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

CO2 Emissions from Vehicles

This is an almost sneaky little piece of legislation, because it is presented as a regulation to continue the status quo but it is actually backfilling a regulatory loophole that was created by the Government; it did not have to be created. I am concerned that this little loophole has allowed some highly polluting vehicles to be sold in Northern Ireland. It is only in September of this year that the loophole will close, so highly polluting vehicles can still be sold until then. Clearly, it was negligent of the Government to allow this to happen. For some strange reason, they dropped Northern Ireland out of the EU emissions regime two weeks before the end of the transition period and then allowed a nine-month window of lawlessness when it came to selling polluting vehicles.

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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”

Police Cuts and bodyworn camera footage

According to a recent report, some videos showed that police officers were poor at communicating and lacked patience and de-escalation skills. Is it possible that the pressure on the police from 11 years of swingeing Tory cuts to their budgets and numbers is responsible for that sort of pressure? Their numbers are still not back to pre-Conservative Government levels of 11 years ago.

I have also submitted a written question:

“To ask HMG what assessment they have made of the need to update the College of Policing’s body worn camera guidance to (1) reduce officers’ discretion about its use, and (2) specifically discourage the practice of turning away from an incident to avoid recording wrongdoing by a fellow officer.”

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Environment Bill Committee Stage Day 5 – Air Pollution

Air pollution is a national health crisis: it costs us billions every year. It affects the old and the young. Several of us have mentioned Ella Kissi-Debrah, who lived next to a dirty, filthy road and died at nine years old because of her asthma. It is children who will have health problems all their lives because of living near polluted roads. This Bill is an ideal opportunity to fix this problem. We know what the solutions are, and they are here in these amendments.

My amendments seek to create a comprehensive system of targets, monitoring and funding to reduce air pollution levels to World Health Organization guideline levels. It is not possible to end this crisis without significant public spending. The Government must make the money available to local authorities to transform their communities and clean up their air.

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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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My amendment 104 to aid enforcement by OEP

Amendment 104 would enable penalties to be issued, taking into account a whole host of factors such as the gravity of the failure, any intention of negligence, and previous failures by the authority. The inclusion of the principles of effectiveness and proportionality makes my amendment wholly reasonable, and is necessary for ensuring that the ambition in this Bill is not trashed by poorly governed public authorities.

Amendment 104 would use these penalties to fund the NHS and local authorities to reduce the harms of air pollution and treat the associated illnesses, which very much affect children as well as adults. Continue reading “My amendment 104 to aid enforcement by OEP”