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The Weekly Whip

February 2, 2021 11:00 AM
By Peter Munro
Originally published by UK Liberal Democrats

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:โ€ฏ@LibDemWhips

Weekly Whip w/c 25th January

Monday 25th January

In keeping with the theme of the unusual times we live in, no Urgent Questions or Ministerial Statements were announced on Monday morning.

Usually, there are 3-4 additions to business, based on the weekend's events, that the government need to respond to. I suppose there just isn't anything going on in the worldโ€ฆ

Although, this meant that we were able to reach the main business quicker, giving MPs more time to debate the motions before the House which were decided by the Opposition. The first debate concerned council tax:

1. That this House calls on the Prime Minister to drop the Government's plans to force local councils to increase council tax in the middle of a pandemic by providing councils with funding to meet the Government's promise to do whatever is necessary to support councils in the fight against covid-19.

Tim Farron, our Local Government spokesperson spoke on behalf of the Liberal Democrats on this. Lib Dems voted FOR the motion.

The second debate concerned employment rights:

2. That this House believes that all existing employment rights and protections must be maintained, including the 48-hour working week, rest breaks at work and inclusion of overtime pay when calculating some holiday pay entitlements, and calls on the Government to set out to Parliament by the end of January 2021 a timetable to introduce legislation to end fire and re-hire tactics.

Sarah Olney, BEIS Spokesperson, spoke during this debate. Again, Lib Dems voted FOR the motion.

In some good news, later in the week the BEIS Secretary of State, Kwasi Kwarteng, admitted that the review of employment rights following our exit from the European Union was not going to go ahead. We'll keep an eye on this space.

Tuesday 26th January

Tuesday's business, which was due to just be proceedings on the Environment Bill, saw the addition of two important Urgent Questions.

The first UQ was to Secretary of State for the Home Department, Priti Patel, on the current quarantine situation at the border. Home Affairs Spokesperson, Alistair Carmichael, was present to ask the Secretary of State about publishing the scientific evidence that they have used for any decision-making for border controls.

The second UQ was to the Secretary of State for Education, who sent Minister Nick Gibb in his place. Your author was spared from having to watch Gavin Williamson squirm at the despatch box; the camera doesn't lie when someone clearly doesn't know what they're talking about. Deputy Leader and Education Spokesperson, Daisy Cooper was on hand to challenge the Minister on why there still isn't a plan to reopen schools, despite the various ideas and suggestions from different groups.

The Environment has been a crucial Bill during this session of Parliament, and I don't need to remind readers of the urgency surrounding the climate emergency. However, for what appears to be parliamentary timetabling reasons, the Environment Bill may not come before the House again until May. Today, in what was a marathon debate, MPs considered the first group of various amendments to the Bill. DEFRA Spokesperson, Tim Farron, led for the Lib Dems over the course of the debate.

Sadly, all the amendments were voted down by the government, but Lib Dems voted in favour of reversing the loss of biodiversity in England by 2030, ensuring that the UK keeps to WHO air pollution targets, and making sure the Sec. of State prioritises waste according to the waste hierarchy.

Unfortunately, we might be waiting a while for the other amendments of the bill to be considered.

Wednesday 27th January

Wednesday was a busy day for Liberal Democrats. Christine had a PMQ about whisky tariffs to start off:

The current unrest in Russia, with the arrest of Alexei Navalny, was worthy of a UQ and required a Minister in the Foreign Office to come forward to make a statement on potential sanctions. Layla Moran, Foreign Affairs spokesperson, was on hand to follow up.

Wednesday was a solemn day for the UK, as the statistics suggested that we had reached the heart-breaking number of 100,000 deaths. The Prime Minister made a statement to the House which Ed Davey responded to.

The main business for the day was the Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Bill. This is an awful Bill which gives sweeping powers to security services regarding murder and torture. Fortunately, the House of Lords voted on a series of amendments that would make the Bill more palatable. MPs today debated and voted on these amendments which included provisions to protect juveniles from participating in criminal conduct on behalf of security services and stop individuals from committing grievous bodily harm or sexual offences.

The government voted all these amendments, among others, down. Alistair Carmichael spoke from Orkney during the consideration of these amendments.

Our own Chief Whip, Wendy Chamberlain, had her adjournment debate on golf tourism! As a constituency MP, her part of the world contains the home of golf, St. Andrews.

Thursday 28th January

The last sitting day was a quiet one with no votes, but there was a lot to be discussed. Firstly, Sarah Olney had a quick question for the Transport Minister:

Weekly Business Questions was attended by Wera Hobhouse and Daisy Cooper. Here is what they had to say to Jacob Rees-Mogg.

With no UQs or statements, the Commons straight on to the main business of the day: a debate to mark Holocaust Memorial Day and the UN International Day of Education.

Ed Davey, Jamie Stone, Christine Jardine, and Alistair Carmichael all spoke to the first debate. It was a timely debate, not just because of the nature of the day, but because of the awful milestone that was passed earlier in the week and the reports of genocide of the Uyghur Muslims in China.

Speaker of the House, Sir Lindsay Hoyle also gave a few words about this.

As a former teacher, but current Foreign Affairs/International Development Spokesperson, Layla Moran was in a prime place to speak on the last bit of business for the week.

What you may have missed

What next?

On Monday, the Commons will consider motions on the cladding crisis and border security as it relates to Covid-19 transmissions.