I WAS glad to speak in Parliament last week during a debate called by NewportMPJessica Morden on the UK government’s ‘bedroom tax’.

This is something you will have read about in the Argus, and it has certainly had a big impact on our MPs’ postbags and surgeries. The charge will hit 40,000 households in Wales alone when it comes in this April, with families considered to be ‘under-occupying’ their homes being hit by a cut of up to 25 per cent in their Council Tax Benefit.

I certainly share Jessica’s concerns about the devastating impact this change could have on vulnerable people.

I do not deny that reform of the system is needed, but these reforms are badly thought-through and lack compassion. To try to win support for them, the UK government has spread inaccurate stereotypes about benefit recipients. Many caught by these reforms are not ‘scroungers’ or ‘layabouts,’ but working families on modest incomes, or vulnerable or disabled people.

Bron Afon Community Housing is doing a good job speaking to residents affected by the changes, and has also highlighted some of the human stories involved. Should you be in any doubt about the scale and wickedness of the bedroom tax, I’d encourage you to take a look at http://bronafon.wordpress.com/ to find out more.

EUROPE is an issue that often provokes fierce political debate.

I understand the frustrations of many who speak with me about the EU – about things like the need to reform the outdated Common Agricultural Policy, for example. Yet I am deeply uncomfortable about the mixed messages on Europe coming from the prime minister for one reason – jobs.

I asked a question in Parliament last week focusing on Arvin Meritor, one important local employer for whom access to European markets is vital. They are not alone. Many companies will simply not consider locating factories in places like Torfaen if they think we are liable to leave the EU in a few years. So as populist as David Cameron’s statement may seem on the surface, I fear the uncertainty he caused last week will cost jobs and damage our economy for years to come.

FINALLY, it’s been quite a week of weather here in Gwent, and I’ve been keeping up to date with the snowy news in the Argus and on the website. Well done to all those who have been working around the clock clearing our roads and trying to keep things moving in such difficult conditions. Congratulations especially to Torfaen’s very own Elvis, Darren Graceland Jones, who has been causing a storm of his own with his ‘gritty’ video.