Hello and welcome to my October Parliamentary report, where you can find details on my activities over the last month as your MP.
The House of Commons returned after the summer recess for a short period of around a week and a half, ahead of the party conference season.
Being away from Westminster meant that I had an opportunity to spend an increased amount of time out and about across the constituency - time which I used in large part to continue with my summer street surgery programme.
As ever, please get in touch if my team or I can assist you, by emailing r[email protected] or calling 020 3545 2236.
Richard on BBC ‘Politics Live’
This month, I appeared on the BBC’s flagship lunchtime political programme, ‘Politics Live’.
One hot topic during the programme was the availability of affordable housing, and the measures being taken across the UK to address this.
I argued that the Scottish Government’s freeze on mid-tenancy rent increases has been effective at protecting tenants from increases to the cost of their rent during existing tenancies. The increase in rents across other parts of UK where no similar controls apply illustrates this dramatically.
The biggest part of the solution to a shortage of affordable housing however is to build more for social rent. In that regard, the Scottish Government has and continues to invest significantly in improving the supply of affordable housing, with 120,000 affordable homes being built since 2007, with a further 110,000 planned to be built by 2030.
NHS Strike in England
I highlighted the successful pay negotiations with NHS doctors in Scotland, which resulted from positive engagement between the Scottish Government and doctors.
This is in stark contrast to the situation in England, where across a range of public pay negotiations, the UK Government appears to be more interested in playing politics than engaging in good faith with pay negotiators to achieve positive outcomes.
Transparency, Accountability and the Constitution
We also discussed calls for the monarchy to be more transparent. While I didn’t disagree, I noted that instead of becoming distracted by the ‘ceremonial’ parts of the constitution, we should concentrate instead on making the political side of the constitution much more accountable.
Boris Johnson’s disastrous premiership showed just how the UK’s unwritten constitutional norms can be exploited in the self-interest of a governing party. A better voting system, written constitution and bill of rights are long overdue.
Debt Collection Company Set Up By UK Government Sees Profits Soar
It has been revealed that Integrated Debt Services, a company set up by the UK Government to recover personal debts saw its profits increase by a staggering 132% last year.
I asked the Minister if she thought it right that a company set up by the UK Government be able to profit to that degree from the cost of living crisis.
Border Controls and Food Security
The UK Government’s continued failure to introduce the much-promised checks on food coming into the UK not only causes a great deal of uncertainty - it also creates an uneven playing field for UK food producers.
I asked the Minister how businesses are meant to cope with this uncertainty and whether she was proud to be a part of a UK Government who, under the guise of ‘taking back control’, seem to have actually given away control instead.
Two-Child Limit and Benefit Cap
A recent study by the University of York found that the two-child limit and the benefit cap had contributed to a rise in levels of child poverty.
Allied to wider benefits cuts, this was found to have had disproportionately large impact on those with larger families.
I asked the Minister if, given the growing weight of evidence, the UK Government would acknowledge the harm that their welfare policies are causing and reverse those reductions which only serve to push families into further hardship.
Across the Constituency
Street Surgeries Across Gordon
Across September, supported by my office team, I carried out several street surgeries across the constituency, including Balmedie, Newburgh, Potterton and Newmachar. This was a fantastic opportunity to get a blether with constituents on their doorstep and hear their concerns.
This month I also held a number of in-person consultations with constituents to hear their concerns and provide them with support. If you would like to meet with me to speak about any support I can offer you, or if you have any issues you would like to raise, please do not hesitate to get in contact with my office.
West Gordon Parish: Service of Union and Introduction
On the 10th September, I was delighted to attend the ‘Service of Union and Introduction’ in Alford for the West Gordon Parish Church of Scotland. This brought together congregations of Cushnie and Tough Parish Church of Scotland, Howe Trinity Parish Church of Scotland, Parish of Noth Church of Scotland.
I was invited to attend an Alzheimer’s Research UK parliamentary event by constituents. I met with representatives from the organisation - the country’s leading dementia research charity - as well as people impacted by the condition.
This was a fantastic opportunity to speak about the actions being taken to help change the #FutureOfDementia. With over half of us knowing someone affected by dementia, there must be a greater focus on increasing our understanding of this condition.
Age UK Safety Advice
This month I took the opportunity to raise awareness of recent guidance provided by Age UK which aimed to empower people with more information on how to avoid telephone scams.
Scammers are taking advantage of people of all ages and backgrounds and are using a multitude of different ways to target people. I would encourage all my constituents to have a look at the guidance provided by Age UK so they understand how these scams work and avoid becoming a victim.
Accessiblity at Insch Station
During Street Surgeries in Insch, concerns were raised with me over accessibility at the station. It is very frustrating that while rail is devolved, accessibility at railway stations remains within the remit of the UK Department of Transport.
It is well over a year ago since I submitted a letter with my strong support for Insch Station to benefit from the ‘Access for All‘ fund. The relevant Minister advised me in May that an announcement would be made later this year but that announcement is still to be made. I will continue to advocate for Insch Station to get funding so that all rail users can benefit from level access.
In the News…
The Scottish Farmer, 16 September 2023, SNP MP urges UK Government to address EU seeds potato exports
Grampian Online, 18 September 2023, MP raises concern about lack of border checks on food imports
Grampian Online, 14 September 2023, Gordon MP expresses concern over pensions triplelock
Grampian Online, 25 September 2023, Gordon MP’s frustration as still no decision from UK Govt on improving access at Insch Station
Grampian Online, 30 September 2023, Progress welcomed on just transition for north-east energy sector
Press Releases, 29 September 2023, Scotland Tops UK Manufacturing Productivity