Clarity over Shipyards
We received the announcement that we have been waiting for that BAE Systems will be closing Portsmouth shipyards, and 835 people in the Clyde shipyards will be losing their jobs progressively through to 2016. While not unexpected, it is very sad for the hardworking people involved, as well as their families. But I have been assured that the company will be working with trade unions and will explore all potential opportunities, including retraining, redeployment and flexible working arrangement, as well as providing support for employees who wish to retire or seek external opportunities.
The positive thing to come out of the announcement, however, is that the future of the Clyde shipyards as a whole has been secured for at least the next decade. They stated that following an assessment of capabilities, the Clyde was seen as the most effective build location for Type 26. Future QE Class work, which was initially planned for Portsmouth, will be relocated to the Clyde under BAE Systems’ proposals.
Of course, a question mark still hangs over this, as I am sure if Scotland sadly decides to vote for independence, then I cannot see how the UK and Scottish governments would decide on the future of these shipyards. Since the Second World War, no UK government has ever commissioned the building of a warship in a foreign country, and I would find it very difficult to believe that they would choose to do so if Scotland became a foreign country.
I care deeply about keeping jobs in the constituency and, while disappointed that jobs will be lost over the next few years, I am pleased that the future of the Clyde has been secured.
Glasgow North West
Oppose the Bedroom Tax
The Labour Party has held a debate in the Commons recently on the Bedroom Tax. It is a deeply cruel and unfair measure which hits 660,000 vulnerable people, including 400,000 disabled people, through no fault of their own. For the vast majority affected, there is nowhere smaller to move to, and this is a particular problem in Glasgow.
There is now also a real risk that this tax will end up costing more than it saves. This is due to people being forced to move to the private sector which will end up costing more in Housing Benefit. I have been speaking with housing associations in our constituency and they have stressed they see this being a major problem in the years to come.
Presentation of the old Yoker School clock
I was delighted to be invited by Sandy Busby of Yoker Resource Centre, to make the formal presentation of the old Yoker School Clock, in the Yoker Community Campus, located in the old school. The clock was discovered early this year in an unkempt and damaged state in the loft of the resource centre.
The clock hung in the Yoker primary school from its opening in 1875 till it closed in 1965 and then served the local community on to 1991 when the school closed in the then Yoker Neighbourhood Centre.
Mr Billy Mills, from Bearsden, offered to pay for the refurbishment of the clock, in memoriam of his late wife Nancy, who attended Yoker Primary School as a young girl.
Questioning the Energy Companies
The Energy select committee, which I sit on, has had a lot of media attention in recent weeks as we have been questioning energy companies on why they are putting up prices yet again. In the last month or so, all of the biggest energy companies have announced price rises of between 4 and 10%. As many of you who read my newsletter often will know, I am always annoyed by the reasons they give for price rises. They say wholesale energy prices are going up and government policies take up a lot of the cost of a bill. But the committee this week showed they are simply lying about this. The Chief Executive of a smaller company, Ovo, said he hasn’t seen wholesale prices go up in about two years.
I also appeared on an episode of Dispatches called “Energy costs exposed”. It showed that energy companies are not sure how much government policies, so called ‘green levies’, are adding to the bill, with different companies saying different things. The programme also looked into some of the shady tax practices by the big companies and it suggests a lot of tax avoidance is going on.
I will keep pressuring the energy companies to come clean about their accounts. But if you have problems paying your energy bill please speak to your supplier or call my office if you have a problem. There are plenty of schemes which could help you with energy bills, and I do not want any of my constituents going cold this winter.
With Shadow Energy Secretary, Caroline Flint MP, pledging to freeze energy bills