It is a disgrace that the government delayed the announcement of its decision on granting the National Farmers’ Union permission to use neonicotinoid seed treatments until after parliament had gone into recess. No surprise, given it had already suppressed publication of the agenda and minutes of the expert committee on pesticides meeting on 20 May. This is a government that also ignores the advice of its chief scientific adviser. On 14 May he called a recent Swedish field trial on rapeseed treated with neonicotinoids – which showed a decline in both the number of wild bees and bumblebee colonies – “an important contribution to the evidence base” on their impacts. Lib Dems believe this derogation for farmers by our government undermines the welcome 2013 EU ban on these bee-harming chemicals. Kate Parminter Deputy leader, Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords
Writing for Lib Dem Voice, Environment Spokesperson and newly elected Deputy Leader of the Lib Dems in the Lords, outlined her plans in this parliament.
Last week I was elected as one of two Deputy Leaders (alongside Navnit Dholakia) of our group in the Lords.
We have many battles ahead of us and whilst I’m a supporter of an elected second chamber (and have long campaigned for one and will continue to do so) we Liberal Democrats in the Lords have a real opportunity to hold this Government to account. We can improve the laws that the Tories bring forward and campaign alongside others to make Britain less unjust, more liberal and greener.
I’m looking forward to working with Navnit & our Leader Jim Wallace as our 102 strong group in the Lords calls into question any illiberal moves by this Tory Government (and so far it looks like there will be many opportunities to do so). This will play a part in the Liberal Democrat fightback and keep the liberal voice loud in Westminster, helping re-build support for our party to win votes and seats right across Britain.
Early Friday morning, as others made their way to Liverpool for Conference, I set off to Hereford, following in the footsteps of a large number of my colleagues in the Lords. Our local candidate Lucy Hurds has been hugely successful in getting our Peers out of the House of Lords and onto the streets of Hereford including John Shipley, Jenny Randerson, Nigel Jones, Sally Hamwee, Shirley Williams and Chris Fox. She’s clearly been effective in getting others out too and it was great to see a good number of Lucy’s campaign team out with us and working hard to reclaim the seat for the Lib Dems.
Dick Newby, our Chief Whip, called for 1,000 visits to be made before the election. After many months of hard campaigning this was our 1,000th.
On my visit we got a chance to discuss what can be done to help local dairy farmers, supporting renewable energy & rural services and, as the party’s spokesperson on DEFRA matters in the Lords, I got a chance to highlight all the things the Liberal Democrats have been doing over the last 5 years.
The visit gave me an opportunity to talk to local Councillors Anna Toon and Polly Andrews who were keen to hear how local retailers can support local environmental charities and groups as a result of the 5p levy on plastic bags, due to come in this Autumn, which Liberal Democrats have championed in Government.
It was great too to meet newly selected PPC Jeanie Falconer, from the adjacent constituency of North Herefordshire and talk about our evidence based approach to tackling bovine TB and the pilot badger culls.
I also got a chance to visit the local RSPCA branch with Lucy, after Duncan Starling, the local RSPCA chairman and LD campaigner had invited me, as a Vice-President of the organisation. It was fantastic to talk to the local volunteers who are rescuing and rehoming local animals and raising funds through their shop for the vital ‘4th emergency service’ that the RSPCA is. Having had the Control of Horses Bill safely complete its passage through the House of Lords the day before it was good to talk about how Parliament and local action together can help voiceless animals.
Later on in the evening I joined Lucy, Jeanie and the Herefordshire team at spring conference in Liverpool at a reception they’d organised to campaign for fairer funding for rural areas. With some of the best refreshment the county offers (Jeanie runs a vineyard) it was a happy ending to a day spent with some of our indefatigable campaigners!
But there is no rest for the wicked and Dick has now called for a new target, 50,000 doors knocked by election days. Something that our team of 100+ Lords should be able to achieve (with a few cups of tea and some elbow grease). If you want to get a Peer to help out in your campaign, then contact our visit organiser Louise Furness (firstname.lastname@example.org).
With the Green Party announcing they are targeting 12 seats including a number of our key seats, and the Labour party acknowledging the threat they pose by appointing Sadiq Khan to lead the fightback, Green votes could make the difference between winning and losing – as we sadly saw with Graham Watson MEP. So as our Environment Spokesperson in the House of Lords I’ve been keen to get out and help our candidates promote what we have achieved in Government and champion our 5 Green Bills which we’d introduce in a future Parliament. Over the summer I spent two days visiting the Great Heath Project in Mid Dorset & North Poole with the Wildlife Trust and our parliamentary candidate, Vikki Slade.
This weekend, I was down in West Cornwall in Andrew George’s St Ives constituency. On the Friday night Andrew and I addressed a packed public meeting in St Ives. 6.30am the next morning I saw 16 badgers from 7 setts being vaccinated at the first community-led badger vaccination trial in the UK, led by Andrew and the Zoological Society of London. With many local farmers badly affected by bovine TB it’s an important project bringing together animal welfare volunteers and farmers to work together to respond to the challenges this awful disease poses to wildlife, farm animals and the farming community.