COVID-19

With the ongoing situation regarding the coronavirus (COVID-19) I have decided to restructure the way my parliamentary office will work. In normal times I encourage people to come to the constituency office and talk over any issues that they have. But these are not normal times. Let me stress that no one in my office has contracted COVID-19 but it is prudent that we ensure we don’t contract it and then, before the symptoms are obvious, potentially spread it.

My office team will be working from home and my office will not be open to the public until further notice. All existing casework will continue and we are contactable via email ronnie.cowan.mp@parliament.uk and by phone 01475 721877.

Let me stress all work will continue as usual but we are not engaging in face to face meetings.

 

Ronnie Cowan MP

Member of Parliament for Inverclyde

Greenock Telegraph 13th March 2020

On the surface the budget was all about where the UK government plans to splash money, it is light on where that money will come from and what the expenditure will achieve. It doesn’t address the pressing issues that people face in our communities day in day out. We face the immediate uncertainty from COVID-19 but there is no indication of what funding Scotland will receive from the announcements that money will be made available! I expect the full consequential from this additional funding to ensure the Scottish Government can respond effectively. The Tories plan to end E.U. friction-free trade, and potentially impose new tariffs, which will pose a threat to Scottish jobs, living standards, public services and the economy. Tory plans to end freedom of movement could see Scotland’s working age population plunged into decline. This will only be worsened by their plans to increase the Immigration Health Surcharge to £624. I was pleased to see the UK Government take action on the tampon and reading tax following sustained pressure from SNP MPs Alison Thewliss and Patricia Gibson, however some of the government’s more abhorrent policies remain. The tax credits 2-child cap and rape clause need to be scrapped. It is appalling that at least 510 woman have been forced to disclose they were raped to receive benefits. This budget fails to go far enough for workers, the cut to employers’ National Insurance falls short of the Conservatives manifesto pledge to cut national insurance up to £12,000 this budget has only taken it to £9,500. And when it claims to be green budget it falls far short. The delay of the National Infrastructure Commission shows the Tories have no plans to achieve net zero, despite Scotland’s ambition relying on U.K. reserved policy action. Meanwhile, the Scottish Government is providing £1.8 billion of investment this includes £220 million of seed funding for the Scottish National Investment Bank. £64 million is being invested to support the commitment to plant 12,000 hectares of forestry, with the aim to reach 15,000 hectares by the mid-2020s. This Budget was a lost opportunity, big on promises, small on detail and not designed to address the issues that affect our society most today.

 

Written question – PIP [12/03/2020]

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what steps she is taking to ensure the effectiveness of the initial personal independence payment assessment in order to mitigate the recourse to appeal. (26929)

Tabled on: 09 March 2020

Answer:
Justin Tomlinson:

We monitor all elements of PIP Providers’ performance, including quality of assessments. There is an independent audit function that continually monitors the quality of assessment reports and provides feedback to Providers. Providers are held accountable against a number of performance measures. If the Providers do not meet the agreed standards, financial remedies can apply.

Turning to the decision making process itself, last year we implemented a new approach to handling applications for Mandatory Reconsideration (MR) in PIP which includes contacting claimants, where appropriate, to see if there is information that would enable us to change the decision. To support this, we are investing additional time for communication, evidence gather and review. This approach supports our aim – to make the right decision as early as possible – so claimants don’t need to progress to the appeal stage. Early results have been positive and the same approach has now been adopted in ESA and UC. We continue to engage with stakeholders to explore how we can further improve the effectiveness of the MR process.

The answer was submitted on 12 Mar 2020 at 11:09.

 

UK Budget

The UK Government had an opportunity to address and reverse a decade of decline and austerity that this UK government has presided over, however they’ve failed.  This budget delivers one of the worst attacks on the Scottish economy in decades – ripping our nation out of the EU single market and customs union.

The years of cuts to budgets has left people in Inverclyde feeling the pressure through less funding for welfare support and pensions continuing to be some of the lowest in Europe.

One measure I do support is the government bringing forward legislation to protect access to cash and ensure that the UK’s cash infrastructure is sustainable in the long-term.  This is something I have been campaigning for, in Inverclyde, and in the Greenock Telegraph as the number of ATMs decrease and of those many are becoming pay to access cash.

 

UK Budget – Support for gambling related harm

The current regulatory system of administering fines to gambling companies and ensuring the money is utilised to address gambling related harm is simply unsatisfactory.

The Gambling Commission will issue fines to bookmakers although a lot of this money will go straight into the Treasury’s coffers, through the Consolidated Fund, and have no direct impact on education, research and treatment of gambling addiction.

Recently, a financial penalty of £230,972 was paid into the Consolidated Fund with only a payment of £15,000 going towards the Commission’s costs. This is concerning and I urge the Chancellor to use the upcoming Budget to set out a package of measures to effectively address gambling related harm.

Added to this, the current mandatory levy of bookmakers to fund education, research and treatment brings in a fraction of what is required. We need a statutory levy to ensure the support is there for individuals and families affected by gambling.

The SNP will continue to tackle problem gambling, pushing the UK government to treat it as a public health matter and tackle it with a joined-up strategy.