Ian honours the ‘Untold Stories’ of the Holocaust by signing Book of Commitment

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Today Ian pledged his commitment to Holocaust Memorial Day by signing a Book of Commitment in the House of Commons to honour those who perished in the Holocaust.

With 27th January marking the 66th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi concentration and extermination camp, Auschwitz-Birkenau, the Holocaust Educational Trust placed a Book of Commitment in the House of Commons to give MPs the opportunity to remember those who were persecuted and murdered during the Holocaust – and to support the sharing and safeguarding of ‘Untold Stories’, learning from survivors’ experiences to help create a future free from hatred and prejudice. In doing so, Ian paid tribute to those remarkable individuals who survived the appalling events of the Holocaust and have since dedicated their lives to educating younger generations about the dangers of allowing persecution and intolerance to take hold in society.

On and around Holocaust Memorial Day, schools, local communities and faith groups from across the UK will join together to mark Holocaust Memorial Day. Thousands of events are being held across the country to commemorate all those who suffered at the hands of the Nazis during the Holocaust and in subsequent genocides. The aim of the day is to motivate people – individually and collectively, to ensure that the horrendous crimes, racism and victimisation committed during the Holocaust are neither forgotten nor repeated.

Ian said: “In the tenth year of its commemoration in the UK, Holocaust Memorial Day 2011 marks the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau. As antisemitism, racism and prejudice are still present in our society, learning from the extraordinary ‘Untold Stories’ of those who survived gives us the opportunity to reflect on the evil that was perpetrated during the Holocaust and other genocides and pledge to create a brighter future.”

Karen Pollock, Chief Executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, said: “We are delighted that Ian is supporting Holocaust Memorial Day. As the number of survivors dwindles, remembering the Holocaust and passing on their testimony is more crucial than ever. Reflecting on ‘Untold Stories’ helps give back voices to those who were persecuted and reinforces the contemporary lessons that can be learnt from this dark period in our history.”

Ian joins calls for vote to tackle legal loan sharking

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Ian today added his name to a cross-party initiative calling on the Government to give MPs the chance to vote on capping the cost of credit in the high-interest lending market.

Speaking before a meeting of the Backbench Business Committee, which will decide whether the vote will go before Parliament, Ian said:

“I’m joining other MPs from across the House in saying that it’s time for action to tackle the problems caused by legal loan sharking. We want Parliament to have a vote on capping the total cost of borrowing, in order to protect the poorest consumers in xx and around the country. Communities across Britain, including Edinburgh South, are being targeted by unscrupulous lenders who are legally allowed to charge whatever they want for credit. The case for introducing caps on the total cost of credit is now unanswerable – that’s why we are determined that Parliament should have its say on the matter.”

Ian is one of a growing group of cross-party backbench MPs supporting attempts to regulate high-interest unsecured lending, and the Consumer Credit (Regulation and Advice) Bill to become law. This initiative has been led by Labour MPs concerned that the government’s Consumer Credit Review was focused only on regulating credit and store cards, and not payday, doorstep and hire purchase lending.

Ian stands up for poorest consumers in South Edinburgh

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Ian recently attended a rally in Parliament in order to draw attention to the unfair practices of payday and doorstep lenders in Edinburgh. At the meeting, held as part of an ongoing campaign led by Labour MPs, Compass, Citizens UK, the Co-Op and the Better Banking coalition, Ian called on the government to support legislation which would put a cap on the total cost of credit that can be charged, give powers to local authorities to limit the number of credit agencies on high streets, and widen access to credit unions and debt advice services.

Ian said: “Many constituents have come to my surgeries after being locked into cycles of debt by payday and doorstep lenders. That’s why I’m supporting this campaign – the government has a duty to intervene in order to prevent the most vulnerable people in South Edinburgh from being exploited by unscrupulous lending practices. I have added my name to a growing list of MPs, consumer groups and debt advice experts, all of whom are demanding that action is taken.”

The rally took place from 7pm to 9pm in House of Commons Committee Room 5 on Tuesday 7th December 2010. Speakers included Martin Lewis of MoneySavingExperts.com, Gavin Hayes of Compass, Maurice Glasman of Citizens UK and Stella Creasy MP.

SNOW, SNOW, and more SNOW!

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No-one in Edinburgh it seems can remember anything like it – the snow began as forecast on the night of Friday 26th November – very early in the year for this part of the country. By Saturday Edinburgh looked gorgeous, with 3-4 inches and bright skies. But then it just kept coming.

By Monday 29th it was really difficult to get around, with traffic struggling and bus schedules seriously disrupted. My staff managed to get in to open the office but I told them to leave early if it looked as if it would be difficult to get home again.

By Wednesday it became clear that the situation was quite serious. The office was receiving more and more calls from people in the higher, southern parts of the constituency who were unable to get out because there had been no gritting or clearing of any residential streets; the council concentrated on doing only the category A roads, ie the main bus routes, but with snow falling all week, no other streets were cleared. Roz, John and Paul fielded call after call from angry and frustrated constituents, unable to get out for shopping, for hospital appointments, or even to try to clear the snow from their front paths.

On Friday, having got back to Edinburgh with considerable difficulty, I went out with my colleague from the Labour Group of the Council, Norma Hart, to Gracemount Avenue and The Murrays to see for myself the difficulties people there were experiencing. We went in to the estates on foot – the only way! – and talked to several constituents who all told the same story of repeated calls to the council only to be told that the gritters and ploughs were working round the clock on keeping the bus routes open. The residential streets are all category C, and so far no streets in that category had been cleared. Amonsgt others we met a man who had had heart and lung surgery earlier this year, digging his car out in order to try and get to the shops because there was  hardly any food left in his house.

For the elderly and disabled this had by now become a nightmare of isolation with dwindling supplies of food and medication and no help from the council to make things better for them.

By now the office was putting in call after call tothe council to see if they could get some help out to these stranded parts of the constituency, but the answer was always the same – keeping the main routes open.

The weekend brought some relief in the form of a slight thaw: across the constituency peolple could be seen clearing the pavements and footpaths and digging their cars out from under feet of snow – some cars looked like giant snowballs at the side of the road, so completely covered were they.

But it wasnt to last. On Monday morning I started to head back to London, having heard how difficult the journey was likely to be. Meanwhile Edinburgh was again blanketed in a snowstorm that lasted a full 7 hours, bringing everything to a halt, Lothian buses, which up til now had done a wonderful job of running as full a service as possible, included. The phone lines were again red hot, with more and more people expressing their fury with the council and their strong feelings of having been badly let down. And by now its not just about impassable streets, its also that there have been no refuse collections because all the staff have been diverted to snow clearing but the rubbish is by now starting to pile up with no way of getting rid of it.

Monday night saw temperatures plummet closing the central belt’s entire motorway system. In Edinburgh the temperature dropped to -12, causing widespread problems with ice.

On Tuesday evening the council finally realised that they were not in control and there is talk of calling on the army for help.

There is no doubt that the snow has been extraordinarily heavy; however it was not unexpected. As recently as October they were saying that they were completely prepared for a bad winter, with extra salt and grit and several new machines for clearing the footpaths. Try telling that to my constituents!

Christmas Card Competition

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Every year children from the primary schools across the constituency are invited to take part in a competition to design the Christmas card that the MP for Edinburgh South will send out. This year over 1300 children representing 15 schools, took part, and the standard of the entries was extremely high. A winner was chosen (with great difficulty, it must be said) from each class, then one from each school, and finally from that shortlist Angela Allen, manager of Sainsbury’s at Cameron Toll, sponsors of the competition, chose the overall winner.

On Saturday 4th December a small ceremony was held at Sainsbury’s where, despite the snow of that week, the school winners and their families came along. Each school winner was presented with a prize generously donated by Sainsbury’s of a Harry Potter memory game. They also received a winner’s certificate and every class will be given a selection box of sweets to share.

The overall winner is James O’Donnell from St John Vianney Primary School. His well deserved prize was a Nintendo DSI.

This was Ian’s first Christmas Card Competition, and it is due to be a favourite annual fixture.

Evening News campaign to ‘Get out and Help’

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Ian is backing the Evening News campaign to ‘Get out and Help’ your community during the hazardous weather conditions that have gripped the city.  As the weather in the country worsens Ian Murray and his office is receiving calls and requests for help from many constituents, particularly in the southern part of his Edinburgh South constituency, who are experiencing severe difficulties brought on by the snow and ice.

Ian, along with local Councillor Norma Hart, will be visiting parts of the constituency today where high numbers of elderly and disabled residents have been worse hit by the weather and are in need of urgent assistance.

Ian said “I have received a large number of calls this week particularly from elderly and disabled residents who are completely housebound due to the weather, and feel the authorities have neglected them in their time of need.  We all understand main routes are given priority but we cannot simply leave the most vulnerable people in our community to fend for themselves at this time.  We have been coordinating a response to help residents who desperately need it and I have been heartened by the great community spirit on showWe have been able to get help to these people through the excellent work of the Gilmerton Community Centre and local volunteers. Neighbours have helped clear pathways and made a path to the main road through the snow, and I welcome all attempts by members of the community to help one another out in these difficult circumstances.”

“I appreciate that the council have made it a priority to keep the main roads clear so that the buses can keep running and so that those who are able to drive can do so – obviously for the good of the local economy it is important that people can get to work. However the council also needs to consider elderly and disabled people for whom conditions such as we are currently experiencing can lead to complete isolation. I have been told that many of the grit bins have not been filled, and whilst city centre pavements are being cleared there is certainly no clearing being done in the outlying estates. Nor are any of the side streets being cleared. I am calling on the council to urgently consider how whilst maintaining their policy of clearing the main roads they can also find ways of helping vulnerable residents.”

Ian attacks government plans to sell off Royal Mail

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Ian has attacked the Conservative – Lib Dem Government’s plans to privatise the Royal Mail, because they put in jeopardy the future of local post offices in Edinburgh. Ian said “The Government’s plans to privatise Royal Mail pose a very real threat to local post offices because their Postal Services Bill will end the historic link between the Royal Mail and Post Office Limited. Currently, the Royal Mail has an agreement to use the post office network for its counter services. With this Bill, a privatised Royal Mail could choose to use other outlets for its counter services, such as supermarkets or a high street chain, and could easily cut down the number of outlets to include town centres only . This would deprive the post office network of up to a third of its income, and would put thousands of post offices in towns, city centres and rural locations at risk of closure.” Commenting on the recent government announcement of funding for post offices, Ian continued, “any new investment is welcome, but the Conservative-LibDem Coalition has missed a huge opportunity by dropping Labour’s plans for a Postbank. Promises of extra work from Government departments and local authorities are not worth having unless they are turned into bankable contracts. In practice the Coalition can’t even guarantee post offices will keep the contract for the Department for Work and Pension payments. Post offices cannot survive without a guarantee of the business that they get from Royal Mail. The Coalition is determined to sell Royal Mail without legislating for any long term commitment to post offices. ”