This House Politics

Inside parliament during the week commencing 07/09/20.

Want to know more about the UK Internal Market Bill? Eager to find out about the new 'Helen's Law'? If the answer is 'Yes' then read Nouse's latest daily round up of parliamentary business.

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Image Credit: Petr Kratochvil

and perhaps the only, bonus of the pandemic is that Britain has received some
Brexit-respite after an enormous four-years of political upheaval. However,
despite being out of the news and off most of Westminster’s lips, this week,
all of that has changed. On Monday, No.10 announced plans to push through the UK
Internal Market Bill as an attempt, they say, to hold together the integrity of
the UK internal market post-Brexit amongst many other issues. Opposition to the
Bill has already begun from all sides, though most importantly for the
Government, including from the Conservative benches. Secretary of State for
Northern Ireland Brandon Lewis confirmed under questioning from Tory
backbenchers that the Bill, if passed, will break ‘international law but in a
very specific and limited way’ which led to more strong condemnation of the
Government from three former-PMs -  Theresa May inside the chamber and a joint statement from Tony Blair and
Sir John Major outside. Even David Cameron, a former PM that prefers to keep
silent on Brexit, waded into the debate surrounding the bill and expressed his ‘misgivings’.

over Lewis’ comments on the Bill, who one can imagine drew the ‘short-straw’ in
bringing the Bill to Parliament, carried over into the following day’s PMQs.
The Liberal Democrat Alistair Carmichael, member for Orkney and Shetland, asked
Boris Johnson on what basis he would be opposed to the Scottish Government
following the example of Catalonia and holding an independence referendum that
breaks international law if the Government ‘believes it acceptable to ignore
international law’ itself. Mr Johnson shrugged off Carmichael’s attempt to appeal
to the one thing Tories hold most dear – the Union – and instead returned to
safer ground explaining how the proposed Bill would protect and improve the
Union. More on the UKIM Bill next week as it starts to be officially debated in
the Commons after its second reading in the House on Monday 14th.

Whilst PMQs this week was still
the pantomime that many opponents believe it is, there was a feeling like it
had been overshadowed with aforementioned debates over Brexit. Though in the
‘real’ world of pantomime, Lord Lloyd-Webber gave evidence to the Culture
Committee saying that theatres and music venues were unable to operate at a
reduced capacity, required due to social-distancing, as it is economically
unviable with the ‘tight margins’ that exist in the industry. Despite the
Chancellor announcing a VAT cut for admission to theatres back in July, there
is concern that the industry, which attracts almost double the audience each
year than all Premier League games combined, is ‘passed the point of no-return’.

to the Lords where ‘Helen’s Law’ passed the upper-chamber and now goes off to
Her Majesty for Royal Assent. The new law, in honour of Helen McCourt whose
killer refused to give the location of her body after she was murdered in 1988,
will aim to stop parole for convicted killers who refuse to give the location
of victims’ bodies and for those who refuse to identify individuals affected in
any indecent images of children they have been found guilty of possessing. The
law passed the Commons entirely unopposed back in March after being propelled
by a petition started by Helen’s mother Marie McCourt with over 750,000

election of the next Hereditary Lords, to fill those of the 92 hereditary
places left vacant after deaths and resignations, has been postponed until next
year. Despite pressure for the voting to go ahead, many felt that at a time
when English Council elections had been postponed, the Lords should not differ.
As usual, this sparked an entirely new debate over the size of Britain’s
popularly unelected upper-chamber. With the introduction of 36 more Lords by
the Government two-months ago, the chamber now increasingly exceeds that of the
Commons. Lord Balfe had one suggestion: whilst he recognised that many believe
we should retain life peerages, which apparently date back to the reign of
Henry III, he unsurprisingly does not believe, himself a life peer, that we
should enact a similar method for controlling life peerages. That is, the
beheading of peers at the discretion of the Sovereign.

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