Hello and welcome to my September Parliamentary report, where you can find details on my activities over the last month as your MP.
With the House of Commons having been in recess over the summer, it’s given my team and I the opportunity to conduct a number of ‘street surgeries’ across the constituency, as well as to visit several local businesses and charities.
As ever, please get in touch if my team or I can assist you, by emailing r[email protected] or calling 020 3545 2236.
Statutory Sick Pay
I was interviewed on LBC Radio by presenter Martin Stanford, over the UK's derisory statutory sick pay entitlement, and also the Bibby Stockholm debacle.
On sick pay, the UK lags behind many comparator economies. The UK really is ‘the sick man of Europe’ when it comes to the financial support offered to workers who are off work for long periods.
I highlighted comparable economies like Switzerland, Norway, Austria, Sweden and the Netherlands which all guarantee a higher payment for considerably longer periods to their citizens.
Regarding the fiasco of the Bibby Stockholm - a barge providing temporary accommodation for asylum seekers - it is clear there are serious difficulties at the UK Home Office, certainly not helped by the churn in Ministers. To really put vile people traffickers out of business, the UK Government must open safe and legal routes, and get a grip on the backlog of genuine applications they have allowed to build up on their watch.
Acorn Project Welcomed
I welcomed the news that the ACORN project has finally been given the go-ahead by the UK Government, but noted that this announcement comes far later than it should have.
ACORN has been ‘ready to go’ for some time. Only the Conservatives can explain why they chose to fast track carbon capture projects in marginal seats in North East England ahead of prioritising North East Scotland...
Access to Cash and Banking
On the proposed Virgin Money bank branch closures in Ellon and Turriff, I set out my opposition to these closures and the wider issue of banks retreat from rural areas.
I spoke about the importance of banks to businesses who wish to deposit cash takings and to the many people who still rely on cash to make everyday purchases.
Challenges Facing the Agri-foods Sector
The UK Government has once more delayed introducing border checks for food being imported into the UK. This means that we are vulnerable to unscrupulous traders smuggling in food which falls below our own specified food standards.
Meanwhile, our own producers throughout the north-east continue to face border checks for export to the EU, reflecting the unfair playing field brought on by Westminster.
When the UK does finally implement their planned reciprocal checks, this might address food standards concerns, but will simply lead to further delays and more food inflation.
Ideology doesn’t put food on the table and Brexit continues to evidently be a bad idea for consumers, farmers, small and medium-sized businesses and almost everyone else. Astonishingly, all of this could be solved in an instant if the UK Government would just agree to say it will continue to align with the EU standards that we are already meeting.
Across the Constituency
25th August: The Bikery Opening
On the 25th August I had the pleasure of attending the official opening of the Bikery in Huntly. This was the second time I have visited the Bikery, having previously toured the facility in May when I was updated on a number of local projects operated by Gordon Rural Action.
The Bikery is a thoroughly impressive operation, rejuvenating an old bakery to bring reconditioned bicycles back into use at affordable prices, which supports active travel and a healthy lifestyle while keeping the costs low.
The Bikery is creating job and volunteering opportunities, leading to increased employability and skill levels. This is a fantastic, sustainable initiative, a boost for the Huntly economy and I am delighted to congratulate all involved!
Friends of Insch Hospital
In August, I met with the ‘Friends of Insch Hospital’ to reiterate my support for their local campaign for a community healthcare facility in Insch.
I have previously met and corresponded with Scottish Government Ministers to discuss this matter at Holyrood. They assured me that their pledge to support healthcare provision in Insch remains, but they need a proposal from the local health bodies for funding and a project to be approved.
I urge Aberdeenshire Health and Social Care Partnership and NHS Grampian to work with the local community and the Scottish Government to ensure that Insch and the surrounding area once again has the healthcare facilities locally and to hand that local residents so clearly want.
In August, my office team and I were out and about across the constituency conducting street surgeries. We visited Insch, Huntly, Inverurie and Ellon, where we picked up on local issues, such as recycling and road crossings. This was a great opportunity to connect with and have a blether with constituents.
If you have any issues you wish raise, or if there are any ways I can support you as your MP, please do not hesitate to get in contact with my office.
Garioch Sports Centre
In August I also met with representatives of the Garioch Sports Centre in Inverurie to receive updates regarding their proposals for a new 3G football pitch at the centre. I was delighted to learn of the funding they have already secured, and they will continue to have my support in taking their plans forward.
With growing demand for football pitches in the area - particularly from women and girls’ teams, a new 3G pitch in Inverurie would be a fantastic addition for Inverurie and the surrounding area.
The Club Hoose
This month I got the opportunity to spend the afternoon at ‘The Club Hoose’ in Ellon. I met with the owner, Suzanne Clubb and ‘Hoosemates’ and got a tour of their soft play facilities.
I was encouraged to hear of the safe and inclusive space they want to offer to young and old.
They have run ‘free play’ days and have a clothes bank of local school uniforms to help young families make ends meet. Suzanne and her team are providing an excellent amenity for the community of Ellon!
24th August: Waterside Pharmaceuticals
I visited Waterside Pharmaceuticals in their high-tech farming facility just outside Newburgh. Waterside Pharmaceuticals are an agri-tech start-up company with a team of professionals with extensive backgrounds in plant science, engineering, biology, and operational excellence. They are doing fascinating work utilising total control environment agriculture.
In the News…
The National, 14 August 2023, Sick pay down 10 per cent under Tories, SNP research finds
Grampian Online, 12 August 2023 MP raises concern over House of Lords appointees
Grampian Online, 24 August 2023 Gordon MP repeats call to Pensions Minister: Start compensation preparations for WASPI women
Grampian Online, 1 August 2023 Politics: People have a right to be able to access their own cash
Press Releases, 23 August 2023 Thomson Welcomes Ofgem Action Against Ovo Energy
Press Releases, 23 August 2023 Over 3700 Affordable Homes Built in Aberdeenshire