Alison Thewliss MP supports World Cancer Day 2016

Alison Thewliss MP supporting World Cancer Day

Alison Thewliss, MP for Glasgow Central, attended an event in Parliament yesterday (Wednesday 3 February) to show her support for World Cancer Day today (February 4, 2016).

Ms Thewliss met with representatives from four of the UK’s leading cancer charities who are working together to unite the nation and help transform the lives of millions of people who are affected by cancer.

Cancer Research UK, Breast Cancer Care, Anthony Nolan and the Movember Foundation are calling on people across Glasgow to show their support by wearing a Unity Band with pride today (February 4).

The Unity Band is made of two parts, knotted together, to represent strength in unity and the power of what can be achieved when people come together.

The Unity Bands are available from each charity in their own colours at for a suggested donation of £2. All money raised from the Unity Bands will go towards the charities’ individual research projects and support services.
One in two people born in the UK will develop cancer at some point in their lifetime.

Alison Thewliss said:

“Today (February 4) is World Cancer Day and I’m calling on people in Glasgow to join me by wearing a Unity Band, making a donation or spreading the word on social media.

“Whether you want to celebrate people who have overcome cancer, show solidarity to those going through treatment or remember loved ones – World Cancer Day is a chance to get involved and help reduce the impact of cancer on future generations.”

Collectively the four charities support millions of people every year through their individual work in the prevention, detection, treatment and support of those affected by cancer.

Money raised from the Unity Bands will fund breakthroughs in scientific research; save and improve the lives of people with blood cancers; provide high quality care, support and information for people with breast cancer, and fund research and support services to tackle prostate and testicular cancer.

For more information, to get any of the charities’ Unity Bands or make a donation visit

Roosh V in Glasgow

I am pleased to hear that, following public backlash and a sustained campaign, Roosh V has cancelled the event he had planned in Glasgow on Saturday. In the House of Commons this morning I took the opportunity to pay tribute to the campaigners and to all those who signed the petition against his vile, misogynist views.

Campaigning MP takes rape clause fight to United Nations

Alison Thewliss MP with a letter to Ban Ki-Moon, Secretary General of the United Nations

Ban Ki-moon, Secretary General of the United Nations, has been asked to investigate whether the UK Government’s proposed rape clause and two child policy breaches the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which the UK signed in 1990.

Glasgow Central MP, Alison Thewliss, has today written to the United Nations in New York and asked for a formal investigation into the Government’s proposed policy, which is due to come into force next year.

The SNP politician believes that the UK Government’s “medieval” proposals could breach at least five of the fifty-four articles in the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child.

Commenting, Alison Thewliss MP said:

“It is now almost eight months since the UK Government announced its medieval two child policy and rape clause. Despite repeated questions in Parliament, letters to Ministers and a petition that attracted thousands of signatures, we still have no information from this cruel Tory Government as to how they plan to implement this pernicious policy.

“Everyone knows that that the two child policy and rape clause is unworkable, immoral and is now potentially in contravention of the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child, which the UK signed up to almost twenty five years ago.

“It is now time for the United Nations to step in and shine a very bright light onto this cruel and thoughtless Government, who appear hell bent on making life as difficult as possible for ordinary people.

“It is clear that, over the last eight months, the Tories had hoped this campaign would be quietly dropped but it’s just not happening. The Government simply cannot be allowed to get away with a policy that is tantamount to social engineering.”

Alison Thewliss MP backs bowel cancer charity plans

Alison Thewliss MP calls for more early diagnosis to beat bowel cancer

Alison Thewliss MP attended a Westminster reception hosted by the charity Beating Bowel Cancer to help raise awareness of the disease.

On 27th January, the MP for Glasgow Central joined other Members of Parliament, bowel cancer patients and survivors, health professionals and members of the charity to hear more about how improving earlier diagnosis of the disease can increase survival rates.

Bowel cancer is the UK’s second biggest cancer killer but this doesn’t have to be the case; if caught early over 90% of those diagnosed can survive more than five years. That figure drops to just 7% if they are diagnosed at a late stage.

Alison Thewliss MP said: “I was excited to hear Beating Bowel Cancer’s plans for the future and pleased to pledge my support for them. We all need to do our bit to keep bowel cancer at the forefront of the agenda and to ensure that the Government focuses on increasing efforts to improve early diagnosis rates, if the disease is to become a rare killer rather than one of biggest cancer killers in the country, as it is today.”

Speakers at the reception included Debbie and Alistair Gammage, whose daughter Hannah died of bowel cancer aged just 26; Shadow Secretary of State for Health, Heidi Alexander; Public Health Minister, Jane Ellison MP; John Baron MP Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Cancer and TV presenter, Matthew Wright, who lost his father to bowel cancer.

He said: “Sadly my dad died of bowel cancer so I know just how vital it is that people are aware of the disease and its symptoms. If they know what to look out for, they can get checked out as early as possible. This could save their life – but only if followed by an earlier diagnosis and quicker treatment.

“Prompt diagnosis and treatment of bowel cancer must be a priority for the NHS if we are to save more lives.”

Mark Flannagan, Chief Executive of Beating Bowel Cancer, said: “This event made it possible for us to share our plans and outline the key policy priorities that need to be realised in the next Parliament if bowel cancer survival rates are to improve.

“We were pleased to have the opportunity to highlight these issues to those with the power to help tackle them and are very grateful to Alison Thewliss MP, for her interest. We look forward to working with her in the future to help raise awareness of bowel cancer issues in Glasgow Central.”

He told those at the reception: “In the time of this reception, four people will have died from bowel cancer; eight people will have been diagnosed with it. Together we can change that. Together we can stop people dying and we can provide better treatment to those diagnosed with bowel cancer.”

To find out more about bowel cancer please visit the charity’s website or call their Nurse Helpline on 020 8973 0011.

Cross party letter urges PM to scrap the rape clause

MPs representing nine parties in the House of Commons – including the Conservatives – have signed a joint letter to the Prime Minister calling upon the Government to ‘unequivocally’ scrap the tax credits rape clause.

The Government’s proposals would require a woman, who has a third child as the result of rape, to justify her position to a Government official in order to avoid losing tax credits. The plan to restrict child tax credits to two children for new claimants is due to commence in 2017.

SNP MP Alison Thewliss first identified the issue in July 2015 during the Government’s summer budget. She has now coordinated a cross party letter from MPs representing no less than nine parties in the House of Commons.

In addition to Alison Thewliss’ name, the letter is also signed by Andrew Percy, Conservative MP for Brigg and Goole; Jess Phillips, Labour MP for Birmingham Yardley; Liberal Democrat MP and former Deputy Leader of the House of Commons, Tom Brake, as well as MPs from the DUP, Green Party, UUP, Plaid Cymru and the SDLP.

Commenting, Alison Thewliss MP said:

“I am incredibly grateful to colleagues from across the House of Commons who have chosen to stand with us as part of the campaign to scrap the rape clause.

“The fact that MPs from all the major parties in the House have put their differences aside to unite on this important issue should, in itself, send a powerful message to the Prime Minister that his Government must unequivocally scrap the rape clause.

“I myself have already raised this issue on the floor of the House numerous times and Ministers’ responses to simple questions have been robotic at best and heartless at worst. We need to seriously ask ourselves, do we really want to be a country that summons raped women to Government offices and tell them to ‘prove it’ in order to get tax credits? Is that really how twenty-first century Britain wants to be behave?

“I am sure that, deep down, David Cameron also doesn’t want us to continue down this precarious road to stigmatisation. The Prime Minister must therefore show leadership and today unequivocally drop plans for a rape clause on tax credits”.

Alison Thewliss MP signs Holocaust Educational Trust Book of Commitment

Alison Thewliss MP signs the Holocaust Educational Trust Book of Commitment

This week Alison Thewliss MP signed the Holocaust Educational Trust’s Book of Commitment, in doing so pledging her commitment to Holocaust Memorial Day and honouring those who were murdered during the Holocaust as well as paying tribute to the extraordinary Holocaust survivors who work tirelessly to educate young people.

Wednesday 27th January will mark the liberation of the Nazi concentration and death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau, the site of the largest mass murder in history.

In the weeks leading up to and after Holocaust Memorial Day, thousands of commemorative events will be arranged by schools, faith groups and community organisations across the country, remembering all the victims of the Holocaust and subsequent genocides.

After signing the Book of Commitment, Alison Thewliss MP commented:

“Holocaust Memorial Day marks the anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi concentration and death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau – and is an important opportunity to remember the victims and survivors of the Holocaust and make sure they are not forgotten. I encourage all constituents to mark the day and to join members of my community in the fight against prejudice and intolerance.”

Karen Pollock MBE, Chief Executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, said:

“We are proud that Alison Thewliss MP is supporting Holocaust Memorial Day. As we mark the 71st anniversary of the end of the Holocaust and the liberation of the concentration camps, it is vitally important that we both continue to remember and learn from the appalling events of the Holocaust – as well as ensuring that we continue to challenge antisemitism and all forms of bigotry.

MP raises pensioner winter fuel payment debacle

Alison Thewliss, SNP MP for Glasgow Central, is calling upon the UK Government to urgently review the computer system which allocates winter fuel payments to pensioners.

A recent constituency case raised with Ms Thewliss suggests that pensioners living in properties, such as tenements and tower blocks, are losing out because the system is – wrongly – factoring in other people in the building when calculating the total winter fuel payment due.

In Ms Thewliss’ constituent’s case, this resulted in one pensioner only receiving half of his winter fuel payment because the system, wrongly, counted other residents in his close when, in fact, the constituent in question lives on his own. Rather than receiving the £200 payment, he only received half, which was eventually rectified following his MP’s intervention.

The Glasgow Central MP has written to Work & Pensions Secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, to ask for a full investigation into the system.

Alison Thewliss, MP for Glasgow Central, said:

“My constituent’s case highlights a serious anomaly within the UK Government’s winter fuel payment scheme, whereby potentially thousands of pensioners are being underpaid their winter fuel payments. All of this is because the Government’s system doesn’t always recognise buildings with multiple flats. I’ve written to Iain Duncan Smith to ask for a full investigation into this issue and to specifically ask for an urgent review of the payment system which seems to discriminate against buildings with more than one residence.

“My own research shows that Glasgow alone has over 220,000 properties which comprise of flats, tenements and tower blocks. In my own constituency, over 45,000 properties are part of multi-dwelling properties. Now, of course, not all of those properties will be entitled to winter fuel payments but it does give you an idea of the scale of this problem in a city which is, after all, renowned for its red sandstone tenements.

“Figures from Age UK show that an eye watering £3.7 billion in benefits already goes unclaimed by elderly people in the UK and I’m concerned that this is another example of older people not getting what they’re due.

“As temperatures continue to plummet this January, we simply cannot continue on with the perverse scenario, whereby pensioners living in flats are possibly being undercut because of an anomaly in the DWP’s payment system.”

The rape clause – blog post

(The below post was published in The Telegraph on 19th January 2016)

No woman should have to prove she was raped to be able to claim child tax credits. It’s a dramatic statement, and it’s one that has raised many questions – so perhaps it’s best to go back to the start.

Hidden away on page 88 of Chancellor George Osborne’s Budget in July was a small, almost innocuous sentence, which related to the Government’s plan to restrict the child element of tax credits and Universal Credit – child benefit, essentially – to the first two children:

“The Department of Work and Pensions and HMRC will develop protections for women who have a third child as a result of rape, or other exceptional circumstances”.

I read the sentence again. I re-read it. I showed it to the colleague sitting next to me. What did this actually mean? How would DWP and HMRC prove that a child was borne of rape?

The more I thought about this, the more furious I became. Rape is a very serious crime, but yet one of the most under-reported and under-convicted crimes there is. It exists in abusive relationships, it exists in marriage. For many women, is traumatic beyond description, and it is something they feel is shameful.

How vile that this Government would consider putting a woman, who may already feel extremely vulnerable, in the position where she had to confess to an Government official that her child had been born as a result of rape. How stigmatising, for that woman, for that child and for the family. Piling humiliation on top of pain is not the essence of “protection”.

I’ve raised this with Ministers at every level of Government, including the Prime Minister himself.

For all the questions my colleagues and I have asked since the July budget, there has yet to be an answer as to how this will work, and particularly the burden of proof.

The DWP and HMRC are not known for being organisations that will take you at your word; the casework I have seen in my office gives me no confidence in either the competence or the sensitivity of these departments. What hope does a woman in such vulnerable circumstances have? Will they accept her word, or will only a criminal conviction do? We don’t yet know.

However, the real problem at the heart of this is not even the rape clause; it’s the two child policy.

For me, it’s tantamount to social engineering. It makes children a financial commodity. It passes judgement and stigmatises.

It doesn’t respect the disproportionate impact on those of particular faiths or backgrounds where larger families are the norm. It’s also economic madness, as we need more children to counter our ageing population. And it runs counter to our Government’s obligations to treat children equally under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The two child policy has not yet been fully explained or justified by this Government, other than in the most tabloid of terms. I’ve heard some suggest in carelessly callous language that you should only have the children you can afford. It does not take account of the fact that you may well be able to “afford” three children when you had them, but not if your circumstances change: what if your partner dies, if you become disabled, if your marriage breaks up?

What happens in the case where families come together with existing children from previous relationships?

The Budget claimed multiple births would be protected, but not at which stage; if your first two children are twins, will the third still be eligible, or only if that happens the other way around?

These questions and more have been asked by MPs since July, but answers have not been forthcoming.

The campaign to scrap the rape clause is gathering pace and many people are already signing the petition, which had almost 6,000 names at the last count. This should, in itself, send a message to the Government that this policy is untenable.

I very much hope that the Government has realised the mess it has got itself into, and scrap not only this outdated and potentially damaging rape clause – but the whole two child policy itself.