Green Party mailing
It's been a busy start to the new session of Parliament which returned this
week. I took the first opportunity to introduce a critical Bill which
provides a route map for responding to the climate and nature crises.
CLIMATE AND ECOLOGICAL EMERGENCY BILL
Seven political parties have given their support to this Bill which
strengthens existing laws on climate action, and patches the many holes in
the Climate Change Act. Since that was passed in 2008, the climate crisis
has accelerated, and so has biodiversity and nature loss. The science is
also much clearer about the scale and speed of the required response.
The Bill, which I introduced on Wednesday, focuses on the goal of the Paris
Agreement to strive to limit the average global temperature rise to 1.5oC;
it includes emissions from aviation, shipping and our supply chains
overseas; it brings nature, wildlife and the protection of soils which are
vital for farming and as a natural store for carbon into climate law; and
it reaches out beyond Westminster to involve citizens in devising our
response to the climate crisis, in the form of a Citizens' Assembly which
would work with politicians.
I also tabled an Early Day Motion  calling on the Government to support
the Bill and show the climate leadership it so often boasts of.
There's more about the Bill and why it's needed in comment pieces I wrote
in the Daily Mirror  and the Metro .
Supporters of Extinction Rebellion have brought their protests to
Parliament in support of the Bill. It was a privilege to talk to some of
them in Parliament Square on Tuesday, and listen to a powerful letter which
young people had written to the prime minister urging him to take more
ambitious and faster action on the climate. Their campaign slogan _We Want
To Live _summed up their feelings perfectly.
Later in the week there were dozens of arrests of peaceful protesters from
Extinction Rebellion, which were raised during an interview  I did with
Sky News. There is a strong tradition of peaceful protest in our country
and I believe non-violent direction action can play a role in reminding
people of the critical importance of the climate emergency.
I was also honoured to be part of an event organised by Writers Rebel
outside the offices of the Global Warming Policy Foundation and other
right-wing organisations in Westminster which lobby against effective
climate action. There was an amazing line-up of artists and writers
including Sir Mark Rylance, Zadie Smith and George Monbiot with video
messages of support from Simon Schama and Margaret Atwood. You can see part
of my speech on my Twitter feed .
I've written many times about the multiple shortcomings and failings in the
Government's response to Covid, and the impact it's having on the country
and our city. My latest concern is the testing fiasco. At a time when cases
in Brighton and Hove are rising, and students are about to return to our
universities, it is almost impossible to get a test in the city. Some
people are being referred to testing centres in as far away as the Isle of
Wight - a 5 hour round trip - and that is if they have access to a car. We
have been told from the start of this crisis that testing is key to
controlling the spread of Covid, but six months after it began, we still
don't have an effective testing operation.
MPS’ INQUIRY INTO CORONAVIRUS
As a member of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Coronavirus, I've been
taking part in hearings over the summer about the impact the virus is
having, and the weaknesses of the Government's response. We need to learn
lessons now so that we are better prepared if, as expected, there is a
resurgence this winter.
In the most recent session in late August, we heard from Public Health
England and local government public health directors who are in the
frontline of trying to control the virus. It was clear from evidence we
heard that the isolationism and exceptionalism, which typifies this
Government's attitude, has been problematic all the way through as
ministers refuse to learn from other countries' experiences.
Earlier in the summer, we'd heard from bereaved families and recommended
that the prime minister meet with them, as he said he would. Shamefully, he
hasn't yet done so.
CORONAVIRUS AND PPE CONTRACTS
I mentioned in my last newsletter that I had written to ministers raising
concerns about the huge sums of public money which have been spent on PPE
contracts awarded to companies with no track record of supplying medical
equipment, and without a competitive tendering process. That letter is
still on my website  and I have yet to receive a reply.
I have now joined other MPs in a legal action against ministers to force
them to reveal details of these contracts. When the UK has spent far more
than other European countries on supplies which have often been found to be
defective, the Government needs to provide an explanation as to how the
contracts are awarded. There was a report on the legal action in the
CORONAVIRUS AND SELF-EMPLOYED
The self-employed have been treated appallingly throughout this crisis,
many of them left with no income since March. There is a large
parliamentary group for what's known as ExcludedUK, and we are applying for
a backbench debate on the injustices faced by freelancers and the
self-employed, and seeking an urgent meeting with the Chancellor.
REFUGEES AND CHANNEL CROSSINGS
Ministers have spent this summer stoking fears about the refugees and
asylum seekers who have tried to reach our shores in small boats. Promises
from the Home Secretary that the Home Office's hostile environment policy
will be reviewed are sounding very hollow. I challenged  the Home Office
minister in Parliament about the rhetoric surrounding the refugees, and the
false claims that they have no right to seek asylum in the UK, and
suggested the Government start to look at the root causes of migration,
including the climate emergency, rather than condemning those who seek
A-LEVEL AND GCSE RESULTS
The shambles over the A-level results was typical of ministers'
make-it-up-as-you-go-along-and-blame-someone-else approach to government.
Just before the Education Secretary announced that the flawed algorithm for
setting grades was being abandoned, I had written to him to highlight the
injustices it caused, and I wrote again about the impact on students in
Brighton and Hove. Both letters are on my website . I also wrote about
the issue in my column in the Metro .
LEGAL ACTION OVER THE RUSSIA REPORT
The Intelligence and Security Committee's Russia report, which has sat on
the Prime Minister's desk since late last year, was finally released
earlier this summer and disclosed alarming levels of Russian influence in
the UK and attempts to interfere in our elections. We need an independent
investigation to protect the integrity of our democracy, which the Prime
Minister is refusing. I and other MPs are planning to take legal action if
there is no official investigation. You can read more in this BBC report
PROTECTING BIRDS OF PREY
I was delighted to be a guest on conservationist Chris Packham's webcast
 about protecting raptors like the hen harrier from persecution. These
wonderful birds, some of them endangered, need protection not only from
poisoning, shooting and traps, but also from the destruction of their
habitats like moorland. A ban on driven grouse shooting would be a good
place to start.
RAMPION WIND FARM
I had the privilege of being the first visitor to the Rampion Visitor
Centre, located in six newly-refurbished arches near Brighton's West Pier
pillars and looking out over the wind farm. I hope it will be an important
educational resource, spreading the message about the role of renewable
energy and inspiring people to take action. The centre has dozens of
displays which tell the story of human settlement, technological
advancement and how the wind farm itself was built, as well as a
heart-stopping Virtual Reality trip to the top of a turbine. It's now open
for pre-booked visits by groups from one household.
I have spent the last three months working on an exciting initiative in my
role as co-chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on a Green New Deal,
developing policies for a fairer, greener future. The project has involved
surveys, workshops and evidence sessions with members of the public
involved throughout. We'll be presenting our report to Parliament later
this month. Do look out for it. There's more information about Reset on the
website [link removed]