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”

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”

Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill – An Animal Sentience Committee

I have tabled nine amendments to the Bill to ensure that the animal sentience committee will be a properly functioning entity that can support a meaningful improvement in recognising the sentience of animals, and what that should mean for government policy.

My first amendment, Amendment 6, starts the process of improving the committee by explicitly stating its purpose. It seems a basic drafting failure that the purpose of the committee is not laid out. It seems rather strange to have it absent from the Bill, so here I am suggesting an option. If somebody wanted a public body to achieve a purpose, I think that they would specify that purpose in the enabling legislation. My concern is that, as the Bill is currently drafted, the animal sentience committee will not be able to achieve much. We have heard Lords use particular phrases about why animal sentience is not in our legislation: somebody said it just fell out and somebody else said it was dropped by accident. To me, that is a rewriting of history, because I remember that the Government took it out deliberately. Continue reading “Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill – An Animal Sentience Committee”

Environment Bill committee Stage Day 5 – Waste water

This is one of the groups of amendments which really ought to be just swallowed wholesale by the Government. It has some excellent amendments in it.

Amendment 161 emphasises the importance of nature-based solutions and other ways of separating our sewage from the clean water that falls on the surface as rain. It is absolutely absurd that we mix these two things together, instantly turning clean rainwater into raw sewage that, as far as we are concerned, is good for nothing. There are a great many nature-based solutions for treating sewage water. 

If I had to pick one amendment as the most crucial, it would have to be Amendment 166 tabled by the Duke of Wellington, which sets the essential target of zero discharges of untreated sewage into rivers. This is the level of ambition that we should be working towards as a matter of urgency.

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Environment Bill Committee Stage Day 5 – Waste

We all know that the international waste economy is a nasty, polluting system, where the richest countries are using the poorest countries as dump sites—as giant landfill sites. Many people would be outraged to see that the recycling that they so carefully do is just baled up and dumped on poor countries and among poor communities, who then have to suffer the pollution that it causes.

I am also concerned about the increasing capacity of UK incinerators. From what I can see, the planned capacity of these incinerators will soon far exceed the amount of waste that the UK produces. Many local authorities are, of course, tied into 25-year contracts with such businesses. This means they will be looking around for waste to burn.

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Environment Bill: Plastics

The cheapest immediate option is often one of the most expensive if you look over its lifetime: cheapest is not the best. We have to look at and understand the future repercussions of everything we do. Government and Parliament have vital roles in the transition away from mass plastic. Industry, PR and lobbyists will bleat on about industry-led transition, but this is just greenwashing most of the time. For as long as you can buy bananas wrapped in plastic, you can know that the industry claims are nonsense. Parliament has to legislate, and the Government have to lead. This is one of many issues where central government absolutely must get a grip on local authority recycling services and set basic minimum standards across the country.

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