Local MP speaks out against the Bedroom Tax

John Robertson has spoken out against the damaging effects of the Bedroom Tax, which came into force in 2013.

You can see his speech here:

This is a tax, by any other name.

It is a horrendous and pernicious tax, which targets some of the most vulnerable people living in our communities. It attacks the elderly, it attacks the disabled, it attacks families of all sizes, and above all else it attacks those who are already struggling to get by, day after day.

I am incredibly saddened to say that my city of Glasgow is one of the worst City’s affected throughout the whole of the UK.

Currently, 12,079 people have had a reduction applied. And in my constituency alone, more than 60% of people have lost more than £10 a week. For people who don’t have much to live on in the first place, the bedroom tax has a crippling effect.

More than half of the people affected in Glasgow are over 50, and more than 40% are not in work.

But, Madame Deputy Speaker, it’s too easy for us to forget the people that lie behind the statistics. It’s too easy to forget the Grandparents and the single parents that are hurt by these numbers.

One constituent of mine, Christina, wrote to me and explained her situation. A self-employed 60 year old who has lived in her house for 19 years with her son, who recently had moved out. She just gets by in life, but gives all the time she can to voluntary work in her community, and suffers from mental health issues.
She feels safe in her home, and in her community.

She’s not opposed to downsizing, and she understands that another family may need the two bedrooms more than she, but she cannot afford to move.

She can’t afford to buy the new white goods she’ll need in a new home, she can’t afford to furnish and decorate a new home and she can’t afford a removal van to take her possessions with her.

Most importantly, she can’t afford the £41 a month she’ll need to make up the difference. For people like Christina, it literally is a choice between rent and food.

The shocking thing, Madame Deputy Speaker?

She’s not alone.

She joins thousands of people across the city. Just like another constituent of mine, John.

John is a disabled man who lives on his own. He has two teenage kids at school. He wants to keep in touch with his family, he wants them to be a part of his life, and he wants to be a part of theirs too.

He keeps a bedroom ready for them, so they have the freedom to come and visit, at weekends, stop in on a week day – to just come and go as they please. He desperately wants to keep his family together.

Moving to a one bedroom house would end that freedom for him and his children. I can’t imagine the hurt and anger that I would feel, as a father of three, if I had to tell my children or my grandchildren what John now has to tell his kids; that they weren’t able to come and stay if they wanted to, or needed to, because of this Tory government.

This is the tip of the iceberg of suffering that those affected by the bedroom tax have to go through.

People like John and Christina are told that they should just move to a one-bedroom flat, as though it’s easy. The truth of the matter is that it isn’t easy. The number of people who have to make up the 14% reduction far outweighs the number of single bedroom properties. People are locked into the homes they are in at the moment.

And why should people be punished for having grown up children who live at University during term time, and return for the summer? Why should disabled people suffer because they require vast amounts of equipment to survive?

But most of all, why should people – hardworking people, who volunteer in their communities, who have provided for their family, but who struggle to get by day, after day, after day – be forced by this Tory Government to make the choice between paying their rent, paying for their electricity or putting food on the table?

That is why, Madam Deputy Speaker, I call this an evil tax on those that Government should stand up for and defend. That’s why I am so proud to vote to axe this tax today.

Parliamentary Update – December 2014

What did you think of Autumn Statement?

This month, George Osborne gave his last Autumn Statement of this Parliament. I want to know what you made of it. Did it go for enough? Did it deal with the problems that you and your family face? Will it make a difference to your life?

Let me know what you think below:

Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey , the world’s leading questionnaire tool.

LIVING WAGE CONTRACT A “WELCOME STEP”

The announcement by SSE yesterday that they have awarded the largest Living Wage contract is a “step in the right direction”, says Energy MP.

The announcement comes after a poll released by the Sunday Post, showing that record numbers of people have little trust in energy companies.

John Robertson MP, a member of the Energy and Climate Change Select Committee, said: “The announcement from SSE today is a welcome step in the right direction. We saw over the weekend that the Energy Companies have a long way to go in rebuilding the public’s trust.

Perhaps SSE will lead the way, and the other big six energy firms can ‎follow their example.”

SHIPBUILDING CONTRACT “GREAT NEWS FOR WORKERS” SAYS LOCAL MP

The announcement yesterday that the Ministry of Defence will definitely award the contracts for the Type 26 Frigates to the yards on the Clyde will “come as a relief to workers and their families” says local Member of Parliament.

Despite the First Sea Lord, Sir George Zambellas, previously casting doubt on whether the Type 26 frigates would be built within the UK, the Ministry of Defence has agreed that the Clyde yards are the yards most capable of building the complex warships.

John Robertson, whose Glasgow North West constituency includes the Scotstoun yards, said: “This is good news for the communities I represent.

“Since the First Sea Lord’s comments in Defence News, workers on the Clyde have been living with the uncertainty that their jobs might not be there. The announcement today can draw a line under that speculation, and allow the thousands of workers and their families to breathe a sigh of relief that their jobs are secure.”

John Robertson backs NSPCC campaign to stop grooming in its tracks

Backing the NSPCCJohn Robertson is lending his support to an NSPCC campaign to help tackle online grooming.

John Robertson is backing the charity’s Flaw in the Law campaign, which is calling on the UK Government to ensure it is always illegal for an adult to send a sexual message to a child.

The Sexual Offences (Scotland) Act 2009 makes this behaviour illegal in Scotland but there is no such legislation in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. This means sex abusers can often get away with effectively ‘fishing’ for child victims on social networks, mobile apps, chat rooms, and in online gaming environments.

Now, John is calling on the UK Government to ensure children in the rest of the UK receive the same protection from online sex abusers as children in Scotland.

John Robertson said: “It’s pleasing to know that Scotland has legislation in this area to help protect children but, given the alarming rise in online child abuse, it is very concerning that this is not the case across the whole of the UK. I urge the UK Government to listen to the NSPCC’s concerns and to create a new offence through the Serious Crime Bill so that it is always illegal for an adult to send a sexual message to a child”.

NSPCC Head of child safety online, Claire Lilley said: “We are very grateful to John for supporting the Flaw in the Law campaign. The law in Scotland gives police the tools they need to prosecute abusers who are using the internet to facilitate the abuse of children, but this isn’t the case for the rest of the UK where laws are fragmented and sex offenders are able to, and often do, exploit the loopholes”.

“The Serious Crime Bill currently going through Parliament provides a timely opportunity to learn from the law in Scotland and introduce a new offence in England, Wales and Northern Ireland to better protect children online, and we hope MPs and the public will back the campaign calling on the Government to do this”.

The NSPCC’s campaign comes as ChildLine, a service run by the NSPCC, saw a 168% increase in the number of children counselled about online sexual abuse last year.

People can find out more about the NSPCC campaign and sign the petition at www.nspcc.org.uk/flaw and join the debate on social media by following #FlawedLaw.

Anyone looking for advice about keeping children safe online, or concerned about the safety and welfare of a child, can contact the NSPCC’s 24-hour helpline on 0808 800 5000 or email help@nspcc.org.uk

Children worried about online safety or any other problem can call the free, 24-hour helpline on 0800 1111 or get help online at www.childline.org.uk

ENERGY MP “SHOCKINGLY WORRIED” BY SUPPORT FOR VULNERABLE

Energy companies are failing vulnerable customers, says new report by fuel poverty campaigner John Robertson MP.

 

Following meetings with major energy suppliers, Mr Robertson concluded that there is some good work being done for elderly, disabled and other vulnerable customers, but there is no consistency across companies.

You can read the report here: Supporting Vulnerable Customers

 

The report includes a draft code of practice, which would emphasise the necessity to check vulnerability when installing a prepayment meter and reduce the number of days that a supplier will wait before checking to see if vulnerable customers are safe.

 

John Robertson said: “I was shockingly worried about the length of time that energy companies wait before contacting elderly or disabled customers. Some would wait 50 days before sending someone round to check and see if they were alright.”

 

“Energy companies are in a unique position to see whether someone is having problems, through checking when they are using their heating. The energy barons make a fortune out of us, so they really need to be giving back.”
“There were some good practices in place, but more needs to be done. And customers need to be sure they will get the best service, whichever supplier they are with.”

John Robertson MP joins the ‘Nation of Lifesavers’ campaign to save 5,000 UK lives

~ Calls for secondary schools in Scotland to register for free innovative CPR training kit ~

John Robertson MP is urging people to join the campaign to dramatically increase the number of local people trained in life-saving CPR and help create a Nation of Lifesavers.

More than 30,0001 people suffer an out of hospital cardiac arrest in the UK every year – 80%2 of which occur in the home, often in front of family members and loved ones.

But fewer than one in ten people survive3, partly because not enough people have the skills and confidence to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

British Heart Foundation (BHF) Scotland says that the Nation of Lifesavers initiative could save around 5,000 additional lives a year in the UK, based on survival rates in countries like Norway (25%)4 where CPR training is mandatory in schools.

BHF Scotland is calling for CPR and public access defibrillator (PAD) awareness to be taught in all local secondary schools and a recent survey showed 82%5 of people in the UK would be behind this move.

Since the launch of the campaign on October 16, more than 5,000 people have already signed the petition to make these skills part of the curriculum.

Today, John Robertson MP has pledged their support for the Nation of Lifesavers campaign and called on secondary schools and community groups in Glasgow North West to order their free Call Push Rescue Training Kit.

Mr Robertson said: “Cardiac arrest survival rates in Scotland fall way behind survival rates in other countries where CPR training is part of the curriculum.

“By joining the Nation of Lifesavers I want to see every child in Scotland finish school equipped with the necessary skills to respond in a medical emergency.

“CPR is an important skill and just 30 minutes of training could save someone’s life.”

John Robertson was joined by Samantha Hobbs, who at 14 helped to save her mum’s life by performing CPR. With her dad, they kept her mum alive until the emergency services arrived and could get her heart beating again with a single electric shock from a defibrillator.

Samantha had been trained in CPR so she knew what to do. Now she’s campaigning to raise awareness amongst others so that more people are trained and more lives can be saved.

Samantha said: “I was only able to help save my mum’s life because I’d been trained in CPR. I don’t know what might have happened if I hadn’t. We’re really pleased to be able to support the BHF’s Nation of Lifesavers campaign and spread the message about the importance of CPR. I hope more lives are saved.”

On October 16, BHF Scotland trained 100 schoolchildren at the launch of a new CPR training programme which is free for schools to register for at Lagan College, Belfast.

The innovative training programme enables schools, workplaces, and community groups to become completely self-sufficient in teaching the three simple steps that could save a life: Call. Push. Rescue.

Simon Gillespie, BHF Chief Executive, said: “Too many lives are lost needlessly because people don’t have the basic CPR skills to act in life-threatening situations.

“We’re determined to radically improve the country’s shocking survival rates and mandatory training in secondary schools will go a long way towards that.

“We need every school, workplace, community group and individual to join the Nation of Lifesavers and help make Scotland a safer place to live.”

To help BHF Scotland create a Nation of Lifesavers visit bhf.org.uk/lifesavers and sign the petition at bhf.org.uk/cprpetition

Additional key statistics:

  • The majority  of the UK public (61%) would not feel confident performing CPR on a family member or loved one, despite being most likely to see a cardiac arrest at home
  • Almost half (46%) would be deterred by the ‘fear of causing more harm than good’
  • Four in ten (40%) people lack the knowledge and skills to act
  • Nearly three in five (57%) people admit that most people in Britain would look for someone else to take the lead if they were to witness a medical emergency
  • Almost half (44%) thought cardiac arrest and heart attack were different terms to describe the same condition
  • More than one in ten (11%) have never heard of the term CPR
  • Over four in ten (43%) wrongly thought that CPR becomes is effective for only up to15 minutes

How do you solve a problem like Fuel Poverty?

I recently wrote a blog about my proposal for a Fuel Poverty Champion in Government.

You can read my blog here.

A full report on the topic can be found in this collection of essays.

Parliamentary Update – 26th September 2014

This week: Referendum result and air strikes vote