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work the party’s peers are doing in the second chamber. Why not let us know what you think? Email the newsletter firstname.lastname@example.org. And that’s also the address to give to friends, colleagues and loved ones to sign up too. Plus don’t forget to keep up to date with the blog at libdemlords.org.uk and follow us on Twitter at@LibDemLords.
IN THE CHAMBER
The final week of this Parliamentary session in the Lords was dominated by ping-pong – not an elongated version of what the Mayor of London likes to call “wiff -waff”, but the procedure by which legislation is shuttled between the Lords and Commons until late at night. The uninitiated can learn more here. But amid a raft of legislation which made it onto the statute book in time was a very clear win for the Liberal Democrats in the Lords. Laws which led to London being dubbed “the libel capital of the world” will now be reformed after peers voted to pass the Defamation Bill, ending a three-year campaign led by Lord McNally and Lord Lester of Herne Hill. A landmark piece of legislation, it should provide more protection for individuals and organisations, including newspapers and broadcasters, which criticise big firms. It will also stop cases being taken in London against journalists, academics or individuals who live outside the country, denting the socalled “libel tourism” industry. Peers voted by a majority of 78 to pass the Bill on Tue sday, meaning it returned to the Commons the next day for formal approval. Lord Lester told peers: “I would say that we often refer to Fox’s Libel Act. I hope that when this Bill becomes law it will be referred to as Lord McNally’s Libel Act, because he a bove all has had the energy to drive it forward.”
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“My Lords, I have gone back into the area of statistics and I am happy to tell the House that there is a range of different measures of inflation in Britain – the RPI, RPIJ, RPIX, which excludes mortgage costs, and the RPIY, which excludes tax changes. Then there are the CPI, CPIH, CPIY and CPICT. I hesitate to explain all these in detail to the House.” Lord Wallace of Saltaire blinds peers with acronyms.
TWEET OF THE WEEK “Great day to be a Liberal Democrat. Thanks to all who helped @julianhuppert and me show up the #SnoopersCharter as a spooky piece of work.” Lord Strasburger (@LordStras) cheers the leadership’s decision to kill the Data and Communications Bill.
Caste discrimination is to be outlawed in the UK, the Government announced this week, following a long-running campaign led by Lord Avebury. The Lords had voted twice for legal protection to be given to the estimated 400,000 Dalits - so-called “untouchables” - who live in the UK. MPs overturned the first Lords vote, but after peers again backed an amendment to the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bull on Monday, there was a Government rethink. Lord Avebury hold told the Lords: “Discrimination against any person on grounds of any innate personal characteristic is wrong in principle and... all should receive the same protection.”
17 Lib Dem peers joined others in voting to keep the general quality duty of the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), which ensures all public bodies show “due regard” in their practices and procedures to eliminate discrimination, promote equality and foster good relationships between different groups. The Government wanted to drop the duty, arguing that the EHRC’s general human rights commitment was unnecessary and that its other legal duties satisfied its role. But the move was defeated in the Lords by 210 votes to 180. Baroness Hussein-Ece said: “I strongly believe that it would be extremely damaging for us as a country and society if we are seen to be rolling back on equality.”
The law allowing the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s forthcoming baby to become monarch whether it is a boy or girl this week passed its final hurdle this week as the Lords gave the green light to the Succession to the Crown Bill. Lord Wallace of Tankerness, who piloted the Bill through the Lords, said: “It is an important piece of legislation that has its roots in securing better equality, and certainly we await with great expectation the birth of a child to their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. We wish them every health, in particular the Duchess as she proceeds towards the birth of her child."
Peers backed the Government's position on competition within the NHS in England, with Lord Clement-Jones attacking Labour for “promoting conspiracy theories about NHS privatisation and the motivation of ministers and the Coalition Government”. Labour had claimed the new regulations on procurement decisions introduced privatisation into the NHS. But Lord Clement-Jones told peers: “The fact is that it was the Labour Government under the 2006 Act who introduced price competit ion and intensified the purchase/provider split. The NHS is no more subject to competition than it was prior to the passing of the 2012 Act.”
And Lord Dykes asked the Government whether it would hold discussions with the administrators of the Chilcot Inquiry into the Iraq War to confirm a date for the publication of its report. He asked the Leader of the House to reassure peers “that high official circles in the UK and the US have not sought to interfere with the independent findings of the Chilcot inquiry, especially on the crucial decision to go to war together”. The Leader of the House, Lord Hill of Oareford, said it would appear “in the fullness of time”.
WHAT’S COMING UP
Parliament has now been prorogued and will not sit again until the Queen’s Speech on May 8. The next Letter of the Lords will hit your inbox on May 10. In the meantime, fans of pomp and circumstance can watch this week’s prorogation here. For a more detailed look at what's coming up in the Lords click here.
‘Fish and visitors stink in three days’ – Benjamin Franklin
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