Catherine West MP
Catherine West MP

This month, two major global events are taking place. Firstly, nations have come together for the UN ocean conference in Lisbon, Portugal, to discuss the health of our oceans. During the opening session, the UN secretary general, António Guterres, declared an “ocean emergency” and called on global leaders and heads of states to do more to protect the world’s oceans.

António is right – with rising sea level, ocean heating, increasing acidification and greenhouse gas concentrations and the changing of marine life habits, the oceans are dying. One of the biggest issues is marine pollution – scientists are finding more and more plastic in the sea as well as high levels of human sewage. The Tories continue to turn a blind eye to this and worse still, are actively voting against amendments that would tackle this issue. For example, in November 2021, the Tories voted against an amendment by the House of Lords that would force water companies to reduce sewage discharges, as part of the Environment Bill.

This week, Boris Johnson is in Germany for the G7 summit. This is the moment where our Prime Minister should be urging other world leaders to phase-out fossil fuel, fight for our biodiversity and oceans and tackle the global food shortage, particularly in light of the Ukraine crisis. But instead, Operation Save Big Dog is ramping up – after the humiliating Tory by-election defeats, Mr Johnson is trying to save his own skin and is dreaming of a third premiership. He is not serious, focused or determined, but instead his attention drifts day-to-day, from one crisis to the next. Worse yet, Tory MPs are too busy plotting against their leader to act in the interest of the British public.

Labour has a strong plan to tackle the climate crisis and will continue to urge the Government to do the right thing and act.

Here are some of the things I’ve been doing in Parliament since your last newsletter:

Deadly floods in Bangladesh and India
According to media reports, at least 59 people have died, and millions have been left without homes in Bangladesh and in North-Eastern India due to horrific floods. Once again, we are seeing the devastating consequences of the climate crisis, with a disproportionate impact on developing nations and those who have contributed least to the problem. I submitted a Written Parliament Question on how the Foreign Secretary is supporting victims and Governments with this environmental and humanitarian crisis.

Impact of fast fashion
I’ve asked a series of Written Parliamentary Questions on the collapse of the fast fashion UK business Missguided and the impact on garment workers in Pakistan.  This is the shameful dark side of fast fashion, which causes so much damage to workers and to our planet.  Garment workers producing clothes for UK companies deserve a lot better than being treated in this way and changes need to be made to the way that we produce and buy clothes.

Plastic pollution
Last month, many constituents included me in their emails to DEFRA about plastic pollution, one of today’s great environmental challenges. By 2050, it is estimated that our oceans could contain more plastic than fish. The urgency and seriousness of the situation has never been clearer. Recently, research accepted for publication by the journal Science of the Total Environment found that microplastic pollution has been discovered in the lungs of living people for the first time. This is so shocking, and the Government needs to wake up.

In Parliament, I’ve led calls for Government investment to support Plastic Free Communities and campaigned for supermarkets to eliminate excessive plastic packaging. I will continue to call on the Government to ensure that legislation is robust enough to tackle plastic pollution. I also signed up to the Big Plastic Count and would encourage others to do so too.

Some of my recent Written Parliamentary Questions:

  • To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, whether the Government has offered any assistance to Bangladesh following recent flooding in that country. Response here
  • To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what estimate he made of the number of trees removed by local councils each year as a result of insurance companies claiming trees as liabilities due to the subsidence risk. Response here
  • To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, how his Department (a) consults communities, including taking residents’ environmental concerns into account, in respect of the process of local tree felling. Response here
  • To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what steps he is taking to work with the (a) the buildings insurance industry and (b) local authorities to find alternatives to tree felling where insurance companies claim trees as liabilities due to subsidence risk. Response here
  • To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what recent conversations he has held with water companies on the topic of reducing sewage discharges into rivers, seas and lakes. Awaiting response
  • To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what assessment he has made on recent scientific findings that microplastic pollution has been discovered in the lungs of living people for the first time. Awaiting response
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