With all the Henry the Eighth powers, secondary legislation making powers, and judicial erasure powers that Parliament will have handed to the Government in the Withdrawal Bill and other Brexit legislation, Ministers are going to find themselves with an unprecedented ability to rewrite enormous aspects of UK law at will. The Commons will be effectively by-passed and the Lords may feel compelled to wave it all through, as happens with almost every piece of secondary legislation. For this reason, it is so important that we put a backstop into law now, to protect environmental, food safety and animal welfare standards.
The government says that they want to improve these standards, and not reduce them. That’s fine – I’ll support anything that improves standards. But if Ministers are truly committed to not reducing standards then why not include a guarantee in the legislation itself?
In the absence of an Environment Bill or the promised Environmental Enforcement Body, then we need a minimum level of protection for our existing standards. Any measure that will have the effect of weakening our environmental protections must face the full scrutiny of Parliament and not be snuck through in secondary legislation. This shouldn’t be a contentious point, and I hope the Minister will concede to the strength of the arguments and accept this Amendment
Today, I am introducing the Future Generations Bill on behalf of independent peer, John Bird (founder of Big Issue). This Bill aims to look after the interests of the very young and those not yet born. In the words of John Bird, the world of tomorrow should: “… not simply be an accumulation of the half-arsed hopes and the short-term governmental thinking of days gone by.”
Continue reading “Future Generations Bill introduced”
Boris Johnson has written an article in The Times describing the Environment Bill which will be in the Queen’s Speech on Monday. As a quick measure of how green this Environment Bill really is, here are five policies that it must include: Continue reading “Green tests for the Environment Bill”
It is no longer hyperbole to state that our planet is facing multiple existential threats. It was the conclusion, and consensus, of international scientists laid out in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report late last year. And it is bolstered by the UN’s terrifying new report by the Intergovernmental Science Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services. The conclusions can be summarised in a simple truth: humanity has caused mass extinctions and we are destroying the natural systems on which we all depend. It isn’t too late to change course – but we cannot delay a moment longer. Continue reading “Green New Deal, Agriculture and Fisheries”
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ancient woods are threatened with loss or damage from the two phases of HS2,
with phase one already underway. A review of the HS2 project has been set up by
the government and I have raised the issue of a complete suspension of all
environmentally damaging work with the review team. Extinction rebellion have
joined with local campaigners and with Chris Packham to organise protests
against the work going ahead.
Work on the
woodlands has now been suspended, which is great. These woodlands are crucial
spots for biodiversity; the trees are hundreds of years old and have therefore
become prized spots for rare invertebrates, bats and birds. However, there are
many other habitats that need preserving while the review takes place.
Colne Valley is a
good example of a site that needs treating with caution. It is not only
beautiful, its aquifer is one of the main water supplies for London. Local
campaigners have today sent HS2 a warning notice of intended legal action if
the company goes ahead with plans to drive, a hole 30m deep, straight through
the sub-soil of a highly polluted area and into the permeable rock of the
aquifer below. This would potentially be a criminal act, as it would impact on
the water supply of several million people.
A local pumping
station had to be closed down a few years ago because of pollution from a local
landfill site. Local greens have evidence that the closure of that pumping
station has changed the flow of the underground water and it now goes directly
under where HS2 are doing their work. I have asked a series of questions about
this in the Lords and intend to send a lot more. HS2 need to start taking their
environmental responsibilities seriously.
Jenny talks to Mike Schwarz, civil liberties lawyer, about the right to protest
Mike Schwarz has been a human rights lawyer at Bindmans for 25 years. He has represented numerous campaigners, including all three of Jenny’s part time staff. He describes the ups and downs of the right to protest over those years. Continue reading “Latest podcast”
The chalk hills of the Chilterns act as a giant reservoir, with water slowing seeping down into streams in the Colne Valley and onwards into the Thames Valley to London. The crowded South East often has periods of being low on water and with the area around the Colne Valley supplying 22% of London’s water, the threat of water pollution is a major concern. There is an obvious danger to drilling down 70m near a landfill site in the Colne Valley, which has been declared a special site of pollution. Despite previous leaks from this landfill site leading to the contamination of a local river and the permanent closure of a pumping station, HS2 think it is worth risking London’s water supply. Local people, such as Green Party campaigner Sarah Green, disagree strongly. Continue reading “HS2, Colne Valley and the threat to London’s water supply”
My amendment on the Trade Bill was debated this week, with support from Labour and Lib Dems. It contains the current protections for the standards we have. But the Government seems reluctant to accept it, even though the Prime Minister herself has said that she doesn’t want to weaken existing standards in future trade agreements. At the moment it would be possible for Ministers to use statutory instruments to change the rules on this, but my amendment would guarantee these minimum standards were kept for rolling over all the trade deals that we currently have as a result of EU membership.
Continue reading “Trade Bill update”
I had a meeting this week with Trade Minister Baroness Fairhead to discuss my amendment to the Trade Bill which aims to make our existing standards the foundation of all new trade agreements. Despite the number of advisors in the meeting on the government side, no one could give any reason why my amendment was bad in law or in principle. From what Ministers say in public, we are all in agreement about not using trade deals to lower standards. The main disagreement is over whether we need this principle enshrined in law. Continue reading “Meeting with Minister on Trade Bill changes”
Reducing the use of plastic and creating a market for products that use recycled plastic, is the way forward. This is how I answered the Minister when it was suggested that we burn plastic, rather than sending it abroad for ‘recycling’. Continue reading “Incinerating plastic is like burning oil”