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eBrief from

Cathy Jamieson MP
7th May 2012 5th December 2011

Queens Speech awaited

Parliament rose last week ahead of the Queens Speech which will take place on Wednesday 9th May. A number of Parliamentary Questions which I had tabled previously were answered just before Parliament rose, including one on changes to Personal allowances for pensioners dubbed the Granny Tax. This revealed that over 420,000 Scottish pensioners will face average income tax hikes of 83 a year by 2015-16, hitting 60,000 more Scottish pensioners than the Chancellor estimated in the documents released alongside his Budget Statement on March 21. I am concerned that pensioners who have worked hard all their lives for modest second pensions to top up their state pension will be those hardest hit. It is true that pensions are going up, but so too is the cost of living. 83 a year might sound like a small amount to the Chancellor, but for pensioners on a fixed income, it is money that could have helped with fuel bills. Meanwhile, the Governments own Back Benchers remain unconvinced about extra VAT on Caravans, Churches and hot food, and we wait to see if a U-Turn is on the menu!

Action needed on HMRC helpline

Have you ever tried to contact the HMRC Helpline about tax or tax credits? I have had a number of constituents complain about being kept on hold for lengthy periods when they are trying to get through to have queries dealt with. One pensioner told me he had held on for 42 minutes a call he was paying for before giving up. Others reported similar issues, so I have written to the Minister, asking what action he is taking to sort this out. Ex HMRC employees have suggested that cuts in staffing levels have led to the problem, so I will be looking closely at what the Minister has to say.

USDAW Annual Delegate Meeting

I travelled to Blackpool to take part in a Question Time Panel, along with Stephen Twigg MP, Gavin Shuker Mp and USDAW General Secretary John Hannett. Lisa Nandy MP chaired the session and we answered points on a range of policies, including the Bill on Sunday Trading during the Olympics, which many members feared was the thin end of the wedge for their terms and conditions.

Cystic Fibrosis Week 2012

Mahle Dispute Resolved

When the workforce at Mahle in Kilmarnock first lodged their opposition to plans to remove jobs from Kilmarnock, I raised the matter in Parliament, seeking support from the Government to help in any way they could. Since then I have been in regular contact with senior officials of Unite the Union, as local shop stewards and the company worked hard behind the scenes to come to an agreement. I am pleased that with involvement of ACAS, productive talks took place, and further strike action was called off. All those involved in arriving at this successful conclusion should be congratulated, as these are vital jobs for our area.

I had my lung function tested to see how the result compared with someone with Cystic Fibrosis to highlight the devastating impact of the disease for Cystic Fibrosis Week 2012. The event was organised by the Cystic Fibrosis Trust, to show how Cystic Fibrosis damages the lungs. The average lung capacity for an adult with Cystic Fibrosis is just 65.1% compared to someone without Cystic Fibrosis that would achieve results of 80% or more. I achieved117% on my spirometry test, and I was surprised to come first in the leader board of female MPs. Cystic Fibrosis is a progressive disease with the average age of death for a person with CF of around 29 years old. Despite this, because of advances in treatment and access to clinical expertise, many people with CF are living longer than ever before. The Cystic Fibrosis Trust is aware of worrying trends that amount to real-time cuts to Cystic Fibrosis services, and believe that Patient care is being compromised because posts in vital disciplines specialist nursing, physiotherapy and dietetics - are being cut, downgraded, left vacant or used to backfill general vacancies.

RNIB Campaign Under Way

A number of constituents have contacted me about the campaign being run by the RNIB, which highlights the problems faced by blind and partially sighted people who are having their benefits cut. I am pursuing this issue, as I have done for constituents who have other disabilities or long term conditions. If you know of anyone affected, please get in touch. For information on local surgeries please call 01563 522361 or check details on