My amendment 20 to the Animal Welfare Bill

I would like to see a strong, broad-based animal sentience committee that conducts deep analysis of all government policy to ensure that its impact on animals has been properly considered. I would much rather that the committee looked at everything in the round than sporadically look at piecemeal bits of policy. The former seems the right way to go, especially when the Bill is premised on the fact that these animals are sentient beings with the capacity to feel, perceive and experience. Why any scrutiny body would be reduced to the position of seeking permission from those it is scrutinising to actually do the scrutinising is beyond me, but then there are those who believe in the divine right of kings and see scrutiny of the Government as a bad thing.

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We still need a ban on Fracking

I have tabled this amendment with a view to banning fracking once and for all. In doing so, I want to celebrate all the hard work of campaigners and activists across the country who delivered massive opposition against this dirty and dangerous polluting industry, often in the face of poor policy decisions by the Government and the fracking industry’s might-is-right attempts to quash them. In particular, I applaud the Preston New Road campaign in Lancashire. It was a thousand days of protest by the anti-fracking Nanas, a bunch of mainly older women led by Tina Rothery. They fought so hard in the face of well-financed and rather nasty, threatening behaviour by Cuadrilla.

Here in the UK, there are still legal loopholes that could allow fracking to be forced on communities. I am most worried that, even if the Secretary of State did reject planning permission for fracking, this could be overturned in a judicial review. For this reason, we must change the law to reflect what is now common agreement: that fracking is banned in the UK.

I spoke to this amendment in the House on Day 8 of Committee Stage of the Environment Bill: My amendment is on something that I care about very deeply, namely fracking. I have tabled it with a view to banning it once and for all. In doing so, I want to celebrate all the hard work of campaigners and activists across the country who delivered massive opposition against this dirty and dangerous polluting industry, often in the face of poor policy decisions by the Government and the fracking industry’s might-is-right attempts to quash them. In particular, I applaud the Preston New Road campaign in Lancashire. It was a thousand days of protest by the anti-fracking Nanas, a bunch of mainly older women led by Tina Rothery. They fought so hard in the face of well-financed and rather nasty, threatening behaviour by Cuadrilla.

In the 2019 general election, it was announced that we had won on this particular issue. The Conservatives, along with every other political party in Parliament, declared themselves to be against fracking. However, we in the UK are still supporting fracking in Argentina, which means we are offshoring the horrid stuff, so we do not have to count all the carbon emissions and so on, and Namibia is being exploited by a Canadian company. Ireland called for an international ban this year, and calls are now growing for an Irish-led global ban on fracking. I would be interested to hear from the Minister whether that is something that the Government might support.

Here in the UK, there are still legal loopholes that could allow fracking to be forced on communities. I am most worried that, even if the Secretary of State did reject planning permission for fracking, this could be overturned in a judicial review. The Government may have changed their policy to be against fracking but, if this conflicts with the law in a judicial review, their policy will be ruled unlawful. For this reason, we must change the law to reflect what is now common agreement: that fracking is banned in the UK. I hope that the Minister will agree.

Read the whole debate on Hansard

The adoption of remote electronic monitoring of fishing vessels


We discussed remote electronic monitoring when considering the Fisheries Bill and the House of Lords were able to get the Minister to put a firm commitment in support of it on the record. Lord Gardiner of Kimble, stated: “The Government are clear that we will be consulting on increasing the use of REM in the first half of 2021, with implementation following that. I am not in a position to give a precise date today for when this will be implemented, but I can absolutely say—and I want to put this on the record—that the Government are absolutely seized of the importance of REM.”—[Official Report, 12/11/20; col. 1174.]

Unfortunately, things do not seem to be progressing particularly quickly. The latest update I could find on the GOV.UK website, from 7 May, says: “We’ve considered all the submissions and will continue to use the evidence provided to inform further thinking on the use of remote electronic monitoring in England. We’ll engage more with stakeholders in the near future around the topics that were highlighted in this call for evidence.”

This language does not reflect the previous enthusiasm of Lord Gardiner of Kimble, so I asked the Minister to confirm that the Government remain “absolutely seized of the importance of REM”

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Fundamentally inadequate and incoherent

I do not understand how we can keep on passing legislation that does not tie up. Without amendments to the Environment Bill we are at risk of seeing our seas and fisheries as being separate from the rest of our environment and all our ecological activities. This sort of silo thinking would undermine the realities of the inseparable ecosystems and natural systems. I would be particularly concerned and upset if an upland authority had a nature recovery strategy that failed to take into account what was happening to its downstream neighbours and, ultimately, to the seas where the watercourses will end up. An Environment Bill that allows for that eventuality is fundamentally inadequate and incoherent, with no basic understanding of the environment.

We need these amendments because the alternative is that in a few years’ time the Government of the day will have to bring in new legislation to try to patch up these incoherencies, with perhaps a decade of lost opportunity to heal the environment in that time. It is much better that we work together now to get it right. Continue reading “Fundamentally inadequate and incoherent”

CO2 Emissions from Vehicles

This is an almost sneaky little piece of legislation, because it is presented as a regulation to continue the status quo but it is actually backfilling a regulatory loophole that was created by the Government; it did not have to be created. I am concerned that this little loophole has allowed some highly polluting vehicles to be sold in Northern Ireland. It is only in September of this year that the loophole will close, so highly polluting vehicles can still be sold until then. Clearly, it was negligent of the Government to allow this to happen. For some strange reason, they dropped Northern Ireland out of the EU emissions regime two weeks before the end of the transition period and then allowed a nine-month window of lawlessness when it came to selling polluting vehicles.

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Environment Bill Committee Stage Day 6 – Planning

I know that the Green Party’s 450 or so councillors sitting on over 140 local authorities, along with thousands of other environmentally aware councillors from other political parties, would be able to achieve a huge amount with these new powers—in particular, the ability to prohibit inappropriate activities that would be detrimental to biodiversity. Continue reading “Environment Bill Committee Stage Day 6 – Planning”

Environment Bill Committee Day 6 – Water

We currently use water in an extremely illogical way. Clean, drinkable water is flushed down the loo when there is a really obvious alternative: to not use it. The separation and capture of grey water should be routine, and the Government should make it a requirement in building regs, because the benefits are so blindingly clear.

When we combine the separation and reuse of grey water with the separation of sewage from drainage, we have a much more sustainable water system. I hope that not very long into the future we will look back on the idea of using clean water to flush our toilets and then mixing it with rainwater, before spending huge amounts of money getting the sewage back out, as illogical and disgusting. Continue reading “Environment Bill Committee Day 6 – Water”

Police Cuts and bodyworn camera footage

According to a recent report, some videos showed that police officers were poor at communicating and lacked patience and de-escalation skills. Is it possible that the pressure on the police from 11 years of swingeing Tory cuts to their budgets and numbers is responsible for that sort of pressure? Their numbers are still not back to pre-Conservative Government levels of 11 years ago.

I have also submitted a written question:

“To ask HMG what assessment they have made of the need to update the College of Policing’s body worn camera guidance to (1) reduce officers’ discretion about its use, and (2) specifically discourage the practice of turning away from an incident to avoid recording wrongdoing by a fellow officer.”

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