March 2022; News from our local MP Darren Jones
I'll keep up battle for NHS dentistry
Your Voice in Parliament
Constituents have been writing to me about large increases in the cost of living - from energy and food bills to housing and childcare. Families will, this year, face a triple squeeze of higher energy bills, higher taxes and higher inflation. This will affect all of us but puts the most pressure on families on lower incomes who often need to decide between heating and eating.
I have been pushing the Government to act and help families since last year. In October I asked the Government to consider the feasibility of a windfall tax on the expected excess profits from oil and gas companies, to help fund support for families on low incomes. Over Christmas, following evidence taken by my Business Committee in Parliament, I called on the Government to take simple steps, including cutting VAT on energy bills (something the Prime Minister said was a Brexit opportunity) to protect households. In February, I took evidence from the energy regulator Ofgem and energy companies about the gaps in regulation that allowed so many energy suppliers to go bankrupt with bill-payers left on the hook. Sadly, Ministers have rejected all these proposals and have since announced a mandatory energy loan of £200 for all customers (something I do not personally want but cannot refuse!) as well as a council tax rebate for certain homes – totalling on average £350 of help against an average increase of £700 in energy bills and delivered in October when bills go up in April. Clearly not good enough. I will continue to push Ministers and energy companies to do more – not least to bring forward investment into renewable energy and home insulation so that we can get off gas!
Last month I was also formally appointed to the new UK-EU Parliamentary Delegation, which is the formal parliament-to-parliament committee established under the Trade and Co- operation Agreement between the UK and the EU. As chair of the Business Committee, I recently joined parliamentary colleagues in Brussels to discuss the UK/EU relationship and the status of ongoing negotiations, in respect of Northern Ireland. The visit confirmed my fear that the relationship is in a very difficult place following the actions of Boris Johnson and Lord Frost, and underlined the issue underpinning all issues – that the UK wants a special relationship with the EU and the EU now sees the UK merely as a third country with a trade deal. I wrote a fuller note on my visit which you can read on my website: www.darren- jones.co.uk/news
Your Champion in Bristol
Earlier this year, I surveyed constituents across Bristol North West about their experience of dental care in our region. The results were shocking; with respondents unable to access NHS dental care, unsatisfied with the cost of private dental care bills and not confidence that they would receive timely treatment.
Based on your feedback, I spoke with local dentists and secured a debate in Parliament on the state of dental care in Bristol and the South West. Members of Parliament from across the region took part in support of NHS dentistry. I argued for an updated settlement between dental practices and the NHS so that everyone can access affordable dental care as part of our NHS instead of having to rely on a largely privatised system that only those who can afford it have access to. With many dental practices closing or not taking on new NHS patients, we need to act now or risk losing NHS dental care for good. I am glad that the Government committed to increasing dental funding following my debate, but the amount of money allocated to the South West falls short of other regions and will not go far enough. I have followed up with the relevant Health Minister and will inform you of their reply.
In February, I was invited to visit the Gothelney eco farm in Somerset, which is owned by one of our Westbury-based constituents. This innovative farm is using ancient grains to diversify its crop and using traditional farming techniques to move away from excessive use of pesticides, and the consequences of intensive farming on soils. The goal is to increase biodiversity and resilience so that farms are more adaptable to climate change and less reliant on pesticides. The farm also had a great bakery – also run by a Bristol resident – called Field Bakery. Whilst I don’t have much agriculture in Bristol North West, I know many constituents care about the issue. Off the back of my debate a year or so ago on intensive farming in mega-farms, I’ll continue to support these causes in Parliament. For those interested in this area Bristol East’s MP Kerry McCarthy and Plymouth’s MP Luke Pollard secured a debate on the post-Brexit use of Pesticides and neonicotinoids. You can find a link to that debate and the Q&A I hosted with Luke about agriculture and pesticides on my website, www.darren-jones.co.uk/policy
As usual, if you need my help or have a question, I am running telephone surgeries and regular fortnightly catchups on Tuesdays on Facebook. Please get in touch on firstname.lastname@example.org or call the office on 0117 959 6545.