On Monday, the Finance Bill progressed through its report and third reading stages in the House of Commons. The bill seeks to formalise the measures introduced in the Autumn Statement by the Chancellor including changes to capital allowances, tax credit schemes, introducing relief for creative industries, increasing tobacco allowances, and measures to tackle promoters of tax avoidance schemes.
The SNP Economy Spokesperson, Drew Hendry, raised concerns over the bill, arguing that it should have included provisions to properly support households through the cost-of-living crisis.
He agrees that the electricity generator levy disproportionately impacts Scotland’s renewable sector, and therefore welcomes the measures removing the levy for new renewable projects, however, feels the measures do not go far enough.
The legislation was passed and has now progressed to second reading in the House of Lords.
To read the full transcript of the debate on the bill, follow the link here: https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2024-02-05/debates/3873EF65-51D0-4202-8199-993805A0D5AE/FinanceBill
Homes for Ukraine:
On Tuesday, Pauline Latham MP led a Westminster Hall debate on the potential merits of extending the Homes for Ukraine Scheme. As the first visas issues under the scheme are due to expire in Spring 2025, there has been concern about the future for those Ukrainians who are now living safely in the UK. She argued that the scheme should be extended to give Ukrainians some certainty, and to allow children to gain a full education.
SNP MP Pete Wishart highlighted that extending the scheme would give employers confidence in hiring Ukrainians who are currently unable to secure a job that matches their experience. He also highlighted that there is already an extension scheme available for those who are in the UK on work visas, and argued this should be extended to everyone to allow them to access to the benefits that those newly arriving in the UK have already secured.
SNP Immigration Spokesperson, Alison Thewliss, echoed the concerns raised by others in the debate. She additionally sought clarity over the Home Office’s move to digital Biometric Residence Permits and called for greater support for those housing Ukrainians under the Homes for Ukraine Scheme.
Women and Equalities Questions:
In the Women and Equalities Question session on Wednesday, a series of topics were discussed including violence against women and girls, carers’ allowance, the Windrush Compensation Scheme, domestic abuse, and energy bills support for disabled people.
In Prime Minister’s Questions, Keir Starmer questioned the Prime Minister on NHS waiting times and the murder of Brianna Ghey.
Stephen Flynn MP, the SNP’s Westminster leader questioned the Prime Minister on the UK Government’s approach to asylum seekers, saying, “on Monday this week the Prime Minister accepted a crude bet regarding the lives of asylum seekers. In doing so, he demeaned them as individuals, and he degraded the office that he currently holds. Will he apologise?”
To read the full question session, follow the link here: https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2024-02-07/debates/1D1AEDA5-BAF0-46C2-BB1F-10741531CB30/OralAnswersToQuestions
Post Office Commons Debate:
On Thursday, SNP MP Marion Fellows led a Westminster Hall Debate on the management culture of the Post Office. She highlighted that despite the promise to change the toxic culture of management in the post office, it still exists today. Marion used the experience of her constituent to illustrate her point, explaining that he has invested £100,000 of his own money into the Post Office to manage continuing shortfalls. She also said that, “Since last July, we have seen a spate of historical scandals emanate from Sir Wyn Williams’s statutory inquiry, from Post Office staff pursuing prosecutions despite knowing of Horizon issues, to others boastfully emailing colleagues to celebrate having sent innocent sub-postmasters to jail, and auditors omitting evidence in witness statements.” Marion called for the UK Government not to pursue her constituent for the ghost debt of £80,000 and has called for them to explore compensation for those in the same position as her constituent. The other contributors in the debate echoed her points.
Minister Hollinrake responded to the well-attended debate, by condemning the toxic culture within the post office at management level, and said: “We are looking at ways to ensure that that scheme’s compensation is fair and seen to be fair. More than £160 million has been awarded already to 2,700 victims, and 64% of all claimants who made their claims prior to the ITV series—more will come forward as a result, which we welcome—have had full and final compensation.”
He also committed to looking into the instances of shortfalls which Marion had highlighted in her speech, saying: “It is a serious and unacceptable matter, and we certainly want to ensure that they do not happen again.’