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 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”.

 

Darren asks about the cost of the 2017 UK general election

As I found out by asking the government, the cost of the 2017 General Election was £140,850,000 – that’s money spent by the Prime Minister to try and shore up her majority. This cost could be reduced by using digital democracy tools.

I asked:

What was the cost to the public purse of holding the general election 2017?

Chris Skidmore MP, Parliamentrary Under Secretary for the Cabinet Office, replied:

The Parliamentary Secretary at the Cabinet Office notified Parliament of the forecast cost

of the UK general election of £140,850,000.

17th of October Science and Technology Select Committee Highlights

Today I attended the Science and Technology committee, where we interviewed Government Science advisers. We also interviewed Jo Johnson MP with regards to his role as Minister for Science. Highlights of what I said are available below:

 

Darren votes against Conservative control of all Select Committees

Despite not gaining a Parliamentary majority at the last election, the Conservative Party have taken majority control of all Select Committees through a House of Commons motion which only passed due to DUP votes. Ordinarily, Select Committee make up reflects that of the house.

Darren voted against this motion.

Darren raises post-Brexit education in Parliament

Brexit could have a devastating effect on public services, because they are funded by taxes and Brexit will cripple our tax receipts to the tune of up to £100 billion for 50 years (Berenberg Bank and OBR).

And as well as a possible tax receipt hit of £100 billion over the next 50 years, up to £100 billion of taxes will have to instead be spent on the EU ‘divorce bill’.

Education is a vital public service and so Darren raised it with the relevant minister, writing

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what assessment she has made of the effect on forecasted funding for her Department in the event that the UK leaves the EU and only operates as a member of the WTO in its trading relationship with the EU.

Robert Goodwill, a Minister of State for the Department of Education, replied

As part of our preparations for exiting the European Union, the Government is in the process of carrying out a programme of rigorous and extensive analytical work across departments. This programme will contribute to our exit negotiations with the European Union and inform our understanding of how EU exit will affect the United Kingdom’s domestic policies and frameworks. This Department’s interests will be fully considered as part of this process and we are planning for a range of scenarios, working alongside HM Treasury and the Department for Exiting the European Union.

It is perhaps disappointing that the government cannot deliver an answer on this forecasted funding.

Agree with Darren? Keep updated on everything he’s doing here: https://www.facebook.com/darrenjonesmp/?fref=ts

 

Darren challenges the government on Brexit’s effect on public services

With Brexit looming, so is a potential ‘no-deal’ arrangement with the EU could have. This would be devastating for the economy, with trade tariffs implemented overnight on UK exports. And what is bad for the economy is bad for public services, because there is less tax money.

Darren wrote to Treasury and said the following:

To ask Mr Chancellor of the Exchequer, what assessment he has made of the potential effect on forecasted funding for public services in the UK in the event that the UK leaves the EU and operates as a member of the WTO in its trading relationship with the EU.

Elizabeth truss MP, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, responded:

The independent Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) produces forecasts independently of Ministers, doing so objectively, transparently and impartially, as required by law.

It is worth noting that the latest set of OBR forecasts, available here, do not include forecasts specific to different EU negotiation outcomes.

 

Agree with Darren? Keep updated on everything he’s doing here: https://www.facebook.com/darrenjonesmp/?fref=ts

 

Darren Jones MP asks the government about post-Brexit trade arrangments

Darren asked:

To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, what assessment she has made of the potential effect of the UK operating only as a member of the WTO on the UK’s preparations for complying with the General Data Protection Regulation; and what key differences exist between the (a) WTO rules in respect of the digital sector and (b) those rules that exist by being a member of the EU.

Matthew Hancock, a minister at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, replied:

The Government is committed to ensuring the highest level of data protection for UK citizens now and in the future. To that end, the Data Protection Bill, as announced in the Queen’s Speech, will be introduced to Parliament in due course.

Agree with Darren? Keep updated on everything he’s doing here: https://www.facebook.com/darrenjonesmp/?fref=ts