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Darren stands up for Britain’s place in Europe during the EU Withdrawal Bill debate day 3

You can watch all of Darren’s contributions to day 3 of the EU (Withdrawal) Bill debate below, including his speech defending the Charter of Fundamental Rights.

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Darren responds to Autumn budget

Bristol North West MP, Darren Jones has expressed his disappointment that the budget today has failed to solve some of the key issues facing our country.

Darren said:

This budget fails to solve the issue of core schools funding, highlights the increasing costs of this Brexit shambles and fails to meet the needs of Bristol.

“£2.5bn has been cut from the schools budget since 2015, but now the Government has to find an additional £3bn to cover the costs of Brexit. Parents are being asked to help cover the stationary costs at their local schools whilst the Government fails to put any additional money into the core schools budget.

“Bristol has been largely ignored. We’re one of the fastest growing cities in the country but our infrastructure is creaking: we need new inner city rail, better buses, more affordable homes and real investment to help skill our people for the jobs of the future, whilst protecting our police service and the environment.

“Finally, we must all be concerned with the sound bites that have been offered by the Chancellor to cover up the real economic news today: increased inflation, increased debt and the increasing cost of Brexit.

 

On Transport

“I welcome the commitment to give £80m to our Metro Mayor. But this is far from what is needed to fund the real upgrades to transport that we need to see. I’ll be writing to the Metro Mayor to continue to make the case for funding for inner city rail, better bus routes and for projects that will prevent gridlock in North Bristol due to massive developments across the North Bristol arch.

 

On Housing

“I welcome the Stamp Duty cut for first time buyers. But it’s clear the broken housing market needs more affordable and council houses to be built in the first place. For many of my constituents, the idea that cutting Stamp Duty whilst still requiring them to have a £15,000-£30,000 deposit is laughable. I look to my colleagues at Bristol City Council to see whether the Chancellor’s pledge to lift the spending restrictions on council’s for house building will help Bristol or not. But we must also be careful of the catchy Stamp Duty headline: the Office for Budget responsibility has said that cutting stamp duty will have the ‘consequence of… increasing house prices’. This is not what young people looking to buy a house want to hear.

“The Chancellor also failed to address the issue of inflation on rent and mortgage payments. I have been in correspondence with the Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, about the impact on my constituents from increases in the base rate. He has made it clear: Brexit is increasing costs, which means the Bank has to increase the base rate, which means people’s mortgages go up. Inflation continues to rise under this budget, and I will continue to lobby the Government to ensure that families with mortgages don’t find themselves unable to pay their mortgages due to Brexit.

“And whilst I welcome the changes to Universal Credit, including for housing benefit support, the Chancellor failed to answer the question of whether these emergency funds are loans or not. Today, they are. For constituents who get left with no support at all through no fault of their own, these emergency funds should be part of the Universal Credit and not given as loans which many struggle to repay.

 

On Healthcare

“This budget has failed to deal with the social care crisis and goes nowhere near what the CEO of the NHS has said is needed to keep hospitals like Southmead Hospital meeting the needs of patients. This budget has also failed to acknowledge to the gaps in the NHS workforce, and I am shocked that there has been nothing to address the declining number of doctors, nurses, and other medical practitioners who – in the result of a hard Brexit – may leave the workforce, leaving the NHS understaffed and unprepared for the foreseeable future.

 

On Policing

“Avon & Somerset Police has suffered from significant cuts since 2010, and continue to be forced to make more. I recently presented the “Tipping Point” report to the Policing Minister, which made it clear that the police are at breaking point. And following recent meetings with concerned residents in different parts of Bristol North West – including in Southmead – the sad truth is that the Government has failed to give any additional funds to the police to allow them to do their jobs properly.

 

Other Areas

“I am disappointed with the the lack of investment in the renewable energy sector. The Government – ignoring the concerns of a great number of people in Bristol – has failed to take advantage of the reducing cost of renewable energy and has instead opted to give the oil and gas industry a tax cut.

“And whilst funding for electric vehicle charging infrastructure is welcome, it fails to understand that local councils don’t have the staff to install the charging points the Government is giving councils the money for; it offers no upgrades to the wider electricity grid needed to ensure our energy systems can meet the needs of  new electric vehicles; and it doesn’t mention once how the Government will help people who lose their jobs from automated electric vehicles get into new work.”

Science and Technology Committee – 21st of November

The hearing subject was research integrity.

The first set of witnesses was: Professor David Hand, Royal Statistical Society, Dr Damian Pattinson, Vice President of Publishing Innovation, Research Square, and Wendy Appleby, Registrar and Head of Student & Registry Services, University College London.

The second set of witnesses was: Dr Trish Groves, Director of Academic Outreach, BMJ, Dr Elizabeth Moylan, Senior Editor for Peer Review Strategy and Innovation, BioMedCentral (representing the Committee on Publication Ethics), Catriona Fennell, Director of Publishing Services, Elsevier (representing The Publishers Association), and Dr Alyson Fox, Director of Grants Management, Wellcome Trust.

 

Highlights from Darren at the Science and Tech Committee, 14th of November

The second set of witnesses consisted of Silkie Carlo, Senior Advocacy Officer, Liberty, Dr Sandra Wachter, Lawyer and Researcher in Data Ethics, AI, and Robotics at the Oxford Internet Institute, and Dr Pavel Klimov, Chair of the Law Society’s Technology and the Law Group.

 

The subject of the Committee meeting was algorithms in decision-making.

The first set of witnesses consisted of Hetan Shah, Executive Director, Royal Statistical Society, Professor Nick Jennings, Royal Academy of Engineering, Dr Adrian Weller, Turing Fellow, Alan Turing Institute, and Professor Louise Amoore, Durham University.

The second set of witnesses consisted of Silkie Carlo, Senior Advocacy Officer, Liberty, Dr Sandra Wachter, Lawyer and Researcher in Data Ethics, AI, and Robotics at the Oxford Internet Institute, and Dr Pavel Klimov, Chair of the Law Society’s Technology and the Law Group.

Highlights of Darren at Science and Technology Committee on 01/11/17

The meeting yesterday was on genomics and genome editing in the NHS. Genomics is the process of using information about an individual’s  DNA in their healthcare, including to make diagnosis and treatment decisions. Genome editing is the altering of peoples’ genes to promote better outcomes for them. This inquiry is focused on these concepts’ potential future use in the NHS.

The first panel was made up of industry representatives. Darren asked them about how the UK can remain competitive in different parts of genomics and genome editing, as well as data regulation in relation to these concepts.

The second panel was made up of people from within the NHS. Darren asked about the infrastructure and funding required to use genomes and genomic editing within the NHS.

Darren Jones MP speaks out about sexual harassment in Parliament

Darren was in the chamber today to hear Harriet Harman MP’s Urgent Question on Sexual Harassment in politics. He spoke out on the light-hearted approach taken by some MPs to the serious allegations which are arising.

 

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Darren asks the Department of Education about children’s data privacy rights

Darren asked:

What guidance and advice her Department plans to provide for data subjects and their parents on the alternative provision collection of pregnancy, health and mental health data from January 2018; and with and to whom those data will be shared and made accessible?

Nick Gibb MP, Minister of State for Schools, replied:

Where a child of compulsory school age would not receive suitable education because of illness, exclusion or any other reason, local authorities have a duty to provide suitable ‘alternative provision’ (AP). Although the AP provider understands the reason for the child’s placement, as does the responsible local authority, nationally very little is known about these AP placements and the children who need them. This is fundamental to understanding the effectiveness of the AP system to better target policy interventions and improve the quality of education provided to these children.

As data controllers in their own right, it is important that local authorities and AP providers collect, process and store all data (not just that collected for the purposes of the Department data collections) in accordance with the relevant data protection regulations. Being transparent and providing accessible information to individuals about how their personal data will be used is a key element of both the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA) and the upcoming General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The most common way to provide this information is via a privacy notice. The Department provides template privacy notices that schools and local authorities can use. However, the notices must be reviewed and amended according to local needs and circumstances. The AP census guidance reminds data providers of their responsibilities in this area and provides links to the template notices.

Darren also asked:

Whether her Department conducted a privacy impact assessment about the collection of data on pregnancy, health and mental health for the Alternative Provision Census 2018?

Nick Gibb MP replied:

Where a child of compulsory school age would not receive suitable education because of illness, exclusion or any other reason, local authorities have a duty to provide suitable ‘alternative provision’ (AP). Although the AP provider understands the reason for the child’s placement, as does the responsible local authority, nationally very little is known about these AP placements and the children who need them. This is fundamental to understanding the effectiveness of the AP system to better target policy interventions and improve the quality of education provided to these children.

Conducting a privacy impact assessment is not a legal requirement of the Data Protection Act. The changes to the AP census relate to information already required (and held) by local authorities during the process of commissioning placements in AP and do not require the collection of any additional information by local authorities or AP providers from the individuals. The AP census is a long-standing data collection with established protocols and processes in place for the handling, collection and disclosure of individual level information. As the AP census already collects a range of characteristic information about individuals, these additional items of information (about the same individuals) do not present any new privacy risks over and above those already present so a formal privacy impact assessment was not completed.

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Darren receives response from HMRC on childcare vouchers fiasco

Darren has received a response from HMRC after he raised concerns about problems parents were having applying to governments’ new 30-hours free childcare. With the website crashing and problems with HMRC’s own phone line, parents were finding it difficult to apply before the 31st August deadline. Darren challenged this with HMRC direct.

The response from John Harrison, Chief Executive of HMRC told Darren “where parents have experienced persistent technical difficulties and the 31st deadline, we provided them with a 30 hours free childcare code manually. We continued to issue these codes into early September so that those parents who applied before 31st August, but were unable to speak to us before the deadline, could get a code”.

In response to the letter Darren said:

“Whilst it is good news that parents who were not issued a code by 31st August, because of faults with the HMRC website, can use codes sent to them in September, I still have widespread concerns about the government’s flagship childcare scheme.  Parents are struggling to make the 30 hours per week childcare (over 38 weeks of the year) support their year-round, and often full time, employment. It has also been widely publicised that the cost of childcare is rising far above increases in earnings. To strengthen our economy, we need a childcare system that supports working families, I will continue to raise these issues with government. Just today a new study by Admiral Loans has found Bristol parents are hit the hardest of any city when childcare costs are considered against average earnings –  costs account for a staggering 55% of average earnings – this is unacceptable and certainly not a sustainable situation for working families”.

 

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Darren asks the Government how they are planning for Interest Rate rises

Any increase in mortgage rates will affect the housing costs of millions.

Darren asked the Treasury:

What discussions he has had with Cabinet colleagues on the potential effect of an increase in the bank rate on the number of households subject to eviction?

Stephen Barclay MP, Economic Secretary to The Treasury

 

As was the case with previous administrations, it is not the Treasury’s practice to provide details of these discussions.

The Financial Conduct Authority has put in place regulations protecting borrowers, including a requirement that lenders should deal fairly with customers in payment difficulties. Lenders are also required to conduct an interest-rate ‘stress-test’ on all new mortgages. The insures against the risk of a significant increase in the number of indebted households in the case of an interest rates rise.

This would affect the housing costs of thousands of Bristol households. That’s why we need to know what the government are doing about this, and why it’s so frustrating that they won’t tell me when I asked.

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Darren speaks out about job losses to driverless cars in Bristol

Watch the full speech here: