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Weekly Parliamentary Briefing

Week ending: Friday 17th July 2020

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Not your normal summer

Sometimes I write things so unbelievably trite and obvious you reach for the ‘unsubscribe’ link a the end, but are so filled with boredom and despair you never quite make it. Of course, this isn’t going to be a normal summer.

Please bear with me for just one second.

Let’s get the most obvious of differences out the way first. We’ll be pottering round the shops in face coverings. We’ll be queuing up to get into pubs and then giving them our names and numbers. We won’t be going to festivals, sports stadia or any large social gathering. We may go to weddings, but there’ll be no late-night discos.

We’re mostly used to that stuff anyway. It should be warm enough anyway for us to enjoy the outdoors with friends. Outdoor comedy and music. And, of course, model villages remain open.

What then of the government and MPs?  Normally they would be doing constituency work and taking advantage of the break to maybe go on holiday. Government departments tend to tick over, but with no real change.

Not this year. Two big autumn and winter events are keeping everyone very alert. A potential second wave of this virus and Brexit. 

The first may never come, but cold weather might make Covid spread easier (don’t forget the first wave really took off at the end of winter), it will make everyone go indoors where social distancing is harder (if attempted at all) and the flu season could combine with the virus.  Between those three factors, there are real concerns.

Some suggest that the loosening of rules is also a factor, but the big Black Lives Matter protests and then the opening of pubs in England on ‘Super Saturday’ don’t appear to have had any noticeable impact. Not yet, anyway.

The government needs to have things in place to get on top of anything that might come our way.  Being over-prepared for these things is always better than being underprepared. Just today, the Prime Minister has announced £3bn extra for the NHS to battle off this threat.

It should be noted that the plan to deal with a second wave is not a national lockdown. The plan is to use track and trace in combination with local lockdowns.  The PM calls it whack-a-mole. Labour say that the track and trace system is not good enough to cope with this.  Don’t expect them to be quiet about this when the Commons closes it’s doors.

Then there is Brexit. Sure, we officially left in January, but being in this transition period means nothing has really changed.  Not in most people’s day to day anyway. Come January this year, we really are out. That means ports and trade and everything else need to be 100% sorted.  These things matter very, very much.

Expect to see preparation for both these things, along with scrutiny and questions about that preparation. It’s going to be busy.


The week ahead…

The final three days of the Commons.  A bumper edition for the Lords because they are soldiering on till very nearly August.  They just love that Agriculture Bill over there.

House of Commons

Monday – Some of that pre-Brexit stuff today.  It’s the Trade Bill.  It doesn’t do much in itself, but it will provide a framework for us to make deals around the world. The important stuff is what deals are made and with whom. That happens in negotiating rooms (or via Zoom), not in Parliament.

Tuesday – Right now, mostly, those found guilty of terrorism offences are treated like those found guilty of other serious crimes. They don’t tend to serve full sentences and have similar probation people once released. The Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Bill, that finished it’s Commons journey today, changes that. It will ensure that those people remain in custody for more, if not all, their sentence and beef up powers to keep an eye on them once they’re out.

Wednesday  – And that’s it.  A final bout of PMQs. A chance for MPs to bring up bits and bobs in the Commons and they’re done. Outta there. Back to constituencies.

It’s also worth noting that this is a day when lots of written statements are released by the government.  Most of them are spectacularly boring, but some will be important. We had been promised we’d hear about changes to the Gender Recognition Act around trans rights before recess. That could be in a statement today (or in the Commons, or just delayed until September).  Whatever. Keep your eyes on our social media and we’ll keep you up to speed with what’s important.

In theory, the government could delay this day for a week when the Lords shuts down for August.

House of Lords

Monday – Pubs who want to turn their car parks into beer gardens are very much hoping that the Business and Planning Bill will finish in the Lords today.  It probably will.

Tuesday – Day Five of the Agriculture Bill Committee stage. They’re going through it line by line. They’re going deep.  It’ll be back.

Wednesday  – The Immigration Bill, that sets things up for the other (more specific) Immigration Bill in the autumn arrives in the Lords today. It’s a general debate, so no changes can be made at this point. Expect them to spend many, many days on it when the leaves start turning brown.

Thursday – We’ve had a day off, so it must be time for some more Agriculture Bill action.  It’s the last one before summer, so you’d better enjoy it.

Friday – The Lords are in today. Just not many of them. There is some pretty niche stuff going on.

Monday – Another pre-Brexit Bill, the Medicines and Medical Devices Bill sets up the framework for managing and regulating, well, medicines and medical devices.  They don’t tend to go particularly freestyle on the names of these Bills.

Tuesday – Some gentle tinkering with the electoral constituencies in the Parliamentary Constituencies Bill today. Again, this is at the stage where they have a general debate. It will be back when the nights start drawing in.

Wednesday  – A full week after the Commons shuts up shop, the Lords are battling on. The Duracell Bunny of Parliamentary chambers. Not much in there, but there is a motion on Leicester’s local lockdown.



About The Right Ethos

The Right Ethos was set up after our founder, Jonathan Dearth, had worked in the campaigning sector for 13 years, for campaigning organisations including Amnesty International, Shelter, Liberty and the World Development Movement. It was set up as a response to multi-sector recruitment consultancies moving in on the charity sector, and in particular not recognising that people who work for campaigning organisations are motivated by justice and long term change.