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 welcomes funding award for Kinning Park Complex

MP for Glasgow Central, Alison Thewliss, has today welcomed the news that the Kinning Park Complex in Glasgow is to receive £197,650 from the Scottish Land Fund, following a recent funding application.

It is understood that the complex – which is popular with local groups such as artists and musicians – will use the funding to purchase the main building, as well as the former nursery that lies adjacent to the site. It is the centre’s intention to renovate and extend the existing space, with a view to offering additional activities and services to the local community.

Commenting, Alison Thewliss MP said:

“It really is marvellous to see the Kinning Park Complex benefitting from the Scottish Land Fund, and taking this key local asset into community ownership.

“I have been lucky enough to host my surgeries at the centre for a number of years now, and it is clear what high regard it is held in by the local community, many of whom attend classes and meetings on a regular basis.

“The range of services on offer at the Kinning Park Complex is remarkable, and includes dance and music classes, theatre and drama rehearsals, public meetings and art exhibitions, with a chance for everyone to get involved. The prospect of extending these activities given this new funding award should be a real cause for celebration.

“The Kinning Park Complex is a unique example of cohesion between the various volunteers, organisations and individuals from the community, who all pull together to make it such a success. I look forward greatly to this new, exciting chapter for the centre, and continuing to support it in any way I can.”

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”.

Alison Thewliss MP shows her support for Christian Aid Week

Alison Thewliss, the local MP for Glasgow Central, this week attended a Christian Aid Big Brekkie event in Parliament, to show her support for Christian Aid Week (13-19 May). This year Christian Aid Week is encouraging the British public to stand together with the millions of displaced people who have been forced to leave their homes around the world.

Ahead of Christian Aid Week, Alison Thewliss MP attended the event in Parliament to find out about activities and events taking place during the charity’s annual fundraising week in Glasgow Central. Last year, £12,614 was raised in Glasgow Central during Christian Aid Week.

Today, more than 40 million people are internally displaced by conflict, accounting for approximately two thirds of those who find themselves forced from their homes. A further 24 million were displaced by disasters in 2016 alone. Yet, because they haven’t crossed a border, the general public rarely hear about them.

Despite the huge number of people affected, situations of internal displacement receive almost no political attention, funding or support.

Christian Aid works with local partner organisations around the world to help internally displaced people. This includes working with partners in Haiti, where thousands of people have been displaced by natural disasters in recent years.

Vilia was left homeless by the earthquake in 2010 and her mother was killed. Bereaved and homeless, for Vilia, her husband and their seven children, life became a struggle. They didn’t even have a safe place to sleep.

Christian Aid’s local partner, KORAL, helps local people prepare for disasters. In the aftermath of the earthquake, it reached out to Vilia and built her and her family a new home, that was safe, stable and strong enough to stand up to natural disasters.

Ahead of Hurricane Matthew, KORAL was able to warn local communities, helping to evacuate around 5,000 families and saving many lives. In the immediate aftermath Christian Aid and KORAL distributed urgently-needed shelter materials, hygiene products such as soap, food seeds and cash, so people could buy other items that they really needed. Disaster-resistant homes were built, giving people safe, secure places to live. Of the dozens built before the hurricane hit, only one lost its roof in the disaster, and Vilia’s home was able to shelter 54 people over several days following the hurricane.

Alison Thewliss said: “I was pleased to meet with Christian Aid this week, to hear about the great work that is being done in Glasgow Central and across the country to help people around the world who have been forced from their homes. For millions of people across the globe, Christian Aid’s work provides vital support. I encourage my constituents to get involved in Christian Aid Week events in Glasgow Central where they can.”

Simon Kirkland, Christian Aid’s UK Parliamentary and Political Adviser, said: “We are very grateful for Alison Thewliss’s support for Christian Aid’s important fundraising events in Glasgow Central. Everyone can do something to help this Christian Aid Week, whether it’s attending a local event, giving money or praying for the world’s many displaced people at this difficult time. Thank you to everyone who is able to take part in this year’s Christian Aid Week.”

Alison Thewliss MP celebrates Nurses’ Day 2018

Alison Thewliss, MP for Glasgow Central, celebrated the work of nursing staff in the UK and around the world by meeting frontline nurses as part of the RCN’s International Nurses’ Day celebrations on Wednesday 25 April.

The event in Parliament brought together MPs and nurses and give Ms Thewliss the opportunity to hear about the valuable contributions nursing staff make to patient care. Nursing is a highly-skilled profession and nursing staff care for patients in a variety of settings such as, at music festivals, in prisons and in accident and emergency departments.

Nurses’ Day is an international event held annually on Florence Nightingale’s birthday (12 May). This year, the RCN is showcasing nurses’ dedication to delivering outstanding patient care and the innovative and diverse roles nurses have in healthcare teams. The RCN is also encouraging nursing staff to use the hashtag #ThisNurse to share stories of colleagues who went the extra mile to provide patient care and times which reminded them why there are nursing in 2018.

Alison Thewliss MP said:

“Nurses’ Day is a fantastic way to show our support for nursing staff in our health and care services. It’s our chance to thank them for the care they provide to our families, friends, neighbours and colleagues. I encourage everyone to celebrate the remarkable work of nursing staff in Glasgow and across Scotland.”

Janet Davies, Chief Executive and General Secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said

“Nursing is a dynamic profession with caring for people at its heart. Nurses’ Day is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the incredible work nursing staff do every single day of the year.

“There is no ‘one size fits all’ rule for nursing staff. They work in a variety of settings and have a diverse range of skills. But what unties them all is their dedication, even in difficult circumstances, to delivering outstanding patient care.”

SNP MP launches Private Members’ Bill on safe drug consumption facilities

MP for Glasgow Central, Alison Thewliss, has today launched her Private Members’ Bill on Safe Drug Consumption Facilities (SDCFs), in an attempt to tackle head-on the growing number of people dying in Glasgow as a result of drug overdose.

The Supervised Drug Consumption Facilities Bill seeks to amend key areas of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, and if passed would enable plans for a pilot facility to proceed in Glasgow, ensuring that service users and employees can use the facility without fear of being prosecuted.

In recent months, proposals for a SDCF have gathered cross party support from MPs at Westminster and a majority of MSPs in the Scottish Parliament, as well as the unanimous backing of councillors at Glasgow City Council.

Commenting, Alison Thewliss MP said:

“The weight of evidence in support of a safe drugs consumption facility has never been more compelling. There are approximately 500 people actively injecting drugs in Glasgow city centre, and recent reports describe the unprecedented HIV outbreak in the city as out of control. What’s more, I am greatly concerned for the safety of my constituents as a result of needles left in bin sheds, closes and back lanes.

“Recent debates in the Scottish Parliament and Glasgow City Council have demonstrated a clear desire for the introduction of a safe drug consumption facility, with support from all parties, including members of the Conservative Party. My Bill will take new steps to enable drug addiction to be treated as a public health issue, whilst ensuring that criminal activity from illegal drugs continues to be robustly tackled by the police.

“People are dying on the streets of my constituency, and the risk to the general public from discarded needles and transmission of blood-borne diseases is very real. The only remaining barrier to doing something different is the Home Office’s unwillingness to grant an exemption.

“Perhaps if the Home Secretary visited my constituency, and witnessed the perilousness of the situation for her herself, she could be more easily persuaded. Others, it seems, are already convinced.”

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”.

Alison Thewliss MP worked up a sweat meeting athletes with a learning disability

On April 18th, Alison Thewliss MP perfected the art of losing graciously as she was challenged to sporting contests by athletes with a learning disability at the All Party Parliamentary Group on Learning Disability’s event exploring pathways into elite sport.

The event brought together a wide range of athletes and parents, Members of Parliament and National Governing Bodies to highlight the lack of opportunities for athletes with a learning disability to compete at the elite level.

Rt Hon Mark Harper MP chaired the event and held a Q&A session with Paralympic gold-medal-winning swimmer, Jessica-Jane Applegate MBE who spoke about her experiences in elite sport. Talented runner, Kieran O’Hara, also spoke about his journey and struggles to make it to the elite level due to the lack of pathways.

Members of the Great Britain Para Taekwondo team provided a demonstration, and the Brighton table tennis club kept Alison Thewliss MP on her toes as they showed her how to execute the perfect rally.

Ruth Owens, Development Manager at Mencap, said:

“It is unacceptable, that despite dedicating their lives to training, athletes with a learning disability have such little opportunity to be recognised for their talents and are unable to achieve their dream of competing in the Paralympics alongside their disabled peers.

“It is wholly unfair that since the ban in 2000 a shadow has been cast over athletes with a learning disability. Not only do we need to see more opportunities available at the Paralympics, but this inequality needs to be addressed in the UK as well.

“We’re hugely grateful for all the MPs and sports governing bodies that attended our event today. We hope this can raise further awareness to open up more opportunities for athletes with a learning disability to have the chance to compete and be recognised for their talents at the highest level.”

Commenting after the event, Alison Thewliss MP said:

“I was proud to attend the APPG on Learning Disability’s event today and engage with the many talented athletes present. It was concerning to hear about the obstacles these athletes face when seeking to compete at the elite level and the event provided a good opportunity to highlight this to National Governing Bodies as well as fellow Members.

“The event must be seen as a catalyst for action and I look forward to continuing to engage on this subject and help talented athletes with a learning disability reach their potential.”

Alison Thewliss MP pledges support for Diabetes UK food labelling campaign

Alison Thewliss, MP for Glasgow Central, has lent their support to a campaign from leading charity Diabetes UK, calling for the public to be given clear nutritional information in restaurants, cafes and takeaways, as well as on the front of all pre-packaged food and drinks.

Ms Thewliss made the pledge at a parliamentary event hosted by the charity as part of its ongoing Food Upfront campaign. Through the campaign, Diabetes UK is making the following calls to government:

  • Mandatory front-of-pack traffic light labelling on all pre-packed foods and drinks sold in the UK,
  • Mandatory calorie labelling on menus in key high street restaurants, cafes and takeaways, with carb content available online or when you ask for it in store,
  • Ensure carbohydrates are labelled on the back of products, per portion and as prepared.

Clear food labelling is vital for millions of people living with diabetes, to help them manage their condition and reduce their risk of serious complications. In a 2017 survey of more than 9,000 people living with or affected by diabetes, almost three quarters of respondents (73%) said that if all companies used the same food labelling system it would help them to make healthier choices.

Clear food labelling also helps the wider public, with or without diabetes, make more informed decisions about what they eat and drink. Recent public polling carried out by ComRes on behalf of

Diabetes UK revealed that 9 out of 10 people said traffic-light food labelling helps them make healthier decisions, while only three in ten people (29%) said they felt they had enough information about what’s in their food.

In addition, more than three quarters of people (76%) said that cafes, restaurants and takeaways should display calorie information on their menus, so that customers understand the content of the food and drink they buy.

Traffic-light labelling assigns a red, amber or green value in relation to fat, saturated fat, sugar and salt, as well as giving information on the calories in a product, to help consumers find out what’s in the food and drink they’re buying. Evidence shows that both front-of-pack traffic light labelling and calorie labelling informs consumers and helps making the healthier choice the easier choice.

However, clear and consistent food labelling is not currently compulsory. Companies don’t have to provide any information on the front of their goods, and one in three products in shops don’t have clear traffic-light labels. Many restaurants, cafes and takeaways also still do not provide calorie labelling on their menus or other nutritional information online or when asked for it in store.

Commenting on the campaign, Alison Thewliss MP said:

“The public have made it clear that they support clearer labelling on food and drink to help them make healthier and better informed decisions about what they eat, so I’m happy to lend my support to Diabetes UK’s Food Upfront campaign.

“Putting these simple measures into place could make a huge difference to the nation as a whole. Obesity and weight related chronic health conditions – including Type 2 diabetes – continue to rise, and it’s important that we do everything that we can to halt this growing health crisis.”

Helen Dickens, Assistant Director of Campaigns and Mobilisation at Diabetes UK, said:

“We know that consistent and clear food labelling can help all of us to make informed choices. For people with diabetes, easy access to clear and consistent labelling, for example on carbohydrate content, is vital to supporting them with their diabetes management.

“With around two-thirds of adults, and almost a third of children in the UK classed as overweight or obese, and therefore at increased risk of Type 2 diabetes and other chronic health conditions, it’s really important that we have measures in place that help make it easier for all of us to know what’s in the food we’re buying.

“That’s why we are calling for the government to strengthen and, when possible, introduce mandatory front of pack traffic-light labelling on packaging, and calorie labelling on menus. The British public overwhelmingly support these moves, so we are grateful to Alison Thewliss MP for her efforts in helping put these potentially life-changing measures into practice.”

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”.