The Weekly Whip

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: @LibWhips

Weekly Whip w/c 23rd March

In the last week ahead of Recess; Westminster Hall debates were suspended, and select committees will now continue over video conferencing. Given the ongoing pandemic, we went early to Recess on Wednesday.

With Parliamentary pass holders being declared ‘key workers’ the business of both houses continues. However, access to the parliamentary estate has been restricted and social distancing measures put in place.

Monday 23rd March

On Monday we passed all stages of the Coronavirus Bill in one day! You can find what the Lib Dem approach to the bill was here, in a blog post from Ed Davey.

Liberal Democrats have tabled 8 amendments to the government’s #CoronavirusBill, including:

💷introducing a basic Citizens Income

👩‍💻guaranteeing incomes for the self-employed

👴🏻protecting those who rely on social care

Learn more⬇️https://t.co/gOH8XJ6tKV

— Liberal Democrats (@LibDems) March 23, 2020

This is an usual Bill in a number of ways.

  • To start with, this Bill is long. It’s over 330 pages long. For context the EU Withdrawal Agreement Bill (now Act) was over 160 pages long.
  • As mainly a health matter, this Bill would usually only apply to England and Wales. However, last Friday the House of Commons agreed to disapply Standing Orders 38J and 38O, meaning the Bill will apply to the whole of the UK and will not have to go through the EVEL (English Votes for English Laws) process[1].
  • The Bill completes all Commons stages in one day. This is highly unusual for a Bill of this size. However, given the exceptional circumstances, MPs across the house agreed to the timetable.

In the Commons, we tabled 8 amendments to the Bill. Click on the tweet below to see the amendments in full.

Parliament today will spend 6 hours on the Coronavirus Bill. The Bill is over 300 pages long and includes sweeping powers for Government. We have tabled the following amendments. 1/8

— Lib Dem Whips 🔶 (@LibWhips) March 23, 2020

The Government, with pressure from the Liberal Democrat’s and other opposition parties, backed down on a number of aspects in the Bill.

Some care providers are refusing to take patients who are being discharged from hospitals because they haven’t been tested for coronavirus.

Understandably, they’re worried about the other vulnerable people in their care homes. We must prioritise testing patients like these. pic.twitter.com/lsiXJUtpzQ

— Liberal Democrats (@LibDems) March 23, 2020

The biggest concession was to reduce the length of time the powers apply to the Bill. The Government conceded that Parliament should be able to review the powers after 6 months.

“It’s good that the government has listened to our concerns & introduced an amendment for the Commons to have a vote on the law after six months.

However, that is not enough to give parliament proper scrutiny of the powers in this bill.” – @EdwardJDavey on the Coronavirus Bill. pic.twitter.com/rDNe1SNRZC

— Liberal Democrats (@LibDems) March 23, 2020

The Coronavirus Bill was amended 48 times in the House of Commons, these were all Government amendments. Some of these were concessions, but a number were also technical changes (inevitable when you draft such a large Bill at such pace). The Bill passed through both Houses without any opposition amendments.

Tuesday 24th March

The biggest moment of the day, was an Urgent Question from Ed Davey demanding help for the self-employed during this crisis.

“The 5 million self-employed people across the country are in real stress & deeply worried. In many cases, they are simply running out of money.”-@EdwardJDavey

With so many set to be dependent on this support for a period of time, it’s vital we ensure they receive enough money. pic.twitter.com/96W3ysQmf5

— Liberal Democrats (@LibDems) March 24, 2020

This urgent question, led by the Liberal Democrats, sparked calls from all political parties in the House of Commons for the government to bring forward an economic package for those that are self-employed. Ed, Wendy Chamberlin and Alistair Carmichael all gave passionate speeches on the subject.

You can show your support for the Liberal Democrats campaign on helping the self-employed through this crisis. By signing our petition to the government here: https://www.libdems.org.uk/support-self-employed

This was followed by all stages of the Contingencies Fund Bill (Ed Davey speaking for the Lib Dems). The contingency fund allows the government to dip into reserves (through amending the Contingencies Fund Act 1974) to fund unforeseen event for departments. In the statute however, this is a relatively small amount (2% of approved dept spend). This is being temporarily increased to 50% to meet the needs of this crisis. The Bill will allow the Government to draw on an extra £260 billion in extra spending.

The Contingencies Fund Bill was followed by another spending bill. Completing its final stage before moving to the Lords, The Windrush Compensation Scheme (Expenditure) Bill give authorisation for the Home Office to spend the necessary funds to compensate those caught up during the Windrush scandal. If this bill passes (it has cross party support) these funds will be paid out through the Windrush Compensation Scheme.

Wednesday 25th March

This was the final day that the House of Commons sat before the Easter recess.

Unusually PMQs was one hour today.

The speaker allowed PMQs to be extended in absence of other Covid-19 statements in the House. Both Alistair and Wendy were selected to ask a question. Alistair again showed the Lib Dems leading the fight for the self-employed by asking again what support they will be given. Wendy raised the issue of those with rheumatic autoimmune diseases being included on the shielded list of people with underlining conditions being protected and offered extra support.

See you back in Parliament after the Easter recess on Tuesday 21 April 2020. At which point the Weekly Whip will return.

[1] Usually under EVEL, a bill would have to get a majority of the whole house and a majority of those MP representing English and Welsh constituencies.

The Liberal Democrat Coronavirus Update

Ed Davey challenges government to roll out support package for self-employed

Today Ed Davey, Acting Leader of the Liberal Democrats, challenged the Chancellor to “move as fast as possible” to roll out a financial support package for the five million self-employed people in the UK.

In an Urgent Question in the House of Commons, Ed Davey highlighted that the self-employed, who are excluded from current financial support for businesses and employees, are under “real stress” and are “literally running out of money” as a result of the coronavirus crisis.

“As the days tick on, millions of self-employed – from cleaners to builders – face mounting worries about their future.” – @EdwardJDavey

The Liberal Democrat amendment to the government’s emergency bill will give far greater support for the self-employed. #CoronavirusLockdownpic.twitter.com/wF5NPDu4oS

— Liberal Democrats (@LibDems) March 24, 2020


Following his Urgent Question to the Chancellor, Ed Davey said:

“As the days tick on, millions of self-employed – from cleaners to hairdressers from taxi drivers to builders – face mounting worries about their future. Ministers must move far faster to provide help, as they did for businesses and employees.

Most of the self-employed have very modest incomes and aren’t well off. Without help, they won’t be able to pay their mortgages, rent and bills, facing ruin.”

Without action, those who are self-employed may be forced to ignore government guidance to stay home & plough on with their work, or face real hardship.

Without action, those who are self-employed may be forced to ignore government guidance to stay home & plough on with their work, or face real hardship.

Lib Dems have put forward legislation that would guarantee self-employed people 80% of their earnings.https://t.co/0WdoFvRByQ

— Liberal Democrats (@LibDems) March 24, 2020

Every day of delay increases the strain these millions of individuals are under. That is why – this afternoon – Ed Davey challenged the Chancellor to explain how he will support self-employed people through this crisis. So far we are just being told by Ministers to wait a little longer.

Without action, those who are self-employed may be forced to ignore government guidance to stay home and plough on with their work, or face real hardship.

Last week Liberal Democrats welcomed the Chancellor’s financial package for businesses and for employees, but this will remain incomplete and inadequate until we see proper measures for the five million self employed people across the country.

Lib Dems call on the government to ensure they are doing everything to keep NHS volunteers safe

In response to the Health Secretary’s announcement that the NHS is looking for ‘NHS volunteers’ to help with the coronavirus outbreak, Liberal Democrats called on the government to do more to support these individuals.

The coronavirus crisis is an unprecedented threat and people are rightly worried. In times like this, we cannot thank front-line staff enough for going above and beyond to look after us all.

Effort to encourage volunteers, medical students and retired NHS doctors and nurses to join the health service are more than welcome.

However, those risking their health to work on the frontline will want assurances that the government is doing everything it can to keep them safe, through adequate PPE and increased testing. Equally, these efforts would only be improved if the Government removed current financial barriers for foreign-trained medical staff too.

There remain further, legitimate questions to ask of government. Far more support is needed for care workers who look after the most vulnerable. The Health Secretary must set out how he will make up for lost time and guarantee continued social care at a safe standard in the coming weeks and months.

The government’s efforts to encourage volunteers, medical students & retired NHS doctors and nurses to join the health service are welcome.

However, they need assurances that the government is doing everything it can to keep them safe, through adequate PPE & increased testing. pic.twitter.com/B2y6hwWs8u

— Liberal Democrats (@LibDems) March 24, 2020

Lib Dems: Prison lockdown must be followed by rehabilitation investment

Responding to BBC reportsthat “prisoners in England and Wales will be confined to their cells for 23 hours a day and allowed out only to shower and use pay-phones, with all visits cancelled”, Liberal Democrat Justice Spokesperson Daisy Cooper said:


“This is a regrettable but necessary measure to limit the spread of coronavirus in prisons and keep prison staff, prisoners and our communities safe.

However, it must only be a temporary measure for the duration of this emergency. It is vital that the Government recognises the damage this will do to prisoners’ rehabilitation and the likelihood that it will lead to more reoffending.

Prisoners already spend too much time locked in their cells, unable to engage in productive activity or receive rehabilitative services. Reoffending rates are already far too high.

When this crisis is over, the Government must focus on dramatically improving rehabilitation, both in prison and in the community, to stop reoffending and prevent people becoming victims of crime.

Ed Davey responds to Prime Minister’s statement on coronavirus

In response to the Prime Minister’s statement on the UK’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, Acting Leader of the Liberal Democrats Ed Davey said:


“Many people will be anxious about the steps the government has taken, but it is the right decision to restrict our normal way of life to tackle this crisis.

We must do all we can to stop the spread of this virus and I urge people to play their part by following the measures that have been set out, and not risk their own or others’ health and wellbeing by ignoring these.”


There are legitimate questions as to whether this step should have been taken sooner and how well the advice of experts is being communicated with the public.

The Liberal Democrats will continue to do all we can to support the most vulnerable in our communities, and work to try and secure more support for the self-employed, charities and others who still need more support from government in the coming months.

We must do all we can to stop the spread of coronavirus.

We urge people to play their part by following the measures that have been set out, and not risk their own or others’ health and wellbeing by ignoring these.#StayAtHomeSaveLives 🏠♥️ pic.twitter.com/H6nmFJEKsv

— Liberal Democrats (@LibDems) March 24, 2020

Lib Dems: Government reduction in temporary powers doesn’t go far enough

Responding to thepublicationof the government’s amendment requiring a six monthParliamentary review ofthe emergency powers in theCoronavirus Bill, Acting Leader of the Liberal Democrats Ed Davey said:


“Emergency powers are clearly necessary to protect individuals and communities as far as possible from the coronavirus.

“However, many of the powers in this Bill have serious implications for civil liberties and human rights. They must only be used when necessary during this emergency – and not a moment longer.”


It is good that the Government has listened to our concerns and introduced an amendment for the Commons to have a vote on the law after six months. However, that is not enough to give Parliament proper scrutiny of the powers in this Bill.

That’s why the Liberal Democrats have tabled our own amendment to allow both Houses of Parliament to consider the legislation in full every three months.

Liberal Democrats will remain vigilant to ensure that any restrictions on civil liberties are only temporary, and that our rights and freedoms are fully restored once this crisis is over.

“It’s good that the government has listened to our concerns & introduced an amendment for the Commons to have a vote on the law after six months.

However, that is not enough to give parliament proper scrutiny of the powers in this bill.” – @EdwardJDavey on the Coronavirus Bill. pic.twitter.com/rDNe1SNRZC

— Liberal Democrats (@LibDems) March 23, 2020

Government urged to agree emergency Covid-19 funding for charities

Yesterday we called on the Government to set up a dedicated grant for charities during the Covid-19 crisis, following conversations with professionals in the Voluntary Sector.

Writing to the Government, Liberal Democrat MP Wera Hobhouse argued that the voluntary sector will be absolutely vital during the Covid-19 crisis but warned “non-profits have been left in the dark.”

Charities are able to provide networks of volunteers to reach out to the at-risk who may be self-isolating. They are also a vital source of information and support networks for people who are homeless, hungry, isolated or sick.

According to discussions the Liberal Democrats have had with professionals in the Voluntary Sector, many charities have been hit financially by the Covid-19 crisis but will only be able to apply for government loans if more than half their income comes from trading activity.

“The voluntary sector will be absolutely vital as this #coronvirusuk crisis continues. Charities are able to provide networks of volunteers to reach out to the at-risk who may be self-isolating.” @Wera_Hobhousehttps://t.co/aDp6cCHqTJ

— Liberal Democrats (@LibDems) March 23, 2020

We must support the self-employed

Last week, the Government set out a package of financial measures to support UK workers, highlighting just how threatening coronavirus is to our economy and our society.

As soon as these measures were announced, Liberal Democrats stated our concerns that far too little was being provided to help the self-employed through this crisis. Days later, and no new support has been announced by the Government.

“The 5 million self-employed people across the country are in real stress & deeply worried. In many cases, they are simply running out of money.”-@EdwardJDavey

With so many set to be dependent on this support for a period of time, it’s vital we ensure they receive enough money. pic.twitter.com/96W3ysQmf5

— Liberal Democrats (@LibDems) March 24, 2020

There are five million self-employed people in the UK. These are our construction workers, our childminders and our delivery drivers.

Each day that we fail to take action to protect the self-employed, millions of people remain worried and unsure of how they are going to support themselves or their families. Leaving them with no reliable safety net is unacceptable.

Ministers cannot keep hiding from the insecurity these individuals have been put in by the coronavirus crisis. It is not good enough to say it is “operationally difficult” to pay them.

ETzdMKsWAAA0xUV.jpg

The Liberal Democrats have put down amendments to the Government’s coronavirus legislation to support the self-employed. They are:

  • increasing the weekly rate of Statutory Sick Pay from £94.25 to £220

  • guaranteeing 80% of self-employed individuals’ earnings, up to £35,000

Short term prison sentences for women don’t work

The Government’s analysis shows that they lead to higher rates of reoffending than community sentences. The President of the Prison Governors Association has described them as “pointless”. They need to end for both men and women.

But we also need to recognise that prison is especially damaging for women.

Most women in prison are vulnerable people. The majority experienced abuse as a child, and many are survivors of domestic abuse as adults.

Self-harm rates in women’s prisons are almost five times the rate in men’s prisons and rising

Self-harm rates in women’s prisons are almost five times the rate in men’s prisons and rising. Eight women died in prison last year; five of them by suicide.

We need reform to prevent more of these tragedies.

Not only that, but two-thirds of women in prison are mothers of dependent children. More often than not their children are moved out of their home when their mother goes to prison. That’s a huge disruption to their wellbeing.

The current system is punishing children for their parents’ crimes and putting even more pressure on our public services. The best interests of children need to be taken into account when making decisions about whether to send their mothers to prison.

Having a parent in prison is a traumatic experience. It can have serious effects throughout a child’s life. They’re more at risk of physical and mental health problems, from liver disease to depression and alcoholism. Their performance at school will suffer and they’re more likely to be involved in violence.

There’s precedent for saying we should do something about it. Baroness Corston’s review for the Labour government in 2007 recommended that “custodial sentences for women must be reserved for serious and violent offenders who pose a threat to the public”. She also called for women’s prisons to be replaced with smaller, multifunctional community centres.

The Government accepted the suggestions in principle, then did nothing about it.

Then, in 2018, the Conservatives published a “Female Offenders Strategy.” It committed them, too, to sending less women to prison for short sentences. There’s a cross-party consensus for this – so I’m taking action.

We’re liberals, which means we believe in rehabilitation first

My Sentencing (Women) Bill would ensure women are only sent to prison when they’ve committed serious crimes or are a danger to the public. If not, we’ll impose tough community sentences instead. The priority of our legal system should be to prevent reoffending – and this will help these women turn their lives around.

Nobody benefits from locking women up in prison when it isn’t absolutely necessary. We’re liberals, which means we believe in rehabilitation first. Here’s hoping other parties get behind us and help us make a justice system that works for women.

I have high hopes for the next three years – let’s get to work!

It’s been just weeks since Brexit ended my brief term as an MEP, but today I’m very happy to announce that I’ve been elected as Chair of the Federal People Development Committee.

I wouldn’t be where I am today without the outstanding training and support offered by the party.

Like many of you reading this, I’m a relative newcomer to politics and to the Lib Dems. I joined in 2016, so I think I bring a fresh perspective to this role as a newbie. I’m eager to help the party expand and improve on its strategy, structures and processes for recruiting, engaging and activating members.

Although it’s been a short time, I’m no stranger to campaigns, at any level. In addition to winning election to European Parliament last May, I currently serve as a Hertfordshire County Councillor and stood for Parliament in 2017. I think that I’m a good example of what is possible if you engage a new member and provide the right resources. I wouldn’t be where I am today without the outstanding training and support offered by the party.

Just a few months after joining I was able to attend my first party conference. I spent nearly the entire time in training sessions. Clearly I got a taste for it, attending my first ALDC Kickstart weekend a few months later with other members of my local party. Since then I’ve been lucky enough to attend more conferences and more training events. Our face-to-face training opportunities are unparalleled – but the percentage of members who can access that face-to-face training is minuscule. We haven’t been quite as strong at providing other forms of training and resources. That’s something I’m keen to change.

The Liberal Democrats are already leading the way in modern campaigning, and I look forward to supporting this in my new role.

In the past four years, our party membership has boomed, meaning that newbies now outnumber long-time members. We need, now more than ever, to quickly develop the knowledge and skills of a larger number of people than ever before. Add to that the fast-changing landscape of UK politics and new and innovative ways to engage voters, and it’s clear that we can’t just do what has worked in the past. The Liberal Democrats are already leading the way in modern campaigning, and I look forward to supporting this in my new role.

Outside of the Liberal Democrats, I have spent 25 years in the corporate world, and 10 years training and lecturing, including developing learning content both for face-to-face and online learning. I have also led a large voluntary organisation. I can’t wait to bring this experience to the role and to work closely with both staff and FPDC members to take our people development strategies, structures and resources to the next level. We have an outstanding committee, including a diverse mix of perspectives and experiences. I have high hopes for the next three years – let’s get to work!


Members of the FPDC, serving a three-year term, are:

  • Abi Bell
  • Barbara Gibson
  • Bess Mayhew
  • Jon Ball
  • Lisa Maria Bornemann
  • Mary Regnier-Wilson

Our role as community champions

As I’m sure you’ve all heard by now, the local elections we were expecting in May have been postponed until 2021. For many of us, this is disappointing news – especially after months of hard work – but it is absolutely the right call to keep us and our communities safe.

In addition, any by-election that comes up and would be due before May 2021 will also be held off until then. Depending on the public health situation by-elections may restart sooner than May next year.

Our plans for this year’s local elections might not have gone as we expected, but this is an opportunity to let our Lib Dem values shine through and continue to work hard for our residents.

I’d like to pass on a huge thank you to everyone who was planning on standing for election in May. Being a candidate, while rewarding, is always hard work. I hope all candidates and their teams know that all of their work so far has not gone to waste. It is a sound investment to ensure we win those seats, and more, next year.

Some of you, on the other hand, were planning on standing down in May. It must come as a shock to have to continue for another year. We’re so grateful to you all for your continuing commitment to your residents in such difficult times.

Looking to next year, 6th May 2021 will be a ‘Super Thursday’. Many places will have multiple elections. The party is currently advising traditional campaigning is put on pause for now, and replaced with digital, phone-banking and community activism to support the vulnerable people in your area. While traditional campaigning may be suspended, there are some things you can do to get a headstart on the 2021 elections.

If you don’t have a full slate of candidates, you could take this extra time to fill in the gaps. You could get in touch with your members and check they are okay. And, of course, please use this time to check in on elderly or vulnerable people you know in your community. Whether it’s an offer to pick up bits and bobs from the shops or just a friendly chat on the phone, I’m sure it would be greatly appreciated.

Here are some resources to help you get started:

Coronavirus – helping in your community

Finding candidates webinar

In the coming months, people will be looking to us for support. Our role as community champions will be needed like never before. Our plans for this year’s local elections might not have gone as we expected, but this is an opportunity to let our Lib Dem values shine through and continue to work hard for our residents.

Our approach to the emergency Coronavirus Bill

Today, MPs will debate the Government’s emergency Coronavirus Bill.

The Coronavirus crisis is an unprecedented threat, leaving the most vulnerable in our communities at risk. People across the country are rightly worried about their loved ones. This is a national emergency and emergency powers are clearly necessary to keep individuals and communities safe from the virus.

Liberal Democrats are working with the Government and other opposition parties in Parliament to pass the emergency legislation we need. But we are also focused on ensuring that these powers do not go any further than absolutely necessary.

Many of the powers in this Bill have serious implications for civil liberties and human rights. We are therefore making it clear that these powers must only be used when necessary during this emergency – and not a moment longer.

Liberal Democrats will remain vigilant to ensure that any restrictions on civil liberties are only temporary, and that our rights and freedoms are fully restored once this crisis is over. These are exceptional powers for exceptional times. They must not be allowed to become the new normal.

We have tabled eight amendments to try and improve the Government’s Bill:

Limiting the powers to 3 months

As currently drafted, the Act would expire in two years. We believe that is far too long. Liberal Democrats have serious concerns about Parliament handing over such far-reaching powers to Ministers for a full two years.

We have therefore tabled an amendment (New Clause 10) which would mean the Act expires after 3 months. Parliament would then have to vote on whether to renew it for a further 3 months at a time, up to a maximum of 2 years.

In addition to proper oversight and transparency as to how these powers are used during these shorter periods, this would provide at least some protection.

Extending the Brexit transition period

It is extraordinary that the Government hasn’t already admitted that the Brexit negotiations have to be suspended during this national emergency.

The negotiations on our future relationship with the EU cover everything from trade to security, energy to intellectual property and air travel to extradition. It is vital we get them right. That requires far more time and resources than the Government has to spare, now its priority is rightly the coronavirus emergency.

Moreover, the transition period is due to end at the end of the year – and this Conservative Government has written into law that it cannot be extended. We therefore face the risk of a catastrophic no-deal Brexit in just nine months’ time. With another economic shock to compound the damage of coronavirus.

So the Government must extend the transition period now. Our amendment (New Clause 12) would both enable and require the Government to seek and agree an extension to the transition period. It would also require the Government to seek to keep the UK in the EU Early Warning System, which was set up to provide alerts and monitor pandemics.

Protecting those who rely on social care

One of my biggest concerns is what this Bill proposes for how we care for people – indeed how we care for the most vulnerable people in our society.

The Bill temporarily suspends the duties on Local Authorities to meet people’s care needs. We have serious concerns about what this will mean for older people, and adults and children with disabilities, who rely on social care.

We have therefore tabled two amendments to ensure care standards are not reduced any more than absolutely necessary during this crisis.

One (Amendment 14) would place a duty on Local Authorities to continue to meet an adult’s needs for care and support conditional as long as it has resources available to do so. The other (New Clause 14) would require the Government to urgently publish a comprehensive report outlining how it will guarantee provisions for social care while this Act is in force.

The Government must give councils the resources and support they need to undertake these duties to our most vulnerable, rather than leaving people without care.

Guaranteeing the incomes of self-employed people

The Government’s measures to support businesses and employees are welcome as far as they go, but they still leave the country’s 5 million self-employed people with no reliable safety net. Each day the Government fails to act for them, many of these 5 million self-employed people get closer to irreparable damage to their livelihoods.

Liberal Democrats have tabled an amendment (New Clause 13) to create a Self-Employed Income Guarantee, with the Government guaranteeing self-employed people 80% of their average incomes over the last three years, up to a cap of £35,000.

While assisting the self-employed does create more challenges than with PAYE employees, the Government must surely err on the side of caution and get help out to people, rather than find reasons and excuses for doing nothing, or too little.

Introducing a Citizen’s Income

It is the Government’s duty to do everything in its power to protect those facing destitution as a result of this pandemic. Those most in need must be given financial security.

Liberal Democrats are calling for a Citizen’s Income: an increased benefit of £150 per week for a single person and £260 per week for couples. This should act as the minimum income guaranteed to all UK adults, rather like the universal basic income many are talking about.

Our amendment (New Clause 9) would achieve this by increasing the standard allowances of Universal Credit, Jobseeker’s Allowance and Employment and Support Allowance to these rates. It would also ensure that people can get their first payment on day one without it being clawed back later, and it would abolish benefit sanctions for 12 months.

Increasing Statutory Sick Pay

At £94.25 a week, Statutory Sick Pay simply isn’t enough to make up for people’s lost incomes. We have tabled an amendment (New Clause 11) that would increase it to £220 a week – two thirds of average earnings – to provide a much more adequate safety net.

Making sure children can still learn

Staff and pupil safety must be a priority. The scale of the coronavirus pandemic means that school closures were inevitable. This is another serious but essential intervention to slow down the spread of the disease.

Now that schools are closing their doors, Ministers must take urgent action to minimise disruption to learning and protect vulnerable children. However, the Bill contains no explicit duty on schools to ensure that children continue to receive an education – or funding for them to do so.

Many schools are doing the right thing and are already preparing online resources to help pupils study at home. It would be a disaster for social mobility if some schools continue teaching their curriculum during the closure while others do not.

The Liberal Democrat amendment (New Clause 8) would place a duty on schools and colleges to provide teaching and resources to all pupils, whether they are in school or at home.

Our amendment would also ensure that the Government pays schools and colleges whatever it costs to get pupils and staff the equipment and resources they need for learning to continue.

Conclusion

This emergency legislation will only get 6 hours of scrutiny in the Commons. Munira Wilson and I may get just 15 minutes between us to make our points. For such a dramatic piece of legislation, that is nowhere near enough.

So the case for an early review, with an early requirement for Parliament to have to vote to renew these powers, is essential. The Liberal Democrats – like other opposition parties – have behaved responsibly and constructively throughout. Ministers must now do likewise.

International Day for Elimination of Racial Discrimination

Today is the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination – and this year, the importance of this day has been brought into stark focus more than ever before.

The Liberal Democrats will always fight for freedom, fairness and equality for people of all races and ethnicities in the UK.

With the world facing the biggest public health crisis of the twenty-first century, what the UK desperately needs are compassionate communities that look after one another, regardless of people’s race and background.

While so many stories of kindness are emerging, very sadly this has not been the case for everyone. In recent weeks we have seen a huge rise in racism against East Asian people following the coronavirus outbreak. Tweets from so-called world leaders such as Donald Trump calling it ‘The Chinese virus’ adds fuel to the hatred and fear.

In Manchester, there have been reports of racist targeting of Chinese children. In Birmingham and Central London Chinese students were seriously assaulted. Up and down the country, East Asian people have reported being spat at or verbally abused with comments relating to the coronavirus – even East Asian health workers have not escaped this rising tide of hatred.

The media aren’t helping. Last week I filed a complaint with the BBC over their use of images of Chinese people when reporting on the outbreak, regardless of where in the world they were covering. They aren’t the only ones. Newspapers and other outlets have been full of pictures of Chinese and East Asian people in masks, adding to the fear and prejudice being shown towards our community.

BBC and Coronavirus reporting. Please do not use images of Chinese people in the backdrop to news reports as it fuels prejudice against the British Chinese community. https://t.co/T0Dt5QYG31

— ChineseLibDems (@ChineseLibDems) March 11, 2020

Unfortunately, this treatment isn’t unusual for ethnic minorities in the UK.

Since the EU referendum in 2016, racism and race-related hate crimes have been on the rise. The Conservatives’ hostile environment policy has made ethnic minority communities in our country fearful. The Windrush scandal and recent high-profile deportations have shown that this government is systematically trying to break apart our diverse communities and sew division.

In recent weeks we have seen a huge rise in racism against East Asian people following the coronavirus outbreak.

If this were to continue then I fear that there will be serious economic consequences with would-be investors and students from East Asia staying away as well as mass social unrest resulting from a recession due to the double whammy of Brexit and Coronavirus.

As a country, we need to do better. The Liberal Democrats will always fight for freedom, fairness and equality for people of all races and ethnicities in the UK. Just like I acted throughout my police career to tackle racism and my recent calling out of the BBC for discriminatory reporting, we each need to challenge discrimination wherever we see it. And as Lib Dems, the more of us who add our voices to this cause, the stronger we become.

Dr George Lee was the 2019 Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate for Westminster North and is a member of the Chinese Liberal Democrats.

Safeguarding our children’s futures

I hope this message finds you and your loved ones safe and well. What a concerning and worrying time we are in.

My mind boggles with the logistical challenge facing our education system

Today millions of students are leaving the schools gates for an indefinite period to help halt the spread of the coronavirus.

Already, many universities have closed their campuses and moved to online teaching.

I was a teacher and member of a senior leadership team. My mind boggles with the logistical challenge facing our education system, especially with nowhere near enough information from the government.

I welcome the news about safeguarding the vulnerable and continuing to teach children of key workers but I want to ensure no one falls through the cracks.

All teachers, parents, guardians and students will experience these closures differently. Will you take a few minutes to let me know how they’re affecting you and your family, as well as anything you think I should raise with the government?

Let me know ➜

Everyone working in our schools deserves our gratitude. I’ve asked the Government to support supply teachers, who risk losing their entire income. We also need clear advice and resources to be made available to students and their families as soon as possible.

I’m determined to do all I can to safeguard our children’s futures alongside our nation’s health.

As an MP, I’ve been trying to strike the right balance between supporting the Government’s need to act quickly in a crisis, while raising issues when needed. But our members have an important part to play as our Party’s eyes and ears.

If you have any experience or concerns regarding the forthcoming school, nursery, sixth form, college and university closures please fill in this form: https://digitallibdems.typeform.com/to/HJcilA

The more I know about what is happening on the ground, the more I can press for the most vulnerable children and young people to be protected and for the right information to be given to schools and parents.

I’m determined to do all I can to safeguard our children’s futures alongside our nation’s health.

Please look after yourself and one another.

We must ensure the Windrush Scandal can never happen again

People who have every right to live in the UK were wrongly denied access to NHS treatment, housing and other services simply because they don’t have the right documents to prove it. Many were wrongfully detained and even deported.

We need urgent action from the Home Secretary to dismantle the Hostile Environment altogether

The way the Government has treated the Windrush Generation – as well as other immigrants and people from BAME backgrounds – is shameful. It is the direct consequence of cruel, discriminatory policies and the toxic culture at the Home Office. Both of those must change.

This Lessons Learned Review is long overdue, and reports that Home Office has suppressed some of its criticisms and recommendations are very concerning.

The Government owes it to the victims of the Windrush Scandal to ensure that nothing like it can happen again, and that cannot happen without a transparent and honest assessment of the Home Office’s policies and practices.

Another key recommendation from the #Windrush Lessons Learned Review:

“The department should run a programme of reconciliation events with members of the Windrush generation.” pic.twitter.com/ldTAqCdY5p

— Isabelle Parasram Liberal Democrat Vice President (@IsabelleParasra) March 19, 2020

Now that the report has finally been published, we need urgent action from the Home Secretary to dismantle the Hostile Environment altogether. That should begin with repealing the discriminatory ‘Right to Rent’ law, ending immigration checks and upfront charging in the NHS, and establishing a firewall to prevent public agencies – such as schools, the NHS and the police – from sharing personal information with the Home Office for the purposes of immigration enforcement.

The Government must introduce compassion and common sense into our immigration system.

The Government must introduce compassion and common sense into our immigration system. That means making detention an absolute last resort, with a time limit and an end to the detention of vulnerable people.

And it means ending automatic deportations – and stopping altogether the practice of deporting people who came to the UK as children to countries they have never known.

Liberal Democrats celebrate those who choose to come to the UK to work, study or join their families for the enormous contributions they make to our society, our economy and our communities.

We are fighting for a fair, effective immigration system that treats everyone with dignity and respect.

Isabelle Parasram

Vice President