Welcome to my Parliamentary update for July 2011.
It has been a busy month at Westminster and in the constituency. I trailed a few stories last month that I had hoped to cover this month but the packed Parliamentary timetable has held up my attempts to promote a 10 Minute Rule Bill on developer responsibilities. I should be able to push this forward after the summer recess. Also, my 100 apprenticeships in 100 days campaign is progressing but slower than I had hoped. Again, I will update you on these as they progress. Finally, at the end of July I was part of a Parliamentary humanitarian delegation to Gaza, Palestine. I will use my August eNewsletter to do a Gaza Special. In the meantime, I hope you are having a good summer…..
The Scotland Bill passed all stages of the House of Commons and has now been sent to the Lords for their deliberations. The legislation will boost the powers of the Scottish Parliament and will give Holyrood ministers and additional £12bn of financial powers. The bill will be sent to the House of Lords for approval after being given an unopposed third reading in the Commons. The legislation has been described as the largest single transfer of fiscal power from Westminster in the history of the United Kingdom. Under the legislation, Holyrood will get more powers including the ability to set rates of income tax and control over drink-drive, speeding and airgun legislation.
Progress of the Bill can be viewed here http://services.parliament.uk/bills/2010-11/scotland.html
I am delighted that News Corporation has withdrawn its BSkyB bid and that News International are being held to account for their awful crimes.
It is a victory for ordinary people, including the 800 people in Edinburgh South who emailed me because you were appalled by the revelations of the phone hacking scandal and the failure of News International to take responsibility. What we all seek is higher standards in the media, in the police, and of course in politics. Nobody should exercise power without responsibility.
All this has dominated the Parliament for the weeks leading up to the summer recess. After intense pressure the Government finally relented on the need for a judicial review on phone hacking and the call for the BSkyB bid to be withdrawn in the light of public opinion.
For too long, political leaders have been too concerned about what people in the press would think and too fearful of speaking out about these issues.
We must all bear responsibility for that. We all want full justice for the victims of phone hacking and their families but we must also see higher standards across the whole of the media, the police and politics.
We have a real chance to change things here and we must take it.
In the Select Committees I am a Member of:
In Business, Innovation and Skills Select Committee
HIGHER EDUCATION INQUIRY – The Committee had a long evidence session with David Willets MP, Minister for Higher Education and Simon Hughes MP, special Advocate for Access to Education. The session focussed on the impact of the trebling of tuition fees in England on young people over the UK. The verbal evidence from this important meeting can be accessed here http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201012/cmselect/cmbis/uc885-viii/uc88501.htm
GROCERY CODE ADJUDICATOR– The Committee called for changes to the Bill creating an adjudicator for disputes between suppliers and retailers under the Grocery Code. Among other things, the committee calls for the powers to fine to be made clear on the face of the Bill, and also wants changes to allow indirect suppliers such as farmers and trade associations – and whistleblowers – to be able to provide the evidence that would spark an investigation by the adjudicator.
REPORTS ON EXPORTS TO CHINA – The Committee Report broadly welcomes the Government’s strategy for engagement with China and acknowledges the recent improvements in the UK/China trading relationship. However, the Report concludes the UK’s performance continues to lag behind countries such as Germany in terms of exporting to China and examines the role of UK Trade & Industry (UKTI)in closing the gap.
PUB COMPANIES INQUIRY – The inquiry will examine the recommendations made by our predecessor Committee in March 2010. Of particular interest to us is whether the problems raised in the Parliamentary inquiries of 2004, 2009 and 2010 have been resolved or whether statutory regulation is required to protect lessees from the leasesimposed on them bylarge pub companies such as Punch and Enterprise Inns.
The work of the Committee can be found here:
In Environment Select Committee
REPORTS ON BUDGET 2011 AND ENVIRONMENTAL TAXES – The Committee published the report to explore the principles of environmental taxes. The aim was to set out some foundations for future inquiries on environmental taxation and Budgets. We examined the application of these principles for transport taxes in particular, the Carbon Floor Price, and whether the Budget and Plan for Growth further the green economy agenda.
The Green Investment Bank: Government Response to the Committee’s Second Report of Session 2010-12 – The Environmental Audit Committee reported on The Green Investment Bank. On 23 March the Government set out details of the Bank’s capitalisation and borrowing powers in Budget 2011, and on 24 May 2011 the Government published an update on the design of the Bank. The Government response to the Committee’s Report was received on 13 July 2011. I have been pressing incessantly for the Green Investment Bank to be located in Edinburgh and also that it should be a proper bank for borrowing purposes. The Government have provided no guidance on this as yet.
The impact of UK overseas aid on environmental protection and climate change adaptation and mitigation – This report examined the impact that the UK’s overseas aid has on the environment of other countries who receive the aid, and whether there should be environmental conditions on aid and whether aid should be used for environmental purposes.
You can keep up to date with the Committee here:
Keep up to date with everything that I am doing in Parliament at http://www.theyworkforyou.com/mp/ian_murray/edinburgh_south
Top 3 Lobby Correspondences
Every month I will include the top 3 issues that constituents have contacted me about. If you would like to see my responses, please do not hesitate to get in touch.
- 1. News International takeover of BSKYB.
- 2. Ban wild animals in circuses.
- 3. Food prices and food commodity speculation.
Childline Service Edinburgh
I have been working with many Childline volunteers over the last month to try and prevent the closure of the Childline base in Edinburgh. Childline is a fantastic service and has provided a lifeline for many children since its inception. The loss of the Edinburgh base is a big blow in itself but the loss of 100 highly trained volunteers in Edinburgh is a bigger blow. The volunteers throw their emotional heart and soul into the service and they feel frustrated and aggrieved that the local service is to close. I have been pressing Childline to try and find an alternative for the volunteers. We shall wait and see what transpires.
National Transplant Week
National Transplant Week was in July and I thought I would take the opportunity to ask you to consider joining the NHS Organ Donor Register, which has replaced the old donor card system.
At the moment only 29% of people have joined the register, even though 96% would take an organ if they needed one. I feel that it is important that we MPs set an example on this issue by joining the register and discussing our wishes with our families. I appreciate that this would be a difficult decision for many people but if you feel that it would be appropriate for you please consider the issue seriously. If you would like to join the register then you can do so in minutes by visiting www.organdonation.nhs.uk or calling 0300 123 23 23.
A related issue was brought to the public attention by a girl called Alice Pyne who is dying from Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. A stem cell donor was not found in time for her and she published a blog of all the things she would like to do before she becomes too ill. She is encouraging as many people as possible to hear her story and join the Anthony Nolan Trust to help with stem cell research. I’m calling on young men (aged 18-30) in Edinburgh South to do something special this summer. I’m one of a number of MPs who have pledged to help recruit this important group to join the Anthony Nolan Stem Cell Register and have the chance to save the lives of people with blood cancer. At the moment, though the register helps save many lives, only half those asking for help get the match they need.
Currently there is a shortage of young male donors on the bone marrow donor register, despite them providing 80% of the donations made. My challenge is to find 10 men who might help. If you can support this life saving initiative thanks in advance. I look forward to hearing from you!
Tea Time for Change
Oxfam campaigners from Edinburgh and Glasgow travelled down to London in July to take part in the mass lobby of parliament for fairer taxes and better aid – ‘Tea Time for Change’. Edinburgh Campaigners met with me andasked them for my support for:
- Keep up the good work on quantity and quality of aid. The UK government have committed to ring-fence spending on international aid and have set out a timetable to reach the target of 0.7% of GNI by 2013. It is vital this promise is kept.
- Stop tax dodging and shine a light on the payments companies make to governments. This year, there are urgent opportunities for the UK government to press for more corporate transparency through UK legislation, at the European Union, and at the G20 meeting in November. We want to make sure that they seize these chances and enable poor communities to free themselves from poverty by raising funds for development from their own resources.
- Champion innovative, effective and fair financing for development We want to see the UK government championing a Financial Transaction Tax (Robin Hood Tax) at the G20.
Famine in East Africa – Give a Day’s Pay Campaign
There are currently more than 10 million people across Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and the Republic of South Sudan who are in desperate need of food, water and emergency healthcare. It has been reported that 250 people are dying needlessly every day because they aren’t receiving the help they need. The Disasters Emergency Committee has already launched an urgent appeal to provide the aid that is desperately required in east Africa.
The situation is deeply distressing and that’s why I’m committed to giving the equivalent of one day’s pay to the appeal. If you can give anything at all it would go a long way to alleviating some of the suffering in the region.
Online donations to the appeal can be made here www.donate.bt.com/DEC/dec_form_eaca.html?p_form_id=DEC01
LOCAL ISSUES – PLANNING
My postbag has been full of issues around local planning applications in July.
Scottish Water – Alnwickhill and Buckstone
Residents in Alnwickhill and Buckstone will be aware of Scottish Water’s plans to sell-off the land at the Alnwickhill and Fairmilehead sites. The Alnwickhill site is currently going through a 12 week consultation process prior to any planning application to determine if a residential development would be appropriate. The plans are here http://www.scottishwater.co.uk/portal/page/portal/SWE_PGP_INVESTMENT/SWE_PGE_INVESTMENT/WHAT_CONSULT_ALNWI.
The Fairmilehead proposals are slightly further advanced as the Council have approved in principle the application for a residential development of 300 houses. The detailed planning application will come in due course and the report can be viewed here. http://www.scottishwater.co.uk/portal/page/portal/SWE_PGP_INVESTMENT/SWE_PGE_INVESTMENT/WHAT_CONSULT_FMH.
Miller Homes have submitted a planning application to build up to 20 bespoke homes on the Greenbelt at Winton Drive. Local residents are pretty much against the development and it is little wonder. The Edinburgh City Local Plan that was only adopted in 2010, retained the designation of this area as Greenbelt. The developers have decided to challenge this by putting in a planning application that is likely to be rejected by the Council. The developers will then appeal the decision to the Scottish Government and it is likely to be granted given the decision by the Reporters to allow 100 homes on the Greenbelt at Burdiehouse that was also kept as Greenbelt in the Local Plan.
The Scottish Government Reporters have approved the building of 100 houses on the Greenbelt site at Burdiehouse Road. This site was redesignated as Greenbelt in the recently adopted Edinburgh City Local Plan but the developers applied for planning permission shortly afterwards that the Council refused. The developers then appealed and were granted the permission on appeal. This is very similar to the Winton Drive application and has created a dangerous precedent for all designated Greenbelt in the area.
Summer Coffee Mornings
I’m currently on a constituency wide summer tour to meet constituents and assist with any issues you wish to raise. Many attendees have just wanted to say hello and ask questions on a vast array of topics. It has been a hugely popular tour and apologies for the areas we have not yet been able to get to. The success of the tour has resulted in the addition of more dates to get to as many constituents as I can. Thanksto everyone who has either attended or sent in return sheets.
Mark Wright Trust – Sainsbury’s
Sainsbury’s at Cameron Toll have chosen the Mark Wright Project Centre www.themarkwrightproject.co.uk as the charity they are sponsoring for 2011/2012. The staff hope to raise £10,000 for the project and launched the campaign at Sainsbury’s in July. The Mark Wright Project Centre is specifically designed to provide support to ex-Service personnel, their partners and families in accessing professional and specialised advice. It was set-up by the family of Corporal Mark Wright, a paratrooper in the 3rd Battalion Parachute Regiment, who was killed defusing a minefield in Southern Afghanistan. Mark was awarded the George Cross for his acts of bravery.
Craigour Primary School – “Liam and the Alien”
Congratulations to all the P6 pupils at the school who had their book, “Liam and the Alien” published last month. It’s a wonderful achievement for the class, their teacher Mrs Avern and the Headteacher Mrs Cameron. The project was in conjunction with the South Edinburgh Healthy Living Initiative, Pencilling Creative Ideas, and was illustrated by students at the Edinburgh College of Art. The children’s book is available from Blackwell’s at £5.99 and from the school. If you fancy a really good book for children please purchase a copy and give the school some much needed funds.
UPCOMING EVENT – “Moving Planet Event” – 24 September 2011
The “Moving Planet” event is a march/cycle and rally in Edinburgh to mark the Global Day of Climate Action on Saturday 24th September. Come on foot, come on bike, come and be part of a global rally to demand action on climate change from world leaders.
The day of action is called by the global NGO 350.org to demand a sustainable energy future for a world below 350 parts per million of carbon dioxide, which is what scientists consider the safe upper limit of CO2 in the atmosphere.
The event coincides with the ‘world car-free day’ and also aims to put pressure on our global leaders in advance of the UN Climate Summit in Durban, South Africa, at the end of November.
The assembly point is outside the City Chambers on High Street at 11:30 (for 12:00 start). There will also be speeches outside Holyrood by 13:45.
For more information: http://www.moving-planet.org/events/uk/edinburgh/311
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