Cancer awareness and climate change

Pictured Supporting Breast Cancer awareness week - and trying to look moderately sensible!in pink at Parliament for Breast Cancer awareness week. Turning up for a photo op / campaign support MPs found themselves presented with big pink hats, rosettes, mad pink sunglasses, pom poms, boas and so on. I felt a complete twit – but having observed the propensity for MPs before and after me in the queue to rather seem to enjoy such exhibitionism – I donned a hat and rosette (the least they would let me get away with). Well – it’s for a good cause!

Then rushed to Chamber. I wanted very much to be called to speak in the Climate Change adjournment debate scheduled for today – at late notice. I dropped a note to Mr Speaker to alert him to my desire – but being only able to put it in just before the debate and with three backbench Lib Dem colleagues wanting also to speak – was not optimistic about my chances. They call about 10 Labour and Tories to every Lib Dem and with no time limit on backbench speeches as the hours wore on my hopes sank.

But after five hours of jumping up at the end of everyone else’s speech in the hope of catching the Speaker’s eye – and just before the wind-up speeches were about to begin – I did get called – last of all. I had tabled an Early Day Motion just before the debate which congratulated Al Gore on his film on Climate Change – An Inconvenient Truth and urged all MPs to go and see it and sign the EDM when they had. The brains of the Table Office said the rules of the House ruled it out of order as the House could not pass a motion to sign the motion if signed. After three brains had a go – we removed the signing bit – and tabled the encourage MPs to go bit. I had been trying to find a way to ‘encourage’ MPs by making sure that they had to see the film before they could sign the EDM – but the House saved them from potential exposure. That’s the way the House always works.

Anyway Supporting the Big Ask campaign for an effective bill to tackle climate change– back to my speech. By the time I finally did get called almost all the points I had scribbled down had been made – so I stuck to pointing out to the Minister that the Friends of the Earth ‘Big Ask’ campaign was clearly hugely supported by individuals in all Members’ constituencies. I think I’ve had about 800 postcards by now (and still climbint). And we all want a Climate Change Bill in the Queen’s Speech to set reduction targets for carbon. And as I said to the Minister – if you don’t ask, you don’t get!

You can read the speech in Hansard, but the main points were on travel planning and on education and dissemination of the threat of climate change. I suggested that the Government get Al Gore’s film shown in all secondary schools. And idea that the Minister nodded quite enthusiastically at I thought – and which was praised as ‘an excellent idea’ by the Tories when they were summing up. That’s not a usual reaction by Tories – but a good idea is a good idea!

Climate change and the Big Ask

ABeing lobbied by local Friends of the Earth supporters as part of their Big Ask campaign few days ago I was lobbied by members of the local Friends of the Earth group about climate change.

This is a BIG issue as up and down the land we try and get the Government to put the Climate Change Bill into the Queen’s Speech. The lobby group had brought with hundreds of postcards all individually filled by members of the public lobbying MPs (in this case me) to put pressure on the Government to do so. (You can read more about their campaign on the Friends of the Earth website).

As the Lib Dems lead the field on environmental issues and have already challenged the Government to bring in the bill it was an absolute pleasure to meet this committed group who understand that climate change is the big issue for all of us and that the next ten years are absolutely key. The Government must set and meet by statute targets on carbon emission reduction.

I had already written to T Blair and D Millibland on the subject – still waiting for a response. But will write again – and also ask that the Al Gore film be shown in Parliament.

I have sent out with my army of volunteer deliverers around 15,000 letters urging local people to see Al’s film An Inconvenient Truth. It is the best case and the best illustrated case to date. Just go and see it. The film will do its own convincing.

Climate change

One of the things that really attracted me to Chris Huhne’s leadership bid earlier this year was his commitment to the environment. Although Chris didn’t win, his run for the top post really helped shift the party’s position – confirmed by our debates at conference on our “green tax switch” policies.

I see that this week the party released a fun little film poking fun at the lack of action from Labour and the Tories (despite boy Dave’s warm words!) on the environment. You can watch the climate change film on the party website. Personally, I’d have been a bit blunter about Tory and Labour inaction!

Meeting Al Gore

I chair the Lib Dems Liberty Group in the House of Commons and today we meet to discuss the Human Rights Act. It is one of the most important pieces of legislation for our citizens – and yet the Government (which had the balls to do it) now seems hell bent on destroying it.

It is true that it has been misused on occasion and there have been some exceptionally stupid interpretations of the Act that diminish it and hold it up to ridicule – but the fault is not with the Act but the use of it. So education of those who need to be aware of it is critical.

I remember when it was coming in and I was sitting on the Metropolitan Police Authority. We all had lots of briefings. It was clear then that there was a nervousness by, in this case, the police about what they would and would not be allowed to do once the Act came in. In fact, outside of the two absolute – the right to life and the right not to be tortured – the other articles are all about balance and common sense. All of those articles weigh up the balance between the rights and freedoms of the individual against the benefit or disbenefit to the wider community.

Al GoreThen in the evening I met Al Gore!

A local constituent sent me an invitation to a screening of a film to be released here in September. It is called ‘An Inconvenient Truth’. (You can watch the film’s trailer on YouTube.com).

It is basically Al Gore’s lecture on the Doomsday scenario we are hurtling towards – climate change. Whilst it won’t rival Harry Potter in terms of attendance, it is a film that every person should see – because it demonstrates quite clearly our path to destruction. But it has the message that if we change there is hope.

So Al – who was the next President of the United States once upon a time – has taken it to be his life’s mission to spread this word and campaign to wake us up.

I was totally impressed with the package and the commitment. After the screening Al Gore came to the front of the cinema and took questions and – shock horror – answered them straight. Then we went to the reception. I was lucky and got to speak to him (sadly no photographs). I congratulated him but did point out that I thought he should edit the shots of him looking pensively out of aeroplane windows – and carbon emissions from air travel didn’t feature clearly. He said I was right and etc. etc and shook my hand.

He asked us all to join in this mission – and I am pretty keen to give it a go. More of this later.

As for my own efforts in recent months? Well, I declined my friend Alexis’s prodding to put a wind farm on my roof – long before boy Dave Cameron upset Notting Hill by his efforts to be cuddly. I decided not to – because I live in a conservation area and it would just end up as being seen as a publicity stunt and I wouldn’t get my wind turbine at the end of it.

I decided that the most environmentally friendly thing I could do outside of recycling and turning off lights etc was to not use planes unless absolutely necessary (and then you can pay for your conscience through carbon offset).

So earlier this year I went for a weekend with my youngest daughter to Amersfoort near Amsterdam by train. It was four trains each way – and having spent the majority of the Friday and Sunday on the train and only Saturday actually with my friends in Amersfoort, I decided that a weekend break was probably not the best way to do this! Not deterred – as I love trains and hate planes – this summer am dragging same daughter around Europe by train. All easily arranged on the phone with RailEurope. I think that – as we have a couple of weeks – it will be a great way to see all these places and the spaces in-between. I just wish we could get train fares down and have airfares better represent the true costs to the environment. It’s Lib Dem policy – but Tony B and Boy Dave only like to talk tough on the environment – and that’s exactly what they are: tough on the environment!

Tories and climate change

There’s a Private Members Bill on climate change coming up in Parliament today for which I am going in. So many constituents care passionately about this – that I have changed surgery etc (whose normal time would have clashed with the debate) to make it in.

But, having made great efforts to be there – I might as well not have bothered. Don’t get me wrong – the Bill should be supported. But the games played by the Tories to muck around by talking out, or putting stupid amendments, and threatening to keep doing so in order that we have to come every Friday to listen to rubbish being spouted is a disgrace to politics. It is a joke. And the waste of public money, Parliamentary time, Members’ time – not to mention the joke it makes of Private Members Bills is appalling.

I manage one vote after several hours of debate – or farce – and then have to leave to launch a new initiative by Haringey Neighbourhood Watch. They have organised with the Primary Care Trust (PCT) to put up their posters in every doctors’ waiting room in Haringey – so lots and lots of residents will see it. It is a good way to prevent crime and good to see health and crime and community all working together. So with two burly policemen and two doctors I put up the first poster!

North London Hospice

I hold my surgery in Wood Green, but have decided that the vote on climate change (a private members’ bill) is so important that I will have to leave surgery to make sure that the Bill goes through to its next stage. The show of numbers (mainly on the Lib Dem benches) meant that the Tories decided not to divide the House and no vote was actually taken because it was quite obvious that it would pass anyway. What the Tories did that was totally unacceptable in my view was talk out the second bill on environmentally friendly energy policies. Defeating something where there’s a debate and the vote goes that way is one thing – but just talking and talking until something has to fall when time runs out is something else. I think the practise should be banned as it subverts the course of democracy. I know it’s gone on since the beginning of time – but it is wrong!

Then I rush back to go to the North London Hospice. What a fantastic organisation delivering a fantastic service. The NHS could truly take some lessons. The big issue for them, needless to say, is funding. So much still comes from donations. It provides a service that the state appears not to bother with most of the time and when it does it is crude, nasty and undignified. Should this really be left to donations to sort out? I left the Hospice really heartened because the people involved are so committed, so dedicated and the service so good – that it gave me hope!