News from the Lords: Where have all the Conservatives gone?

Intriguing news from the latest Liberal Democrats Lords team newsletter:

November was the month of the missing Conservatives. In vote after vote they didn’t show up. We could have defeated the Government time after time if only they had bothered to walk down the division lobby.

The Conservatives have not managed a turnout to match ours in any vote since October. On 18th November there were four divisions – in three of them there were more Liberal Democrats than Conservatives voting despite there being over twice as many Conservative peers.

Eric Avebury took steps to halt changes in immigration rules that add new burdens on employers who will now be used as the first level of immigration regulation. When Eric called a vote on the issue, it was defeated by 31 votes to 75. Despite David Cameron tabling a similar motion in the Commons, only two Conservatives turned out to vote. If only a third of their peers, an equal turnout to ours, had voted we would have defeated the Government.

Celia Thomas initiated a debate castigating the Government for the new policy that social security regulations contained. The regulations reduced the available backdating from twelve to three months for three of the main benefits payable to some of the most disadvantaged in society – pensioners and those who need help paying housing costs. As the debate wound to a close, Celia called a vote on her motion. It was defeated by 54 votes to 84. Only five Conservatives voted, despite supporting her in the debate. Had the Conservatives decided to support the initiative, Celia’s motion would almost certainly have passed.

Joan Walmsley spearheaded a drive to stop the criminalisation of 16 year olds who want to leave school. We support proposals to encourage young people to carry on in education or training until they are 18. What we don’t support is the Government’s plan to force them to do so and criminalise them if they don’t cooperate. The Conservatives said they opposed it, but they would not vote on it. But don’t worry, they won’t implement it if they get into power. What sort of principled stand is that? If you don’t support it, vote against it.

It is often Liberal Democrat votes that win divisions in the Lords, but not if the Conservatives do not turn out and vote too. In the House of Lords, where the Government does not have a majority, the official opposition are barely visible. We all know who the real opposition are.

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