Human Rights in Balochistan

I am hosting an event called “Wall of Silence: Human Rights in Balochistan“, that will be taking place in Committee Room 2 on 19 July 2017 18:30 – 20:00. Human Rights Watch described the violations in Balochistan as reaching ‘epidemic proportions’ Despite being Pakistan’s largest province and rich in resources, Balochistan is one of its least developed.
There are many people in this world who are marginalised by the nation they live within. Decisions are made without local consultation, families are cleared from their homes and local people are by-passed for jobs. A sense of injustice leads to protest and that often threatens powerful vested interests. The state can respond with repression, rather than dialogue and democratic reform. Repression can lead to some protests turning violent and as a result, laws become more draconian. This can create a cycle of violence that becomes entrenched.
Defending human rights and giving a voice to those at the sharp end of repression and violence is one step towards a democratic solution to situations like Balochistan. It requires bravery to give voice to complaints about what the military is doing or to attempt peaceful protest. Blanket censorship of criticism of the army’s actions makes the situation worse, as it feeds a culture of immunity to prosecution by those in the armed forces.
As a green, I condemn violence by those on both sides of any dispute. In a difficult and complicated situation like Balochistan, you have to do your best to promote dialogue and that starts by giving a voice to the voiceless. Unless people have the opportunity to speak up, vent grievances and explain their point of view, then nothing changes.

Resist this executive power grab

Labour must toughen up and be prepared to fight for all existing EU protections, in both Houses of Parliament. As Liberty has said today “If the Repeal Bill passes in this state, people in the UK will lose rights after Brexit. It’s that simple and the stakes are that high.”
I really hope that Labour will not only ‘oppose’ the Government dropping things like the Charter of Fundamental Rights, or the Precautionary Principle, but will join with other parties in putting forward some positive proposals for new institutions to replace the EU ones we are leaving behind.
The Government is trying to create regulatory systems in a way that by-passes Parliament, using Henry the 8th powers. This executive power grab must be resisted. The Grenfell fire has shown us the dangers of leaving regulation and enforcement to Ministers who have an ideological aversion to red tape. Given the government’s appalling failure to reduce air pollution and defend public health, it would be ridiculous to put them in charge of creating an enforcement body for the post-Brexit UK. Both MPs and peers need to assert themselves and work across party boundaries to come up with smart proposals for replacing EU institutions. We could start with a new Clean Air Act and an independent enforcement body along the lines of the Environmental Protection Agency in the US. A UK agency that can set standards, enforce them and be accountable in the courts if it fails to protect either human health and/or our environment.

Deposit charge on plastic bottles will work

I was in the House of Lords’ Chamber this afternoon to ask the Government Minister about recycling and waste disposal. It was reassuring that Peers from across the parties were calling on the Government to simplify recycling schemes across the country. Recycling rates vary massively between local authority areas, and in recent years recycling has been falling in England. It’s essential that we take what is working from the highest performing areas and bring all local authorities up to this standard. Recycling should be easy and accessible for everyone. Continue reading “Deposit charge on plastic bottles will work”

Brexit, a Clean Air Act and cycle lanes

Brexit will impact on every aspect of our lives, creating endless trauma but also the chance to improve things. We will need our own laws and our own enforcement agencies, and it’s an opportunity to create a body like the Environmental Protection Agency in the US, with its own staff, legal powers and a culture of independence from Government.
Continue reading “Brexit, a Clean Air Act and cycle lanes”

People die and this government sits on its hands

The Mayor of London issued a high pollution alert on Tuesday evening, but not the government, not the NHS, nor Public Health England, nor the Met Office and I didn’t notice anything on the BBC. Sadiq Khan has broken the silence which DEFRA managed to maintain for over a decade when Ken Livingstone and Boris Johnson were Mayors. He has quite rightly decided that the public’s health comes first and efforts should be made to warn them when we have a bad pollution episode. Unfortunately, the Met Office, the NHS and the BBC outside of London, all wait for DEFRA to act before telling the public and that is why the system of alerts has failed so badly.

The government have deliberately played down the health impacts of air pollution for twenty years, because they want to do the minimum they can get away with. If they regularly issued press releases telling people to avoid exercise, or busy roads, or even not to drive in pollution hotspots, then the public would want to know when the problem was going to be fixed. The solutions are well known and have been put in place in cities around the world: cleaner vehicles, used less.

The EU have taken the lead in the drive for cleaner vehicles and while they did a good job with regulating diesel lorries and larger vehicles, they had a light touch approach to the car manufacturers. That approach failed miserably. Many car makers put profit before people and cheated on the tests. The differences between performance in the test and the reality on the roads can be measured in human lives cut short.

Meanwhile, Labour, Conservative and coalition governments have all failed to reduce traffic. In fact, they have acted to encourage traffic growth with new roads and cuts to public transport. The cost of driving has declined while the cost of fares has risen. Measures like pay as you go driving have been promoted by the experts, but rejected by politicians running scared of the motoring lobby. A few years go the Greens on the London Assembly even commissioned a report on how it would work in London and we shared that with Transport for London.

I’m glad that Sadiq Khan is now putting this forward as part of a London strategy to reduce traffic by 3m journeys. Such policies need our support if we are to end the public health scandal of air pollution

Four reasons to vote Green

Climate change is the biggest threat facing humanity and it has been largely being ignored or sidelined by the bigger political parties. Yet last year was the hottest on record and those records are being beaten at an increasing rate. Huge cracks are emerging in the polar ice at the same time as Trump has tried to sink the Paris climate change deal. Labour has refused to oppose Heathrow expansion, which is the single most damaging policy/project for climate change and air pollution. Continue reading “Four reasons to vote Green”