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The Weekly Whip

July 10, 2020 6:01 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 6th July

Monday 6th July

There are some two million victims of domestic abuse a year. More than one in ten of all offences recorded by the police are domestic abuse related. In 2017, the Conservative government committed to introduce a bill to transform the approach of the justice system and wider statutory agencies. It has now been 3 ½ years since this commitment, but the Domestic Abuse Bill finally passed through the House of Commons on Monday night with cross-party support.

Although opposition amendments did not find their way into the Bill, including ours on migrant survivors and child welfare provisions, Christine Jardine welcomed the various Government concessions that made the Bill slightly stronger. For example, after being pushed by the Lib Dems, the Government has now improved protections for abuse survivors in family courts, where perpetrators were able to continue intimidating and controlling the person they have abused.

These protections, along with various others which received cross-party support, will now be considered by the Lords and will hopefully receive Royal Assent soon. The COVID-19 pandemic, which is exacerbating and worsening domestic abuse, has exposed a desperate need for a fair, adequately funded system of protection and support, led by the women's sector and particularly by and for BAME and migrant organisations. Despite the current difficulties we are facing as a country, this is a step-forward and a win we can all be proud of.

Tuesday 7th July

It is always disappointing when MPs have to drag Secretaries of State and Ministers to the Chamber to speak on crucial and timely issues. Matt Hancock should be actively coming before the House to give frequent updates on the current Coronavirus situation, but instead our MPs must use Urgent Questions to get him to the despatch box.

Once again, our health spokesperson, Munira Wilson, stepped up and performed exceptionally at the UQ, bringing to light the work of respite care centres in her constituency of Twickenham and across the country. Such centres assist those with dementia and learning difficulties, and offer vital support to unpaid carers like family members. They are determined to open as soon as possible and Munira pressed the Secretary of State about the lack of access to free testing for staff and users. We will be watching this space closely, as he gave assurances that this is an issue the Government are looking to remedy.

Tim Farron was also able to press him on delayed cancer treatments and the urgent need to remove the growing backlog. The Secretary agreed to meet with Tim's APPG on Radiotherapy to discuss their six-point plan, another positive take from Tuesday's health UQ.

It took another UQ to bring a Minister from DCMS to the House to speak about the new arts funding package of £1.57bn. It leaves strange questions about why the Government are reluctant to talk to the Commons about their financial measures for various industries. Despite this, Daisy Cooper, our DCMS spokesperson, used this opportunity to highlight the lack of clarity for festivals. Festivals reach millions of Britons and tourists every year but will struggle enormously this time around. As the British Arts Festival Association have argued, the £120 million put aside for a "Festival for Britain" in 2022 should be reallocated to all the festivals of Britain that need the help this year.

Tuesday finished with the first round of Estimates Day debates this week, where the Departments for Education, HMRC, and BEIS were under the spotlight. These debates give MPs the opportunity to discuss the estimated annual funding for each department and voice their concerns over targeted spending strategies. Tim and Wera passionately spoke to the situation in education spending, calling for the School Fruit and Veg Scheme to be reinstated before nutrition suffers more, along with free school meals programs.

Increasing funding for schools was also raised, so that more TAs can be hired to balance the workload for teachers during the challenging months ahead.

Wednesday 8th July

The big day we had all been waiting for arrived: the announcement from the Chancellor on the recovery response. Even Dominic Cummings's super forecasters did not see it coming that Rishi Sunak would cover the nation's tab for our first meals since lockdown. No jokes about 'Eat Out to Help Out' please.

Meal discounts aside, there were some welcome interventions made by the Treasury. The job retention scheme offers some hope to staff who have been furloughed, the temporary VAT cut is good news for many tourism sectors, and a 6 month training scheme for 16 - 24 year olds is hopefully the first of a bundle of measures to protect young people who will bear the brunt of this crisis.

But, as Ed Davey outlined in his exhange with the Chancellor, the measures have not even come close to the true demands of the crisis and the climate emergency has not even registered with this Government's response. The Chancellor's lack of vision for a green recovery is worrying and this crisis is the time to rebuild our society in-tune with the ecological and technological demands of the future. This is the moment to be radical, but the Government have decided to pursue to poorest financial response in the G7.

The self-employed have once again been left in the cold, leaving the Lib Dems to fight on their behalf in Parliament. Others, such as freelancers, have also fallen through the cracks of Government support, leading Jamie Stone to take the initiative of starting an APPG for everyone in our society who has been excluded. The APPG stormed its way through Westminster circles by gaining cross-party support from over 200 MPs with the list still growing. We'll be looking forward to seeing where the new group will go with this burst of momentum and energy to support vulnerable people.

Wednesday saw host to a relevant Adjournment Debate for some of our London MPs, such as Sarah Olney and Munira Wilson. Ruth Cadbury's debate on under 18s travel in the capital focused on the decision to remove funding for free travel for this age group. Both Sarah and Munira shared their neighbouring MPs' concerns about not only the backward effect this will have on reducing car emissions, but the effects on the poorest constituents who travel for their education.

Thursday 9th July

After the week's main business concluded on Wednesday, Thursday's business was relatively lite. Wendy Chamberlain spoke in the second day of estimates which included scrutinising the unnecessary merger between the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Department for International Development. Given the current crisis, this merger is incredibly misguided and the Lib Dems will continue to ask the right questions and ensure British overseas aide commitments are kept.

At a time when DFID faces a deeply misguided merger, ensuring scrutiny of our aid spending has never been more important. We need to make sure the Government is using the 0.7% for its primary purpose: poverty reduction. #saveDFID pic.twitter.com/yyQxLJjNuz

July 7, 2020

Earlier that day, Nadine Dorries, Minister for Mental Health, Suicide Prevention, and Patient Safety, came before the House to deliver a statement on the Cumberlege Review for the families and victims of sodium valproate, vaginal mesh and Primodos. There have been repeated calls for a public inquiry and answers as to why so many women and children were allowed to be harmed and their concerns dismissed. This is a personal issue for Christine and Ed, who both welcomed the review and made it clear that this is just the beginning of the end. Criminal charges must come next.

The week started and ended with strong, positive steps for women's issues.

Next week, Parliament will discuss the Intelligence and Security Committee and the long-delayed Russian Report. We will also be moving through all stages of the Stamp Duty Land Tax (Temporary Relief) Bill as part of the Chancellor's new measures.