Women in prisons

Natalie and myself have written a letter to the Minister of Justice to ask for the fast-track release of non-dangerous, women prisoners. Corona Virus is putting an already fragile prison system under major stress with staff sickness, restrictions on prisoners and fears that the infection will spread rapidly in confined spaces.

Outside visitors have now been banned and the government has been asked to urgently review measures that will ease the situation. Even small changes like giving women prisoners free phone calls to relatives and friends would help tremendously.

 

Fishing limits – it’s everything obvious about human survival

The Fishing Bill is going through Parliament and I despair for common sense. The most basic rule of human survival on a finite planet is don’t take more than nature can provide. Yet, there are no binding legal commitments not to fish above scientifically recommended sustainable levels. As it stands the Fisheries Bill breaks the Conservative Manifesto promise to “a legal commitment to fish sustainably”. It also appears that that Ministers have no intention of keeping the legal commitment set out in Article 2 of the Community Fisheries Policy to set catch limits at maximum sustainable yield (MSY) by 2020.

Instead of legally binding limits we have management plans. These plans sound sensible enough, but without the legally enforced limits, then the short-term needs of the fishing industry may be put ahead of the long-term needs of the fish stocks and eco-collapse from over-fishing may well result.

Nor does the Fisheries Bill include any legal commitments around how the Secretary of State should seek to ensure the sustainability of stocks shared with other coastal states. This represents a real backwards step from what we have now and seems silly given that fish move around. The result could be a culture of ‘grab what you can, until its all gone’ and soon, if we don’t amend this bill, it will all be gone.

Why do we need a new Extradition Bill?

There is a huge backlog of action that needs to happen on the climate emergency, so why are we discussing new legislation on extradition? What is the size of the problem that we are seeking to resolve, and how serious is the threat?

The Home Office analysis of this bill, explains that “The policy is expected to result in 6 individuals entering the CJS more quickly than would otherwise have been the case.”

Is the Home Office really saying that only six people a year will be arrested under the powers in this Bill? And that it is “more quickly” rather than “six people who would have otherwise escaped”? If so, then is the size of the problem really so substantial that this Bill is necessary or even a worthwhile use of precious legislative time? 

My next question to the Minister in today’s debate on the bill is how serious is the threat which this Bill purports to deal with. Can the Minister give examples of the types of threats that offenders have posed under the current system which will be fixed by this power to arrest six individuals? 

The threat must be real and significant if we are expected to remove the judicial process of granting an arrest warrant. Yet, at the same time, the government must not perceive the threat to be too great because they have chosen to limit this arrest power to extraditions to only a small handful of countries. If a dangerous criminal is wanted in America or Australia, then they will be arrested without a warrant. But if the same dangerous criminal could, according to the government, escape as long as they are wanted in countries that we don’t consider as trustworthy. If the risk was as big as the government claims, then this power would be applied to a much, much larger list of countries. 

I say that this Bill is posing an ineffective solution to an imagined problem. There is no justification for removing the arrest warrant process, and if there was then it should be applied to a much larger list of countries. 

A Bill to arrest six people slightly faster just seems ridiculous. I’d go as far as suggesting that the government drops the Bill altogether and doesn’t waste any more legislative time by bringing it back for any further stages. 

Brexit – what next?

Politicians in the UK have largely wasted the last four years discussing border arrangements, rather than the icecaps melting, rivers flooding and forests burning. The environment and our rapidly changing climate doesn’t recognise legal boundaries or custom checks. Despite the admirable efforts of Extinction Rebellion, Parliament has made few actual changes to end or even limit the damage we are doing to our planet. That has to change and I can only hope with January 31st out of the way, we can focus on promoting the New Green Deal and other essential changes. Continue reading “Brexit – what next?”

Withdrawal Bill needs to include scrutiny for any backwards steps on the environment

With all the Henry the Eighth powers, secondary legislation making powers, and judicial erasure powers that Parliament will have handed to the Government in the Withdrawal Bill and other Brexit legislation, Ministers are going to find themselves with an unprecedented ability to rewrite enormous aspects of UK law at will. The Commons will be effectively by-passed and the Lords may feel compelled to wave it all through, as happens with almost every piece of secondary legislation. For this reason, it is so important that we put a backstop into law now, to protect environmental, food safety and animal welfare standards. Continue reading “Withdrawal Bill needs to include scrutiny for any backwards steps on the environment”

Queen Speech: my response to the crime and justice sections

My Lords, it came as no surprise to me that there was nothing to delight my soul in the Government’s programme. For example, a fair justice system that keeps people safe takes more than a royal commission; it takes resources. When budgets have been cut by one-third, the system does not function well and justice suffers. I hope that the royal commission will examine the impact of austerity on fairness and access to justice. I also question any attempt to impose longer sentences when we are failing to deal with the care and rehabilitation of the large number of people already in the system. The probation service and the Prison Service are unable to cope properly with the existing numbers. If you add to that number, you are adding to those pressures and problems. Continue reading “Queen Speech: my response to the crime and justice sections”

Leading Labour peer and rail expert slams HS2

Lord Berkeley has sent me a copy of his dissenting report on the HS2 Review and it is damning. It isn’t just his criticisms of the way he was written out of the process, despite being deputy chair of the Review, but his view that the positive conclusions in the Review are not supported by the evidence. Continue reading “Leading Labour peer and rail expert slams HS2”

Met Police acted unlawfully in Extinction rebellion ban

This is an historic win because for the first time we’ve challenged the police on overstepping their powers and we’ve won. It’s great.

This shows how the police have gone beyond their powers when dealing with peaceful environmental protests, There is a pattern in recent years of the police being under pressure from the government to help impose fracking on communities that don’t want it and to stop the highly successful Extinction Rebellion from raising the issue of climate change. Government Ministers were very vocal in wanting the police to clamp down on Extinction Rebellion’s October protests, after the summer protests led to Parliament passing a motion declaring a climate emergency.

Incinerators have no place in a zero-carbon world

I find it infuriating that Labour and Lib Dem councils are still approving waste from energy incinerators while their national parties declare a Climate Emergency. Labour have passed a motion at their conference aiming for zero carbon by 2030, but contracts between local authorities and incineration companies will last well beyond this timescale.

In 2016 waste incinerators officially accounted for 10.5 million tonnes of greenhouse gases and that total is going up rapidly as we burn more waste.  The real total is double that according to analysis done by the ‘No Incinerator UK’ campaign, who point out that the amount of plastic being burnt has gone up rapidly since 2011 when the government last calculated the mix of waste that was being put into incinerators.

A quick glance at oil company profits from recent years shows that plastic production has become crucial to their profitability with plastics accounting for half of global oil consumption growth to 2040. Oil, in the form of plastic, is the ideal fuel for incinerators and enables them to reach the temperatures where everything else burns nicely. We want to stop cars using petrol in the next ten years, so why are we happy for incinerators to use it?