Environmental Protections: Gove and the Lords vs the Treasury

The Environment Secretary, Michael Gove, has gone to war with the mighty Treasury over their blocking progress on our environmental protections. There is a happy coincidence between this Cabinet bust up, the EU’s taking the government to court over its failure to act on air pollution and the Lords rejecting the government plans for a post Brexit environmental enforcement agency. It highlights why the government should scrap their current flabbyconsultation on the creation of an environmental protection agency and restart it based upon the Lords’ amendment to the EU Withdrawal Bill.

Continue reading “Environmental Protections: Gove and the Lords vs the Treasury”

Big Brother is putting faces to names

The silent growth of facial recognition technology within police forces poses a major risk to civil liberties and the rule of law in the UK, yet it is happening without hardly a whimper of public debate. That is why I used a Question for Short Debate to enable a discussion about this invasive new surveillance in UK public spaces. Continue reading “Big Brother is putting faces to names”

Protecting human rights post Brexit

The Government promised that the EU Withdrawal Bill would bring across all the EU laws and turn them into British laws, so why aren’t they doing that? By exempting the Charter of Fundamental Rights they are significantly weakening the current system of human rights protection in the UK. If that is their intention, then let the Government have a proper discussion about it, rather than sneaking it through as an exemption in part of the much broader debate about the EU Bill. Continue reading “Protecting human rights post Brexit”

The voices of refugee women must be heard!

A debate in the Lords gave us the chance to discuss how the Government could give a voice to the thousands of women in Britain who’ve fled violence, conflict and persecution. Refugees come to Britain seeking protection and safety, having escaped unimaginable horrors – but all too often, as a nation, we neglect to give sufficient attention to what happens to people after they’ve arrived, and fail to provide them with the basic tools to rebuild their lives here. Language, and being able to communicate with others, is perhaps the most fundamental of these tools; which is why I was appalled to read research from the charity Refugee Action which shows that refugees are having to wait for up to three years to start English classes, as a result of Government funding cuts of over 50% since 2010 to classes for English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL). Continue reading “The voices of refugee women must be heard!”

Replacing the Lords would be a fitting step for the centenary of women’s suffrage

1918 was a triumph for democracy that came out of the tragedy of war, as three times more people were entitled to vote in the general election than in pre-war times. Unfortunately, that democratic revolution stopped at the doors of the Commons.  A hundred year later and the Lords remains an old fashioned male bastion: only a quarter of the peers are women. To this day the galleries overlooking the Lords Chamber are called “Peeresses Galleries” – the place where Lords wives are supposed to sit to watch the men debate. The simplest way to accelerate change would be to have an elected second chamber using a system of fair votes. Continue reading “Replacing the Lords would be a fitting step for the centenary of women’s suffrage”

A small victory but Labour abstain over immigration vote

The Data Protection Bill, which has started in the House of Lords, will give you the right to access information held about your finances, medical history etc. It’s a positive step forward in lots of ways. For example, it will enable us to correct mistakes and challenge any false information which has become part of the official record.

However, my main focus has been to remove the Henry VIII powers, that allow Ministers to amend and revise protections without having any further Parliamentary scrutiny, or amendment process. Continue reading “A small victory but Labour abstain over immigration vote”

Your privacy and the latest executive power grab

The Data Protection Bill will be discussed in the Lords this afternoon and it contains a lot of sensible reforms on how we protect private information. However, it also contains a lot of Henry 8th powers giving Ministers the right to by-pass Parliamentary scrutiny if they want to change the law in the future. This is an obvious threat to democracy. Giving such Putin powers to this government is a bad idea, and it remains a bad idea if a Corbyn government takes charge in a few years’ time as the powers give the executive the ability to change the rules, and that is always a bad idea. Continue reading “Your privacy and the latest executive power grab”

Ditch the label, end hate crime

Vile views spread like wildfire on the internet and are spilling out into the real world. The Home Office released statistics this week which showed hate crime has increased by nearly a third in the last year, with the biggest rises being against people who are transgender and people with disabilities. The work of Ditch the Label is extremely important in the struggle to create a more equal world that is free of bullying and prejudice. Continue reading “Ditch the label, end hate crime”

£3.1m cost of policing Lancashire frackers

The Lancashire Police have asked the Home Office for an extra £3.1m to recover some of their additional expenses in policing the Cuadrilla site at Preston New Road. That is the equivalent of £8 a Lancashire household and enough to pay for 25 police officer jobs. In 2014, Sussex police got £905,000 for their operation to protect a fracking site. Continue reading “£3.1m cost of policing Lancashire frackers”

Fewer Lords is no guarantee of improved efficiency

A recent report by the Electoral Reform Society says that 115 peers claim £1.3m despite not speaking in Lords for nine months. I’m happy to say that I’m not one of them. I spoke nearly a hundred times last year and as the only Green in the room (the only Green Party peer), I’m in a unique position to raise issues that are often ignored. From civil liberties to the use of pesticides, I can influence what issues are discussed. Continue reading “Fewer Lords is no guarantee of improved efficiency”