Lords Gallery: the key action in the Upper Chamber this week

Posted On: 
19th March 2018

Gary Connor looks at ahead to this week’s agenda in the Upper Chamber

Lord Robathan will call for litter picking to be added to the National Curriculum
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Nuclear Safeguards Bill

The Nuclear Safeguards Bill – which will allow the UK to make regulations and implement international agreements on nuclear safeguarding after leaving Euratom – returns to the chamber this week for Report Stage. A number of government amendments have been tabled so far, including a “sunset clause” on Henry VIII powers; something that was pushed by shadow minister Lord Grantchester (L) at Committee. At the time of writing, opposition amendments have not yet been tabled, but are likely to include provisions to avoid a “cliff-edge” for the nuclear industry on Brexit day, as well as on what is being done to ensure continued access to the benefits of Euratom.

Litter picking oral question

On Tuesday, Lord Robathan (C) will suggest a solution to tackling the amount of rubbish on the streets: encourage schoolchildren pick it up. The Conservative peer wants to add litter picking and “civic responsibility” to the national curriculum for Year 6 pupils. Robothan tells us: “Everyone talks about how awful litter is – why don’t we do something about it?” He admits that his idea is controversial, and won’t win universal backing from teachers or parents, but if properly organised “should be no more dangerous than crossing the road”.

School and Early Years Finance Regulations

Changes to free school meal eligibility have already been passed by MPs, but Lord Bassam of Brighton will ask peers to back calls for the government to “think again” on Tuesday. The government intends to introduce a means test, so Universal Credit recipients earning more than £7,400 would no longer be eligible. Bassam tells The House that he was a recipient of free school meals in the 1960s, a policy he says was a “godsend” to his mother after she was widowed. He will call on the government to carry out a poverty assessment before making any changes, saying that the move is a “socially divisive, mean spirited attack” on the poorest in society.

Support for survivors of domestic abuse

Thursday’s short debate is set against the context of “grave concerns” over the changes in funding to women’s’ refuges, Baroness Lister of Burtersett (L) tells The House. It will also be the first opportunity for peers to debate the consultation on new laws to tackle domestic abuse, which was announced by Theresa May on International Women’s Day. “It’s time to get some of these issues on the table”, Lister says, adding that she’s not expecting definitive answers, but wants to give the government “a nudge”, particularly around funding and benefits. “The government has said it will listen to other options, so we need to keep the pressure on them,” she adds.

House of Lords (Hereditary Peers) (Abolition of By-Elections) Bill

First up on Friday will be detailed scrutiny of Lord Grocott’s bill that would end the replacement of departing hereditary peers. Grocott’s previous attempt at scraping hereditary peer by-elections, prior to the 2017 general election, was “effectively sabotaged”, he says, by the number of amendments to it tabled at the last minute. This time 48 amendments have been put down so far by the Earl of Caithness and Lord Trefgarne – both Conservative hereditary peers. Writing for this week’s magazine, Grocott urges peers who oppose his bill to do so “by argument and debate, not by procedural tricks”.