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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.

For up to date information from the Lib Dem Whips Office, follow us on Twitter: @LibDemWhips

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?

@sarahjolney1 and @timfarron are our team on the bench for Second Reading of the Stamp Duty Land Tax (Temporary Relief) Bill.

People are not in a position to consider whether or not they will move house, they are in a position where they are worried about feeding their kids.

- Lib Dem Whips 🔶 (@LibDemWhips) July 13, 2020

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.

Excessive second home ownership kills local communities.

It is an insult then to so many towns and villages in places like Cumbria that the Government are offering new tax breaks for people to buy a second home.

Second homes should not be included in the cut in stamp duty.

- Tim Farron (@timfarron) July 14, 2020

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.

The Govt must understand: If there has been interference in our democracy, the public has a right to know.

To insist that this is 'normal practice' is an insult to both opposition MPs and the public.

Watch my full speech on the reconstitution of the ISC, here:

- Wera Hobhouse MP 🔶 (@Wera_Hobhouse) July 14, 2020

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.

"Lib Dems welcome the screeching U-turn from the government on banning #Huawei from the UK's 5G network by 2027." - @libdemdaisy

The Govt must now invest in developing this kind of technology here in the UK & maintaining strong partnerships with our European allies & Five Eyes.

- Liberal Democrats (@LibDems) July 14, 2020

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.

Munira made a strong Point of Order.

Last time during recess, MPs struggled to get answers from Ministers on crucial questions raised on behalf of constituents across the country.

With critical months ahead, the standard and speed of replies must improve.@munirawilson

- Lib Dem Whips 🔶 (@LibDemWhips) July 14, 2020

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

July 14, 2020

Backed by @stonewalluk, @cajardineMP will also be introducing her Bill to make a 'X' gender option for passports for non-binary people.

- Lib Dem Whips 🔶 (@LibDemWhips) 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.

We need an independent, judge-led inquiry into the handling of coronavirus. I am pleased that at #PMQs today I got the Prime Minister to commit to holding that inquiry.

We now need to keep up the pressure to make sure he stands by his words today.

- Ed Davey MP 🔶🇪🇺 (@EdwardJDavey) July 15, 2020

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.

UK Govt should have asked for an extension, but independence is not the answer. We all need each other to build a stronger economy, create a better society & get us through the economic damage of covid-19 Watch my contribution 👇

- Christine Jardine (@cajardineMP) July 16, 2020

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.

I am a liberal, I am a federalist, I am an internationalist. I believe not in erecting borders, but dismantling them.

The politics of nationalism and grievance on both sides of the Commons are not a way in which to conduct progressive politics.

- Wendy Chamberlain MP 🔶️ (@wendychambLD) July 15, 2020

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!