Hello and welcome to my December Parliamentary report, where you can find details on my activities over the last month as your MP.
In another busy month, the big event at Westminster was the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement. I was also drawn to ask a question at Prime Minister’s Questions and asked about our new – unelected – Foreign Secretary. Locally, I attended the Remembrance Day ceremony at Ellon, visited local businesses in Inverurie and supported NFUS’s local food event in Aberdeen.
Please get in touch if my team or I can assist you, by emailing [email protected] or calling 020 3545 2236. May I take this opportunity to wish you and yours best wishes for Christmas and a happy and healthy 2024.
Richard Thomson MP
Speaking on BBC Scotland just after the Autumn Statement, I summed the Chancellor’s announcement up as being “less than the sum of its parts.”
Judging by the subdued reaction on the Tory benches, I suspect that many of the Chancellor’s political colleagues had reached the same conclusion.
This is a inadequate set of measures, which fail to put more money into people’s pockets to help with Westminster’s cost of living crisis; to invest in public services, or build prosperity for the future.
Ahead of the Autumn statement announcement, I also spoke to LBC News.
The Government had trailed the announcement with a claim that the budget would put the UK “back on track”.
I called on the UK Government to take action on the things causing harm to most people in the UK: out of control energy prices, rising food costs, and benefits, wages and pensions which fail to keep up with real world inflation.
Later that morning, I appeared on BBC Radio 5's MP Panel and called for more support to help small businesses to do what they do best.
I highlighted some of the actions taken by the Scottish Government to support small businesses, such as the Small Business Bonus Scheme.
I also called on the UK Government to do more to put money into people’s pockets so that they can afford to spend money with small businesses.
Autumn Budget Bad News for Scotland
The Autumn Statement is a clear reminder that we cannot hope to build a fair, dynamic economy while being tied to UK Governments who, through their actions, do not reflect the preferences, choices or values that people in Scotland consistently express at the ballot box.
Summing up the debate, I said that this was a lacklustre Autumn Statement, which failed to offer meaningful change to the millions struggling with the cost of living.
16 Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence
I attended the ‘16 Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence’ event in Parliament, which was sponsored by L'Oréal Groupe.
As part of their ‘Stand Up Against Street Violence’ campaign, the Suzy Lamplugh Trust delivers training in how to be an ‘active bystander’ when people see harassment taking place.
Women’s Aid, which works to help educate, protect and prevent Intimate Partner Violence, also delivered a session on their global ‘Abuse is Not Love’ campaign. For further information on these campaigns, please click on the links.
Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers Bill
I broadly welcome the Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers Bill, although there remains too many gaps in consumer protections for my liking.
I spoke of my concern about omissions when it comes to anything to offering consumers redress when customers have been misled, such as through ‘greenwashing’, drip pricing, subscription traps and fake reviews.
I also raised concerns about the Government tabling 175 amendments to its own bill at the last minute - something which severely limits the ability of members to properly scrutinise legislation.
Appointment of David Cameron as Foreign Sec
Speaking at Prime Minister’s Questions, I asked the PM how David Cameron’s relationship with Lex Greensill and lobbying for Chinese state interests squared with his stated ambition of leading a government marked by integrity, professionalism and respect.
Unsurprisingly, the Prime Minister responded with a thoroughly vacuous statement about his delight at having made the appointment.
Access to Legal Aid and Employment
There are approximately 175,000 people currently trapped in the asylum backlog, many of whom are living in hotels with no right to support themselves or their families through work.
I asked the Minister whether allowing people the opportunity to work and support themselves, and to allow the Home Office and legal aid to be resourced adequately, may be more beneficial to all, than their current approach of using unlawful and ineffective policies when it comes to migration.
Times Political Panel
I also appeared on the Times Radio Political Panel with Ayesha Hazarika on 19 November.
Topics discussed included the (second) sacking of Suella Braverman as Home Secretary; the Autumn Budget; the appointment of David Cameron as Foreign Secretary; the court defeat of the UK Government’s cruel Rwanda policy, and the ongoing war in Gaza.
For three years now, the UK Government have been promising legislation to improve checks on company finances, but has repeatedly failed to deliver.
I asked the Minister how the Government could justify leaving the Audit and Governance Bill out of the King’s Speech, when this is supported by businesses, regulators and auditors alike.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Government response was that having a reformed system would create “red tape”.
Import Tariffs on Egg Products
The UK’s £1bn egg industry is currently protected by tariffs on imports. This makes importing eggs from places like India and Mexico too expensive to be worthwhile, which in turn means UK producers - which work to higher welfare and food safety standards - are able to continue doing so without being undercut by cheaper imports.
I asked if the UK Government could give assurances to the industry that eggs and egg products will be granted sensitive status by the UK Government in future FTA negotiations. The Minister gave no such assurances.
The UK Government failed to use the King’s Speech to introduce any legislation to effectively tackle the issues of energy security, the climate crisis (and the potential for economic transformation that may come from a just transition), or take action to give any relief to hard-pressed energy users.
The continued failure of the Westminster Government to take positive action on energy issues is a compelling argument for these powers to be run from Scotland.
Urgent Question on Steel
Following the announcement that British Steel was preparing to cut as many as 2,000 jobs, I asked the Minister for Business and Trade about the UK Government’s plans for a just transition for the steelmaking workforce and for information regarding any support the Government have given to the development of hydrogen furnaces.
Across the Constituency
Laings of Inverurie
On the 3rd November I attended an event at Laings of Inverurie where they unveiled their new showroom displays.
Laings are well-known throughout the North-east and beyond and are one of the largest independent retailers of kitchens, bathrooms, and bedrooms in the country.
Earlier this year, I presented Laings with a Parliamentary Motion I tabled in December 2022 to mark the company’s 160th anniversary of trading.
Companies like Laings are at the heart of the North East’s success. I was delighted to be able to see for myself how well the company continues to do, and I wish them continued success for the future.
Meeting with Scottish Gas
I met with Scottish Gas and its parent company, Centrica to discuss the help and support available to households in the Gordon constituency. Scottish Gas have recently announced their Warm Home Discount Scheme which is now open for applications.
This scheme offers a one-off £150 payment and is targeted to those on low incomes to pay towards electricity bills. Constituents can check if they are eligible and apply here.
I was honoured to be able to take part in Remembrance Day events in Ellon, and to lay a wreath on behalf of constituents across Gordon.
Poppy Scotland supports and campaigns for service people in our community. You can find out more about their work here.
NFUS Producer Event
I had the opportunity to join members and farmers of NFUS at their producers event at Aldi in Aberdeen on the 18th November. It was good to again meet with local farmers and producers to hear about the importance of supporting Scottish food in our supermarkets.
Meeting with BBRS
On the 8th November I met with the Business Banking Resolution Service to learn how they can help small and medium businesses to resolve banking complaints. I would urge any local businesses with turnovers between £6.5 and £10 million and in dispute with their banks to see if BBRS can help to resolve their outstanding issues.
Local SMEs should check their correspondence and see if they’re eligible for BBRS help here.
Asda Cafe Initiative
This month, I welcomed Asda Cafe’s initiative, aimed at supporting customers and communities this winter.
These include the ‘Winter Warmers’ deal for over 60s to enjoy soup, a roll and unlimited tea and coffees for £1 in any Asda Cade, and also free hot drinks for uniformed emergency responders on shift at any Asda café or store with self-service facilities. Asda’s ‘Kids Eat for £1’ offer also continues.
Read a full list of Asda’s new initiatives here.
Postcode Lottery Funding
This month I welcomed a further round of funding from the ‘People’s Postcode Lottery’ which saw five groups in the constituency receive payouts from the National Lottery’s Community Fund.
I am always keen to look at ways of encouraging more funding applications from community groups and organisations to take advantage of what’s available and ensure North-east communities benefit as a result. If any groups are making or considering making funding applications, I am always happy to provide a letter of support.
Find out more about applying for funding here.
In the news...
Grampian Online, 20 November 2023, Gordon MP calls for halt to whisky duty rise
Grampian Online, 21 November 2023, Politics: Does lobbying for Chinese state interests make you a suitable candidate to be Foreign Secretary?
Press Release, 13 November 2023, Thomson Comments on Threadbare Govt Programme in Kings Speech
Grampian Online, 8 November 2023, ASDA cafe initiative for north-east customers gets Gordon MP's backing
Press Release, 13 November 2023, Local MP Welcomes Tailored Support for Veterans in North-East
Press Release, 14 November 2023, Gordon MP Highlights Household Energy Support This Weekend