Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Yesterday in the Lords: Baronesses Hanham and Miller regret to advise...

Yesterday's business started with tributes from all five benches following the death of Lord Kingsland on Sunday, a man clearly highly rated on all sides, even when they were in opposition to the thrust of his argument. Described as a lawyer's lawyer and a parliamentarian's parliamentarian, one senior Peer described him as one of the intellectual powerhouses of the Conservative benches.

The Government then went on to announce its intention to ratify the Dublin Convention on Cluster Munitions, whereby the United Kingdom will cease to hold stocks. Currently, in anticipation of ratification, their use has been abandoned and they are currently stored pending destruction.

The Coroners and Justice Bill reached Day 7 of its Committee Stage, with Lord Henley stepping in at very short notice to fill Lord Kingsland's shoes on the front bench. The opposition parties continue to chip away at some of the more troubling aspects of the bill, with the Government agreeing to look further at elements relating to witness anonymity. The proposal to crate an Independent Commissioner for Terrorist Suspects was passed by 145 votes to 103, another defeat for the Government, and we will see whether they attempt to overturn that in the Commons in due course. Again, the Liberal Democrats turned out in force to contribute to that defeat.

There followed a series of Regulations relating to the introduction, at some future point, of identity cards. Whilst these were passed, Baroness Hanham, supported by Baroness Miller from our benches, rose to move a motion regretting the decision of the Government to proceed with them, as a test of the House's opinion on identity cards. Again, the Liberal Democrat votes probed decisive, as the vote was won with 157 voting content, just 98 voting non content, an opposition victory by 59 votes.

Finally, and I make no apologies for covering this, a written question asked some time ago eventually received a formal answer. Lord McKenzie of Luton, answering Baroness Scott of Needham Market, confirmed that some, if not all, disabled councillors will be eligible for Access to Work support. Where councillors receive anything above reimbursement of travel, mileage and meal allowances, they may be eligible for Access to Work support, providing that they meet the other eligibility conditions.

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