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From your Lords correspondent… the Government falls foul of Lord Judge…

January 23, 2018 2:01 PM
By Mark Valladares in Liiberal Democrat Voice
Originally published by South Lincolnshire Liberal Democrats

House of LordsA change to the format, in that I'll be looking back at the highlights of the last week in the Lords and briefly pointing out the likely big issues in the week ahead. I may not get it all right…

As the noble lord, Lord Greaves, is watching, we'll start with last week's major Government defeat on the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill, over the issue of 'Henry VIII powers'. Lord Judge, from the cross-benches, and the former Chief Justice of England and Wales, was 'disappointed' to see the Government again attempt to gain the power to create new criminal offences by regulation, rather than by legislation, an important distinction.

Supported by Susan Kramer and Sharon Bowles from the Liberal Democrat benches, he pushed his amendment thwarting the Government's power grab to a vote after Lord Ahmed attempted to defend the indefensible from the Conservative benches. Virtually friendless beyond his own Party, the amendment saw the Labour, Liberal Democrat and Crossbench peers come together to deal the Government a defeat by eighty votes.

It wasn't the Government's first defeat of the week either. Two days earlier, the constitutional lawyers had defeated a similar attempt to subvert our democracy. Lord Judge was again to the forefront, and whilst I won't quote him here, his speech explained the principle rather well.

From the Liberal Democrat benches, Tom McNally was still in fine form;

If we are forced in Bill after Bill to carry amendments, the House of Lords will be accused of exceeding its powers. I do not think that we are exceeding our powers. We are doing what Lord Hailsham referred to almost 40 years ago: trying to avoid the dangers of a democratic dictatorship where the other place simply argues that we must obey. We must not just obey, particularly with clauses such as this which tilt the balance away from the way in which law, and in particular criminal law, is made, in a quite unacceptable way. By voting for this amendment tonight, we will send a message which will avoid a constitutional car crash further down the road.

But perhaps the most noteworthy event of the week was late on Thursday morning, when the European Union (Withdrawal) was brought from the Commons, read a first time and ordered to be printed. We may be hearing more about this over the coming weeks, and the Second Reading is scheduled for 30 January.

This week sees the Third Reading of the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill, and there are some amendments from Susan Kramer and Sharon Bowles, designed to tighten up the Bill somewhat, albeit that they don't appear likely to be controversial.

Wednesday also sees an unusual occurrence, with all of the published oral questikns coming from Liberal Democrats - Mike Storey on safeguarding children, Paul Strasburger on Government analyses of the effect of Brexit on the British economy, and Paddy Ashdown on Hong Kong's autonomy, rights and freedoms.

Additionally, on Monday, Tony Greaves is asking whether commissioners should use the opportunity to levy additional council tax of £1 per month, whilst on Tuesday, Malcolm Bruce seeks the Government's stance on supporting sustainable public services and good governance in sub-Saharan Africa. Ending the week on Thursday, Alan Beith hopes to elicit news on progress on a growth deal for the Borderlands.

One item which may be of interest on Tuesday evening is a short debate on the European Union Committee's report "Brexit: the Crown Dependencies". These are usually pretty worthwhile to read, and address issues that tend to escape the media.

Mark Valladares is Liberal Democrat Voice's Lords Correspondent.