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Fri, 23 October 2020

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Lords Diary: Baroness Jones

Lords Diary: Baroness Jones
4 min read

While nursing a broken foot, Baroness Jones has wrestled a week packed with breakfast meetings, existential questions, and holding the Government to account on the environment.


I spend the weekend resting my broken foot – two badly broken metatarsals encased in an NHS protective boot – and exhausting my interest in my kindle, tidying all the untidy drawers, failing to watch TV, knitting a difficult pattern, touching up bits of scuffed paintwork on walls and skirting boards, and getting a bit bored. I broke the foot while carrying a basket of washing and missed a step on some stairs. There have been a lot of suggestions for me to change my story to something more glamorous, but I learned years ago that I had always better stick to the truth as my memory is so bad.

On Monday I have an Oral Question on the Government's manifesto pledge to have “the most ambitious environmental programme of any country on Earth”. In spite of our now having Zac Goldsmith as minister, with his understanding of our climate emergency, he gives a reply – not an answer. Sadly, I don’t feel the Government will achieve such ambitions, simply because it has published no pathway to get there. Afterwards, the Fisheries Bill grinds on, with expert peers explaining the problem with the Bill and the Government ignoring their advice. One has to ask, what’s the point of the Lords if our work is so automatically disregarded?

Tuesday starts with a breakfast meeting to review our Green team strategy. The arrival in the House of my noble friend, Natalie Bennett, has reinvigorated me. Later, she represents us brilliantly in the HoL International Women’s Day debate. In addition we have two wonderful Hansard Scholars with us, Isabel and Julia, who are helping us to be even more effective.

Wednesday brings another 8am breakfast meeting, this time with a senior Met officer talking about traffic policing, an issue I care passionately about and an area of policing that I’m very supportive of. I’m President of the Road Danger Reduction Forum. Road Safety is what we are trying to achieve; there’s not much more important than saving lives.

Later, the Fisheries Bill goes through the fourth and final day of its Committee Stage. It’s been a fascinating learning experience for me, listening to expert peers on sensitive species and bycatch etc, while I’ve tried to highlight the politics. The Government manifesto promised a legally binding commitment to sustainable fishing. But in spite of that clearly being what people voted for, ie The Will of the People, that commitment isn’t in the Bill. I’ve put (and withdrawn) a few amendments and will liaise with other peers on combined amendments for Report Stage.

Events are starting to be cancelled or postponed because of the threat of Covid19. Many peers must be considered more vulnerable than the average population and the news today that Nadine Dorries has contracted the illness must make it likely both Houses will be closed? But not yet, say the authorities. Italy has taken brave decisions in an attempt to contain the virus, but although the Budget has a spending pledge, we are a bit short on actions.

Thursday, I stay home until lunchtime, to rest my foot. My two loving daughters nag me ferociously about my having overdone the walking. One says that trying to make me stay home quietly was like trying to corral a ferret. Which raised the interesting question of how much of that she had done in the past, but I forget to ask.

In the afternoon I speak in a debate on how to establish a green economy which can benefit the poorest in society while reducing our impact on our poor damaged planet.

A Friday sitting, with two Private Members’ Bills. One is Bruce Grocott’s on abolishing the hereditary peers, which Natalie will cover, and the other is John Bird’s on embedding concern for future generations in all legislation, which I’ll speak in. We both support both Bills. The delight of not being on my own!

And then…another weekend of rest instead of gardening, or walking the family dog, or seeing friends or eating out. But at least the drawers are tidy.

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