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Post Offices: Rural Areas

To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, what analysis his Department has conducted of the future capacity of the Post Office, to meet its commitment, that 95 per cent of the total rural population is within three miles of a post office outlet.

The Government has committed to secure the future of 3,000 rural post offices in its manifesto and recognises the importance of post offices to communities across the UK, particularly to its more remote customers. That is why Government has invested significantly in modernisation and transformation of that network, helping to ensure its long-term sustainability. The network of branches is at its most stable in decades, and nearly 99% of the UK rural population lives within three miles of a post office.

Universal Credits: Late Payments

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, how many regular universal payments were not paid on time in (a) January and (b) February 2017.

The information requested is currently not available.

As outlined in the strategy for releasing official statistics on Universal Credit, officials are currently assessing the data and will only release information once the necessary quality assurance work has taken place. These statistics will be published in accordance with the relevant protocols in the Code of Practice for official statistics

Universal Credits

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, how many people are in receipt of (a) live service universal credits and (b) full service universal credits.

The number of people on Universal Credit as of 12 January 2017 was 450,000.

Airport expansion

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, whether the next High Level Output Specification will include specific projects targeted at increasing access to airports with spare capacity in the period before Heathrow expansion is complete.

The rail industry has recently provided its initial advice to Ministers for Control Period 6 (2019-2024), which we are carefully considering. In due course we will make announcements on the outcomes we want to see from the railway during CP6, as well as engage with stakeholders.

Scottish Ministers, under the provision of the Railways Act 2005, are required to set out their own High Level Output Statement and Statement of Funds Available (SoFA) in respect of railways in Scotland, through which they will set their own priorities.

The use of smart meters for readings

To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, what discussions his Department has had with energy suppliers on enabling duel fuel customers with different suppliers of electricity and gas to allow the use of their smart meters for readings.

The Department has worked closely with energy suppliers to make sure that consumers who get their gas and electricity from different energy suppliers will get the benefits of smart meters.

The latest standard for smart meters (SMETS2) allows either a gas or an electricity smart meter to be installed first by one supplier and for the other smart meter to be installed later by the other supplier.

Ahead of that most energy suppliers are installing smart meters to customers where they provide both fuels or electricity only.

EU Citizens Public Meetings

I know there are many of you worried about the impact Brexit will have on your future; therefore, I planned some public meetings to give us an opportunity to discuss your concerns.

Please do come along, and know that, here in Scotland, you are welcome and you are valued.

Eucitizens

 

 

 

 

 

MORE CUTS TO DISABILITY BENEFITS “COMPLETELY UNACCEPTABLE”

DREW HENDRY MP CALLS FOR TORY MP TO APOLOGISE OVER MENTAL HEALTH COMMENTS

SNP MP, Drew Hendry has described further cuts to disability benefits as “completely unacceptable” and called for an assurance from the UK government that disabled people will not be left with less financial support as a result of the proposals.

The UK government has announced emergency legislation to change PIPs, which replaced Disability Living Allowance, and overturn two tribunal rulings last year which it claims would have added £3.7bn to the benefits bill by 2023.  The support is designed to help people cope with the extra costs of living with ill health or disability.

Tory MP and head of the Number 10 Policy Unit George Freeman, said the changes would ensure that benefits went to people who are “really disabled” rather than people “who suffer from anxiety”.  His comments have drawn wide spread criticism from opposition MPs and disability organisations.

Commenting, Drew Hendry MP said:

“It is those most in need who continue to pay the price for the Tories failed austerity project and that one of Theresa May’s most senior advisers, thinks it’s ok to suggest that people with a mental health disability are not “really disabled” highlights just how far this Government has sunk. These comments are disgraceful and show a  total lack of compassion or understanding when it comes to providing for those who are less fortunate than others.

“I have signed the motion laid in the House of Commons to formally object to this legislation. We now urgently need to know what impact these proposals will have on people who currently receive Personal Independent Payments and assurances that existing benefits will not be cut further.

 

SNP TRANSPORT SPOKESPERSON SOUNDS BREXIT BORDER CHAOS ALERT

BORDER FORCE UNDER STAFFING AT AIRPORTS NEEDS ACTION NOW

SNP Transport Spokesperson, Drew Hendry MP has again raised the issue of budget cuts to the UK Border Force  – and increasing concern about how Brexit is going to impact on already serious delay problems for travellers arriving at UK airports.

Drew Hendry has said that the travel industry has once again been left ‘holding the bag‘ on the failure of their disastrous Tory Hard Brexit plans.

Mr Hendry –  who raised the issue today in the chamber at Transport Questions  – has said that the UK Border Force will need a 200% increase in staffing to deal with post Brexit EU passengers according to figures obtained from the Tourism Industry Council. The service is already buckling as a result of swinging 15% cut to its budget since 2011, despite an 11% increase in travellers over the same period.

At the end of 2016, over 5,000 passengers entering Stansted had to queue for almost an hour, despite the Border Force agreed service standard of 25 minutes.   Earlier in 2016, passengers in Inverness were left stranded for over 2 hours when the service forgot to dispatch border agents from Aberdeen.

Drew Hendry MP commented:   “Once again a UK Transport Minister has  failed to deal with or understand  these growing problems for travellers and businesses and – once again the Tories are leaving the transport industry holding the bag on the fall out of their disastrous EU gamble.

“The Border Force is already poorly staffed and is unable to meet current demand, yet the Tories have no answer as to how they intend to prevent further border chaos in light of the massive increase in checks that the end to free movement in the EU will bring.

“According to the Airport Operators Association, the aviation industry is worth a staggering £51.9 billion to the UK Economy, yet every single one of their questions, including key issues around managing borders remain unanswered.

“While the government is dithering, the sector cannot plan investments or develop strategies for the future. The Tories might shout into the wind that that ‘Britain is open for business’ but the looming threat of border chaos with no visible plan is more like locking the door on the customers. Action is needed now, the UK government must say what the plan is to protect business and tourism before Brexit breaks it.

“Anything short of the UK remaining in the common travel area will have a devastating impact on the travel sector – leaving travellers paying the price of Brexit through long queues and higher costs and our excellent tourism industry paying the price of visitors inconvenience. We need answers now.”