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Eilidh Whiteford, MP for Banff & Buchan

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WHITEFORD CHALLENGES PENSIONS MINISTER IN COMMONS

Monday, 14 February 2011

Banff & Buchan MP Dr Eilidh Whiteford has challenged Minister of State for Pensions Steve Webb over an anomaly in the UK Government’s proposals to increase the state pension age for women.

The SNP MP was speaking earlier today during Department for Work & Pensions Questions in the House of Commons following contact from a number of constituents who find themselves disadvantaged as a result of the planned changes.

Commenting, Dr Whiteford said:

“There are a significant number of women already past their mid-50s who have no time to make up for the lost pension income they will have been expecting as a result of the UK Government’s proposals to increase the state pension age for women to 66 by 2020. This will have unfair and disproportionate consequences for those affected.

“Many women have made financial and other plans on the basis that they were previously told that their retirement age of 60 would increase to 63 or 64. Now they are being told it will rise faster and to age 66.

“In the worst cases, some women will now find they have to wait two more years for their state pension which means they simply do not have time to make arrangements to offset the financial shortfall they will receive.

“The Minister’s response today was inadequate and demonstrated a lack of compassion for those who have worked hard, paid their stamp and are looking forward to retirement. I will continue to press the case for my constituents who are affected.”


Extract from Hansard follows:

Steve Webb (Minister of State for Pensions): Of the 2.6 million women who are affected, 33,000 were born [in 1954]. That group will have to delay for up to two years before they receive their state pension. One reassurance I can offer is that those women will be eligible to apply for jobseeker’s allowance or employment and support allowance, so they will not be left destitute.

Dr Eilidh Whiteford (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): The Turner Commission recommended a 15-year lead-in for such changes. Those women who were born in 1954 will not benefit from that. Does the Minister think that fair?

Steve Webb (Minister of State for Pensions): The hon. Lady raises the important point that notice periods are important. The challenge we faced was that the time scale for raising state pension ages that we inherited was staggeringly leisurely. The Conservative party manifesto and the coalition agreement made it clear that we would move faster. The state pension age for men was set at 65 a century ago—I think we need to move faster.

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WHITEFORD SPEAKS OUT ON FUEL DUTY

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Banff & Buchan MP Eilidh Whiteford has spoken out against the punitive levels of fuel duty levied on petrol and diesel at the pumps by the UK Treasury.

The SNP MP was speaking during a debate in the House of Commons which had been secured by the Scottish National Party which asked the UK Government for immediate action to bring down the cost of fuel. The SNP put forward proposals for a fuel duty stabilisers, which had been supported before the last election by the Tories and Liberal Democrats, but has not been delivered.

Speaking in the House of Commons, Eilidh Whiteford said:

“I have listened with great interest to this afternoon's debate. I intend to limit my remarks to aspects of it that relate most to the area that I represent. That part of rural Aberdeenshire and Banffshire has no railway stations and very limited public transport options-there are far fewer bus services than hon. Members will find in urban areas. This is therefore an urgent issue not just for individuals, but for businesses in remote and rural areas, and I am glad that Members on both sides of the House take it seriously.

“It almost goes without saying that people who live in the more remote and rural parts of Scotland, Wales and other parts of the UK have to travel further to access the most basic amenities, whether post offices, shops, schools, places of work or doctor's surgeries. Inevitably, they incur extra costs in doing so, yet as other hon. Members have pointed out, people in rural and remote areas pay higher prices. In parts of my constituency, they pay £1.36 per litre for fuel. That might not be quite as high a price as is paid in some of the island communities, but it is nevertheless well above the average.

“There is a huge irony in this situation for people in my constituency, who have had an oil terminal on their doorstep for many years. People who live at the heart of Europe's oil and gas industry pay among the highest prices for petrol and diesel in Europe. That irony is certainly not wasted on folk in my part of the world. Nearly 62% of what we pay at the pumps goes directly in tax and duty to the Treasury. My concern-this is the chief point that I want to make this evening-is that that is a disproportionate tax on people who live and work in rural and remote areas.

“We have heard a lot this afternoon about the need for the Treasury to balance its books, and about the role of tax in that, but the fundamental underlying question is: why should people have to pay more and disproportionate tax just because they do not have access to public transport or happen to live in a rural area? I am all for tax, so long as it is fair, proportionately applied, and people are not discriminated against for living and working in a rural area.

“The impact is felt particularly by businesses. As other Members have said, goods and services have to be moved into and out of parts of rural Scotland by road, and in many areas we already have to overcome significant challenges arising from our distance from markets. The area I represent has strong food processing, farming and fishing sectors and a great deal of manufacturing, but companies in northern Scotland have to cover the extra costs they incur and the extra taxes they pay, but nobody else has to, in order to make viable business plans. We have come through difficult times but are still struggling to emerge from the recession, and the fluctuating price of oil causes great instability and uncertainty for business. Big and small businesses alike struggle with that. Big businesses can sometimes buy fuel while in greater debt, but small businesses, which are often the greater engine of growth in our communities, really struggle with the unpredictability caused by fluctuating prices.

“In conclusion, I urge the Government to honour their commitments before the election. I cannot over-emphasise the urgency and immediacy of this issue in rural Scotland. I urge them to consider the matter seriously. We have heard a lot about the derogation. I hope that not just island communities will be included in that, but that, notwithstanding the difficulties, other rural and remote parts will be included too. I also hope that much more attention will be given to the stabiliser, which, ultimately, will create fairness in the system and proportionality in the taxation on fuel.”

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LOCAL MP SECURES ACTION OVER WHITEHILLS FLOOD PROBLEM

Thursday, 3 February 2011

WHITEFORD HOPEFUL THAT END IS IN SIGHT FOR RESIDENTS’ PROBLEMS

Following a meeting with officials from Scottish Water and Aberdeenshire Council on Friday afternoon (28th January) Banff & Buchan MP Eilidh Whiteford is hopeful that a solution to flooding problems in Whitehills may have been found.

The Banffshire community has suffered from increasingly severe problems in recent years, with periods of heavy rain resulting in flooding in a number of streets in the town. In the course of the past year, there were severe incidents on 21st May, 11th August and 23rd September. Following pressure from Dr Whiteford and local residents, Scottish Water and the Council agreed to a joint meeting with the local MP and Whitehills community representatives.

Speaking after Friday’s meeting, Dr Whiteford said:

"Investigations by Aberdeenshire Council officials revealed that there was a problem with the drainage system in the fields behind Reidhaven Street. An important pipe, designed to take run-off water out to sea, had become blocked by a large plastic plant-pot. Happily, this has now been removed.

“In the meantime, Scottish Water has discovered that four of the drains in Seafield Street are not connected to any part of the drainage system. Up until now, these drains have been little more than ornamental.”


Aberdeenshire Council has agreed that further action is necessary to divert run-off water, which flows down from the high end of Seafield Street during heavy rain. Provided that this excess water can be prevented from reaching the village, Scottish Water has agreed that they can act to reconnect all of the drains in Seafield Street.

The Banff & Buchan MP continued:

"Following investigations, Scottish Water and Aberdeenshire Council have identified measures that they hope will resolve the flooding problems in Whitehills. Aberdeenshire Council flood prevention officers have identified relatively simple steps they can take that would enable Scottish Water to connect the ‘ornamental’ drains without fear of creating further problems in the village. The ball is now in Aberdeenshire Council’s court, and I will be asking them to undertake the necessary work as a matter of urgency. It’s very important that this problem is addressed before Spring when further heavy rain may cause problems. After at least three serious incidents in the last year alone, people living in the affected streets in Whitehills have put up with enough, and need an early resolution to this problem.

“The fact that a flower pot was blocking an essential drainage pipe highlights the role members of the local community can play in spotting problems. Council staff have encouraged those who walk or exercise their dogs in the surrounding countryside to keep an eye out for possible blockages in drainage pipes and gullies, so that problems can be reported and action taken as necessary.”

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MP TO PRESENT COMMENDATION TO FRASERBURGH RESTAURANT

Banff & Buchan MP Dr Eilidh Whiteford is to present a ‘Highly-Commended’ certificate and embroidered chef’s tunic to award-winning restaurateurs Baldev and Gopa Soni of the B-Raj Tandoori Restauant, Broad Street, Fraserburgh at 4.30pm on Friday 4 February (tomorrow). The restaurant achieved ‘Highly-Commended’ status in the most recent Newby Teas Tiffin Cup competition.

The award follows the restaurant’s previous success in the prestigious Tiffin Cup Competition, when the B-Raj Tandoori was the only Scottish restaurant to be placed in 2006.

Dr Whiteford commented:

“Mr and Mrs Soni have once again done exceptionally well to achieve such high recognition in the face of UK-wide competition. There are more South Asian restaurants in London alone than there are in Mumbai and Delhi put together, so that gives you an idea of the challenge faced by the B-Raj Tandoori.

“The judges could not have failed but to be impressed by the consistently high standard of Asian cuisine in Mr and Mrs Soni’s restaurant.”

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