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Watch: Darren argues for North Bristol rail network

In an adjournment debate secured by North Somerset MP Liam Fox to back a rail link to Portishead, Bristol North West MP Darren Jones made the case that stronger and better integrated rail links are required across north Bristol, starting with the Henbury Loop Line. Commenting on Facebook, Jones said:

Bristol faces some of the worst road congestion and air pollution anywhere in Britain. We urgently need a properly funded, joined-up approach to public transport which makes it easier, cheaper and greener both to travel around north Bristol and get into the city. As I argued yesterday in a House of Commons debate on a rail link to Portishead, this must include a full service along the Henbury loop line (and much more besides!).

Now more than ever, Bristol needs proper public transport

Bristol faces some of the worst road congestion and air pollution anywhere in Britain. We urgently need a properly funded, joined-up approach to public transport which makes it easier, cheaper and greener both to travel around north Bristol and get into the city. As I argued yesterday in a House of Commons debate on a rail link to Portishead, this must include a full service along the Henbury loop line (and much more besides!).

Posted by Darren Jones MP on Thursday, 17 October 2019

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Watch: Darren seeks assurances on Bristol air quality

In the House of Commons this evening, Bristol North West MP Darren Jones pressed Ministers for a guarantee that the Department for Transport will continue to provide support to Bristol Mayor Marvin Rees in his work to ensure the city meets its air pollution targets.

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Darren receives response on nursery funding

Bristol North West MP Darren Jones has received a reply from Nick Gibb, the School Standards Minister, to his letter urging investment in maintained nurseries.

Jones said:

This is a deeply disappointing reply: it rehearses the Government’s talking points on early years spending but fails to address any of the specific issues raised in my initial letter, and will give no comfort at all to nursery providers facing years of funding uncertainty.

The letter is below:

 

 

Darren launches plan to fight recession and tackle climate change

Bristol North West MP Darren Jones this evening launched The Next Recession and Labour’s Response, an original pamphlet which can be read at the link here. In it, he argues for a bold strategy both to fight a near-term recession (hastened by a no-deal Brexit) and to reshape the economy around the 21st century’s towering challenges — technological change and the climate crisis.

His full speech at the launch is below.

 

***CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY***

 

Good evening everyone.

 

It’s a pleasure to welcome you all to the House of Commons today.

 

I’m afraid the Queen, who as you all know has been in Parliament today, has had to send her apologies.

 

You might think it’s unusual to hold an event like this on the day of the Queen’s Speech but, for me, the two are linked.

 

Because, in my view, we are at imminent threat of a recession and the government is failing adequately to prepare.

 

In this pamphlet, which I’ve written over the past few months, I call for a growth-boosting infrastructure investment plan to reduce the impact of the next recession.

 

And I call on our own party to focus on the most impactful spending decisions, to be prioritised based on evidence and not ideology.

 

There was some suggestion of a new infrastructure spending plan in the Queen’s Speech today, for which I can now no longer take all of the credit off the back of this pamphlet launch this evening.

 

But we will need to see the detail to understand if the government is really willing to take the action required to get the country moving again.

 

 

Why do I think we’re at risk of a recession?

 

 

In the past half-century, every recession in the UK has happened when a weak domestic economy has been shocked by an international event.

 

My fear is that we’re on track to shock our own weak domestic economy by causing our own international event, in the form of a no deal Brexit.

 

The reality is that, based on normal economic cycles, we’re due some form of economic downturn. Now over a decade since the global financial crash in 2008, we should be preparing for an inevitable recession.

 

If we fail to do so, it will have wide repercussions for the British economy and our collective ability to implement the types of changes that any party might seek to adopt in government.

 

 

What should these preparations look like?

 

 

After the last recession, for David Cameron and George Osborne, it meant austerity. Cutting public spending and reducing the size of the state.

 

As we now know, their response in 2010 – which killed off the green shoots of growth left by the last Labour government under Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling’s leadership – merely caused the longest period of post-recession economic recovery in our modern history; as well as hurting many of the poorest and most vulnerable people, who held no responsibility for the global crash in the first place.

 

In this period between the last recession and the next recession, the Conservatives have – to coin a phrase – failed to fix the roof whilst the sun was supposed to be shining.

 

It has been the failure of austerity economics that has left us in this perilous position today.

 

And, to make it worse, with the Government’s plans for a no deal Brexit, Boris Johnson has, in effect, not only failed to fix the roof but decided it’d be a good idea to smash the whole thing up instead.

 

 

The reality is that the Conservatives have failed on the economy. So how should we respond?

 

 

In any recession, the Treasury has two main levers to pull: the monetary lever and the fiscal lever.

 

The monetary lever, since Bank of England independence, has meant our central bank reducing interest rates.

 

But as we all know, our base rate in the UK is at an historic low – linked directly back to the 2008 crash and due to a failure to stimulate a return to economic growth since.

 

So, with interest rates at 0.75% today, the monetary lever isn’t available to us in order to respond to the next recession.

 

That leaves us with the fiscal lever – the power of the state to intervene where the market is failing.

 

And this is the second long shadow of the poorly-considered ideological decisions of the Conservative Party since 2010. Because thanks to their leadership, we’ve become shy about the power of the state.

 

That has resulted in a lack of investment in the British economy over a decade, and a prolonged period of economic stagnation due to a lack of productivity in the economy. This lack of productivity being inextricably linked to the lack of wage growth and preventing adequate investment and transformation of our public services too.

 

 

So what do we need to do?

 

 

Firstly, we need to be actively preparing for a growth-boosting infrastructure investment plan now.

 

It takes time to build the evidence base to make the right decisions and priorities and can’t be turned on as quickly as a reduction in interest rates – which is why we need to get to work straight away.

 

This point is really important: in the Chancellor’s recent spending review, the Government started to spend some money again.

 

But it was entirely hollow, with no strategy underpinning the spending decisions being taken.

 

The test for this government will be to set out its strategy for fixing the underlying weaknesses in the British economy and – perhaps unlikely – realising the risk their Brexit strategy poses to our country.

 

 

But this test isn’t just for the Government. It’s a test for us too.

 

 

We’re all expecting an election soon and the British people need to be persuaded that we have the right answers; something that I fear, based on the latest polling, we’re failing to do.

 

 

My caution to our party is therefore twofold:

 

 

Firstly, don’t rely on the Conservative Party’s remarkable failures to automatically generate a majority Labour government, providing a route to try and implement the most ideologically radical policies of the Labour movement; and

 

Secondly, on the assumption of an election victory, keep in mind the need for re-election and, therefore, the absolute requirement to implement policies that will actually work and deliver for the British people.

 

That means, in my view, that we need to make spending decisions that are pragmatic and prioritised in a way which ensures we win the trust of the British people.

 

It’s right, for example, to note that re-nationalised industry isn’t just a debt but an asset that generates income.

 

I agree with, amongst others, the Resolution Foundation, that we need to move away from a debt-only lens to a balance-sheet lens: showing the national debt but also the value and income of national assets.

 

And, as I have set out in my pamphlet, it is true to say that borrowing to invest is currently cheap: so cheap that some countries are actually being paid to borrow and invest.

 

But, thanks to the Conservative Party’s failed economic leadership, our debt as a percentage of national income is still too high.

 

We must borrow to invest but we don’t have huge amounts of head room to do so.

 

We should acknowledge that and then set out our priorities for public spending, with a coherent explanation as to why those priorities deal first with the structural weaknesses in the British economy.

 

 

In my pamphlet, I propose that we do that by calling for two economy-wide, government-led missions.

 

 

We all know our economy is unproductive, both in the private and public sectors.

 

And we all know that the climate crisis risks destroying the very foundations of everything that we know to be true today.

 

In my view, technological transformation is the key to both of these economy-wide challenges: solving our productivity and climate crisis challenges.

 

We should be incentivising and co-investing with the private sector to radically increase the adoption of technology and, together, re-skilling and educating the workforces of today and tomorrow to deal with this new world of work.

 

That includes a new role for modernised trade unions and the introduction of a statutory right for workers to receive a training budget.

 

It also includes upgrading government functions, like the Office of Artificial Intelligence, to play a much more important leadership role in deploying AI and other technology-based automations within the British economy.

 

And it also means a proper piloting of reduced working hours and, potentially, some form of a universal basic income, funded by new taxes on the expected accumulation of wealth by those companies providing the technology solutions to business. This being, in my view, a more accepted route to redistributing wealth from those who own assets to those who rely on earnings alone.

 

We must also do the same in our public sector.

 

Public sector costs are going up and up and up, whilst our ability to pay for them is being strained more tightly every year.

 

This isn’t just a short-term problem because of Tory austerity, it’s the hard reality for any government in office over the course of the next 20 to 30 years.

 

Technological transformation of our public services will not only reduce costs and increase efficiency, but it’ll revolutionise the way in which we deliver services to the public: from easier and quicker access to healthcare and personalised education for each and every child, to safer and cleaner communities and streamlined government processes.

 

We must fund the day-to-day running costs of our public services better, yes, but we must also give ourselves the room to invest in public sector reform too. If we fail to do so, we will only make it harder for our political successors in the future.

 

 

But all of this is irrelevant if we fail to adequately tackle the climate crisis too.

 

 

From the way we get around and the way we heat our homes to the way we build houses and generate and distribute power. Technology is the key.

 

I support and welcome the work being undertaken to support Labour’s Green New Deal.

 

But in the same vain as the rest of my remarks this evening, I caution against confusing ideological projects – such as nationalisation for the sake of nationalisation – at the risk of failing to stimulate investment, first, in the real technological solutions required to meet net zero.

 

My recent Select Committee report, which I started and led on the Science & Technology Committee, sets out a technological blueprint for meeting net-zero carbon emissions through the application of technology; and I hope ministers from governments of any colour refer to our evidenced based recommendations.

 

Because this requires government leadership, it requires our Prime Minister to set out these two economy-wide missions and the expectation, and incentivisation, for everyone to be facing in the same direction.

 

In doing so, we won’t just make progress in solving our lack of productivity and in reaching our own net-zero carbon targets but we will also undertake world-leading research and development, creating intellectual property that can be exported for the benefit of British industry as well as the public benefit across the world.

 

Much of my public policy work in this place, beyond my priorities for Bristol North West, has been focused on this technological transformation of the country.

 

We can’t just leave it to the market, but we do need to do it in partnership with the wealth creators.

 

The state plays a crucial part in innovation, but we need to foster and stimulate the wider economy to reach our goals.

 

In my view, we need to rediscover the motivation behind Harold Wilson’s Minister of Technology, as a new Minister in the next government, to lead these reforms across the whole economy.

 

Because as public policy makers, we need to play our part – not just in our leadership, but through anticipating, understanding and regulating for the unsettling changes that will come from a transforming world of work, from public sector reforms, and from the required alterations to our way of life in tackling the climate crisis.

 

Quite simply: we can be shaped by the technological revolution, or we can shape it in our own interests.

 

In this pamphlet, I set out why I think we’re at risk of an imminent recession but I also set out why, in response to that challenge, we have a once in a generation opportunity to build a new, modern, sustainable and more just Britain.

 

As the Labour Party, we mustn’t risk missing that once-in-a-generation opportunity by pursuing ideological purity and resourcing internal battles.

 

If we do so, we’ll merely help keep Boris Johnson and his increasingly populist and right-wing party in power. In short, we will share part of the blame for what Britain will become in the next decade if we get this wrong.

 

Together, working pluralistically within the broad church of the Labour Party, recognising our shared objectives, and focusing on the real challenges facing the country, we have such an exciting opportunity to create a Britain we can once again be proud of at home and abroad.

 

The next recession is coming, and we need to be ready for it.

 

Thank you to Progress, the Institute for Global Change and the Future Britain Group for helping me with this pamphlet and the event this evening and thank you to the IPPR, the Resolution Foundation, Mariana Mazzucato, to the authors of the digital government report from the Institute for Global Change and to all of the witnesses and evidence provided to my Select Committee reports on climate change, digital government and the effectiveness of research and innovation spending for providing the inspiration for much of my pamphlet and, lastly, thank you to all of you for coming this evening.

 

—ENDS—

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Darren calls for new MP code of conduct

Darren Jones, the MP for Bristol North West, has backed calls for a new code of behavioural conduct in the House of Commons.

Darren said:

“I’ve joined with other MPs to sign a pledge for a new code of conduct for behaviour in the House of Commons. The code of conduct includes commitments to avoid language or behaviour that incites hate or encourages disrespect, reform debate as a way to build consensus and uphold a level of respect and professionalism.

Led by More United and Compassion in Politics the new code of conduct will – I hope – start to bridge the divides in parliament and raise the standards of debate in the House of Commons.

Earlier this week party leaders released a joint statement following a meeting with the Speaker to ‘weigh their words carefully’. The pledge also brings together MPs from all parties. More United and Compassion in Politics are working with MPs to have it adopted as a formal code of conduct across the House.

We must put the country first and find ways to work together on the most pressing challenges we face. I hope other MPs from across the parties will join me in making this pledge and raising the bar for debate in Parliament.

MPs must be held as equally accountable for our behaviour and conduct as people in workplaces up and down the country”.

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Darren calls for investment in nurseries

MP for Bristol North West Darren Jones has written to the new Children’s Minister, Kemi Badenoch, to ask for more money for state-funded nursery schools.

Darren said:

“Maintained nurseries face real uncertainty about their long-term funding. Although the Department for Education has announced a stop-gap spending package of £24 million, nursery providers in Bristol North West are still waiting on information from central government about how and when this will be spent”.

 

 

 

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Darren pushes for action on Avonmouth flies

The scourge of flies in and around Avonmouth is making life intolerable for residents — as last night’s Inside Out West made clear, their prevalence gets in the way of eating, sleeping and everyday life. Although it gets worse during sunny spells, this is now a year-round problem, and people feel trapped. As Darrenargued on BBC Radio Bristol yesterday, we urgently need a joined-up approach which cracks down on the waste companies at fault, and is doing all he can to bring it about.

 

 

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Darren warns against dangers of no deal

The Government have been forced by Parliament to publish their central planning assumptions document for a n0-deal Brexit — it includes “lorries facing waits of between 1.5 days and 2.5 days to cross the border,” disruption to medical supplies and shortages of certain kinds of food, and isn’t even the worst-case scenario. The human cost of no deal is enormous, and no responsible government would be pushing ahead with this kind of reckless strategy. We know the dangers, and I’m determined to stop them taking Britain over the precipice.

You can read the original ‘Yellowhammer’ document at the link here

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Darren welcomes Court ruling on prorogation

Commenting on the Scottish appeal court’s verdict that Boris Johnson’s prorogation of Parliament was unlawful, Bristol North West MP Darren Jones said:

Boris Johnson broke the law: that’s the unanimous finding of Scotland’s most senior judges, who this morning ruled that the decision to shutter Parliament was about dodging scrutiny. So far, so obvious — but if their unprecedented judgement that he lied to the Queen in order to do it is upheld by the Supreme Court next week then we shouldn’t mince words: the Prime Minister has to resign.

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Watch: Darren hails Science Committee blueprint for clean growth

Tackling climate change means every element of Government and the wider economy pulling in the same direction: this was the key finding from the cross-party Science and Technology Committee’s recent ‘Clean Growth’ report, which lays out a roadmap for decarbonising our economy on or ahead of the Government’s 2050 net-zero target. Darren had the privilege of leading the Committee’s work, and spoke in the Commons debate on the report’s findings this morning: