Liberal Democrat action in the House of Lords last week

September 9, 2016 2:38 PM
By Derek Deedman in House of Lords newsletter

Thousands face winter in camps


The Government have come under pressure over their failure to rescue unaccompanied refugee children from camps in Calais. Roger Roberts and Sue Miller both raised the issue in Oral Questions over the last week. Shas Sheehan will be pursuing the issue on Wednesday.

Roger made a heartfelt plea to rescue people before weather worsens telling the Lords: "The winter is coming, and conditions are dire in northern France. Could not we have a special humanitarian effort this year?"

Sue Miller called the Government response inadequate saying: "Some 70 children have been accepted this year, which is about two a week, and yesterday [the Minister] asserted that her department is working very quickly. Is she satisfied that that is quick enough? Given that the French intend to dismantle the camp by Christmas and that at least 370 children are eligible, that should be more like 20 a week.

"Further, does she realise that young people seeing the camp dismantled will take greater and greater risks in trying to get on to vehicles coming to the UK? Can the Minister assure the House that her department will be able to up the capacity to at least nearer 20 a week?"

The Lib Dems scrutinise the IP Bill
before the IP Bill scrutinises you


Sally Hamwee, Brian Paddick and Paul Strasburger spent the week trawling through the IP Bill with a fine-tooth comb.

Sally Hamwee, who has spent her summer crawling through the Bill line by line, warned that this Bill is overreaching in its collection of bulk data and warned of the inefficiencies of such an approach. She quoted an unusual source to support her argument, Tim Price, the writer of a play about RIPA at the Edinburgh Fringe:

"if you believe in freedom of association, if you believe in freedom to protest, if you believe in privacy, then the only way to exercise those freedoms is to be anonymous … If a Government cannot identify you, it cannot surveil you".

Brian Paddick laid down a challenge to the Minister: "If a warrant is necessary in the interests of national security, why is it necessary to state separately that those national interests have their origins in the economic well-being of the UK? The Intelligence and Security Committee found that the distinction was unnecessarily confusing and complicated. The committee had, as far as it was concerned, failed to get a satisfactory response to its question from the intelligence agencies or the Home Office. Perhaps the Minister can have a go."

Paul Strasburger highlighted another issue with the Bill:

"There are not many surprises in the report but one of them...was the revelation that bulk personal datasets are used by agencies beyond the intelligence agencies. Perhaps the Minister could give us some information about which other bodies use bulk personal datasets?

He added: "Necessity and proportionality are the golden rules throughout the Bill and their apparent demise in respect of bulk equipment interference seems to alter the relationship between the citizen and the state."

Southern must give commuters a FARE deal


Jenny Randerson called on the Government to enforce fair compensation for passengers of Southern railway.

The Liberal Democrat Transport Spokesperson questioned the Government over action to make Southern pay out compensation promptly and fairly. Recently the company has restricted the use of third party software which ease the compensation process.

David Cameron and George Osborne committed to compensation for any trains delayed over 15 minutes, a commitment which would have seen millions of pounds of compensation going to Southern passengers.

Jenny highlighted the hypocrisy of Southern announcing a 27% jump in profits a day after after a £20 million payout of Government funding.

Ahead of her question Jenny Randerson said:

"We have seen commuters across the South left abandoned, unable to get to work due to the failings of Southern.

"It is shameful that Southern are now failing to pay out fair compensation for a terrible service despite seeing their profits soar. The Government must now put the 15 minute threshold for compensation back on the agenda.

"The company are not only ripping off people across the South, they are now ripping off the Government and taxpayers up and down the UK as well."

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The Letter of the Lords is a weekly update of the work of the Liberal Democrat group in the House of Lords.