Many thanks for your recent email about Green Party policy on a number of issues. Caroline has asked me to respond on her behalf and I hope the information below helps as you make your decision about how to vote. Please note that we deal with Caroline’s work as an MEP and if you need more party political type information you can contact her campaign office in Brighton on 01273 766 670 or by email to email@example.com
1) Equalities Legislation
Caroline and the Green Party are very supportive of better legal protection against discrimination. The Equality Bill is in part transposing European legislation called the Equal Treatment Directive. MEPs voted to extend discrimination protection beyond the labour market to goods and services to cover discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, disability, age and religion/belief. It is worth noting that a compromise adopted in the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee was an assurance that the directive does not alter the division of competences between the European Union and its member states, so that for example the decision who can have access to marriage falls outside the scope. Moreover, the Directive does not seek to go beyond the extension of equal rights and it will have no impact on freedom of speech or association. Greens steered these proposals through the Parliament and Caroline was happy overall with the outcome, although on some issues she would have liked to see her colleagues go further. She is committed to human right for all and believes that this Directive goes some considerable way to ensuring equality in the EU without undermining any fundamental rights. As far as other aspects of the Equality Bill are concerned, Greens have called for some aspects to be improved, including to provide for gender pay audits, for unions and individuals to be more easily able to start equal pay cases, and for a requirement on major companies to have at least 40 per cent of their boards female (as is now the case in Norway). We also want it amended to provide explicit protection against harassment to LGBT people.
The Green Party has policy that states that it is essential for women to have greater control over reproductive health care. This would be delivered, in part, by providing comprehensive, free family planning services available to everyone and in accessible locations such as high streets. And on abortion specifically, the Green Party document Policies for a Sustainable Society says:
The Green Party will not support any change to the current laws on abortions which would aim to make it more difficult for women to obtain them. Such a change in the law would do nothing to address the underlying factors which lead to women seeking abortions. Instead, it is likely to drive them into going elsewhere for the operations - either overseas or to illegal practitioners in this country - which will increase both the distress and the health risks for those involved.
The Green Party recognises that the decision whether or not to continue with a pregnancy is never undertaken lightly. The Green Party believes that counselling should be offered to every woman considering an abortion. However, the ultimate decision about whether or not to terminate a pregnancy should always lie with the pregnant woman who has to deal with the consequences of that decision.
Caroline feels that women's right to self-determination regarding sexual health is vital - both across Europe and worldwide - as a means of addressing poverty. At European level she has called for member states to guarantee women-centred care and services related to reproductive health.
In Spring 2008, the Green Party adopted policy that expressed concern about the rising number of abortions in England and Wales and acknowledges the moral discomfort that it raises. It called for a multi-policy strategy incorporating effective sex education in all schools, adequate financial support for all parents, and adequate provision of effective family planning advice. It also incorporated recommendations from the Parliamentary Select Committee on Science and Technology to remove the rule that requires two doctors to approve a woman's decision to have an abortion, to allow abortions to be carried out by appropriately trained nurses and midwives up to three months into pregnancy, and to remove restrictions on where abortions can be carried out.
These aspects of the policy are designed not to make accessing an abortion ‘easier’ but to eradicate the significant differences between the experiences of women using the NHS and those who have an abortion privately. More than 20% of abortions in England are carried out privately, reflecting the fact that in some NHS trusts women can have to wait up to seven weeks once they have made the decision to have an abortion. Even the standard target time of three weeks is a long time for a woman to have to wait, when in a private clinic they can usually have the abortion within days. Identifying and implementing measures to reduce social inequality are at the core of the Green Party's philosophy, and this policy is an important step to ensure women do not face additional emotional pain and higher medical risks because they cannot afford to 'go private'.
The Green Party recognises that medical decisions taken towards the end of a person's life should never be undertaken lightly. We believe that when the quality of life is poor (e.g. due to severe dementia), life prolonging treatments such as influenza vaccines and antibiotics should not be given routinely without consideration of the whole situation including the wishes of the patient and relatives.
Assisted death presents moral and legal concerns to health care professionals and the public. We believe that people have a right to an assisted death within a strict framework that includes:
- The appointment of an independent advocate must be made when either diagnosis of terminal illness is made or the person receiving care expresses the desire to end their life.
- Counselling must always be offered to every patient considering an assisted death
- Alternatives, such as palliative care must be discussed with the patient.
- The patient's ability to make the decision must be established by joint assessment of two independent doctors, one of whom should ordinarily be the patient's GP, unless impractical in the circumstances, in which case it may be the patient's medical consultant, one of which must be a psychiatrist and a third independent registered health or social care professional who has undertaken approved training in this area and who has no prior knowledge of the patient.
- This decision must take into account evidence provided by the independent advocate.
- Treatable illnesses that may impinge upon the decision making ability, e.g. depression, must be treated and excluded from the rationale for requesting an assisted death.
- The patient has the right to appoint individuals either during or prior to the process who will have access to their medical and other records and whom they wish to be involved in discussions.
- The patient's informed consent must be clearly documented. Full discussion of the outcomes of both the illness and the assisted death must also be provided in a language and form understandable to the patient.
- The patient's close family should be involved in all discussions.
- There should normally be a waiting period of at least 7 days, set by local policy, for the patient to reflect on their decision.
- Patients could orally revoke the request at any point.
- Healthcare professionals can refuse to be party to any stage of assisted deaths for their own moral reasons.
- Assisted death will be notifiable.
4) Land Value Taxation (LVT)
This is a key Green Party policy and will feature in our general election manifesto. Any election literature Caroline produces will not be able to cover every single issue and I imagine that those she is leading on are those that she considers will most resonate with potential voters. I will certainly make sure that the campaign team knows you consider LVT to be amongst those issues. I am sure Caroline will be promoting the policy as and when she can in the run up to a general election.
I hope that gives you an insight into our policies and thank you for taking the time to contact Caroline.