News from your local MP Darren Jones - July 2018

July 01 2018
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Brexit, physical and mental health of young people, Dementia Friends, local transport and Stoke Park all covered.

June was dominated by…can you guess yet? Yes, Brexit. The EU Withdrawal Bill returned to the House of Commons from the House of Lords. In the House of Lords, peers put down 15 amendments for us to consider in the Commons. The two crunch issues were on whether we get a “meaningful vote” on the trade deal between the UK and the EU, and whether we should keep the European Economic Area (EEA) as an option on the table as the basis of that future trading relationship.

Regular readers will know my position on Brexit. I think the whole thing has been a disaster, and I’ve stuck 100% true to what I said I would do at my election a year ago. At every opportunity I have voted to move us as far away as possible from a Hard Brexit, to stand up for EU citizens who live and work here and to do whatever I can to protect investment in the businesses that employ so many of us in Bristol. And this month was, sadly, another example of my having to reluctantly vote against my own party whip – this time, on the issue of the European Economic Area.

The EEA isn’t perfect, but it’s an off the shelf model that would keep the UK trading within the single market after Brexit. And the EU has confirmed that we can combine the EEA with a customs union to deliver that frictionless trade we all want. All I and other Labour rebels have said is that we should keep this option on the table and that, in the face of a Hard Brexit, we should consider taking it as a ready option. I will continue to make the case for the single market within Parliament and within my own party.

The meaningful vote is something more of us agree on in the House of Commons. The theory is that when the Prime Minister presents her post-Brexit trade deal between the UK and the EU to the House of Commons (in October) that we have a right to vote that down if it isn’t good enough, and that that doesn’t mean we just automatically have a Hard Brexit. At the time of writing, Conservative MPs are waiting for the conceded amendment to be printed on the order paper. By the time you read this who knows what will have happened!

Lastly, I just want to mention two inquiries I’m working on that I’m quite excited about. We’re looking at the impact of social media and screen time on the physical and mental health of young people, and the regulation of sugar and caffeine content in energy drinks and the advertising of them. I’m not a nanny-state politician, but we’re hearing more and more about how young people are tired at school and obesity is a serious public health issue in Bristol (which is linked to tiredness too!). Once we’ve gathered our evidence I’m going to organise an event with parents, teachers and pupils in Bristol to go through it. Prize to the person who can guess how many teaspoons of sugar are in an energy drink!

Your Champion in Bristol

I signed up to become an Alzheimer’s Society Dementia Friend shortly after becoming an MP – I feel it is crucial there is wider understanding of dementia and how to support those with it.  I was therefore delighted to meet a one of the local Singing for the Brain groups and find out about the great work they do with those suffering from dementia as well as their families. Their community and person-to-person support is paramount, especially in the face of so many government cuts, and I know many of my constituents rely on it. I wish this group continued success.

I’m continuing my campaign to get investment in our transport network– transport is the number one constituency concern and anyone who uses our roads, buses and limited local rail network knows our infrastructure can’t cope. Walking is often not safe and cycle routes are inadequate. With tens of thousands of new homes, plans to expand the Mall at Cribbs Causeway and the lifting of the tolls on the Severn Bridge, we must get our transport solutions sorted now. I’m hosting a gridlock conference in July with members of local community groups alongside councillors and reps from major transport providers and developers. Together, I hope we can agree a set of ‘asks’ to send to the West of England, Metro Mayor and Local Enterprise Partnership who decide how local transport budgets are spent. I’ll update you about that meeting soon.

I’m also liaising with Lockleaze councillors about the council’s works at Stoke Park and took a walk around the park again to see things ‘on the ground’ in June. I know some constituents are very concerned about the works and, at the time of writing, councillors had arranged a meeting with parks staff in early July. I’ll continue to keep a close eye on this.

If you’d like to keep in touch with what I’m up to please sign up to my newsletter at www.darren-jones.co.uk or check out my Facebook Page (www.facebook.com/darrenjonesmp) or Twitter (www.twitter.com/darrenpjones). You can also tune in on Wednesday nights at 19:30 for my weekly Facebook Live from Westminster.