From Caroline Lucas <[email protected]>
Subject Latest Newsletter
Date September 25, 2020 11:38 AM
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Given the Government's inept handling of Covid, it seemed inevitable that
we are now entering the autumn and winter months facing another surge in
infections. Yet six months on from the start of this crisis, there still
isn't a properly functioning test and trace system in place - even though
the World Health Organisation warned back in March that this would be key
to overcoming coronavirus.

Ministers' talk of "Operation Moonshot" to deliver 10 million tests a day
is meaningless when it can't resolve the testing capacity it faces now, as
I pointed out on the BBC Politics Live [1] programme.

I have been inundated with emails from constituents telling me of their
struggles to get a test. Either they couldn't get one at all, or were
referred to places like the Isle of Wight or Fawley - the Health
Secretary's claim in Parliament that the average distance you need to
travel is less than six miles just doesn't ring true. Testing is now being
rationed, with priority given to essential workers and high risk areas.
But, as I said in Parliament [2], this could make it much more difficult to
detect emerging hotspots in deprioritised areas where cases are on the rise
- Brighton has just been placed on yellow alert for rising cases, but is
not a priority area. Needless to say, I got no satisfactory response.


The treatment of so many of the self-employed has been a scar on the
Treasury's handling of the economic fallout from coronavirus. Well over 3
million have been excluded from any form of financial support over the last
six months and are desperate, with many facing ruin. This was a political
choice by the Government, which has no justification. I have raised their
case repeatedly with ministers and the Prime Minister himself, to try to
get them to see the injustice of the Government's decision to exclude so
many from the self-employed income support scheme.

I raised the issue at Treasury questions on September 9th, when the
minister wouldn't even agree to a meeting with cross-party MPs to discuss
it; the following week I secured a back bench debate in Parliament
supported by MPs from both sides of the House, (my closing speech is here
[3]), but again all our arguments for fairness and justice fell on deaf
ears; then this week, I questioned the Prime Minister [4] directly, in
response to his statement about new Covid restrictions, telling him that if
the public were being asked to do more in response to the rise in Covid
cases, then the Government needed to do more as well. Public consent, I
told him, is dependent on not being forced into financial ruin.

Yesterday the Chancellor announced a replacement for the furlough scheme -
it's a welcome start, but nowhere near enough. And yet again, nothing for
those self-employed who have fallen through the gaps in the scheme. But the
Excluded self-employed will not give up, and nor will I.


It has been astonishing to hear Government ministers defend their reckless
plans to break international law, and ignore a treaty this Prime Minister
negotiated and signed, with their Internal Market Bill which is being
pushed through Parliament. I have consistently voted against the Bill and
remain strongly opposed, both over its details and more importantly because
of the huge reputational damage to the UK.

I have also tabled amendments to the Bill to try to ensure that any
financial assistance given by the Government under the terms of the Bill is
consistent with climate and environmental targets in all parts of the UK.
You can see my speech here. [5]


As co-chair of the parliamentary group on the Green New Deal, I've been
working over the summer on RESET, an initiative which has brought together
MPs, policy experts and members of the public to shape our country's future
post-Covid. It's involved evidence sessions, a national opinion poll,
on-line surveys, workshops and interviews, and has revealed a huge appetite
for fundamental change in how our society works and a fairer, greener
Britain. You can read the full report here [6]. It's clear public opinion
is way ahead of the Government in terms of the scale of the response people
want. I wrote about the initial findings in The Independent [7] and the
report was also covered in the Guardian [8].


Reports from the WWF, the UN and Friends of the Earth this month have all
sounded loud warnings about the scale of the damage we are doing to our
planet. I was left angry, frustrated and deeply sad after watching David
Attenborough's _Extinction: the Facts_ - and wrote in my Metro column [9]
about how we must urgently start living within the Earth's natural limits.

Whatever the Government claims it is doing about the environment, the truth
is that it is missing 17 out of 20 biodiversity targets it signed up to in
2010, as revealed in an RSPB report which talked about "a lost decade for
nature". I raised this at Prime Minister's Questions [10], asking for a
commitment that the target of 30% of land and sea being reserved for nature
by 2030 would be delivered, and that funding would be provided. Needless to
say, the Prime Minister's answer was full of the usual boasts which the
RSPB pointed out were not true.


The UK's Climate Assembly, set up by six parliamentary select committees,
produced its report this month. This group of 108 citizens from across the
UK, representing all regions, ages, backgrounds and views on climate, came
up with a raft of brilliant ideas and showed the public want to see strong
climate action from the Government which it just isn't delivering. I was on
Radio 4's The Week in Westminster [11] programme discussing climate policy,
the Assembly's report and the huge gap between what needs to happen and
what the Government is doing. I have also tabled an Early Day Motion [12]
in Parliament in support of the Climate & Ecological Emergency Bill, which
I introduced at the beginning of this month. I'm pleased that, so far, it
has the support of nearly 60 MPs.


The Covid restrictions have highlighted how important it is to have access
to nature for people's health and wellbeing, while a Friends of the Earth
[13] report this week revealed how unequal access is. So it is completely
wrong and short-sighted for this to be ignored in the Government's
much-criticised reforms to the planning system which would make it
near-impossible for local councils to have a say over how their community
is developed. The deregulation of planning in recent years has already led
to poor quality housing, with poor space and light standards, and done
little to address the acute shortage of affordable or social housing. The
failure to insist on access to green space makes an already bad situation
even worse. I have tabled an Early Day Motion [14] calling on the
Government to put democracy, affordability, people's wellbeing and the
right to access nature at the centre of any planning reforms.

I also had a meeting with Andy Winter, the CEO of the Brighton Housing
Trust to talk about the campaign to put social housing at the heart of a
post-Covid recovery.


I joined a group of leading academics, lawyers and privacy campaigners
calling on social media companies like Facebook and Google to stop allowing
advertisements targeted at teenagers. These companies have huge amounts of
data on their users, and when this is used to sell them products, it both
breaches their right to privacy and is exploitative.


This wonderful Grade II-listed building, which has been left to rot in
recent years, has been bought by a local firm who have said they will
rescue the building from further decay and restore the auditorium. I hope
they will deliver on this commitment, and recognise the community value of
the building, giving the community a say in its future. So many people want
to see the Hippodrome as a working theatre again, complete with fly tower
in place - let's hope this time it might just happen. My statement was
covered in the Argus [15] and the Brighton and Hove News [16].

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