Lewes Lib Dem MP Norman Baker has introduced a Bill into Parliament in the light of grave concerns he has about the provision of refuges for women, and the commissioning practices being adopted by local authorities.
The Bill passed its First Reading unopposed, and is scheduled for its next stage on Friday 6 March, but unlikely to make any further progress, given the imminence of the General Election.
Norman says: “I have visited my local refuge, as well as others around the country when I was Home Office minister, and recognise the essential nature of this provision. It is vital that we do not see cuts to this area of local government responsibility and my Bill would guarantee a minimum level of provision and also rule out unhelpful council commissioning practices, such as excluding women from outside the immediate area, when the immediate area is often the last place women fleeing violence want to end up.”
- Transcript to Norman’s introduction to the Bill can be found
- A copy of the Bill can be found:
The headlong rush to frack should be stopped. That was the firm view of local Lib Dem MPs Norman Baker (Lewes) and Stephen Lloyd (Eastbourne) who worked and voted together to try to press for a 30 month moratorium on fracking. The proposal was unfortunately defeated in the Commons, largely by Labour and Tory MPs voting together. And in a “cynical “time-wasting” move, the Labour party forced two votes on matters the government had already conceded, which took up a valuable 30 minutes of time and therefore prevented a vote on the issue of whether to allow fracking to take place under people’s homes without needing the permission of the householder. Labour wants to allow this.
In good news, the government responded positively to a New Clause tabled by Norman Baker and supported by Stephen Lloyd that means fracking cannot now take place under any circumstances in protected areas like the South Downs National Park, or in Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs). In addition, Norman’s efforts to give water companies a veto were met with partial success with extra safeguards added, and a promise to consider making water companies statutory consultees to any application.
Norman said: “We made some good progress today but sadly not enough. I am particularly incensed that the 361,000 people who signed a petition against the freedom for companies to frack under people’s houses did not get the opportunity to have that tested on a vote due to cynical time-wasting by Labour.”
The amendment to prevent such fracking was tabled by Norman Baker and Brighton MP Caroline Lucas and backed by Stephen Lloyd.
Stephen Lloyd added: “I thought it was eminently sensible to put a hold on the headlong rush toward fracking that some appear so keen on. This would allow more time for robust, scientific and independent assessment of the plusses and minuses of drilling for shale gas. Let’s be 100% sure one way or other before committing ourselves as a country.”
Norman Baker MP is fighting the threat of fracking to our countryside and has tabled amendments to remove key clauses on fracking and oil and gas drilling from the Infrastructure Bill.
The Lib Dem MP has also tabled an amendment to give the Environment Agency and water companies a veto on fracking, where they believe it would cause environmental damage, including to water supplies
Together with the Green MP Caroline Lucas for Brighton Pavillion, he is seeking to delete clause 36 which would introduce the new legal duty to maximise the economic recovery of UK oil and gas.
In an additional amendment, the two MPs are also seeking to remove clauses 38-43 of the Bill, which would cover the drilling for oil and gas in deep level land, including the proposed changes to the trespass laws.
Norman says “There is an alternative, which is proper investment in energy efficiency, which will also bring fuel bills down, and a big expansion on renewables where there is huge potential for wind, wave and tidal power”.
While a minister Norman successfully lobbied behind the scenes for fracking to be virtually ruled out from the South Downs National Park, but he is still concerned that still leaves large parts of his constituency vulnerable.
In a recent commons debate, introduces by Norman on Fracking, he warned that the claims made for fracking have been exaggerated, and the downsides underplayed and called for a shift of emphasis towards renewables and away from fracking.
A blueprint for the way forward on the A27 Lewes-Polegate section was agreed last week at a meeting convened by local MP Norman Baker to which all parish councils along the route were invited. The meeting, which was held at Selmeston village hall on Friday morning, ruled out both a new dual (or single) carriageway as proposed by Eastbourne, and doing nothing. Instead, the meeting agreed a package of measures designed to improve safety along the alignment of the existing road.
Specifically, the meeting concluded the following:
- All agreed that doing nothing was not a good option.
- The allocation of £75m funding for improvements was welcome and the villages would like to see implementation on an agreed programme of measures as rapidly as possible.
- There was no support for a new dual carriageway (and considerable objection to the Caroline Ansell proposals).
- The villages want a safer road with improved local access at junctions and better traffic flow but NOT an increase in traffic speed.
- There is support for junction improvements all along the route, with improvements particularly needed at Wilmington and Selmeston.
- There is support for a safer crossing between the Firle and Glynde junctions for pedestrians and cyclists
- There is support for a Selmeston bypass behind the Barley Mow.
- There is support for a single speed limit along this stretch of road and related measures.
- There is no support for the Folkington Link
Norman Baker says: “This was a very good meeting with a high degree of agreement about the way forward. I will now be writing to the Transport Secretary Patrick McLaughlin and to the Highways Agency to pass on the views of the councils along the road. I am determined that it should be the views of local people that prevail, rather than those from elsewhere. I anticipate that this group will be meeting again in due course.”
David Quysner, Chairman of the Selmeston Parish, adds: “The Parishes from Beddingham to the Cophall roundabout are united in their view that improvements in traffic flow, road user safety and local access to and from the A27 are long overdue. They welcome the announcement of £75 million of funding and look forward to seeing this money invested in the very near future in junction improvements and other works along the existing route. “