Crucial vote in Lords on new environmental enforcement agency

Tomorrow is a crucial day in the ​House of ​Lords for environmentalists. I ​shall be backing an amendment to the EU Withdr​awal Bill to ensure that the government’s ​promised new enforcement agency will not reduce any of “the rights, powers, liabilities, obligations, restrictions, remedies and proceedures that contribute to the protection and improvement of the environment.” 

​The amendment​ also outlines a timetable for consulting upon and establishing this independent new body, along with appointing its chair and funding it.

We need a UK enforcement agency (with arrangements agreed by the devolved administrations) that is capable of taking over the role of the European Commission. The government’s proposal​,​ which they published ahead of this Lords’ debate, fails several of the crucial tests, but they are hoping it will be enough to avoid another defeat.

​According to the government’s bill, t​he new body will not be able to initiate legal action and​ will have no legal obligation to operate the current environmental principles such as the precautionary principle and polluter pays. By contrast, the amendment lays out all of the existing environmental principles, including animal sentience.

For ​Greens, this could become the most positive vote the Lords has taken. The amendment is just one step on the way ​towards creating a world-leading environmental enforcement agency that will protect our food and animal welfare standards​.

 

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Equality laws post Brexit

Brexit is turning our world on its head. It will dominate our political, economic and social future. It’s certainly dominating Parliament’s attention at the moment, and we have got dozens of Bills coming up over the next few years to facilitate our smooth exit from the EU.

I’m worried about what Brexit means for our rights. I voted for Brexit, even campaigned for it, but I feel cheated now by the Government with some of the things they are trying to get away in the EU Withdrawal Bill. Continue reading “Equality laws post Brexit”

No three line Labour whip for Animal Sentience

At yesterday’s debate in the House of Lords on the EU Withdrawal Bill I had to drop my amendment to retain the EU’s rules on Animal Sentience, as part of the Withdrawal Bill, because Labour withdrew its two line whip just as I was about to push it to a vote. My amendment was the same that Caroline Lucas put to the Commons and received a lot of support.

Labour had been promoting a Crossbench amendment on Animal Sentience which went further than retaining the EU rules. I signed and supported this attempt, but I also expressed my belief that it wouldn’t get a majority as it lacked the simplicity of my amendment. In the spirit if cross party working I even agreed to let the Crossbench amendment go first after being lobbied by the Opposition whips.

The Crossbench amendment was too complicated so it fell, and we lost too many peers who wanted to go home to vote on mine. It is disappointing that the simple amendment had to be dropped when I truly believe that it has the majority support in the Lords. I hope that either myself or Caroline make another attempt at making the government see sense on this.

On positive point to note. The Minister said:
“I would like to reassure noble Lords—and I know that the noble Lord, Lord Trees, is particularly interested in this fact—that the Government and the EU have reached agreement on an implementation period following our exit from the EU until the end of December 2020, and Article 13 would continue to apply during that period.”
It gives us longer to be organised for the next bill.

Withdrawal Bill debate shows why we need Lords reform

One of the surprises of life in the Lords is that our laws are partly decided by the bar room stamina of government supporting peers. The Lords defeated the government three times yesterday over the charter of fundamental rights and also earned a good concession from them over the protection of public health. The Opposition was on a roll and not one of the peers in the chamber got up to speak against the amendments sponsored by green NGOs to retain the EU’s environmental protections and principles. No one opposed, but vast numbers of Conservative peers were hanging out in the bars and restaurants, waiting for their whips to call them to vote. In the end, the Minister rose, made concessions and the amendment was withdrawn. Continue reading “Withdrawal Bill debate shows why we need Lords reform”

Lords can defeat government on EU rules

This is a busy week in the Lords as we have the chance to defeat the government on some key amendments to the EU Withdrawal Bill which retain crucial environmental principles. I’m hoping for lots of votes. The Labour and Lib Dem whips mustn’t skip over anything crucial because they are worried about the Lords over stepping its role. If something is wrong with the legislation, then we need to say so. 

Continue reading “Lords can defeat government on EU rules”

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”