High Speed Rail (London – West Midlands) Bill

Last night the House of Commons debated and voted in favour of the High Speed Rail (London – West Midlands) Bill. If the bill becomes law, it will give the Government the powers required to construct the first phase of High Speed 2 scheme – the stretch from London to Birmingham. The bill isn’t expected to complete it’s progress through parliament until after the next General Election in May 2015, so this was only the start a very long process. I spoke in support of the bill, and have reproduced my speech in full below. You can read the transcript of the full debate here.

Sheila Gilmore (Edinburgh East) (Lab): Infrastructure projects in the UK appear to follow a pattern, as I have experienced with our trams project in Edinburgh. The trams project, when we consider the size of the spend as a proportion of Edinburgh’s economy, is probably quite similar to HS2 in the UK.

We often start with questions, and this is what happened with the trams in Edinburgh. Why do not we have the things, such as trams, that they have in Europe? Why are we so far behind? Why do we build new housing developments on the edge of the city that do not have good transport links? Why are we suggesting regenerating our riverfront and docks area without putting in good transport? Why have we built a huge office park on the edge of the city when there are not good transport links? Surely they should have gone in first.

Once the project is proposed, it all gets a lot more complicated. At that point, it begins to suffer from almost going into stasis as people say, “No, not that bit,” or, “Yes we want it, but we do not want it to follow that route.” It was interesting that a lot of people in Edinburgh seemed to rediscover how wonderful our bus services were, whereas previously they had not been so complimentary. So that people could say that they did not need trams, the argument became that we had a splendid bus service so the project would be a total waste of money and we could do everything with what we had already.

Sometimes such projects do not go ahead and, sadly, our tram project has been truncated. Trams are running in the city, but they are not yet carrying passengers because they are being tested. Within the next month, they will be fully operational but on a much shorter route than was originally planned. At that point, we end up asking why Edinburgh and the UK are so bad at running such capital projects. It is not always the case that every detail is right, but if we do not go ahead with such investment we will rue it when people turn around and ask why things were not done and why the UK is so pathetic at getting people on board with such projects.

Of course, HS2 is not coming to Scotland at this stage. I would be happy to see something being built from the north, and, of course, if we wanted to start in Edinburgh I would be happy to see that. HS2 will have an advantage for Scotland and Edinburgh. Even with the first phase, journey speeds will be cut by half an hour, and they will be cut by more subsequently. That is important because a city such as Edinburgh wants business and investment. We want people to come to a place where there is development space and a well-educated work force that is ready to be employed. We want to encourage those people to think that they can make those fast links with the rest of the UK and, of course, with London. I would much prefer that linkage to be by train, not by plane, and to stop the unnecessary environmental damage that is caused to a small country such as the UK by people taking internal flights.

There is a strong economic advantage to my city and to Scotland in going ahead with this project. It is not necessarily perfect, but if we are not careful we will end up in the position that we have been in far too often before, when, in the face of all the argumentation, people get cold feet, they retreat, and another 20 years go by before another set of politicians starts to ask why the country does not have a high-speed rail network.

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

The Independence Referendum: why I’m voting ‘No’

“So no, it is not as good as it gets: it is up to us to make it better—within the United Kingdom.”

These were my words in a debate on the future for Scotland which took place at Westminster in February. They were a response to an assertion from an SNP member that supporting a ‘no’ vote in September was a vote for ‘no change’, a vote for ‘this is it then, as good as it gets’.

Many of us on both sides of the Referendum debate want the same ends – greater social justice, less inequality, more quality jobs, and a stronger economy. It’s the best means to that end that we disagree on.
BillboardNow I am well aware that in posting some of my thoughts on this subject I will be in disagreement with some of those who read my newsletter and articles on my website. However this is such an important issue for all of us here in Scotland that I feel it is right to state my views clearly.

I spend time every weekend knocking on doors somewhere in the constituency, and I have been out every day during the Easter Parliamentary break. There is no doubt that the Referendum is becoming a big talking point. There is an appreciation that this is not a decision to be taken lightly, and not one which can be reversed after 4 or 5 years like electing a government.

For many people there is still a lack of ‘answers’ to the questions raised. The currency is a good example. Surprisingly perhaps for a political party which has always wanted independence, the SNP has not come up with a clear answer on this. A few years ago their favoured answer was for an independent Scotland to join the Euro. Recent experience in the Eurozone has made this a less attractive option. Perhaps in response to this, and also to try to reassure people that they could vote for independence with ‘little changing’, the suggested option is using the £ in a currency union with the rest of the UK. I believe that this would create many of the problems currently experienced by Eurozone countries, and an ‘independent’ Scotland would be in the position of having policies on such things as exchange rates and interest rates set from elsewhere, without having the political involvement in decision making. There are some who support a ‘Yes’ vote who agree that such an arrangement is not really ‘independence’. If not a currency union then what?

On this as on many other issues I am often asked how this would work. I have opinions, but I think it is up to those advocating independence to explain what they are proposing. I believe we are better off staying in the UK where we have the advantage of both a currency union and a social and political union.

Some people have asked why a ‘more powers for the Scottish Parliament’ (aka ‘devo-max’ or ‘devo-plus’) isn’t on the ballot paper. I think that would still have left the independence questions unanswered. If, as some predicted, a majority of Scots favoured ‘more devolution’ where does that leave the issue of whether or not Scots want independence? As someone who campaigned for a Scottish Assembly in the 1979 referendum, I am well aware that some people worry that promises of ‘more powers’ may be forgotten in the event of a ‘No’ vote in September. They recall that back then some Conservatives in particular said ‘vote against this proposal and we will come back with a better one’, which of course didn’t then happen in the 1980s. But much has changed since then. Labour’s manifesto in 1997 promised a referendum on a Scottish Parliament and one took place within 5 months of the General Election. The Parliament was up and running by 1999.

Additional powers to vary income tax rates and borrowing powers for investment aren’t just promised but are already legislated for in the Scotland Act 2012, with an implementation date of 2016. The Scottish Labour Party at our recent conference agreed plans for further tax rate variation and also for the devolution of aspects of social security spending which can create real and practical change. One example is the devolution of the money currently spent on housing benefit so that councils in Scotland can have both the existing grant funding towards building affordable homes and the money spent on subsidising rents under their control. In every £20 of public spending going on helping people who need affordable homes, £19 currently goes on housing benefit (much of it to private landlords) and £1 goes on building homes. At present the Scottish Government controls the £1, but devolution of housing benefit would give all £20 to the Scottish Government and from it to local councils. This is what we mean by ‘powers for a purpose’, something which can bring real change. (I’ve written more about this in a recent essay for the Scottish Fabians: A Pragmatic Vision for a Progressive Scotland)

Many promises are made by the Scottish Government that independence can bring a lower pension age than the rest of the UK, better pensions, improved social security benefits, high quality educational and health services, while at the same time saying that income tax would not rise. The comparison is often made to the ‘Nordic’ countries. The missing element of these comparisons is the ‘T’ word which is ‘tax’. Countries like Norway and Sweden have considerably higher levels of personal taxation within a political and civic culture which accepts the social contract that in return there are high quality public services. Much is also made of the Oil Fund set up by the Norwegian Government for investment. In the UK oil revenues have been used to fund ongoing services (and thus assist in keeping tax rates down). While an Oil Fund may be a good idea, we shouldn’t ignore the fact that using oil revenues for a Fund would have an impact on spending on public services, unless taxes rise.

In practice we have already seen some of the results of ignoring the debate about how we as a society pay for the services we need, as well as those we would like in addition. Since 1999 no administration in Scotland has used the existing tax varying powers. From 1999 to 2007 funding to the Scottish Government increased substantially so the need for additional funding was not so pressing. But even in these more straightened times there has been no attempt to ask the people of Scotland whether they would like this power to be used. For example it could be used to raise funds to improve social care. Many elderly people and their families discover that the ‘free personal care’ on offer consists of 15 minute visits, doing ‘personal care’ only such as washing, dressing, and some food preparation. Long gone are the ‘home helps’ who assisted with shopping and housework and got to know those they ‘helped’ (unless you pay for a private service). Councils, faced with the council tax freeze, and increased demand for social care, have had to restrict eligibility and attempt to cut costs by tendering services out to private firms who are ‘cheaper’ because they offer poorer terms and conditions. That isn’t an argument for ending ‘free personal care’ but it is an argument for having a proper debate about what the real cost of providing care is in an ageing society.

Given that these are issues we face now I don’t think it is good enough simply to assert that by voting for independence, all these problems are solved.

These are just some of the issues people are bringing up when I meet them. I’m happy to discuss these or any other issues further in person or by email or letter.
UKOK
I’m voting ‘No’ because I believe Scotland benefits from the pooling and sharing of resources in the UK. When politicians say what their findings are from the doorstep there is sometimes a cynical response of ‘well they would say that’. But I find my views are shared by many of those to whom I speak.

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Press Release: MP sends Minister speech before debate on ‘Fit for Work’ test statistics

  • Debate on Work Capability Assessment reconsideration statistics at 4.30pm on Wednesday 9 April 2014
  • Sheila Gilmore’s speech sent to Minister responsible this afternoon
  • Minister can have no excuses for not answering questions

In advance of a debate on ‘Fit for Work’ test statistics , Work and Pensions Select Committee member Sheila Gilmore today took the unusual step of emailing an advance copy of her speech to the Minister due to respond, Mike Penning.

Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)provides support for people who cannot work due to a health condition or disability. Since it replaced Incapacity Benefit in 2008, data from the Department for Work and Pensions has shown that, of all claimants declared as ‘Fit for Work’, one in ten are subsequently awarded ESA after a formal appeal.

In her speech Sheila Gilmore will argue that the number of Fit for Work decisions and successful appeals have been artificially suppressed. This is because figures that supposedly showed the number of people awarded benefit immediately after assessment and before ANY appeals actually already took into account the results of informal appeals against refusals.

In February the Chair of the UK Statistics Authority, Sir Andrew Dilnot, described these statistics as ‘potentially misleading’ and called into question their status as ‘national statistics’.

Sheila Gilmore said:

Today I have taken the unusual step of emailing a copy of my speech for an upcoming debate to Mike Penning, the Minister due to speak for the Government. Now he can have no excuse for not answering the important questions I intend to put to him.

Commenting on the issues raised in her speech, Sheila Gilmore said:

I regularly meet sick and disabled people who are unable to work but who have been declared fit to do so following a flawed ESA assessment.

Until recently we thought that the assessment was getting about one in ten fit for work decisions wrong – far too many in most people’s eyes – but now we know the Government have been fiddling the figures, the reality could be much much worse.

Ministers had led us to believe they were publishing figures that showed the number of people awarded benefit immediately after assessment and before ANY appeals. It now turns out that informal appeals to officials – as opposed to formal ones to judges – were being included in the figures.

In my debate I’m going to call on the Minister to publish more comprehensive statistics so we know, once and for all, how many decisions this test is getting wrong.

This should push Iain Duncan Smith to fix the test and reduce the number of incorrect decisions, rather than fixing the figures to downplay the problem.

The key section of Sheila Gilmore’s speech reads:

I acknowledge this is quite a hard argument to follow so let’s say, hypothetically, 100 people claim ESA. We are initially told that 50 are awarded benefit and 50 are declared Fit for Work. We are then told that 25 of this latter group successfully appeal their decision, so we can say that the assessment process is getting one in four decisions wrong.

What if we then found out that 25 of the 50 who were initially awarded ESA only got benefit following an informal appeal to a civil servant? We would have to say that the assessment process was getting one in two decisions wrong – a level of performance significantly worse than previously thought.

ENDS

Notes to Editors:

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

April 2014 Newsletter

Sheila Gilmore MP HeaderWestminster report

Spring in St James' ParkSpring is here and politicians’ minds turn to…… Elections! Normally at this stage of the political cycle we would be in a middle of a ‘will he/won’t he’ media frenzy about a possible General Election. The introduction of a five year fixed term Parliament has put paid to that. The downside is that it already feels that Parliament is becalmed, with much Parliamentary time taken up either with relatively uncontroversial legislation or with ‘general’ debates. Last year’s Queen’s Speech was thin in content, and the assumption is that the same will happen this June, not least because it will be followed by a short Parliamentary session ending around this time next year. That, of course, should not be mistaken for Government not governing, because there is plenty of government action going on, and plenty for Select Committees to monitor.

We’ve All Got Budgets George
BudgetIn recent years Chancellors have been criticised for ‘leaking’ so much of the Budget that the main event is a bit of a bore.  This year Osborne promised a ‘rabbit’ out of his red box.  This proved to be proposals on pensions .  So much of a rabbit some are worried that an almost throwaway proposal in a Budget, sketched out on the back of the proverbial envelope, may have unintended consequences for pensions, savings and pensioner incomes long into the future.  Others have hailed the freedom the proposals give to people to spend ‘their own money’.  It will take some time to find who is right.  I can’t help but remember that the last Government which ‘freed up’ people in the pensions field was in the 1980s.   Then people were given the freedom to opt out of the state earning related pension scheme (SERPS)  and encouraged to take up private pensions instead.  I think it is agreed by most observers that this led to considerable pensions mis-selling, and many people not paying into a pension at all.  I would be interested to hear your views.

Following the Budget there are four days of budget debates and I spoke on the first day this year.

Dodgy Jobs Statistics
At the start of the month the UK Statistics Authority upheld yet another complaint from me regarding the use of statistics by the Department for Work and Pensions – the fourth in the last year. This followed a Work and Pensions Select Committee hearing in November 2013 during which senior civil servant Neil Couling quoted unpublished data to defend the Government’s Work Programme. Without prior access to the data, it was difficult for my committee colleagues and I to hold Mr Couling – and the Ministers to whom he reports – to account, something the chair of UKSA Sir Andrew Dilnot described as ‘a matter of regret’. This story was picked up by the Huffington Post.

Dodgy Jobs Websites
C4newsI then appeared on Channel 4 News to discuss claims that more than 11,000 positions currently advertised on the Government’s Universal Jobmatch website may be bogus. On top of that Channel 4 had shown that as many as one third of the jobs advertised were duplicates or in ‘self employed’ opportunities such as catalogue distribution where the first thing you have to do is pay £150 up front to get started. In a debate last year I likened this to the unemployed in the 1930s going on the road as brush sellers. My colleagues and I have been flagging this up for some time but it was good to get Channel 4 highlighting this.

In preparation for the rollout of Universal Credit, existing Jobseekers Allowance claimants have been required to use the site since March 2013, or face having their benefits stopped. I made the point that people shouldn’t have to waste their time applying for jobs that don’t exist, and that DWP must get better at identifying and deleting suspicious adverts. The trouble is that the contract they entered into didn’t include this kind of regular monitoring.

Personal Independence Payment
On 18 March the DWP Select Committee published a report on Personal Independence Payment, which replaces Disability Living Allowance for people of working age, and is intended to help with the additional costs of living with a disability. The main issue our report highlighted is the long delays – sometimes up to six months – people are facing before they are given a decision on whether or not they qualify for support. This is driving vulnerable people to real financial and emotional hardship, something I emphasised in an article for Progress. Our committee also criticised Iain Duncan Smith and Tory Chairman Grant Shapps for using statistics to promote ‘negative views’ of disabled people, something that was picked up by Political Scrapbook.

Bedroom Tax
As part of a feature for the House Magazine I participated in an email exchange with Tory MP Stephen Mosley on the Bedroom Tax. This policy reduces a claimant’s Housing Benefit award by around £14 for every spare room they have. Stephen argued that this simply mirrored changes made by the previous Labour Government to Housing Benefit in private rented sector, but he failed to acknowledge that this only applied to new tenancies – it wasn’t applied retrospectively as the Bedroom Tax is. In response I emphasised that even if tenants wanted to downsize, they can’t due to the lack of affordable housing, and the policy could well end up costing more overall than it saves.

Housing
The Scottish Fabians have published a pamphlet called ‘A Pragmatic Vision for a Progressive Scotland’, which contains a series of essays from Scottish Labour MPs on what a new offer from our party might look like.

598tenementsI took the opportunity to highlight the current shortage of affordable housing, which is forcing people on low incomes into the private rented sector, where rents are expensive, and can only be paid for with help from Housing Benefit. As a result only £1 of every £20 spent by Government on housing goes on actually building homes, while £19 goes on subsidising rents. I set out various ideas about how we might redress the balance, using Edinburgh as an example.

High Speed Two
On 17 March the new Chairman of HS2, Sir David Higgins, published his review of the project. HS2 offers the prospect of faster journeys between Edinburgh and England’s big cities, which would make our city a more attractive place to do business and create jobs. In the long term it could also allow rail to compete with air travel, reducing the number of short-haul flights and carbon emissions as a result. The first phase of the line to Birmingham is due to open in 2026, with trains then travelling at conventional speeds to Scotland. I welcomed Sir David’s report as it suggests extending the line to Crewe by 2027, and completing the whole project by 2030 – three years earlier than previously planned.

Social Care
Social Care is devolved to the Scottish Parliament and so I don’t normally get involved in debates on the issue at Westminster (although the issues the rest of the UK face are very similar to those in Scotland). However I have for some time been campaigning for a change in the law so people in one country of the UK can freely move to another, safe in the knowledge that any care package they receive from their current local authority will move with them – something that isn’t guaranteed at present. Earlier this month the Care Bill went through its Report Stage in the House of Commons and I proposed an amendment to address this problem – you can read my speech here. Although the Government rejected this, the Minister committed to bring forward a set of principles by November that would deal with this issue.

Youth Jobs Guarantee
Too many young people in Scotland are struggling to find work and are not seeing any economic recovery at all, something parents in Edinburgh East know all too well. The number of young people in the UK aged 18-24 claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance for over a year has doubled from 28,300 in May 2010 to 56,100 today. Being out of work is demoralising for anyone, but when you can’t get your first step into the working world the effect on young people can be very harmful.

JobsGuaranteeI’d like to see the next government build on the success of the Future Jobs Fund and work with the private and voluntary sectors to ensure that young jobseekers, who have been on benefit for 12 months or more, get a chance to work. My colleagues and I would ensure adults aged 25 or over claiming benefits for more than 24 months would also be included in the scheme. Government could cover a portion of training and admin costs in addition to wages and employee’s national insurance. See more on my website.

Badger Cull
Badger598A large number of constituents have contacted me about the Badger Cull. There is now considerable evidence that it has not actually worked – leaving aside the cruelty involved in the process. Another debate on this took place on Thursday 13th March in the House of Commons. There was strong cross party support for ending the cull and looking more energetically at the alternative of vaccination. Despite the overwhelming vote for this (albeit Government ministers and many of their backbenchers were ‘not present’ it seems the Government is again going to ignore this and are likely to be going ahead with more culling in the near future.

Constituency Report

Student accommodation
Southside residents and I are relieved Development Management Sub-committee members agreed with officers and refused the application for student accommodation at Lutton Court. With plans for further student accommodation in this area this application has been a much needed test of the Council’s own policies in relation to student numbers.

Local residents made an excellent address to members explaining the impact high student numbers can have on local communities. They appealed to planners and the University to manage the concentration of the student population in this part of the city. Recognising the vitality and economic benefit students bring to our city, residents called for planners to ensure student populations revitalise parts of Edinburgh where the council regeneration is ongoing.

We must now see Lutton Court put to good use. I’d like to see the council work with partners to encourage different buyers to come forward. Residents have their own ideas about future use and said they would welcome mews type homes to satisfy demand for family housing in the Southside.

Meadow_Lane

And more blocks could be in the pipeline –
Last month I wrote of plans from Unite at the Homebase site. While I hope it is clear that plans for further student accommodation in this area will not be welcome, details of three more blocks have been published in the Council’s weekly lists:

  • Meadow Lane (14/00884/PAN). This application is at the ‘PAN’ stage which is a 12 week consultation conducted by the developer. A public exhibition will be held 4.30pm-7.30pm on 23rd & 24th April at David Hume Tower Conference Room.
  • Lothian Street (14/00731/FUL). A much smaller development opposite Potterrow, this proposed conversion of a care home is for 11 studios. Submit comments by 4th April using reference number 14/00731/FUL on the Council’s planning portal.
  • Stanley Place (14/00877/FUL). Proposed demolition of garages and construction of 100 studios next to the East Coast Main Line. Residential proposals at this site were refused at site in 2009. Submit comments by 12th April using reference number 14/00877/FUL on the Council’s planning portal.

Craigmillar Town Centre regeneration consultation begins
CraigmillarTCconsultationParc has now started its consultation on plans for Craigmillar Town Centre. With plans for a new high school, retail superstore and affordable housing to be fine tuned, now is the time for residents to have their say. An exhibition on the plans was held today (Thursday, 27th March) but the plans and details of how to respond are available on Parc’s website. Let me know your thoughts as I’d be keen to incorporate these into my own response.

Craigmillar Police Station stays open… for now
SaveOurStationsIn autumn 2013 Police Scotland announced plans to close front desks at ten stations across Edinburgh and cut opening hours at seven more as part of its £4.2 million cost-cutting plan. Portobello has seen its hours cut and Craigmillar residents were told that services would move to the new East Neighbourhood Centre. With most of the closures taking place on 3rd March a bit of a mystery remains about the situation in Craigmillar. As I told the Evening News I’m relieved Craigmillar station is still open (for now). However, I have not been told when the promised move to the new East Neighbourhood Hub will take place with plans still being discussed. Local officers work really hard to get the best results for Craigmillar and I can imagine it is difficult working with such uncertainty.

Events in Parks Response
Last month I provided details of the Events in Parks Manifesto consultation. You can now read my submission on my website.

Meadows to Innocent Railway cycle route
In my December update I gave details of the consultation to improve the Meadows-Innocent Railway cycle link to enhance the safety of this key part of the National Cycle Network. It is expected that the proposals will be made available to the public the week beginning 7 April here.

50th Craigmillar Festival: Volunteers Needed
Volunteers are needed to help organise the Craigmillar Fun Day on 28th June. If you can help make this 50th fun day one to remember please head along to the volunteer meeting on Thursday 3rd April at 6.30pm at The White House. Help is required making costumes, flags & musical instruments for the parade, as well as running activities on the day. If you can’t make it, get in touch on 0780 400 6357 or CFFDC@hotmail.com.

Dates for your Diary
Thursday 3 April 2014 – Understanding Leith Public Meeting: Census 2011 Results Information and Discussion – Bun-sgoil Taobh na Pairce (Parkside Primary School) 139B Bonnington Road – Tour of the School at 6.15 pm, Sign-in and refreshments from 6.45pm

Wednesday 23rd & Thursday 24th April – Meadow Lane Student Accommodation PAN – 4.30pm-7.30pm – David Hume Tower Conference Room

Pedal on Parliament – Saturday the 26th April 2014
Last year I joined 4000 cyclists who pedalled on the Scottish Parliament calling for a more cycle-friendly Scotland. POPers will maintain their momentum and meet again for the third time on 26th April.

The main ride gathers at the Meadows from 11:30am for a 12 noon start. The route will be no more than 1.5 miles and the pace will be slow enough for even the littlest legs, ending at the Scottish Parliament building for speeches. You can see the route on the POP website. Feeder rides are also being planned, including one starting in Portobello from 10.00am at Portobello Swimming Baths.

Craigmillar Books for Babies
Saturday Rhymetimes at Craigmillar Library:

  • Saturday 26th April – How Does Your Garden Grow? – 11.00am-12.00pm
  • Saturday 31st May – 16th Birthday Celebration-Songs, stories and birthday cake. Gift book for every child! For mums, dads, carers and children under 4 – 11.00am-12.00pm
facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Press release: The SNP are standing up for energy companies – not hard working Scots

Edinburgh East MP Sheila Gilmore has condemned the SNP for failing to vote for Labour’s energy price freeze in the House of Commons on Wednesday. The vote, which would have introduced an energy price freeze, was not supported by SNP and Tory MPs.

Labour’s energy price freeze would save every Scottish household £120 and give Scottish families and businesses a total saving of £500 million.

The vote came a day after Scottish Labour revealed that Alex Salmond and the Scottish Government have never asked the big six energy companies to freeze bills for Scots and that the SNP Scottish Government haven’t raised rising household energy prices with the big six energy companies in over two years.

Commenting following the vote, Sheila Gilmore MP said:

On Wednesday the SNP showed whose side they are on – lining up with the big energy companies against the people of Scotland. It’s clear now that the SNP stand up for energy companies, not Scottish consumers.

Labour would introduce an energy price freeze and would reform the market to make sure that savings made by energy companies are permanently passed on to consumers. That isn’t happening right now. Our price freeze would save every Scottish household £120 a year, and would give Scottish families and businesses a total saving of £500 million.

The SNP have had many opportunities to tackle the energy companies about rising energy prices. But we know that they have never discussed a price freeze with them, the First Minister hasn’t raised the issue of rising bills for over two years and the Scottish Government’s own Energy Minister hasn’t raised any concerns in writing about energy prices.

ENDS

Notes to Editors

Documents obtained by Labour through Freedom of Information show that:

  • Alex Salmond has failed to request any of the Big Six freeze their energy prices.
  • The First Minister has not raised the important issue of household energy bills in correspondence with any of the Big Six for over two years.
  • Formal minutes from the Scottish Government’s Scottish Energy Advisory Board show that there has been no recorded discussion of household energy bills in over two years
  • The Scottish Government’s Energy Minister, Fergus Ewing MSP, has not raised any concerns in writing with the energy companies about household energy prices. He has previously sided with Energy UK and the Tories in calling an energy price freeze “completely unworkable” and suggesting it could lead to blackouts.
  • While Alex Salmond has met representatives of the big six eight times since 2010, he has only met consumer groups once.

The SNP Record on Labour’s Energy Freeze

Scotland and Labour’s Energy Price Freeze

  • Labour’s energy freeze would save families an average of £120.
  • Scottish households and businesses stand to gain by £500m with Labour’s energy price freeze.

For more information please contact Matt Brennan, Parliamentary Assistant to Sheila Gilmore MP, on 020 7219 7062, 07742 986 513 or matthew.brennan@parliament.uk.

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail