February news from Mark Lazarowicz MP
Posted by Mark Lazarowicz, MP for Edinburgh North and Leith, at 20:40, Fri 17 February 2012:
This is the Parliamentary half-term recess week, which as always gives me a good opportunity to visit local organisations and keep in touch with the local community. It’s also good to have some time at home after a busy few weeks in Parliament. We’ve had much debate on the issue of the referendum on whether Scotland should remain part of the UK - as I believe – or separate from the rest of the UK and become an independent state.The Scottish Government has recently published its proposals and is aiming to hold the referendum in the autumn of 2014. Personally, I would like to see the referendum held sooner rather than later, but I want to see politicians from all parties seeking consensus on the terms and arrangements for the referendum. It’s important that the result is seen to be fair – and we have to remember that after the referendum, both ‘winners’ and ‘losers’, whatever the result, will have to live together! For that reason also, it’s important that the tone of the debate is as mature as possible, although inevitably there will be strong emotions on both sides.
Welfare reform and benefit cuts
The UK Government’s Welfare Reform Bill came back to the Commons in early February after fierce debate in the House of Lords. The Bill aims to make major changes to the benefit system and tax credits. Some of the most controversial aspects involve changes to benefits for disabled people.
I spoke in a debate on Work Capability Assessments and raised concerns that have been expressed to me by people in the constituency that they are very poorly designed to assess people with mental health conditions or a sensory impairment such as hearing or sight loss. You can read what I said at http://bit.ly/AeXqRX You can find more information on all of the proposed changes on my website at http://bit.ly/Afspk9
I spoke in the debate on the Government’s Civil Aviation Bill and raised a number of issues including the takeover of bmi by International Airways Group (IAG) which would give British Airways a monopoly on the Edinburgh-Heathrow route. I have written to the Office of Fair Trading asking it to look not just at that but the question of choice and competition more broadly for passengers from and to Scotland. I also spoke on some of the environmental issues concerning air travel. You can read more on this at http://bit.ly/ygnUr8
Fair deal for Woolworths workers
I took up the issue recently of constituents who worked at Woolworths but were denied compensation awarded to staff simply because they worked in a small store like Stockbridge. The Tribunal awarded compensation on the basis that the company didn’t properly consult their union, USDAW, before they were made redundant – some learnt they had lost their jobs on TV. However, the tribunal said that there was no duty to consult in the case of small stores with less than 20 staff. This is a matter of simple justice – staff who worked just as hard and may even have worked at a larger store while with Woolworths should receive the compensation as well. You can find more on this at http://bit.ly/zkecWr
Green Investment Bank
I was involved recently in formally presenting the final case for basing the Green Investment Bank in Edinburgh to the Business Secretary. The decision will be made at the end of February. To boost the economy we need the Bank up and running as soon as possible and I believe that we have the expertise in the financial sector, green industry and cutting edge research to make it a success. You can read more on this at http://bit.ly/y6QFz1
Environmental Audit Committee
I am a member of the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee which examines Government policy on environmental issues and publishes in depth reports that often set the agenda in the field. Since Christmas we have been conducting inquiries into the issue of green industry where we took evidence from senior Ministers as well as oil and gas drilling in the Arctic. We have also just issued a report on the UK Government’s cuts in feed-in tariffs for solar power which offer a subsidy to boost the development of the industry. In a difficult economic climate I am concerned that the Government has cut support for one growth area in the economy. You can find full details of the Committee’s work at http://bit.ly/e3Lzpd
Famine in East and West Africa
We have all been shocked at the scale of suffering that the people of East Africa have endured because of drought over the last year. There have been worrying reports that West Africa could now be facing with drought as well – a report this week suggested that up to 32 million people could be affected. A recent report by Save the Children and Oxfam highlighted the slowness to react of governments and aid agencies in the case of East Africa and in a debate on Somalia I stressed the need to learn the lessons of that. You can read what I said at http://bit.ly/xSinNe.
I spoke in the debate on the Daylight Saving Bill which would have set up a review of the benefits and drawbacks of moving the clocks forward one hour in the winter (Greenwich Mean Time +1) and in summer (GMT +2). If the review recommended it, there would then have been a full-scale trial. I’ve had a lot of constituents contacting me on the issue – most in favour of the review although some, particularly those who remembered the last experiment, were strongly against a change. I’ve set out some of the arguments on the issues at http://bit.ly/zcOqLQ I wanted to see a review to examine the facts, but the Bill was effectively blocked by a group of mainly Tory and SNP MPs. As it was a Private Members’ Bill, it won’t get any further through Parliament now.
If you have any views, queries or comments on the issues covered in this report, do not hesitate to get in touch. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or speak to me at one of my MP advice surgeries. For full details of how to contact me, and more news about my work in Parliament and the constituency, please visit my website www.marklazarowicz.org.uk. Follow me on twitter @marklazarowicz