BEIS Vist to Edinburgh
This week started with a visit from the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee to Edinburgh. This trip enabled the Committee to meet a wide range of stakeholders in the energy sector in Scotland, from renewable energy spokespeople to representatives of the oil and gas industry. As the only Scottish member of the BEIS Committee, I believe it is important that I make sure Scotland’s voice is heard. This visit has hopefully helped the Committee realise that Scotland has a diverse and innovative business sector with its own unique needs and I will look to try and encourage more interaction with Scottish businesses over the coming months.
BEIS Committee Meeting
Following the BEIS committee trip to Edinburgh, we returned to London in time for our usual Tuesday morning evidence session. This week we heard from representatives of the nuclear power industry, who expressed concern that the Conservative Government’s desire to leave Euratom could lead to the shutdown of the UK’s nuclear plants. Whilst I am no fan of nuclear energy, I understand that if the nuclear power stations we have now were to shut down, we could be faced with a capacity crisis. It seems that these concerns are yet another consequence of the Government’s complete lack of planning around Brexit.
Productivity Plan Debate
On Tuesday MPs debated the “Productivity Plan. The Plan is a document produced in 2015 which was supposed to provide ideas and solutions to tackle the fact that the UK is one of the worst performing G7 countries in terms of productivity. Politics has, however, moved on a great deal since July 2015. This debate allowed the BEIS Committee to look back at our report into the Productivity Plan to see if it had achieved its aims and what lessons can be carried forward from it into our new political reality. You can watch my contribution to the debate by clicking on the link at the top of the page.
On Thursday I received a response from the Prime Minister to the question I asked her at the previous week’s question session. I wanted her to look again at the decision to sell the Green Investment Bank when, so far, there has been no evidence that it will benefit the bank itself, jobs in Edinburgh, the wider green economy or the taxpayer. The response I received (which can be seen on my Twitter and Facebook) contains no new answers. I will continue monitoring this issue and I will update my constituents if I receive any substantive information from the Government.
Industrial Strategy Report
On Friday the BEIS Committee released their report into the Government’s plans for an Industrial Strategy. Drawing on evidence from many expert witnesses we concluded that the recently published green paper on this issue is a positive start but that much more needs to be done. This includes more devolution of power to local authorities and a doubling of funding for R&D to 3% of GDP. You can read the whole report using this link - http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/business-energy-industrial-strategy/inquiries/parliament-2015/industrial-strategy-16-17/
One other major issue that I want to raise awareness of this week is the impact of the proposed changes to bereavement support, following a visit from a constituent and many letters on the topic from others. From the 6th of April the Government is changing the way bereavement support is paid out. At the moment, widows and widowers receive a tax free lump sum of £2,000.00 and a taxable weekly benefit of £112.55 per week until the youngest child no longer qualifies for child benefit. This will change so that now the support is a one off lump sum of up to £3,500.00 followed by a non-taxable and non-inflation linked payments of up to £350.00 a week for 18 months. It is estimated that 75% of parents bereaved after April the 6th will be worse off as a result of these changes. This is another unfair attack on the welfare system for people who need its support. I will do what I can to fight this change and hopefully convince the Government to look again at these proposals.