Working for families in Motherwell and Wishaw

This week in Parliament, I moved forward with three very important files that have a direct impact on my constituents in Motherwell and Wishaw. Below I provide a summary and explanation on each, and why it is so important we keep the momentum going.

Disability Action Plan Statement

On February 5th, the UK Government released it’s disability action plan after months of consultation. However, this disability action plan is not a plan – it is a mishmash of short-term policies. Some of the proposals are welcome and should have been sorted out long ago. Others are unclear and simply do not address the most pressing concerns of disabled people.

In my submission to the DAP consultation, I listed key areas that had been overlooked. Cost of living and welfare support are still missing, even though these areas were consistently raised by disability organisations and individuals.

For the past two years, disabled people have been crying out for more targeted financial support to assist with their additional cost of living needs. I’ve heard directly from groups across the country, including from groups and individuals right here in Motherwell and Wishaw. The work capability assessment reforms will subject more disabled people to the cruel, punitive, and ineffective sanctions regime. Why?

If the Government are serious about improving the lives of those with disabilities, they should start by scrapping the proposals ahead of the Budget. In contrast, the Scottish government are acting within budgetary constraints to improve the lives of disabled people through the adult disability payment and child disability payment.

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Social Energy Tariff

Westminster’s cost of living crisis has seen millions of households across Scotland face higher mortgage payments, energy bills and food costs – and it has disproportionately impacted households with disabled people. On Tuesday February 6th, I introduced a 10 Minute Rule Bill urging the UK Government to immediately implement a social energy tariff for vulnerable households.

It is unfair that households with disabled people who rely on life-saving electrical equipment are facing higher than average energy costs or having to choose between heating or charging equipment – they should not have to pay the price for this Tory government’s economic incompetence. It is dreadful that in the UK in 2024, some households have to choose between eating and heating. Millions of the most vulnerable households and organisations spanning all civil society are shouting from the rafters for support with energy bills.

The great need for an energy social tariff is best demonstrated by the wide and varied support for its implementation. Disability groups, debt advice groups, politicians across the political spectrum, consumer groups, local authorities, housing providers, Ofgem and energy companies are all in favour of targeted relief through a social energy tariff. A society should be measured on how it treats its most vulnerable. And this UK government, through inaction, are continuing to fail the most vulnerable households right across the country.

I am urging the UK government to support my Bill and urgently implement a social energy tariff to financially support disabled people, including those in Motherwell and Wishaw.

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Post Office Management Culture Debate

The Horizon IT scandal was the result of the culture of Post Office management. In his March 2019 judgment in Bates and Others v. Post Office Ltd, Mr Justice Fraser stated: “There seems to be a culture of secrecy and excessive confidentiality generally within the Post Office, but particularly focused on Horizon.”

Following this damning judgement, Nick Read, who was appointed as CEO of Post Office Ltd. set about changing the management culture of POL when taking over in September 2019. In a letter to the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee in June 2021, he stated that he was: “undertaking to drive a culture of genuine commercial partnership between Post Office and postmasters with openness and transparency at its core.”

I reiterate his words ‘openness and transparency’ and to ‘overhaul the culture of Post Office Ltd.’

Since I last held a debate on Management Culture of Post Office Ltd back in July, we have seen a spate of historical scandals emanate from Sir Wyn William’s statutory inquiry. From Post Office staff pursuing prosecutions despite knowing of Horizon issues, others boastfully emailing colleagues celebrating sending innocent postmasters to jail, and then to auditors omitting evidence in witness statements. It has been another shameful chapter in the Post Office’s history and from the outset I want to commend the work of the inquiry for bringing these issues, and many others to light.

Salman Aslam is a young man who ran a Post Office in Motherwell for 5 years before walking away a year ago. Sal’s relentless five-year battle with Post Office Limited over major discrepancies destroyed his life.

Management at Post Office Limited, alongside successive Labour, Liberal and Tory Ministers, oversaw scandal after scandal, including one of the largest miscarriages of justice in UK history – yet they continued to receive huge bonuses.

It’s time for the UK government to end its arms-length approach to the Post Office and ensure they have better oversight of how it is being run. Improving governance and conditions at Post Office Limited is one way in which the UK government can do right by the victims of the Horizon scandal.

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