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Summary

  1. Peers questioning government ministers
  2. Consideration of Commons amendments to two bills
  3. Third reading of the Digital Economy Bill
  4. Labour motion to regret varying maximum university fees

Live Reporting

By Esther Webber and Gary Connor

All times stated are UK

Government defeated over university fees

Higher Education Amounts (England) Regulations 2016

House of Lords

Parliament

Peers vote 174 to 163 in favour of a Labour motion to regret the government's proposal to vary the limit on the maximum fees charged by universities according to teaching standards.

The House adjourns - peers will return tomorrow at 11am for questions to ministers. 

Peers vote on varying maximum university fees

Higher Education Amounts (England) Regulations 2016

House of Lords

Parliament

Peers are now voting on a Labour motion to regret the government's proposal to vary the limit on the maximum fees charged by universities according to teaching standards.    

Fees mean 'sustainable' funding for universities - government spokesman

Higher Education Amounts (England) Regulations 2016

House of Lords

Parliament

Younger
HoL

Higher education spokesman Viscount Younger of Leckie tells peers the system proposed by the government ensures universities are "sustainably financed" and "more people than ever before benefit" from higher education. 

He disagrees with earlier points about deterrent effects, saying the number of students from disadvantaged backgrouds is at a "record high". 

University fees system hailed as 'stable'

Higher Education Amounts (England) Regulations 2016

House of Lords

Parliament

Willetts
HoL

Conservative Lord Willetts expresses surprise at the motion before the House, saying the fees and loans system is "stable" and the product of a "shared consensus" between his party, Labour and the Lib Dems. 

He says progress has been made on attracting lower-income students but there's more still to do. 

Lib Dems warn of 'marketisation' of higher education

Higher Education Amounts (England) Regulations 2016

House of Lords

Parliament

Lib Dem spokesperson Baroness Garden of Frognal, backing the regret motion, complains that varying maximum fees according to teaching standards will lead to the "full marketisation" of higher education and could "threaten" its reputation. 

She predicts students from low-income backgrounds will be deterred from studying at the best universities. 

Labour criticises maximum university fee changes

Higher Education Amounts (England) Regulations 2016

House of Lords

Parliament

Stevenson
HoL

Peers approve the Digital Economy Bill and move on to a debate on a Labour motion to regret the government's proposal to vary the limit on the maximum fees charged by universities.  

The regret motion claims the changes risk worsening the opportunities for young people from low-income backgrounds, mature students and those undertaking part-time courses.

It also calls on the government to report annually to Parliament on the impact on the economy of the increasing quantum of graduate debt, estimates of payback rates, and the estimate of the annual cost of the present system.  

Mountain out of a molehill?

Digital Economy Bill

House of Lords

Parliament

Labour's Lord Stevenson of Balmacara introduces his "tactical amendment" to correct an error in wording, changing "switch" to "roam" which he assures peers is a significant change, and not an attempt at making a mountain out of a molehill.  

Responding for the government, Lord Ashton of Hyde accepts there was a "genuine mistake" and tells the House that it will accept Labour's amendment.

Peers move on to digital bill

Digital Economy Bill

House of Lords

Parliament

Peers are giving the Digital Economy Bill its third reading.

The implements a number of government policies including:

  • the provision of fast broadband services through a new Universal Broadband Obligation
  • greater data sharing between public bodies for certain purposes
  • age verification for online pornography with penalties for non-compliance;
  • a new statutory code for direct marketing to strengthen enforcement action;
  • updates the regulation of the BBC by making Ofcom responsible for the regulation of all BBC activities.

Peers are discussing measures intended to make it easier to switch communications provider.

Peers consider MPs' amendments to pensions bill

Pension Schemes Bill

House of Lords

Parliament

Peers are considering Commons amendments to the Pension Schemes Bill , which aims to ensure that those saving into a Master Trust scheme, a form of multi-employer occupational pension scheme which employers are able to select for their workers rather than needing to set up their own pension scheme, are protected.

The bill also amends existing legislation to support the government’s intention to cap early exit charges and ban member-borne commission charges in certain occupational pension schemes.

Work and Pensions Minister Lord Henley is asking peers to approve the removal of an unintended effect of the bill in relation to mixed benefit schemes.

Breaking Government defeated on life sciences and patient access to drugs

Higher Education and Research Bill

House of Lords

Parliament

Peers vote 245 to 208 in favour of crossbencher Lord Warner's declaratory amendment, which aims to ensure the UK life sciences sector is supported, and to ensure that patients have rapid clinical access to new clinically effective medicines and treatments approved by NICE. 

Minister warns Russia and China over UN resolution on Syria

Summary: question in the Lords earlier

Sean Curran

Parliamentary correspondent

Foreign Office Minister Baroness Anelay has called on Russia and China to "think very carefully" before voting against a UN resolution condemning Tuesday's gas attack in Syria. 

The UK and France have tabled a resolution at the UN Security Council demanding an investigation into the attack which killed more than 70 people.

Russia has denied that Syrian forces carried out the attack.

Lady Anelay told the House of Lords that the government was "appalled by reports of a chemical weapons attack in Idlib" and condemned the use of chemical weapons, "in all circumstances".

She said if it was proved that the attack was carried out by Syrian forces,  "this will again show the Syrian regime's barbarism".

The minister said she didn't want to predict the result of today's emergency debate at the UN but told peers, "it is clear that we have to ensure that nobody is going to vote against this resolution".

Lady Anelay said in the past, Russia and China had voted against resolutions and said, "I hope they will think very carefully today before they take any action other than to support the resolution before the United Nations".

Peers vote on guarantees for patients' access to medicine

Health Service Medical Supplies (Costs) Bill

House of Lords

Parliament

Vote
HoL

Health Minister Lord O'Shaughnessy rejects peers' criticism, insisting that uptake of new drugs is being increased and the government will keep a close eye on the life sciences sector after Brexit. 

But Lord Warner is not persuaded and forces a vote.

Labour: NHS hopeless at adopting new medicines

Health Service Medical Supplies (Costs) Bill

House of Lords

Parliament

Hunt
HoL

Labour health spokesman Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, backing Lord Warner, accuses NHS England of showing "unwillingness to do anything but reduce access to patients" and of being "hopeless at adopting new medicines".

He argues that medical research and development is at risk unless we increase the take-up of new drugs. 

Ex-health secretary opposes life sciences safeguard

Health Service Medical Supplies (Costs) Bill

House of Lords

Parliament

Lansley
HoL

Conservative former health secretary Lord Lansley backs the government, saying introducing these commitments at this stage would be "partial and disjointed". 

He argues the government could introduce budgetary safeguards for life sciences at a later date. 

Lib Dem suggests government fears being taken to court

Higher Education and Research Bill

House of Lords

Parliament

Lib Dem Baroness Walmsley backs Lord Warner's amendment, suggesting the government is worried about being taken judicial review by a pharmaceutical company over a drug price reduction if it includes a commitment to the life sciences sector on the face of the bill. 

Government accused of prioritising cost-cutting over patients

Health Service Medical Supplies (Costs) Bill

House of Lords

Parliament

Warner
HoL

Crossbencher Lord Warner is introducing a declaratory amendment which aims to ensure the UK life sciences sector is supported, and to ensure that patients have rapid clinical access to new clinically effective medicines and treatments approved by NICE. 

This amendment was earlier passed by peers and overturned by MPs - and now Lord Warner is attempting to resurrect it. 

He tells peers he's doing it because of a "central concern that the bill seemed over-preoccupied with driving down costs of medical supplies" at the risk of "losing sight" of the importance of the life sciences sector and ensuring access to new treatments. 

Peers asked to reject guarantees on patients' access to new medicine

Health Service Medical Supplies (Costs) Bill

House of Lords

Parliament

O'Shaughnessy
HoL

Peers are now debating MPs' amendments to the Health Medical Supplies (Costs) Bill , which aims to reform the way medicines are priced. 

Health Minister Lord O'Shaughnessy is asking peers to disagree with crossbencher Lord Warner's declaratory amendment which aims to ensure the UK life sciences sector is supported, and to ensure that patients have rapid clinical access to new clinically effective medicines approved by NICE.

He says he is not "downplaying the importance of patients' access to medical innovation" but these objectives are best secured through other means. 

Lord Campbell accuses Syria of war crimes

Private notice question

House of Lords

Parliament

Campbell
HoL

Former Lib Dem leader Lord Campbell of Pittenweem says even if the alleged chemical attacks are not deliberate they "constitute a war crime - because they result from indiscriminate bombing of civilians". 

The minister offers her agreement. 

Minister: Syria attack 'barbaric' if proven

Private notice question

House of Lords

Parliament

Clinic
Getty Images

Lib Dem foreign affairs spokesperson Baroness Northover is asking the equivalent of an urgent question on the chemical attack allegedly carried out by the Syrian regime on civilians in the town of Khan Sheikhoun.   

Foreign Office Minister Baroness Anelay of St Johns says: "We condemn the use of chemical weapons, and if proven this will show the regime's barbarism."

The UN Security Council is due to hold emergency talks later following the release of gas in Idlib province.

According to UK-based monitoring group the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, 20 children and 52 adults were killed.

Government rules out HS2 inquiry

Oral questions

House of Lords

Parliament

HS2
PA

Lib Dem Baroness Randerson says engineering firm CH2M's withdrawal from the HS2 project is a "depressing indictment" of the way it is being carried out, but Transport Minister Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon rules out an inquiry.

CH2M's £170m contract was to develop Phase 2b, stretching from Crewe to Manchester and Birmingham to Leeds.

But the contract signing was delayed as officials were reportedly investigating concerns from rival bidder Mace over alleged conflicts of interest.

CH2M blamed the exit on "protracted delays and ongoing speculation".

Health minister acknowledges 'unprecedented' care challenge

Oral questions

House of Lords

Parliament

Nurse and patient
Getty Images

The first question is from crossbencher Lord Patel, asking the government for its assessment of the long-term sustainability of the NHS and adult social care.   

Without a long-term settlement, healthcare "will continue to suffer", he warns.

Health Minister Lord O'Shaughnessy says they face "unprecedented" challenges and are trying to place an emphasis on integration.

Care firms  recently cancelled contracts  with 95 UK councils, saying they cannot deliver services for the amount they are being paid.

The government said English councils had received £9.25bn for social care.

Wednesday in the Lords

Coming up...

House of Lords

Parliament

Big Ben
AFP

Good afternoon. Peers start the day with questions to ministers on: 

  • sustainability of the NHS and adult social care 
  • local authority submissions for the Department of Work and Pensions Family Offer programme 
  • ensuring young people have the interpersonal skills required to succeed in the workplace 
  • proposed contractual arrangements between HS2 and CH2M.

Lib Dem foreign affairs spokesperson Baroness Northover will then ask the equivalent of an urgent question on the chemical attack allegedly carried out by the Syrian regime on civilians in the town of Khan Sheikhoun. 

Then peers will consider Commons amendments to the Health Service Medical Supplies (Costs) Bill and the Pension Schemes Bill, before completing third reading of the Digital Economy Bill.

Later, Lords will debate a Labour motion to regret the government's proposal to vary the limit on the maximum fees charged by universities.