Final days of Police Bill Committee Stage

If you make protests impossible to perform legally, criminalise non-violent direct action, abolish or restrict the ability of citizens to challenge the Government in court through judicial reviews, turn people against lawyers, gerrymander the election boundaries and dish out cash in the way that looks best for Conservative MPs, that is deep, dark politics. Many of us here are not particularly political and perhaps do not see the dangers inherent in what the Government are doing. It all seems like a calculated ploy to turn all the cards in favour of an unaccountable Government that cannot be challenged in the courts, at the ballot box or on the streets. 

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The Environment Act 2021

Following the debate in the Lords yesterday the Environment Bill received Royal Assent and passed into law as the The Environment Act 2021.

I am so sad and disappointed that we have got to this place: we are under pressure, because of the primacy of the other place, to pass a Bill that is not as good as the one we amended. It seems that the Government do not understand what they have done in stripping out some of the safeguards we have put in.

I would argue that the Government have legitimised the sewage discharges that will be happening from now on. There is no timetable and there are no targets. Quite honestly, it seems that the Government do not understand the pressure that is coming from the grass roots—from dog walkers, fishing enthusiasts, Surfers Against Sewage and wild swimmers, who have seen this and really care about it. We have returned to the 1970s version of ourselves as the “dirty man of Europe”.

I hope that the Government will now admit the deliberate confusion that they created about the cost of stopping any further discharges. The figure—was it £60 billion or £600 billion?—that they put forward was absolutely outrageous; of course, they quickly withdrew it when people started to check. The Government could loan the money to the water companies to put in the infrastructure that we need to prevent discharges in a relatively short space of time. However, that would mean, of course, that those water companies could not pay dividends to investors, senior people and shareholders until the debt was paid off. If we had a tough regulatory system, the scandal would never have been able to escalate in the way that it has. It has been a failure of the Government, Ofwat and the Environment Agency and, unfortunately, the Environment Bill does nothing to deal with our relatively toothless system of enforcement.

The Government have still not achieved what we hoped would be achieved and what the general public want us to achieve: a cleaner Britain.

Read the whole debate on Hansard

Police Bill – Day 5 of Committee Stage in the Lords

I had to laugh when I saw the amendments on duty of candour, because you sort of assume you can expect a duty of candour for the police; it really should not have to be emphasised in the way that it has been here.

As regards the criminalisation of trespass, it is wonderful to see such a huge coalition of Peers tabling amendments and speaking on this issue. I imagine that Gypsy and Roma Travellers, peaceful protesters, van-lifers, wild campers and anyone else threatened by this proposed legislation will be glad to see the opposition that is coalescing in this House. Far from criminalising trespass, we should be opening up more land for access to the public and enhancing our enjoyment of our magnificent countryside. This is a nasty section of the Bill, it is discriminatory and dangerous, we should remove these clauses completely.

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Environment Bill Report Stage final day

Although old train engines and boats do contribute to air pollution, they will be fairly localised and minimal compared with other emissions being pumped out by, for example, the Government building new roads or opening new coal mines—or indeed allowing the growth of incinerators all over the country that operate without proper regulations.

Sign our petition to strengthen the Environment Bill here

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The Office for Environmental Protection cannot be a lapdog

It is obvious to anybody looking in from outside that the office for environmental protection must do things such as hitting the share price of a water company whenever it dumps sewage into our rivers. We must have an independent OEP that commissions research into the impact of pesticides on our wildlife and insects and hands it over to MPs so that they can actually challenge Ministers and the lobbyists in Whitehall. We need an OEP that can say a straightforward no to damaging developments, whether it is infrastructure or development, urban or rural. It should not be suggesting mitigation and greenwash, which is what could happen with such a toothless watchdog. This country needs an OEP that is a rottweiler and not a lapdog.
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Plastic pollution

The Government claim to be a leader in tackling plastics pollution, but Greenpeace pointed out that they are actually fuelling the plastics crisis. The UK is the biggest contributor to this waste production behind the USA. What we do is force our waste on other countries. Some have refused, but, apparently, 40% of our plastic waste is sent to Turkey, where of course it is producing serious health problems for the people in the surrounding areas, such as respiratory issues, nosebleeds and headaches. So the Government are fuelling not just the nature emergency but health crises as well, and you have to take responsibility for that. Continue reading “Plastic pollution”

You cannot separate biodiversity from climate

Lord Caithness has made the classic Conservative error of separating biodiversity from climate. It is all interconnected: you cannot talk about either without accepting that each has an impact on the other. Every noble Lord must understand that we have a climate emergency, and therefore this government Environment Bill is not good enough. We all know that–it is why there are so many amendments at Report. It is our job to improve the Bill and it is the Government’s job to listen and, I hope, accept our improvements. Continue reading “You cannot separate biodiversity from climate”