Press release: Labour MPs unite to call for High Speed Rail in Scotland

  • Lothians MPs Sheila Gilmore, Mark Lazarowicz and Graeme Morrice speak in Commons debate on High Speed Two in Scotland
  • Reductions in journey times from 2026 welcomed
  • Economic and environmental benefits emphasised
  • Concern expressed over project if Scotland separates from rest of UK

Lothians MPs Sheila Gilmore, Mark Lazarowicz and Graeme Morrice have come together to call for the proposed High Speed Rail network to be extended to Scotland.

Speaking in a House of Commons debate on Wednesday the MPs highlighted that the extra capacity and shorter journey times would stimulate economic growth and reduce carbon emissions by encouraging people to switch from plane to train.

UK high speed trainUnder the Government’s current plans an initial line from London to the West Midlands will be up and running by 2026. This will be extended to Leeds and Manchester by 2033/34. Trains will travel at speeds of up to 225mph.

Speaking after the debate Sheila Gilmore said:

I welcome the Coalition’s decision to press ahead with the previous Labour government’s plans for high speed rail.

Passengers in Scotland will benefit immediately as the high speed network will be linked to existing lines, meaning trains will continue up to Edinburgh and Glasgow at conventional speeds. Once the second phase is complete, the Edinburgh to London journey will be cut by an hour to 3 hours 30 minutes.

Mark Lazarowicz called on the Government to extend the planned lines to Leeds and Manchester to Edinburgh and Glasgow:

To realise the full benefits of high speed rail, the second phase should not end at Leeds and Manchester, but continue on to Edinburgh and Glasgow. This would cut the journey to London to between two and three hours, allowing Scotland to take advantage of the economic strength of the South East.

High speed rail would also realise environmental benefits. If you account for travelling to and from airports and checking in, flying between Scotland and London takes 3 hours 40 minutes. If journeys were brought down to 3 hours or less people would switch from planes to trains. Given that aviation produces high rates of carbon emissions per passenger mile, high speed rail could play an important role in tackling climate change.

Graeme Morrice expressed concern over whether the project would be built if Scotland were to separate from the rest of the UK:

As a United Kingdom, we have the critical mass to deliver this project and ensure it reaches into Scotland to Edinburgh and Glasgow.

However I fear that if Scotland separated from the rest of the UK, the new line wouldn’t make it past the north of England.

While a future Scottish Government could build lines from Edinburgh and Glasgow to the border, the Westminster Government would have no incentive to shell out for the lines north of Leeds and Manchester.

Only by remaining a United Kingdom and working together can we guarantee that Scotland will benefit from high speed rail.

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Press release: Young people in Edinburgh need action on jobs

Commenting on today’s unemployment statistics, Edinburgh East MP and Work and Pensions Select Committee member Sheila Gilmore said:

Young people in Edinburgh are tired of excuses, they need action on jobs, now.

The number of young people out of work for a year in Edinburgh is up 300% in the last year, yet complacent ministers refuse to take the decisive action they need to get young people off benefits and into work.

Here in Edinburgh 300 young people would be helped into work if this government brought in Labour’s Real Jobs Guarantee. Ministers should stop tinkering around the edges and bring in Labour’s plan, which would use a tax on bankers bonuses to get 110,000 young people across the country into work, into real jobs they would be required to take.

Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Liam Byrne said:

We’ve had two years of excuses and now we’ve got the evidence – this Government has utterly failed to tackle Britain’s jobs emergency, and we are limping along in crisis.

The number of people signing on is going up, we still have more than a million young people out of work, more women unemployed than since 1987 and a benefits bill that is spiralling by the day

Last month’s budget should have taken big and bold action to get Britain back to work. Instead we got a hand-out for millionaires, and a slap down for anyone on tax credits.

By recklessly raising taxes and cutting spending too far and too fast, this Government choked off the recovery, pushing up borrowing by £150 billion and leaving unemployment continuing to soar.

 

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Press release: Labour to force vote on tax cut for millionaires

Labour will force a vote on Wednesday this week to block the Government’s decision to cut the taxes of the 1% of taxpayers earning over £150,000 a year.

The vote comes as ordinary families in places like Edinburgh face losing an average of £511 a year as a result of the decisions taken by this Government from this month.

Sheila Gilmore said;

The Tory-led Government used to say “we are all in this together”. Well, not any more.

The choices this Tory-led Government is making prove it is totally out of touch with what life is like for people in our country. When bills are going up for families on middle and low incomes – George Osborne has added to them all.

David Cameron and George Osborne could have used that money to cut fuel duty or reverse unfair and perverse cuts to tax credits – which means thousands of working parents are better off quitting work.

And at the very same time in the Budget they cut taxes for the 300,000 people earning over £150,000 – the richest 1% – and just 14,000 people earning £1million or more will get a tax cut of over £40,000 each year. How can this be the right priority now?

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Mail Room: Arms exports

A number of constituents have contacted me in the past about the UK’s arms exports and our arms trade relationships with other nations. I set out my thoughts on this subject in a recent letter to a constituent which you can see below:

Thank you for your recent letter regarding the arms trade.

In your letter you highlight continuing concerns surrounding the UK’s arms export relationship with Bahrain, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. I firmly believe that an effective arms control strategy is vitally important in order to prevent sales of weaponry to regimes with a poor human rights record, into unstable regions and to countries where money would be far better spend on development projects. It is with this in mind that I am happy to inform you that I have already signed EDM 2166, tabled by Caroline Lucas MP. You can view my signature here.

The Committee on Arms Export Controls published a report in April 2011 which called into question the government’s record on the application of the consolidated criteria which set out the basis on which the government assesses licence applications for military goods. The Criteria include consideration of whether the proposed export would:

  • contravene the UK’s international commitments
  • be used for internal repression
  • provoke or prolong armed conflicts or aggravate existing tensions in the destination country
  • be used aggressively against another country
  • adversely affect the national security of the UK or allies
  • be diverted or re-exported under undesirable conditions
  • seriously undermine the economy
  • seriously hamper the sustainable development of the recipient country

The report issued by the committee concluded that:

“while the consolidated criteria appear robust their application seems to be less so. We therefore recommend that the Government ensures that the EU Common Position is rigidly and consistently applied.

This is clearly an alarming statement and one that I hoped the Government would examine seriously. Unfortunately, however, the government’s response read as follows:

“The Government does not accept that there is any evidence that the application of the Consolidated Criteria is in anyway less robust than the EU Common Position.”

You can view the full committee report here.

And the full Government response here.

In light of the above, I have written to the Chair of the committee to request information on how they plan to proceed from here. I will contact you again when I receive a response. Thank you once again for taking the time to write to me on this important issue.

Below is the response the I received back from Sir John Stanley, Chair of the committee:

Letter from Sir John Stanley regarding arms exportsI found this response very disappointing. Sir John fails to engage with the government’s dismissal of the committee’s conclusion, instead stating that they continue to evaluate the government’s actions. I conveyed this in a further letter to my constituent, along with a more positive statement made by Sir John during a debate in October 2011:

I have recently received a letter dated 6 March 2012 from Sir John Stanley MP, Chair of The Committees of Arms Export Controls, regarding your concerns over arms export controls. Please find a copy enclosed.

In my letter I referred to the report that the committee published on April 5 2011, and the Government’s subsequent response. In sections 5 of the committee’s conclusions and recommendations, the report read:

“We further conclude that, while the consolidated criteria appear robust their application seems to be less so. We therefore recommend that the Government ensures that the EU Common Position is rigidly and consistently applied.”

I also noted the Government’s response to this statement which overtly refused to accept any doubt over the appropriate application of the consolidated criteria, and inquired as to the committee’s next action. I particularly focused on whether it would be appropriate for the committee to try and recall the government to continue to pressure them on this issue.

Sir John’s response is disappointing. He does not engage with the Government’s dismissal of the Committee’s conclusion, merely stating that they are continuing to evaluate the Government’s compliance with the Consolidated Criteria. I do note, however, that during a Westminster Hall debate on 20 October 2011, Sir John raised concerns over the Government’s lack of transparency regarding the reasons for its special export relationship with Saudi Arabia:

“I believe that the Government are skating on thin ice in their present policy of the non-revocation of a single arms export licence to Saudi Arabia. I understand the reasons for that policy, but regret that so far the Government have been less than forthcoming—indeed, pretty much non-forthcoming—about the real reasons why they treat Saudi Arabia so differently from those other countries to which I have referred. I am in no doubt about the reasons behind the Government’s policy: there is an intelligence dimension, an oil dimension and a British business interest, all of which are perfectly relevant and legitimate ministerial considerations. I believe, however, that the Government would do better to be open with the House and the Committees about why their policy towards Saudi Arabia is so conspicuously different from that applied to the other countries in question. I hope that Ministers will reflect on that point.”

You can view the debate in full here.

I hope that the Committees on Arms Export Controls continues to act strongly in this area, and I await the publication of its second Report with interest.

As always if you would like to comment further on this issue, you can contact me by email on sheila.gilmore.mp@parliament.uk.

 

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Mail Room: Protection of hares

A lot of people contact me about animal welfare issues.While this is not an area I have a particular background in I am happy to do what I can to promote the issue in Parliament.

Recently, the protection of hares has been high on the agenda. Following a huge number of letters and emails I took action on this by signing Early Day Motion (EDM) 2531 which calls for a close season for hare shooting to be introduced UK-wide. You can view my signature here.

In addition to the EDM I also wrote to Caroline Spellman MP, Secretary of State for the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs asking her to address my constituents’ concerns. I emphasized that new legislation has been introduced in Scotland which will protect hares by making it an offence to intentionally or recklessly kill or injure them during their breeding season.

You can read the reply that I received from Richard Benyon MP below:

Letter from Minister regarding Hares(If you can’t read the text of this letter you just need to click on it a couple of times to view it in full screen and then again to zoom in)

I found the Minister’s response broadly positive as he appeared sympathetic to the cause I raised. I set out my response in a further letter to my constituents that you can see below:

I have recently received a letter dated 21March 2012 from Richard Benyon MP, Minister for Natural Environment and Fisheries, regarding the protection of hares. Please find a copy attached. This was sent in response to my letter to the Secretary of State of 8 March, which was sent following your initial email.

In my letter I noted that new legislation has been introduced in Scotland which will protect hares by making it an offence to intentionally or recklessly killing or injure them during their breeding season. I also noted that the objective set in 1995 of doubling springtime population numbers by 2010 was not met, highlighting the need for further action on this issue. I emphasized to the Minister that the hare population is under serious threat in the UK and that I shared your concerns on this issue.

Mr Benyon’s response is broadly positive. While he concedes that at the present time Ministers do not have the ability to create close seasons for animals such as the brown hare without primary legislation, he notes that the Law Commission is currently reviewing wildlife management legislation with a view to making improvements in the future. As the Minister acknowledges that it will be some time before any changes are made law, he indicates that he has written to the relevant organisations to seek views on measures that could be taken to minimise adverse welfare impacts on hares in the meantime.

I hope this response is of use to you. Once again, thank you for taking the time to contact me.

Of course if you would like to comment further on this issue, you can contact me by email on sheila.gilmore.mp@parliament.uk.

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