We have the time and the expertise to scrutinise things, and that is what we should be allowed to get on with. Jenny spoke in the chamber as the government suffered a further three defeats
The Government’s attempt to throw out all our amendments epitomises the problem that we have. This is not a democracy. The Minister is very well respected and extremely honourable, but his speech made me laugh out loud. The Government have enhanced their transparency, he said. In what world have they done that? He was good enough to remind us of the rule that we should not overrule the elected Chamber and so on, and the will of the other place. But let us face it, with an 80-plus majority the Government just decide what is going to happen and stamp on those Members of the other place who choose not to follow the party line. What the Government are trying to do is to limit scrutiny of this.
There was something else—oh yes, the Minister said that this Motion would limit the Government in getting the best deals. Judging by the way in which they have handled the deals that they have done so far, I would argue that they are not very good at getting the best deals anyway. Perhaps they would benefit from your Lordships’ House getting involved in giving scrutiny to their so far abysmal deal-making.
It is not a democracy when you have two Chambers but the second Chamber is left not to comment when, let us face it, the other place does not have the time to scrutinise in the same way as your Lordships’ House does. We have the time and the expertise to scrutinise things, and that is what we should be allowed to get on with.
I have been an elected, and now appointed, politician for more than 20 years and in all those years, I have seen critiquing the Government, whichever side they were, as good sport; it is what small parties are for and what opposition is. In the last year, though, there have been two well-publicised, well-known events that have brought home to me just how morally bankrupt this Government are. The first was the decision to restart arms sales to Saudi Arabia, calling the possible war crimes against the Yemenis “isolated incidents”, and the second was their inability to see that feeding hungry schoolchildren is actually a moral imperative. They had to be shamed into it by a footballer who had principles. Well done, Marcus Rashford; thank God for people like him. So, this Government actually need these amendments to do the right thing.
During consideration of the last set of amendments, the Minister took a dig that was slightly below the belt, saying that I was implying that officials were not competent and got us bad trade deals. My point is not that the officials were at fault; rather, they are operating in a political climate of inept and, worse, incompetent government. We have to do the right thing here today. We have to vote for these amendments because that is the only way of making sure that our Government do the right thing.
Environmental protections are always in danger, with any government, because it is so hard to understand how you can change from where we are now to where we really ought to be, given the climate emergency that we are all facing.
I hope that the Dasgupta review that has been published will help all of us to understand the threat that we face. I welcome the review—the good thing is that it actually uses the language that most politicians use, and it looks at the economic value of nature and natural resources. Greens tend to use the phrase “natural capital”. The Dasgupta review stresses that the economy is a complete subset of the environment and not the other way around. It uses the language that growth-oriented 19th-century political perspectives can get a handle on. When it says things like, “we can’t exist without a healthy world”, that is not only about air, water and having enough pandas and elephants and things like that; natural capital includes the soil and geology—it includes everything that we are destroying very fast. That review could be a moment when all politicians make the seismic shift to understanding that it is not all about growth. Quite honestly, with the Trade Bill, you really have to have that understanding. Embedding environmental considerations into our current systems will not work; you actually have to change the systems. We have already overshot our planetary limits—we are already in huge danger, and we are still failing to meet the basic needs of billions of people all over the world.
These amendments are absolutely crucial, not only for individuals but for every part of our planet, our system and our society. I really hope that we have another massive defeat for the Government on this, so that they might have pause in their complete lack of understanding of green issues.