News

MIDLOTHIAN MP WELCOMES REUNIFICATION OF SYRIAN FAMILY

Photo of the Karous courtesy Deb Armstrong, The National

Owen Thompson, SNP MP for Midlothian has today welcomed Syrian refugee, Mohammed Karou, to Midlothian as he joins his family after five years apart.

Mohammed, now aged 10, was one of the thousands of child refugees alone in Syria. His parents, brother and sister fled to a refugee camp in Syria believing he was dead and only learnt that he was alive as the family were in the process of being resettled through international humanitarian efforts.

In September 2016 the Midlothian MP raised the case directly with Theresa May at PMQs and has been proactively working with the Home Office to ensure the safe return of Mohammed.

Owen Thompson, MP said:

“I was delighted to be able to meet Mohammed and the Karou family today and to see how happy they all are to be back together. It’s understandably been an exceptionally difficult time for the whole family with Mohammed being alone and so far away.”

“I’m honoured to have been able to play a small part in being able to reunite the family, but this has been a real team effort from my office, Midlothian Council, the Home office and countless faceless heroes who are on the frontline in highly dangerous circumstances who took actions that have resulted in the family being together here in Midlothian today.”

“It is disappointing that in the very week we are able to celebrate the reunion of this family that the Tory Government blocked moves in the House of Commons to help more vulnerable children like Mohammed and continues to refuse sanctuary to so many. “

“Mohammed has been lucky in many ways, but we can’t stop while there are still any children who need similar support.”

MIDLOTHIAN MP CALLS CHANCELLOR’S BUDGET ON INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY A “DERELICTION OF DUTY” TO WASPI WOMEN

Owen Thompson MP signing the Unison WASPI pledge, 8 March 2017

Owen Thompson, SNP MP for Midlothian, has joined his SNP colleagues at Westminster in calling the Chancellor’s Spring Budget a dereliction of duty and criticising the Chancellor for failing WASPI women on International Women’s Day.  He warned that the UK government’s silence and failure to outline a single measure to tackle state pensions inequality was deafening.

Following the Budget, SNP MPs addressed the WASPI campaign’s protest taking place outside Westminster.  They called the Chancellor’s Budget yet another signal of a Tory government intent on pursuing a policy of austerity, ignoring repeated debates and interventions led by SNP MPs calling for justice for women born in the 1950s and seeking to fill the gap left by gross pensions inequality.

Owen Thompson MP commented:

“This should have been an opportunity to celebrate International Women’s Day, instead my SNP colleagues and I are campaigning alongside WASPI campaigners – including some from my own Midlothian constituency – protesting for long overdue justice following a Spring Budget that was nothing short of a dereliction of duty by this Tory government.

“The silence from the Chancellor on state pension inequality as he delivered his Budget was devastatingly deafening for those WASPI women campaigning outside the House of Commons.”

Ian Blackford MP, the SNP’s Pensions spokesperson, added:

“The Chancellor had an opportunity to right a wrong and deliver measures that would give these women their pensions that they have rightfully earned, yet are unfairly denied.  However, at every opportunity this Tory government has failed to act.  What the UK government must realise is that pensions are a contract, not a benefit. And this Budget should have shown the UK government living up to that contract.

“It’s clear that delivering fair pensions is not high on the UK government’s priorities.  With inflation spikes forecast, this budget was completely devoid of any mitigating measures to future-proof pensioner incomes.  What we needed was a clear commitment to the triple lock beyond 2020 and action for the pension injustices WASPI women have suffered for too long.”

MIDLOTHIAN MP CALLS FOR PUBLIC RESPONSE ON DOMESTIC ABUSE VICTIM TAX

Owen Thompson MP holding a sign with details of the petition site at www.domesticabusevictimtax.co.uk

Owen Thompson, SNP MP for Midlothian, is calling upon his constituents to help scrap the Tory government policy to tax victims of domestic abuse for exerting their right to child maintenance, urging them to sign a petition that calls for the UK Government to remove the 4% collection charge on child maintenance payments that applies to parents using the ‘Collect-and-Pay’ service.

Payments made to the ‘Collect-and-Pay’ service are managed by the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) and can be removed directly from the paying parent’s bank account and have enforcement powers to ensure maintenance is paid on time and in full.  The CMS exempt victims of domestic violence from the £20 application fee, but do not make any exemptions from the monthly charges.

In response to a written question tabled by SNP MP Angela Crawley, the UK Government said the charges are in place to encourage parents to pause and consider whether they require the ‘Collect-and-Pay’ service – encouraging parents to utilise the less bureaucratic ‘Direct-Pay’ scheme.

However, Mr Thompson stressed that the ‘Direct-Pay’ service does not offer the same protections as ‘Collect-and-Pay’ and can continue the cycle of abuse.  He is urging constituents to sign the online petition at www.domesticabusevictimtax.co.uk

Owen Thompson MP further said:

“Victims of domestic abuse should be protected by the UK Government, not punished financially for their inability to engage with an abusive ex-partner – ultimately, it will be the children that child maintenance payments are intended to support who will lose out.

“The UK Government advises victims of domestic abuse that they should utilise their less safe ‘Direct-Pay’ scheme, which has no powers of enforcement and allows continued communication through bank transfers.

“This tax puts victims of domestic abuse and their children in real danger.  The UK Government must look again at this unfair tax and listen to calls from charities, the public and MPs to scrap it.”

MIDLOTHIAN MP CHAIRS LAUNCH OF PARLIAMENTARY GROUP TO HONOUR AND SUPPORT BOYS’ BRIGADE

Owen Thompson, SNP MP for Midlothian, recently sponsored the inaugural meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for the Boys’ Brigade, attended by cross-party parliamentarians from the House of Commons and House of Lords as well as officials from the Boys’ Brigade, including Brigade Secretary/CEO Bill Stevenson.

Mr. Thompson was elected Chair of the APPG, with John McInally MP (SNP, Falkirk) voted secretary and four parliamentarians sharing the elected position of Vice Chair: Steven Paterson MP (SNP, Stirling), Steve McCabe MP (Labour, Birmingham Selly Oak), David Burrowes (Conservative, Enfield Southgate) and Lord Griffiths of Burry Port (Labour).  Nine other Parliamentarians – including Deputy Speaker Eleanor Laing MP and Mr. Thompson’s SNP colleagues Dr. Eilidh Whiteford MP and Marion Fellows MP –  have also joined the APPG.

The Boys’ Brigade – the largest Christian uniformed youth movement in the UK and Ireland – was founded in Glasgow by Sir William Alexander Smith in 1883, and continues in its mission to care for and challenge young people through informal education and weekly activities, in partnership with interdenominational houses of worship, to this day.   The APPG has been formed to honour and call attention to the good work of the Boys’ Brigade, and to see how best it can offer continuing support to the Boys’ Brigade in taking its mission forward.

Commenting on the establishment of the new APPG, Owen Thompson MP said:

“It is both a pleasure and a privilege to work closely with the Boys’ Brigade on setting up and taking forward this APPG.  I very much appreciate the mission they have carried forward for over a century, and the education, opportunities and friendship they offer to the young people in the Brigade.  And it is great that so many of my colleagues in both the Commons and the Lords feel the same and have joined me in setting up this APPG.  I look forward to the next meeting and investigating further how best we can support the Brigade’s work in our own constituencies and beyond.”

Bill Stevenson, Boys’ Brigade Secretary/CEO, added:

“We were delighted that we have been able to establish the APPG at Westminster.  We were really excited to see how many parliamentarians were keen to support our work.  The Boys’ Brigade continues to be a great force for good across the land and is still as relevant today as when it was founded in 1883. We were particularly pleased that many ex-members of the BB who are now MPs and members of the Lords have signed to be members of the group.  I am sure this will really help us raise our profile and develop our work further.”

‘RESPECT THE NATIONS’ WARNS SNP MP

SNP MP for Midlothian, Owen Thompson has received cross party support from MPs from all devolved nations for his Early Day Motion asking MPs to have more respect when debating issues relating directly to devolved nations.

Owen Thompson tabled the motion following Tory MP John Redwood filibustering through amendments relating to the devolved nations in Monday’s Brexit debate, to talk about English fishing policy – blocking SNP MPs from speaking.

The motion has been supported by Alisdair McDonald, Social Democratic and Labour Party MP for Belfast South and Plaid Cymru’s Liz Saville Roberts, MP for Dwyfor Meirionnydd and other SNP members.

Owen Thompson MP said:

“The disrespect and disdain shown to Scotland, and other devolved nations has been clear. But the constant ignorance during remarks from Tory MPs shows a much wider, worrying rhetoric of talking down to Scotland, flexing their imperialistic muscles.”

“Scotlands voice has been ignored long enough, we have a Tory Government that we didn’t vote for and we are about to be dragged out of the EU against our will. It is high time that Tory MPs respected the devolved nations and pay the most basic of courtesies to the MPs that represent those parts of the UK.”

The EDM reads:

EDM 922: RESPECTING THE NATIONS (Session: 2016-17. Date tabled: 06.02.2017)

That this House recognises and respects the unique identities of each of the Nations of these islands; further recognises the importance of clarity when debating important matters that relate to each of our unique countries; and agrees that every effort should be made by hon. Members to bring clarity to debate by not confusing Britain with England, thereby raising the level of debate in this House.

OWEN THOMPSON MP SIGNS HOLOCAUST EDUCATIONAL TRUST BOOK OF COMMITMENT

Owen Thompson MP signing the Holocaust Educational Trust’s Book of Commitment, January 2017

Owen Thompson MP has pledged his commitment to today’s Holocaust Memorial Day commemorations and to honouring those who were murdered during the Holocaust by recently signing the Holocaust Educational Trust’s Book of Commitment at the Houses of Parliament.  He also paid tribute to the extraordinary Holocaust survivors who work tirelessly to educate young people.

Holocaust Memorial Day – observed Friday 27th January – marks the anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi concentration and death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau, the site of the largest mass murder in history.  In the lead up to and on Holocaust Memorial Day, thousands of commemorative events will be arranged by schools, faith groups and community organisations across the country, remembering all the victims of the Holocaust and subsequent genocides.  The theme for this year’s commemorations is ‘How can life go on?’

Holocaust Memorial Day was established following an MP’s visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau with the Holocaust Educational Trust. Moved by his visit, Andrew Dismore MP proposed a bill, “to introduce a day to learn and remember the Holocaust” on 30 June 1999.  The Holocaust Educational Trust has been closely involved in the establishment and development of Holocaust Memorial Day since its inception in 2000. Holocaust Memorial Day is now coordinated by the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust.

After signing the Book of Commitment, Owen Thompson MP commented:

“Holocaust Memorial Day is an important opportunity for people from Midlothian and across the world to reflect on the tragic events of the Holocaust.  As the Holocaust moves from living history to just history, it becomes ever more important that we take the time to remember the victims and also pay tribute to the survivors.  I would encourage my constituents to show their support for such an important day.”

Karen Pollock MBE, Chief Executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, said:

“Our mission is to educate young people from every background about the Holocaust and its contemporary relevance.  We are very grateful to Owen Thompson MP for signing the Book of Commitment, signalling his continued commitment to remembering the victims of the Holocaust as well as challenging antisemitism, prejudice and bigotry in all its forms.”

PRIME MINISTER MUST ANSWER ON TRIDENT COVER UP

Owen Thompson, SNP MP for Midlothian, has joined with his colleague Angus Robertson MP – the SNP’s Westminster Leader – in calling for Prime Minister Theresa May to personally come to Parliament this week and tell MPs exactly what and when she knew about the reported Trident missile launch malfunction and alleged UK Government cover up.

The SNP want the Prime Minister to make clear what she knew about the malfunction when she made the case for renewal of the £200 billion weapons of mass destruction programme in July 2016 – and why MPs weren’t informed before the renewal vote.

On the BBC’s Andrew Marr show on Sunday 22 January, the Prime Minister refused – four times – to say whether she knew about the malfunction at the time of the Trident vote.

Commenting, Angus Robertson MP said:

“The Prime Minister must come to parliament this week and outline exactly what she knew – and when – about this reported malfunction and alleged UK government cover up.

“It would be utterly unacceptable, and deeply serious, if it turns out that this information was deliberately kept from MPs at the time of the renewal vote for the Trident weapons of mass destruction programme.

“Parliament and the public have a right to know if these reports are true, and there must be full disclosure about what happened, who knew, when they knew, and why the House of Commons wasn’t informed. The Prime Minister cannot continue to dodge the question.”

Owen Thompson MP added:

“My colleagues and I have stated time and again that Trident is obscenely expensive and morally repugnant. I have consistently raised the possibility that it is also unreliable, and highlighted previous safety concerns – this now must raise massive question marks over its viability.

“58 of Scotland’s 59 MPs – across party lines – voted against Trident renewal last summer. With Trident costs spiralling out of control, and with this new information raising further safety concerns, we will be asking questions and demanding answers.”

MIDLOTHIAN MP CRITICISES CLOSURE OF SOLE CLYDESDALE BANK BRANCH IN CONSTITUENCY

Owen Thompson MP with Colin Beattie MSP and Councillors Margot Russell and Jim Bryant at Clydesdale Bank Dalkeith – photo courtesy Edinburgh Evening News

Owen Thompson, SNP MP for Midlothian, has expressed his disappointment and concern over the proposed closure of Clydesdale Bank’s Dalkeith branch – their only branch in his Midlothian constituency.

Clydesdale and Yorkshire Banks announced on 18 January the closure of 79 branches across the UK with the loss of over 400 jobs.  Clydesdale Bank then confirmed to Mr. Thompson by email that the Dalkeith branch will be included in the 39 branches closed in Scotland.  Customers of the Dalkeith branch are to be advised that their accounts will be transferred to the Musselburgh branch, 5 miles away.

Owen Thompson MP said:

“It is disappointing to hear of the proposed closure of the Clydesdale Bank branch in Dalkeith, which will leave my Midlothian constituency without any Clydesdale branches and will impact on its customers in Dalkeith and beyond.

“I accept that many customers choose to bank via telephone, internet or mobile banking, so the location of their nearest physical branch is not normally important to them.  Midlothian residents who choose to use Clydesdale counter services are free to use any branches of the Clydesdale, and will have access to some banking services at the local Post Office.

“However, we must remember that not everyone has the means or capability to bank using computers or phones.  And many customers prefer – or indeed need – personal interaction with their bank, and should have the options to use counter services without having to journey to East Lothian to do so.  With 3 other Lothians branches scheduled for closure, they are even limited in their options in central Edinburgh
.
“In addition, this will have a detrimental impact on local businesses who bank with the Clydesdale and who deserve good access to counter services as much as their urban counterparts.”

“I will be writing to the Clydesdale Bank to express my very serious concerns over this closure and its effect on the local community of which it is a vital part.  I will be urging them to reconsider this decision as a matter of urgency, and to address how their business transformation can best support the continued operation of local branches, which are vital to sectors of so many Scottish constituencies including my own.”

MIDLOTHIAN CHRISTMAS CARD COMPETITION WINNER AND SPONSORS ANNOUNCED

Pictured: Lara Young’s winning design

Midlothian MP Owen Thompson has announced the winner of his first annual Midlothian constituency office Christmas card design competition.

The 2016 winner is Lara Young from Mauricewood Primary School’s P5 class, with her winning design being chosen by Mr. Thompson and his special guest judge Arlene Stuart (Forth One) from almost 600 entries.

Mr. Thompson recently visited Mauricewood Primary to congratulate Lara in person and present her with a certificate and book token along with a copy of her design on his card.

In addition to celebrating the artistic skills of Midlothian’s primary school pupils, the competition aimed to highlight the important work of Mr. Thompson’s nominated charities for 2016, which are Midaid, the Scottish Refugee Council and Women’s Aid East & Midlothian.

Mr Thompson also welcomed the sponsorship received from the following Midlothian companies: Bonnyrigg Flowers, Newtongrange’s Dean Tavern, Gorebridge’s Memories of India restaurant, and Stewart Brewing of Loanhead.

Congratulating the winner, Owen Thompson MP said:

“I would like to offer my warmest congratulations to Lara Young on winning my first Christmas card competition.  The competition was fierce, with hundreds of entries from primary school pupils across Midlothian.  My fellow judge Arlene Stuart (Forth One) and I had a hard time making a decision, but overall we both agreed that Lara’s lovely and timeless drawing of Santa and Rudolph was the winner.

“Thank you to everyone who took part, and to all those who supported them in entering.  The quality of all the entries has been an indicator of the real artistic talent of the children of Midlothian.

“This winning card will be seen by many people and organisations across Midlothian and beyond, and this year highlights the vital work done by the nominated charities Midaid, the Scottish Refugee Council and Women’s Aid East & Midlothian.

“I would also like to thank the Midlothian businesses – Bonnyrigg Flowers, the Dean Tavern, Memories of India and Stewart Brewing – who offered very generous sponsorship which allowed this competition to take place.”

OWEN THOMPSON MP CALLS FOR END TO DISCRIMINATION AGAINST DISABLED PEOPLE

Owen Thompson, SNP MP for Midlothian, visited a Guide Dogs event in Parliament on 16th November to show his support for taxi drivers receiving disability equality training when getting their licence.  A Private Member’s Bill that sought to introduce such training was debated on 18th November but was not voted on due to lack of time.

At the event, guide dog owners told Mr. Thompson how taxi drivers refused to carry them because they had their guide dog with them.  They explained that they had missed important appointments due to the refusals and how it had left them anxious and reluctant to use taxis again.

Although the Equality Act 2010 makes it illegal for a taxi driver to refuse to carry an assistance dog, Guide Dogs research found that 42% of people living with sight loss were turned away by a taxi in the last year because of their guide dog.  The research also uncovered that 38% of assistance dog owners have illegally been asked to pay an extra fare for carrying their dog.

Guide Dogs is calling for disability equality training to be made a requirement for all taxi drivers to help them understand the rights and needs of disabled people and how to welcome assistance dog owners.

Owen Thompson MP commented:

“It is shameful to hear from so many people who have been illegally turned away from taxis because they travel with an assistance dog.  I’m asking the Government to act to ensure all taxi drivers receive disability equality training so they are aware of the law and how to assist their disabled customers in the right way.”

James White, Senior Campaigns Manager at Guide Dogs, commented:

“Imagine you were turned away by a taxi driver or asked to pay an extra fare, for no good reason. Despite legal protection, this regularly happens to people living with sight loss because they are travelling with a guide dog.

“This discrimination is not only illegal, it knocks people’s confidence and can stop them doing everyday things that most people take for granted.

“We are very disappointed that we didn’t see a vote on the Disability Equality Training Bill. We were encouraged by the Government’s supportive comments and hope they will take action to introduce training for all taxi drivers.”