A VOICE FROM WESTMINSTER
Westminster had a short three week Parliamentary session before the “party conference recess” began this week. I’m looking forward to getting out to visit more businesses and community groups around the constituency as well as holding further advice surgeries. To comply with Covid precautions my surgeries are still by appointment only.
I was “pinged” twice in eight days by the NHS Covid app warning me that I’d been in close contact with someone who had tested positive for Covid. From the date of the first contact it could have been either at Parliament or on my way home to Fife. The second one could only have happened in Parliament, and not even on a day when I spent any time in the Chamber. Thankfully on both occasions my negative test result came back within 24 hours do I didn’t have to isolate for very long but it’s reminder that this deadly virus is still quite widespread. Although most of the restrictions have been lifted we can’t yet get back to absolutely normal. Face masks, safe distancing and good hand hygiene are essential if we want to avoid seeing the NHS overwhelmed this winter, and some kinds of venues are simply not safe to reopen to people who haven’t been vaccinated.
Throughout the pandemic a number of volunteer run organisations have kept working flat out to look after some of our most vulnerable neighbours. I was pleased to call in to Levenmouth foodbank recently to say thanks to the staff and volunteers. It’s a sad indictment of the state of Britain today that foodbanks are more necessary than ever.
One of my Covid alerts meant I had to delay my journey to Westminster by 24 hours which meant I wasn’t able to vote against the Social Security (Uprating of Benefits) Bill. Despite its title the main purpose of the Bill is to take away guarantees about annual pension increases that the UK Government promised to protect. 70% of Scotland’s MPs voted to keep the guarantees but needless to say the Government’s majority won the day.
I spoke in favour of a Bill to set up a compensation scheme for people who lost their pensions and life savings in the London Capital & Finance scandal. I tried to get the Bill amended to make it easier to set up similar schemes for victims of other pension and investment scams. My amendment got support from six different parties and from independent MPs but was still defeated. I’m still being contacted by constituents who were persuaded to cash in their pension “lump sum” and reinvest it in “bonds” that they were told were “secure and guaranteed”. They’ve been completely let down by the Financial Conduct Authority and other regulators and in many cases they have lost everything.