The Weekly Whip

May 22, 2020 4:00 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.

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Weekly Whip w/c 18th April

Monday 18th May

Monday started with Ministerial Questions to the Treasury and the Department for Transport. Where Munira Wilson questioned the government on what they are doing to protect the aviation industry and prevent the loss of jobs in that sector.

Then followed a Ministerial Statement from the Department for Health and Social Care, with an update on the response to Covid 19. Daisy Cooper asked the government to bring forward primary legislation to govern the collection and any potential misuse of data. This is particularly important as the government is pushing forward with a centralised approach to the NHS tracing app. Sarah Olney also asked about the training that the tens of thousands of COVID tracers the Department of Health and Social Care.

The house then went to the substantive business of the day. Namely the second reading of the Immigration and Social Security Coordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill. This bill if passed in its current form would end free movement to work. That with other measures in the bill would show the biggest fundamental change to our immigration system in over 50 years.

The second reading is the point where MPs vote on the general principle of a bill not the line by line details of the bill. MPs can, however, amend a bill at second reading via a reasoned amendment. This gives MPs the chance to highlight their dissatisfaction with the bill. Christine Jardine with other Lib Dem MPs put a reasoned amendment on this Bill forward.

Tuesday 19th May

We started off the day with Ministerial Questions to the Department for Food and Rural Affairs. Then more onto questions to the MPs that are spokespeople responsible for public bodies that heavily interact with parliament. Namely the Church Commissioners, the House of Commons Commission, the Parliamentary Works Sponsor Body, the Public Accounts Commission and the Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission.

Ministerial Questions were followed by two Urgent Questions. The first was to the Health Secretary on COVID 19 outbreaks in care homes. Munira Wilson leads on this for the Lib Dems.

Alistair Carmicheal also questioned the government on what it was doing to protect the Mental Health of Care Workers.

Update: After both Munira and Alistair's interventions,the government is looking at the Lib Dem plans for 24-hour mental health support for NHS and care workers.

The second urgent question of the day was on the completion of the latest round of talks with the EU. The Lib Dems have asked the government to extend the talks with the EU.

The substantive business of the day consisted of two S.I.s on the use of Human Tissue in organ donation and the second on being able to offer more support to victims in the justice system in Scotland.

The final motion of the day was a Ways and Means motion on the Finance Bill, the bill that brings the annual budget into legal force. A Ways and Means motion is a quick way of amending a bill whilst it is on its journey through Parliament. This Ways and Means enables the Government to amend the current Finance Bill in order to implement reforms to the existing off-payroll working rules.

Wednesday 20th May

We started off the day with Ministerial Questions to the Scotland Office and the Prime Minister. However, as these were not the most exciting bits of the day (sorry Boris), we will skip over them this week.

The next item of business was an Urgent Question from Alistair Carmicheal on the government's plan to reopen to a fully physical parliament after the Whitsun recess.

This Urgent Question was followed by the usual business of the house motion but here is where it gets interesting. The business of the house motion did not contain any motion to continue hybrid proceedings. A joint amendment to add this, was put forward by the Lib Dems and Labour. Without this amendment, it would have meant that all MPs would be travelling to Westminster and, potentially becoming super-spreaders of the virus.

After that, there was a ministerial statement on the Northern Ireland Protocol published by the government earlier that day. Wendy Chamberlain led the response on this for the Lib Dems.

This was followed by the 2nd reading of the Trade Bill, which is the bill that authorises and sets the framework for setting trade deals with other countries. Like the Immigration Bill the Lib Dems put in a reasoned amendment. Saying that Parliament did not get a say in the mandate of any trade talks nor the power of ratifying any of those new trade deals.

The final item of business of the day was a motion on the liaison committee. This Select Committee is the committee of the chairs of all of the other select committees. The Conservatives have been trying to force one of their MPs in as the Chair of this powerful committee. A joint Lib Dem/Labour amendment looked to amend the motion to say that the Chair should be elected from the members of the committee.

This may appear to be a small point but the Chair of the Liaison Committee directly scrutinises the work of the Prime Minister. It is a powerful position and should not be given away lightly.

That ended the proceeding in the House of Commons for the week. For the next two weeks MPs will be hard at work in their constituencies over the Whitsun recess. So, Parliament and the Weekly Whip will return in June.