The Weekly Whip

November 21, 2020 11:00 AM
By Alex McBeath
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 16th November

Monday 16th November

To start off the week, the Commons had a quiet day of business.

The main legislation that was considered was the Pension Schemes Bill, a relatively uncontroversial piece of legislation which makes several changes to pension law. Amongst other things, it allows savers to take advantage of market highs but avoid market lows, the Pensions Regulator will gain new powers such as the ability to levy larger fines on those that break the rules, and the Pension Protection Fund will be strengthened.

Liberal Democrats generally support the Bill, but Wendy Chamberlain MP tabled a few amendments which sought to ensure that open and active schemes, which are receiving regular contributions, and closed schemes are treated differently in accordance with their differing liquidity profile. Unfortunately, our amendment was voted down 356 - 257, despite support from Labour, Plaid Cymru, SNP, SDLP, Alliance, and Greens.

Prior to this, Jacob Rees-Mogg faced a challenging UQ on the participation of MPs in the Commons Chamber and the possible extension of hybrid proceedings. Despite pleas from across the House, the Leader of the House dug-in on preventing MPs to participate in substantive debates from home. There are numerous MPs up and down the country that are vulnerable or have to shield for health reasons, but they are being shut-out from being able to speak on behalf of their constituents.

This came back to bite JRM later in the week. We haven't seen the last of this fight.

Tuesday 17th November

Earlier in the year, the Government made the correct decision to U-turn on its original 5G commitments and exclude Huawei from our national infrastructure developments. The Liberal Democrats believe that not only are there legitimate national security implications that must be considered, but that Huawei's human rights record in China is unacceptable.

Our own Wera Hobhouse, MP for Bath, was able to secure an Adjournment debate for Tuesday evening. Adjournment debates happen each day that Parliament sits and are opportunities for any MP to raise an issue of their choice, whether it be an international, national, or a local issue for their constituents. Wera spoke about Cleveland Bridge in her constituency.

Wednesday 18th November

The speed of the week picked up on Wednesday, as two UQs got accepted. Christine Jardine covered a UQ on the implementation of the Northern Ireland protocol as we edge closer to the end of the transition period.

The Good Friday Agreement must be respected for so many reasons, and Christine raised the prospect of Joe Biden's approach to a potential UK-USA trade deal if we did not respect this.

For the rest of the day, the Government set aside time for MPs to freely debate Covid-19, raising various issues with Ministers and making speeches on behalf of their constituents. Sarah Olney took the opportunity to pay tribute to local business in Richmond Park.

Thursday 19th November

Usually a quiet day in the Chamber, this Thursday was packed with activity. Lib Dems were there throughout.

Firstly, Munira spoke at a UQ which went to the heart of the many frustrations that MPs currently feel at the present time: Departmental correspondence. As the representatives of citizens, MPs write to Ministers with questions and critical casework, but have been hugely let down by the Government by their poor performances. In some cases, MPs have been waiting since Spring for a response.

Second on the agenda was Business Questions, where Wera goes up against Rees-Mogg on a weekly basis. This week she pushed him to commit to a debate on ensuring workplace disability rights post-Covid.

Third, the Prime Minister made a statement on the Integrated Review, a review on the work of Defence, Security Foreign Affairs, and International Development.

The PM announced huge increases to Defence spending, but Ed Davey challenged him on the need to cooperate with our European partners, our allies, on these matters. Information and data sharing across the channel is vital for our national security.

Fourth, Wera and Munira reacted to a statement from the Minister for Sport, Tourism, and Heritage, where he announced winter spending for the struggling sports sector.

Finally, Jamie Stone participated in a Select Committee Statement, where Jacob Rees-Mogg was once again reminded that all MPs deserve to be able to participate in substantive proceedings, even if they are shielding or vulnerable. Jamie is a carer for his wife.

Next week, the Chancellor will come to the House to give his anticipated Spending Review.