Thinking of voting Green?

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This piece was first published in 2015. The argument still stands: If you want a government that will protect the environment, Vote Lib Dem.

Last night on the doorstep I met a couple of people who were thinking of voting Green. I would like to address their concerns, here, and make it clear: if you are worried about the environment and climate change – please vote Lib Dem. These are the reasons why: 

In government, Ed Davey and the Lib Dem team delivered a significant green agenda for the UK. This included:

  • Securing £37bn investment in renewable electricity
  • Establishing the world’s first Green Investment Bank
  • Leading Europe to agree a new more ambitious EU-wide climate change target
  • Planting more than 1 million trees

Our team also halted Conservative plans to scrap Natural England and give up on the England Coast Path (comment, here, from our own MP). I’m pleased to report that when Dan Rogerson took over in DEFRA he secured safe funding for the coastal project.

The Lib Dem manifesto takes the environmental agenda even further. At the heart of our plans are Five Green Laws which will stimulate more green growth, improve greener transport options, create more energy efficient homes, improve our air quality, reduce household waste and create a zero-carbon Britain within a generation.

Here in Newbury and West Berkshire, I need your support to put a halt to ten years of Conservative neglect of the environment in our area. 

If you want to create a more environmentally friendly, fairer society in Britain, voting Lib Dem, you are safe.

See also:

– Dan Rogerson DEFRA Minister visits West Berks: 

– Green in Government

– Five Green Laws

George Monbiot, “the minister destroying what he is paid to protect”

Animal Welfare

Britain is a nation of animal lovers and I am proud to count myself among that number.
 
Liberal Democrats believe in the highest standards of animal welfare. We will ensure that animal cruelty offences are given stronger penalties, ban caged hens, clamp down on illegal pet imports, improve standards of animal health and welfare in agriculture and ensure that future trade deals require high safety, environmental and animal welfare standards.
 
In our manifesto, we out line how we will: 
·       Introduce stronger penalties for animal cruelty offences, increasing the maximum sentencing from six months to five years
·       Bring in a ban on caged hens. 
·       Clamp down on illegal pet imports through legal identification requirements for online sales, and minimise the use of animals in scientific experimentation, including by funding research into alternatives. 
·       Continue to improve standards of animal health and welfare in agriculture by updating farm animal welfare codes and promoting responsible stewardship of antibiotic drugs. 
·       Ensure that future trade deals require high safety, environmental and animal welfare standards for food imports, including clear and unambiguous country of origin labelling for meat and dairy products.
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Where fox hunting is concerned, I respect rural traditions and support the  status quo which allows hunts to operate by following a scent and thus supports our rural economy but outlaws killing with hounds. I will, of course, consider carefully any Bill that is brought forward, on this and any other animal rights issue (including coarse fishing), and – as someone who believes in the principal that an MP is elected to support the interests of their constituency – I will consult widely and listen to my constituents on both sides of the argument, but I will never, ever vote to support fox hunting.

Thatcham Quarry – do you have questions?

I will be sending questions to Grundon Sand and Gravel and the owners of Waterside Farm. Any residents who would like me to submit questions on their behalf are welcome to contact me at: judith.bunting@wbld.org.uk.

Last week, I visited Grundon Sand and Gravel Ltd in Colthrop to lobby estates director, Andrew Short, on behalf of local residents who are opposed to the proposed quarry at Waterside Farm in South Thatcham. Judith is the parliamentary candidate for Newbury and West Berkshire Liberal Democrats.

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The real problem, is that plans for the quarry are proceeding without Waterside Farm even being recognised as a preferred site for development by West Berkshire Council. The Council’s plans for Minerals and Waste Sites are so many years behind that Grundon feels the need to proceed before they are completed.

The result is that plans for development in our area are being driven by the needs of industry, rather than the needs of residents. Once again Richard Benyon and his Conservatives on West Berkshire Council are dropping the ball.

Waterside Farm is a lovely area, which is well used by walkers, riders and schools for recreation and keeping fit. The quarry will not block any paths or bridleways, but will obviously destroy the attractive environment. It will also disrupt the local wildlife, although Grundon have said they are willing take the nesting times of ground-nesting lapwings into account.

Residents who live near the Waterside Farm area are of course worried by the prospect of the noise, dust and environmental upset that can come with having a quarry at the end of the garden and they have started a campaign to stop the development.

At the meeting, Andrew Short told me that Grundon is open to listening to residents’ concerns and will do everything they can to make the development acceptable, but the company is keen to press ahead. This is not what residents want.

I have also approached the owners of Waterside Farm, St John’s College, Oxford. The St John’s team has offered to answer any questions residents may have after the public open day, which was held at Thatcham Football Club this week.

I will be sending questions to Grundon Sand and Gravel and the owners of Waterside Farm. Any residents who would like me to submit questions on their behalf are welcome to contact me at: judith.bunting@wbld.org.uk.

Lib Dems call for bus/rail interchange

Lib Dems call for bus/rail interchange as part of new Market Street development at Newbury Station

Getting a good transport system up and running is a strange operation where you have to put time and effort into putting the cart firmly before the horse. No one is going to promise – or even be tempted – to use a system until they can see it works. And it can.

My experiences with bus/rail interchange (and the rest) have been excellent over four decades and three different countries:

  • I visited Hamburg in 1976. To get to my penfriend’s secondary school we traveled by train, bus and boat. All beautifully coordinated, all using the same daily Fahrscheine/travelcard.
  • In 1982 I lived in Toronto. The discovery that buses might stop right outside of metro stations was a revelation. There really was no need for a car – the public transport system simply worked.
  • Moving to London, I travelled regularly by public transport from Twickenham to Shepherd’s Bush via Hammersmith tube station. I changed from tube to bus via a stop at the end of the Shepherd’s Bush Road, only a few mins walk from the tube station, but when you are gunning for work, dressed somewhat professionally, walking down the road and round the corner in the wind and the rain really took the shine off the idea of travelling in by public transport everyday.
  • Some years later, 2008, TfL opened the new bus station at Hammersmith, inside the underground complex. Access from the tube station took about 2 mins. What I saw was a massive increase in the number of people using the no 72. Other bus services are well used also – every time I see the crowds I think about all the cars that are not on the road.

Now, it’s 2015 and West Berkshire is looking to develop Newbury Bus Station, a new shopping centre, town centre accommodation, and it’s all near the railway station. What a wonderful opportunity!

Many railway stations around the UK have bus/rail interchanges. They are not remarkable or expensive. They do, however, require planning, thought and motivation.

Sadly, current indicative plans for the Market Street development in central Newbury show a)that the bus station in Market Street is to be moved further from the railway station (can you believe it!), b) that the Market Street development contains no provision for transferring from local bus services to the trains (extraordinary!). c) The possibility of rearranging the use of the council owned access road and land between the Council Offices and the station to enable a bus stop right outside the station entrance is not even being considered. This latter is only thing that will encourage commuters and other travellers to actually use bus services instead of their cars.

Once again, West Berks Council is ignoring the experience of others and ploughing their own intransigent, irrelevant furrow.

You can’t help wondering whether any of the current elected front bench has ever depended on public transport and whether they are actually concerned much about the people who do.

NOTES:

1/Indicative plans for the Market Street development can be found on West Berkshire Council’s website herehttp://info.westberks.gov.uk/CHttpHandler.ashx?id=38413&p=0  page 32

2/ A comment on the Newbury Forum notes: “With the present road layout this [a bus/rail interchange] would be simply daft.” The whole point is that this is an opportunity to exercise vision and change the road lay out. It would really not be that hard.

3/ The number of people using Newbury railway station each year is:-
2009/10    1.436 million
2010/11     1.494 million
2011/12     1.558 million
2012/13     1.628 million
2013/14     1.664 million

Reasons to vote Liberal Democrat


While in government the Lib Dem team has put through some of the most common sense, socially democratic policies this country has seen for a generation. 

If I am elected to Westminster, whether we are in Coalition with Labour or Tories or no one, I will work with our team to do more of the same. 

My Manifesto priorities are below. If you would like to browse the whole document, pls click here:

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A World Class Education:  Education is the top priority for Liberal Democrats.  In government, we will guarantee education funding from nursery to 19 and qualified teachers in every class.

The only way we will achieve greater equality in the country is to make sure everyone has the chance to make the most of what they were born with, whether you’re a high achiever or work with special educational needs.

Prosperity: We want to balance the budget fairly. To do this we will cut some, but no where near as much as the Tories, who are planning £12bn out of welfare (compared to our £3.5bn of cuts). We will raise the additional funds by extending Council Tax bands – let’s have the same rule for all.

Once we’ve caught up with the deficit, we look forward to investing to build a high-skill, low-carbon economy.

Quality health care: We have a clear plan to allow us to invest £8 billion in the NHS by 2020. We are already investing large sums and have a plan for £3.5bn for mental health treatments in the next year. We will continue our campaign to guarantee equal care for mental health.

Fair taxes: Raising the Personal Allowance from £6,800 to £10,600 has been a huge change that only happened because Lib Dems were in the coalition. Isn’t it great that all the other parties have taken the policy on board? A fundamental change to British society that’s benefitting 45,600 people in West Berkshire. 

In the next parliament we would continue the plan  £12,500, cutting your taxes by an additional £400.

Science: A Liberal Democrat government would introduce a package of measures supporting innovation in UK businesses. The manifesto also includes ringfencing of the science research budget and introducing a green innovation arm to the British Business Bank.

Environment protected: We will continue protecting nature and fight climate change with five green laws. In the past 5 years we fought day by day to protect the green agenda. We have doubled investment in renewable energy and almost tripled renewable energy generation. 15% of all UK power now comes from renewables.

Climate change is critical and we will continue this focus, with the target of having 60% UK energy coming from renewables by 2030.

Housing: Locally and nationally Lib Dems will work to bring empty properties into use, speed up housebuilding and introduce new Help to Rent and Rent to Own schemes for youngsters in work without the means to afford deposits for rental or home purchase.

We would pursue a plan of building Garden Cities in parts of the UK where they are welcomed. We would double council tax on second homes to discourage the buy to let market. This is a very tempting investment while bank interest rates are so low, but it’s helped accelerate the boost in house prices and in rents.

Green in Government

If you support the environment and green policies, please have a read of the post below. While in government Liberal Democrats doubled renewable energy generation in the UK and planted 1 million trees,  extended the coastal path and set up nationwide schemes to promote home insulation. 

Read on for more information about the amazing work done by Ed Davey on renewable energy:

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10th March 2015

Under Ed Davey’s determined stewardship in the department of energy, somewhat to the consternation of conservatives such as Michael Fallon and George Osborne, there has been massive investment in renewables:

  • Electricity generation from renewable sources has doubled since 2010 and now supplies 15% of the UK’s electricity.
  • The average annual investment in renewables has more than doubled since 2010.    
  • In 2013 alone, £8bn investment in renewables.
  • Solar PV 2011 – 2013: £6.4 billion. Rather wonderfully, the cost of installation has halved since 2010.
  • Biomass and Bioenergy 2010 – 2013: £6.3bn investment.
  • carbon capture and storage research supported to the tune of £1bn – not bad for research funding.  

New manifesto plans include legal targets for clean air and water, an end to dirty coal power stations and an ambitious decarbonisation target for the electricity sector.

We will introduce Five Green Laws to protect nature and fight climate change.

If you want to read more, take a look at: 

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/331071/DECC_Energy_Investment_Report.pdf

http://www.libdems.org.uk/electricity_generated_by_renewables_has_doubled_since_2010

Lib Dem Policies – Delivered

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I thought I would share my personal list of policies that were included in our 2010 Manifesto and have been delivered by the Lib Dems in Government.It’s a wonderful list, including some of the most socially democratic policies this country has seen for a generation. Not bad for 57 MPs.

  • Investing nearly £1 billion to crack down on tax avoidance, raising an extra £9 billion per year by 2015
  • Increase Capital Gains Tax to 28% for higher rate taxpayers whilst keeping it at 18% for basic rate taxpayers
  • Providing £400 million to give respite breaks to carers who work over 50 hours a week
  • Delivered on the key Lib Dem pledge of a £2.5bn Pupil Premium to bring extra funding to disadvantaged students. Its rate has now been increased further and is £1,300 per eligible pupil in primary schools and £935 per eligible pupil in secondary schools in 2014-15
  • Taking 3.2 million low earners out of income tax altogether through the key Lib Dem policy of raising the basic income tax threshold
  • Introduced a banking levy so the banks pay a their fair share of tax
  • Created a Green Investment Bank, triggering an extra £15 billion of investment in green infrastructure by 2014-15
  • Scrapped the expensive and impractical ID cards programme
  • Increased funding for dementia research by 150%, reaching £66.3 million by 2014-15 (England & Wales)
  • Investing around £400 million to make psychological therapies available for those who need them, including for the first time children and adolescents (England)
  • Introduced waiting times for mental health treatment
  • Introduced targets to ensure mental health treatments on a parity with physical health
  • Ensured the Government maintained the commitment to end child poverty by 2020
  • Phased out the compulsory retirement age
  • Creating a new, simple single state pension – a Citizen’s Pension – set above the basic means test level
  • Banned private sector wheel-clamping to put an end to rogue clampers (England & Wales)
  • Secured a judicial inquiry into Britain’s role in torture and rendition
  • Mapped out the Government’s path to renewable energy to 2050, including massive investment in low carbon electricity
  • Banned new coal-fired power stations that don’t have Carbon Capture and Storage technology
  • Ensured the overseas aid budget was protected from cuts – and hit the international 0.7% of GDP target from 2013
  • Scrapped burdensome Home Information Packs and improved energy performance certificates to make them more user-friendly (England & Wales)
  • End the routine detention of children for immigration purposes
  • Introduced the Green Deal, letting people pay for energy efficient home improvements with the savings on their energy bills
  • Improved our libel laws, including making it harder for companies to silence their critics and improving freedom for academics to publish their research (England & Wales)
  • Strengthened freedom of speech by removing the offence for using ‘insulting’ language from Section 5 of the Public Order Act
  • Switched off the controversial ContactPoint database for school children (England)
  • Removed innocent people’s DNA from the police database (England & Wales)
  • Vetoed the Snooper’s Charter plans to monitor everyone’s online activity
  • Ensured there is no replacement of the costly Trident nuclear weapons system this Parliament
  • Delivering an £800 tax cut to 25.4 million people by raising the income tax threshold to £10,500 in 2015, with 3.2 million low paid people being taken out of having to pay income tax at all
  • Restored the link between pensions and earnings, which had been scrapped by Margaret Thatcher
  • Ended the rule forcing people to buy a pension annuity at 75
  • Established the Equitable Life Payment Scheme and begun payments to people who lost their money, ending years of stalling under Labour
  • Agreed to the Vickers Report recommendation to separate retail and investment banking

Lib Dem Manifesto 2015 – in full

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Today we published the Liberal Democrat Manifesto for 2015.

Our five top priorities are: 

  • A World Class Education for all: Guarantee education funding from nursery to 19 and qualified teachers in every class.
  • Prosperity for all: Balance the budget fairly and invest to build a high-skill, low-carbon economy
  • Quality health care for all: Invest £8 billion to improve our NHS and guarantee equal care for mental health.
  • Fair taxes: Raise the Personal Allowance to £12,500, cutting your taxes by an additional £400.
  • Our environment protected: Protect nature and fight climate change with five green laws.

The full manifesto also gives details on our policies on housing, policing, security, foreign policy and equal rights.

Read the full manifesto, herehttp://bit.ly/1IKxqKZ.

Hustings update

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LOCAL NEWS:

Last week saw parliamentary candidates in our constituency taking part in the Hungerford Question Time, always an important staging post in election campaigning.

The usual suspects were on the panel, with Paul from the Green Party replacing UKIP Katherine who was indisposed. Proceedings were well chaired by Greg Furr.

Questions ranged from rail electrification (supported by all parties) , to business rates (Lib Dems launched wide ranging review last week), to plans for the NHS (lots of vague promises, Lib Dems only party with a costed plan to provide £8bn a year extra funding for NHS by 2020).

There will be further opportunities to quiz your representatives on:

  • Sun 19th April – 19:00             Streatley Hustings
    The Morrell Room, Church Lane, RG8 9HT
  • Weds 22nd April – 17:45         Newbury Political Debate, hosted by Buzz Magazine
    St Bart’s School, Andover Rd, RG14 6JP
  • Thurs 23rd April – 07:45         Economy, Taxation & Business hosted by Grant Thornton
    I will be debating with Ed Vaizey, Minister for Culture, Communications and the Creative Industries, at a Thames Valley hustings  in Reading
    Madejski Stadium, Junction 11, M4, Reading RG2 0FL

If you are able to come along to any of these debates, I look forward to meeting you. Do come and say hello at the end of the event.