Written question – Welfare [11/06/2020]

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, when her Department’s Complaints Resolution Team plans to start accepting constituent cases from hon. Members. (53488)

Tabled on: 02 June 2020

Mims Davies:

In response to the Coronavirus (COVID 19) pandemic, the Department for Work and Pensions have seen a significant increase in the number of people applying to our safety net welfare system. Our resources are currently focused on making payments and progressing these new claims.

All complaints and correspondence from Honourable Members are still being accepted by the Complaints Resolution Team (CRT) and are being processed and dealt with as soon as we are able. At this time the attention of the CRT is focused on cases that concern vulnerable citizens and unlocking benefit payments. Honourable Members are encouraged to contact the Department if we have not identified a case as a priority.

The answer was submitted on 11 Jun 2020 at 16:40.


Citizens’ Basic Income Feasibility Study Report

A pilot scheme is essential to inform discussions around UBI and the report lays out important steps towards piloting UBI in Scotland.

Scotland is willing to lead the world in UBI research to provide citizens with an adequate level of financial security. However, a pilot scheme can’t happen without full co-operation and collaboration of the UK Government.

Such a scheme would allow both governments to understand the benefits of a UBI and what it could do to tackle poverty and inequality .

The Tory Government has systematically dismantled the safety net of social security over the past decade and while the damage has been obvious for years, the current pandemic has shown it even more starkly.

The current levels of Government support is not enough for people to live on and many are being pushed into poverty and hardship because of Westminster policies.

And don’t just take the SNP’s word for it, this is a view shared and continually highlighted by anti-poverty, children’s organisations and the UN Rapporteur.

Even with a pilot, such a systematic change to the welfare state would take many years to introduce. But a UBI pilot would rigorously test if there is a new way to respond to tackling poverty that would support people out of poverty

If the Westminster Government and its relevant departments refuse to fully engage with this process it will yet again demonstrate that policies for the betterment of Scotland can only be implemented through the full range of powers that come with Independence.

Written question – DVLA [08/06/2020]

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, when the DVLA will resume accepting (a) online and (b) postal applications and documentation from people wishing to register car purchases. (54144)

Tabled on: 03 June 2020

Rachel Maclean:

The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA)’s online services are operating as normal, including those for registering new vehicles and notifying the DVLA that the keeper of a vehicle has changed. Customers may also submit paper applications and notifications, but these will take longer to process.

The answer was submitted on 08 Jun 2020 at 15:48.


Greenock Telegraph 5th June 2020

Send in the clowns 

Last Tuesday, the circus that is Westminster was taken over by the clowns. Since lockdown I and 649 other MPs have been able take part in committees, meetings, debates and votes using the hybrid parliament that was established to fulfil these tasks. It was implemented quickly and was introduced as a temporary measure in case, once it was up and running, we encountered problems or reasons were found to desist from using it. The expectation was that after a successful temporary period we would extend the timeline, possibly until summer recess at the end of July.  

Instead, what has happened is that Jacob Rees Moog in his capacity as Leader of the House ran the clock down and now wants to reinstate a physical parliament. Except it won’t be. Select committees, All-Party Parliamentary Groups and sundry other meetings can still take place virtually. What Mr Mogg wants is the House of Commons populated (maximum of 50 MPs at time) and physical voting to take place. That’s why on Tuesday MPs had to physically vote to determine if physically voting was safe! This is akin to Joseph Heller’s book Catch 22. If we go there, are we saying it is safe? Even if we go there to vote against it, because who would be daft enough to take part in a physical vote if it were not safe to do so? As the lobbies have been deemed unsafe, members stood in a queue and voted one at a time at the despatch box. Some found it harder to do than others. A full house of MPs will take one hour for each vote. The SNP did not put any pressure on anyone from our group to go. I chose not to go. I find it unfathomable that I am expected to travel to work in an environment that public health England and the Public and Commercial Services Union have deemed unsuitable. Worse than that staff will be required on site to support members. And then I am faced with the dilemma of staying in London over the weekends, something that I never do, or travelling home and potentially carry the virus back to my friends, family and constituents. And while Jacob Rees Mogg pines for the days when he can recline on the green benches once again, not even he will have missed the irony that the dusty old curmudgeons of the House of Lords have embraced a fully digital chamber. It is time to move forward and build on what has been created. After the COVID19 pandemic is over, we are not going back to the old normal and parliament should lead the way for progress, not remain stuck in the past. And not force me to put other citizens at additional risk from this terrible pandemic that has already taken over 40,000 lives.


‘No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs’.

On the 1st of July 2015, I made my maiden speech in the House of Commons and in that speech, I said that I grew up in the 1960s and it was a decade that formed me. One of those influences was the Civil Rights Movement. As a child I knew the stories of Rosa Parks and James Meredith. I heard Martin Luther King and Malcolm X rage against the injustices being perpetrated on black Americans. It was one of the highlights of my first term as an MP when I had the privilege of meeting the Reverend Jessie Jackson. To have the opportunity to meet a man who was at the heart of the civil rights movement was something I never thought I would have the opportunity to do. In my maiden speech I said, “I watched the American civil rights movement, massive and dignified, march across America, and, through peaceful protest and civil engagement, change the psyche of a nation.” How wrong was I? Here we are in 2020 and it would appear that little has changed. The murder of George Floyd by a police officer is just the latest outrage. For many it has proven to be the final straw and they have taken to the streets to protest. Their protests have, in most cases, been violently opposed by law enforcement agencies. The slogan ‘black lives matter’ is not new. It has been widely used as a hashtag on social media since 2013. The movement opposes racial profiling, police brutality and racial inequality. It was created after George Zimmerman was cleared of all charges following the shooting of Trayvon Martin. After Trayvon, Michael Brown was killed in St Louis and then Eric Gardner was killed in New York City. After each killing there is public outrage and an outpouring of anger, hatred, love and understanding. But nothing changes. Many will take part in protests because they enjoy a protest and looting from shops while destroying public property sends out all the wrong messages if we are seeking to right a wrong. But we must not be distracted from the underlying injustice and the continued persecution of black people in America. It is a cancer in American society. And of course, it isn’t just America that is blighted by racial discrimination. We like to think that in Scotland we are an open welcoming society. We like to think that we are free from the crimes of our forefathers. The wealth that poured into Inverclyde from sugar was tinged with the blood of slaves. Many local street names are attributed to people who owned slaves. But that’s the past. Unfortunately, the present doesn’t make good reading.

Despite higher levels of educational attainment among ethnic groups there are lower employment rates and under-representation in Modern Apprenticeships. With a lower rate of benefit take-up, ethnic minorities are at a higher risk of poverty, twice the risk of white individuals. And our attitudes doesn’t reflect the mantra that we are all Jock Tamson’s bairns. 22% of people living in Scotland feel that there is sometimes a good reason to be prejudiced. 35% of people believing that Scotland would begin to lose its identity if more Black and Asian people came to live in Scotland. 38% believing the same about Easter European migration. It should not come as a surprise to hear that racial hate crime is consistently the most reported hate crime in Scotland.

Rage against the very graphic injustices we are seeing in the USA. Solidarity should never be undervalued and the public and politicians alike must raise our voices to condemn the violent subjugation of black Americans, but it must not end there. I quoted Burns earlier and shall do so again.


Then let us pray that come it may,

(As come it will for a’ that,)

That Sense and Worth, o’er a’ the earth,

Shall bear the gree, an’ a’ that.

For a’ that, an’ a’ that,

It’s coming yet for a’ that,

That Man to Man, the world o’er,

Shall brothers be for a’ that.


Burns wrote that in 1795 when the slave trade was still legal in Scotland. We have made progress in the intervening 225 years but as the facts show, we have a long way still to travel. As we raise our voices in condemnation of police brutality and we support the spirit of ‘black lives matter’ we must also turn a critical eye on our society and ask what can we do here to make sure that what we are witnessing in the USA never happens here.

Ronnie Cowan MP

Member of Parliament for Inverclyde