have tabled the following amendments. 1/8— Lib Dem Whips 🔶 (@LibWhips) March 23, 2020
The Government, with pressure from the Liberal Democrat’s and other opposition parties, backed down on a number of aspects in the Bill.
Some care providers are refusing to take patients who are being discharged from hospitals because they haven't been tested for coronavirus.— Liberal Democrats (@LibDems) March 23, 2020
Understandably, they're worried about the other vulnerable people in their care homes. We must prioritise testing patients like these. pic.twitter.com/lsiXJUtpzQ
The biggest concession was to reduce the length of time the powers apply to the Bill. The Government conceded that Parliament should be able to review the powers after 6 months.
"It's good that the government has listened to our concerns & introduced an amendment for the Commons to have a vote on the law after six months.— Liberal Democrats (@LibDems) March 23, 2020
However, that is not enough to give parliament proper scrutiny of the powers in this bill." - @EdwardJDavey on the Coronavirus Bill. pic.twitter.com/rDNe1SNRZC
The Coronavirus Bill was amended 48 times in the House of Commons, these were all Government amendments. Some of these were concessions, but a number were also technical changes (inevitable when you draft such a large Bill at such pace). The Bill passed through both Houses without any opposition amendments.
Tuesday 24th March
The biggest moment of the day, was an Urgent Question from Ed Davey demanding help for the self-employed during this crisis.
"The 5 million self-employed people across the country are in real stress & deeply worried. In many cases, they are simply running out of money."-@EdwardJDavey— Liberal Democrats (@LibDems) March 24, 2020
With so many set to be dependent on this support for a period of time, it's vital we ensure they receive enough money. pic.twitter.com/96W3ysQmf5
This urgent question, led by the Liberal Democrats, sparked calls from all political parties in the House of Commons for the government to bring forward an economic package for those that are self-employed. Ed, Wendy Chamberlin and Alistair Carmichael all gave passionate speeches on the subject.
You can show your support for the Liberal Democrats campaign on helping the self-employed through this crisis. By signing our petition to the government here: https://www.libdems.org.uk/support-self-employed
This was followed by all stages of the Contingencies Fund Bill (Ed Davey speaking for the Lib Dems). The contingency fund allows the government to dip into reserves (through amending the Contingencies Fund Act 1974) to fund unforeseen event for departments. In the statute however, this is a relatively small amount (2% of approved dept spend). This is being temporarily increased to 50% to meet the needs of this crisis. The Bill will allow the Government to draw on an extra £260 billion in extra spending.
The Contingencies Fund Bill was followed by another spending bill. Completing its final stage before moving to the Lords, The Windrush Compensation Scheme (Expenditure) Bill give authorisation for the Home Office to spend the necessary funds to compensate those caught up during the Windrush scandal. If this bill passes (it has cross party support) these funds will be paid out through the Windrush Compensation Scheme.
Wednesday 25th March
This was the final day that the House of Commons sat before the Easter recess.
Unusually PMQs was one hour today.
The speaker allowed PMQs to be extended in absence of other Covid-19 statements in the House. Both Alistair and Wendy were selected to ask a question. Alistair again showed the Lib Dems leading the fight for the self-employed by asking again what support they will be given. Wendy raised the issue of those with rheumatic autoimmune diseases being included on the shielded list of people with underlining conditions being protected and offered extra support.
See you back in Parliament after the Easter recess on Tuesday 21 April 2020. At which point the Weekly Whip will return.
 Usually under EVEL, a bill would have to get a majority of the whole house and a majority of those MP representing English and Welsh constituencies.