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Darren calls for free schools meals to be protected

MP for Bristol North West, Darren Jones has written to the Secretary of State for Education, Justine Greening, to call for the government to reconsider implementing a threshold for universal credit claimants entitlement to free schools meals for their children.

Darren Jones MP said:

“Universal Credit is coming to Bristol North West in September 2018. The Government is currently consulting on eligibility for free school meals under Universal Credit, and is proposing the introduction of an earning threshold of £7,400 to determine eligibility.

Up to now, the Government has allowed all claimants on Universal Credit to receive free school meals. Introducing this proposed earnings threshold represents a huge step backwards. The Children’s Society have estimated that this would lead to over one million children in poverty, and over 5000 in Bristol, missing out on free school meals. I’ve written to Justine Greening to raise my concerns about this”.

 

 

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Darren backs the Blue Belt

MP for Bristol North West, Darren Jones has signed up to support Great British Ocean’s Back the Blue Belt campaign.

Darren Jones MP said:

“I am delighted to be supporting this vitally important campaign. With the fifth largest marine estate in the world, the UK and its Overseas Territories are custodian to the largest coral atoll on earth, globally significant populations of albatross, whales and turtles, and as many as a quarter of the penguins on the planet.

Through the actions of successive governments, the UK has demonstrated global leadership in ocean conservation. I call on the UK to reaffirm this leadership by working with the governments of the Overseas Territories to deliver on Blue Belt pledges”.

What is the Blue Belt?

(info taken from Great British Oceans).

The Blue Belt will be a series of large protected areas of ocean around 7 of the 14 British Overseas Territories, all of which are under the sovereignty of the United Kingdom.

The Blue Belt consists of Ascension Island, British Antarctic Territory, British Indian Ocean Territory, Pitcairn Islands, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, Saint Helena and Tristan da Cunha.

The surrounding areas of ocean are vast marine estates that contain breeding grounds for a quarter of the world’s penguins, a third of the world’s albatrosses, endangered turtles, and the world’s largest coral atoll. Together, these Territories will create 4 million square kilometres of ocean – an area larger than India.

Marine Protected Areas like these have been found to be a productive, cost-effective and viable way to preserve the ocean’s wildlife. They protect vital ecological processes for both local communities and the planet as a whole.

The proposal is for Overseas Territory Governments to get the support they need to create a Blue Belt. Combined with UK waters, this could become the largest network of marine reserves in the world.

 

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Darren supports Breathing Space Debt Campaign

MP for Bristol North West, Darren Jones has written to the Economic Secretary to the Treasury, Stephen Barclay, to back the Children’s Society’s Breathing Space campaign.

The Government has now brought forward a call for evidence on the introduction of a Breathing Space scheme for families in debt.  The Children’s Society and others have been calling for this vital protection for families for a number of years and worked on a Private Members Bill last year to introduce a Breathing Space.  On 14th December, along with a large number of other charities and partners, the Children’s Society launched their latest report on this issue showing the life events that can lead to families falling into debt.  Darren has reviewed the report and written to the Treasury to raise his concerns.

Darren Jones MP said:

“I am delighted to be supporting the Children’s Society’s vitally important campaign.  It is estimated that there are 5437 children living in 3134 families in problem debt in Bristol North West. More needs to be done to help these families”.

 

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Darren says save £ by switching suppliers

MP for Bristol North West, Darren Jones has called on constituents to consider saving money by switching energy suppliers.  New figures released from the Energy Switch Guarantee (ESG) reveal that 17% in Bristol North West have switched electricity supplier and potentially saved hundreds of pounds during the last year, equating to 7,757 people per year.

The Energy Switch Guarantee is a commitment by energy suppliers – from the largest to some of the newest in the market – to make switching simple, speedy and safe and will soon cover 90 percent of the market.

Darren Jones MP said:

“Over 17% in Bristol North West have taken advantage of the big savings that are on offer but it would be great to see more join them. Customers can save hundreds of pounds -especially if they have been with the same supplier for years.

“This winter I encourage everyone in Bristol North West to take a few minutes to find out if they can be on a better energy deal. If you haven’t switched before you might think it is a bit daunting but as I found out, it’s really simple. And with the Energy Switch Guarantee in place customers can be reassured that switching will be simple, speedy and safe so make sure your supplier has signed up.”

Tina Tietjen, Independent Chair of the Energy Switch Guarantee, said:

“Over 4.5 million customers have switched energy supplier so far this year and while some areas of the country – like Yorkshire in particular – are taking advantage of the potential savings on offer, others are missing out. It only takes a few minutes to find out if you’re on the best deal. Either get in touch with your supplier or look online to make sure you are on the best deal for you. There are huge savings to be made and the Energy Switch Guarantee provides customers with extra reassurance that the process will be simple, speedy and safe.”

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Bristol MPs call for pension fund to go fossil free

On the eve of an international summit on climate finance, Darren Jones, Kerry McCarthy, Thangam Debbonaire  and Karin Smith join over 100 MPs to call on the Parliamentary Pension Fund to drop investments in oil, coal and gas companies.

The four Bristol Labour MPs are among a cross-party group of over 100 MPs (1) who demand that their £612 million MPs’ Pension Fund removes its substantial holdings from fossil fuel companies to reflect their concerns about climate change. The fund currently holds a £5.6 million stake in BP and £4.9 million in Shell.

 

This week, Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn and Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell became the 99th and 100th MPs to sign the Divest Parliament pledge (2). This milestone comes as 50 heads of state, including UK Prime Minister Theresa May, arrive in Paris for an international summit on climate change and finance.

MPs are responding to a rising call for divestment, with over 800 organisations and investors worth over $5 trillion having already committed to divest from fossil fuels (3).

In a joint statement, Darren Jones, MP for Bristol North West, and the other MPs said:

“Two years on from the Paris agreement, and with the devastating impacts of climate change already apparent, there is no room for continued investment in companies whose business is incompatible with our climate obligations. It is vital that MPs show leadership on positive solutions to tackle climate change which benefit society and our constituents. We are therefore proud to support the call for our pension fund to divest from fossil fuels.”

Patrick Killoran  from the Divest Parliament campaign said:

‘ I’m deeply concerned about the impacts of climate change here and around the world. It’s great to see MPs listening to their constituents and showing political leadership on climate action.

Investing in companies such as BP and Shell, who continue to dig for more fossil fuels and lobby against climate policy to line executives’ pockets, is dangerous and wrong.

I hope more MPs will join those committing to Divest Parliament today, and prioritise concrete action to build a clean, fair energy system for all.”

Two years ago this week, the UK government joined nearly 200 nations in signing the Paris Agreement on climate change. To meet the commitment to limit global temperature rise to below 2°C, with the aspirational target of 1.5°C, scientists have warned the vast majority of the world’s known fossil fuel reserves must stay in the ground.

Yet, the Parliamentary Contributory Pension Fund (PCPF) continues to invest millions of pounds of MPs’ savings in fossil fuel companies. Both BP and Shell are among the fund’s top 20 holdings – along with mining firm Rio Tinto, British American Tobacco and Amazon -which were made available for the first time in March 2017. The pension fund has to date been unwilling to make public the full list of its investments.

With the value of fossil fuel companies’ stock based on their entire fossil fuel reserves–not just the small percentage that can safely be burned–these investments are not only environmentally destructive, but represent a significant financial risk. Meanwhile, the industry continues to funnel billions every year to find and develop yet more fossil fuel reserves. Both BP and Shell have been involved in lobbying against climate solutions, and BP was identified at the top of a list of firms obstructing climate action in Europe (4).

The 100 pledges follow the efforts of thousands of citizens across the UK, who have written to and met with MPs from the across the political spectrum, urging them to demonstrate their commitment to protecting our society and shared environment from the risks associated with burning and investing in fossil fuels.

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MP visits annual Foodbank collection in Horfield

Bristol North West MP, Darren Jones dropped-in to support volunteers and those donating at last weekend’s (2nd December) annual Foodbank #everycancounts collection.

Darren said:

“I stopped by North Bristol Foodbank’s annual collection in Tesco on Golden Hill in Horfield and it was heart-warming to see the generosity of shoppers and volunteers – over 2522kgs of donations were collected in three days. Whilst at the store, I met some of the Foodbank management and trustee team as well as new and experienced volunteers to find out more about the Foodbank’s work. Whilst I would prefer we lived in a country that did not require foodbanks, sadly more and more people are reliant upon them each year so it is good to see so many people supporting those in need”.

To find out more about North Bristol Foodbank please visit: https://northbristol.foodbank.org.uk/

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MP backs Small Business Saturday and visits Shirehampton Post Office

Bristol North West MP, Darren Jones backed small businesses this weekend by taking part in the annual celebration of small, independent businesses by visiting Pickles and Poppets in Westbury-on- Trym.

Darren also visited Shirehampton Post Office in the run-up to the busy Christmas period. Darren met the team who have worked hard to ensure the Post Office  was back up and running as soon as possible after the previous office was significantly damaged following an attack on the building’s ATM machine.

As the post office team were making final preparations to make Christmas 2017 as easy as possible for their customers, Darren Jones MP was shown first-hand the wide range of services available for customers designed to take the stress out of the demanding festive season.

Darren said:

“I supported Small Business Saturday this weekend as these businesses, as well as our Post Offices, are the lifeblood of our communities. We need to support our family-run, independent and high street businesses, especially in the run-up to Christmas where there’s a temptation to shop online. To help you locate small businesses, the Small Business Saturday team have launched a new Apple and Android mobile app which has close to 30,000 small businesses listed all over the country. It is really easy to put in your location and find lots of small businesses near you to visit all year round”.

Following the visit to the Post Office Darren said:

“It was fantastic to meet the team and customers at Shirehampton Post Office, they provide such a valuable service to the local community. I am so impressed by their dedication and hard work and wish them every success during this busy period.”

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Darren calls on the government to support the Henbury Loop

Darren Jones has spoken in today’s (29th November) House of Commons Ministerial Rail Update to call for proper investment in the local rail network, specifically the Henbury Loop line. He called for funding to be secured for an independent study to ensure the longer-term delivery of the Loop.

Darren has also written to the West of England Combined Authority Mayor, Tim Bowles, to request that funding is allocated to progress an independent business study into the Henbury Loop.

The Henbury Loop line would join the existing Severn Beach line that runs from the Temple Meads through Clifton, Seamills, Shirehampton and Avonmouth to Severn Beach. The new loop would see new rail stations created in Henbury and the Horfield/Ashley Down area.

 

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MP backs Meningitis Now Campaign

Bristol North West MP, Darren Jones has signed up to promote meningitis awareness and vaccination take-up with GPs, following a Parliamentary reception organised last week by charity Meningitis Now.

The charity is campaigning to increase the take-up of the lifesaving Men ACWY vaccine, which is available free to school leavers aged 17 to 18 and first-time university students up to the age of 25. Take-up is currently around 33% and 1.5million young people are at risk.

Darren said:

“ The low uptake of the Men ACWY vaccine is very worrying, especially as we move towards the peak season for bacterial meningitis. I’ll be writing to local GP practices to urge them to do more to promote awareness and encourage young people to have the vaccination.

It is vitally important that students protect themselves with the Men ACWY vaccine and learn the signs and symptoms of the disease. It only takes a few minutes and it could save theirs or their friend’s life.

You can find out more about the symptoms and signs to look out for here“.

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MP responds to Council’s Library Consultation News

Bristol North West MP, Darren Jones has responded to the news that Bristol City Council has delayed a decision on library closures across Bristol until further research has been undertaken.

Darren said:

“I am pleased the council will be taking more time to review the best way forward for Bristol’s libraries.

Following the Libraries Conference I hosted in September, I wrote to the Mayor with feedback from groups representing Bristol North West libraries. We advocated for further time and research before any irreversible decisions were made. I am delighted further time has now been given to support a longer-term strategy.

The council are under enormous financial pressure to make savings however, libraries play such a vital role in our communities we must look to safeguard them for future generations”.