On 17 January the House of Lords inflicted a staggering 14 defeats on the Government’s Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, with a further five Government amendments being withdrawn.
The Lords rejected most of the 18 pages of late amendments to the Bill, forcing Ministers to either drop these proposals or bring them back in completely separate legislation at a later date. The Lords only have this power on very rare occasions, because the Government introduced the amendments late and bypassed scrutiny in the commons.
The impact of these votes will see people prevented from being given 51-week prison sentences for the offence of locking on, or for obstruction of major transport works. The Lords also stopped suspicionless stop and search of anyone in the vicinity of a protest, as well as banning orders which would have allowed the police to stop named people attending protests, regardless of whether they had committed a crime.
Jenny said: "This was crunch time for the opposition to this increasingly authoritarian government. The Lords struck a blow for civil liberties and defended democratic rights in this country. The government is proposing Belarus-style laws, but the Lords have stopped some of the most draconian measures. We have a government that is passing rules for us, while not obeying laws itself. The police protect the powerful, while getting more oppressive powers to use against the voiceless. This is an autocracy, not a democracy.”
Natalie added: "If we don't have the right to protest, we will have an even worse government, even worse policies than we have now. The House of Lords has seized its opportunity to stand up for rights that so many working people, over more than a century, have actually used to achieve a better society.”
Police Bill : Next steps
The amended version of the Police Bill has now been returned to the Commons; although the government cannot add back in the defeated amendments targeting protest - added after the bill left the Commons in its first progression through the Houses - they can overturn amended amendments, and remove the other Lords amendments.
So now is the time to write to your MP to ask them to retain the Lords amendments. The government are most likely to compromise over the ban on "noisy" and "disruptive" protests, so please focus on those. It is too late to throw out the whole bill, but it is not too late to retain the Lords amendments which improve the bill.
Calling the Government out on Corruption
Jenny wrote to the Independent Office of Police Complaints about their failure to investigate last year's Christmas party at Downing Street. She wrote about how this failure was part of a pattern of failure to examine the actions of Ministers, such as the Covid contracts and cash for peerages. She also found it unbelievable that the brother of a senior cabinet Minister was involved in the Met's decision making over their complaint.
With the government ignoring the climate crisis and handing out new licences for North Sea oil/gas exploration, Jenny organised a debate on the links between Tory Party donations and the decisions of Ministers. Her speech outlining the cash and the access, is devastating.
Brief guide to how bills become legislation
First reading is simply reading out the title of the Bill. No debate. Second reading is a general debate on the Bill, allowing the House to air all the problems they can see in the Bill. Committee Stage we put all our amendments to try to improve the Bill. All amendments are debated and then withdrawn without any votes. Report Stage we bring back our most important amendments, debate them, then vote on some of them if they have enough support. Third Reading is for tidying up the Bill but sometimes there are still battles. Ping Pong is once the Bill has passed all these stages in both Commons and Lords, it "ping pongs" between both Houses until they agree on all their amendments. The Government usually uses their majority in the Commons to strip out all the Lords’ amendments. Sometimes the Lords ask the Commons to "think again", but eventually the Lords defer to the will of the elected chamber. Royal Assent happens once the Bill has been fully approved by both Houses of Parliament, it goes to the Monarch for her formal approval and becomes law.
Bills currently at Committee Stage
Nationality and Borders Bill
The Nationality and Borders Bill threatens to break international law by denying the right to permanent asylum for refugees arriving on these shores, and leaves 6 million Britons (holding duel nationality) with the threat of Priti Patel being able to take away their citizenship.
Natalie said: 'This bill can only be described as abusive of trauma survivors, it is clearly actively designed to take refugees who are already in situations far from ideal security and rip not just the rug but the entire ground from under them.'
Jenny said: 'A lot of people will be surprised to learn that the Government already can—and do—remove people’s right to British citizenship. That is not new and it means there is already a two-tier system of British citizenship. The change is that the Government will now be able to remove people’s citizenship without any notice or warning whatever.'
Natalie is putting an amendment to end the two tier approach to citizenship. If you're British, then you're British. More to follow on this.
Health and Care Bill
While the government is attacking our civil liberties, it is also threatening our NHS, with the Health and Care Bill that threatens to break it up as an institution and leave it open to further privatisation, while also rationing care.
Natalie has focused on the creeping privitisation of our NHS, drawing attention to the "disastrous results" and expense of the US healthcare system, as well the poor pay and conditions endured by NHS staff. She has also used the committee stage debates to highlight the fact that young people are a marginalised group in our society and too often excluded from debates and decisions that directly affect them.
Government Minister Lord Kamall praised Natalie's work, and that of the Green Party as a whole, for 'putting the green agenda at the centre of British politics’.
The Government keep presenting thin Bills that ought to include the ecological crisis and climate change, but do not. The subsidy principle should ensure that all our environmental and climate targets are met. Ecologically damaging, polluting industries should be weaned off public money completely and, ultimately, binned. Jenny's Amendment 8 to the Subsidy Control Bill would ensure that subsidies contribute towards limiting global temperature rises to 1.5 degrees centigrade of warming. Her Amendment 33 would prohibit subsidies for fossil fuels and extend the definition of fossil fuel subsidies to include any government policy that makes fossil fuels cheaper than their true cost.
In the Scottish independence referendum, the people of Scotland were promised devo-max but they received no such thing and then Brexit came along and gave the Government an excuse to steadily unpick devolution and centralise power. We will support the amendments to this bill which would allow the Senedd Cymru and the Scottish Parliament to actually decide issues for themselves.
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