Posts

Your March Update:

Your Voice in Parliament

As your voice in Parliament, I have been focussing on the roll out of testing and vaccinations in our city, as well as lobbying for the economic support we need to come out of this pandemic on a stable footing, ready for recovery. As part of this, I have started a new Parliamentary committee on data poverty, working with the Government and internet providers to introduce a low cost ‘social tariff’ for broadband got families on lower incomes. With internet providers already signing up to provide cheaper broadband for low-income families, you can follow our progress here. I’ve been meeting with experts on anti-poverty policy throughout February. I expect to announce exciting news soon about a broader piece of work on child poverty; building on progress made in January.

I have also been preparing for the Spring Budget, expected to be presented in Parliament tomorrow. This budget is the Chancellor’s last opportunity help the millions of people who have been unfairly excluded from financial help so far. Having consulted with constituents excluded from covid support, businesses struggling in lockdown and industry leaders about our national strategy, I’ve written to the Chancellor spelling out Bristol’s expectations for this Budget. We need a change in approach from the Chancellor that goes beyond flashy branding and headlines. We need a compressive skills-focussed jobs program, targeted support for highstreets, retail and hospitality, proper funding for nurseries and early years; as well as a review of the employment rights system that places Britain bottom in Europe for sick-pay. Ahead of the budget, you watch a summary of my Business Committee’s recommendations and read my personal thoughts about what’s needed next for the United Kingdom to succeed.

My work on climate change has also increased in priority, with the UK hosting the UN international summit – COP26 – this November. As chair of the energy committee, I have been closely involved with the Government and the COP team on preparations for November, as well as our own domestic work in the UK to decarbonise by 2050.

I’ve also been involved in Bristol’s bid for the ‘Great Western Freeport’ to Government. I have many reservations about the Government’s policy on freeports – which would designate parcels of land in Avonmouth and Severnside as having tax and/or customs benefits – but the West of England may as well take part and so I have lent the bid my support, albeit with several conditions. If you’d like to know more about this, please do get in touch.

Your Champion in Bristol

Bristol is making huge strides in the campaign to get our city vaccinated; we’re currently the seventh best performing region for the roll-out. A huge thank you to our local GP surgeries, pharmacies and other health and social care staff and volunteers for working so hard to get the vaccine out as quickly as possible. With the success of the community surge testing effort in Bristol and beyond, I am confident our city is in a great place to start opening back up. I welcome the Prime Minister’s roadmap to lift lockdown restrictions, but this strategy must be accompanied with continued economic support until the restrictions have been fully lifted. In a pre-budget report from my Committee in the House of Commons, I have set out our cross-party expectations of the budget for workers and businesses.

I know some constituents are anxious about when our loved ones will get their vaccine appointment or are hesitant about getting a new vaccination. Last month, I sat down with Dr Tim Whittlestone to discuss how the vaccine approval process works, what you should expect when you go to your vaccine appointment and why it is important to get the jab. You can watch our full video and subtitled highlights here: darren-jones.co.uk/vaccine. As this roll-out progresses, I am continuing to engage fully with our regional NHS Clinical Commissioning Group overseeing Bristol’s vaccination effort. My casework team and I have been successful in raising and resolving edge-cases for vaccine eligibility. I’m confident that we’re in a fantastic place to complete our roll-out, support people nervous about getting the vaccine and drive down hospital admissions.

My next topic-focused online briefing will be on the use of Neonicotinoids, the Environment Bill and Agriculture Act. I’ll be hosting more of these throughout the summer; picking a policy area based on what constituents are most frequently writing to me about. For this briefing and Q&A, on April 14th, I’ll be joined by the Shadow Secretary of State for Agriculture, Luke Pollard MP. You can sign up for tickets to join us on Zoom, and watch my initial video briefing summarising my position on our current Environment and Agricultural strategy, as well as the use of pesticides on bee populations, at http://darren-jones.co.uk/aabriefing/. I hope to see some of you on April 14th!

Finally, thank you to all those that attended the Excluded UK Bristol North West forum in February. I’ve written to the Chancellor ahead of the Spring Budget with your feedback, alongside a report from my Committee which calls out the discrimination in financial support between employed and self-employed workers, and for recent mums who have taken parental leave in the past three years. I was also delighted to host so many residents to discuss Bristol’s Clean Air Zone last week, the feedback from which I have now sent to our Mayor. Although this is a change put onto Bristol from the Government, and a chance to fix our city’s air pollution problem, I’ve sought assurances that it will not disproportionally impact local business constituents or residential communities.

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Fix the flaws in previous budgets so Britain can recover and grow, Darren writes to Chancellor

The Spring Budget, expected on Wednesday, March 3rd, will be the Chancellor’s last chance to help the millions of people that have been unfairly excluded from COVID support so far.

Ahead of the budget, Darren wrote to the chancellor outlining the steps that need to be taken to protect livelihoods in Bristol and set the country on the correct path to recovery and growth. These recommendations come after consultation with constituents excluded from covid support, businesses struggling in lockdown and industry leaders.

Darren’s letter calls for action to:

  1. Extend support for those excluded from COVID support including self-employed and new mothers
  2. Finally put in place a multi-year funding plan for nurseries, maintained nursery schools and early years learning.
  3. Keep the £20 uplift in universal credit for families hit hard by this pandemic.
  4. Extend that uplift to unpaid carers, currently receiving only £67.50 per week.
  5. Revamp their business communications strategy so that Bristol’s businesses are not left in the lurch or bearing the cost of more COVID adaptations if we see another COVID case spike.
  6. Target extra support to retail and hospitality, including a cut in beer duty to support our pubs and restaurants.

You can read the full letter here:

 

 

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Chancellor should seek long-term solutions to fire up business recovery, Darren writes for The Times

Ahead of the March budget, Darren urged the Chancellor to address the long-term challenges the British economy faces beyond the Coronavirus pandemic.

The Business Select Committee, that Darren chairs, have published its recommendations for the Spring Budget focusing on fixing the flaws in the Chancellor’s pandemic strategy. The Treasury’s strategy at this stage in the pandemic will set the foundation of the economy that we rebuild in the coming years. Key inequalities have been highlighted in the Chancellor’s current plan, including gaps in support for new mothers and self-employed people, that will have knock-on effects in the years to come.

You can read the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy report here, and read Darren’s article in The Times here. Or read below:

Chancellor should seek long-term solutions to fire up business recovery

The financial support provided to businesses and workers since March 2020 has been unprecedented. However, as we reflect today in the Commons business, energy and industrial strategy committee’s pre-budget report, alarming gaps in support have arisen which the chancellor has a crucial opportunity to put right next week.

The eligibility criteria for financial support have resulted in discrimination between different types of worker. Self-employed workers were especially discriminated against compared to employed workers. Inequalities continue to be perpetuated, such as ineligibility for recent mothers who have taken parental leave. The chancellor should use this budget to help those workers who have not been supported so far — this is most likely the last chance to help them.

Our report also expresses concern about the long-term prospects for employment in our country. The impact of Covid is just one tectonic plate shifting the British economy, alongside Brexit and the net-zero transition. Retail and hospitality workers have been especially hit, with a disproportionate impact on women and young people. Potential job losses in key industrial sectors, such as automotive manufacturing, also raise significant structural concerns for the British economy and fears about the impact on employment prospects in the communities affected. The government’s recent skills white paper is welcome, but a wider cross-governmental approach to education, training and skills is needed, targeting support to the workers most affected during this pandemic.

In good news, we have welcomed the remarkable ability of businesses and workers to adapt and innovate during the pandemic. Digital transformation has taken place more quickly than we could have hoped. Building on these developments and innovations will be key for our economic recovery. However, many businesses have become saddled with Covid debts during the pandemic and they will need help. As we recommend in our report, the government should consider how best to help businesses invest in their own growth and job creation, and how to deliver improvements to productivity and decarbonisation in this new era of company Covid indebtedness.

Some businesses have been able to succeed during the pandemic, with some deciding to return public funds. Unfortunately, other successful businesses saw access to low-cost government backed finance as a commercial opportunity. We conclude that more transparency is needed about which companies received what public support.

Companies that acted in bad faith, by passing on state-financed dividends to wealthy shareholders or taking the cover of the pandemic to use approaches such as “fire and rehire” in restructuring their businesses, have clearly acted unacceptably. With reforms to company reporting and audit, and the Employment Rights Bill also on the government’s agenda, we should take a broader look at corporate governance and move the dial on what it means to be a good corporate citizen in the UK.

The pandemic has accelerated the pace of change for many workers, businesses and communities in a negative way. High streets across the country have seen a dramatic loss of retail businesses and, sadly, we are likely to see more retailers close their doors — not least because a solution to outstanding commercial rents has yet to be found. At this crucial time, there also seems to be confusion in government over the UK’s industrial strategy and the role the state should play in supporting the economy. Now, more than ever, we need to ensure that government action and financial support is targeted effectively — we cannot afford to spend money everywhere, but the costs of not taking any action would be incalculable.

The budget must clearly set out a continuation of financial support measures for businesses and workers in line with continued public health restrictions, but the occasion also serves as a valuable opportunity for the chancellor to reflect on the long-term lessons for our economy. Will the budget set out a vision for Britain in the decade ahead, that understands the reshaping of the British economy now taking place, or will the chancellor stick to short-term announcements which fail to provide the confidence businesses and workers need?

Darren Jones is a Labour MP and chairman of the business, energy and industrial strategy committee

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WPQ: Are Key Workers exempt from Jury Duty?

On February 8th, Darren tabled a WPQ to the Minister of Justice about Key Worker exemptions from Jury Duty.

You can view the full exchange here. 

On February 16th, he received the following reply:

 

Hiring: Administrative Officer

Due to the increase in requests for help and assistance during the pandemic period, Darren is hiring an Administrative Officer for a fixed term period of 12 months for 20 hours per week to assist with the smooth running of the Constituency Office.

If you would like to help Darren and his Constituency Office team offer Bristol North West the best possible service by ensuring administrative processes are happening efficiently, please consider applying for this role.

More Information:

Job Title: Administrative Officer

Working For: Darren Jones MP (Bristol North West)

Location: Bristol

Salary: £18,391 per annum (pro rata)

Job Details

Due to the increase in requests for help and assistance during the pandemic period, Darren Jones MP is hiring an Administrative Officer for a fixed term period of 12 months for 20 hours per week to assist with the smooth running of the Constituency Office.

The Administrative Officer will help the constituency team to:

• Set up new files for casework and policy requests on our case management system;
• Contact constituents to confirm address and contact details
• Respond to telephone enquiries from constituents
• Print and post letters to constituents as required.

The successful applicant will need to demonstrate:

• Previous administration experience
• Excellent writing skills
• Evidence of good customer service and a polite and respectful manner
• An ability to manage busy and competing priorities
• IT literacy (including Microsoft Outlook, Word and Excel and Microsoft Teams, Slack and Zoom)
• An ability to work proactively and independently

The role will be based in Bristol in the Constituency Office but initially, work will be undertaken from home due to Covid-19 restrictions. Line management and supervision will be primarily conducted over Slack and Microsoft Teams.

The role holder will be provided with an office laptop, laptop stand, screen, keyboard, mouse, headset and desk chair to facilitate working from home. Whilst working from home, a fixed allowance of £26 per month will be paid each month to contribute to additional utility costs.

If the role holder is unable to work from home, we may be able to provide access to our Constituency Office subject to our COVID-secure risk assessment.

Upon appointment you will be required to comply with the Baseline Personnel Security Standard, undertaken by the Members’ Staff Verification Office (MSVO). See Members’ Staff Verification Office (MSVO) page for further info. MPs generally pay staff in accordance with IPSA guidelines.

Closing Date: 25 February 2021

Interview/Start Dates

Interview date: Online interviews will be held in the week commencing 8th March 2021. If you are successful in being invited to interview, you will be informed by 4th March 2021.

Start date: 1st April 2021

Application Details:

Please e-mail darren.jones.mp@parliament.uk with ‘APPLICATION: Administrative Officer’ in the subject heading.

In the body of your e-mail, please explain how your work and/or other experience evidences the requirements set out in the role description. Please attach an up-to-date CV with references (references will only be contacted with your agreement).

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Constituency Office February 12th Weekend Closure

Please note that on February 12th and 15th the Bristol North West Constituency Office will be closed.

If you require urgent help while the office is closed, please email me directly at darren.jones.mp@parliament.uk with ‘Urgent’ in the subject heading. For all other enquiries, our team will respond to you once our office has re-opened on February 16th.

Bristol Support Contacts:

  • Bristol Mind (Mental Health advice): bristolmind.org.uk
  • NHS Urgent Mental Health Helpline: 0800 012 6549
  • We Are Bristol (Food supplies, medicine and essentials): 0800 694 0184
  • Bristol Citizen’s Advice (confidential advice for a range of issues): 808 278 7957
  • Childline (for people age 18 and younger): 0800 1111

 

 

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Fix Free School Meals and implement a child poverty action plan, Darren Jones writes to Prime Minister

Following the latest Free School Meals scandal which revealed widespread problems with child food parcels, Darren wrote to the Prime Minister demanding action. With millions of children asked to learn from home during the winter spike in COVID cases, families across the country have been supplied with inadequate and unnutritious food parcels by outsourced catering companies, instead of supermarket vouchers.

Parents are the best judge of which foods their children will eat, and the Government’s approach to Free School Meals shows a disregard for the serious issue of child poverty in the UK. The standard of food parcels offered to some families is not only a national embarrassment but deeply offensive to parents struggling to provide for their children during a pandemic that has cost one million jobs so far.

An example of a 10-day food parcel received by parents.

During the previous Labour governments, two million children were lifted out of poverty. Yet since 2017, there has been a 52% increase in children living in destitution in the UK. Darren raised the lack of a child poverty strategy in any of the Chancellor’s economic policies during the last Financial Statement and this admission remains unaddressed.

Darren followed up his letter to the Prime Minister by giving an assessment of the Government’s dismissive attitude towards child poverty on Channel Four News, January 12th. You can read Darren’s letter in full below: