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The Weekly Whip

October 19, 2020 5:00 PM
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 12th October

Monday 12th October

Monday was a key day for British Farming, but the House started off with a Prime Ministerial Statement from Boris Johnson regarding the new tier system for Covid-restrictions. Ed Davey and Munira Wilson led the charge for the Lib Dems, with Ed stressing that time is of the essence; the British people have made painful sacrifices and the government cannot squander the opportunity to get solid testing systems in place. Munira raised another glitch in the trace system which attributes positive cases for students to their home addresses, rather than university addresses, skewing critical data.

The Agriculture Bill, which defines our farming and food standards practice after 31st December 2020, returned from the House of Lords with various amendments to uphold our world class environmental and animal welfare standards. However, the government opposed adding the crucial protections that could have been inserted in the Bill. With cross-party support, Liberal Democrats, with Tim Farron leading in the Chamber, fought to protect these amendments and our British Farmers. However, despite a handful of Tory rebels, the government were successful in removing the protections from the Bill.

Tuesday 13th October

Following the announcement of the tier system and new restrictions, the Treasury team were dragged to the despatch box to answer an urgent question on what economic support is available for individuals and businesses who are forced to close. For many areas in the North of England, the closure of local economies, with limited financial packages, will leave a scar for generations. To be frank, people are worried about their economic security, which is no longer in their own hands due to the new local restrictions. If the government is going to make difficult decisions relating to public health and safety, which directly affects income, it had a fundamental responsibility to protect citizens from the resulting economic fallout.

After the UQ, the House debated the various new restrictions, along with the statutory instrument that enforces a 10pm curfew for pubs and restaurants. Daisy Cooper has been leading on this issue and called for an end to the curfew because, according to SAGE, it has no scientific backing. It sends a national wave of pub-goers onto the streets and public transport at the same time. This is bad policy and Liberal Democrats voted against it.

Wednesday 14th October

Wednesday was Opposition Day and Labour chose to focus on Covid-19 economic support packages and local track and trace. However, before that business, it was PMQs where our Chief Whip, Wendy Chamberlain, had a question for the Prime Minister about track and trace for border communities.

For the first Opposition Day debate, Christine Jardine led for the Lib Dems, demanding that if more restrictions are being implemented, direct support needs to go to these communities and the 3 million who are still excluded from government support. In her constituency of Edinburgh West, like many others across the UK, there is palpable stress and uncertainty on the ground. The government needs to give financial reassurance now.

In the second Opposition Day debate, it was Munira Wilson who represented the Party on the benches, highlighting the success of track and trace when it is in the hands of local authorities, rather than it being a sluggish, lethargic, and over-centralised operation. Halfway through the debate, it was announced that the government is paying the operation's consultants £100,000s each for a broken system. As Munira outlined, this is such an insult to frontline workers and key staff.

Thursday 15th October

Usually, the Parliamentary week draws to a quiet close on Thursday's, with MPs heading back to their constituencies. However, the Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Bill, which allows a whole range of government agencies to authorise crimes including murder and torture, went through Committee and Remaining Stages. The 'spy powers bill' is not fit for use and Alistair Carmichael tabled various amendments to mitigate the gross authority that the government is handing to itself. Liberal Democrats voted against Third Reading of this Bill which is unfit for purpose.

Next week, the Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill will be debated on Monday, with various Lords Amendments to be considered. Following this, there will be another Opposition Day and general debates for Black History Month and Covid-19.