05. 11. 2014

Infrastructure Bill

It becomes more and more mystifying why the passage of the Infrastructure Bill has attracted near zero coverage. It has already had around 10 days being debated in the House of Lords, and there’s still a long way to go, but only campaigning journalists like George Monbiot have taken any interest in it whatsoever.

It’s a dreadful piece of legislation anyway, a hotchpotch of random issues that different departments have failed to find a proper place for in the legislative timetable. It reads like a sweetie shop for corporate lobbyists, and for all those still intent on their neo-liberal deregulatory crusade. Apart from that (!), why should we be worried? The Infrastructure Bill will basically open up the entire country to fracking companies, exempting them from basic trespass laws, and allowing developers to dump any substance or waste under anyone’s land.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, the Bill will allow Government agencies to transfer public land (via the Homes and Communities Agency) to private developers, unencumbered and with all rights of way extinguished.

It’s now pretty clear that this particular clause (Clause 21) is indeed a backdoor attempt to do what the Government had been hoping to do for more than four years - namely to sell off parts of the Public Forest Estate, piece by piece, until only sad remnants are left.

And that’s what has stirred 38degrees back into action again - as one of the key organisations that helped put a stop to the initial sell-off proposals back in 2011.

You still have time to sign their petition!
Check out https://secure.38degrees.org.uk/infrastructure

And it is also what has re-energised HOOF (Hands Off Our Forests) in the Forest of Dean, which can see right now how such legislation will be used to start eating away at historic rights and entitlements. HOOF has been on the warpath about this for months - but as happened back in 2011, the big conservation NGOs (or should that be ‘conservative’ NGOs?) simply don’t want to know. Either because they don’t understand the significance of this Bill, or don’t care.

And today (November 5th) is critical. There will be a vote in the House of Lords at 3 pm this afternoon on an amendment to the Bill’s infamous Clause 21, exempting all Public Forests from its scope. Lib Dem and Labour Peers have been heavily lobbied - and their votes will really count.

But here’s the final shocking little story. The Bill is being steered through the House of Lords not by some Tory backwoodsman, but by Baroness Susan Kramer - a Lib Dem Peer. For me, it’s staggering to see just how low the Lib Dems will go in terms of betraying their own Party values and political traditions. Hopefully, a very large number of her colleagues will rise up and remind her what those values and traditions amount to.
 

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05. 11. 2014
Zaphod

The Lib Dems really have lost the plot. They may as well just shuffle away and join whichever other party each of them happens to like the look of, at this particular moment in history.

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