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- 25 January 2018
On Friday, I was in Parliament to support 2 important bills taken forward by backbench colleagues. One of them was Frank Field’s Holiday Hunger Bill, that would give local authorities the legal duty and resources to ensure children have access to free food and fun activities in the school holidays (as they do during term time). Although the Government opposed it, it did concede to a programme of pilot projects and research into how best to ensure more children from disadvantaged families benefit from meals and activities during the holidays. Feeding Bristol is gearing up to have schemes in place in every area of need for the summer holidays 2018. I very much hope we can apply for these funds and to be a pilot area, and will keep an eye out on the information the Government has promised on how areas will be selected. But this is very welcome news, and credit to everyone who has campaigned for the Bill.
- 25 January 2018
Today the Office for National Statistics has released annual crime statistics, which contains some shocking revelations. The total number of crimes being committed has risen by 14% in the past year with sharp rises in violent crime and sex offences, and the number of robberies has risen by 29%. Government cuts to the budget of police forces across the country are making this worse and limiting the police’s ability to keep us safe. Locally, Avon and Somerset Police had to make £65 million worth of cuts and there are now 655 fewer police officers than there were in 2010. I’ve been demanding that the Government increases the funding for our police. Please sign my online petition in support here - https://www.change.org/p/the-house-of-commons-increased-fun…
- 22 January 2018
This is good news, although it was forced on the Government which is why they released it on Friday; that people with mental health issues who have problems travelling alone will get more in Personal Independence Payments (PIP) for mobility. This brings them into compliance with a tribunal’s ruling in 2016 which said people who suffer "overwhelming psychological distress" when travelling alone should qualify more easily for PIP. It is welcome that the Government is abiding by the ruling, but it shouldn’t have taken them so long to do so.
- 21 January 2018
The Dogs Trust recently released its third investigation into the puppy smuggling trade, and the findings are harrowing. Puppies are smuggled into the UK from across Europe, often having been bred in industrial-scale puppy farms, and suffering long journeys in cramped, filthy conditions with no food or water. The Dogs Trust found instances of dogs being sedated to get them through customs and vomiting due to heat stress. It’s crucial that you’re aware of the tell-tale signs that the puppy has been illegally smuggled when buying a puppy. Be sure to ask the following questions, and if in doubt contact your local authority or the RSPCA (England & Wales): Ask about the puppy’s age: puppies are not allowed to leave their mum until after 8 weeks old. Ask about the puppy’s microchip: all puppies must be microchipped, with the details of the chip registered to the breeder. Ask about the vaccinations and worming treatments the puppy has had, and make sure to get the associated paperwork
- 20 January 2018
Only a minority of people choose to participate In the so-called “sport” of grouse shooting, but their hobby affects us all. As moorland is burnt or drained by grouse moor managers, the risk of flood increases hugely – and has already caused flooding in areas such as Hebden Bridge. The burning of moorland also releases huge amounts of carbon into the atmosphere, that contributes to climate change. And, as well as millions of game birds dying each year, shooting is associated with the illegal persecution of hen harriers; England has enough habitat to support 330 breeding pairs of hen harriers, in 2016 there were only 4 pairs recorded. In 2016 I spoke in Parliament in support of a ban on driven grouse shooting, and just this month we’ve had the great news that Bradford Council has voted to ban the practice on Ilkley Moor. I urge you to sign the latest petition below that calls on the Government to introduce a nation-wide ban.
- 19 January 2018
Today I was in Parliament to support Karen Buck’s Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Bill, which will establish a minimum standard for private landlords to let out their property. Too many people today rent properties which are simply not fit to live in, with widespread problems of damp and mould, leaks, or other unsafe conditions. Given that the Government has blocked this change twice in the past, I’m delighted this Bill has just passed its Second Reading with Government support. It now has to go through Committee stage, Third Reading, and pass through the Lords, but the fact that it now has Government backing means it shouldn’t be too long before it becomes law – and not before time!
- 18 January 2018
Brilliant to hear that the Government is bringing the Agent of Change principle into planning law to protect small venues! This will come as a big reward to music campaigners who have been fighting for this for years, such as the Music Venue Trust and Chris Sharp from The Fleece Bristol. There are other challenges facing small music venues, and I will continue to campaign on those, but this is a very welcome move.
- 17 January 2018
As of this week, new EU rules on payment services apply which will: - prohibit additional charges for payments with credit or debit cards, both in shops or online - introduce strict security requirements for e-payments - enhance consumers' rights This is what 28 European Countries working together can deliver for consumers, but something which a single state working on its own will struggle to do. In fact, although it’s now trying to claim credit for this, the truth is, the UK Government played an obstructive role during negotiations, having been ‘got at’ by business interests. If our Government had had its way, these changes wouldn’t have happened. Many of our country’s problems can only be solved by countries coming together and working collaboratively on these issues whether it’s tackling tax havens, combating terrorism, or developing technology and new cross-border businesses, which is why Brexit is such a tragedy.
- 17 January 2018
It’s great to see Forbes reporting on Plamil - the UK’s longest running vegan business, and the first in Europe to make products like soya milk and dairy free chocolate. Plamil’s philosophy of ethical business that includes not just veganism, but also making ethical banking decisions and paying all staff a living wage, was ground breaking, and sadly, is still the exception rather than the norm. Plamil was also an industry-leader in catering to those with severe food allergies. If it wasn’t for Plamil’s innovative thinking that started way back in the 1920’s (!) then there probably wouldn’t be the interest in veganism and vegan products that we have today. It’s exciting to see businesses operating like this, and hopefully many more businesses will follow Plamil’s lead.
- 16 January 2018
We are expecting to hear soon of the appointment of a number of new peers. Names such as Eric Pickles have been mentioned. I have consistently called for, and voted for, an elected House of Lords. When I spent time in the US Congress last year, they were amazed to hear that in the 21st century, in a supposedly democratic country, we still appoint our upper house through a system of patronage. Until we can agree on House of Lords reform, and a basis for elections, we should at the very least take steps to reduce the size of the bloated Second Chamber, which is the second largest in the world. Peers should be working peers, and be required to do a proper day’s work, not just turn up as and when it suits them, and their terms should be limited.
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