Thewliss questions PM on skilled migrant policy

Alison Thewliss, MP for Glasgow Central, today quizzed Theresa May during Prime Minister’s Questions on the record of the Home Office towards skilled migrants applying for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR).

Recent reports have elucidated a stark increase in the number of people who have come to the UK on the Tier 1 visa system, worked for years in professional occupations, then encountered issues securing ILR via the Home Office. Often this has been due to trivial issues such as minor errors on tax returns, where the applicant’s character and credibility have been called into question as a result.

Thewliss’ question coincides with a protest being organised by the group ‘Highly Skilled Migrants’. The group, which represents hundreds of individuals from skilled backgrounds such as doctors, engineers and teachers, will gather at Westminster today to show their discontent at the Home Office’s approach.

Commenting, Alison Thewliss MP said:

“My constituent, Mr Ali Baig, is unfortunately one of many skilled migrants whose futures have been thrown into disarray by the Home Office’s hostile and heartless policies.

“Highly skilled professionals are coming to the UK and taking up professional occupations where there are serious shortages. They are contributing to the economy, having families, making a life in our community, and yet the Home Office sees fit to refuse them permission to stay because they made a legitimate correction to their tax return. This is totally unacceptable.

“These callous decisions have far-reaching effects. Many of the people affected have young children and other dependents, and by removing their right to work and remain in the UK the Home Office is placing huge burdens on entire families.

“The Prime Minister needs to recognise that these Home Office policies are not fit for purpose. If she wants the UK to continue to attract people from around the world, she needs first to recognise and appreciate the contributions being made by those who are already here”.

Thewliss ‘hugely disappointed’ at Royal Mail decision to relocate G5 sorting office

Alison Thewliss, MP for Glasgow Central, has today voiced her disappointment at the recently announced decision by Royal Mail to move their operation for the G5 postcode area – currently based at Victoria Road – to the delivery office at Baird Street, on the north side of the city. The move is expected to take effect from June 2018. People in the other postcode areas served by Victoria Road delivery office will be unaffected.

Whilst Royal Mail have stated that the changes will not affect deliveries made to customers, those picking up letters and parcels which were unable to be delivered will have to travel around 2.5 miles over the Clyde and across the city centre to retrieve items.

Commenting, Alison Thewliss MP said:

“I am hugely disappointed at this decision by Royal Mail, which will cause a massive amount of inconvenience for residents in the G5 postcode area of my constituency.

“I first became aware that Royal Mail were considering this move at the tail end of last year, and wrote to every resident in the G5 area to gauge opinion about the proposals. Unsurprisingly, the weight of objection was staggering, with over 96% of respondents stating they were against it.

“More worrying still was the comments made by several residents who are infirm, or unable to travel. Many explained to me in their responses that they would simply be unable to make a trip to Baird Street, be it due to ill-health or for financial reasons. Whilst I welcome the promise of extended opening hours, and I appreciate that Royal Mail say they can arrange for items to be redelivered, this will not always be suitable. These measures cannot adequately replace the convenience of a local, accessible delivery office.

“The fact that Royal Mail, in spite of the evidence presented, have pressed ahead with this plan is frankly appalling, and strikes a further blow against consumers whose essential, local services are slowly being eroded”.

Thewliss speaks up for basketball in Scotland

Alison Thewliss, MP for Glasgow Central, voiced her support today for basketball during a well-attended Westminster Hall debate where the future of the sport was discussed at length by MPs from across the UK.

The debate was brought about following a joint request from the three basketball bodies operating in Scotland, Wales and England, and the British Basketball Federation (BBF), to raise awareness of the sport’s various benefits to society and to outline the financial challenges that it currently faces.

In the aftermath of the 2012 Olympics, UK Sport revised its funding strategy and re-directed investment towards those sports they believed to have medal potential, leaving funding for team sports such as basketball under serious threat.

Commenting following the debate, Alison Thewliss MP said:

“I am very proud to be able to say that one of the premier basketball teams in the UK, Glasgow Rocks, are based in my constituency of Glasgow Central, playing their home games at the Emirates Arena.

“The Rocks players and staff do a fabulous job of promoting basketball to the wider community, and regularly participate in outreach events and school visits. This is a real inspiration to many young people.

“It’s also great to see the Scottish Government doing its bit to support basketball at a grassroots level. The CashBack for communities programme recently awarded £492,800 to Basketball Scotland, allowing them to deliver 16 basketball school projects over a three-year period in some of the most deprived areas of Scotland. This speaks to the broad appeal that the sport is continuing to develop – something that I’m desperate to see continue.

“Like many others, I’ve been extremely concerned by recent reports that basketball in the UK is facing a funding shortfall of almost £1m. With the Commonwealth Games due to start in only a matter of weeks, it’s crucial that the UK Government do the right thing to secure not only the future funding for the sport, but the places of the Scottish and England teams who have done so well to qualify”.

SNP MP condemns UK Government’s record on child poverty

MP for Glasgow Central, Alison Thewliss, has denounced the UK Government’s record on child poverty, following the publication of a new report by the coalition charity, End Child Poverty.

The report, which was published today, lays bare the shocking disparity across the UK with respect to deprivation levels, and highlights the associated effects on families and children.

Sam Royston, Chair of End Child Poverty and Director of Policy and Research at the Children’s Society, noted that a child born in some areas of the UK is now more likely to grow up in poverty, than be part of a family living above the breadline. Indeed, End Child Poverty have called for an immediate cessation of the freeze on social security benefits, which has been in effect since 2016.

Commenting, Alison Thewliss MP said:

“The UK Government’s record on the issue of child poverty is appalling. This is a government who scrapped statutory income-based child poverty targets; clearly demonstrating how low down the issue is on their list of priorities.

“The benefit cap continues to squeeze those who rely most on support, and in Glasgow the statistics make for grim reading – there are 636 households, and over 1,936 children directly affected. Not only that, according to a report published by Sheffield Hallam University, support for claimants in Glasgow, as a result of post-2015 welfare reforms, is anticipated to fall by an average of £420 per year.

“Moreover, the UK Government’s two child limit ensures that Child Tax Credit claims – including the child element of Universal Credit – are restricted to the first two children in a family. This is tantamount to social engineering, and will mean a loss of up to £2,800 every year per child for countless families. This cut is so severe that the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) have estimated that it will plunge a further 200,000 children into poverty.

“The Scottish Government is doing what it can to stem the flow of Tory cuts; already it has mitigated the devastating effects of the Bedroom Tax through discretionary housing payments, and moved to ensure that a reduction in Council Tax Support was not passed on to claimants in Scotland. It is unsustainable however to expect the Scottish taxpayer to continue to bear the financial brunt of Tory malevolence.

“This austerity-obsessed government seems not to care about the plight of ordinary people, including the wellbeing of children. Brexit is on the horizon, bringing with it rising prices – the outlook is indeed bleak. Whilst the Scottish Government is committed to doing what it can to improve the situation, it requires full control over economic levers in order that child poverty can be properly addressed in a meaningful and responsible way”.

SNP MP appeals to UK Government to allow safe injecting pilot

Alison Thewliss, SNP MP for Glasgow Central, has called on the UK Government to give proper consideration to a request for a temporary relaxation of drugs laws, in order that a safe injecting pilot can be carried out.

Ms Thewliss – an ardent supporter of plans for a Safer Drugs Consumption Facility (SDCF) – will speak during a Westminster Hall debate on Wednesday, to highlight the myriad problems that drug users and the wider public face in Glasgow as a result of public injecting.

A cross-party letter, with signatures from a number of Scottish MPs, has been issued to the Home Office in order to demonstrate the extent of support for the plans which, up to now, have been blocked by the UK Government.

Commenting, Ms Thewliss said:

“Evidence on the need for action on this issue has never been more compelling. In 2015 for example, there was 47 new diagnoses of HIV compared to an annual average of 10, for those who are injecting drugs. Indeed, there is thought to be around 500 people who regularly inject drugs in public places in Glasgow City Centre alone.

“I can attest to the fact that Glasgow has a growing problem with respect to public injecting; my constituency office often receives reports of needles and other drug paraphernalia being discarded in public places. In addition, I have seen for myself public injecting taking place in locations not far from where my office is located.

“It’s clear to me that the drug injecting population in Glasgow face a number of different barriers in accessing health services which can help them with their addiction, and that current methods are falling short of offering the appropriate level of support. For this reason, Glasgow City Health and Social Care Partnership, and other parties, have developed innovative plans for the implementation of a Safe Injecting Facility.

“It is imperative that the Home Office consider this request – which has cross-party support from a number of Scottish MPs – to allow an SDCF to be trialled in Glasgow. This issue has become a serious public health issue, and it is our collective responsibility to ensure that we do what we can to improve the situation not just for drug users, but for the wider public in general”.

Thewliss raises rape clause with new Cabinet Ministers

Alison Thewliss MP joins supporters at the launch of her campaign to scrap the rape clause

Alison Thewliss, SNP MP for Glasgow Central, has wasted no time in contacting new cabinet ministers regarding the damaging effects of the two child policy and rape clause, following the Prime Minister’s reshuffle earlier this week.

The campaigning MP has written to both Esther McVey, the new Secretary of State at the Department for Work and Pensions, and also to Karen Bradley, who was announced as the new Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, to ask that one of their priorities be to reverse the implementation of the two child policy for tax credits and Universal Credit, and the associated rape clause.

The Government legislated in April 2017 to restrict Child Tax Credit and Universal Credit (child element) claims to the first two children in a family, a decision which the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) has said will force 200,000 children below the poverty line.

In addition, women who have conceived a third or subsequent child as a result of rape, must apply for an exemption, requiring them to relive their harrowing ordeal during an interview. In Northern Ireland, third party referrers are obliged under law to report instances of rape, even if doing so means that women are placed in further danger of violence.

Commenting, Alison Thewliss MP said:

“This is as good a time as any for the UK Government to drop the vile and medieval rape clause, and stigmatising two child policy which lies behind it.

“Esther McVey is now the fifth Secretary of State for the DWP since I was elected in 2015, and the first woman in that time. I want to know from her whether she is comfortable in making a woman who has suffered the trauma of rape, domestic violence and coercive control go through the shame of proving her child was conceived as a result of that sexual abuse.

“Similarly, I am keen to understand Karen Bradley’s views on the ongoing legal uncertainty in Northern Ireland with respect to this policy. The current system places third party referrers in an impossible position and arguably puts women off claiming an exemption at all. If cases are referred to the police, this potentially places women who are already vulnerable in even more danger at the hands of their abusive partners.

“So far, the UK Government has failed to listen on this issue. I am hopeful that the Prime Minister’s reshuffle presents an opportunity for the right thing to be done by women and families, and for this abhorrent policy to be rescinded once and for all”.

SNP MP calls for more guidance on breastmilk sharing

Alison Thewliss, SNP MP for Glasgow Central, has urged the UK Government to offer guidance on milk sharing – a practice that thousands of women are already participating in through online networks across the country.

Milk sharing has become an increasingly popular method for mothers to get access to breastmilk for their babies, particularly amongst those who have encountered difficulties when breastfeeding.

The sharing of breastmilk online is unregulated and some experts are concerned that without NHS supervision or Government guidance, there is a chance that the practice could spread infection and viruses.

Commenting, Alison Thewliss MP said:

“There is a growing recognition of the unique qualities of breastmilk, and the growth of milk sharing online is to some degree a symptom of this. It is important that milk donors are following best practice to ensure breastmilk is free from any contaminants, but this will always have a degree of uncertainty when people are sharing milk online.

“Milk banks provide safe and rigorously screened donor breastmilk for those babies who need it. The model used by One Milk Bank for Scotland ensures that breastmilk can be collected from donors, processed and distributed using a well-developed network, and I would like to see this available across the rest of the UK. At the moment, milk banks are often underfunded and running as a project of individual hospitals.

“This also sits in the context of cuts to breastfeeding support projects – Unicef Baby Friendly highlighted recently that local infant feeding leads in England had reported a 47% cut in support groups, and a 58% cut in health visitors. Women who wish to breastfeed can find themselves without the valuable support and expertise they need, and may turn to online donors as an alternative to their own milk.

“I am keen for the UK Government to work with the UK Association of Milk Banks to invest in services to allow those wishing to donate breastmilk to be able to do so locally, in a safe and regulated way, and for those requiring breastmilk for their babies to be able to access it easily. I have asked to meet with Ministers to discuss how breastmilk can be shared safely.”

SNP MP heralds multi-agency response to two child policy

Alison Thewliss MP joins supporters at the launch of her campaign to scrap the rape clause

Alison Thewliss, MP for Glasgow Central, has praised the efforts of charities and organisations in coming together to condemn the two child cap and rape clause.

In a meeting held at Westminster today, UNISON, Women’s Aid, Child Poverty Action (CPAG), and representatives from a range of organisations, provided insight and testimony as to the effects being felt – in particular by women and families – as a result of UK Government changes to Universal Credit and Child Tax Credits which are now in force.

Commenting following the meeting, Alison Thewliss MP said:

“I’ve been fighting the UK Government on this issue for over two years now, and it’s clear to see from the attendance at today’s meeting that there is growing agreement that the two child policy and rape clause is a pernicious and medieval policy, and that it must be revoked.

“Analysis by CPAG and the IPPR shows that in excess of 200,000 children will be forced below the poverty line as a result of the two child policy. Indeed, working families with three children could be up to £2,780 worse off per year under the new rules.

“In addition, the UK Government is putting women in Northern Ireland in an impossible position given that they, and third party professionals, risk criminalisation if they do not disclose rape to the Police Service of Northern Ireland. Women in Northern Ireland should not be forced to choose between struggling to put food on the table or going through the full process of the criminal justice system.

“It is welcome that there is such strong agreement from charities and organisations on this issue. I sincerely hope that the weight of consensus will make the government see the error of its ways, and scrap the two child policy and the rape clause.”