Tomorrow is a crucial day in the House of Lords for environmentalists. I shall be backing an amendment to the EU Withdrawal Bill to ensure that the government’s promised new enforcement agency will not reduce any of “the rights, powers, liabilities, obligations, restrictions, remedies and proceedures that contribute to the protection and improvement of the environment.”
The amendment also outlines a timetable for consulting upon and establishing this independent new body, along with appointing its chair and funding it.
We need a UK enforcement agency (with arrangements agreed by the devolved administrations) that is capable of taking over the role of the European Commission. The government’s proposal, which they published ahead of this Lords’ debate, fails several of the crucial tests, but they are hoping it will be enough to avoid another defeat.
According to the government’s bill, the new body will not be able to initiate legal action and will have no legal obligation to operate the current environmental principles such as the precautionary principle and polluter pays. By contrast, the amendment lays out all of the existing environmental principles, including animal sentience.
For Greens, this could become the most positive vote the Lords has taken. The amendment is just one step on the way towards creating a world-leading environmental enforcement agency that will protect our food and animal welfare standards.
The decision by the government to support the Mayor of London’s new road tunnel under the Thames is a blow to the thousands of people who will be impacted by the pollution it generates. New roads create new traffic and big new roads like this create a lot of new traffic. Successive Mayor’s have failed to deal with air pollution, this new road will make things worse.
The Mayor’s justification for the road is that the tolls will keep a cap on the vehicle numbers, but that hasn’t stopped millions of cars using the Dartford Crossing each year and these tolls won’t stop traffic jams forming in east London.
Some of the most deprived communities in east London, who do not drive, will have their lives and health blighted by this new road. The talk of a special bus for cyclists is a gimmick, if the Mayor really wanted to help cyclists he should cancel the road and use the money to build some more segregated cycle lanes intead.
This road belongs to a 1960s vision of London dominated by big roads, where everyone has a car. The reality is a thriving, busy city where fewer people drive, more people cycle and public transport is the most sensible way of getting around.
Local people and environmentalists have fought off three attempts to build this road crossing and I still hope the Mayor will junk the plans.
I have asked the government for new ‘set back’ regulations to stop fracking sites being placed outside the front gate of people’s homes (see photo of homes near fracking drill site, Westby, Fylde, Lancashire). A North Yorkshire Planning Inspector has suggested a minimum 500m limit and I imagine they were as shocked as I was to discover that the government hadn’t bothered with such an obvious public health measure. Continue reading “Frackers on your doorstep are bad for your health”
Brexit is turning our world on its head. It will dominate our political, economic and social future. It’s certainly dominating Parliament’s attention at the moment, and we have got dozens of Bills coming up over the next few years to facilitate our smooth exit from the EU.
I’m worried about what Brexit means for our rights. I voted for Brexit, even campaigned for it, but I feel cheated now by the Government with some of the things they are trying to get away in the EU Withdrawal Bill. Continue reading “Equality laws post Brexit”
At yesterday’s debate in the House of Lords on the EU Withdrawal Bill I had to drop my amendment to retain the EU’s rules on Animal Sentience, as part of the Withdrawal Bill, because Labour withdrew its two line whip just as I was about to push it to a vote. My amendment was the same that Caroline Lucas put to the Commons and received a lot of support.
Labour had been promoting a Crossbench amendment on Animal Sentience which went further than retaining the EU rules. I signed and supported this attempt, but I also expressed my belief that it wouldn’t get a majority as it lacked the simplicity of my amendment. In the spirit if cross party working I even agreed to let the Crossbench amendment go first after being lobbied by the Opposition whips.
The Crossbench amendment was too complicated so it fell, and we lost too many peers who wanted to go home to vote on mine. It is disappointing that the simple amendment had to be dropped when I truly believe that it has the majority support in the Lords. I hope that either myself or Caroline make another attempt at making the government see sense on this.
On positive point to note. The Minister said:
“I would like to reassure noble Lords—and I know that the noble Lord, Lord Trees, is particularly interested in this fact—that the Government and the EU have reached agreement on an implementation period following our exit from the EU until the end of December 2020, and Article 13 would continue to apply during that period.”
It gives us longer to be organised for the next bill.
One of the surprises of life in the Lords is that our laws are partly decided by the bar room stamina of government supporting peers. The Lords defeated the government three times yesterday over the charter of fundamental rights and also earned a good concession from them over the protection of public health. The Opposition was on a roll and not one of the peers in the chamber got up to speak against the amendments sponsored by green NGOs to retain the EU’s environmental protections and principles. No one opposed, but vast numbers of Conservative peers were hanging out in the bars and restaurants, waiting for their whips to call them to vote. In the end, the Minister rose, made concessions and the amendment was withdrawn. Continue reading “Withdrawal Bill debate shows why we need Lords reform”
This is a busy week in the Lords as we have the chance to defeat the government on some key amendments to the EU Withdrawal Bill which retain crucial environmental principles. I’m hoping for lots of votes. The Labour and Lib Dem whips mustn’t skip over anything crucial because they are worried about the Lords over stepping its role. If something is wrong with the legislation, then we need to say so.
Continue reading “Lords can defeat government on EU rules”