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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.