Jo Stevens MP

A strong voice for Cardiff Central

Jo Stevens - Labour MP for Cardiff Central

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It’s been a very busy month for me in the Shadow Justice Team. On 26th January it was Justice Questions in the House of Commons. I took the opportunity to raise the statistic to the Minister for Prisons, Andrew Selous that Prison Service anti-riot squads were used on 339 occasions in 2015; which was an increase of 52% compared to 2014. Following from this, I asked Mr Selous if this statistic indicated to him that prisons are overcrowded and not fit for educational purpose.

You can watch the exchange here: https://youtu.be/M7Z7e9Ye-84
Original article referred to in my question: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3369281/Riot-squads-called-deal-violent-prisoners-single-day-past-year.html

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The Shadow Justice team also managed to secure an opposition day debate on prisons and probation. The debate was well attended, with 22 speakers. What was good to see was that overall (excluding Philip Davies MP for Shipley), the tone of the debate has been one of consensus; with all Members agreeing that something must be done with our prisons, and how reform in penal and prison policy is absolutely essential in order to tackle the growing crisis in our prisons and probation centres. 

It was my first speech from the Despatch Box and I gave the closing speech for the debate. I highlighted the crisis the Government has on its hands with prisons, how important it is for prison staff to feel safe in their workplace, the 617% increase of new psychoactive substances in prisons and the implications that has on prison safety for fellow prisoners and staff, and why the reckless privatisation of the probation service by the coalition Government was such a mistake.

You can watch my speech here: https://youtu.be/SVUztOPa64w

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This month in Justice...

It’s been a very busy month for me in the Shadow Justice Team. On 26th January it was Justice Questions in the House of Commons. I took the opportunity to...

Speaking in a Westminster Hall debate this morning, I raised the issues surrounding Lynx House temporary accommodation facility in Cardiff.

The facility has been under scrutiny recently, initially due to the practice of forcing asylum seekers to wear wristbands to access meals. Following this investigation in The Guardian a raft of other issues have come to light, including a lack of maintenance, overcrowding and unsafe conditions.

Cardiff Council has now inspected the property and expects to issue prohibition notices for part closure until some essential repairs are completed.

In the debate today, I highlighted these issues and the government's continued lack of robust scrutiny of private contractors who run temporary accommodation facilities.

I demanded answers from the Minister for Immigration James Brokenshire MP, including on whether or not the Government was aware of the conditions at Lynx House and if reports of inspections at the property can be made public.

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In response the Minister, James Brokenshire MP said that the UK Government is proud of the country's record on providing sanctuary and asylum to those in need of it. He also asserted that private contractors had paid fines for not keeping accommodation to appropriate standards.

He did not, however, agree to the wholesale review that had been requested during the debate by members of several parties.

I welcome the Minister's comments today, confirming the UK Government's commitment to provide sanctuary and asylum to those in need of it. I was extremely disappointed that I am still awaiting a response from the Minister on several of the issues I have previously raised, including whether inspection reports can be published and if it is possible to terminate these private operational contracts where standards are consistently not being met.

The current inspections are clearly not sufficient to ensure that conditions are safe and suitable and it's time for the Government to step up, step in and make sure those seeking sanctuary are treated properly.

Following my speech I'm pleased that the Minister has today agreed to meet me to discuss the outstanding issues and concerns.

You can watch my contribution to the debate here:

Demand for answers on temporary accommodation for asylum seekers

Speaking in a Westminster Hall debate this morning, I raised the issues surrounding Lynx House temporary accommodation facility in Cardiff. The facility has been under scrutiny recently, initially due to...

Today is National Voter Registration Day. Bite the Ballot and partners are coordinating the UK's third annual Drive to get people registered on the electoral register.

The timing could not be better for this campaign, considering how this week Guardian have announced that an estimated 800,000 people have dropped off the electoral register since the Government introduced changes to the system, with students in university towns at highest risk of being disenfranchised.

Overall 1.8% of voters are projected to have fallen off the register throughout the population and statistics collected by the Labour party establish that the register had shrunk more dramatically in areas with a high population of students, such as Canterbury, which has seen a 13% drop, and Cambridge and Dundee West, both with an 11% fall.

For me, this is a very concerning statistic. My constituency, Cardiff Central, has the second highest population of students in the UK, making this a very vulnerable area for people dropping off the electoral register. The Tories have rushed through changes to the electoral registration system, against the advice of the Electoral Commission who warned the Government to wait until December 2016. As a result, thousands of people in Cardiff Central have fallen off the register and may not even realise it. 

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The fact that this change disproportionately affects students and young people demonstrates yet again how the Government is failing young people; by scrapping student maintenance grants, exempting under 25's from the increased national minimum wage and now thwarting their ability to have a democratic voice in this country.

I'm very grateful for all the hard work that has been carried out by Cardiff University, Cardiff Students Union and Cardiff Council following a campaign that I have worked with them on over the past eighteen months. Citizens Cardiff, Hope Not Hate and trade unions have also been actively involved in the registration campaign. 

However, Cardiff Central is one of the fastest growing cities and our electoral register should be growing significantly not shrinking. The electoral register figures at present are not reflective of our city's growth so lots has to be done to ensure that the people of Cardiff Central register to vote, and continue to have a voice.

There are Welsh Assembly elections in May and soon we have a big choice to make about whether Britain stays in the EU. But if you're not on the electoral register, you won't be able to vote and have your say.  You could even face an £80 fine and find it harder to get a credit card or a mobile phone contract.

Today being National Voter Registration Day provides the perfect opportunity for people in Cardiff Central to register to vote. It's quick and easy - you can register in just three minutes by going to  www.gov.uk/register-to-vote

 

National Voter Registration Week Launches: 1st – 7th February 2016

Today is National Voter Registration Day. Bite the Ballot and partners are coordinating the UK's third annual Drive to get people registered on the electoral register. The timing could not be...

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