Bristol Post – February 25, 2022. 

At Prime Minister’s Questions this week I asked Boris Johnson: ‘How does the Prime Minister think it looks – when we’re in a cost-of-living crisis, with constituents struggling to put food on the table and winter coats on their kids’ backs – for members of the Cabinet to be throwing their toys out of the pram because they want to eat foie gras and wear fur?’

This was in response to reports that a ban on foie gras and fur imports, which has long been trailed by the Government, will now be scrapped due to opposition within the Cabinet, led by Somerset MP Jacob Rees-Mogg. Production of both in this country is already banned on the grounds of animal cruelty, but Ministers have previously argued that EU membership wouldn’t allow us to ban imports. Of course, now that we’ve had Brexit there is nothing stopping us – except the political will to do so.

The skinning of animals for their fur has been the subject of public outrage for decades. Foie gras production often involves the painful force-feeding of geese until their livers explode. The public is overwhelmingly behind a ban on both. The Government just needs to get on and do it.

It shows a shocking sense of priorities though, when the Cabinet is squabbling over whether they will still be able to indulge in their little luxuries, rather than focusing on how they can help their constituents make ends meet.

Dozens of families across Bristol have contacted me, fearful that affording essentials like childcare, clothes, and transport will soon be impossible. By Spring, food costs alone are set to be £26 a month higher than last year for parents with children in poverty.

Surging gas prices are a global issue (and may yet increase further as Russian aggression in Ukraine intensifies), but the impact on household and business finances is where the Government ought to be able to step in and help. On energy bills though, the best the Chancellor can do is a £200 rebate scheme – which will have to be repaid – with no option to opt-out. A YouGov poll commissioned a fortnight ago found 57% of those responsible for paying the fuel bill would decline the £200 cash if given the choice. Is an enforced loan really the best solution?

And this week we’ve heard that lateral flow tests will no longer be free for most people from April, adding yet another cost to household budgets and putting public health at risk as many people will choose to take a chance and not take a test. All these rising costs are accompanied by hits to household incomes, with wage stagnation, the £20 cut to Universal Credit, and a hike in National Insurance.

I’ll be doing everything I can to push for more support and ease the burden on those suffering in Bristol. Anyone who does find themselves struggling please do contact Citizens Advice Bristol on 0808 278 7957 for help.

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