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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: @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 world…

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.

At the beginning of the pandemic, the Government promised local councils they would do whatever it takes to support them.

But instead of giving them the funding they need, they are now asking councils to increase council tax on struggling families.

They must think again.

- Tim Farron (@timfarron) January 26, 2021

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.

The govt must outlaw the appalling practice of #FireAndRehire & send a clear message to UK workers - thousands of whom are living under immense stress - that they are heard and they are valued.

- Sarah Olney (@sarahjolney1) January 26, 2021

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.

Family bereavement is hard enough without the barriers put up by the pandemic. It is right we take measured steps to reduce the spread of the virus through international travel but people grieving loved ones must get additional support if they have to quarantine away from home.

- Alistair Carmichael MP (@amcarmichaelMP) January 27, 2021

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 ideas are there on how to re-open schools safely, so why is there still no plan?" 👇

- Daisy Cooper MP 🔶 (@libdemdaisy) January 26, 2021

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.

The Government's Environment Bill contains no plastic pollution reduction targets, and they have broken their own manifesto pledge on placing a ban on exporting plastic waste to developing countries.

The Government needs to get serious about tackling plastic pollution.

- Tim Farron (@timfarron) January 27, 2021

One of the sad features of the Government's Environment Bill is the absence of transparency and accountability.

No targets set within this bill will be legally binding until 2037. By then the climate crisis will be massively worse.

Acting now is imperative.

- Wera Hobhouse MP 🔶 (@Wera_Hobhouse) January 27, 2021

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:

PM @BorisJohnson was asked at #PMQs by @cajardineMP about US tariffs on #ScotchWhisky - and if he would ensure the industry was supported in #Budget2021.

Here is what he said👇

Distillers need Chancellor @RishiSunak to continue "habitual support" and cut spirits duty.

- Scotch Whisky Association (@ScotchWhiskySWA) January 27, 2021

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.

The detention of Alexei Navalny, protestors and journalists in Russia is deplorable. UK must show leadership and implement fresh sanctions on individuals connected to these human rights abuses.

Navalny's call for Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich to be included must be explored.👇

- Layla Moran 🔶 (@LaylaMoran) January 27, 2021

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 UK has suffered terrible COVID death rates.

Despite promising an inquiry last year, today Boris Johnson once again refused to commit to a timeline for an independent inquiry.

The British people - especially the families of those who have been lost - deserve answers.

- Ed Davey MP 🔶🇪🇺 (@EdwardJDavey) January 27, 2021

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.

I spoke a little while ago on the Covert Human Intelligence Sources Bill. It is no doubt in the Government's interest to treat the issues raised by the CHIS bill as being simply about practical matters - getting out of the way of law enforcement for all our safety. 1/

- Alistair Carmichael MP (@amcarmichaelMP) January 27, 2021

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.

With new travel restrictions, golf clubs and businesses which rely on tourism are facing a bleak picture this Summer. With restrictions being lifted as the population is vaccinated, the Government must support the golf industry which relies on international tourism.

- Wendy Chamberlain MP (@wendychambLD) January 28, 2021

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:

When #COVID restrictions are finally lifted, the government will need to provide extra encouragement for travellers to get back onto public transport🧳

That's why I asked @transportgovuk to prioritise making railway stations safe and accessible for all🚄

- Sarah Olney (@sarahjolney1) January 29, 2021

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

Today I thanked JRM for chasing a Minister on my behalf; he said my request for more time on the Fire Safety Bill was not "unreasonable".
This is MP-speak for "I'm still waiting for an answer" and "we're feeling the pressure & figuring out what to do" 🤨#EndOurCladdingScandal

- Daisy Cooper MP 🔶 (@libdemdaisy) January 28, 2021

Creative subjects are vital for our economy and our well being.

But, by removing the grant from these subjects, Govt is crippling creative subject teaching at universities like Bath Spa.

As so often happens this Tory Govt is getting its priorities completely wrong.

- Wera Hobhouse MP 🔶 (@Wera_Hobhouse) January 28, 2021

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.

Today during the #HolocaustMemorialDay debate in Parliament I shared some of Gerda Weissmann Klein's story, who was only 18 when she was sent to a concentration camp.

It's a heart-breaking story - but we must never forget these stories, or the horrors of the Holocaust.

- Ed Davey MP 🔶🇪🇺 (@EdwardJDavey) January 28, 2021

Today I spoke in @UKParliament's #HolocaustMemorialDay Debate.

I honored my cousin Joan and her work with the Red Cross when liberating Belsen.

Yesterday, Joan's son reminded me that she died on the 27th of January - the same day as HMD day. #NeverAgain #NeverForget

- Jamie Stone MP (@Jamie4North) January 28, 2021

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

Speaker of the House of Commons Sir Lindsay Hoyle says "no more genocide, that's got to be the answer", as he condemns China's treatment of Uighur Muslims on #HolocaustMemorialDay, which recognises all victims of genocide for the first time this year.

- Sky News (@SkyNews) January 27, 2021

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.

Education, and our right to it, is a common endeavour. There is no vaccine to fix the global education emergency turned into a crisis by this pandemic. The UK must show leadership in development spending and diplomacy, not cut our aid budget. Watch 👇

- Layla Moran 🔶 (@LaylaMoran) January 28, 2021

What you may have missed

We must tackle disinformation around the vaccines to keep us all safe and recover from this terrible virus as soon as possible.

Last night @BBCNewsnight spotlighted the excellent work Councillor @RabinaKhan is doing in her community to build trust with the vaccination rollout

- Liberal Democrats (@LibDems) January 29, 2021

What next?

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