The Weekly Whip

July 20, 2020 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.

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Weekly Whip w/c 13th July

Monday 13th July

After the Chancellor's statement last week announcing an update to the fiscal response to Coronavirus, Monday saw the House consider all stages of the Stamp Duty Land Tax (Temporary Relief) Bill, legislation that removes the tax on buying a home under the threshold of £500,000. During the single day of proceedings, Sarah Olney, Tim Farron, and Wera Hobhouse all raised the Liberal Democrat concerns that this measure, one that has become somewhat of a flagship policy, does nothing to ease the worries of struggling people across the United Kingdom.

Our MPs did not object to the Government's Bill, as it is a measure that will give small assistance to the housing market, but as Conservative MPs patted each other on the back throughout the day, it became clear that this Government is tone deaf to the hardships and realities on the ground. As Tim and Sarah argued in the Chamber: people aren't worried about buying a new home, they're worried about feeding their kids. It is renters and self-employed people that need the help now, where is it?

Throughout this crisis, the inequalities of our society have been laid bare. The poor will suffer, yet the wealthy will gain. Liberal Democrats fear that second home ownership will rise due to this policy, and Tim held back no punches in his criticisms.

As the debate wrapped up, Wera headed into the Chamber to speak at the next order of business. The Intelligence and Security Committee has been waiting to convene since the new year and Wera highlighted concerns from across the House that the extensive delay is unacceptable. Not only because of the much-anticipated report into alleged Russian interference, but because of how Downing St. has tried to install a loyalist as the Chair when, in fact, it is for the Committee to decide. Chris Grayling failed to secure the Chairmanship thanks to Julian Lewis who went behind the PM's back to become Chair after concerns of the body's impartiality being undermined. He has since lost the Whip for his actions.

Tuesday 14th July

A few months ago, the Government decided to accept Huawei as part of the plans to roll out 5G infrastructure across the country and MPs from all stripes denounced the decision. Allowing an unfriendly state with a harrowingly consistent record of human rights abuses to take part in our crucial infrastructure for the 21st Century is the wrong path. Thankfully, this Tuesday, the Government made the U-turn and Daisy Cooper welcomed the decision, adding that we must invest in the Open Radio Access Network and open the market to smaller entrants.

Before the day's business proceedings, Munira Wilson stood up in the Chamber to give a Point of Order about the continued state of poor correspondence between MPs and Ministers. With recess fast approaching, and concerns of a second wave growing, MPs will no longer have Parliamentary Questions to scrutinise the Government and she asked what steps could be taken. Unfortunately, the Speaker was unable to give MPs reassurance, but Munira made sure the Ministers on the frontbench were listening.

The day's business concerned the Parliamentary Constituencies Bill which sets out the number of constituencies and the rules governing the boundaries. Wendy Chamberlain, as our constitutional reform spokesperson, tabled amendments to the Bill that would change the definition of "electorate" to include everyone in the constituency, not just those on the electoral roll. 9 million people, nearly 20% of eligible voters, including many in BAME communities, will be disproportionately affected as Wendy's amendment was not passed.

Christine Jardine was able to present a bill earlier in the day that would make an 'X' gender option available for non-binary passport holders.

Our amendment would change the definition of 'electorate' to include all potential electors, both those who are on an electoral roll and those who are not.

We are about to carry out a boundary review that would disproportionately affect BAME individuals.@wendychambLD https://t.co/qlEvPIPSXG pic.twitter.com/8sbinODLDn

July 14, 2020

Wednesday 15th July

The excitement of the week always peaks at noon on Wednesday, as the Prime Minister comes before the House to be grilled. This week, as acting-Leader, Sir Ed Davey headlined the day's event with the stand-alone best question of the day, managing to better Keir Starmer's multiple opportunities to pressure the PM. Cornering him on his position following the Iraq War inquiry, Ed made the PM commit to a full independent inquiry into the Government's response to the Coronavirus pandemic. As we head into the next stages of the Pandemic, Ed pushed the need to learn lessons and prevent the same mistakes from the first wave. If we do not reflect and learn, more lives will be at risk.

After PMQs, the Scottish National Party had their opportunity to choose the debate in the Chamber for an opposition day. Despite their choice of a motion on the effects of Covid-19 on the future of the EU/UK relationship, it quickly became obvious that the nationalists were interested in pursuing a damaging agenda of pushing for independence. Their hypocrisy was obvious for all to see and Christine Jardine, representing Edinburgh West, made the point that the nationalists claim tearing Scotland out of the EU will be bad for its economy, but then keep a straight face when they say tearing Scotland out of the UK will be good for its economy.

Backing her up, Wendy Chamberlain, representing North East Fife, reminded the House of our internationalist values and that independence will do nothing but bring difficulties for the people of Scotland. Although we supported the motion and voiced our concerns on the future of our relationship with the EU, the Scottish nationalists seemed to forget what their own debate was about.


Thursday 16th July

A quiet day with regards to Parliamentary activity, the day's main business was uncontroversial besides a sudden and rare Ministerial Statement on a Thursday afternoon. Matt Hancock came to update the House on the local restrictions in Leicester stating that some measures will remain in force, along with some testing kits that are not up to the required standard. The use of these test kits will be paused.

Munira Wilson took the opportunity to press the Minister on lesson learning, emphasising the commitment made by the Prime Minister previously.

Next week, the House will only be sitting until Wednesday ahead of the summer recess. However, we still have to debate the Trade Bill and the Counter-Terrorism Bill before we adjourn.

I would be remiss if I did not wish a quick and quiet happy birthday to our Chief Whip, Alistair Carmichael, who celebrated on Wednesday. Happy Birthday Alistair!