Caroline's weekly update

This is my weekly update for the week beginning 13th November. Last week was extremely busy in Parliament - and I was glad to get back to Brighton at the weekend after many hours of debates in the House of Commons - although there was a very early start on Sunday to get back to London to review the papers on the Marr programme.


The main business in the House of Commons this week was a series of debates on the EU Withdrawal Bill. We’re at ‘Committee Stage’ of the legislative process - which means that MPs can table amendments to the proposed legislation and try to persuade the Government to accept changes. I supported a number of crucial amendments this week, including some which protected environmental and workers standards.

One of the key amendments in my name was a proposal to ensure the transposition of an important EU principle into British law which says that animals should be treated as sentient beings, rather than agricultural produce. For such a commonsense amendment to be voted down by the Government was a disappointment, but i’m pleased to say that my Green Party colleague Baroness Jones will be re-tabling the amendment in the Lords where it might stand a better chance.

You can read about why my animal sentience amendment is important here:

On Tuesday I met with a large group of headteachers from across the country who were handing in a letter to the chancellor about the devastating cuts that are affecting their schools. I was pleased to have the opportunity to talk with two headteachers from Brighton schools who were there: Richard Bradford from Dorothy Stringer School and Adrian Carver from Downs View School. The prospect of losing 37 teachers in Brighton Pavilion alone underlines just how damaging these changes will be for our city.
School budgets are set to drop in real terms and we’re seeing teachers struggling at the sharp end of short-sighted decision-making by the Government. I’ve already written to the Government on this issue, and will continue to pressure them to give schools the funding they need.


On Thursday I asked the Leader of the House of Commons, Andrea Leadsom, for an urgent debate on fracking given the fact that a decision on drilling Ryedale, Yorkshire is imminent - and that fracking is incompatible with our climate targets. Sadly I was fobbed off - and the Government won’t allow Parliament to scrutinise their dash for gas. We’re constantly hearing from the Government about their commitment to taking action on climate change, but their undying commitment to fracking undermines any claim they have to be grasping the seriousness of the climate crisis.

Abuse and Harassment in Politics

On Tuesday I joined the first meeting of a working group on sexual harassment and bullying in Parliament - convened after the growing number of appalling allegations that have emerged in recent weeks. I’m aiming to be a critical friend to the group, and was pleased that my proposal that an external expert in sexual violence join the working group was accepted. I wrote for the Independent about my proposals for the working group.         

One of my specific concerns centers on the ‘Respect policy’ - which is being touted as a blueprint for a new grievance procedure on harassment and abuse. The problem is that the emphasis of the ‘respect policy’ is on de-escalation, trying to have reconciliation between the parties at an early stage, but some of this is just not appropriate for cases of serious sexual assault or harassment. As I said to the Guardian, you wouldn’t imagine sitting down with the people for mediation in this situation. It cannot be a case of re-nosing an existing bullying policy. We need something different.

The Hippodrome

I’m a passionate supporter of the Save the Hippodrome campaign - which is why I was concerned when i read about plans to turn it into a luxury hotel.

Such a move would be a real tragedy, if it meant that it destroyed any hope of returning this amazing venue back to its former glory. If restored, the Hippodrome could be central to the regeneration of the Old Town area which has recently been listed as ‘at risk’ by Heritage Britain.The Hippodrome is still number one on the Theatres Trust’s list of Theatre Buildings at Risk (TBAR) for the fourth year running.

With that in mind, I have been doing all that I can to support the ‘Save the Hippodrome’ campaign group in their efforts to re-open Frank Matcham’s magnificent auditorium.

Night Shelter

Late on Monday it was announced that Brighton & Hove will have a new night shelter for the sub-zero winter months - part of the Brighton Centre. This welcome news comes after many months of hard work from Councillors  and campaigners,  following a Green Party   proposal   in January that permitted empty council buildings be made available as homeless shelters. I am, however, concerned that it has taken the council nearly 10 months to even announce a site for the shelter and it will be another month before  it  is available to rough sleepers. I will be writing to the council urgently stressing that at the very least this new shelter should be opened before December and seeking reassurance that more sites are being looked at for additional spaces.

We also need national action to solve the housing crisis. That's why the Government should be ploughing resources into local authorities to allow them to build genuinely affordable council homes, and allowing them to borrow against their assets. If this week's Budget is seriously aiming to tackle the housing crisis, then rent controls should be announced too.

HIV Test

On Friday I took an HIV test as part of a campaign by the Terrence Higgins Trust during National HIV Testing Week. Early testing and diagnosis are key to combating this epidemic and we need to remove the stigma around HIV testing.

There are now a range of testing options available from postal tests, to GUM clinics, community sites and home testing. It was great to see people across Brighton and Hove backing National HIV Testing Week and encouraging everyone to take a test. You can find your nearest HIV testing centre here:

Patchwork Award

I was really pleased to win an award at the Patchwork Foundation’s annual awards. I won the Patchwork People’s Award for work on inclusion and diversity. The Patchwork Foundation do excellent work in encouraging the positive integration of deprived and minority communities into British political society - which is why winning this award feels so special.

Table Tennis

I had a greatt time at the Brighton and Hove Table Tennis Club showcase last week - it’s wonderful to see so many people playing at the club. The club is rightly recognised as a beacon of best practice when it comes to promoting inclusion and diversity - and essentially making sure young people have some fun. There were some truly inspiring speeches from some of the young people there, including a refugee from Afghanistan.

Playing the Piano for Parliament week
I discovered something more nerve-wracking than speaking in the House of Commons chamber this week - and that’s playing the piano in a concert at St Nicholas Church to mark Parliament Week. Fortunately I was just one of 5 people playing 2 pianos, so hopefully my musical errors weren’t too obvious! It was a great evening, celebrating both the unifying power of music and the importance of democracy.


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