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Liberal Democrats

The Weekly Whip

This week in the Commons we mainly focused on Statutory Instruments (S.I.s). These are a vital part of our legal system and impact all of our daily lives. To find out more, keep reading.

By William Dyer, May 07, 2020 12:05

Palace of Westminster.

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: @LibWhips 

Weekly Whip w/c 27th April

Monday 4th May

The House of Commons started sitting at 2:30pm as it does every Monday. Historically, this is so MPs have time to start their commute and reach Parliament before the beginning of the sitting (spare a thought for Alistair Carmichael in Orkney and Shetland).

We started with Questions to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, then moved onto Cabinet Office questions, where Layla Moran asked why the government is still pursuing Brexit talks and going after a hard Brexit when our economy is suffering.

Ministerial questions were followed by a ministerial statement from the Department of Work and Pensions. Wera Hobhouse led the Lib Dem response asking the government what they are doing to support the hospitality, arts and tourism sectors. Wera also asked the minister if she thought that “just under £5,000 a year for the over-25s is enough to live a dignified life?” The Conservative Minister said that she thought it was.

At just after 5pm, the Commons ended the scrutiny section of the day and moved to the substantive (motions and legalisation) section. This is where S.I.s come in. S.I.s are secondary pieces of legislation, allowing Minsters to edit regulations quickly, with an S.I  only needs a single vote in the House of Commons and the House of Lords needed to pass them. S.I.s draw their power from the Act of Parliament that they are linked to. If that Act of Parliament changes, then the S.I.s either become irrelevant or are rewritten as part of the bill writing process.

The first two S.I.s of the day are implementing implemented the COVID 19 lockdown. Hang on, you may well shout, isn’t the lockdown law already. Technically yes, however, the regulations brought in to legalise the lockdown where brought in under Section 45C of the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984 not the Coronavirus 2020 Act. This S.I. tied the current restrictions to the Coronavirus Act 2020. also gave the opportunity for the government to add in clarifications of what is and isn’t allowed in lockdown.

Tim Farron leads the Lib Dem response to this. He asked about the support that the government is giving to the tourism sector, given the restrictions the government is putting on the sector in these S.I.s.

The final S.I.s of the day was a very uncontroversial S.I. on continuing automatic enrolment on pensions for maritime workers. So uncontroversial was the junior legislation, that it was wrapped up in 15 minutes.

Tuesday 5th May

Tuesday started off with Education questions. Jamie was due to quiz the government on whether schools were able to make sure that students have the right IT equipment to be able to do their work. However, as with similar situations in a normal Commons setting, the session ended before Jamie could ask his question.

Next up came Department of Health and Social Care questions. Ed Davey questioned the government on what recent assessment he has made of the adequacy of personal protective equipment for the social care workforce.

Then the house moved onto an Urgent Question for the Health Secretary. A small win for parliamentary scrutiny, as outlined in last week’s Weekly Whip.

Moving onto the substantive business of the day. The Commons returned to S.I.s, with the first on the Manchester Fire and Recuse Service. The second and final S.I. of the day shows the very real effect that S.I.s can have on all of our lives. The “The Employment Allowance (Increase of Maximum Amount) Regulations 2020” sounds dull. However, it raises the Employment Allowance that small businesses can claim from £3,000 to £4,000. This will have a big impact on small business and provide extra relief during this difficult time.

Wednesday 6th May

We started the day with Women’s and Equities questions. Layla Moran asked the Government if they will convene a cross-party taskforce to oversee the BAME Ccovid-19 review announced on 17 April 2020 by NHS England and monitor the implementation of actions arising from that review.

This was followed by Prime Minister’s Questions, Boris Johnson’s first PMQ since the Easter recess and his first against Keir Stammer as Leader of the Labour Party.

Then we moved on to another Urgent Question on what workplaces need to do to keep their workforce safe during COVID 19. Sarah Olney leads the response for the Lib Dems. Sarah asked the minister about the liability that a business may face if one of their employees became ill.

This was followed by a Ministerial statement from the Department for International Development, with the government announcing what they are doing on shoring up supply lines for aid projects.

Then moving onto the substantive business of that day. We had the usual weekly update on the business of the House for next week. More on that at the end of this blog post.

Following the business statement, the Commons went to the only S.I. the Commons is looking at on Wednesday. Today the only S.I. is on the census now due to take place on March 31st 2021. The S.I. makes certain changes to the census questions.

Wendy was leading on this S.I. for the Lib Dems. Wendy spoke about Emily Wilde Davidson and her efforts to ensure that a woman was recorded as having been in Parliament in the 1911 census. She spoke about the need for language that properly represents the full gender identity and sexual diversity of the UK. Wendy also spoke about the disparity between public service delivery is calculated by the census, whereas, parliamentary boundaries are calculated by the voters.

Next week in the Commons, we have;

  • On Monday, a debate on the government lifting of the lockdown process (to be announced on Sunday).
  • On Tuesday, S.I.s and motions on releasing of offenders on licences, abortion in Northern Ireland and the renewal of the hybrid parliament proceedings.
  • On Wednesday, the remaining stages of the Agriculture Bill.

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