All posts by Dame Anne Begg

Dame Anne Welcome the Scrapping of Air Passenger Duty on Children’s Flights

Dame Anne Begg, MP for Aberdeen South, is pleased the Government has heeded her calls to scrap tax on children’s flights.

Dame Anne had previously supported a motion in Parliament calling on the Government to reduce the financial impact on hardworking families by scrapping the air passenger duty applicable to children. With today’s Autumn Statement announcement that this tax will be scrapped, many families will see a benefit from this saving at a time when household finances continue to be stretched. Changes to the tax will also benefit the local and national economy by ensuring that UK aviation is more globally competitive.

Currently, children pay the same tax on their tickets as adults, despite there being a well-established principle that children are exempt from taxation, for example VAT on food and clothing. A campaign, Scrap the Tax on Family Flights, was launched last month and called on the Government to scrap Air Passenger Duty (APD) on children’s tickets as they believed it was acting as a barrier to allowing hardworking families to take holidays abroad, when the majority already have to pay a premium due to school term-time restrictions.

Aberdonian families already pay the highest air tax in the world, with APD adding £52 to the cost of a family of four’s economy class flights to destinations in Europe and £276 to economy class flights to long haul destinations such as the US. Aberdonian families are also hit with a double APD charge if they fly through another UK airport on their way to their final destination.

Dame Anne Begg said:

“Families in Aberdeen deserve a break, and I’m pleased the Government has backed this campaign to help make an annual holiday less strenuous on the family budget.

“I called on the Government to scrap this tax, and it’s great they have listened. Hundreds of my constituents have contacted me about the unfairness of Air Passenger Duty which will be devolved after the Smith Commission, and I hope the Scottish Government will agree not to reintroduce this unfair tax on children’s flights.”

ABOUT SCRAP THE TAX ON FAMILY FLIGHTS

  • You can find out how much APD you can expect to pay by visiting apdcalculator.com
  • Scrap the Tax on Family Flights is a campaign being launched by the A Fair Tax on Flying alliance which consists of over 30 leading business organisations and travel organisations including airlines, airports, trade associations and destinations. More information about the group can be found at afairtaxonflying.org and www.facebook.com/afairtaxonflying
  • Follow the campaign on Twitter @ScrapFamilyAPD
  • Only four other European countries levy some form of air passenger tax.
  • Denmark, Norway, Malta and Holland have all scrapped similar taxes as the revenue raised was outweighed by the damage caused to their economies.

The current rates of APD, effective until 31st March 2015, are below:

 BAND Reduced rate Standard rate
Band A

(0-2,000 miles*)

£13 £26
Band B

(2,001-4,000 miles)

£69 £138
Band C

(4,001-6,000 miles)

£85 £170
Band D

(over 6,000 miles)

£97 £194

Figures Reveal Women are Still Earning Less

Dame Anne Begg MP highlights new analysis revealing that women in Scotland are earning 17.8 per cent less than men an hour.

This year, Equal Pay Day – the day women effectively start working for free because they are still paid less than men – fell on the 4th November which was 3 days earlier than in 2013 because of the rising pay gap.

Figures from 2013 show that the earnings gap between fulltime male and female employees in Aberdeen was £1.24 per hour costing women £2,579.20 a year.

Labour have pledged to take action to deliver equal pay by requiring companies with more than 250 workers to publish their hourly pay gap in their annual report. For the first time employees will be able to see if discrimination exists and whether all the top jobs are still dominated by men.

Dame Anne said: “More young women than men are now going to university and yet these figures show many more women are still ending up in lower paid jobs. It’s now been 46 years after the machinists walked out of Dagenham in protest over the pay divide, which prompted the Equal Pay Act two years later. We can’t wait another 44 years for change. Women deserve equal treatment and equal pay.

“Under David Cameron and Nick Clegg the pay gap is back on the rise after years of progress, as families are struggling with rising prices. A Labour Government will take action by asking employers to publish their pay gap.”

Dame Anne repeats calls for a cumulative impact assessment as charity report shows “the Coalition’s welfare reforms are failing”

Social Action charity Community Links today called on future governments to adopt an ‘early action’ approach to reforming welfare. The charity says that a social security system that acts earlier, tackles the root causes of problems, and ‘presumes the willingness’ of people who receive benefits would be better for both claimants and the public purse.

Dame Anne Begg, MP for Aberdeen South and Chair of the Work and Pensions Select Committee, hosted the launch of Community Links’ new research which warns that the Government’s welfare reforms are “likely to lead to considerable costs” by wasting money in reacting to rather than preventing crisis. It also warns that the reforms are failing claimants by “pushing people towards a cliff edge”.

These warnings come on the eve of the Autumn Review, in which Chancellor George Osborne is expected to argue that continued cuts to the welfare budget will be required far into the next Parliament

Dame Anne Begg said: This research sheds valuable light on the very human impacts of the recent changes to the benefits system. We need to ensure that future changes to social security tackle the root causes of problems, rather than moving costs around and passing blame to benefit recipients.

Community Links’ research looked at the lives of people with jobs and people out of work.  One participant, Diana, is in her late 50s. She “used to love going to work” as a school cook and cleaner but is now unable to work due to a range of serious health issues including diabetes and depression. Diana has been hit particularly hard by four different welfare reforms, which have together pushed her into really tough situations, including significant rent arrears, being unable to heat her home and not eating.  Now Diana says that she “just doesn’t feel secure at all” and that she feels like she’s “just living here week-by-week.”

Diana’s story illustrates how drastic cuts to the social security system can cause costs elsewhere for public services. She said “I’m diabetic so I am supposed to eat three times a day which I can’t afford to do, I was supposed to take my medication with meals but I couldn’t do that… So my son was coming at about 9 o’clock with chicken and chips from up the road – just £2 for those – and I ended up in hospital… it was total hell.”

Diana said: “They’re taking the money out … I know it sounds stupid but I am past the stage of caring, because every time I pay my rent I think, there’s another week with a roof over my head.  I just don’t feel secure at all… I feel like I’m just living here week-by-week.”

Dame Anne Begg commented: Cases like Diana’s show the devastating impact the Coalition’s welfare reform is having. It’s hitting the least well off the hardest.

Every week at my constituency surgery, I listen to similar stories of people being hit again and again by the welfare changes. The Coalition Government continues to cut money from those who already have very little and it is having a detrimental effect on their health and wellbeing, making it harder for them to find work.

I have repeatedly called for a cumulative impact assessment which would study the overall effects of welfare reform on individuals. So far, the Government has failed to do this saying its ‘Too Difficult’. Yet this report shows it’s certainly possible. It’s as if they’re deaf to the problem they’re causing

MP Pledges her Support for Engineering

Following complaints from local oil and gas companies about the lack of engineers, MP for Aberdeen South, Dame Anne Begg pledged her support to help fix the engineering skills shortage in Aberdeen, and the rest of the UK, by highlighting to young people the many exciting careers available in engineering and technology.

Dame Anne has signed up to the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) pledge to support engineering in their constituency.

Dame Anne said: “Demand for engineers in the UK remains high and nowhere is it higher than in Aberdeen. Employers in Aberdeen involved in oil and gas and the supply chain often raise the shortage of engineers with me as a problem for their business and, with an ageing workforce, there is a pressing need to promote STEM to young people to develop the engineers of tomorrow.

“Further, we continue to see more women than men attending university but the level of female students studying STEM remains low.

“Having signed the IET Skills Pledge as part of Tomorrow’s Engineers Week, I will continue to promote STEM to both boys and girls when I go into local schools.”

The motivation for the pledge comes in response to findings from the IET’s 2014 Engineering and Technology Skills and Demand in Industry survey, which indicate that 53 per cent of employers believe they should get more involved with schools, colleges and universities to help change the perception of engineering among young people.

Winner Announced For This Year’s Christmas Card Competition

Dame Anne Begg, MP for Aberdeen South, is pleased to announce that this year’s winner for her Christmas card competition is Kristin Bruce, P6, at Tullos Primary School.

Winning Entry

This year’s competition was judged by Made in Aberdeen Emerging Talent Winner Amber Robertson who had the challenging task of choosing only one winner from almost 1,000 entries.

Dame Anne said: “There were so many fantastic cards from school pupils across Aberdeen South and I appreciate the effort that they have put into their submissions this year. I am, therefore, delighted to be able to present everyone who entered with a certificate.

“Thanks also go to Asda Bridge of Dee who have kindly displayed all the cards on the windows along the checkouts and will also be hosting the prize giving for the winner and runner up on Friday 12th December.

“Finally, I would like to say thank you to all the local businesses who made donations towards the prizes for the winner and runner ups.”

Kristin’s design will be made into Dame Anne’s official Christmas card this year. The card will also feature the entries of the six runners up which were chosen by the judge. This year’s runners up are: Danielle Szynol, P1, Kirkhill Primary School; Thea Livingstone, P2, Tullos Primary School; Cara Harvey, P4, Hazlehead Primary School; Claire Strowger, P5, Hazlehead Primary School; En Ming Soh, L6A, Albyn School; and Maurizio De Gennaro Sorrentino, L7B, Albyn School.

Tesco Food Collection

Dame Anne visited her local Tesco to help with the National Food Collection. She joined staff from Tesco and Community Food Initiatives North East (CFINE) to ask customers to pick up extra non-perishable food items during their shop and donate them on the way out. The campaign ran for five days with Tesco donating a further 30% of all donations. Food donated will stay in the local area to be distributed to local food banks.

.Tesco & Fare Share Collection

MP Celebrates School Support Staff and Calls for Their Work to be Better Rewarded

Aberdeen South MP, Dame Anne Begg, has sponsored a motion in Parliament welcoming the Stars in Our School campaign organised by UNISON and celebrating the crucial role of school support staff in helping children learn.

Stars in Our Schools day will be celebrated across the UK on 28th November with schools holding awards ceremonies, putting on special assemblies and even dressing up as super heroes to celebrate their support staff.

School support staff help children learn, keep children safe and healthy and make sure schools run smoothly. They are the caterers, the admin staff, the finance officers, the teaching assistants, the librarians, the ICT technicians, the parent support advisers, and more, all of whom are represented by UNISON.

Supporting the campaign, Dame Anne said: “From my own experience working as a teacher, I know that it takes a whole team to make a school a safe and happy place for children to learn.

“School support staff are vital to the effective running of a school, but they are usually tucked away behind the scenes. They are the unsung heroes of our children’s education.

“That’s why I am supporting the Stars in Our Schools campaign and I am calling for more to be done to ensure that school support staff are better rewarded for the work they do, with proper career structures and better pay, terms and conditions.”

Karen Davidson, Branch Secretary at UNISON added: “We have organised this celebration of school support staff to show our appreciation of the excellent job they do. We know the input they have with the pupils is valued and schools would not run as effectively without these dedicated staff. Unison is proud to represent school support staff and they are all stars in our schools.”

You can read the full text of the motion here.

660 people in Aberdeen waiting in huge backlog for Personal Independence Payment assessments

Dame Anne Begg MP has called on David Cameron to urgently deal with a huge backlog for Personal Independence Payment assessments affecting 660 people in Aberdeen North & South. According to the latest DWP figures and independent House of Commons analysis, Personal Independence Payments introduced last year to replace Disability Living Allowance is beset by delays and rising costs. 529,000 people have applied for PIP, but only 206,000 have received a decision about whether they qualified for help – leaving 323,000 people in limbo across the country.

Dame Anne Begg MP, Chair of the Work and Pensions Select Committee said,

It’s absolutely disgraceful that 660 people across Aberdeen are still waiting for a Personal Independence Payment assessment. David Cameron must step in and sort out this backlog which is leaving disabled people waiting months and months for an assessment.

Personal Independence Payments (PIP) provide vital support to cover the extra expenses faced by disabled people. Many are having to borrow money to meet the extra costs while they wait for a decision and without knowing whether they will eventually qualify.

The Minister for Disabled People has appeared in front of my select committee twice in the last few months saying this backlog is reducing but it doesn’t appear to be so. This is yet another example of Tory inefficiency which is causing hardship for hundreds of people in Aberdeen who have been left in limbo by this Government.

A breakdown of the figures shows 440 people in Aberdeen North, 220 in Aberdeen south and 180 across Gordon, covering Aberdeenshire and parts of Aberdeen, are waiting for an assessment.

Musicians and Film-makers Invited to Enter Competition

Dame Anne Begg MP is supporting musicians and film-makers from Aberdeen South by calling for local artists to enter Parliament’s two largest creative competitions, Rock the House and Film the House.

Founded by Mike Weatherley MP, the annual competitions offer the opportunity to put local musicians and film-makers in direct contact with the movers and shakers of the two industries, and to have the best of Aberdeen South’s talent take front and centre stage.

Last year, one of the films nominated by Dame Anne collected first place in the under 19 category. The film about ghost bullies was created by school children aged between 8 and 12 with support from the Belmont Cinema and North East Scotland College.

Dame Anne said: “I welcome the return of Parliament’s most-hotly contested competitions, and would urge all local musicians and film-makers to enter Rock the House and Film the House.

“In the past, Aberdeen South has seen two entries make it all the way to the final and I hope to continue this winning streak by encouraging as may local musicians and film-makers to submit entries this year.

“Rock the House and Film the House are excellent opportunities for Aberdeen South to celebrate our local talent and, as all nominations are judged by industry experts, there is no finer chance for our musicians and film-makers to gain exposure.”

Judged by the leading lights of industry, with prizes ranging from festival slots, studio time, top-notch equipment, and your work premiered in London’s West End, the Rock the House and Film the House competitions are a pioneering opportunity to showcase what Aberdeen South has to offer, raising awareness about the importance of Intellectual property (IP) to our creative industries and country.

Rock legend and actor, Alice Cooper said: “Rock the House is a great project which celebrates the fantastic diversity of the British music scene and gives musicians a vehicle through which to hold their legislators accountable about protecting the music industry’s intellectual property.”

The closing date for entries is 31st December and the winners will be announced on 18th March. For more information on how to enter Rock the House go to www.rockthehouseHOC.com; and for Film the House www.filmthehouse.com.

Free Age Scotland Hot Tips Calendars Available

Dame Anne Begg, MP for Aberdeen South, is helping to spread vital information and advice to older people in Aberdeen South this winter in partnership with Age Scotland, the national older people’s charity.

Dame Anne has been distributing copies of the charities ‘Hot Tips’ Calendar to sheltered housing residents.  As part of the charity’s annual ‘Spread the Warmth’ campaign, the calendar provides information to help older people get prepared for winter.  Each month focusses on a special theme or includes content from a partner charity, with more than 80,000 copies available.

Dame Anne said: “Age Scotland’s ‘Hot Tips’ calendar is an excellent resource for older people and I have been delivering copies to all the sheltered housing complexes in my constituency.

“However, if you don’t live in sheltered housing accommodation, you can pop into my office on Victoria Road to pick up your free copy.

“With winters becoming increasingly severe in Scotland, it’s important that people prepare for what can happen, and Age Scotland’s ‘Hot Tips’ contain everything you need to know.”

Greg McCracken, Age Scotland Policy Officer, said: “Every year, ‘Hot Tips’ includes suggestions on making your home comfortable, safe and warm, as well as the latest information on welfare benefits and hints on keeping fit and healthy.  It’s vital that older people are enabled to continue living independently, but ‘Hot Tips’ is also about improving quality of life by looking at what people can do to get out and about or involved in volunteering.”

Copies of the calendar are free and are available at Dame Anne’s office on 39-41 Victoria Road, Torry, Aberdeen AB11 9LS. They can also be found in your local Age Scotland retail shop, where available, as well as from your local library while stocks last.