Alison Thewliss MP backs Air Quality Bill to reduce diesel deaths

Alison Thewliss MP and Geraint Davies MP present the Air Quality Bill to reduce deaths from diesel emissions

Alison Thewliss MP is supporting the Air Quality Bill, published yesterday with the support of the British Lung Foundation, Royal College of Physicians and Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health. The Bill, presented by Geraint Davies MP, follows a report from the Royal Colleges that diesel fumes cause 40,000 premature deaths every year from lung cancer, strokes and heart disease. Diesel fumes also lead to underdevelopment in children and impact on foetuses, among other health effects.

The Air Quality Bill makes provisions for emissions testing to reflect on-road driving conditions, and assessment at the point of MOTs. The Bill also empowers local authorities to designate low emissions zones and pedestrianisation, and promotes cleaner public transport alternatives such as tram systems and LPG-powered vehicles.

The Environment Agency would be able to step in when a pollution cloud has hit an area, so that windows, doors and even roads can be closed, and if necessary local people evacuated until it is safe to return.

Alison Thewliss MP said, “Diesel pollution causes 40,000 deaths a year, and costs £20bn according to the Royal College of Physicians. That is why I am supporting the Air Quality Bill, published today, which aims to save thousands of lives and billions of pounds. This is achieved through effective emissions testing, following the Volkswagen emissions scandal and promoting greener transport systems and vehicles.

“Local residents in Glasgow are rightly concerned about their children coughing and wheezing, especially if children are already asthmatic. We now know that these health effects, and indeed thousands of deaths, are caused by toxic diesel fumes, which is why I am keen to support this important Bill.”

Geraint Davies MP, who published the Bill, said “Our cities are pumping out diesel clouds which threaten the lives of families, in particular young children and unborn babies. The Bill will ensure reliable vehicle emissions testing, new powers for councils to clean up local air, and a focus in the Budget on sustainable transport. This will help save thousands of lives and billions of pounds lost to diesel pollution.”

Dr Penny Woods, Chief Executive of the British Lung Foundation, said: “Air pollution causes tens of thousands of early deaths every year, increases the risk of lung cancer and impairs child lung development. Geraint Davies’ Bill further highlights these unacceptable dangers to the nation’s lung health. Immediate action must be taken by the government.”

Alison Thewliss MP attends launch of APPG on Fairtrade

Alison Thewliss MP joins MPs from across the political parties to support Fairtrade Fortnight

On 1st March Alison Thewliss, MP for Glasgow Central, attended the launch of the first All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Fairtrade at a special breakfast event in Parliament for MPs to mark Fairtrade Fortnight (29 February-13 March). The event also heard from the International Development Minister Desmond Swayne, Co-Chairs of the APPG Holly Lynch MP and Jason McCartney MP, and two Fairtrade farmers, Julio Mercado Cantillo, a Colombian banana farmer and Patrick Kaberia Muthaura, a tea farmer from Kenya who have travelled to the UK for the campaign.

Ms Thewliss also met campaigners and secondary school students from West Yorkshire, who are supporting this year’s Fairtrade Fortnight campaign which is highlighting the hunger faced by millions of farmers in developing countries who, despite working hard to grow some of the UK’s favourite foods, do not earn enough to know where their next meal is coming from.

The event was also supported by UK retailer the Co-operative which provided breakfast refreshments and is doubling donations during Fairtrade Fortnight as part of its online project which shares the experiences of farmers with the UK public.

Commenting on the launch of the APPG, Ms Thewliss said:

“I’m delighted to be supporting the Fairtrade movement. I am pleased that many events will be taking place across my constituency in support of Fairtrade Fortnight and I’d like to take this opportunity to thank them for their efforts in supporting positive change for the world’s farmers, who supply us with essential products every day.”

Michael Gidney, CEO of the Fairtrade Foundation, said:

“Communities have always driven the Fairtrade movement, by using the pound in their pockets to make a positive change and by campaigning for better, fairer and more sustainable trade regimes enabling people to lift themselves out of poverty.

“This Fairtrade Fortnight, as thousands of communities stand in solidarity with the farmers who grow our breakfast products, I’m delighted that the people of Holme Valley have shown that action can lead to change. Establishing this APPG is a huge achievement and provides an opportunity for the public, parliamentarians and businesses to work together and make a difference to the lives of farmers around the world.”

MP Alison Thewliss visits Rags to Riches Project

Alison Thewliss MP meets with Rags to Riches

Glasgow Central MP, Alison Thewliss, recently visited the Rags to Riches project in Govanhill, which provides sewing classes for Glasgow’s asylum seekers and refugees.

Ms Thewliss is calling for the city’s refugees and asylum seekers to make use the sewing group which meets every Monday at 9.45am at Govanhill Baths.

Speaking after she visited the Rags to Riches project, Alison Thewliss MP said:

“I am really grateful to Gabi and Nadine for taking the time to show me around the workshop and to tell me about the inspiring work they are doing to integrate our newly adopted Glaswegians into the community. The phrase “People Make Glasgow” is perhaps best defined by groups like Rags to Riches.

“This sewing group is a great opportunity for people from all different countries and backgrounds to meet-up, make new friends, learn English, as well as new skills which – in some cases – have allowed people to go on and start up their own business.

“I know the group are currently looking for more asylum seekers and refugees to come along and join the free classes, which I would highly recommend. They are also looking for donations of old clothes, curtains and duvets, which I’m sure will be gratefully received”.

Alison Thewliss MP has great chemistry with scientists in Parliament

Alison Thewliss powder flame for webGlasgow Central MP Alison Thewliss showed a passion for chemistry this week when taking part in science experiments to mark the 175th anniversary of the Royal Society of Chemistry.

At the parliamentary event on 24th February she heard about the importance of good science teaching in primary schools in Glasgow Central and took part in some loud and colourful chemistry experiments performed by children’s presenter Fran Scott and her team from Great Scott! science shows.

Ms Thewliss witnessed the whizzes and bangs of chemistry first-hand as Fran and her team created dry ice bubbles, colourful flaming salts and hammered MPs’ hands, which were protected with non-Newtonian goo. But behind the colourful chemicals and exciting explosions, the event was an opportunity to discuss the importance of excellent science teaching in primary schools.

Alison Thewliss MP said: “It was great to take part in chemistry experiments – it’s not every day that you get to set things on fire in the House of Commons! The Royal Society of Chemistry and Fran Scott really highlighted how exciting chemistry can be, and how important it is to a child’s education.”


Questions on tampon tax fund transparency

HM Gov screen grabAlison Thewliss, SNP MP for Glasgow Central, has criticised the UK Government for not transparently advertising tampon tax funding for women’s welfare groups.

Current legislation means that VAT, at 5%, is added to essential women’s sanitary products. The SNP was the only party in 2015 general election campaign to pledge in its manifesto to abolish VAT on women’s sanitary products, also known as the ‘tampon tax’.

Alison Thewliss first moved amendments to the UK Government’s budget in September, which sought to abolish the tax on ladies’ sanitary products. However, the Government asked for time to negotiate with the European Commission on EU VAT rules.

In November 2015, as part of the Autumn Statement, Chancellor George Osborne announced the establishment of a £15 million fund which would be open to bids for women’s welfare groups. The £15 million fund would return to women’s welfare groups the revenue generated from the tampon tax.

On 26th November, the day after the Autumn Statement, Thewliss wrote to the Chancellor and welcomed the establishment of the fund but asked how groups would be able to apply for the funding. It took the Government until 4th February 2016 to reply – some 76 days. Applications for the fund closed on 22 February 2016.

The Glasgow MP has now uncovered tracking changes on the UK Government’s website, which only informed groups how they could respond 16 days before applications closed – some 69 days after the Chancellor announced the establishment of the fund.

Commenting, Alison Thewliss MP said:

“The fact that it took the Chancellor almost 80 days to respond to a genuine enquiry from a Member of Parliament is shocking and shows gross disrespect to Parliament.

“None the less, when I received information from the Treasury, I passed it on to women’s welfare groups and encouraged them to apply for the funding. I was gobsmacked last week when we found out that there was such a quick closing date for applications to the fund, despite it taking 69 days for the Government to bother publishing information as to how groups could actually apply. This is simply not good enough.

“I’ve written to the Treasury demanding to know the exact chronology of events on this. Serious questions need to be asked, such as who was responsible for advertising this funding, what happened between 25 November and 2 February and whether the Government proactively advertised this fund to groups other than a small article hidden away on the website

“It is clear that a number of charities might well have lost out on this opportunity for funding, which is totally unfair. I am therefore calling upon the Government to urgently re-open the application process and properly raise awareness about the tampon tax fund.”

Alison Thewliss MP supports the NSPCC’s “It’s Time” campaign

Alison Thewliss MP supporting the NSPCC's It's Time campaign

Alison Thewliss MP has shown her support for the NSPCC’s It’s Time campaign after hearing about the scale of abuse young people in the UK experience, and the problems many face getting the kind of help that can turn their lives around at the NSPCC’s reception in parliament on Wednesday 10th February.

Karen Bradley MP, Minister for Preventing Abuse and Exploitation, and Rt. Hon Alistair Burt MP, Minister for Community and Social Care, joined the NSPCC CEO in speaking at the launch and Alison Thewliss MP also heard first-hand from young people who have helped shape the campaign.

All too often children who have been abused have to develop chronic mental health problems, be suicidal or self-harm before therapeutic services become available to them, according to a recent survey of professionals working with these children. One of the young people who sat on the campaign advisory group, ‘A Force for Change’, said that support should be provided “at the point of need not the point of crisis”.

Alison Thewliss MP has said “I am proud to support this campaign. In Scotland we have taken significant steps to expand support for vulnerable people through the National Action Plan to Tackle Child Sexual Exploitation, including an ongoing public awareness campaign and the opening of the National Child Abuse Investigation Unit within Police Scotland. I will continue to work hard to ensure that young people whose lives have been devastated by abuse can access the necessary support in order to rebuild their lives.”

Peter Wanless, NSPCC Chief Executive, said more children than ever were coming forward to tell somebody about the abuse they have suffered. “But every child’s bravery to come forward must be met with the right support. And for many of our most vulnerable children, that support is not available.”

He welcomed the Government’s commitment to invest £1.4 billion into children’s mental health services but said: “This money can only be spent once; it is crucial that a portion is made available for abused children. We’re calling for long term investment in support services for children who’ve experienced abuse, government to produce clear guidelines on when a child should be offered therapeutic support, more research into the scale of the problem, as well as what type of support works best.

“We know that government recognises the importance of this issue. But without a clear commitment to children who have experienced abuse, we worry that they will continue to fall by the wayside….”

You can find out more about the campaign here.

PM finally intervenes in rape clause issue

Prime Minister, David Cameron, has now personally intervened to respond to requests for clarity surrounding the Government’s proposed rape clause.

Although Alison Thewliss MP said the Prime Minister’s response “raises more questions than provides answers”, the Glasgow MP has nonetheless welcomed the Prime Minister’s personal intervention in the issue. She has written back to him to ask for a face-to-face meeting in Downing Street to press key questions which still cause major concern.

Downing Street initially responded to say that the Prime Minister had asked Treasury Ministers to deal with Ms Thewliss’ letter and questions. However, this week she received a further personal response from the Prime Minister, which suggests that the Government is “thinking very carefully” about how it responds to this “sensitive issue”.

Commenting, Alison Thewliss MP said:

“Enormous questions still remain unanswered. It is significant that this issue is now being dealt with personally by David Cameron and it represents a major breakthrough in the campaign to scrap the rape clause. I’m grateful to all who have helped put pressure on the Prime Minister thus far.

“I have written to ask David Cameron if he will personally meet with me to answer a number of key questions which remain unanswered and continue to cause serious concern amongst women’s welfare groups.

“In the Lords Report Stage of the Welfare Reform Bill, Lord Freud specifically ruled out an exemption for women who conceive a child in an abusive relationship. We know that the majority of rapes take place within relationships and the majority of abusive relationships also involve sexual coercion. What about women who are raped within marriage and later leave and have to claim benefits?

“There are still major questions about the burden of proof. The DWP are not known for taking people’s word on a range of issues and I don’t have any confidence that they will be able to treat women sensitively.

“We still don’t know what the regulations will look like but my caseload shows evidence of some poor decision making and cases later being overturned. If this was to be the case for a woman who has been the victim of abuse and rape, this will only add to the trauma and indignity of her experience.

“The more this issue rumbles on, the more convinced I am that both the two child policy and rape clause are completely unworkable. This isn’t about point scoring or getting one-up over the Government – it’s about doing what’s right and ditching a proposal that has the potential to cause enormous distress to vulnerable women.”

PM ducks rape clause issue again

Prime Minister, David Cameron, has been accused of “shamefully ducking” questions about his Government’s proposed plans for a rape clause on tax credits.

A cross-party group of MPs representing nine parties in the House of Commons – including the Conservatives – recently wrote to the Prime Minister, calling upon him to unequivocally drop plans to introduce a rape clause. The Prime Minister’s plans would, as they stand, require a woman whose third child was born of rape to justify this to a Government official in order to receive tax credit payments.

Over 10,600 people recently signed a petition calling for the proposals to be scrapped. Despite the petition closing a fortnight ago, the Government is yet to respond or acknowledge it.

This week the Prime Minister’s office replied to Ms Thewliss and indicated that the David Cameron would not be responding to the cross-party letter and that he had passed the correspondence from nine cross-party MPs to a junior Treasury Minister for response.

Ms Thewliss commented:

“The Prime Minister is shamefully ducking very legitimate questions about his immoral, unworkable and cruel rape clause proposals.

“Given the serious questions raised, the significant public interest it has attracted and the strong cross-party consensus we have, it is utterly shameful that the Prime Minister is abdicating responsibility on this issue.

“If, as I suspect, he can’t defend this ludicrous policy, then he should at least have the guts to do the right thing and bin these proposals today.”