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- 21 December 2017
It’s traditional for Ministers to attempt to sneak out bad news with a flurry of Written Ministerial Statements on the day Parliament rises for recess, but this statement from Defra actually looks like (reasonably) good news. I’d heard rumours Michael Gove was moving away from the Tories’ previous position of uncritical – and totally misguided - support for the inhuman and ineffective badger cull. Today’s announcement suggests a greater focus on testing, vaccination and biosecurity. It is disappointing to see the Minister still showing support for this year’s extended culling programme, with the ‘reference to effective, licensed badger control operations’, and I will be tabling questions in the New Year to challenge him over this. All the evidence shows that culling is not the way to eliminate the terrible scourge of bovineTB, and we need to build on today’s announcement to campaign against more badger culls in 2018.
- 20 December 2017
After several cat deaths in my constituency in recent years – as well as the current unusually cold weather – it’s important to highlight the danger of antifreeze to cats. Only one tablespoon of antifreeze – or just walking through an spillage - is enough to cause a cat irreversible kidney damage and ultimately kill them. I’m campaigning for the Government to make manufacturers add a bittering agents to their antifreeze so that cats are less likely to drink it, or ideally to switch to recipes that are non-toxic for animals. I spoke in a Westminster Hall debate on the topic in 2014 and wrote again to the Government last week. The Government has continually failed to act, and unfortunately the reply I received stated that they still have ‘no plans’ to resolve the problem. They argue that clear labelling is enough – however cats tend not to read labels, and nor does this protect against deliberate poisonings. Therefore, in the meantime please make sure to keep antifreeze securely st
- 20 December 2017
On Monday Labour’s amendment to review changes to the banking levy, which would save banks £4.7 billion, and instead allocate the money to children’s services was sadly defeated due to Tory and DUP opposition. In Bristol we’ve seen government funding for children’s centres fall by over 40% in 6 years. Children’s services provide a crucial lifeline to many families, and particularly for children from deprived backgrounds where all the evidence shows that they are really important in increasing life-chances and improving social mobility. Despite these cuts, I’m delighted that Marvin Rees, Mayor of Bristol has kept to his manifesto commitment of ensuring all children’s centres in Bristol remain open.
- 20 December 2017
Yesterday in Parliament we had statements on local government finance and policing, in which the Government confirmed that there will be no new funding for Bristol City Council or Avon and Somerset Police. I am deeply disappointed by this. The move to reduce central government funding of local authorities and instead leave them to rely on locally sourced taxation such as council tax has disproportionately hurt poorer, urban councils. Bristol City Council, having already had its funding slashed by central Government, now faces having to find another £100 million or more of “savings” over the next few years. Rather than giving local councils the resources they need, the Government has simply shifted the burden onto local people by announcing a rise in council tax. Following the release of ‘The Tipping Point’ report, which highlighted the threats, risks and consequences facing Avon and Somerset Police due to the cuts, I have been urging the Government to ensure the police are adequa
- 19 December 2017
On 13 December 2017, I took part in an excellent Westminster Hall debate on the Parental Rights of Prisoners, called by my colleague Carolyn Harris MP. I spoke in this debate to highlight the estimated 200,000 children who have a parent in prison. It’s very difficult to be precise, because Government and local services do not have official figures for how many children are affected, which makes it difficult to identify those who need help. I recently wrote to the Children’s Commissioner to ask that the children of prisoners are officially recognized as vulnerable, and hope to meet her to discuss this further in the New Year. The children of prisoners are far more likely to experience mental health problems and conduct issues at school, and are also three times more likely to offend themselves. It can often be very confusing and traumatic for a child to witness their parent being arrested, and it’s important that joined-up, specific support is offered to children at this time. Bar
- 19 December 2017
I recently listened to a brilliant episode of BBC Radio 4’s The Food Programme called ‘Young and Vegan,’ which looks at the rising number of young people going vegan. You can listen to the programme below. As the first vegan MP in Parliament (although now joined by 4 more) it’s great to see wider coverage of veganism across broadcast and social media platforms. Grace Dent, who presents this episode, speaks to lots of the people involved in bringing veganism to the masses, from Sean O’Callaghan (better known as Fat Gay Vegan), who set up Hackney Downs Vegan Market, to the team involved in running the popular Facebook page Bosh!, which features quick and easy vegan recipes and is now followed by over 1.4m people. One of the most interesting things about the programme is how many young people feel going vegan is a way to take control of your life – and lots of mainstream UK restaurants are responding to this with ever-increasing vegan options on menus. It’s not all kale, either – there
- 19 December 2017
I have just voted for a Labour amendment to the Finance Bill calling on the Government to publish comprehensive equality impact analyses of the measures contained in the bill. We know austerity and spending cuts have disproportionately affected women, ethnic minority communities and disabled people. Only by conducting full assessments can we measure the full impact, and modify policy so that disadvantaged groups don’t bear the brunt of Government policies. The Government has consistently refused to do so, so one can only ask: what is it afraid they would reveal?
- 18 December 2017
In today’s debate on the Finance Bill I will be supporting the Labour amendment on the funding crisis in children’s services. Currently Government changes to the bank levy will save bankers £4.7 billion at a time of steep cuts to local services. Over the last 7 years targeted funding for early intervention has fallen by 55%; by the end of the decade it is set to fall another 29%, with the most-deprived councils facing cuts six-times greater than the least-deprived. Instead of cutting taxes for bankers the Government should give children the due priority they deserve and adequately fund the children’s service.
- 18 December 2017
Today the independent review into the tragic death of Bijan Ebrahimi was published by the Safer Bristol Partnership, which examined and responded to the ways in which the Council and other local organisations interacted with Mr Ebrahimi prior to his murder in July 2013. It follows a similar review into the police response by the IPCC, and the jailing of two police officers. It is clear his case was deeply mismanaged. Over a period of some years Bijan repeatedly told the police and the authorities that he felt at risk, but his complaints were disregarded, and they failed to give him the protection he needed. The finding of institutional racism on the part of the Council is one that the Mayor takes very seriously. I have also spoken to him about Council policy on rehousing vulnerable people, although I appreciate housing shortages make this difficult. I hope the lessons of this tragic case can be learned to ensure such serious failings are never repeated.
- 17 December 2017
Our unequal economy and failing housing market mean that even those with stable jobs working full-time are often made homeless, according to a new report from the local government ombudsman. Nurses, taxi drivers, hospitality staff and councilworkers have been among those who’ve found themselves without a home. This is due to a combination of factors: low wages which are still lower than what they were in 2008; a decline in social housing and soaring private rents; and cuts to welfare. We need to rebalance our economy and housing market to ensure it works for the many, not the few.
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