OPINION

Seven topics to keep an MP busy at the start of a new year

Posted On 18 Jan 2022 at 6:16 pm

I hope many of you enjoyed a break and time with family and loved ones over Christmas and the new year – and managed to avoid catching covid.

Sadly, I did not and have been unable to be in Parliament for the first two weeks as I self-isolated at home.

Covid, the omicron variant and the vaccine rollout – This month we passed the grim milestone of 150,000 deaths from covid, making the UK the country with the highest number of deaths in Europe.

That is a devastating indictment of the government’s mishandling of the pandemic, its poor decision-making, delays in taking action and muddled messaging. It’s also placed extreme pressure on our NHS.

Spacewords Brighton

I’ve kept in close touch with local NHS providers throughout the pandemic. Last week the Royal Sussex introduced a range of new measures to ensure it maintains safe services for patients as pressures on hospitals continue to mount.

An unprecedented delay in discharges due to a lack of capacity across our local NHS and social care services, combined with a high number of staff absences due to covid, is particularly challenging.

As a result, some less urgent clinical work and planned procedures are being postponed. But I’m assured that this will be rescheduled very swiftly.

The Downing Street parties – It’s hard to exaggerate the anger I feel hearing the revelations about the parties that went on in Downing Street over the past two years, when so many people were following government rules and were separated from loved ones, even when they were dying.

xmas collections

The Prime Minister’s lies and dissembling has been utterly shameful. It’s hard to know what’s worst: the rule breaking, the lying to Parliament about what went on, his very belated and hollow apology when he’s found out, pushing blame on to his own staff or the smirking when questioned about it.

He is trying to hide behind the fact that a senior civil servant is conducting an inquiry but this will not wash. He has lost all credibility and should resign.

It’s also very disturbing that the police seem to have turned a blind eye to these illegal parties, even though their officers on duty must have been aware of them. I’m very glad that the Green Party’s Jenny Jones is taking this up with the police watchdog.

Action against the Policing Bill – I joined the Green Party’s peers, Jenny Jones and Natalie Bennett, and a group of supporters in a protest in Parliament Square against the Policing Bill.

This bill is a direct attack on one of our most fundamental democratic rights: the freedom to protest.

It gives the Home Secretary powers to ban protests which are too “noisy” or “disruptive”, criminalising those who take part with sentences of up to 51-weeks in jail.

What’s worse is that many of the most draconian aspects of the bill have been introduced by the Government in a series of last-minute amendments which were slipped in after the bill had completed its passage through the Commons, in a cynical attempt to avoid parliamentary scrutiny.

But because they’ve not been debated in the Commons, a majority vote in the Lords against them would stop these amendments in their tracks.

Natalie and Jenny are doing all they can to put together a coalition to defeat them.

Minister’s statement on building safety – The government has finally recognised that it has to act in response to the failures in building safety which led to the tragedy of Grenfell tower, and left thousands of people living in flats which are not safe.

The Housing Minister, Michael Gove, told MPs that people living in blocks below 18 metres would not now have to pay for dangerous cladding to be removed.

During questioning by MPs, he also said that where the fire hazard was not cladding-related, leaseholders would also be protected by the law. But he was vague about how this would be achieved.

I have been working with the residents of 13 blocks in the constituency given the lowest safety ranking, meaning the fire safety measures are inadequate and remedial work is required because of missing fire break cavities or fire doors.

Mr Gove’s statement did not give them the assurances they need and I will continue to press ministers on their behalf.

The gas crisis – After months of warnings about steep rises in energy bills, the government still hasn’t come up with a solution to protect the millions of people who are in fuel-poverty now and whose situation will become much worse when the energy price cap is raised.

Meanwhile, some Tory MPs are trying to use the gas crisis to slow down the essential transition to net zero, ignoring the fact that we are so vulnerable to gas price shocks precisely because of climate action delays by Tory governments.

I wrote about the gas crisis and what the government’s response should be for New Statesman.

https://www.newstatesman.com/spotlight/energy/2022/01/what-government-should-do-to-tackle-soaring-energy-bills

The state of our rivers – There was widespread coverage of a report from the Environmental Audit Committee, of which I’m a member, about the shocking state of our rivers.

Only 14 per cent of rivers in England meet good ecological status and not one river has good chemical status.

The ability of the Environment Agency to do its job and police pollution incidents has been severely undermined by years of funding cuts.

Our outdated and inadequate laws and monitoring system need urgent overhaul.

Resettling refugees from Afghanistan – It has taken nearly five months for the government’s Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme to actually get up and running, an inexcusable and unforgiveable delay.

I welcome the announcement of support in principle for some of those still in Afghanistan, including the alumni of Chevening scholarships.

But I am deeply worried by the lack of detail on the numbers who will be given sanctuary in the UK and how much support will be given to people still stranded in Afghanistan or neighbouring countries.

Brighton’s Hippodrome – Anyone who saw my end of year message will have seen that it was filmed in Brighton’s Hippodrome which is slowly restored and brought back to life.

I had a meeting with the Theatres Trust who have campaigned for the Hippodrome to be restored as a large-scale theatre.

And I will shortly be catching up with the developer Matsim to discuss in more detail its plans for the building’s future.

Caroline Lucas is the Green MP for Brighton Pavilion.

  1. Michael Miller Reply

    Dear Caroline Lucas, I’m pleased that you have raised the issue of the “gas crisis” by which you mean the sky high price of wholesale natural gas in Europe, which includes the U.K. Natural Gas has become an essential part of the global energy system that underpins the existence of over 7 billion people on the earth. Energy is Life. It doesn’t only fuel transport and heat or cool homes throughout the World, it also makes bricks and concrete and steel etc.. Most essentially it reacts, as urea, with Nitrogen from the air to make fertiliser. That fertiliser now enables staple crop production on a scale that can still feed 7 billion people instead of maybe 2 or 3 billion. It makes scrappy ground like the South Downs fertile enough for growing wheat. The price of Natural Gas in Europe is currently about 8 times higher than in the USA. The USA doesn’t have a Gas Crisis”. Why not?: because of in the USA they have permitted fracking on a massive scale . It is fracking that you and likeminded do-gooders and NIMBYs have succeeded in preventing in Sussex and the U.K. generally. “Leave the oil and gas in the ground” you say. Well, if we do billions will die of starvation some time in the next 30 years. You say that if we use that oil and gas the climate will heat up and therefore billions will die. Quite possibly. Isn’t that the very dilemma that the World actually faces? The only technically feasible solution that is actually on the table that accords with the science of physics and the reality we live in, is nuclear power. It can provide a reliable base load of energy that isn’t dependent on the intermittent wind or sunlight. But you vehemently oppose that too. So, you don’t have an affordable energy supply solution that works and that avoids the deaths of billions of people and the impoverishment and immiserisation of the rest. I advise that you think hard about your infamous virtue-signalling, because it has deadly consequences and so isn’t actually virtuous at all.

  2. Martin Burt Reply

    Caroline,
    It has been a difficult two years for each and every one of us in one way or another. Opinions vary on how the Government handled the pandemic, yes decision making was late and yes there were delays yet we need to understand this was a very new and unknown virus. Could things have been done differently, yes of course they could, but that’s all well and good in hindsight. Lessons perhaps should be learned.

    The Downing Street parties. The on going saga and I will not make any comment until the investigations are completed.

    Action against the Policing Bill. Caroline, I’m afraid I absolutely disagree with you on this one and think you should have a rethink.
    While I accept we have the freedom to protest, protesters should not disrupt people doing what they want to do. Stopping people entering places for their covid jab, attacking the Bus is damn right out of order.
    The groups lying on the roads stopping people from urgent appointments putting people’s lives at risk and that too is a direct attack on people’s democratic right. WHAT DAMN RIGHT HAVE YOU GOT STOPPING ME from getting my daughter to Hospital for her treatment ?

    I’m delighted the Home Secretary will have powers to ban protests which are too “noisy” or “disruptive”. Criminalising those who take part with sentences of up to 51-weeks in jail would be the easy option.
    I support many things but there’s a wrong and a right way and when the wrong way put LIVES at risk then yes it needs to be regulated.

    Buildings yes it needs to be dealt with urgently.

    The gas is another where the Government needs to step in and deal with it.
    Water, agreed.

    Resettling refugees from Afghanistan –

    While refugee’s is an important factor, can I ask what YOU are doing for the people of Brighton ?

    I would welcome the announcement that you as a Brighton MP support in principle for those living on our streets to be given the opportunity to be given homes and support they need.

    Perhaps the Hippo and other buildings can be transformed into homes for our own homeless and those from far away places who need our help.

    Much to think about, but a question that needs to asked, ‘when are you actually going to do something for the benefit of Brighton people.?

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