Tag Archives: westminster

I need you to vote!

Today I have launched a competition in conjunction with new music website 57 Degrees North to choose which band I should nominate for Rock the House 2013.

You can vote by clicking here: http://www.57north.org/news/rock-house-competition

Rock the House 2013 is Parliament’s biggest competition which celebrates up-and-coming British artists. This year, I have received entries from blues-based rock band The Afghan Hounds and metal band Matanuska.

But unfortunately I can only nominate one band so I need you to click here and vote before Friday 18th March: http://www.57north.org/news/rock-house-competition


The finalists will compete in a live battle of the bands, and the winner of each category will then perform live on the balcony of the House of Commons on the evening of the 26th of June 2013.

57 Degrees North is a new site launched last week which is a one-stop-shop for all musical activity in the North-East. It features the region’s only comprehensive gig guide, news, reviews, musician profiles plus a huge resource for all promoters, venues, schools, studios, music shops, tutors and much more.

Dame Anne comments in ‘The Guardian’ on attitudes to women in Westminster

Read the full article here.

Dame Anne Begg, the Labour MP for Aberdeen South who was vice chair of the speaker’s committee, said that some modest progress has been made to improving the representation of women at Westminster. “Labour was emboldened to continue with its all women shortlists which meant that at the last two general elections more than 50% of the Labour MPs elected were women. Because of the historical imbalance that still only means that a third of the parliamentary Labour party are women. But the figures are improving.

“The Tories are much further behind but they had their A list. David Cameron felt he had right on his side to get a bigger variety of candidates into the winnable seats. But looking across the chamber the look of the parliamentary Conservative party is very different from the one pre-2010.

“The one party that didn’t do much was the Lib Dems. That is partly because they are Liberals and will not put in place these top down mechanisms. Liberals are not particularly in favour of quotas, they say we want the best person for the job. Our argument is if the best person hasn’t even applied for the job you can’t get them.”

ATOS debate speech (transcript)

Below is the transcript of Dame Anne’s contribution to the debate on ATOS and it’s role in carrying out Work Capability assessments for those applying for Employment Support Allowance held in Westminster Hall on Tuesday 4th September 2012:

Dame Anne Begg (Aberdeen South) (Lab): Congratulations to my hon. Friend the Member for Rutherglen and Hamilton West (Tom Greatrex) on securing this important debate. This is my first time speaking after my extended absence and therefore a good subject.

The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Chris Grayling): On behalf of everybody in the room and in the House, I welcome the hon. Lady back to the House. We are delighted to see her in such good shape. We were sad to hear of the difficulties in the long period of recovery she has had to go through. She is very welcome back.

Dame Anne Begg: I thank the Minister for being gracious. He may not be quite so gracious by the time he has heard what I have to say. I do not think that the Government have grasped how disastrous the ESA assessment system is. It is not something that can be fixed by a few tweaks here and there; we tried that with the Harrington review. What we have heard today in the Chamber—and in the “Dispatches” and “Panorama” programmes filmed in June this year—suggests that not much has changed. The people complaining are not just the usual suspects, not just the radical crips, the workshy or those who want money without being assessed. They are ordinary people, most of whom worked hard all their lives until the sky fell in and they lost their job because of an illness or an acquired disability

It is not enough for Government to say that the genuine claimant has nothing to fear. In too many cases, genuine claimants are not scoring any points in their initial assessment. There is something fundamentally wrong with the system and the contract that Atos is delivering. When the British Medical Association votes at its conference to say that the work capability assessment is not fit for purpose there is something wrong with the system. When GPs are reporting an increased workload, not just as a result of providing reports but as a result of treating patients whose condition has worsened as a result of their WCA experience, there is something wrong with the system.

When my constituent, who has lost his job because he has motor neurone disease, scores zero on his WCA and is found fully fit for work, there is something wrong with the system. When that same constituent appears in front of a tribunal and in less than five minutes is awarded 15 points, there is something wrong with the system. When people with rapidly progressive illnesses are not automatically put in the support group, there is something wrong with the system. When some people would rather do without the money to which they are absolutely entitled rather than submit to the stress of a WCA, there is something wrong with the system. When someone with a severe illness has to fight for a year through an appeal to get the correct benefit, only to be called in almost immediately for another assessment, there is something wrong with the system. When the recall and assessment happen the following year, and the following year, there is something wrong with the system. When people feel so persecuted, there is something wrong with the system. To top it all, they lose their contributory ESA after only a year if they are in the WRAG group.

When up to 40% of appeals are successful and there is no penalty for the company carrying out the assessments, there is something wrong with the contract. When so many appeals result in an award of ESA support group status when the original assessment was no points, there is something wrong with the contract. When there is no penalty for a high percentage of wrong decisions, there is something wrong with the contract. When there is no incentive for assessors to get the assessment correct first time, there is something wrong with the contract. It is time for the Government to act, because there is something fundamentally wrong with the whole system.

Text of full debate available from: http://www.publications.parliament.uk

Video of full debate available from: http://www.parliamentlive.tv/Main/Player.aspx?meetingId=11307&st=10:58:30

Dame Anne speaks at 2h 7mins.

You can also watch a clip from the debate here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zeatCaWVGEQ