Update from Westminster – 14/2/2013

This week: Energy select committee in Anniesland, Home Office question, Meeting with Mexican parliamentarians, Fair Tax on Flying Campaign & How to watch a debate or tour parliament

Home Office Question on Ibrahim Magag

John Robertson (Glasgow North West) (Lab): How many people are subject to a terrorism prevention and investigation measure.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (James Brokenshire): In the last quarterly report on the exercise of powers in the Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures Act 2011, for the reporting period 1 September to 30 November 2012, 10 people were subject to a TPIM notice during that time.

John Robertson: It is nearly 50 days since Ibrahim Magag went missing and the now famous absconding black cab shows that the Home Secretary made a mistake with TPIMs. Will the Minister say whether Ibrahim Magag was under surveillance at that time—nothing technical, a yes or no will do?

James Brokenshire: The operation to locate Ibrahim Magag is ongoing and the police are doing everything in their power to locate and indentify that individual. The hon. Gentleman would perhaps agree that the best place for a terrorist is in prison, and that is why the Government have committed additional resources to supplement the TPIM regime and ensure a balance of preventive measures as well as ensuring that people are brought to justice.

100,000 COLD CALL COMPLAINTS IN LESS THAN A YEAR

The figures revealed today have prompted calls for the banning of “predatory and infuriating” company cold calling.

John Robertson MP has been looking into the issue after having received a number of cold calls himself. He said: “Companies have been calling me up with their sales pitch – but when they find out I’m an MP they quickly backtrack. It would be funny if it wasn’t such predatory behaviour.”

Mr Robertson, who sits on the Energy and Climate Change committee, is particularly worried about vulnerable people being pushed into changing energy tariffs, for example, without having all the information in front of them. He said: “Many offers from companies are hard enough to understand as it is, without a hardlined salesperson pushing you to take it over the phone. Sadly, I think the most vulnerable people will find it difficult to deal with these types of people and may even end up paying more, thanks to these infuriating calls.”

“We also have no idea of the extent of this sales tactic – I find that very worrying.”

Over half of all landline numbers in the UK are currently registered with the Telephone Preference Service Ltd (TPSL), a service which allows customers to opt out of receiving unsolicited sales calls. With so many people opting out of the practice, the Labour MP for Glasgow North West is calling for it to be banned completely.

HM Revenues and Customs Debate

Yesterday, I spoke in a debate called by my colleague, John McDonnell MP, regarding the resources and capacities of HMRC, following further job losses. The text of my speech is below. I wanted to draw attention to the fact that, while thousands of people are losing their jobs, three new board members have been appointed at £20,000 a year. This included Volker Beckers, the former RWE Npower Chief Executive, an appointment I have already been critical of – see here.

 

Speech

John Robertson (Glasgow North West) (Lab): I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (John McDonnell) on getting the debate, which is important. I do not intend to go over the same ground as other colleagues, but some points need to be re-emphasised. I am looking forward to the Minister’s reply, and if he gets time, I hope that he will answer a few of my questions, although I am happy to get a response in writing.

Other than the 40,000 jobs that will be lost by 2015—over the past eight and future two years—which is bad enough, what we have is an HMRC that has just employed three new non-executive board members. Volker Beckers, previously chief executive of RWE npower, is now the chair of the scrutiny committee and has a job worth £20,000 a year. That might not be an awful lot to Mr Beckers, but it would be to people who were about to lose their jobs. Why does that man have a job at £20,000 a year, which will not mean a lot to him? He also comes from the electricity companies, which have been ripping off customers left, right and centre, although the Minister might consider the case to be one of poacher turned gamekeeper. That might be right, but I would still like to know the reasons.

Norman Pickavance was previously director of human resources and communications at Morrisons. He left Morrisons just before it announced a third year of no profits. Will he be asked to bail out of HMRC if it is not successful? He is on a retainer of £15,000 a year, and I would like to know what he does for that £15,000 a year.

John Whiting, previously of the Chartered Institute of Taxation, perhaps has a job that is connected with HMRC, but he is working for it only part time, and he will receive £20,000 a year. How much time will he spend earning that money, and what will he be expected to do in return?

On 1 February, the Daily Mirror reported that a group called the Cup Trust had been banking millions of pounds and giving out millions of pounds in gifts to people, yet only 8% of its money seems to go to charity. Two days later, the same newspaper revealed that it had not given £80,000 to charity, although its books said that it had. That is not tax avoidance; it is ripping of charity people. On many occasions, I have asked what happens to the extra money that is put aside for proper charities, and we are told that the Treasury takes it back and will not give it to charities that do the right thing. The Daily Mirror’s headline stated:

“Charity tax avoiders: Scam bosses could trouser £7.7 MILLION while good causes received just £135,000”.

If the Daily Mirror can find that information, and we hear about it only through the paper, what have the Treasury and HMRC been doing?

The problem with HMRC is not the people at the bottom—the 40,000 people who will lose their jobs or have already lost them—who do a good job and work hard, but those who run it and are in charge of those people. That, Minister, is you.

Have you say on energy bills and fuel poverty – Come along to “Parliament Talks energy bills” in Glasgow on 7 February


  • Are you struggling with energy bill costs?
  • Do you need information on how to reduce your bills and make your homes more energy efficient?

On 7th February, Glasgow residents will have the opportunity to discuss issues such as energy company profits, fuel prices, and how to make their homes more energy efficient at a special Parliamentary event held at Anniesland College.  This event offers people the chance to have their say to John Robertson, MP for Glasgow North West and Member of the Energy and Climate Change Select Committee, and to meet with representatives from consumer advice organisations.

John Robertson MP for Glasgow North West said: “People in Glasgow and around the UK are worried about rising fuel prices and often find it hard to get the best deal from their energy supplier. If people have something to say about energy companies or just want to find out more about what Parliament is doing to tackle energy prices, profits, and fuel poverty they should come along to the ‘Parliament Talks energy bills’ event.”

The event kicks off with a chance to discuss energy issues with MPs and representatives of organisations such as Citizens Advice Scotland, Energy Action Scotland and Glasgow Home Energy Advice Team (G-Heat). There will also be an opportunity to hear from John Robertson MP and debate energy issues with Energy and Climate Change Committee Members and energy stakeholders. Points raised will help to inform and influence the Energy and Climate Change Committee’s current inquiry into ‘Energy Prices, Profits and Poverty’.

‘Parliament Talks energy bills’ is the latest in a series of subject-specific events organised around the UK by the Houses of Parliament Outreach Service, highlighting Parliament’s role in scrutinising public policy and holding the Government to account.  Tim Yeo MP, Chair of the Energy and Climate Change Select Committee and fellow Committee Members will also attend the event.

For people unable to make it along to the event, information on how Parliament looks at energy issues, and how people can get involved, will be available on the ‘Parliament Talks energy bills’ website:  www.parliament.uk/talks-energy-bills

Important information

The event will take place on Thursday 7 February, from 5.30-7.30pm at Anniesland College, 19 Hatfield Drive, Glasgow, G12 0YE.

The event is free but to register your interest for this event, please contact the Houses of Parliament Outreach team on parliamentaryoutreach@parliament.uk  or call 020 7219 1650.