Keith Taylor MEP: what I’ve been working on over the last 3 months

Keith Taylor MEP: what I’ve been working on over the last 3 months

December 14th, 2017

Eu Referendum - After the Vote

European Parliament

The European Parliament does have a limited role in the negotiations. It is not involved directly in the negotiations, although the Brexit steering group does feed in and comment on negotiations. In addition, the EP holds the power of a consent vote.

To find out more about the European Parliament’s Brexit stance, read the cross-party Brexit resolution co-drafted and supported by the Greens/EFA group. This sets out the Parliament’s priorities and red lines. Citizens’ rights were the main concern, especially for my own Greens/EFA group. Other priorities include integrity of the Single Market and the EU’s fundamental freedoms, settling financial matters, the issue of Northern Ireland and the peace process. The Resolution also stresses the EP’s wish for fair and close future relations between the EU and the UK, for the withdrawal agreement and after Brexit.

On 3 October, MEPs voted overwhelmingly in favour of a resolution to back a delay in any decision over trade discussions unless there is a major breakthrough on three of the above mentioned issues: the divorce bill, the rights of EU citizens in the UK and UK citizens in the EU and the Northern Ireland border. This was a move welcomed by both me and my Green MEP colleagues.

In September, I spoke at a meeting of the Oxford European Association to discuss the European Parliament’s involvement in the Brexit negotiations, EU citizens’ rights, and the prospects for British citizens post-Brexit. Oxford City Council passed a cross-party motion in July 2016 noting that the “city profoundly regrets the outcome of the referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union and the way in which the tenor of the Leave campaign has stimulated a wave of hostility towards migrants and ethnic minorities.” The OEA was set up by the council to help EU citizens cope with the practicalities of living in Oxford in uncertain times and build on the close ties between Oxford and Europe.

Northern Ireland

Since joining the Irish Peace Process Support Group, I have continued working alongside colleagues towards the Northern Irish question in the context of Brexit. Sinn Fein (GUE/NGL) MEPs coordinating the group presented a report compiled by independent lawyers, examining the legality of Brexit based on the treaties and presenting a number of ‘special status’ solutions for Northern Ireland in order to avoid a hard border and to maintain peace. As an ongoing process which still retains a very big question mark, my notes are presented internally, especially as the Greens/EFA group have yet to present an official position on the subject.

The hardening of the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland has always been a direct and clear-cut consequence of the Government’s pursuit of an extreme Brexit outside of the Single Market and the Customs Union, and I recently slammed leading leave campaigners for their ‘lies’ over the impact of Brexit on Northern Ireland, as a two-year-old tweet from Brexiteer Daniel Hannan MEP has surfaced claiming Remain campaigners’ warnings about the issue were ‘scare stories’.

The Repeal Bill

Apart from reiterating my support for tackling cross-border challenges such as climate change and air pollution together with our European friends and neighbours, I shared my concerns about the wholly inadequate Repeal Bill, which is meant to convert existing EU rules into UK law, but currently includes antidemocratic proposals that hand over enormous power to Ministers, in a message of support for the People’s March for Europe, which took place on Saturday 9 September.

Last month, I spoke about the challenges posed by Brexit and the Repeal Bill at a Making Politics Matter event, a Politics and International Relations staff-student initiative at Canterbury Christ Church University, which aims to engage the regional population – including students and the general public – through regular, thought-provoking, and current political debates. I highlighted the shortcomings of the EU Withdrawal Bill or 'Repeal Bill', including its massive environmental gaps that put at risk decades of positive EU action, the Bill’s terrifyingly anti-democratic ‘Henry the Eighth’ clauses, and the failure to recognise animals as sentient beings, see below.

On World Habitat Day, 2 October, I wrote to Michael Gove in order to urge him to transpose into UK law the key general environmental principles that are enshrined in the EU treaties, such as the ‘precautionary principle’ and the ‘polluter pays principle’. It is beyond my understanding why a new clause, which aimed to ensure that these environmental principles remain part of UK law after Brexit, were rejected with a majority of 16 during the Repeal Bill votes on 15 November (297 in favour, 313 against). Unfortunately, Defra’s response to the letter failed to address any concerns about the functioning of EU law or allay any fears about the Henry VIII clauses post-Brexit.

I also sent a letter to the Environment Secretary in my capacity as the Greens’ Animals spokesperson and a Vice-President of the European Parliament’s Animal Welfare Intergroup to highlight the importance of keeping the principle of Animal Sentience. The Government has committed to bringing over all the existing legislation on animal welfare in the acquis communautaire under the European Union (Withdrawal Bill). However Article 13 is not part of the acquis although it is referred to in many Regulations and Directives. As it is part of the Treaty, and the Treaty is for obvious reasons not being repatriated, this means that the current Bill does not incorporate the Treaty Article on animal sentience.

My colleague Caroline Lucas had tabled an amendment on this issue, which, I am hugely disappointed to say, got rejected by a majority of 18 - not a single Tory voted in favour of it! However, it’s been amazing to see so many people taking online actions and writing to their MPs on this issue - and it looks like it may still be possible to force the Government to take action. Caroline has now tabled an Early Day Motion, which has cross-party support, urging Ministers to amend the EU Withdrawal Bill to incorporate Animal Sentience into British law.

Brexit and Young People

I sent a message on environmental activism to the Young Greens of England and Wales for the annual 2017 Convention, encouraging them to continue fighting for the protection of our precious environment and the commitment to halt climate change, and against the threat posed to our environment and climate by Brexit. Issues such as climate change, the health of our oceans and air pollution show no respect for borders.

I joined 20 young people in Portsmouth last month to listen to their thoughts, opinions and concerns about Brexit. As the UK prepares to the leave the European Union, youth organisation My Life My Say (MLMS) have been canvassing the opinions of young people on Brexit in a series of Brexit Café events across the UK, to ensure their voices are represented.

Brexit and the NHS

I wrote an opinion piece, that was published as a letter to the editor in The Argus, on the fact that Brexit has already driven away almost 10,000 EU staff working on the frontlines of our NHS. That’s doctors, nurses and other staff that our underfunded National Health Service cannot afford to lose. Our NHS is paying a heavy price for the Government’s campaign to make EU citizens unwelcome in Britain.

Green Guarantees

An updated copy of my ‘Brexit: Green Guarantees leaflet can be downloaded here.

Transport

Conference on Clean Mobility and the Human Health Crisis

On 23 November, I hosted a conference on air pollution and clean mobility at the European Parliament, to which I invited stakeholders from various European cities and the European Commission to discuss how we can make cities more sustainable and healthier places to live in. Many EU, national and local policy makers and civil society representatives were part of the audience and took part in the discussion afterwards. The event took place against the background of the European Commission’s Transport Package, which includes a number of proposals that will be important in determining the EU’s transport policies in the future. One of the most crucial messages for me to take away was that all speakers stressed the scientific consensus that we need radical change in European transport systems in order to continue to live and breathe in urban spaces. However, what we urgently need is the political will to make this change happen in cities throughout Europe. For example, the city of Paris has recently come up with a plan to achieve an all-electric bus fleet by 2025. This investment will significantly reduce pollution in the city centre and improve the wellbeing and quality of life of Parisian citizens. Meanwhile, other cities like Brussels and London continue allowing heavily polluting vehicles to drive through the city as they please while endangering the health and wellbeing of others.

Transport Accessibility

As mentioned in my last report, the Committee on Internal Market and Consumer Protection, the lead committee of the European Accessibility Act proposal, which I follow as shadow rapporteur for the Transport Committee’s (TRAN) opinion, failed to take many of the adopted Transport committee achievements on board. Consequently, I re-tabled a number of key amendments before the plenary vote, and ran a campaign to urge people across the UK to write to their MEPs to highlight the importance of ‘barrier-free journeys for everyone’ and build support from the majority of MEPs for my amendments on the built environment. I am very pleased to report that they were adopted by a majority in the final plenary vote held in September. This is a great success for the disability movement anda crucial opportunity to fundamentally improve the lives of 13 million people in the UK and 80 million people across the EU living with disabilities. However, it is important that we stay vigilant, since we are still at a preliminary stage in the process leading towards the final adoption of the legislation. The report is now awaiting review by the Council and may return to the Parliament for a second reading.

Waterborne Transport

With regard to my work on safety on board ferries and passenger ships, which included a focus on toughening safety inspections for so-called “roll on, roll off” ferries, and the improvement of social conditions for people employed in the maritime sector and the provision of more extensive emergency training for personnel, the final agreement passed committee vote this summer and was adopted by a large majority during plenary in October.

Transport and Climate Change

My amendments to TRAN’s International Ocean Governance file , which are pushing for stricter enforcement of shipping emissions regulations, were debated in September and most of my suggestions were included in the Compromise Amendments adopted at committee level. The draft report is now awaiting a vote in the lead Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety and will thereafter be voted in plenary.

Mobility Package

I continue my work to improve road safety and working conditions for drivers, and will be reporting on the proposal on requirements on drivers’ resting times, minimum breaks and limits to driving times in my next report.

EU rail passenger rights

Furthermore, I welcomed moves to phase out national exemptions to ensure equal passenger rights across the EU as the European Commission published its proposals to updating the European rules on rail passenger rights. I’m hoping this will put an end to the ridiculous situation we currently see, where only four EU Member States fully apply EU rules, seriously undermining passenger rights across Europe.

In the Constituency:

Road Expansion & Sustainable Mobility

I have continued to work with campaigners in Sussex to oppose A27 expansion and in September and October submitted my responses to Highways England’s public consultation on its plans for the A27 at Worthing, Lancing and Arundel. I joined the Campaign for Better Transport and local campaigners in raising concerns about the environmentally destructive dual carriageway options offered up for consideration at Arundel which would have a devastating impact on the South Downs National Park. I called on Highways England to listen to residents who have identified and proposed a single carriageway solution that focuses on traffic flow rather than capacity and combats congestion without the level of destruction that would be caused by a new dual carriageway.

I highlighted the disconnect between transport planning and housing development in my response to the Wycombe Local Plan. Whilst the level of detail about the new bus, walking and cycling routes is positive, it is countered heavily by suggestions that tackling congestion can be managed by delivering new highway infrastructure, by increasing parking capacity and building a new car park at the train station. I pointed out that these are exactly the measures that would exacerbate the problems, not improve them.

I was pleased with the news that plans for an M20 lorry park in Kent have been scrapped by the Government in the face of a judicial review. This is a victory for campaigners who have long opposed the knee-jerk short-termism that motivated the original environmentally-destructive proposals. I joined Kent County Councillor Martin Whybrow in submitting an objection to the original proposals in September 2016.

Airport Expansion

I called on the Government to give up on their disastrous plans for Heathrow expansion, as a new consultation on the proposals was launched in September. The Department for Transport received 70,000 responses to the last consultation, which only ended in May, when I submitted a joint response to the Airports National Policy Statement consultation together with my Green MEP colleague from London, Jean Lambert. In our response, we set out the reasons why the proposed plans would be an environmental disaster and questioned the economic case for airport expansion in the South East of England and beyond. All of these concerns still remain valid and I will continue to campaign against any new runways. The revised proposals are notable for how little the Government’s unconvincing argument has changed.

HS2

In October, I sent a message of solidarity to Green campaigner Sarah Green who spent more than 24 hours underneath a large digger as part of a new campaign to block the construction of the controversial HS2 high-speed rail link in the Colne Valley nature reserve.

Animal Welfare

Animal testing

Despite a few notable advances around the world, about 80% of the world’s countries still allow animal testing and the marketing of cosmetics tested on animals. Last week on the ENVI committee, I supported calls for the EU to use its role as a world leader to push for a global ban on the testing of cosmetics on animals.

I have also been closely following an EU level review on the use on non-human primates in experiments by the Scientific Committee on Health, Environmental and Emerging Risks (SCHEER). I am very concerned that their latest report fails to properly look at the evidence against monkey experiments and does not investigate any alternatives. That is why I submitted a written question to the Commission regarding this unbiased opinion and am calling for an urgent end to the use of monkeys in experiments.

Intensive farming

As the member of a number of cross-party working groups set up in the European Parliament to tackle the cruelties of intensive farming, over recent months I have focused on EU pig farming, which employs painful and unnecessary tail-docking and surgical castration. I was pleased to raise this at the End Pig Pain exhibition in September.

Routinely docking piglets’ tails to stop biting isn’t the answer, but is rather a symptom of inadequate environmental conditions and management systems. I have therefore also co-authored a number of letters and written questions to the Commission stressing that humane alternatives for pain free pig-farming already exist and must become the norm, alongside better enforcement of the EU Pigs Directive.

I have also collaborated on a number of letters to the Commission regarding factory farming, most recently writing to Commissioners Vella, highlighting its devastating impact on biodiversity. I have also called for a reform of the CAP system to better promote the humane and sustainable rearing of farm animals.

I welcomed the decision by parliamentary leaders in the European Parliament to withdraw access from Monsanto lobbyists and other representatives of the Monsanto group until further notice. The decision came following a request from Green MEPs after Monsanto declined to attend Parliament for a hearing on the so-called Monsanto Papers.

On World Farm Animals Day, I reiterated my call for an urgent reform of farming standards and urged a reduction in the consumption of animal products. With billions of animals intensively reared for food across the UK and EU, farming is not only the biggest form of animal cruelty, it is also a significant contributor to global carbon emissions.

I responded to Defra’s consultation on compulsory CCTV in slaughterhouses. You can read the full submission here, submitted by on behalf of the UK Green MEPs.

Trade in animals

As a long time-campaigner against live exports, I have been working with the Stop the Trucks campaign, which achieved over 1 million signatures on their petition against long distance live animal transportation. I recently wrote an article reiterating my fight for a blanket ban on live exports, supporting campaigners opposing this barbaric practice and explaining why Brexit won’t be the silver bullet to end it once and for all. In addition, I recorded a video in support of campaigners attending this year’s Live Animal Transportation International Day of Awareness.

Another facet of this appalling trade that I continue to keep a close eye on is exports to outside the EU. I’m therefore working within the European Parliament to establish an enquiry committee into live animal transport from the EU to Turkey, the Middle East and northern Africa.

I wrote to the Defra Secretary Michael Gove urging the UK Government to follow the lead of several European Countries by banning the trade in and keeping of monkeys and other primates as pets. The letter followed my visit to the Lakeview Monkey Sanctuary in Ascot, Berkshire last month, which rescues, rehabilitates and rehomes a small number of the 5,000 primates which are thought to be kept privately in the UK.

Ivory

You may recall that an ambitious resolution I helped draft, calling for an immediate and full EU-wide ban on the trade in ivory, was voted in by the European Parliament’s Environment committee last autumn, and I was delighted to see it adopted by an overwhelming majority of MEPs during a plenary voting session in Strasbourg last November. The resolution also calls for common sanctions at EU level against wildlife trafficking, which is worth an estimated €20 billion annually.

I’m hoping to use this knowledge in my responses to two current consultations on the ivory trade – one in the EU and one in the UK. The deadline for submissions for the latter is 29 December so there’s still plenty of time to submit your views to help protect these beautiful animals!

I have given a cautious welcome to the announcement that the UK government is considering restricting the ivory trade. Britain is set to host a major conference on the illegal wildlife trade in 2018.

Hunting and Fishing

I expressed my disappointment at the result of the vote on a resolution to ban hunting on National Trust land. I believe the result is a huge disappointment and massive setback for animal protection in the UK. The murky circumstances around the, extremely close, vote and the use of ‘discretionary’ proxies are also concerning.

I wrote to the Leicestershire Police Chief Constable urging the force to seek prosecution in relation to an incident in October where a man is filmed apparently ‘mowing down’ a foxhunt protester.

‘ANIMA: animals, the planet and us’ event

I gave a keynote speech on Saturday 30 September at an exciting and creative animals event that brought together hundreds of like-minded people in Brockenhurst, New Forest, who share a desire for a more sustainable and compassionate lifestyle. ‘Anima: animals the planet and us’ was organised by No More Dodos, a unique charity which uses art and sport to inspire positive lifestyle changes. The event sought to use culture, the creative arts, and sport to raise awareness of the threats faced by endangered plants, animals, and their habitats.

Making Tracks

To mark World Animal Day 2017, Jean Lambert, Molly Scott Cato and myself launched our latest animal protection newsletter Making Tracks on 4 October. The Autumn-Winter 2017 issue touches on important issues including:

  • The UK is set to lose vital EU animal protections post-Brexit
  • Jean’s letter to the Vietnamese Ambassador calling for an end to bear farming
  • Green MEP’s submission to Defra on mandatory CCTV in slaughterhouses
  • Dismay at the inhumane badger cull extension

Air quality

Air pollution and Health

I was honoured to deliver the closing speech at the International Aircraft Cabin Air Conference on Wednesday, 20 September and to use this opportunity to call for an independent inquiry into so-called ‘aerotoxic syndrome’ related to poor air quality in aeroplane passenger cabins and cockpits. The conference, at Imperial College London, was hosted by The Global Cabin Air Quality Executive (GCAQE) in association with Pall Aerospace, Unite the Union, the British Professional Pilots union (PPU), and the University of Sterling. The two-day event brought together industry experts, cabin crew unions, and researchers to discuss the health concerns surrounding passenger and crew air supply contamination feared to be responsible for several deaths of pilots and crew and hundreds of incidents where pilots have fallen ill, sometimes at the controls.

Holding the Government to Account

I criticised the Government for wasting taxpayers’ money, responding to the revelations that the Conservative Government has spent £370,000 of taxpayers’ money fighting against air pollution action. A Freedom of information request revealed the ‘disgraceful’ amount of taxpayers’ money used to battle Client Earth over illegally poor air pollution plans.

I responded to the news that Oxford City Council and Oxfordshire County Council are planning to consult on whether to ban petrol and diesel cars from Oxford City Centre from 2020. In my statement, I said: “If Councils deliver a zero-emissions zone then it will, of course, be a welcome step in the right direction for the health and well-being of people in Oxford. However, it is difficult to take these proposals seriously when viewed alongside plans to expand car parking in the City Centre and reduce car parking charges – also announced this month. These plans will increase traffic, congestion and pollution in the already worst affected areas of the City.” Oxford is one of the case studies in my ‘Polluted Cities’ report published earlier this year.

In November, I responded to Oxford City Council’s consultation on its plans for a zero-emission zone to tackle air pollution.

Air Quality-Related Constituency Visits

I embarked on an air quality visit to Oxford on Halloween to raise awareness of the solutions to the ‘terrifying’ pollution crisis. I joined guest speakers Dr Imad Ahmed, an Oxford University academic researching air pollution and its effects on the brain, and Chris Church, a member of Oxford Friends of the Earth and an Oxfordshire clean air activist, at Oxford Town Hall to discuss ‘frightening’ levels of toxic air in Oxford and the solutions to the city’s air quality crisis. The event was chaired by Dick Wolff, a Green City Councillor for St Mary’s.

During the same week, I went to Portsmouth to offer my support to the campaign to #LetPompeyBreathe. Pompey recorded average PM pollution levels of 14 micrograms per cubic metre and the latest Government statistics link at least 100 premature deaths every year to toxic air in the city. I also met with City Council representatives and hosted a public meeting on the solutions to the pollution crisis in Portsmouth.

Following a networking meeting in Canterbury, Kent during the September constituency week this year, I was invited to Kent University’s Centre for Health Services Studies. The visit was an opportunity to discuss the centre’s current and future work on air pollution in Canterbury and surroundings. Professor Stephen Peckham and Dr Ashley Mills explained, amongst others, how they aim to reduce the cost of air pollution monitoring through citizen engagement and the trial of unconventional equipment.

Energy

I co-hosted a public meeting last month with Mid Sussex, Horsham and Crawley Green Party on the future of the UK’s energy policy in the context of Brexit, fracking and oil drilling. I was joined at the meeting by Chris Tomlinson, Development and Stakeholder Manager for the Rampion Offshore Wind Farm, and Brenda Pollack, South East Regional Campaigner for Friends of the Earth. Following the debate on energy policy, we also hosted a screening of the highly acclaimed film, The Bentley Effect, an extraordinary tale of a community that defied fracking on their doorstep.

Oil and gas drilling

Throughout this year, I met with the protesters at oil and gas drilling sites in Surrey and Sussex, Lancashire and Derbyshire. I spoke at length with residents about their concerns about an allegedly inconsistent and heavy-handed approach being employed by the police. I also had a chance to catch up with policing campaigner Kevin Blowe from the Network of Police Monitors who is backing my campaign for an urgent nationwide review of the guidance issued to forces tasked with policing fracking and oil and gas drilling protests.

When attending the Green Party conference in Harrogate in autumn, I was invited to Kirby Misperton by residents and campaigners to hear their concerns about the policing operation at the site. During my visit, I was moved to deliver a speech to campaigners after witnessing more than ten North Yorkshire Police officers ‘intimidate’ and ‘bully’ Jackie Brookes, the site’s septuagenarian ‘tea lady’, from her prominent position at the gates of the site. I nearly found myself arrested after passing a bag to fracking protester Eddie Thornton – who was occupying the protesters’ so-called ‘watchtower’ at the site. Here you can watch footage from the visit.

All of my correspondence on the policing of protests can be accessed here.

Finally, after nine months of misleading its shareholders, councillors, the Environment Agency and the Oil and Gas Authority, Angus Energy admitted that it drilled at Brockham without the proper permission. The Oil and Gas Authority gave the final go-ahead for oil production at the site just days before the news broke, on the basis that Angus had all the necessary planning permission in place. I warned Surrey County Council and the OGA that an extremely alarming precedent would be set if they allowed Angus Energy to get away with this flagrant breach.

In October, I sent a message of solidarity to residents set to take part in a silent protest against traffic plans for oil drilling on Leith Hill. A few weeks later, I hit out at Europa Oil and Gas as the firm announced its intention to bypass Surrey County Council by appealing directly to the Planning Inspectorate over a delayed Traffic Management Plan for drilling at Leith Hill.

I slammed South East councils after new data, released Thursday, November 9, revealed the local authority pension funds across the region invest £1.6 billion of their workers’ pensions into the coal, oil, and gas companies fuelling dangerous climate change.

I criticised Surrey County Council for waving through approval for more drilling at the controversial Horse Hill oil drilling site without a discussion. Last week, I sent a message of solidarity to the campaigners who moved on to the Horse Hill drilling site in Surrey on Thursday morning, 30 November.

I also criticised the Government’s new Industrial Strategy, published on 27 November, for its commitment to investing in ’climate destructive’ fracking.

On a more positive note, I welcomed the Scottish Government’s vote to ban fracking.

In October in the European Parliament, MEPs voted in favour of pushing to curb the access of fossil fuel lobbyists at international climate negotiations. A move welcomed by me.

Launch of new Netpol report at Preston New Road fracking site

A couple of weeks ago, I visited the fracking site and Preston New Road to help launch a report by the Network for Police Monitoring (Netpol), which reveals ‘aggressive and confrontational’ police tactics are having a ‘chilling effect’ on the freedom of protest. I was happy to contribute the foreword to the report entitled ‘Protecting the Planet is Not a Crime’. Earlier that day, I visited volunteers and activists at the Community Hub close to the site.

I also criticised the news that some households near the Preston New Road fracking site, Lancashire, will receive ‘blood money’ payouts of up to £2000.

Renewable Energy and Climate Change

Earlier this year, I backed plans to expand the Thanet Offshore Wind Farm (TOW) in Kent and I welcomed the opportunity to visit the array, located approximately 12 km off Foreness Point, Margate, and the most eastern part of Kent, last month. I embarked on a boat trip to see the farm in action and was accompanied by Melanie Rogers, Local Communications Officer at Vattenfall Wind Power, to discuss the firm’s plans to expand what is one of the biggest of its kind in Europe. Currently, the turbines at TOW are capable of producing enough clean energy to meet the total annual electricity needs of over 200,000 households in the UK. Adding another 34 turbines to the existing array would make the site able to supply more than 400,000 homes with clean electricity while creating much needed green jobs. The long-term investment at TOW demonstrates a welcome commitment to wind energy, and I hope it will be an example and inspiration for other green energy projects throughout the UK.

I also welcomed Wealden District Council’s approval for the construction of a community-owned 4MW solar farm in Berwick this autumn.

I interpreted the failure of the Clean Growth Strategy to mention fracking as confirmation that not even the Government believes that this dirty, dangerous and destructive process is a necessary ‘bridge’ to our clean energy future, something we’ve been told time and time again. It’s time the Government took heed of the overwhelming public opposition and banned extreme energy exploration once and for all. My Green MEP colleagues and I also criticised the strategy due to its lack of a clear post-Brexit ambition for its relationship with the EU.

During the COP23 talks in Bonn, I published an article on the impact of climate change on the Pacific island of Fiji as the country presided over the latest round of UN climate talks in Germany, as well as an article outlining how Brexit Is Likely To Make The Fight Against Lobbying That Much Harder.

Nuclear

As a long-time campaigner against nuclear weapons and the renewal of the UK’s Trident nuclear submarine programme, I was one of the signatories to the Parliamentarians For Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament letter calling on NATO to take urgent action to de-escalate the growing threat of nuclear aggression. Hence, I was pleased by the news that the Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN).

In Other News

Progress Report on the implementation of the European Disability Strategy (ENVI)

In the Environment and Public Health Committee, I was the Greens/EFA shadow for a report on the European Disability Strategy.

Millions of persons with disabilities across the EU still do not enjoy equal access to quality healthcare services. There’s a lack of accessible information about healthcare entitlements and lower quality of care experienced by persons with disabilities. Denying this fundamental right is unacceptable. I also raised concerns about discrimination in accessing healthcare in different member states and tabled amendments condemning the greater risk of exclusion and health inequality faced by groups because of intersectional discrimination and called on member states to end punishing austerity cuts.

I recently met with UK independent-living activists in Brussels to discuss this report and my work in the TRAN committee on the Accessibility Act. Our conversations only further highlighted the devastating impact of austerity measures on people with disabilities such as the massive step backwards from community-based care to institutionalisation. I will be working over the coming months to ensure that EU protections for people with disabilities are not lost to the Conservatives’ bonfire of regulations.

LGBTI Intergroup & constituency support

As a passionate ally of the LGBT community, I have continued to support them in their struggle for equality. To this end, through my position on the European Parliament’s LGBT Rights Intergroup, I have proudly co-signed a number of cross-parliamentary initiatives. For example, In May 2017, I signed a letter to the Romanian government in protest of their referendum on the definition of family, which sought to promote a ‘traditional’ hetro-normative, anti-LGBT narrative. I have also been vocal on gender equality and pledged my support to combatting gender-based violence in football in a letter to the heads of FIFA and UEFA. In the New Year, I am hoping to be more vocal on bisexual and trans affairs.

This autumn, I sent my support and solidarity to everyone attending the first-ever Basingstoke Pride celebrations, shortly before joining festival organiser, and local councillor, Simon Bound and volunteer and Pride 245 committee member, Glynn, at an awareness-raising event in the Basingstoke Discovery Centre.

Delegation to Palestine

2017 has been a difficult year and one of significant anniversaries for Palestine and I have tried to reflect this in my work. I have been particularly vocal on demolitions to Palestinian communities, having sent a letter to Boris Johnson regarding several cases in East Jerusalem and the Jordan Valley, and I had requested that the British government reopen an inquiry into the UK’s role in the Middle East Peace Process. Their rejection of this request coincided with the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, and I had a press release published on this scandal accordingly. I have signed open letters via the Palestine Solidarity Campaign protesting demolitions and Britain’s invitation to Prime Minister Netanyahu on the centenary of the Balfour Declaration to Number 10. I also published an article on Medium.com to mark the significance of the anniversary. In the coming weeks, I will be taking part in a public panel debate with David Cronin: The relations between the EU and Israel. In the meantime, I will continue monitoring Israeli-Palestine relations, keep an eye out for opportunities to effectively take action and will report back in the next meeting.

CETA

In September, I welcomed the news that the Belgian government will refer to the European Court of Justice the question of whether the investment tribunals in the EU-Canada trade deal CETA are consistent with EU law. In the European Parliament, the Greens strongly campaigned to send CETA to the Court of Justice raising our own concerns about an ‘Investor Court System’ that surrenders national parliaments’ power to legislate on behalf of their citizens to the profit motives of multinational corporations. The Greens/EFA advisor on trade is currently compiling a list on the state of play regarding the ratification of CETA in the Member States together with the S2B network.

International

Following repressive actions in Catalonia around the proposed referendum on Catalan independence, Green MEPs in the European Parliament called on the European Commission to facilitate dialogue between the Spanish and Catalan authorities to help resolve the political situation. After the referendum, I condemned the state-sponsored violence in Catalonia and criticised the UK Government and the wider European community for its muted response to the disturbing scenes.

Responding to Boris Johnson’s devastating blunder over Hampshire mum Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s jailing in Iran, I expressed my concern about his unpreparedness and tendency to make things up on the spot without a care for the truth. I called on Theresa May, who failed to fully rectify his mistake, to sack the Foreign Secretary for the safety of UK citizens and the sake of our diplomatic standing in the world.

Following calls from leaders of four political groups in the European Parliament urging the EU foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, for an EU-wide ban of arms sales to Saudi Arabia, I, together with Jean Lambert and Molly Scott Cato MEPs, wrote to the UK Prime Minister urging her to “immediately suspend all arms exports to Saudi Arabia until the human rights of the people of Yemen can be fully guaranteed”.

NHS

I was outraged as Virgin Care walked away with £328,000 settlement last month after losing an NHS bid to NHS providers. I drafted an opinion piece on the case, which was first published by the Left Foot Forward.

Keith Taylor MEP: what I’ve been working on over the last 3 months

Keith Taylor MEP: what I’ve been working on over the last 3 months

December 14th, 2017

Eu Referendum - After the Vote

European Parliament

The European Parliament does have a limited role in the negotiations. It is not involved directly in the negotiations, although the Brexit steering group does feed in and comment on negotiations. In addition, the EP holds the power of a consent vote.

To find out more about the European Parliament’s Brexit stance, read the cross-party Brexit resolution co-drafted and supported by the Greens/EFA group. This sets out the Parliament’s priorities and red lines. Citizens’ rights were the main concern, especially for my own Greens/EFA group. Other priorities include integrity of the Single Market and the EU’s fundamental freedoms, settling financial matters, the issue of Northern Ireland and the peace process. The Resolution also stresses the EP’s wish for fair and close future relations between the EU and the UK, for the withdrawal agreement and after Brexit.

On 3 October, MEPs voted overwhelmingly in favour of a resolution to back a delay in any decision over trade discussions unless there is a major breakthrough on three of the above mentioned issues: the divorce bill, the rights of EU citizens in the UK and UK citizens in the EU and the Northern Ireland border. This was a move welcomed by both me and my Green MEP colleagues.

In September, I spoke at a meeting of the Oxford European Association to discuss the European Parliament’s involvement in the Brexit negotiations, EU citizens’ rights, and the prospects for British citizens post-Brexit. Oxford City Council passed a cross-party motion in July 2016 noting that the “city profoundly regrets the outcome of the referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union and the way in which the tenor of the Leave campaign has stimulated a wave of hostility towards migrants and ethnic minorities.” The OEA was set up by the council to help EU citizens cope with the practicalities of living in Oxford in uncertain times and build on the close ties between Oxford and Europe.

Northern Ireland

Since joining the Irish Peace Process Support Group, I have continued working alongside colleagues towards the Northern Irish question in the context of Brexit. Sinn Fein (GUE/NGL) MEPs coordinating the group presented a report compiled by independent lawyers, examining the legality of Brexit based on the treaties and presenting a number of ‘special status’ solutions for Northern Ireland in order to avoid a hard border and to maintain peace. As an ongoing process which still retains a very big question mark, my notes are presented internally, especially as the Greens/EFA group have yet to present an official position on the subject.

The hardening of the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland has always been a direct and clear-cut consequence of the Government’s pursuit of an extreme Brexit outside of the Single Market and the Customs Union, and I recently slammed leading leave campaigners for their ‘lies’ over the impact of Brexit on Northern Ireland, as a two-year-old tweet from Brexiteer Daniel Hannan MEP has surfaced claiming Remain campaigners’ warnings about the issue were ‘scare stories’.

The Repeal Bill

Apart from reiterating my support for tackling cross-border challenges such as climate change and air pollution together with our European friends and neighbours, I shared my concerns about the wholly inadequate Repeal Bill, which is meant to convert existing EU rules into UK law, but currently includes antidemocratic proposals that hand over enormous power to Ministers, in a message of support for the People’s March for Europe, which took place on Saturday 9 September.

Last month, I spoke about the challenges posed by Brexit and the Repeal Bill at a Making Politics Matter event, a Politics and International Relations staff-student initiative at Canterbury Christ Church University, which aims to engage the regional population – including students and the general public – through regular, thought-provoking, and current political debates. I highlighted the shortcomings of the EU Withdrawal Bill or 'Repeal Bill', including its massive environmental gaps that put at risk decades of positive EU action, the Bill’s terrifyingly anti-democratic ‘Henry the Eighth’ clauses, and the failure to recognise animals as sentient beings, see below.

On World Habitat Day, 2 October, I wrote to Michael Gove in order to urge him to transpose into UK law the key general environmental principles that are enshrined in the EU treaties, such as the ‘precautionary principle’ and the ‘polluter pays principle’. It is beyond my understanding why a new clause, which aimed to ensure that these environmental principles remain part of UK law after Brexit, were rejected with a majority of 16 during the Repeal Bill votes on 15 November (297 in favour, 313 against). Unfortunately, Defra’s response to the letter failed to address any concerns about the functioning of EU law or allay any fears about the Henry VIII clauses post-Brexit.

I also sent a letter to the Environment Secretary in my capacity as the Greens’ Animals spokesperson and a Vice-President of the European Parliament’s Animal Welfare Intergroup to highlight the importance of keeping the principle of Animal Sentience. The Government has committed to bringing over all the existing legislation on animal welfare in the acquis communautaire under the European Union (Withdrawal Bill). However Article 13 is not part of the acquis although it is referred to in many Regulations and Directives. As it is part of the Treaty, and the Treaty is for obvious reasons not being repatriated, this means that the current Bill does not incorporate the Treaty Article on animal sentience.

My colleague Caroline Lucas had tabled an amendment on this issue, which, I am hugely disappointed to say, got rejected by a majority of 18 - not a single Tory voted in favour of it! However, it’s been amazing to see so many people taking online actions and writing to their MPs on this issue - and it looks like it may still be possible to force the Government to take action. Caroline has now tabled an Early Day Motion, which has cross-party support, urging Ministers to amend the EU Withdrawal Bill to incorporate Animal Sentience into British law.

Brexit and Young People

I sent a message on environmental activism to the Young Greens of England and Wales for the annual 2017 Convention, encouraging them to continue fighting for the protection of our precious environment and the commitment to halt climate change, and against the threat posed to our environment and climate by Brexit. Issues such as climate change, the health of our oceans and air pollution show no respect for borders.

I joined 20 young people in Portsmouth last month to listen to their thoughts, opinions and concerns about Brexit. As the UK prepares to the leave the European Union, youth organisation My Life My Say (MLMS) have been canvassing the opinions of young people on Brexit in a series of Brexit Café events across the UK, to ensure their voices are represented.

Brexit and the NHS

I wrote an opinion piece, that was published as a letter to the editor in The Argus, on the fact that Brexit has already driven away almost 10,000 EU staff working on the frontlines of our NHS. That’s doctors, nurses and other staff that our underfunded National Health Service cannot afford to lose. Our NHS is paying a heavy price for the Government’s campaign to make EU citizens unwelcome in Britain.

Green Guarantees

An updated copy of my ‘Brexit: Green Guarantees leaflet can be downloaded here.

Transport

Conference on Clean Mobility and the Human Health Crisis

On 23 November, I hosted a conference on air pollution and clean mobility at the European Parliament, to which I invited stakeholders from various European cities and the European Commission to discuss how we can make cities more sustainable and healthier places to live in. Many EU, national and local policy makers and civil society representatives were part of the audience and took part in the discussion afterwards. The event took place against the background of the European Commission’s Transport Package, which includes a number of proposals that will be important in determining the EU’s transport policies in the future. One of the most crucial messages for me to take away was that all speakers stressed the scientific consensus that we need radical change in European transport systems in order to continue to live and breathe in urban spaces. However, what we urgently need is the political will to make this change happen in cities throughout Europe. For example, the city of Paris has recently come up with a plan to achieve an all-electric bus fleet by 2025. This investment will significantly reduce pollution in the city centre and improve the wellbeing and quality of life of Parisian citizens. Meanwhile, other cities like Brussels and London continue allowing heavily polluting vehicles to drive through the city as they please while endangering the health and wellbeing of others.

Transport Accessibility

As mentioned in my last report, the Committee on Internal Market and Consumer Protection, the lead committee of the European Accessibility Act proposal, which I follow as shadow rapporteur for the Transport Committee’s (TRAN) opinion, failed to take many of the adopted Transport committee achievements on board. Consequently, I re-tabled a number of key amendments before the plenary vote, and ran a campaign to urge people across the UK to write to their MEPs to highlight the importance of ‘barrier-free journeys for everyone’ and build support from the majority of MEPs for my amendments on the built environment. I am very pleased to report that they were adopted by a majority in the final plenary vote held in September. This is a great success for the disability movement anda crucial opportunity to fundamentally improve the lives of 13 million people in the UK and 80 million people across the EU living with disabilities. However, it is important that we stay vigilant, since we are still at a preliminary stage in the process leading towards the final adoption of the legislation. The report is now awaiting review by the Council and may return to the Parliament for a second reading.

Waterborne Transport

With regard to my work on safety on board ferries and passenger ships, which included a focus on toughening safety inspections for so-called “roll on, roll off” ferries, and the improvement of social conditions for people employed in the maritime sector and the provision of more extensive emergency training for personnel, the final agreement passed committee vote this summer and was adopted by a large majority during plenary in October.

Transport and Climate Change

My amendments to TRAN’s International Ocean Governance file , which are pushing for stricter enforcement of shipping emissions regulations, were debated in September and most of my suggestions were included in the Compromise Amendments adopted at committee level. The draft report is now awaiting a vote in the lead Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety and will thereafter be voted in plenary.

Mobility Package

I continue my work to improve road safety and working conditions for drivers, and will be reporting on the proposal on requirements on drivers’ resting times, minimum breaks and limits to driving times in my next report.

EU rail passenger rights

Furthermore, I welcomed moves to phase out national exemptions to ensure equal passenger rights across the EU as the European Commission published its proposals to updating the European rules on rail passenger rights. I’m hoping this will put an end to the ridiculous situation we currently see, where only four EU Member States fully apply EU rules, seriously undermining passenger rights across Europe.

In the Constituency:

Road Expansion & Sustainable Mobility

I have continued to work with campaigners in Sussex to oppose A27 expansion and in September and October submitted my responses to Highways England’s public consultation on its plans for the A27 at Worthing, Lancing and Arundel. I joined the Campaign for Better Transport and local campaigners in raising concerns about the environmentally destructive dual carriageway options offered up for consideration at Arundel which would have a devastating impact on the South Downs National Park. I called on Highways England to listen to residents who have identified and proposed a single carriageway solution that focuses on traffic flow rather than capacity and combats congestion without the level of destruction that would be caused by a new dual carriageway.

I highlighted the disconnect between transport planning and housing development in my response to the Wycombe Local Plan. Whilst the level of detail about the new bus, walking and cycling routes is positive, it is countered heavily by suggestions that tackling congestion can be managed by delivering new highway infrastructure, by increasing parking capacity and building a new car park at the train station. I pointed out that these are exactly the measures that would exacerbate the problems, not improve them.

I was pleased with the news that plans for an M20 lorry park in Kent have been scrapped by the Government in the face of a judicial review. This is a victory for campaigners who have long opposed the knee-jerk short-termism that motivated the original environmentally-destructive proposals. I joined Kent County Councillor Martin Whybrow in submitting an objection to the original proposals in September 2016.

Airport Expansion

I called on the Government to give up on their disastrous plans for Heathrow expansion, as a new consultation on the proposals was launched in September. The Department for Transport received 70,000 responses to the last consultation, which only ended in May, when I submitted a joint response to the Airports National Policy Statement consultation together with my Green MEP colleague from London, Jean Lambert. In our response, we set out the reasons why the proposed plans would be an environmental disaster and questioned the economic case for airport expansion in the South East of England and beyond. All of these concerns still remain valid and I will continue to campaign against any new runways. The revised proposals are notable for how little the Government’s unconvincing argument has changed.

HS2

In October, I sent a message of solidarity to Green campaigner Sarah Green who spent more than 24 hours underneath a large digger as part of a new campaign to block the construction of the controversial HS2 high-speed rail link in the Colne Valley nature reserve.

Animal Welfare

Animal testing

Despite a few notable advances around the world, about 80% of the world’s countries still allow animal testing and the marketing of cosmetics tested on animals. Last week on the ENVI committee, I supported calls for the EU to use its role as a world leader to push for a global ban on the testing of cosmetics on animals.

I have also been closely following an EU level review on the use on non-human primates in experiments by the Scientific Committee on Health, Environmental and Emerging Risks (SCHEER). I am very concerned that their latest report fails to properly look at the evidence against monkey experiments and does not investigate any alternatives. That is why I submitted a written question to the Commission regarding this unbiased opinion and am calling for an urgent end to the use of monkeys in experiments.

Intensive farming

As the member of a number of cross-party working groups set up in the European Parliament to tackle the cruelties of intensive farming, over recent months I have focused on EU pig farming, which employs painful and unnecessary tail-docking and surgical castration. I was pleased to raise this at the End Pig Pain exhibition in September.

Routinely docking piglets’ tails to stop biting isn’t the answer, but is rather a symptom of inadequate environmental conditions and management systems. I have therefore also co-authored a number of letters and written questions to the Commission stressing that humane alternatives for pain free pig-farming already exist and must become the norm, alongside better enforcement of the EU Pigs Directive.

I have also collaborated on a number of letters to the Commission regarding factory farming, most recently writing to Commissioners Vella, highlighting its devastating impact on biodiversity. I have also called for a reform of the CAP system to better promote the humane and sustainable rearing of farm animals.

I welcomed the decision by parliamentary leaders in the European Parliament to withdraw access from Monsanto lobbyists and other representatives of the Monsanto group until further notice. The decision came following a request from Green MEPs after Monsanto declined to attend Parliament for a hearing on the so-called Monsanto Papers.

On World Farm Animals Day, I reiterated my call for an urgent reform of farming standards and urged a reduction in the consumption of animal products. With billions of animals intensively reared for food across the UK and EU, farming is not only the biggest form of animal cruelty, it is also a significant contributor to global carbon emissions.

I responded to Defra’s consultation on compulsory CCTV in slaughterhouses. You can read the full submission here, submitted by on behalf of the UK Green MEPs.

Trade in animals

As a long time-campaigner against live exports, I have been working with the Stop the Trucks campaign, which achieved over 1 million signatures on their petition against long distance live animal transportation. I recently wrote an article reiterating my fight for a blanket ban on live exports, supporting campaigners opposing this barbaric practice and explaining why Brexit won’t be the silver bullet to end it once and for all. In addition, I recorded a video in support of campaigners attending this year’s Live Animal Transportation International Day of Awareness.

Another facet of this appalling trade that I continue to keep a close eye on is exports to outside the EU. I’m therefore working within the European Parliament to establish an enquiry committee into live animal transport from the EU to Turkey, the Middle East and northern Africa.

I wrote to the Defra Secretary Michael Gove urging the UK Government to follow the lead of several European Countries by banning the trade in and keeping of monkeys and other primates as pets. The letter followed my visit to the Lakeview Monkey Sanctuary in Ascot, Berkshire last month, which rescues, rehabilitates and rehomes a small number of the 5,000 primates which are thought to be kept privately in the UK.

Ivory

You may recall that an ambitious resolution I helped draft, calling for an immediate and full EU-wide ban on the trade in ivory, was voted in by the European Parliament’s Environment committee last autumn, and I was delighted to see it adopted by an overwhelming majority of MEPs during a plenary voting session in Strasbourg last November. The resolution also calls for common sanctions at EU level against wildlife trafficking, which is worth an estimated €20 billion annually.

I’m hoping to use this knowledge in my responses to two current consultations on the ivory trade – one in the EU and one in the UK. The deadline for submissions for the latter is 29 December so there’s still plenty of time to submit your views to help protect these beautiful animals!

I have given a cautious welcome to the announcement that the UK government is considering restricting the ivory trade. Britain is set to host a major conference on the illegal wildlife trade in 2018.

Hunting and Fishing

I expressed my disappointment at the result of the vote on a resolution to ban hunting on National Trust land. I believe the result is a huge disappointment and massive setback for animal protection in the UK. The murky circumstances around the, extremely close, vote and the use of ‘discretionary’ proxies are also concerning.

I wrote to the Leicestershire Police Chief Constable urging the force to seek prosecution in relation to an incident in October where a man is filmed apparently ‘mowing down’ a foxhunt protester.

‘ANIMA: animals, the planet and us’ event

I gave a keynote speech on Saturday 30 September at an exciting and creative animals event that brought together hundreds of like-minded people in Brockenhurst, New Forest, who share a desire for a more sustainable and compassionate lifestyle. ‘Anima: animals the planet and us’ was organised by No More Dodos, a unique charity which uses art and sport to inspire positive lifestyle changes. The event sought to use culture, the creative arts, and sport to raise awareness of the threats faced by endangered plants, animals, and their habitats.

Making Tracks

To mark World Animal Day 2017, Jean Lambert, Molly Scott Cato and myself launched our latest animal protection newsletter Making Tracks on 4 October. The Autumn-Winter 2017 issue touches on important issues including:

  • The UK is set to lose vital EU animal protections post-Brexit
  • Jean’s letter to the Vietnamese Ambassador calling for an end to bear farming
  • Green MEP’s submission to Defra on mandatory CCTV in slaughterhouses
  • Dismay at the inhumane badger cull extension

Air quality

Air pollution and Health

I was honoured to deliver the closing speech at the International Aircraft Cabin Air Conference on Wednesday, 20 September and to use this opportunity to call for an independent inquiry into so-called ‘aerotoxic syndrome’ related to poor air quality in aeroplane passenger cabins and cockpits. The conference, at Imperial College London, was hosted by The Global Cabin Air Quality Executive (GCAQE) in association with Pall Aerospace, Unite the Union, the British Professional Pilots union (PPU), and the University of Sterling. The two-day event brought together industry experts, cabin crew unions, and researchers to discuss the health concerns surrounding passenger and crew air supply contamination feared to be responsible for several deaths of pilots and crew and hundreds of incidents where pilots have fallen ill, sometimes at the controls.

Holding the Government to Account

I criticised the Government for wasting taxpayers’ money, responding to the revelations that the Conservative Government has spent £370,000 of taxpayers’ money fighting against air pollution action. A Freedom of information request revealed the ‘disgraceful’ amount of taxpayers’ money used to battle Client Earth over illegally poor air pollution plans.

I responded to the news that Oxford City Council and Oxfordshire County Council are planning to consult on whether to ban petrol and diesel cars from Oxford City Centre from 2020. In my statement, I said: “If Councils deliver a zero-emissions zone then it will, of course, be a welcome step in the right direction for the health and well-being of people in Oxford. However, it is difficult to take these proposals seriously when viewed alongside plans to expand car parking in the City Centre and reduce car parking charges – also announced this month. These plans will increase traffic, congestion and pollution in the already worst affected areas of the City.” Oxford is one of the case studies in my ‘Polluted Cities’ report published earlier this year.

In November, I responded to Oxford City Council’s consultation on its plans for a zero-emission zone to tackle air pollution.

Air Quality-Related Constituency Visits

I embarked on an air quality visit to Oxford on Halloween to raise awareness of the solutions to the ‘terrifying’ pollution crisis. I joined guest speakers Dr Imad Ahmed, an Oxford University academic researching air pollution and its effects on the brain, and Chris Church, a member of Oxford Friends of the Earth and an Oxfordshire clean air activist, at Oxford Town Hall to discuss ‘frightening’ levels of toxic air in Oxford and the solutions to the city’s air quality crisis. The event was chaired by Dick Wolff, a Green City Councillor for St Mary’s.

During the same week, I went to Portsmouth to offer my support to the campaign to #LetPompeyBreathe. Pompey recorded average PM pollution levels of 14 micrograms per cubic metre and the latest Government statistics link at least 100 premature deaths every year to toxic air in the city. I also met with City Council representatives and hosted a public meeting on the solutions to the pollution crisis in Portsmouth.

Following a networking meeting in Canterbury, Kent during the September constituency week this year, I was invited to Kent University’s Centre for Health Services Studies. The visit was an opportunity to discuss the centre’s current and future work on air pollution in Canterbury and surroundings. Professor Stephen Peckham and Dr Ashley Mills explained, amongst others, how they aim to reduce the cost of air pollution monitoring through citizen engagement and the trial of unconventional equipment.

Energy

I co-hosted a public meeting last month with Mid Sussex, Horsham and Crawley Green Party on the future of the UK’s energy policy in the context of Brexit, fracking and oil drilling. I was joined at the meeting by Chris Tomlinson, Development and Stakeholder Manager for the Rampion Offshore Wind Farm, and Brenda Pollack, South East Regional Campaigner for Friends of the Earth. Following the debate on energy policy, we also hosted a screening of the highly acclaimed film, The Bentley Effect, an extraordinary tale of a community that defied fracking on their doorstep.

Oil and gas drilling

Throughout this year, I met with the protesters at oil and gas drilling sites in Surrey and Sussex, Lancashire and Derbyshire. I spoke at length with residents about their concerns about an allegedly inconsistent and heavy-handed approach being employed by the police. I also had a chance to catch up with policing campaigner Kevin Blowe from the Network of Police Monitors who is backing my campaign for an urgent nationwide review of the guidance issued to forces tasked with policing fracking and oil and gas drilling protests.

When attending the Green Party conference in Harrogate in autumn, I was invited to Kirby Misperton by residents and campaigners to hear their concerns about the policing operation at the site. During my visit, I was moved to deliver a speech to campaigners after witnessing more than ten North Yorkshire Police officers ‘intimidate’ and ‘bully’ Jackie Brookes, the site’s septuagenarian ‘tea lady’, from her prominent position at the gates of the site. I nearly found myself arrested after passing a bag to fracking protester Eddie Thornton – who was occupying the protesters’ so-called ‘watchtower’ at the site. Here you can watch footage from the visit.

All of my correspondence on the policing of protests can be accessed here.

Finally, after nine months of misleading its shareholders, councillors, the Environment Agency and the Oil and Gas Authority, Angus Energy admitted that it drilled at Brockham without the proper permission. The Oil and Gas Authority gave the final go-ahead for oil production at the site just days before the news broke, on the basis that Angus had all the necessary planning permission in place. I warned Surrey County Council and the OGA that an extremely alarming precedent would be set if they allowed Angus Energy to get away with this flagrant breach.

In October, I sent a message of solidarity to residents set to take part in a silent protest against traffic plans for oil drilling on Leith Hill. A few weeks later, I hit out at Europa Oil and Gas as the firm announced its intention to bypass Surrey County Council by appealing directly to the Planning Inspectorate over a delayed Traffic Management Plan for drilling at Leith Hill.

I slammed South East councils after new data, released Thursday, November 9, revealed the local authority pension funds across the region invest £1.6 billion of their workers’ pensions into the coal, oil, and gas companies fuelling dangerous climate change.

I criticised Surrey County Council for waving through approval for more drilling at the controversial Horse Hill oil drilling site without a discussion. Last week, I sent a message of solidarity to the campaigners who moved on to the Horse Hill drilling site in Surrey on Thursday morning, 30 November.

I also criticised the Government’s new Industrial Strategy, published on 27 November, for its commitment to investing in ’climate destructive’ fracking.

On a more positive note, I welcomed the Scottish Government’s vote to ban fracking.

In October in the European Parliament, MEPs voted in favour of pushing to curb the access of fossil fuel lobbyists at international climate negotiations. A move welcomed by me.

Launch of new Netpol report at Preston New Road fracking site

A couple of weeks ago, I visited the fracking site and Preston New Road to help launch a report by the Network for Police Monitoring (Netpol), which reveals ‘aggressive and confrontational’ police tactics are having a ‘chilling effect’ on the freedom of protest. I was happy to contribute the foreword to the report entitled ‘Protecting the Planet is Not a Crime’. Earlier that day, I visited volunteers and activists at the Community Hub close to the site.

I also criticised the news that some households near the Preston New Road fracking site, Lancashire, will receive ‘blood money’ payouts of up to £2000.

Renewable Energy and Climate Change

Earlier this year, I backed plans to expand the Thanet Offshore Wind Farm (TOW) in Kent and I welcomed the opportunity to visit the array, located approximately 12 km off Foreness Point, Margate, and the most eastern part of Kent, last month. I embarked on a boat trip to see the farm in action and was accompanied by Melanie Rogers, Local Communications Officer at Vattenfall Wind Power, to discuss the firm’s plans to expand what is one of the biggest of its kind in Europe. Currently, the turbines at TOW are capable of producing enough clean energy to meet the total annual electricity needs of over 200,000 households in the UK. Adding another 34 turbines to the existing array would make the site able to supply more than 400,000 homes with clean electricity while creating much needed green jobs. The long-term investment at TOW demonstrates a welcome commitment to wind energy, and I hope it will be an example and inspiration for other green energy projects throughout the UK.

I also welcomed Wealden District Council’s approval for the construction of a community-owned 4MW solar farm in Berwick this autumn.

I interpreted the failure of the Clean Growth Strategy to mention fracking as confirmation that not even the Government believes that this dirty, dangerous and destructive process is a necessary ‘bridge’ to our clean energy future, something we’ve been told time and time again. It’s time the Government took heed of the overwhelming public opposition and banned extreme energy exploration once and for all. My Green MEP colleagues and I also criticised the strategy due to its lack of a clear post-Brexit ambition for its relationship with the EU.

During the COP23 talks in Bonn, I published an article on the impact of climate change on the Pacific island of Fiji as the country presided over the latest round of UN climate talks in Germany, as well as an article outlining how Brexit Is Likely To Make The Fight Against Lobbying That Much Harder.

Nuclear

As a long-time campaigner against nuclear weapons and the renewal of the UK’s Trident nuclear submarine programme, I was one of the signatories to the Parliamentarians For Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament letter calling on NATO to take urgent action to de-escalate the growing threat of nuclear aggression. Hence, I was pleased by the news that the Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN).

In Other News

Progress Report on the implementation of the European Disability Strategy (ENVI)

In the Environment and Public Health Committee, I was the Greens/EFA shadow for a report on the European Disability Strategy.

Millions of persons with disabilities across the EU still do not enjoy equal access to quality healthcare services. There’s a lack of accessible information about healthcare entitlements and lower quality of care experienced by persons with disabilities. Denying this fundamental right is unacceptable. I also raised concerns about discrimination in accessing healthcare in different member states and tabled amendments condemning the greater risk of exclusion and health inequality faced by groups because of intersectional discrimination and called on member states to end punishing austerity cuts.

I recently met with UK independent-living activists in Brussels to discuss this report and my work in the TRAN committee on the Accessibility Act. Our conversations only further highlighted the devastating impact of austerity measures on people with disabilities such as the massive step backwards from community-based care to institutionalisation. I will be working over the coming months to ensure that EU protections for people with disabilities are not lost to the Conservatives’ bonfire of regulations.

LGBTI Intergroup & constituency support

As a passionate ally of the LGBT community, I have continued to support them in their struggle for equality. To this end, through my position on the European Parliament’s LGBT Rights Intergroup, I have proudly co-signed a number of cross-parliamentary initiatives. For example, In May 2017, I signed a letter to the Romanian government in protest of their referendum on the definition of family, which sought to promote a ‘traditional’ hetro-normative, anti-LGBT narrative. I have also been vocal on gender equality and pledged my support to combatting gender-based violence in football in a letter to the heads of FIFA and UEFA. In the New Year, I am hoping to be more vocal on bisexual and trans affairs.

This autumn, I sent my support and solidarity to everyone attending the first-ever Basingstoke Pride celebrations, shortly before joining festival organiser, and local councillor, Simon Bound and volunteer and Pride 245 committee member, Glynn, at an awareness-raising event in the Basingstoke Discovery Centre.

Delegation to Palestine

2017 has been a difficult year and one of significant anniversaries for Palestine and I have tried to reflect this in my work. I have been particularly vocal on demolitions to Palestinian communities, having sent a letter to Boris Johnson regarding several cases in East Jerusalem and the Jordan Valley, and I had requested that the British government reopen an inquiry into the UK’s role in the Middle East Peace Process. Their rejection of this request coincided with the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, and I had a press release published on this scandal accordingly. I have signed open letters via the Palestine Solidarity Campaign protesting demolitions and Britain’s invitation to Prime Minister Netanyahu on the centenary of the Balfour Declaration to Number 10. I also published an article on Medium.com to mark the significance of the anniversary. In the coming weeks, I will be taking part in a public panel debate with David Cronin: The relations between the EU and Israel. In the meantime, I will continue monitoring Israeli-Palestine relations, keep an eye out for opportunities to effectively take action and will report back in the next meeting.

CETA

In September, I welcomed the news that the Belgian government will refer to the European Court of Justice the question of whether the investment tribunals in the EU-Canada trade deal CETA are consistent with EU law. In the European Parliament, the Greens strongly campaigned to send CETA to the Court of Justice raising our own concerns about an ‘Investor Court System’ that surrenders national parliaments’ power to legislate on behalf of their citizens to the profit motives of multinational corporations. The Greens/EFA advisor on trade is currently compiling a list on the state of play regarding the ratification of CETA in the Member States together with the S2B network.

International

Following repressive actions in Catalonia around the proposed referendum on Catalan independence, Green MEPs in the European Parliament called on the European Commission to facilitate dialogue between the Spanish and Catalan authorities to help resolve the political situation. After the referendum, I condemned the state-sponsored violence in Catalonia and criticised the UK Government and the wider European community for its muted response to the disturbing scenes.

Responding to Boris Johnson’s devastating blunder over Hampshire mum Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s jailing in Iran, I expressed my concern about his unpreparedness and tendency to make things up on the spot without a care for the truth. I called on Theresa May, who failed to fully rectify his mistake, to sack the Foreign Secretary for the safety of UK citizens and the sake of our diplomatic standing in the world.

Following calls from leaders of four political groups in the European Parliament urging the EU foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, for an EU-wide ban of arms sales to Saudi Arabia, I, together with Jean Lambert and Molly Scott Cato MEPs, wrote to the UK Prime Minister urging her to “immediately suspend all arms exports to Saudi Arabia until the human rights of the people of Yemen can be fully guaranteed”.

NHS

I was outraged as Virgin Care walked away with £328,000 settlement last month after losing an NHS bid to NHS providers. I drafted an opinion piece on the case, which was first published by the Left Foot Forward.

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