Last week in brief: Protecting bees, fighting austerity, taking action on climate change and more

Here's a brief update of what Caroline did last week. You can sign up to get this emailed to you directly every week. Just email with the subject 'email bulletin'. 

March Against Austerity

On Saturday I joined what organisers estimate as 250,000 people on the streets of London protesting against the Government’s continued austerity programme. With cuts to public services and social security already hitting people in Brighton & Hove, and ministers set to announce further austerity in this year’s so-called “stability” budget next month, it was heartening to see so many people standing up for an alternative. The march ended in Parliament Square, where I joined others in giving a speech making the case that it wasn’t teachers and nurses and firefighters and those on jobseekers allowance who recklessly gambled on international markets, causing the financial crisis - so they shouldn’t be targeted to pay the price for a crisis not of their making.   Instead, the best way out of our economic difficulties is through investing in jobs - like the hundreds of thousands of jobs that could be created in the green economy.

#ForTheLoveOf Climate Lobby

On Wednesday thousands of people from across the UK came to Westminster to take part in a mass lobby of Parliament. Ahead of meeting constituents from Brighton Pavilion I spoke in Prime Ministers’ Questions – urging Parliament to divest its pension fund from fossil fuels. The lobby couldn’t have been more timely. Only this week it was revealed that Britain is on course to miss our renewable energy target, one of only a handful of EU countries projected to be lagging behind. At the very same time as missing this crucial target the Government is ploughing ahead with plans to open up our countryside to fracking by fast tracking test drilling planning applications. Indeed this week even the Pope’s been worrying about climate change – as I wrote about in a piece in the Independent.

Raif Badawi

This week I joined a group of MPs in handing in a letter to number 10 Downing Street calling for the release of blogger Raif Badawi who is currently imprisoned in a Saudi Arabian jail having received the first 50 of a threatened 1,000 lashes. The letter demanded that the Prime Minister makes publicly clear his complete opposition to the human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia and demands the immediate release of Raif and Waleed as the EU parliament has done.

UCU lobby on Further Education

I was delighted to speak at the University and College Union’s #LoveFE lobby in Parliament.  The Conservatives are now going ahead with a massive 24% cut to the English adult further education budget for 2015/16, once funding for apprenticeships is excluded. Indeed it’s no exaggeration to say that the very existence of adult education is in jeopardy. Further cuts could lead to the loss of over 400,000 students places this financial year alone.

Further information on the #LoveFe campaign is here:

Medicinal Cannabis Report

At the meeting of the All Party Groups on drugs reform last week we saw the launch of a new report on the benefits of medicinal cannabis. .  For certain conditions cannabis can offer the most effective medication yet, at present, patients with long term conditions like multiple sclerosis, spinal cord damage, epilepsy, chronic neuropathic pain, chronic pain following shingles, the side effects of chemotherapy for cancer, and other severe health problems are being denied effective treatment in the UK.   According to a report published in the Lancet last week, analysis from the 23 US states where medicinal cannabis is already available, there is no evidence of any surge in adolescent users.

The report made a number of proposals including moving cannabis from being a schedule 1 drug to schedule 2 (thus making it possible that it can be more easily prescribed). Such a change would also free up research and lead to new medicines for chronic pain, and disease.


Bees are estimated to contribute £651 million to the UK economy every year as they pollinate crops such as apples and strawberries. In Parliament this week I spoke at a meeting on bees hosted by Friends of the Earth and 38 Degrees. With one in ten of Europe's wild bee species threatened with extinction, it was fantastic to see campaigners coming to parliament to make their case for the protection of our pollinators.  I also asked the minister for the environment and rural affairs if he would make public an application by the National Farmers Union which seeks an exemption from a ban on pesticides known as neonicotonoids. Unfortunately, though not unsurprisingly, he wouldn’t commit to transparency. 

Bowling club awards

On Sunday I was honoured to attend the presentation of an award to Hollingbury Park Bowling Club on Ditchling road. The club has just been awarded “Club Mark” which is a Sport England accreditation for engagement with the local community.  I was really inspired to see people of all ages and walks of life getting so involved in the sport, and to hear of their commitment to reach out to more people in the community.

Free School in Brighton 

There has been much discussion about the need for a new secondary school in the city.  Sadly, under this Government’s policies, only Free Schools or academies are allowed - no longer can a local authority open its own local authority school.  While I continue to fight against the Academies policy at Westminster, there remains the dilemma of what to do locally.  So on Thursday I attended a public meeting at the Brighthelm to discuss the proposal from Brighton University (or more precisely, the University of Brighton Academy Trust) to establish a Free School. The evening was just the start of my commitment to hearing more from parents, staff, students and members of the community who will be affected if the city goes ahead with opening a new free school. I know that many people are deeply concerned about free schools, and I share those concerns.   I welcome the fact that the Council is due to commission independent research to find out exactly the scale of the capacity need, and where it’s located in the city.  Moving forward I want to hear from as many people as possible about these proposals so please do get in touch if you have a view.


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