My Lords, it came as no surprise to me that there was nothing to delight my soul in the Government’s programme. For example, a fair justice system that keeps people safe takes more than a royal commission; it takes resources. When budgets have been cut by one-third, the system does not function well and justice suffers. I hope that the royal commission will examine the impact of austerity on fairness and access to justice. I also question any attempt to impose longer sentences when we are failing to deal with the care and rehabilitation of the large number of people already in the system. The probation service and the Prison Service are unable to cope properly with the existing numbers. If you add to that number, you are adding to those pressures and problems. Continue reading “Queen Speech: my response to the crime and justice sections”
Lord Berkeley has sent me a copy of his dissenting report on the HS2 Review and it is damning. It isn’t just his criticisms of the way he was written out of the process, despite being deputy chair of the Review, but his view that the positive conclusions in the Review are not supported by the evidence. Continue reading “Leading Labour peer and rail expert slams HS2”
At least 108 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.
Today around 3pm I’ll be raising the issue of freedom to protest with questions to the Government in the House of Lords about the Court of Appeal’s striking out an injunction obtained by INEOS in a secret court. The successful appeal was brought by two individuals and Friends of the Earth, representing an enormous victory for the right to protest. It will hopefully pave the way for more successful appeals by peaceful protestors who have had their human rights restricted by the frackers and other environmental vandals. Continue reading “Question to Minister on protecting the right to protest”