Women and the State Pension age

I congratulate Women Against State Pension Inequality (WASPI) for their campaign against the injustice facing women born in the 1950s as a consequence of changes in government policy on when women become eligible for a state retirement pension.

The Pensions Act 1995 provided for the State Pension age (SPA) for women to increase from 60 to 65 over the period April 2010 to 2020. The Coalition Government legislated in the Pensions Act 2011 to accelerate the latter part of this timetable, so that women’s SPA will now reach 65 in November 2018, with the SPA reaching 66 in October 2020.

Some women born in the 1950s have been hit particularly hard by these changes, with significant changes to their State Pension age imposed without an appropriate notification period.

I have made representations on this issue to Iain Duncan Smith, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions on behalf of constituents who have contacted me.

I will continue to pursue this and call on the government to make transitional payments to assist the women disadvantaged by their proposals.

WASPI’s petition can be found here: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/110776

Information from the HMRC website: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/national-insurance-application-for-specified-adult-childcare-credits-ca9176

Update: 16.05.16

Local Liverpool Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1688890071385965/


Commons vote on Syria

Issues concerning national security are the most important any government, opposition or individual MP can consider.

On December 2nd, after serious consideration, I voted for the following resolution:

“That this House notes that ISIL poses a direct threat to the United Kingdom; welcomes United Nations Security Council Resolution 2249 which determines that ISIL constitutes an ‘unprecedented threat to international peace and security’ and calls on states to take ‘all necessary measures’ to prevent terrorist acts by ISIL and to ‘eradicate the safe haven they have established over significant parts of Iraq and Syria’; further notes the clear legal basis to defend the UK and our allies in accordance with the UN Charter; notes that military action against ISIL is only one component of a broader strategy to bring peace and stability to Syria; welcomes the renewed impetus behind the Vienna talks on a ceasefire and political settlement; welcomes the Government’s continuing commitment to providing humanitarian support to Syrian refugees; underlines the importance of planning for post-conflict stabilisation and reconstruction in Syria; welcomes the Government’s continued determination to cut ISIL’s sources of finance, fighters and weapons; notes the requests from France, the US and regional allies for UK military assistance; acknowledges the importance of seeking to avoid civilian casualties, using the UK’s particular capabilities; notes the Government will not deploy UK troops in ground combat operations; welcomes the Government’s commitment to provide quarterly progress reports to the House; and accordingly supports Her Majesty’s Government in taking military action, specifically airstrikes, exclusively against ISIL in Syria; and offers its wholehearted support to Her Majesty’s Armed Forces .”

This authorised the current airstrikes being carried out against ISIL (Da’esh) in Iraq – to be extended into Syria, across a border ISIL does not recognise.

It also emphasised the importance of renewed diplomatic efforts at the Vienna talks to resolve the Syrian civil war which has so far claimed 250,000 lives and displaced 7.6 million people.

UN Security Council Resolution 2249, passed unanimously, calls on member states, paragraph 5:

“To take all necessary measures…to redouble and coordinate their efforts to prevent and suppress terrorist acts committed specifically by ISIL…and to eradicate the safe haven they have established over Iraq and Syria.”

In addition, under Article 51 of the UN Charter, every state has the right to defend itself.

ISIL has committed horrendous atrocities including beheadings, mass rapes, sexual enslavement, murdering gay people, the mass murder of Yazidi women considered to be too old to be sex slaves. Their recent atrocities include murdering 30 British Tourists in Tunisia, 224 Russian holiday makers, 178 people in Beirut and 130 people in Paris. These were planned and orchestrated in Raqqa – ISIL’s stronghold and HQ in Syria.

They are planning more attacks. ISIL have already attempted mass murder in the UK, their plots have been foiled. The intelligence services say our risk is “severe” – attacks are highly likely.

Against that background, I consider it is self defence to authorise targeted attacks on key ISIL sites. Our military activity in Iraq has already make a difference. It has enabled the Iraqi government forces and Kurdish Peshmerga to shrink the territory controlled by ISIL by 30%.

Taking this decision is difficult. It is also difficult to decide to take no action in the face of this ongoing threat. Military action alone will not solve the complex and horrendous Syrian civil war. Intensive efforts bringing about negotiated peace as the resolution recommends is the way forward, together, with support for refugees, and reconstruction when the civil war ends.

Junior Doctors

I am very disturbed by the government’s proposals for the Junior Doctors contract.

The contract the government wants to introduce risks seeing doctors overworked. This could jeopardise safe patient care.

I have had a number of meetings regarding the proposals including a meeting with Junior Doctors in my constituency on 7th October and a British Medical Association meeting in Parliament on 10th November.

I have noted the Secretary of State has now announced some changes but understand many Junior Doctors remain extremely concerned and feel the government is not listening.

The government should abandon its threat of contract imposition and instead engage in a constructive dialogue to resolve the challenges involved in providing extended patient care.

Models of Diversity

I was very pleased to meet Gemma Flanagan, a constituent of mine and Ambassador for the campaign group Models of Diversity.

Models of Diversity, a not-for-profit group, campaigns for more diversity in the fashion, beauty and marketing industries – to recognise models of all races, ages, shapes, sizes and abilities.

Gemma’s own story has been reported by the Echo previously and can be found here.

Gemma tells me:

“Young people of today are so bombarded by unrealistic, un-attainable images of models and celebrities which is so dangerous. So many young girls and boys are doing crazy unhealthy things to try and look like how fashion and media portray how they should look.

Both industries are so powerful over young people and that this is where our message of inclusive fashion & media needs to stem from.

If for example a model in a wheelchair is viewed in a fashion campaign or in the media as a regular occurrence, then this would be viewed as the ‘norm’ and people would not be made to feel like they are odd or different in any way, shape or form.”

Their main campaign is called, #disabilityfight4fashionright.

Gemma is a committed and inspiring young woman. I support their campaign and want it to succeed.

Further information can be found via their Twitter handle: @modsofdiversity and their #disabilityfight4fashionright petition can be clicked here.

Acting on the Refugee Crisis

I have been heartened to receive a large number of letters, emails and phone calls from constituents urging the Government to do more to help the plight of refugees fleeing to Europe. I agree with their sentiments.

I first raised the issue of Syrian refugees in Parliament in November last year and I was dismayed to be told that the UK had, at the time, only resettled 50 vulnerable refugees. In the following months I continued to challenge the Government on their refugee resettlement policy as well as the number of people resettled. The questions I have asked on this issue over the past year can be found here: link

I am proud that Mayor Anderson has stated that Liverpool will take in 100 refugees. Our city has a proud history of welcoming people seeking asylum. In the 1930s, local campaigner Eleanor Rathbone, MP for the Combined English Universities, established the Parliamentary Committee on Refugees and warned of the need to take in Jews fleeing Nazi Germany. It is vital that we continue that important tradition.

The Prime Minister has announced that the UK will accept 20,000 refugees over five years. In Syria alone, four million people have fled the country and another six million have been internally displaced. I have urged the Prime Minister to do more as part of an EU initiative.

It is not just Syria that is facing a large scale humanitarian crisis; turbulence in counties such as Libya, Eritrea and Yemen is causing misery to millions of people. I have consistently raised the crisis in Yemen in the House of Commons, pressing the Government on issues such as humanitarian aid and granting asylum to Yemeni refugees. The questions I have asked in Parliament on Yemen can be found here: link

We are facing the biggest humanitarian crisis since the Second World War. The UK must act now to provide assistance, as part of a European response, to the vulnerable people who need our help and enable them to become part of the UK’s diverse community.

Welfare Reform and Work Bill

On the 20th July the Bill had its second reading in Parliament. This is the beginning of a long process which is only concluded when the Bill returns to Parliament.

I voted against the Bill by supporting the Labour amendment which is worded as follows:

That this House, whilst affirming its belief that there should be controls on and reforms to the overall costs of social security, that reporting obligations on full employment, apprenticeships and troubled families are welcome, and that a benefits cap and loans for mortgage interest support are necessary changes to the welfare system, declines to give a Second Reading to the Welfare Reform and Work Bill because the Bill will prevent the Government from continuing to pursue an ambition to reduce child poverty in both absolute and relative terms, it effectively repeals the Child Poverty Act 2010 which provides important measures and accountability of government policy in relation to child poverty, and it includes a proposal for the work-related activity component of employment and support allowance which is an unfair approach to people who are sick and disabled.

This was defeated by 308 votes to 208. Labour abstained on a second vote.

The cuts to tax credits affecting three million people were not in the Welfare Reform and Work Bill. They will be considered in the autumn and I will oppose them.

The next stage of the Bill will be heard in committee. Labour has already tabled detailed amendments opposing specific proposals. These include opposing the abolition of child poverty targets and cuts in support for disabled and sick people who are not fit for work.

The Bill will return to the House of Commons for a final decision after these amendments have been considered.

Many of the provisions in this Bill will hit struggling families hard. I will continue to oppose the attacks on hard working and vulnerable people.

Humanitarian situation in Yemen – petition

Yesterday in Parliament, I presented a petition about the humanitarian situation in Yemen. Here is my speech, prior to presenting it:

Mrs Louise Ellman (Liverpool, Riverside) (Lab/Co-op): I present this petition on behalf of many of my constituents, but it is also of concern to many citizens throughout the United Kingdom. The horrendous humanitarian crisis in Yemen is causing great distress to my constituents, as many British citizens’ sole dependants and relatives are stranded in dire, life-threatening circumstances. The petition states:

The petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to take urgent action to ease the suffering of friends and families of British citizens in Yemen by speeding up and simplifying the application process for visa or entry requirements, by allowing the issuing of temporary sponsored visas for relatives and dependants of British citizens residing in the UK who are waiting for visas or whose passport applications are being processed and by coordinating evacuations for vulnerable British citizens who are in urgent need of evacuation from Yemen.

Following is the full text of the petition:

[The petition of residents of the UK,

Declares that the dire inhumane situation in Yemen due to the armed militia conflict (civil war) and the coalition bombing has led to thousands of people losing their lives or being injured as well as the destruction of thousands of homes, utilities, ports and airports; further that the United Nations now recognises the situation in Yemen as the world’s biggest humanitarian crisis; further that many British citizens and sole dependants and relatives of British citizens are stranded in Yemen; further that the petitioners have concerns about the requirements for settlement visas because the visa requirements cannot be met by many people and because Yemeni nationals who are spouses or children of British citizens cannot cross over into neighbouring countries and cannot apply for such visas as there are no embassies in Yemen; and further that a petition in Liverpool has gathered many signatures.

The petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to take urgent action to ease the suffering of friends and families of British citizens in Yemen by speeding up and simplifying the application process for visa or entry requirements, by allowing the issuing of temporary sponsored visas for relatives and dependants of British citizens residing in the UK who are waiting for visas or whose passport applications are being processed and by coordinating evacuations for vulnerable British citizens who are in urgent need of evacuation from Yemen.

And the petitioners remain, etc.]