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Queen’s Speech - Debate (4th Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 1:20 pm on 17th October 2019.

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Photo of Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Green 1:20 pm, 17th October 2019

My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Fox. I agree completely with him about the Trade Bill: it is a disaster that we have lost a Bill on which we had a lot of cross-party agreement. The Minister at the time worked very hard on it with us, and it is an incredible shame that it has been lost because of what we are doing now. I welcome the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Bristol: it is good to hear about her prospective work on trafficking and I would be happy to work with her on it.

I am really not sure what we are doing here today. We have had a Queen’s Speech from a Government who have presented their agenda when they are 43 seats short of a working majority and therefore have absolutely no way of implementing it. This is a farce. However, we are dealing with it today, and there are a few—sadly, very few—welcome ideas in the gracious Speech. The Environment Bill is very long and wordy and rather empty, but at least we can attach a great number of amendments to help improve it. The agriculture Bill will apparently finally make its way to your Lordships’ House so that we might amend it to implement the type of green, sane policies on food, farming and land use that Greens and others have been advocating for decades.

I welcome the proposed animal protection measures and am happy that we will be recognising animal sentience in law. The continuation of the Domestic Abuse Bill will transform lives and punish abusers.

On the other hand, the proposal for changes to the length of prison sentences for violent criminals goes against all informed advice and will make prisons even more dangerous. We have allowed prisons to deteriorate for the past 20 years, and this measure will make them worse. They are overcrowded, understaffed and underfunded. Death, violence and self-harm are at record highs. We do not need more prison places; we need more rehabilitation, more youth clubs and more social services. Training and education of prisoners is often non-existent.

Sadly, the Government’s focus on election campaigning has unsurprisingly failed to propose the measures necessary to transform our economy and society in the 11 years that we have left to tackle the ecological and climate emergency. The Government do not yet seem to understand the scale and intensity of change needed as the clock ticks towards unavoidable feedback loops. Every day that they do not act is wasted time.

In response to the Queen’s Speech, I beg leave to deliver the Greens’ Speech. Greens will bring forward ambitious legislation to create a green new deal which will renew British industry and recalibrate our economy for a zero-carbon future. Avoiding climate catastrophe requires us to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2030, not 2050, and to include aviation, shipping and offshoring within those targets. A massive investment programme, taking advantage of record low global interest rates, will commit at least 5% of public expenditure to rapidly reducing our carbon emissions and protecting the natural environment.

The green new deal will include an ambitious energy-efficiency programme to bring down the running costs of every household and business in the country while reducing the total amount of energy that we produce as a nation. Support will be given to democratise our energy supply so that individuals, schools and communities can club together to develop their own sources of renewable energy. The green new deal will reinstate the net zero housing standards abandoned by this Government and deliver a mass programme of zero-carbon social housing to tackle the housing crisis and eliminate homelessness.

Greens will bring forward legislation to end the failed railway franchise system and bring the operation of trains and track back into public ownership. Investment in public transport, cycling and walking will focus our streets and public spaces on people, not cars, making us happier and healthier in the process.

Greens will deliver legislation which puts citizens in charge of the big decisions facing this country. The creation of a citizens’ committee on climate and ecological justice will put the public in charge where politicians have consistently failed. A citizens’ committee on the British constitution will work across the country to develop a new constitution fit for the challenges and opportunities of a modern democracy, and will abandon the stale, archaic and impenetrable mess of our uncodified, unwritten constitution. The era of majority government is over, and a new democratic settlement is the only way to heal the gaping divisions in our society. The abolition of your Lordships’ House, to be replaced with an elected second Chamber, would be a core part of renewing our parliamentary democracy.

Real environmental legislation will stop all unnecessary single-use plastics by 2025 and enable the planting of 3,000 hectares of trees every year. Greens would create an environmental regulator with the funding, powers and independence to truly hold the Government to account.

A clean air Bill will recognise the human right to breathe clean air, attaching it to the Human Rights Act. Public bodies would be required to take the necessary steps to stop the pollution that causes thousands of premature deaths each year. Human rights will be strengthened: in particular, the human rights of environmental protectors and activists who risk their jobs, livelihoods and freedom in order to force politicians to face up to the reality of our climate emergency. Legislation will reform the use of civil injunctions so that big corporations can no longer stop peaceful protests in order to cause widespread ecological damage in an effort to “help the economy”.

It has always been my priority for a Green Government to avoid climate and ecological disaster, and I am delighted to be joined by my noble friend Lady Bennett of Manor Castle to continue that fight together.