The Heathrow question

The government can’t push ahead with Heathrow, unless they reject the latest advice from the Committee on Climate Change (CCC). In 2016, the Airports Commission used evidence from the CCC to state that Heathrow expansion was OK if we stayed within national limits for carbon emissions, but the CCC now want the UK target changed to zero emissions by 2050 and have stated that aviation expansion will have to be curbed.

The Airports Commission only justified the existing policy of Heathrow expansion by taking an extremely optimistic view about future efficiency improvements and making big assumptions which are not widely accepted. Even with these efficiency improvements, the Airports Commission was already talking (in the small print of reports) about carbon capping and taxing. Even in their optimistic scenarios, passenger numbers would eventually have to fall.

Heathrow only scraped through the recent court case brought by local authorities and Greenpeace because the Paris Agreement to reduce carbon emissions is not part of UK law.  However, the Climate Act is law and so are the five yearly carbon budgets which will have to be reduced further to reach zero emissions in 2050. With the government already facing problems reaching its current commitments, then Heathrow expansion becomes a non-starter.  

I’ll be telling the government that it makes no sense to spend billions of pounds expanding Heathrow if it has to close a decade later.

The Lords exchange is here

Green win: rights for Property Guardians

It’s not often that a Minister starts a sentence by thanking a political opponent for introducing an issue and then says “How right she was to raise it in the way she did in October. I’m grateful for her for that and our subsequent meetings.“ The Minister then promised action to address my concerns over the exploitation of thousands of people who act as Property Guardians. These are people who protect a property by living there with the agreement of the owners, but have none of the legal rights enjoyed by those paying rent.

The use of Property Guardians is a mutually beneficial arrangement which often protects properties waiting to be redeveloped, while giving thousands of people a free roof over their heads. I organised a special debate in the Lords last October because of a report done by Sian Berry on the issue.  She found that over a thousand of these Guardians were paying rent. While others were subject to instant eviction and had no right to enforce minimum standards to ensure decent living conditions.  

Research carried out by York University for the London Assembly Housing Committee, which Sian chaired, found that nearly half of PropertyGuardians had no idea how long they would be allowed to stay in their property. Living conditions can be austere. The same research found that many had no kitchen facilities at all and some had to rely on temporary shower pods for their washing facilities.

As a result of our discussions, the Minister is aiming to revise the guidance to local authorities about how they monitor these Property Guardian arrangements and enforce decent living conditions.

Making Clean Air a legal right

The Times has taken up the campaign for a new Clean Air Bill to ensure that everyone has the right to breathe unpolluted air. Hopefully that means my Clean Air (Human Rights) Bill is one step nearer being adopted by the government.

The wording of this new Bill was commissioned by the Clean Air in London Campaign. It builds on the excellent work by Geraint Davis MP and lays the legal foundations for a whole set of practical policies for reducing air pollution.

There are key legal priorities contained in this Bill that would steer government policy making:

·        the impact on future generations of decisions made about planning and design (we can say definitely No Heathrow expansion); and

·        the precautionary principle applied to new technologies that impact on air quality.

It also provides the basis for an Environmental Enforcement Agency with teeth, which is going to be a key discussion, when the environment Secretary, Michael Gove, brings forward legislation. The Times campaign shows that where Greens lead, others will follow. If they have any sense. 

Podcast: Sian Berry and green achievements

Elected greens always tend to punch above their weight. Whether it is a local council chamber, the London Assembly, or Parliament itself, a Green in the room will change the dynamic of most conversations. Sian Berry has a string of successes from her time as a member of Camden council and the London Assembly. This podcast (on Podbean) talks about some of the key changes Sian has achieved and gives a taste of what will happen in the 2020 Mayoral campaign.

The recording took place as the Extinction Rebellion was dominating the news. Last year a Green Party councillor in Bristol, Carla Denyer, put a motion declaring a climate emergency and several months later, there are over 70 councils with similar declarations, along with the Scottish Parliament and the Mayor of London taking up the idea. We even have the Labour Party and others promoting the idea in Westminster. Things have shifted and elected greens have a role to play in making that shift a permanent feature of our political life.

Sian is part of Generation Rent, not able to afford to buy her own home, and her personal experience has informed her drive to create more social housing that is high quality and genuinely affordable. She has continued campaigning in defence of tenants’ rights against Labour councils seeking to knock down their estates and rebuild as luxury flats. In the last election she took forward the Green Party demand that tenants should have the final say in regeneration schemes and this has been adopted by the London Mayor.

I worked with Sian in changing the government guidance given to councils about the use of Property Guardians. This is where people pay a low rent to live in empty buildings or homes to provide security for the owners. While this is done in agreement with the owners and usually everyone benefits, Sian wanted to ensure that there are a minimum set of legal rights for the people involved. She worked with campaigners on this, wrote a report for the London Assembly and Jenny took this up with the Minister in the Lords.

London becoming a Red/Green city is a bold claim, but Sian can see it happening in the Proportional Representation elections for London Mayor and Assembly. The Greens came third in the Mayoral elections of 2012 and 2016, with Sian winning the majority of second preference votes (nearly half a million) in 2016. I realise that there is a big leap from third to a second place run off with Labour, but the Conservative Party has a less than stellar candidate who is polling badly. With politics in so much flux, a historic breakthrough is possible.

Sian’s 2016 Mayoral campaign was based upon the Greens having a strong record of delivery in the previous sixteen years on the London Assembly. Sian and Caroline Russell have added to that record but the 2020 election will also be about competing visions of the capital’s future. Above all, how London can take the lead in combating climate breakdown and combine this with policies that put social justice at the heart of what we do.

On i-tunes and Player FM

Question to Minister on protecting the right to protest

Today around 3pm I’ll be raising the issue of freedom to protest with questions to the Government in the House of Lords about the Court of Appeal’s striking out an injunction obtained by INEOS in a secret court. The successful appeal was brought by two individuals and Friends of the Earth, representing an enormous victory for the right to protest. It will hopefully pave the way for more successful appeals by peaceful protestors who have had their human rights restricted by the frackers and other environmental vandals. Continue reading “Question to Minister on protecting the right to protest”

A week in my life: Feb 2019

I recently wrote an article for the Parliamentary House Magazine describing a regular week in my working life – except, nothing is regular here at the moment. I left a debate on Lords’ Reform to go meet school children on their Climate Strike and to get the police to let them use a sound system. I did the BBCR4 review of the papers on Broadcasting House. Oh, and I had to apologise after I got annoyed in the Chamber about silly things being said about incinerating plastic and referred to Conservative Lord Ridley as that ‘fellow over there’.

JJ diary article Feb 2019



Minister agrees to examine police whistle-blower claim on child spies

I have asked the government to investigate a claim by a whistle-blower that the police are setting targets for regional police services to increase the use of juveniles as Covert Human Intelligence Sources (CHIS) as part of their efforts to combat county lines drug gangs. The whistle-blower approached my office with the information, but I can not verify the claim and have asked the Minister in the Lords to find out if this is happening. Continue reading “Minister agrees to examine police whistle-blower claim on child spies”

Government will count number of spy kids used by police

At last, after much nagging, the government is starting to count the number of juveniles used as police spies, or as they call them, Covert Human Intelligence Sources (CHIS). In a Lords’ debate, peers criticised the government for extending to four months the time that children can be used by the police before the operation is reviewed and can be extended. I have organised another airing of this issue with an oral question to the Minister on 18th March. 

Continue reading “Government will count number of spy kids used by police”

Taser use needs radical rethink

Since the introduction of Tasers to the UK police force in 2003, the number of officers carrying tasers, as well as the number of incidents involving tasers, has grown dramatically. Between 2017 and 2018 alone, there were 18,000 reported incidents involving tasers, which have disproportionately affected black people and people with mental disabilities.

Continue reading “Taser use needs radical rethink”