|Much of the legislation we were expecting to be dealing with this Autumn disappeared with the departure of Johnson’s government, but sadly not the Public Order Bill which arrives in the Lords tomorrow. We are yet to see the full implications of the Police Act’s expansion of police powers and the Public Order Bill is full of rehashed versions of provisions already rejected by the House of Lords. You can sign Liberty’s petition opposing the Public Order Bill here.|
The Clean Air (Human Rights) Bill – known as Ella’s Law – continues its progress through the Lords. Although the Committee Stage has been pushed back to Friday 18th November, the Bill is looking in good shape to clear all stages of the Lords as it came first in the ballot – and therefore gets top priority out of the Private Members Bills. We will be holding a Parliamentary reception on the 30th November, where we are hoping to start conversations with MPs about supporting it once it gets to the House of Commons – where Caroline Lucas will pick it up. Jenny held a Q&A session on Ella’s Law at the Green Party Conference where we launched a petition: please sign it here.
Natalie is working with environmental and human rights groups and local government and small business groups on trying to improve the Procurement Bill, which replaces EU rules and has big implications for councils and others. It started in the House of Lords, so there’s a real chance to shape it.
Working closely with the Northern Ireland Greens, Natalie contributed to debate on the dreadful Northern Ireland Protocol Bill.In a debate on the Health and Social Care Levy Act Natalie forced a Treasury Minister to acknowledge that public health is a matter for his department and a gratuitous attack on the Scottish Greens from Labour gave her a chance to highlight the Scottish Greens brilliant rent freeze policy!
Energy Prices Act
The Energy Prices Act was rushed through parliament with the good intention of reducing energy bills for consumers. Jenny raised the concern that it would create a big bias against renewables and in favour of oil and gas. It is effectively a windfall tax of up to 100 per cent on the more established renewable electricity generators. This contrasts with the 25 per cent windfall tax on oil and gas profits. A Lord’s amendment to address this imbalance was narrowly lost, with the newly appointed Conservative peers tipping the balance.Natalie led on two amendments. A modest proposal on energy efficiency, with the Green Party’s long-standing policy for zero-VAT rating on retrofitting a house to make it use less energy, eg double glazing and community storage batteries for already installed solar panels.
Natalie also wanted Ministers to have similar powers as Spain, or France, to deal with excessive use of energy by the commercial sector, such as bans on night-time use of neon shop signs. We are all going to pay – through the government subsidy, and possibly with blackouts – if businesses continue their traditional profligate use of energy. She highlighted how multinational companies will be subsidised to waste energy this winter, writing about it for Left Foot Forward.Natalie also got reassurances about the treatment of community energy schemes, which should surely not be treated in the same way as the big corporates. That’s something she will continue to work with supporters on, to examine ways in which the regulations implementing this Act can provide them with essential protection.
The Schools Bill was taken apart in the Lords, with Natalie leading a rebellion by suggesting that the whole thing be referred back. It had contained some sensible reforms, but the measures on home education added up to a big intrusion on family life. The Bill has disappeared for now…
Jenny asked the obvious question about Fracking that everyone wanted an answer to: Would the Truss government go ahead even if local people say no? The ambiguous answer from the Minister undoubtedly worried Conservative MPs, as saying it is a ‘factor’, gives a green light to government Ministers over-ruling local councillors. That worry led to a rebellion against the whip, chaos in the lobbies and was the final straw in the government collapse. Caroline Lucas MP then secured a ‘no fracking’ commitment from Rishi Sunak at his first Prime Minister’s Question Time.
Corruption has become integrated into the economic and political systems of the UK. Jenny initiated a one hour debate on its impacts and was supported by Lib Dem and Labour peers, along with a bishop and an ex-head of standards in public life. She launched her own report into the impacts of corruption on taxpayers, policies and contracts. Her report doesn’t hold back from naming names, although a lot had to be left out because there is simply too much to include in a single document.
Natalie is taking part in the joint All-Party Parliamentary Groups on Antibiotics and Water in an inquiry into issues arising from inadequate washing facilities in hospitals and other medical settings in the Global South, which fits neatly with broader work. With her two new interns, Emily and Julze – who are funded by the British Association for Antimicrobial Chemotherapy – she’ll be doing much more on this crucial area, part of the broader issue of our far exceeding the capacity of this planet to handle the “novel entities” with which we are poisoning it, from pharmaceuticals to pesticides to plastics.
Natalie has visited Mid-Suffolk, East Hertfordshire and Worcester local parties, with a visit to Bristol planned. Jenny has also visited Suffolk and is next going to Herefordshire.
In addition to the two new interns working on anti-microbial resistance Natalie also welcomes her second King’s College intern, Ben Soodavar, who’ll be working particularly on international relations and defence issues.
Hearty and enthusiastic thanks to all those of you who have signed up to give a regular amount to support our work! We are now in a much more stable financial position leaving us free to concentrate on our Parliamentary work. We are still running a bit over budget because of cost of living increases, so more donations would be very welcome and you can find our regular donor page here.
|In hope, Jenny, Natalie and the team.|