Ros Scott: Campaigning over recess in Colchester, Cambridge, Norwich South and North Norfolk (via Lib Dem Voice)

Baroness Ros Scott
Baroness Ros Scott

Despite what you hear in the press about a “zombie” Parliament, life in Westminster has been pretty busy for the Lib Dem team in the House of Lords. We’ve secured important improvements to the Counter Terrorism legislation, used the Deregulation Bill to reintroduce Sarah Teather’s provisions on retaliatory eviction, introduced measures dealing with revenge porn, and done battle with the Tory dinosaurs seeking to derail Michael Moore’s Bill intended to enshrine the principle that 0.7% of our wealth goes to the poorest overseas countries.

But this last week we, like the Commons, have been in recess, and many of us have been out and about campaigning with colleagues seeking re-election in May. And why wouldn’t we? Not only are we committed to our Party and its success, but many of us have been elected as Councillors or MPs and know how important an extra pair of feet can be! Some of my colleagues fought unsuccessfully for years to be elected to Parliament, and in doing so, laid the groundwork for their successors.

For me, recess means being at home in Suffolk where we are busy not just supporting our neighbours in Colchester, Cambridge, Norwich South and North Norfolk, but defending council seats in all-out District elections. For me, this one is personal, as it was winning Needham Market ward in 1991 which started my political career, and I want to make sure that the hard work of our current team is recognised.

The full article is here

Lindsay Northover praises University of Cambridge’s global poverty research

Baroness Northover
Baroness Northover

Research is helping to improve agriculture, education, medicine and technology across the developing world.

Lib Dem International Development Minister Baroness Northover has visited the University of Cambridge to hear more about their world leading research to help end extreme poverty in developing countries.

Research and evidence play an important role the UK’s international development work.

Supported by the Department for International Development, the University of Cambridge’s research is helping to understand how to improve agriculture, education, medicine and technology across the developing world in a bid to end dependency on aid. Around a third of all research projects run by DFID are won by British universities.

During her visit Lindsay Northover heard from professors and students carrying out research into:

  • the control of bovine tuberculosis in Ethiopia to help protect the livelihood of poor farmers
  • the control of zoonotic gastrointestinal disease in pigs in Burma which can pass to humans and account for around 1 million human deaths per year globally
  • the control of aphid-transmitted viruses which can kill beans and other major crops that provide essential sources of food in Central and Eastern Africa
  • the impact of Activity Based Learning as a teaching method.

Lindsay Northover said:

High quality research is the foundation of the most effective development programmes and can make an huge difference for millions of the world’s poorest people.

The University of Cambridge’s research has already had an enormous benefit on the lives of people in developing countries and will continue to do so as their DFID funded programmes come to fruition.

Eric Avebury: the opportunity to legalise assisted dying is one of the most crucial parts of my political career (via Dignity in Dying)

Lord Avebury
Lord Avebury

I am committed to campaigning for terminally ill, mentally competent people to have the right to an assisted death. I have an incurable disease, a form of blood cancer called myelofibrosis, where the inside of the bone marrow turns to fibre and it no longer produces blood, so you suffocate. I have been told that it can be very terrible in the last stages.

I have been in Parliament for over fifty years and have worked on many important issues. To have the opportunity to legalise assisted dying is one of the most crucial parts of my political career. Due to my health I am sometimes unable to participate in certain debates that go on late but the Assisted Dying Bill is an obvious exception!

I am pleased that it has so far been a great success; it was passed unanimously through Second Reading, and was constructively amended during the first day of Committee Stage. The House of Lords received much praise for the way it has so far conducted the debate, and my colleague Lord Falconer quite rightly won the Spectator’s 2014 Peer of the Year award.

The full article can be found here

Jenny Randerson: 650,000 households in Wales can save around £200 by switching energy supplier

Baroness Randerson
Baroness Randerson

650,000 households across Wales are missing out on their share of £2.7 billion by sticking with their energy company.

By shopping around and taking advantage of the best energy deals on the market, millions of people can save around £200 – representing a potential saving of £130 million off bills.

The ‘Power to Switch’ campaign encourages people to switch supplier and save money by visiting

With 26 energy companies on the market and some fixed deals £100 cheaper than they were a year ago, there’s never been a better time to find a great deal, switch and save.

Launching the campaign, Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Davey said:

When it comes to switching, the power is in people’s hands to get a better deal and save.

We’ve reformed the market so that there are more suppliers, more competition, and a much faster and simpler process to switch.

That means millions of people can switch supplier and save hundreds of pounds today.

Wales Office Minister Baroness Randerson said:

The ‘Power to Switch’ campaign is a great opportunity for people across Wales

Simply by switching suppliers, people in Wales can keep more of their hard earned money and gain more financial stability.

I would urge consumers to visit the website to see whether switching suppliers could save them money

William Wallace: Liberal Democrats’ investment in education has been socially progressive (via Lib Dem Voice)

Lord Wallace of Saltaire
Lord Wallace of Saltaire

I took part in a five-party panel at York University the other weekend, organised by the University’s Politics Society, in front of a packed lecture hall with over 200 students.  No other panellist or questioner mentioned the subject of tuition fees, believed by some Liberal Democrat activists (and right-wing journalists) to be an issue that hangs like an albatross round Nick Clegg’s neck. The overwhelming impression I came away with, reinforced by informal conversations with several students after the meeting, was not that we face an outraged student body which can never forgive us for the tuition fees ‘betrayal’, as the NUS would like to portray it; it was of a student body which is switched off from party politics, unsure of whether to vote or not, but with some intelligent questions to ask.  ‘I wasn’t planning to vote until I came to this’, one student told me afterwards, ‘but maybe now I will.’

Since nobody else did, I addressed the tuition fee issue.  I said that we had found it impossible to persuade our Conservative partners in the coalition to pay for this, against the background of a yawning gap between revenue and expenditure in 2010, and had therefore focused on striking a deal that was as progressive in its impact as possible; that the package had ensured that graduates only start to pay back when they are earning good money; that the rise since then in the number of students from disadvantaged backgrounds applying to university has shown that we got that right; and that there was no no way any future government would want to take us back to free fees in the face of other competing demands for government funding.  I went on to say that we had worked in government to put money into ‘the other 50%’ – the young people who never go to university; that doubling the number of apprenticeships, paying a Pupil Premium to encourage schools to put more resources into helping those who most need it, and expanding nursery education to give children a better start in life had proved to be more progressive and cost-effective than free fees for the better-off.

The full article is here

Lindsay Northover: Seeing a way through for girls and women in Mozambique

Baroness Northover
Baroness Northover

Many girls’ and women’s faces in Mozambique will stay with me. But 3 of those faces had a particularly strong impact – those of Isalinha, Ana, and especially a young mother in Manica province, whose name I may never know.

Let us take that young woman first. She sat on the ground, surrounded by other young women and their children in a village, as women community leaders acted out short plays on good nutrition and family planning for us. She did not engage. She barely watched, gazing somewhere into the distance, no smile on her face. She looked perhaps 20, perhaps younger. Attached to her were twins, feeding constantly, each baby detaching himself and crying, as her milk clearly ran out, then reattaching in hope. One twin was dominant, and he would swipe from time to time at his sibling, trying to knock him off the other breast. The mother, stick thin, barely seemed to notice that either. All her waking and sleeping hours she would no doubt be feeding these twins. She may well have had other young children, as many were playing near her. She may well already be pregnant again, as most seemed to be. Weariness emanated from every pore of her body. She knew there was no easy end to this.

The men behind her giggled as we heard about how young girls were married off young, but when their babies arrived, their husbands then moved off to take other wives as the first wife was then too “busy” looking after small children, the household, as well as the fields.

Family planning is taken up by only 12.5% in Mozambique, and 43% of children under 5 are malnourished.

That was the reality for that young woman’s life, and it is not surprising that it was too much effort to raise her eyes to us, or anyone. It was especially to her, as well as those around her, that I said that life will change, as I am certain it will. And which is why we engage as we do. But she seemed not to hear, or register.

But as a human indicator of change, let me now turn to Isalinha. In the Radio Mozambique studio in Tete City, I was grilled by fifteen-year-old Isalinha Alfredo. She is a youth journalist, helping to present a UNICEF-supported award-winning radio programme with other young people. They tackle the issue of child, early and forced marriage head on, as well as other challenges facing adolescent girls in Mozambique, including through a popular soap opera. Isalinha wanted to know if child marriage was a problem in the UK and if so, what we did about it.

The full blog post is here

Paul Tyler: House of Lords reform was within reach but Labour blew it (via The Guardian)

Lord Tyler
Lord Tyler

Your editorial comment (Too many peerages. First cap the total, then change the system, 10 February) reignites the case for reform of the House of Lords. On 10 July 2012 the House of Commons gave an unprecedented 338 majority to the second reading of the coalition government’s Lords reform bill, squarely based on Jack Straw’s 2008 white paper. Conservative MPs voted 193 to 89 in support, Labour 202 to 26, and Liberal Democrats were unanimous.

Only then did the Labour leadership refuse to support a programme motion – anyprogramme motion, no matter how many days’ debate it allowed – choosing instead to play party games to embarrass the government.

Had Labour stuck to its principles, we would by now be within weeks of the first elections to the Lords, with the resultant end of political appointments and a consequent reduction in the size of the house. Will the UCL Constitution Unit recommend the reintroduction of the bill immediately after the general election?

The Liberal Democrat peers in the House of Lords


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