Lords Diary: Baroness Jones
Sharm El Sheikh, 7 November 2022: Rishi Sunak delivers his speech at COP27
Despite all the recent political turbulence, the challenges of the Lords keep Baroness Jones young
In the past few weeks family, friends and neighbours have been asking me sympathetically how I’m coping with the turbulent political situation. I explain that the turmoil of the government, while very worrying, is slightly at a distance from us peers. We do sometimes have a change of personnel on the front bench, but they’re usually familiar faces.
However, it affects our work schedule. Bills we have worked on for weeks suddenly drop off the list, such as the Schools Bill and the Energy Bill, then new bills appear – some extremely worrying, for example the Public Order Bill and the Retained EU Law (Reform and Revocation) Bill.
The Public Order Bill is a regurgitation of the measures that we peers threw out of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Crime Bill only months ago. I hope that we will have the same determination to throw them out again as being repressive and not fit for a democracy, which we still claim to be.
The Retained EU Law Bill will review 3,800 laws from our days in the European Union. These are laws drawn up over recent decades that our ministers and colleagues in the Lords often worked on and helped become law. I have no issue with the government attempting to remove them all from our legislative framework by putting better laws in their place. All legislation must be reviewed for fitness of purpose and evolve to meet new challenges. However, that isn’t what the government intends. It wants fewer bits of protective “red tape”. I’m sure I will spend a lot of time arguing against any weakening of these vital human and environmental protections.
Our Prime Minister did one of the U-turns we have come to expect and attended COP
It’s an astonishing bill because it turns the normal process of government reviewing legislation on its head. It simply abolishes any EU law that ministers don’t get round to reviewing by the end of 2023. It moves legislative powers from Parliament to the executive, by giving them the power to pick and choose which laws they don’t like and want to get rid of. It will be chaos for businesses, planners, councils, enforcement agencies and numerous government agencies. It will create legal confusion and incite many court cases. Being an optimist I’m hoping it will crumble under the weight of its over-ambition and won’t actually be taken forward.
And in the background, but endlessly cropping up, COP27 in Egypt. Our Prime Minister did one of the U-turns we have come to expect from a government that is out of touch with the public and attended the conference; we let a British citizen, Alaa Abdel-Fattah, suffer while imprisoned by the repressive Egyptian regime for speaking out on democracy; and we can see that our government simply doesn’t understand the size of the problem of climate change and how to enact the thousands of solutions. Many of us who have argued against the government promotion of fossil fuels have felt justified by the comments of United Nations secretary general, António Guterres, who said: “We are on a highway to climate hell with our foot on the accelerator.”
Looking at the Conservatives’ record in government since David Cameron said “cut the green crap” and how restrictions on renewable energy have continued to hold us back since 2019 (leading to higher energy bills), you must conclude that they think they know better than the vast majority of the world’s scientists.
This month was the anniversary of my introduction: 5 November 2013. What impressed me at the time was not the Victorian glitz, but the people who were here and who were fighting for very good causes. Some have died, like Sally Greengross who did so much for the old. Some are still with us, like Alf Dubs who is a fierce advocate for refugees. We all mean well but it takes stamina to carry on for years fighting for justice for disadvantaged communities. Luckily the challenges of the Lords seem to keep us very young.
Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb is a Green Party peer
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