Even with a summer recess in the middle, the last three months have been packed with important debates and policy announcements. Two issues have dominated both media headlines and business in the House; Afghanistan and the cut to Universal Credit.
There has been a heavy focus this month on the financial security of working and low-income families who are being hit the hardest as the UK Government starts to focus on economic recovery post-pandemic. We have seen the announcement of the new Health & Social Care Levy, and the reluctance to delay the end of furlough and the UC uplift.
Below you can find a summary of my activity in the constituency and Parliament over the last three months.
The team and I have been working hard to support constituents on a huge range of issues, including housing, immigration, pensions and issues with the DVLA, to name just a few.
I have been delighted to have had the opportunity to visit many different organisations in the constituency over the past quarter to build on existing relationships and hear more about the work being undertaken locally.
One of the biggest news stories in the constituency over the last few months has been the proposed installation of a 5G mobile phone mast in Drumsagard Village. This was heavily opposed by the community for many valid reasons. I joined the community in opposing the mast, submitting a formal objection to the planning application. In a great success for the almost 800-strong local opponents, planning permission was rejected. I’m now in the process of organising a meeting with Three UK to discuss next steps and an alternative location.
Community Council Meetings
- Cambuslang Community Council
- Blantyre Community Council
- Hillhouse Community Council
Constituency visits, events and meetings
- Cambuslang Post Office Banking Hub
- Clyde Gateway, Rutherglen
- Visit to Hindu Temple in Rutherglen to celebrate Raksha Bandan with members of armed forces
- Visit to Blantyre Community Garden and Orchard
- Visit David Livingstone Centre and newly refurbished Museum, Blantyre
- Visit to Blantyre Soccer Academy
- Visit to Kear Campus in Blantyre
- Visit to SPCA, Hamilton
- Hillhouse Fun Day
- Postcode Lottery Funding Workshop for charities within constituency
- GambleAware – Finance and Gambling webinar
- Glasgow City Council – Tackling Gambling Harms in the New Normal event
- Healthy n Happy virtual AGM
- Parent Scotland virtual AGM
- TUC, on Fixing the UK’s Sick Pay system
- Diabetes UK
- Photonics, Quantum and Space Conference in Glasgow to meet with industry experts and innovators
- Destructive Lies – Open Doors Event, on religious freedom of Christians in India
- NHS Lanarkshire MP/MSP briefing
- Veterans Champion, NHS Lanarkshire
- South Lanarkshire Council Veteran’s Assist Scotland Champion to discuss Armed Forces, Veterans and the Covenant
- Chief Executive, South Lanarkshire Council
- S.O.C. Hamilton
- Payment Systems Regulator to discuss Post Office BankHub pilot and access to cash
- Post Office Banking Hubs
- First Bus, to discuss constituency case
- Gaelic Athletics Association Scotland
- Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB), to discuss accessible voting
- ARCH – Autism Support
- MS Society
- British Liver Trust
- MS Society
- Age Scotland
- One Parent Family Scotland
- Save the Children
- Scottish Men’s Shed Association
- Gambling With Lives, to discuss their BigStep challenge
- Keep Scotland Beautiful
- Green Alliance
- IATA, briefing session on the aviation industry
- UK Finance, to discuss cladding and EWS1 form issues
- RSABI, to discuss importance and shortage of seasonal workers to Scotland’s rural economy
- Palestine Solidarity Campaign – online lobby day by constituents
Parliament had its longest recess of the year over the summer, breaking up at the end of July and returning in early September. However, the weeks surrounding that break were as busy as ever, and I have continued to scrutinise UK Government’s policies through every means available to me. I have continued to be active in my written correspondence with both the UK and Scottish Governments, asking the questions constituent’s want answered.
In late September I was delighted to have another opportunity to speak at Prime Minister’s Questions, this time taken by the newly appointed Deputy Prime Minister, Rt Hon Dominic Raab MP. With Christmas heading towards us, I chose to press him on the Government’s policies in regulating online marketplaces selling children’s toys, and the loopholes that allow unsafe toys to reach parents and children across the UK. You can find a link to the transcript of my question and the DPM’s reply in the list below.
European Scrutiny Committee
I continue to sit on the European Scrutiny Committee, which meets weekly when Parliament is sitting.
In September we held an evidence session on the negotiations with the EU as they relate to Gibraltar, hearing from the Minister at the Foreign Office and her officials. I asked the Minister how closely, in her view, are the UK, Gibraltar and Spanish Governments on the issue of sovereignty.
We also held evidence sessions relating to open inquiries, like the UK’s new relationship with the EU, and the institutional framework of the UK/EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement.
Meetings and events
- Delegated Legislation Committee on Channel Tunnel legislation
- Visited the PCS ISS picket line in London to show solidarity to cleaning staff employees who work at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.
- Department for Health and Social Care – Legislation discussion
- Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, briefing ahead of a parliamentary debate
- UK National Srebrenica Memorial Day commemoration planning meeting
- Scottish Government Minister and trade unions to discuss updates on Liberty Steel
- Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association, to discuss my Private Members Bill
- British Toy and Hobby Association, to discuss Online Harms Bill
- Attended Leaseholders Together Rally at Parliament Square
- World Alzheimer’s Day drop-in event
- Catch Up With Cancer parliamentary event
- SportsAid Reception
- BVRLA parliamentary Reception
- Green Alliance parliamentary climate event
- Clearpay parliamentary event on the Buy Now Pay Later sector, and how to deliver fit for purpose regulation of this market.
- Weekly vaccine deployment briefing with UK government Vaccines Minister and members of the JCVI & MHRA
- Department for Health and Social Care briefing by Minister for Social Care on vaccine deployment
- Department for Transport International Travel briefing by the Aviation Minister
- Department for International Trade briefing by Minister Jayawardena and Trade Commissioner for Latin America and the Caribbean to discuss trade with Mercosur countries (Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay), joined by UK businesses
- Ministerial briefings by UK government departments on situation in Afghanistan
All Party Parliamentary Groups (APPGs)
- Universal Credit
- Gaps in Support AGM
- Business Travel
- Night Time Economy
- Gambling Related Harm
- Customer Service – ‘Service with Respect’ campaign
- Fire Safety and Rescue
- Armed Forces Covenant and Veterans
- British Overseas Territories
- Hong Kong
- Malawi – virtual meeting with the President of Malawi
- Choice at the End of Life
- Dying Well
- Banning Trophy Hunting
- Scottish Sport
- Parliamentary Human Rights Group
Since July I have had the opportunity to speak in ten debates, across a broad spectrum of topics:
July 1, Windrush Day: I had the opportunity to highlight another injustice faced by the Windrush generation – frozen pensions. I called on the Government to fix this problem, faced unfairly by many pensioners living in the Caribbean despite having paid their dues here in the UK. (video)
July 7, EU Settlement Scheme: Following the news that millions of EU nationals in the UK had been unaware of the deadline to apply for the EU Settlement Scheme, the Opposition scheduled a debate on the matter. I sought answers from the Government on support for applicants facing domestic violence, mental health service provision and social security access. (video)
July 19, Cervical Screening (Westminster Hall): This debate focused on a proposal known as Fiona’s Law, which would see all women offered cervical screening annually. Following extensive research on clinical opinions on the issue, I sought to highlight that while this proposal may not substantially increase screening take-up, there are other concrete steps that can be taken to do so.
July 21, Building Safety Bill: This debate marked the Second Reading of this long-awaited piece of legislation, which for the most part does not extend to Scotland. I focused my speech on the regulation of construction products, for which the new Bill still falls short on. (video)
September 13, High Rise Social Housing: Reducing Fire Risk (Westminster Hall): In this debate I sought to highlight the human cost for failing to ensure homes in high-risk buildings are safe, particularly for social housing where tenants can be particularly vulnerable. I asked the Minister what steps the Government are taking to ensure tests for construction products can never be tampered with again. (video)
September 14, Real Fur Sales (Westminster Hall): I was glad to have the opportunity to intervene twice in this debate, calling attention to the health concerns the fur trade presents, and the lack of need for a regulated industry when public opinion so strongly supports an outright ban. (video)
September 20, Social Security (Up-rating of Benefits) Bill: I was grateful to Jim Shannon, MP for Strangford, for giving way so that I could speak to the issue of frozen pension payments for pensioners living overseas once more, a prevalent issue ignored by the Government. (video)
September 21, Impact of Government Policy on Working People’s Finances: This Opposition Day debate could not have been better timed, following a spate of Government decisions impacting millions of hard working and low-income people across the UK. I spoke about the impact of these policies on single parent families in Scotland, and how many are pushed into debt to provide the things for their children many of us take for granted. (video)
September 21, Decarbonising Aviation (Westminster Hall): I made two interventions at this debate, highlighting the longevity of aircraft and what incentives the Government could provide to airlines renewing their fleet, and the industry is already facing significant financial pressures as a result of the pandemic. (video)
September 23, Violence Against Christians in Central African Countries (Westminster Hall): I was grateful for the opportunity to intervene twice, once on the impact of rising domestic violence rates across the globe, and then to ask how the positive changes seen in Sudan can be built upon. (video)
July 8, Transport: I pressed the Secretary of State on the statistics from ONS, showing a high number of employees in the aviation sector remain on furlough, and pushing for an extension of the scheme. (video)
July 20, Foreign, Commonwealth and Development: During this UQ on the cyberattack by China-based hacker group, Hafnium, on Microsoft Exchange servers, I highlighted that in the past NHS computer systems have been particularly vulnerable to cyber attacks and questioned what steps the UK Government are taking to prevent such vulnerabilities in future. (video)
July 21, Prime Minister’s Questions: I had the opportunity to ask the Prime Minister a question regarding an issue faced by many of my constituents, that of excessive and extraneous demands for EWS1 forms. (video)
September 13, Transport: During this UQ on the HGV driver shortage, I asked the Secretary of State what steps his department is taking to make HGV jobs more attractive to a more diverse candidate pool, such as women and BAME drivers. (video)
September 13, Home Office: Following a Ministerial Statement on the situation in Afghanistan, I pressed the Minister on the cases of my own constituents and the criteria being used to assess the vulnerability of applicants to the Afghan Citizen Resettlement Scheme. (video)
September 16, Business of the House: Following the Leader of the House’s weekly statement, I highlighted a recent case in my constituency where two children had eaten a bag of drug-laced sweets, inadvertently mistaking them for normal ones. I asked the Leader to schedule a debate on the issue of these drugs being packaged misleadingly and made to look attractive to children. (video)
September 16, Cabinet Office: Following a Ministerial Statement on ‘Brexit Opportunities’ I pressed the Minister on the Government’s proposed removal of Article 22 in data protection legislation, which gives people the right to request a human review of decisions made by artificial intelligence algorithms. (video)
September 20, Transport: Following a Ministerial Statement on international travel, I asked the Secretary of State what steps his department is taking to better support the aviation industry, particularly to up-skill and retrain its specialist workforce over the winter months. (video)
September 21, Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy: I pressed the Minister on the difficulties the steel industry has in decarbonising, as it faces dramatically higher electricity costs than its European counterparts. (video)
September 21, Defence: Following an Urgent Question about the data breach that saw interpreters’ details leaked in Afghanistan, I highlighted a constituent case I have, and asked what support the Government is providing those left behind. (video)
September 22, Prime Minister’s Questions: With Christmas drawing ever closer, I decided to highlight the dangers of unregulated children’s toys being sold on online marketplaces and asked what steps the Government are taking to ensure toys sold are safe and age appropriate. (video)
September 23, Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy: On the back of an Urgent Question regarding the energy price increases and supplier crisis, I pressed the Secretary of State on victims of the Green Deal mis-selling scandal. (video)
Home Office: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, with reference to the recommendations of the Global Travel Taskforce report, published in April 2021, what progress has been made on rolling out full e-gate integration across all UK ports of entry to reduce waiting times at the border.
Home Office: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, with reference to the recommendations of the Global Travel Taskforce report, publish in April 2021, whether the Government plans to increase the budget for UK Border Force.
Treasury: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, whether he has made an assessment of the potential merits of expanding the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme to include self-employed company directors and homeworkers, in particular those working in the travel industry who are not eligible for current salary support schemes.
Treasury: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, whether the impact assessments produced by banks when announcing a bank branch closure include an assessment of privacy provision at local post offices for confidentiality purposes.
Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, what recent steps he has taken to ensure (a) an investigation into and (b) accountability for potential violations of international law in the context of Israel’s May 2021 military offensive on Gaza.
Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, what assessment he has made of the extent of the risks to consumers of energy suppliers failing in the context of recent increases in wholesale energy costs.
Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, what assessment he has made of the potential effect of energy suppliers using customer credit balances to fund low-cost acquisition tariffs.
Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, how many energy suppliers have been investigated by Ofgem for the purpose of Ofgem undertaking its financial responsibility to protect customers against mutualisation of costs in the event of energy supplier failure.
Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, what assessment (a) his Department and (b) Ofgem has made of the potential disproportionate effect on (i) vulnerable and (ii) less-able-to-pay consumers of the mutualisation of costs from energy supplier failures.
Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, what recent steps (a) his Department and (b) Ofgem has taken to avoid the risk of mutualisation of the cost of customer credit balances in the event of energy supplier failure.
Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, what assessment his Department has made of the adequacy of legislation on ensuring that toys manufactured overseas carry the address of a UK entity responsible for product safety compliance.
Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, what steps his Department is taking to ensure that third-party toy sellers are traceable and accountable for products sold via online marketplaces to children in the UK.
Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, what repercussions overseas third-party toy sellers face when they sell unsafe toys to children in the UK.
Department for Work and Pensions: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what assessment she has made of the potential effect of security and fraud risks posed by Post Office Card Account (POca) voucher alternatives offered in £100 denominations.
Department for Work and Pensions: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what recent assessment he has made of the potential merits of introducing a secure alternative to the Post Office Card Account (POca) card for those without a bank account, which offers face-to-face support for those requiring assistance.
Department for Work and Pensions: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what assessment her Department has made of the potential merits of establishing an independent body to advise the Government on the adequacy of welfare support.
Department for Work and Pensions: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, if she will make an assessment of the potential effect on the ending of the £20 weekly universal credit uplift on benefit recipients in Rutherglen and Hamilton West constituency.
Department for Work and Pensions: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what assessment she has been made of the impact of ending the £20 universal credit uplift on children living in households in receipt of that benefit.
Department for Transport: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what progress has been made by the US-UK taskforce to reopen travel between the two nations.
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what steps his Department is taking to support veterinary vaccine research.
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, whether his Department plans to introduce a one health approach between (a) veterinary and (b) human vaccine research.
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what plans his Department has to increase the UK’s veterinary vaccine manufacturing capacity.
Department for Health and Social Care: To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what plans his Department has to invest in equipment for diagnosing dementia to prepare the NHS for the availability of disease-modifying treatments for Alzheimer’s disease.
Early Day Motions (EDMs)
EDM 288: Townhill Primary School and Fernhill School Green Flag award: That this House congratulates Townhill Primary School in Hamilton and Fernhill School in Rutherglen on their receipt of the Eco-Schools Green Flag award; notes that the award recognises outstanding effort in environmental awareness and action on climate change; recognises the commitment of the schools to the Eco-Schools Scotland programme and their work in engaging their local community in environmental activism; acknowledges this has included programmes where pupils made bird boxes, carried out community litter picks, talked about litter issues in school assemblies, and created an outdoor classroom area; and commends the pupils and staff of those two schools on this significant achievement.
EDM 301: Human rights situation in Egypt: That this House is deeply concerned about continuing serious human rights violations in Egypt, including reports of systematic torture, enforced disappearances, unfair trials and the blatant misuse of counter-terrorism and national security legislation, following the military overthrow of the Morsi Government in July 2013; notes with profound regret that according to Amnesty International, Egypt has become among the top three countries in numbers of executions and death sentences globally, and at least 51 men and women were executed in that country in the first half of 2021, with more executions pending; further notes with alarm the relentless persecution, abuse and false criminalisation of lawyers, journalists, academics, politicians and civil society representatives, and their family members, in an attempt to silence legitimate dissent in Egypt; highlights the arbitrary detention in often harsh conditions of lawyer Mohamed El-Baqer, activist Alaa Abdel Fattah, video reporter Mohamed Ibrahim Radwan, blogger Esraa Abdel Fattah, activist Sanaa Seif, researcher Patrick Zaki, student Ahmed Samir Santawy, and defender of the Coptic Christian minority, Ramy Kamel, who are among hundreds the Egyptian authorities should release immediately and unconditionally; and calls on the Government, further to the joint statement on Egypt co-sponsored in March 2021 at the UN Human Rights Council, to suspend arms exports to and preferential trading arrangements for that country until a moratorium on the death penalty is imposed and prisoners of conscience released, and to apply punitive measures on Egyptian individuals and entities responsible for such gross abuses.
EDM 374: NHS Lanarkshire’s support for the armed forces: That this House congratulates NHS Lanarkshire for their award of the Employer Recognition Scheme Gold Award for their outstanding support for the armed forces community, one of only 140 organisations announced in July 2021 by the Minister for Defence People and Veterans; commends the efforts of Craig Cunningham, NHS Lanarkshire’s Armed Forces and Veteran’s Champion, the staff and local veterans in the design of the unique service provided to support veterans, Reserves, Cadet Force Local Volunteers and their families; and recognises the value of that fantastic work, made possible through volunteer hours in already difficult circumstances, in providing that service by veterans, for veterans.