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MP calls on Chancellor to protect income under Universal Credit

Ahead of the forthcoming Autumn Budget, Bristol North West MP Darren Jones has called on the Chancellor to keep the government’s promise that no benefit claimant would suffer financial hardship, or receive less income, under Universal Credit.

This is not the first time Darren has spoken out – he also called on the Chancellor in last year’s budget to make changes to the scheme and ensure families were not facing debt because of Universal Credit. Darren also pushed for a delay to the roll-out of Universal Credit for new claimants in October last year – at that time Darren called for “the multiple flaws in the system to be sorted out or the roll-out must be put on hold”.

Whilst the government made a number of small improvements to Universal Credit for new claimants, the so-called ‘managed migration’ of hundreds of thousands of existing claimants of 6 benefit groups (including ESA, Child Tax Credit and Income Support) has continued to cause widespread concern.

Ahead of the budget, Darren said:

“Universal Credit, as it stands, is a cruel and shambolic system forcing many into debt. Claims often take weeks and weeks to resolve!

It seems from today’s (16th October 0218) leaked reports, the government are considering delaying movement of 6 groups of existing benefit claimants onto Universal Credit until at least next summer (rather than January) with most moving in 2020.

They are also considering supporting people on ESA, Job Seekers and Income support for 2 extra weeks whilst their Universal Credit claim is sorted along with better help for the self-employed, whose income fluctuates. It’s a disgrace that the same cover period won’t be considered for child tax credits – which are provided to low-income, often lone, working parents – because DWP and HMRC systems can’t be integrated! A similar ‘cover policy’ for those on Housing Benefit was only introduced last year after people started losing their homes because claims were often taking in excess of 6 weeks to assess.

I am clear that it should not take people to lose their homes, resort to food banks or go to unscrupulous lenders to survive for the government to act – especially when charities, MPs and advice organisations have been shouting warnings about financial hardship and waiting times for over a year. The government must keep its initial pledge that no-one should be worse-off by moving to Universal Credit. I call upon the Chancellor to use his Autumn Budget to keep that promise.

On a more practical level, once that promise has been kept, until the DWP has enough trained staff and working IT systems to move people across quickly and correctly, migration should be delayed indefinitely”.

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Darren backs need for investment in complex police investigations

Darren Jones MP has backed calls from the Police and Crime Commissioner, Sue Mountstevens, for the government to review the Police Allocation Formula (PAF) (which assesses the funding each police force receives from government) alongside the total funding set aside by central government for policing. Continued calls for the PAF to reconsidered come after the force has advised it faces an operational delivery gap of £15m by 2020/21 due to the rising levels of complex crime (which take more police time to investigate) including domestic abuse, sexual exploitation and child abuse. The gap equates to 300 police officers.

Darren Jones MP said:

“Avon and Somerset Constabulary are clear that to meet rising demand for complex criminal investigations they will incur an operational gap of £15m from 2020/2021. That’s the equivalent of 300 extra police officers needed to ensure complex crimes such as domestic abuse, sexual exploitation and child abuse are investigated properly.

Investigating these crimes, and other complex cases, are not negotiable. Therefore, the way money is divided between police forces, and the total government funding available to all forces, must be urgently re-considered. We can’t keep propping up our vital public services by adding a few pounds to council tax whilst cuts are made elsewhere – a longer-term and sustainable solution is needed. I’ll be tabling a Parliamentary Question asking government what assessment they have made to ensure the current formula is fair and what date their long-awaited review will be published”.

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Darren slams government changes to electric car incentives

Darren Jones MP has slammed the government’s removal of financial incentives to purchase plug-in hybrids and electric cars.

Darren Jones MP said:

“Firstly, the government should be ploughing far more investment into public transport and cycle networks to get people out of their cars and reduce air pollution. But, if people are going to drive (and in some places it’s currently a necessity because of the lack of integrated public transport) there should be continued incentives to buy a electric or plug-in hybrid car.

The RAC and AA motoring groups have said removing these incentives is a backward step, and the SMMT trade body called it “astounding” – I agree!

I’m all for incentivising other types of environmentally-friendly vehicles but that should not come at the expense of electric and hybrid cars! If the government is serious about meeting its emission targets and getting diesel and petrol cars off our roads by 2050 (at the latest), it must continue to fund incentives that support that endeavour. I’ll be tabling a Parliamentary Question to ask what assessment the government made reference the impact of this policy change before announcing this decision”.

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Darren backs ban on fur imports

Darren Jones MP is proudly supporting the Open Cages and Humane Society International’s campaign to ban the importing of real fur to the UK.

Darren Jones MP said:

“Animal welfare is of real concern to me – especially where cruelty is so totally unnecessary. That’s the case with the use of real fur and it’s one reason why I back a #FurFreeBritain and a ban on the importing of real fur to the UK.

Whilst, thankfully, fur farms are banned in the UK, we know that most of the countries that supply the UK with fur products have low animal welfare standards.

It has also come to light that some of the products being marketed as fake fur actually contain real fur and people are being duped into buying something many would not knowingly purchase – that’s totally unacceptable and companies selling these products must be held to account”.

 

 

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Darren calls for more deaf children’s services funding

Teachers of the Deaf can create a proper learning environment for deaf children, give them specifically enhanced teaching and work with other staff to ensure that deaf children’s needs are met. Despite all of this, due to local authority cuts their numbers in the South West are falling: there has recently been a 16% drop. In an era where almost double the amount of deaf children are failing to get 5 good GCSEs than non-deaf children, that’s not good enough.

Darren made this point in a Parliamentary debate about deaf children, with the help of two of your stories.

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Darren voices concerns about technology defence risks

Darren asked Sam Gyimah, Conservative Minister for Universities and Science, about how we can make sure high-tech Quantam technology doesn’t fall into the wrong hands through business deals. He also asked the minister about other aspects of UK science, including access to funding after Brexit.

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Darren repeats call for referendum rules inquiry

Darren again called for an inquiry into the laws around referendums. Currently, virtually all elections and referendums can be struck out by the courts if electoral law is broken in relation to them. An inquiry could look at whether this ought to be changed.

Darren’s contribution came in a parliamentary debate about whether Article 50 should be rescinded if it is found that Electoral Law has been broken.

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Darren gets no vaping on buses assurance

Darren asked the Science and Technology Committee chair about a report into E-cigarettes which they had both worked on. The report received considerable media attention, including from some who suggested that it recommended allowing vaping on buses. Darren had this to say about the clip:

Many of you contacted me because you were concerned that a committee I sit on, the Science and Technology Committee, had recommended allowing vaping on buses. That’s not actually the case – we were misreported.

Watch me getting clarity on this from the Committee chair below.

Darren speaks in Parliament about Brexit threat to UK science

Darren spoke in the chamber about how Britain leads in science, but how this is under threat from Brexit. International collaboration, funding and migration of researchers and students are all in some part based on EU membership.

He then laid out how we can address this threat.

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Darren highlights issues of climate change and arms technology in relation to Britain’s place in the world

Today there was a debate in the House of Commons about ‘Global Britain’. Darren used the opportunity to talk about the risks of climate change and arms technology to Britain and the international order.