The Data Protection Bill, which has started in the House of Lords, will give you the right to access information held about your finances, medical history etc. It’s a positive step forward in lots of ways. For example, it will enable us to correct mistakes and challenge any false information which has become part of the official record.
However, my main focus has been to remove the Henry VIII powers, that allow Ministers to amend and revise protections without having any further Parliamentary scrutiny, or amendment process. The Lords successfully removed the Government’s powers to “omit” protections, and to change parts of the Bill using Henry VIII powers. However, Ministers will still be able to amend protections. While this still isn’t ideal, it feels good to know that I’ve played a small part in securing the concessions.
Of course, the government have included a few predictable downsides, such as excluding immigrants from many of the protections that the rest of us will soon enjoy. Sadly, the Labour front bench didn’t join with the rest of the Opposition to vote against these exclusions, but I will continue to work with Liberty and the Open Rights Group to kick up a fuss about it. In many ways people subject to our increasing draconian immigration process need these protections the most, with the Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration reporting Home Office mistakes in 1 in 10 cases. This secrecy exemption will apply to GPs, schools and landlords.
It’s valuable work, improving the Bill, and it’s giving the Government a taste of how tough the Lords can be.
My question on renewables and energy storage to the Minister
The cost of producing renewable energy has fallen rapidly in recent years and is predicted to be cheaper than all forms of nuclear or fossil fuels by the mid-2020s. The only thing holding renewables back is the cost of storing the energy and making it available when we need it. The UK has plenty of wind, sun and tides to power businesses and homes, but we have to invest in the storage capacity to make this a reality.
Storage comes in many forms. Installing a hot water tank in every home that has solar panels would reduce gas bills for heating bath and shower water. If those solar panels are still producing more energy during the day than you need, then a large house battery is an option, especially if you are charging up your electric vehicle in the evenings. Tesla expects that the cost of their home battery pack will drop to a quarter of its current price in the next decade, which makes it possible for millions of homes to get one.
That means that millions of households and businesses will probably disappear off grid in future years, as they switch to renewables, plus storage. This is good news for the planet, but it will primarily driven by consumers seeking the best deal. My question to the government today was focused on what happens to those who can’t afford solar panels, or new water tanks?
Why don’t we bring the costs down even faster by switching government subsidies away from the production of energy from nuclear and fossil fuels, and towards household/business storage? It makes much more sense to invest in a future of decentralised energy production and consumption, rather than the centralised and environmentally damaging industries of the past.
The number of drivers being breathalysed has declined significantly since austerity began in 2010. The number of drivers being tested has dropped from 736,846 in 2010 to 463,319 last year. Overstretched traffic police are letting many drivers get away with drink driving, despite the obvious risks to people’s safety. Continue reading “Fewer traffic-police, fewer breath tests”
I’ve written to the Environment Minister, Michael Gove, about alleged failures of the Red Tractor farms to guarantee minimum standards of animal welfare. An investigation carried out by the organisation Animal Equality exposed serious welfare problems on four British Red Tractor pig farms and includes video footage. Continue reading “Questions raised with Gove about Red Tractor pig farms”
As part of my fundraiser campaign, I thought you would find it useful to know what I’ve done this week and the kind of things your donation will be spent on. The big campaign this week is to get animal sentience included as a principle in the EU Withdrawal Bill. Continue reading “My week, my work and animal sentience”