Lords Diary: Maggie Jones
After a week spent championing microchipped cats and green watchdogs, Maggie Jones’ efforts are rewarded with victory when her environment amendment passes
One of the pleasures of being the Shadow Defra spokesperson is working with a passionate and committed group of environment and animal welfare organisations. This week a cross party group of Peers met up with Greener UK, which is a very effective umbrella body for the environmental charities. With their help we have submitted a variety of amendments to the EU Withdrawal Bill.
Sadly, the much-awaited government environment proposals failed to deliver the promise of a world leading green watchdog and enhanced environmental standards, so we agreed a new cross-party amendment for 3rd Reading of the Bill.
Later a Lords debate on the welfare of domestic animals gave me a chance to explain the comprehensive policies in Labour’s Animal Welfare Plan. It includes support for increased penalties for animal cruelty, a ban on animal shock collars, restrictions on people keeping exotic animals captured from the wild as pets, a ban on the third-party sale of puppies, action against the cruel and deceitful acts of puppy smuggling with a microchip database at entry ports and an extension of mandatory microchipping to cover cats.
Hove is, without question, the most fantastic place to live and during May we have the added attraction of the Brighton Festival which is one of the biggest arts and community festivals in the country. In contrast to the previous weekend spent on the beach, this Saturday I braved the rain with our local Labour MP, Peter Kyle, to support the volunteers at a very wet and muddy St Anne’s Well Garden Festival. A visit to some of the artists’ open houses gave us a chance to dry out, as well as buy myself some earrings as an early birthday present.
Sunday was marred by the very sad news about Tessa Jowell. Everyone has their own personal memories of her impact and her humanity. When I was starting out as a young Labour activist she was an inspiration and couldn’t have been more generous with her time. Her capacity to make things happen, whether it was conceiving and delivering Sure Start, the tobacco ban or the London Olympics was legendary. She rightly deserved the outpouring of love and sadness at her death.
The weekend also brought growing criticism in the press of the Michael Gove environment plans. It makes it all the more imperative that our amendment is pressed to a vote and won.
Back in Parliament, the consumer group Which? recently gave evidence to the Commons Defra Committee stating that one in six Americans get food poisoning whereas it’s only about one in 66 in the UK. So, Monday’s oral questions to the Minister gave me a chance to press the case for compulsory food labelling about both the country of origin and the standards of animal hygiene so that families can make informed choices about the food safety post Brexit.
As well as working with environmental groups, I spend a great deal of time talking to farmers and industry. A dinner with the Industry and Parliament Trust was a great opportunity to talk to business about the 25 Year Environment Plan and what more they can do to innovate, use resources wisely and actively apply the principles of the circular economy.
The week culminates with a debate and vote on our environment amendment to the EU Withdrawal Bill 3rd Reading. In a packed and somewhat rumbustious Chamber I summed up our support following a number of powerful speeches made from all sides of the House. All our effort was vindicated when we won the vote by 294 to 244. So a small victory for the environment and a great achievement for the campaign.
Baroness Jones of Whitchurch is Shadow Defra Minister. She tweets @WhitchurchGIrl