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- 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.
- 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.
- 15 December 2017
I am one of over 100 Labour MPs to sign my colleague Alex Sobel’s letter to Theresa May demanding she cancel the planned visit for Donald Trump to the UK early next year. Donald Trump’s rhetoric in winning the presidential election deeply divided America and he has stigmatised many minority groups, particularly Muslims; he recently retweeted the fascist and anti-Islam far-right group Britain First, giving them exposure to his 45 million followers; his aggressive foreign policy risks making us all less safe; and he has taken the US out of international agreements on tackling climate change. Britain must stand for tolerance and equality, and the Government must not spend vast amounts of taxpayer’s money on welcoming him to Britain.
- 14 December 2017
Last night, Parliament took back control of the Brexit process. Thanks to a few Conservative MPs putting the national interest ahead of that of their party, we were able to inflict a defeat on Theresa May and her Government. Dominic Grieve’s Amendment 7 is now part of the EU Withdrawal Bill, and this means that MPs will now have a meaningful vote on any Brexit deal. It also means that ministers will not be able to change the law themselves until a new Act of Parliament approving a Brexit deal has the approval of MPs and Lords. I hope this means that the Government will now start listening to the MPs and the public, rather than hardline Brextremists MPs like Jacob Rees-Mogg and John Redwood. The process of leaving the European Union is far too important to be left to factional interests in the Tory Party. The Government will now, rightfully, have to work for an outcome that satisfies a majority of MPs, and I will continue to advocate for the UK to remain as a member of the Single Mar
- 14 December 2017
Yesterday at Prime Ministers Questions, Jeremy Corbyn held Theresa May to account over her Government’s failure to address the housing crisis. Since 2010 homelessness has risen by more than 50 per cent and rough sleeping has doubled. Last year 120,000 children spent Christmas day in temporary accommodation; this year, 128,000 children will spend Christmas without a home to call their own. It is disappointing that, in the latest official count of rough sleepers in Bristol, the number stood at 86, a 12% increase from the previous year. It is good to see that, despite the impact of austerity, the Mayor is determined to tackle the problem and has rightly made tackling homelessness a top priority, an issue which is given greater urgency by the below-freezing temperatures we’re experiencing. The Council cannot do this by itself though – we need greater support from Government and that is why the Labour leader was right to raise this at PMQs.
- 13 December 2017
Last week in Parliament I raised the issue of Brexit causing a rise in food prices. Data from the Office of National Statistics shows that food prices are up 4.2% on 12 months ago, and the Food Foundation has calculated that Brexit will cause an increase of £158 per year in what the average family spends on fruit and veg. Though the Minister dismissed these concerns, potential delays at border controls, a shortage of seasonal workers and a lack of R&D investment makes the fruit and veg sector vulnerable to further price increases. I will continue to push the Government to give the food sector certainty, and to ensure that the UK has continued access to affordable and fresh fruit and veg after we have left the EU.
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