Thewliss Condemns Home Office During Highly Skilled Migrants Debate

MP for Glasgow Central, Alison Thewliss, has poured scorn on the Home Office and their treatment of highly skilled migrants during a Westminster Hall debate on Wednesday.

There is growing evidence that the Home Office has been pursuing a number of migrants for removal from the UK, as a result of errors made on their tax returns and income declarations. A majority of those affected travelled to the UK under the now obsolete Tier 1 (General) route; many are skilled professionals and others business owners.

In May, the Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, wrote to the Home Affairs Select Committee detailing that all applications falling for refusal under the character and conduct guidance of the Immigration Rules would be put on hold pending the findings of an internal review. Evidence from the Highly Skilled Migrants campaign group suggests however that decisions are still being made.

Commenting following the debate, Alison Thewliss MP said:

“The response from the Minister today fell way short of what was required, and will give little hope to the many hundreds of people across the UK who are left with the unenviable task of trying to clear their names and rebuild their lives in light of this Home Office malevolence. I am utterly appalled by the Minister’s lack of compassion and knowledge of this issue.

“It’s blatantly clear to me, and to scores of other MPs, lawyers and campaigners that the Home Office has made a calculated decision to pursue people in this way, using 322(5) rules in an attempt to legitimise their actions. Policies like this have no place in modern society. Indeed, this scandal is akin to Windrush part two.

“What is particularly striking about the actions of the Home Office is that they seem to be out of step with other government departments. HMRC, for example, have said in a number of cases that individuals who have corrected their tax information have done the right thing. Similarly, a Treasury Minister confirmed recently that they would encourage people to continue to correct their returns as and when they notice an error.

“It is incumbent on the UK Government to get their house in order here. The immigration system is clearly broken, and it’s innocent people like those we heard about in the debate who are bearing the brunt. I urge the Home Office to act now, and retract this vile policy”.

The letter from the Home Secretary to the Chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee can be accessed here – https://tinyurl.com/y9kxtgpg

Thewliss challenges Treasury on highly skilled migrants

MP for Glasgow Central, Alison Thewliss, today quizzed Ministers during Treasury Questions on the government’s use of paragraph 322(5) of the immigration rules, and their treatment of skilled migrants.

The Home Office has come under fire recently for pursuing the removal of a number of migrants – some of whom have been resident in the UK for more than 10 years – after they made minor corrections to their tax returns. As a result, many have been sent correspondence stating that the Home Office believe them to be of questionable character and that they represent a threat to national security.

During the exchange, Thewliss urged Ministers to take this matter up with their colleagues in the Home Office.

Commenting, Alison Thewliss MP said:

“The Treasury have confirmed to me today that it is entirely reasonable and sensible for people to make legitimate corrections and amendments to their tax returns. Yet, in the case of skilled migrants, these are the very actions being interpreted by the Home Office as somehow unacceptable.

“From the Minister’s response today, it’s manifestly clear that there is a lack of joined up thinking across government. Many of the individuals affected by this merciless policy are working in highly skilled occupations, and have put down roots in this country and contributed greatly both to their communities and to the economy.

“The UK Government should be doing its utmost to make the UK an attractive place for these people to stay, instead it is actively presiding over a hostile environment policy which is ruining people’s lives.

“I urge the Treasury to bring what pressure it can to bear on the Home Office, to make clear that legitimately correcting a tax return should not later lead to a threat of removal from the UK”.

SNP MP calls link between welfare reform and increase foodbank use “undeniable”

MP for Glasgow Central, Alison Thewliss, has today called the link between government welfare reform policies and increased foodbank use “undeniable”, following the recent publication of the Trussell Trust’s annual foodbank statistics.

The Trussell Trust reported that between 1 April 2017 and 31 March 2018, their foodbank network distributed 1,332,952 three day emergency food supplies to people across the UK, including 484,026 to children. These figures indicate a 13% increase on the previous year.

According to the trust, the biggest single, and fastest growing, reason for people attending foodbanks is “Low income – benefits, not earning”. Responses in this category have increased significantly since April 2016.

Commenting, Alison Thewliss MP said:

“Examining these figures from the Trussell Trust, it is now undeniable that there is a link between government welfare reform policies and increased foodbank use.

“It is utterly appalling that in today’s society, people must rely on food parcels due to not having enough to live on. The report speaks to the fact that the basic costs of food, housing and utility bills continue to rise, and benefits are failing to keep pace.

“The number of foodbank referrals as a result of a reduction in benefit, or due to delays when moving to a new benefit such as Universal Credit, have seen a dramatic upturn. Similarly, the Trussell Trust commented that foodbank projects in Universal Credit rollout areas have experienced an average increase of 52% in the preceding 12 months, with many citing issues when transitioning to the new benefit.

“We already know about the squeeze being put on families as a result of the benefit cap, and the damaging consequences of the two-child limit and rape clause, now there is real and demonstrable evidence elucidating a clear link between changes to welfare and increased use of foodbanks.

“It is incumbent on Ministers not to ignore the burden of evidence that has been presented on increasedfoodbank use. To do so would serve only to reassert that this is a government that cares little about the unmistakeable plight of so many across the country”.

PM’S response on rape clause “reprehensible” says SNP MP

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

SNP MP for Glasgow Central, Alison Thewliss, has criticised the Prime Minister’s response on the rape clause during Wednesday’s offering of PMQs.

Ian Blackford, SNP Leader at Westminster, had asked Theresa May whether she agreed with her colleague Esther McVey, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, that the rape clause offered women “double support”. The Prime Minister advanced that the UK Government has taken care to ensure the issue is dealt with sensitively, with Blackford countering that the clause is a disgrace.

The rape clause, or non-consensual sex exemption, has been in place for over a year, and forms part of the government’s wider policy to restrict Tax Credits and Universal Credit (child element) claims to the first two children in a family.

Earlier this week, McVey defended the government’s record on welfare reform during an evidence hearing of the Social Security Committee at Holyrood.

Commenting, Alison Thewliss MP said:

“It really is repugnant to see the Prime Minister leaping to the Secretary of State’s defence on the issue of the rape clause.

“Earlier this week Esther McVey described this vile policy as “extra help”, “an opportunity to talk” and “double support”. It is none of these things. By supporting it, the Prime Minister and her government are complicit in putting vulnerable women in harm’s way.

“Experts in violence against women recognise that forced disclosure of abuse brings a significant risk of reliving that trauma. This should always be at a time of a woman’s choosing, not at the point where she has to make a choice about putting food on the table to feed her children.

“Any defence of the two child limit and rape clause is truly reprehensible. The entire policy is ill-judged, cruel, and has nothing to do with supporting women. It must be scrapped.

“I hope the Secretary of State will reflect on her words, and respond to my request for an urgent meeting without delay”.

Thewliss condemns McVey’s comments on rape clause

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

Alison Thewliss, MP for Glasgow Central, has responded to comments made by the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Esther McVey, during a Scottish Parliament Social Security Committee on the issue of Conservative welfare reform policies.

At Monday’s session McVey was questioned on the Government’s Universal Credit policy, which many committee members decried for pushing thousands of families into poverty, with an inequitable burden being placed on low-earners.

Alison Johnstone, Green MSP for the Lothian region, pressed McVey on the Government’s position on the two child limit and the non-consensual sex exemption, commonly known as the rape clause. Far from showing contrition, the Secretary of State instead posited that the policy offers “double support”.

A demonstration against the two child policy – one year since its implementation – will be held on Thursday 19 April at 5.30pm, on The Mound, Edinburgh.

Commenting, Alison Thewliss MP said:

“I didn’t think the Tory government could sink any lower on this issue, but they have once again outdone themselves.

“The Secretary of State is completely out of step with how damaging the two child limit is, and she demonstrated as much with her performance at yesterday’s committee hearing.

“Charities and agencies are lining up to tell the government how reckless this policy is, that it will push 200,000 children below the poverty line, and that women claiming tax credits for a third child conceived due to rape will have to prove the point during an interview, yet no one wants to listen. This behaviour is inhumane, it is unforgivable.

“Esther McVey is simply wrong about the rape clause. No woman should be forced to relive the experience of rape simply in order to qualify for tax credits. To endorse the existing process as in some way beneficial to the claimant is simply staggering.

“The issue of rape is an incredibly sensitive one, and it is not being treated as such by this Tory government. The very fact that women’s aid organisations in Scotland are refusing to act as third-party referrers should be ringing serious alarm bells about the policy’s viability.

“Unfortunately for the government, opposition to this pernicious policy continues to grow, and I look forward to joining with charities, agencies and demonstrators at the protest on Thursday. The government has performed various U-turns in recent weeks, without doubt the two child limit and rape clause should be its next. To this end I have written to the Secretary of State to ask that she meet with me, and women’s aid groups, as a matter of urgency”.

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”.