Last week I joined local Morley veteran Simon Brown in the House of Commons for a special event. Simon is an ex-Army veteran who was shot and severely injured whilst serving in Iraq in 2006 – he lost one eye. Simon has been supported by Blind Veterans UK for over six years, and has received vital rehabilitation, training, equipment and emotional support to help him overcome the challenges of sight loss. I’m proud to represent the most patriotic town in Britain - and here in Morley we’re especially proud of our armed forces, our veterans and those currently serving. Those leaving the armed forces all deserve our support and admiration for their service to Britain. But those who are injured serving in the armed forces deserve particular support and recognition. Blind Veterans UK does vital work supporting veterans in Morley and Outwood, and all over the UK. Nationally it is estimated that there are over 68,000 vision impaired veterans – many of those living locally here in Morley and Outwood. The charity provides free, lifelong support to veterans experiencing severe sight loss. It doesn’t matter how or when a veteran lost their sight, or when they served, Blind Veterans UK provides specialist services and support to ensure that they can rediscover a life after sight loss. It was an honour to have the chance to raise awareness of the vital services they provide. No local veteran now experiencing sight loss should have to battle blindness alone. Any local veterans who don’t feel they are getting the advice and support they need should get in touch – 0133 253 9466 / firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Friday I was in the House of Commons for a crucial vote on the Government’s controversial Bedroom Tax. Locally, since its introduction in April last year, many local people who have been affected have been in touch with me. The cases range from a disabled lady who was asked to pay more for an extra bedroom even though her home had been adapted to her mobility needs to a parent who was being asked to pay more, even though the extra bedroom was for her son serving in the armed forces. I’ve always argued that the Bedroom Tax is cruel, unfair and doesn’t work. Across the country it is unfairly affecting hundreds of thousands of vulnerable people, such as those with disabilities and their carers. Crucially, it also threatens to cost more money to the taxpayer than it saves. Since its introduction, I’ve campaigned against it locally here in Morley as well as nationally in Westminster and if Labour wins the General Election next year, we will scrap it completely. The debate on Friday was for a Private Members Bill that seeks to exempt certain categories of household from the Bedroom Tax. Private Members Bills are unusual. They don’t usually have a very high chance to become law, and as a result don’t often attract large numbers of MPs in the Chamber. However Friday was an exception. This Bill is one of a small number of Private Members Bills that does have a very high chance of becoming law. And although the proposal falls short of the full abolition I want to see, it is a chance to change the law now to protect some of the vulnerable people being affected by the Bedroom Tax. So on Friday I supported the Bill in the House of Commons to give it the best chance of progressing through the legislative process. Sadly the vote comes too late for the hundreds of local people who’ve been forced into debt as a result of the Bedroom Tax and the others who have been forced to rely on the local South Leeds food bank to survive. For them, a full repeal of the Bedroom Tax can’t come soon enough.