Last week started with a debate on the “Tampon Tax” - highlighting the absurdity in our taxation system when it comes to essential sanitary items. Currently tampons and other sanitary items are subject to 5% VAT and are considered a luxury. Whether you require them or not - the labelling of such items as ‘luxury’ seems utterly bizarre – and for those who struggle to afford these basic items it’s somewhat offensive. I was proud of my fellow Yorkshire MP Paula Sherriff for bringing this issue before the house in a really informative debate and forcing the government to agree to take the issue to Europe in its negotiations.
We saw a review of fracking regulations by a committee of MPs – pushing through weakened fracking regulations through a parliamentary backdoor. My postbag has been full of constituents contacting me with their concerns about fracking and Parliament should be given time to properly scrutinise these regulations.
In my role as Shadow Minister for Civil Service and Digital reform I have been closely shadowing the Government’s plan on the Freedom of Information Act, (FOI). The Government seem determined to water them down. An independent panel is currently reviewing the Act. Personally, I feel the government are conflating open data with FOI, suggesting one can replace the other, risking transparency and accountability. I think it is important we not only protect FOI but strengthen it and Labour is calling for an extension of FOI to cover private companies in receipt of taxpayers’ money through public sector contracts. It is dangerous to assume we do not need this Act, and a watering down of this important legislation will significantly hamper democracy.
I met with Friends of the Earth in the constituency about their Run on Sun campaign to make it easier for schools to run their energy from solar. This Government is attacking the solar and renewables industry. You can read more here.
Last week I also met with local junior doctors about the proposed changes to their work contracts and how this will impact on them. It was inspiring to meet these dedicated doctors but disheartening to hear how these changes will affect them directly. They raised safety concerns over the changes which could see them working dangerous hours, potentially putting both doctors and patients at risk. I will continue to support junior doctors as they ballot for industrial action.
During the week I also met with Positive Money about their campaign for more democracy in money handling and banking, I also attended the All Parliamentary Group on Kashmir, met with the FDA and representatives from Democracy Club about how to improve democracy in the UK.