Hello and welcome to my Parliamentary report for April, which gives a taste of some of my activities in the role of MP for Gordon through March.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine continues to horrify us all. My office has continued to assist a number of constituents affected by the conflict as they seek to come to safety.
The increased cost of living and energy price rises have come to the fore dramatically this month. Sadly, while the Chancellor's Spring Statement gave him a chance to act, his announcements will do little to alleviate the very severe financial pressures that many households are now under.
If my team and I can assist you, please call 020 3545 2236 or email [email protected] to get in touch.
8th March Debate: National Insurance Contributions Increase
I took part in the debates on the UK Government's increase to National Insurance Contributions on 8th and 24th March. In the first debate, I explained why with families pressed harder than ever, now is the very worst time for the Conservative Government to be raising National Insurance contribution rates.
Watch here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pm7zk-1x8CM
24th March: National Insurance Contributions (Increase of Thresholds) Bill
Richard Thomson MP: “We are clearly in the midst of the worst cost of living crisis in living memory. Inflation is spiralling and is set to hit 8.7% later this year. Some of that is common to industrialised economies around the world, but let us be perfectly frank that other elements of it are entirely self-inflicted because of the Government’s choices. That resonates through people’s pocket books, with the OBR forecasting the sharpest fall in real earnings since the 1970s and the biggest hit to real household disposable income since records began in the 1950s. That is certainly not a record to be proud of.”
23rd March : Domestic Heating Oil Prices
I asked what was being done to assist those who rely on domestic heating oil for their energy needs, which has seen prices spike from £250 for 500 litres to anywhere between £600-£900. Sadly, there was nothing in the Chancellor's statement later that day to address those householders' needs.
Richard Thomson MP: “About 1.5 million households across the UK depend on heating oil for their domestic energy needs. Last September, households could have expected to pay about £250 for a 500-litre delivery. Last week, those prices had risen to anywhere between £600 and £900 for a delivery of the same volume. What discussions has the Secretary of State had with his Cabinet colleagues, particularly the Chancellor of the Exchequer, about how that burden could be mitigated for households at the mercy of that unregulated section of the energy market?”
16th March: Refugees from Ukraine
On 16th March I spoke during the SNP Opposition Day debate on "Refugees from Ukraine", where I addressed the plight of refugees fleeing the conflict and highlighted the urgent need for the UK Government to put 'people before process', to simplify and speed up the process which can allow refugees sanctuary in the UK.
Watch my full contribution here: https://twitter.com/RThomsonMP/status/1504157677349478407
I used part of my contribution to highlight examples of constituents who have been in touch with my office seeking help getting their families back to the UK from Ukraine. Thankfully both of the families mentioned in my contribution have now arrived safely.
To date, other European countries have accepted much larger proportions of those fleeing Ukraine than the UK. People are willing to open their doors and open their hearts to those fleeing conflict - the Home Office must allow us to act similarly.
At the outbreak of the conflict, I joined with Ukrainian and Russian protestors in Whitehall to demonstrate in solidarity against Putin's actions. My office has been supporting Ukrainian refugees and the families of Ukrainian citizens in the Gordon constituency. I have written to the Home Secretary and Foreign Secretary asking them to show compassion by waiving the visa requirements placed on Ukrainian nationals. I will continue to press the UK Government to speed their processes up to help meet our humanitarian obligations.
The generosity of people across Gordon who have offered their skills and/or accommodation is much appreciated and my office is at hand to assist anyone looking to offer support. I would encourage everyone to sign up to the 'Homes for Ukraine' scheme if you can offer any assistance with accommodation. Information on the scheme can be accessed here: https://www.gov.uk/register-interest-homes-ukraine
March 23rd: Visit Aberdeenshire in London
I attended an event at the Scottish Government's 'Scotland House' in London, organised by our local tourism body VisitAberdeenshire, which was designed to boost tourism by helping showcase some of the very best that both Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire have to offer visitors to our area.
March 3rd: St David's Day Debate
Richard Thomson MP: “We stand in solidarity with the entitlement of people in Wales to exercise their right to self-determination; to choose the form of Government that is best suited to their needs; to choose their own future; and to have their choices accepted without hesitation or qualification from the UK Government.
I hope that we can all agree in this place, as democrats, that how far and how fast Wales and Scotland continue on that direction of travel ought to be a matter for the Scottish people and the people of Wales to express for themselves, and for themselves alone.”
Dentistry: Labour Turnover and Recruitment - Asked 15 March 2022, Question for Department of Health and Social Care
"To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what assessment his Department has made of the potential relationship between the (a) presence of dental schools in a region and (b) recruitment and retention rates of dentists within that region."
EDMs I signed this month
Read more of my contributions here: https://members.parliament.uk/member/4796/contact
Spring Budget and Cost of Living Crisis
The Chancellor delivered his Spring Statement this month. Between higher than expected tax revenues and lower than expected borrowing, the Chancellor had 'fiscal headroom' of around £30billion which he could have used to do something substantial to help those struggling most right now.
"The blunt reality is that anyone who woke up yesterday morning worrying about how they would pay their energy bills will have woken up this morning confronted by exactly the same set of worries."
Read my column here: https://www.richardthomsonmp.com/2022/03/column-for-march-31
Read my reaction to the budget here: https://www.grampianonline.co.uk/news/mp-calls-for-domestic-heating-oil-support-270445/
Across the Constituency
Bridge of Don Academy
90kg Rice Challenge
I visited Bridge of Don Academy to kick-start their FairTrade group’s 90 kilogram ‘Rice Challenge’. Aberdeen for a Fairer World arranged for the young people to receive the bags of Malawian FairTrade rice donated by Co-op Bridge of Don for selling on.
90kg of rice is the amount that a Malawian farmer must sell each year to provide a sustainable income and send a child to secondary school for a year.
Dyce Bank Closure
Bank of Scotland
The decision by Bank of Scotland to close their branch in Dyce in July is deeply disappointing. The move means Dyce will soon no longer have any banks following the recent closure decision by TSB, and the previous decisions of the Clydesdale Bank and Royal Bank of Scotland to close their branches.
I will be meeting BoS Executives in order to discuss the closure.
Huntly’s ‘Fiver Fest’
I was delighted to spend an afternoon at Huntly's latest ‘Fiver Fest’, which encourages people to shop local and get a bargain at the same time.
The event follows the national 'Totally Locally' initiative where businesses in the local community come together to each offer a deal on one of their signature products for only £5, encouraging people to shop local.
This was the third year of 'Fiver Fest' in Huntly and some 23 local businesses took part. I look forward to being able to attend the next event.
Aberdeen Harbour Visit
It was great to be able to visit Aberdeen Harbour earlier this month to see the progress on the impressive new South Harbour - a development which will support energy transition as well as encouraging cruise ship tourism in the North East of Scotland.
Last month - In February, it was announced that the UK Government was backtracking on its plan to ban the use of red diesel for farm shows and charity ploughing matches. Read more: https://www.canva.com/design/DAE4hQ9U4_E/wQMYGC3IhFDkHbYPLdHSjg/view?utm_content=DAE4hQ9U4_E&utm_campaign=designshare&utm_medium=link&utm_source=sharebutton#11
Continued issues - For vintage charity tractor runs, however, the Chancellor still intended to proceed with a ban. I called on him to reconsider, since failing to do so would have made these events completely impractical to continue with. Read more: https://www.thescottishfarmer.co.uk/news/20008774.charity-tractor-runs-still-face-red-diesel-clampdown/
Resolution - On March 22, I submitted a written question asking the Chancellor to instruct HMRC to include charity tractor runs as qualifying to use red diesel. It was later confirmed that charity tractor runs would be included within the scope of activities permitted after all. Read more: https://www.richardthomsonmp.com/2022/03/gordon-mp-claims-further-victory-in-red-diesel-campaign--good-causes-no-longer-set-to-lose-out-as-tractor-runs-exempted
In the News…
Roll-out of digital phones system in Aberdeenshire paused after thousands lose power during storms - https://www.pressandjournal.co.uk/fp/news/aberdeen-aberdeenshire/4107527/bt-digital-voice-aberdeenshire/
New EasyJet and Flybe services from Aberdeen International Airport welcomed - https://www.grampianonline.co.uk/news/new-easyjet-and-flybe-services-from-aberdeen-international-a-269898/
Huntly man joins mission to deliver firefighting equipment to war torn Ukraine - https://www.grampianonline.co.uk/news/huntly-firefighter-gets-behind-the-wheel-for-mercy-mission-t-269077/
Richard Thomson MP
Email – [email protected]
Website – www.richardthomsonmp.com
Call – 020 3545 2236
Address - Unit F6 Enterprise Centre, Aberdeen Energy Park, Exploration Drive, Bridge of Don, Aberdeen, AB23 8GX