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eBrief from

Cathy Jamieson MP
2 April 2012

Tax Avoidance must be tackled

Speaking as Shadow Economic Secretary to the Treasury, I called for the Government to take more action to clamp down on large scale tax and duty avoidance within the tobacco and alcohol sectors. A number of MPs gave examples of how criminal gangs were involved in smuggling of tobacco and alcohol products, and highlighted how the Treasury was consequently losing millions of pounds in revenue. Having recently assisted some local small businesses in their dealings with HMRC, I am keen to ensure that the Government cracks down on organised large scale avoidance of tax payments. The Minister has agreed to look at a number of the points made during the debate. Minister brought to Chamber to answer Questions on Cash for Access

Chamber to answer questions. This was the case again last week, when Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude was forced to make a statement on the cash for access developments which had dominated the media. I was concerned to know if any publicly funded facilities had been used for the Post PMQ lunches which the Tory party offer to their high paying donors. While I was assured that no such facilities were used, subsequent information raised some further questions, which I will be putting to the Minister when Parliament returns after recess. Fuel fiasco condemned as supplies hit It was disappointing to see the Government stoke anxiety about fuel shortages, by advising drivers to stock up in case of shortages. As a member of Unite the Union, I am very aware that a ballot had been taken for industrial action, following disagreement over a number of issues including safety concerns. However, no date had been set for any strike, and efforts were being made to get people round the table to resolve the issue. Unite has welcomed the involvement of ACAS, and I hope that progress will be made. Having been involved in contingency planning for previous fuel protests when I was a Scottish Minister, I found it incredible that Cabinet Office Minister Frances Maude could suggest that people should fill up cans and store in their homes. This irresponsible comment succeeded in uniting motoring organisations, consumer groups, the petrol retailers and Fire and Rescue Services. Unfortunately many motorists did get caught up in the aftermath of panic buying, but hopefully we can see common sense return.

People often ask me what I think about the difference between the Scottish Parliament, where I served for 12 years, and Westminster. In response, I usually highlight how the UK Parliament seems more able to deal quickly with topical issues, and bring Ministers to the

Carers Win Last Minute Working Tax Credit Concession

Regular ebrief readers will know that I have been campaigning to get the UK Government to drop their plans to cut Working Tax Credits from thousands of low paid part time workers. A small victory has been achieved, with the news that carers will be exempted from the new rules. This was revealed when a change to the new rules was published, after I tabled a Parliamentary Question asking about the issue. While this is welcome news for Carers, it is disappointing that the Government has not dropped the rest of the plan. Meantime, calls to drop the ill thought out changes to Child Benefit have also been ignored, and a complicated new proposal has been drawn up for the Finance Bill. As a member of the Shadow Treasury Team, I have added my name to amendments to the Bill, which seek to remove these changes, as well as the reduction in the 50p tax rate.

Which? has invited all energy companies to take part and will be negotiating with them to secure the cheapest deal. Energy companies will be asked to submit a market leading deal and take part in a reverse auction. If a deal is secured, Which? will contact everyone who signed up with a personalised savings estimate. Which? will handle the switching process, making it as quick and easy as possible. According to Ofgem, 60% of consumers have never switched energy supplier; 75% of people are currently on their suppliers default standard tariff; and research from Which ? has shown that consumers are missing out on 4billion a year by not switching!

Scottish Cancer Support Easter Fun

I joined Councillor Maureen McKay at Scottish Cancer Supports Fundraising Fun Day at the Dean Castle. After helping with the Easter Egg Hunt, we joined in the fun with Easter Bonnets! The charity has been doing a fantastic job helping local cancer patients. Parliament is in recess until 16th April. I will be out and about in the constituency, so please get in touch if you would like to speak to me. Future Drop in Surgery Dates are on my website or call 01563 522361 for more information. I also post details on:

Time for the Big Switch

The Big Switch, launched last month by consumer champion Which? and 38 Degrees, is a new way for people to buy their energy. This will be the first time in the UK that a very large number of people will join together as a group to negotiate a deal with energy companies. I joined Shadow Energy Secretary Caroline Flint MP to urge constituents to add their names to the 200,000strong group who have already signed up to The Big Switch, and to use their collective power to try to cut their energy bills and help shake up the market.

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