From Caroline Lucas <[email protected]>
Subject Latest Newsletter
Date September 17, 2021 5:51 PM
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Since mid-August, like many other MPs, I've spent much of my time trying to
help constituents who have close family members trapped in Afghanistan, or
who are trapped there themselves.

Their situation is growing increasingly desperate and the Government's
response has been totally inadequate. MPs' emails and phone calls to the
Home Office and Foreign Office have gone unanswered, making it very hard to
help constituents who need specific information about whether their close
family members will be allowed to come to the UK. I held a special
face-to-face surgery earlier this month and heard some heartrending
stories. Rules on family reunions urgently need changing so that families
can be reunited and brought to safety.

I have raised all these issues in the Commons with the Prime Minister [1]
and the Home Office [2]. During the emergency debate in August, I spoke [3]
about how the Nationality & Borders Bill could criminalise, or deny full
refugee status to, someone fleeing Afghanistan and making their own journey
to seek asylum in the UK. I also wrote about the UK's policy towards
refugees in my column in Metro [4].


We have been waiting for more than two years for the Prime Minister to
produce the social care plan which, when he became Prime Minister, he said
was already prepared. We are still waiting for it because what he has come
up with is not a long-term answer to social care. Most of the money that is
being raised by the increase in National Insurance will go initially to the
NHS, to repair some of the damage caused by more than a decade of savage
under-funding under Tory austerity, and it's not clear what long-term
funding will be left for social care.

Increasing NI to help pay for it is also hugely unfair, hitting younger
workers and the less well off the hardest. We need a fair tax system and we
need to provide free social care for everyone, based on NHS principles. We
need an injection of funds now, not least for the 75,000 people waiting for
a care assessment who cannot wait for two years when the new "plan" comes
into effect. And we should pay carers a decent wage. Boris Johnson's plan
does none of these.


I've been inundated with emails from people anxious or angry about the
imminent £20 cut to Universal Credit. Sadly I couldn't make the Opposition
Day debate on it, but obviously voted (by proxy) in favour of keeping the
uplift. It's outrageous that the Prime Minister had no idea how long it
would take someone on the minimum wage to earn that extra money. Nor does
he seem to care that so many essential workers will be hit by this and the
rise in NI.

I've tabled a number of parliamentary questions about it - it's clear from
the replies like this [5] that the Government hasn't given any real thought
to the impact of ending the uplift.


The Government decision to recommend vaccines for 12-15 year-olds, and
vaccine boosters for the over-50s and those most at risk, makes it even
more important that ministers also set out plans to deliver on commitments
to the world's poorest countries. We are only safe when all of us are safe,
yet in many countries in Africa only 2% have been fully vaccinated. I asked
the vaccines minister [6] what he was doing to prioritise vaccines to the
WHO's COVAX scheme - the UK has promised 100 million vaccines to COVAX but
has delivered fewer than 7 million.


Voter suppression is something that we'd usually associate with the
pre-civil rights era in the US, but it is happening here with the
Government's proposal to make photo ID mandatory for voters. This country
does not have a problem with voter impersonation so the requirement for
voter ID is a blatant attempt to suppress the vote of those less likely to
back the Tories. I wrote an Op Ed for the Independent [7] on how the Bill
is a dangerous assault on our democratic traditions and fundamental rights.
The bill passed its second reading in the Commons, but I will continue to
oppose it as it makes its way through Parliament.


The Commons ran out of time to give a second reading to the CEE Bill, which
I introduced in Parliament last year, so it's been rolled over to the end
of October. Support for the Bill is growing, both among MPs and outside
Parliament. I met some of those who came to a Children's Lobby of
Parliament to urge their MPs to back the Bill.

It's also been a year since the UK citizens' assembly on climate delivered
its final report. The assembly was commissioned by the chairs of six select
committees and I wrote to them all, asking them to give their support to
the CEE Bill.

We are still waiting for the Government's response to the assembly's
recommendations. We have had the Government's so-called 10-point plan for a
green industrial revolution which ministers claim, wrongly, is backed with
£12 billion of public money. In fact, it's only £4bn of new money. At
Treasury questions, I asked ministers [8] when they would start funding the
green transition at the speed and scale required. I didn't get a
satisfactory answer.

I wrote about the campaign behind the CEE Bill in my Metro [9] column.


Boris Johnson described the Environment Bill as the "lodestar" of his
administration. It now seems that it will be delayed for a fourth time
because the Government refuses to accept Lords' amendments which would make
the Office for Environmental Protection truly independent, improve air
quality targets and make interim environmental targets statutory.

That is bad enough, but it has also emerged that the UK agreed to strike
out any references to climate and the Paris Agreement in the trade deal
with Australia. The damage to the UK's reputation on the eve of COP26 is
hard to exaggerate. When the negotiator of that trade deal, Liz Truss, is
then promoted to foreign secretary, it makes it even worse.


It was a huge privilege to meet the amazing Winnie Byanyima, the head of
UNAIDS, when she visited Brighton to see the pioneering work being done in
our city on tackling HIV. Her global leadership has been inspirational. She
met the city's three MPs and Brighton and Hove City Council leader, and
visited community organisations involved in HIV prevention and care.


Even though HS2 doesn't run anywhere near Brighton, I received hundreds of
emails from constituents concerned about the huge environmental damage it's
causing - 108 irreplaceable ancient woodlands, 693 wildlife sites and 28
SSSIs will be damaged or destroyed by it. I spoke in packed Westminster
Hall debate calling for HS2 to be scrapped before it does any more damage.
You can read my speech here [10].


It's 50 years since the publication of one of my favourite books, Dr Seuss'
The Lorax, whose message about environmental destruction in the pursuit of
growth is more relevant than ever. I spoke at an event on nature and the
economy alongside the amazing Kate Raworth, author of Doughnut Economics,
and Richard Benwell, CEO of Wildlife and Countryside Link.

If you've not already done so, please sign the petition [11] for a
parliamentary debate on how our economic model is destroying our planet.
There's less than a week before it closes.

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