14th to 20th February 2019 Lords diary for House magazine
Thursday I woke up still mortified that I called Matt Ridley ‘that fellow over there’ yesterday in the Chamber. I apologised at once to him and he kindly laughed it off. I usually get to my desk about 8.30am, to keep on top of all the emails and the occasional letter. In the afternoon I raced over to Bermondsey to a small sunny park to introduce the results of the internal Green Party selection for Mayor/Assembly candidates in 2020. Lovely to be with so many Greens.
Friday A day off for chores, Astanga yoga, more chores, and the last episode of Game of Thrones, Series 7.
Saturday The Climate Strike by school students was amazing. Right up to the moment that pictures started coming out with police horses pushing back the peaceful crowds of children, and the arrests of three young people. They are absolutely right when they say that we politicians have failed them. In the last week I have asked questions in the House on why we are burning so much waste and on how the Government will help farmers achieve zero emissions agriculture and been fobbed off on both issues. There’s not a feeling of urgency about Climate Breakdown and we have to have the situation described to us by schoolchildren. Personally, I’m panicking.
Sunday I arrive at 8am at Broadcasting House to be a guest on the BBCR4 Paper Review. The other guests are George Parker from the FT and Shappi Khorsandi, the comedian, with whom I bonded over feminism.
Monday An odd week ahead, with a light agenda in the House, so there’s a chance to clear my desktop piling system. I suppose like most peers, I get sent a lot of things, cards, badges, paintings, and I can’t bear to throw them away. My new Hansard intern, Coles Cotter, is doing research on immigration for the arrival (when?) of the Bill. We discussed what amendments might be necessary. Over lunchtime I queued to table an Oral Question on the issue of child spies, which was debated in October last year. I also started sending questions on the same subject for written reply. It’s crucial to follow up on debates, to check on government action. In the Chamber, I tried and failed to get in on an Oral Question on air pollution and its damaging effects, especially on children. My Clean Air (Human Rights) Bill, now waiting for its second reading, would be perfect for the Government to adopt.
Tuesday I’ve started doing podcasts called Jen’s Green Jam. My last one was with fellow peer Chris Holmes on diversity in the workplace. I’m now planning my next which will be on Fast Fashion with Amelia Womack, Green Party Deputy Leader. She’s highlighting how environmentally and socially damaging cheap clothes can be, from non-existent labour rights to ocean pollution from plastic microfibres. And we here in the UK are big offenders. At 4pm, a quick interview on College Green for ITV on waste. Medway Council have started to target fly-tippers by confiscating, and in some cases crushing, their vehicles. Very brave.
Wednesday News comes in that my friend Molly Scott Cato MEP for the SW has been arrested with other MEPs for breaking into a Belgian military airbase to protest against the stockpiling of American nuclear bombs. My week of concentrating on clearing paperwork starts to look very dull. Mid morning I treated my photography mad 16yr old grandson to a ticket to a Tate Britain exhibition. As we walked in, I realised I had never been there, in spite of being so close to my office. And I end the week with more mortification, this time for being so culturally lazy.
22nd to 28th January 2018 Lords diary for House magazine
Monday I arrive at the office with a broken wrist. Very annoying, but a Hansard Scholar has joined me for ten weeks so there’s lots of distraction in explaining the work for the months ahead. James will increase my small part time team’s capacity by a third, so he’s very welcome. Throughout the week, briefings for the EU Withdrawal Bill take up a lot of my time but are necessary as it’s such a crucial, historic, piece of legislation that I need to follow closely. Although I voted Leave, there’s a lot in the current bill that I will fiercely oppose e.g. the Henry 8th clauses, and the removal of environmental and social protections. The Government is likely to lose votes, especially on the constitutional issues.
Tuesday I heard Chris Boardman, Olympic cyclist, talk about how he plans to change Manchester into a city that’s wonderful for walking and cycling, with the support of the Mayor, Andy Burnham. Great vision. It seems my broken wrist isn’t broken after all. The hospital rechecked the x rays and think it’s just very badly bruised (I love the NHS). Fine, except it’s still very painful and almost everything is harder or even impossible with one hand, from putting on clothes to slicing a tomato or getting painkillers out of their packets.
Wednesday I went to the Heathrow All Party Parliamentary Group, prepared to drop in for 20 mins to show I still care about stopping expansion, to find we had a 2 hour select committee type meeting with witnesses. A fascinating meeting, well chaired by Ruth Cadbury and attended by a cross party group of MPs and peers. Most interesting was the very weak financial argument for expanding Heathrow and the detrimental impact on communities around the airport.
Thursday I was up for a 5am TalkRadio interview on The Presidents Club fiasco of powerful men abusing women at the Dorchester. Later in the Chamber I was told off by a fellow peer for whispering on the benches. As part of my current work I am working with the Clean Air in London campaign to draft a Clean Air Bill to Parliament that includes the key principles, for future generations, that are currently in EU law. The central idea of the Bill is to make healthy air a human right and this is to be backed up by a Citizen’s Commission which would help people take legal action if their health was impacted by dirty air. I am co-ordinating this with the excellent work already done in the Commons by Geraint Davis MP and his Clean Air Act.
Friday I was told off by a doorkeeper for whispering on the benches while I apologised to the peer for whispering yesterday. In the afternoon, on a train to Dorset, I read all the EU briefing papers I’d collected.
Saturday Time with my partner, children grandchildren. In politics, it’s easy to think the world revolves around our work and never give enough time to people we love.
Sunday Back to London to write this article, to prepare for an Oral Question I have down on recycling, for a debate on the Government’s totally inadequate 25 year Environment Plan and for the two days of debate, with 188 speakers, for the 2nd reading of the EU Bill. Luckily I’m down to speak early in the debate so I won’t be repeating what many have said before. In retrospect, this past week was a doddle, even with a not-quite-broken-wrist.
24th to 30th October 2016 Lords diary for House magazine
Monday Met with a Green Party delegation from Staffordshire and heard some useful anecdotes from them on failing local bus services in their area. To the Chamber, for the Bus Services’ Bill. A good bill with a few serious flaws. I’ve put down an amendment on Bus Safety Reporting; if passed it would be the only mention of safety in the whole bill. Before that there is a vote on continuing to allow local councils to run bus services. I spoke and used my Staffs’ colleague’s example for emphasis. I do love defeating the Government. I withdrew my safety amendment, but in view of the Minister’s comments, hope to bring a slightly revised version back at 3rd reading next week. Was glad of cross party support.
Tuesday Invited by Conservative Peer Lady Berridge to a meeting with the Home Office Minister on her amendment to reduce the alcohol limit for driving legally. Delighted to be there, also with Labour peers and have cosigned the amendment.
Wednesday A horrible hour at the dentist to save an upper molar – expensive and painful. Leave the surgery wondering if I really needed that back tooth and whether health treatment costs will go the same way as the dental service. Mouth recovered in time to join the London APPG where Sadiq Khan and Tony Travers explained the need for London to keep more of its taxes. Told there is no formal process for London to feed into the Brexit negotiations, which seems illogical.
Thursday In early to prepare for my Question for Short Debate (QSD), on the detention of pregnant women. Government refusing to say how many and why it is holding them, so we can’t tell if they are following their own rules limiting detention of pregnant women to 72hrs. Met briefly with a trainee journalist from City University to talk air pollution, Heathrow and Climate Change. My elder daughter is a journalist, so I like to make time for journalism students if I can. Waiting to go into Oral Questions, I had a surprise apology from a peer for a row we had 4 months ago during the referendum campaign. He was extremely rude to me and we had a stand up shouting match in a corridor until a Minister intervened. On this occasion we parted friends. At Oral Questions, I came in on a question on solar panels. I’m furious that the Govt reduced the Feed In Tariff last year, and now wants to remove the tax exemption too. Solar and other sustainable energy sources should be seriously supported, not penalised. Minister refused my offer to visit a school to explain why they would now have to pay tax on their panels. The QSD went well with wonderfully informed support from others. Government response: ‘we will not publish a running commentary’. Caught late train to Dorset for 36hours of clean air – emails on train obviously.
Friday In between putting out a beer trap for slugs to keep them away from our early peas, picking the last raspberries from the allotment, and chatting to neighbours, I daydream about having another Green peer (or several). With 1m votes at the last General Election, yet only one MP elected, if the Government won’t bring in Proportional Representation it could at least give us more peers.
Saturday A day out in Exeter, with my younger daughter and her children, where the UK’s oldest hotel has burnt down. Then back to London on the slowest train imaginable, but allowing time to catch up on emails and start this diary.
Sunday Day spent planning for the following week, including butting in on Monday’s 3rd reading of the appallingly repressive Investigatory Powers Bill, a speech at the 10th anniversary of the SOS Project which helps young people leave gangs, and organising a Green Party women’s supper for 20 in the Barry Room, which seems to be the only way to get more Greens into Parliament at the moment.
24th February to 1st March 2016 Lords diary for House magazine
Wednesday Cycled from home to City Hall through beautiful frosty Burgess Park, arriving at my desk by 7am. Lots of emails, speaking requests and reading to do for both London Assembly and House of Lords. On 5th May this year I will stand down after 16 years on the Assembly, leaving me free to be a fulltime peer. Until then, I have committee meetings, e.g. Economy Committee where we hear about housing shortages in London. Dash to a yoga class, then homemade sandwiches at my computer, plus a big piece of chocolate cake (thank you to Rachel, wife of Tom, our Office Manager). After lunch I cycle to the House of Lords for Oral Questions, where I suggest the Government gives advice to pension funds on divesting from fossil fuels before the Carbon Bubble bursts. Cup of tea with fellow peer Chris Holmes, talking Boris, Brexit and Labradors. Back to City Hall for an evening celebration for 200 of the wonderful people who have helped me and Darren Johnson to be effective since May 2000.
Thursday An 0830 meeting with the Met Police’s Deputy Commissioner, so he can explain (or not) the curious deletion of my files from the Domestic Extremist database just two days after I said I would be asking to see them. Result: Met can’t be sure why the files were deleted.
Friday Catch the 0705 train to Harrogate for Green Party conference. I’ve been a GP member since 1988 so mostly go to catch up with old friends. However, being an Outer, I’m at odds with my party on the EU, so am not sure how many helpful people will lobby me to try to change my mind, which I made up on the issue at least 40 years ago. Attend several interesting (aka contentious) meetings on Home Education, Animal Rights etc., and then book into a hotel for a swim. At 7pm there’s a two hour meeting of GP Political Committee, designed to keep all senior Greens updated. Then friends and G&Ts in the bar.
Saturday Another swim and a convivial breakfast with assorted Greens. Get to the conference venue early to prepare to chair a long policy session where all members vote. It includes a new energy policy, which passes unanimously and a new animal rights policy which falls by a small margin after robust debate.
Sunday A day off, to do almost nothing except nurse my hand as I’ve managed to bruise the radial nerve – very painful and limiting. Partner *very* supportive, with both tea and sympathy.
Monday To City Hall. Hand no better, so sadly must drop out of an early morning tea run for homeless with the Simon Community in case I spill cups of hot tea, thus making everyone’s lives worse, rather than better. I used to go every week, but now manage less than once a month. It’s a chance to experience for myself the increasing number of homeless people, especially of working age. To the Lords, for Oral Questions and meetings, then at 6pm I host an event for the Royal National Lifeboat Institute, a superb charity that has saved 140,000 lives since its foundation, at a cost of more than 600 lives lost in service.
Tuesday The updated Investigatory Powers Bill is announced today, but on first skim, still full of dangerous flaws. Meetings, including with senior people from Network Rail to berate them for their mercenary attitude to businesses on their property whose community value they don’t understand. Then to the Lords to raise the distressing and cruel issue of the bulldozing of the Calais Camp, which I have visited twice. Appalling conditions, now made much worse. Aid agencies say that there are hundreds of unaccompanied children and are concerned that they will now be even more vulnerable to exploitation. Backed calls for the Government to devise an expedited process to take those minors who have family in the UK.