Home Office pilot scheme should support fishing industry

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP Angus B MacNeil has written to Home Secretary Sajid Javid calling for the UK Government’s Seasonal Workers Pilot scheme to be extended to include the fishing industry.

The West Coast of Scotland fishing industry continues to face a labour shortage crisis and Mr MacNeil has repeatedly called on the UK Government to change immigration rules and allow non-European Economic Area workers to work on fishing boats.

Home Secretary Sajid Javid recently informed MPs that a Seasonal Workers Pilot will commence this month to support the horticulture sector. The scheme will allow non-EU migrant workers to work in UK farms to support farmers growing fruit and vegetables.

Mr MacNeil said: “Ensuring that skippers have enough crew to take a boat to sea is a crucial way that the UK Government can support the fishing industry.

“The start of the Seasonal Workers Pilot this month will allow the horticultural industry to fill labour gaps and the same scheme would make a significant difference to the fishing industry.

“I have met with six Immigration Ministers to discuss this issue over the last few years but there has been no progress.

“However I hope the introduction of this pilot scheme is an indication that the UK Government may be prepared to finally look at the crisis facing the fishing industry. I will write to Home Secretary asking him to intervene.”

Isles MP welcomes automatic compensation scheme for broadband and landline users when things go wrong

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP, Angus Brendan MacNeil has welcomed the announcement from Ofcom that broadband and landline customers will get money back from their providers when things go wrong, without having to fight for it.

BT, Sky, TalkTalk, Virgin Media and Zen Internet have joined Ofcom’s scheme, which is not compulsory.

From today (Monday 1st April), customers who experience delayed repairs, installations or missed engineer appointments will be compensated, without having to ask.

Commenting Angus MacNeil said:

“BT, Sky, TalkTalk, Virgin Media and Zen Internet have signed up to the scheme and have agreed to compensate customers when they experience these delays, without having to ask and Ofcom will carefully monitor companies’ compliance with the compensation scheme.

“We all know how inconvenient it is when faults happen with our broadband or landline, this scheme is a step in the right direction.”


Isles MP urges Ofgem to think again on Interconnector

Isles MP Angus MacNeil has reacted with dismay to the announcement by Ofgem that they are minded to reject the proposal by SSEN to build a 600MW transmission link to the Western Isles and favour instead a 450MW link.

Mr MacNeil will discuss the situation with officials from Ofgem later today (Tuesday).

Mr MacNeil said: “This has been a long drawn out process, it would be a mistake to build 450MW instead of 600MW. This would mean that the project would be unlikely to go ahead in an area which has the strongest wind resource in Europe.

“It is clear from all the developers that 450MW is not in the real world and the extra cost of adding a further 33 per cent to the capacity would only be seven percent added costs.

“It is unlikely that any project from the big developers to community wind will happen with the 450MW option and it is difficult to see how they could come to the conclusion that this is the best option. However that is the legislation and the UK and the bureaucratic narrow approach of UK Government legislators such as Ofgem in its interpretation.

“I would appeal to Ofgem to go back and think again and do what is best for the environment and the economy and to ensure that we deliver good clean energy, not just for the British Isles but to power into the European power network as part of the energy union.”


Crofters face being fleeced in event of No Deal, says Isles MP

New tariff arrangements revealed by the UK Government today (Wednesday) could leave those exporting lamb severely out of pocket in the event of No Deal, says Isles MP Angus MacNeil.

With just over two weeks until the UK is expected to leave the EU, the Department of International Trade announced plans for tariffs on imports to the UK. These included tariffs on sheep meat and beef.

Mr MacNeil said: “The tariffs outlined by the UK Government today are very bad news for agriculture. The spin of UK “protection” actually means tariffs into the EU for UK agriculture.

“Crofters in Na h-Eileanan an Iar are preparing for lambing in just a few weeks.  The autumn lamb sales have a huge EU market and the future is now worrying and very uncertain.

“Only revoking Article 50 to stop Brexit will now prevent choking and restricting trade. With no trade deals, the UK will face tariffs on almost all exports.

Reactions from the agricultural industry say the proposed tariffs could have a negative impact on UK exporters, in particular the sheep sector. They warn that the combination of tariffs and a no-deal Brexit could also mean an end to established supply chains which would cause disruption.

Isles MP urges islanders to ‘Brexit proof’ holiday plans

Islanders planning a summer holiday should ensure they are prepared for a potential No Deal Brexit, warns Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP Angus MacNeil.

  • Check passport expiry dates
  • Get travel insurance to cover medical emergencies

With less than a month until the planned Brexit date, Mr MacNeil says a No Deal scenario could mean passports with less than six months validity may not be accepted for travel to EU countries.

He is urging families to check passport expiry dates now and to ensure they have adequate travel insurance in place as it is unlikely that European Health Insurance Card will remain valid if there is No Deal (this currently gives UK travellers free emergency healthcare in EU countries).

No Deal Brexit could also mean that holidaymakers from the UK will need an International Driving Permit (IDP) to drive in EU countries (with the exception of Ireland). 

Mr MacNeil said: “My view is that Article 50 should be revoked to end the Brexit chaos and remove us from a situation which will lead to economic damage in the event of a deal or No Deal.

“However in the event of No Deal travellers must ensure that passports have more than 6 months validity; they must ensure they have travel insurance which includes cover for unexpected medical emergencies; and must also check what International Driving Permit (IDP) is required in your travel destination, these are available from some Post Offices.”

Consumer advice source Which? stated this month that if you book a package holiday which is cancelled because of Brexit, you will be able to claim the full holiday cost back.

They also state that most planned flights between the UK and the EU will go ahead after March 29th although the International Air Transport Association has warned that some may be cancelled.

If your flight is cancelled, you will get a refund or an alternative flight but compensation is unlikely.

Deal or no deal, any travel disruption caused directly by Brexit will likely be declared an extraordinary circumstances, which means no compensation.

Check your passport here https://www.passport.service.gov.uk/check-a-passport


MP and MSP voice concern over scope services

Na h-Eileanan an Iar MSP Alasdair Allan and MP Angus MacNeil have voiced their concern over scoping services within NHS Western Isles after being contacted by several constituents  experiencing delays or difficulties in accessing endoscopy or colonoscopy appointments.  

Both Western Isles Hospital and Ospadal Uibhist agus Bharraigh were unable to host scoping appointments for the latter part of last year due to technical issues with the equipment. While scoping services are now being carried out again at both Hospitals, many patients are still waiting for appointments.

Alasdair Allan and Angus MacNeil have both been in contact with NHS Western Isles about the situation.

Alasdair Allan MSP commented:

“I have had a number of constituents in touch with me since August regarding the unavailability of colonoscopy and endoscopy services.

“While I understand the Health Board was able to source appointments at mainland hospitals for some patients, there have been too many people experiencing too much of a wait.”

Mr MacNeil said: “Whatever the technical issues in one part of Scotland, people should not be made to wait.

“I am writing to the Health Minister to have an urgent overview on patient risk in this hiatus.  Scopes should be brought in or people transported out – waiting is not an allowable luxury in this situation.”

Iolaire debate transcripts printed

Two hundred and one transcripts of the Westminster Hall debate which marked the Centenary of the loss of HMY Iolaire in Parliament have been printed.

Na h-Eileanan an Iar MP Angus B MacNeil , who led the debate, had the transcripts printed and signed by all MPs who contributed including the Rt Hon Tobias Ellwood MP, Minister for the Ministry of Defence (MoD).

Mr MacNeil has sent transcript copies to local schools, historical societies, the Iolaire Working Group and individuals involved in projects to commemorate the Centenary of the Iolaire.

He said: “There was a huge community effort to commemorate the Centenary of the loss of the Iolaire. The many events and projects at the end of last year were a fitting and poignant commemoration of this great loss.

“I led a debate in Westminster Hall on December 12th on HMY Iolaire and the transcript provides a record of that debate which may be of interest locally.

“It also involved a contribution from Welsh MP Chris Bryant who was related to John Finlay Macleod who swam ashore with a rope and saved many lives.”

Copies of the transcript have been sent to various organisations and individuals but anyone who would like a copy can contact the constituency office on 01851 702272, email angus.macneil.mp@parliament.uk or call into the office at 31 Bayhead, Stornoway.

Safety at sea funding must be available post Brexit, says MP

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP Angus B MacNeil has called on the UK Government to ensure that key funding remains available to fishermen to improve safety at sea after Brexit.

Currently grants of up to 80 per cent are available for fishermen from the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) to finance personal protection equipment which includes work clothing as well as Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs) and Personal Locator Beacons (PLBs). The Fund also supports modifications to vessels to reduce the risks of going overboard, such as adding safety rails and non-slip decking.

Mr MacNeil has written to Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to seek clarification on how funding for safety measures will be accessed by fishermen after the UK leaves the European Union.

He said: “Safety at sea should be a priority and I have written to the Secretary of State to seek clarification on the UK Government’s plans to ensure that fishermen are supported in making modifications to vessels and in purchasing PFDs and PLBs.

“The recent Notice from the MCA has made additional legal requirements on fishermen to wear PFDs at sea in an effort to save lives and the long term plan needs to be to prevent fishermen going overboard in the first place by improving safety features on fishing boats. This funding is crucial for the safety of the Scottish fleet and I hope the UK Government has made provision for this to continue.”

MP asks pensioners to check they have received Winter Fuel Payment

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP Angus MacNeil is urging eligible constituents to ensure they have received this year’s Winter Fuel Payment.

Those who have reached State Pension age are eligible for a Winter Fuel Payment which for most will have been paid to them automatically in November.

However anyone who is eligible and has not received a payment should contact the Winter Fuel Payment Centre on 0800 731 0160 as soon as possible.

Claims can also be made online at https://gov.uk/government/publications/winter-fuel-payment-claim-form

Angus MacNeil said: “The cost of heating your home during the winter months is an added financial burden and I want to make sure that local pensioners are getting all the assistance they are entitled to.

“I received a letter from the Amber Rudd MP, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, this week outlining that eligible constituents who have not received payment should make contact with the Centre as soon as possible.

“Anyone constituents having difficulty with this can contact my office on 01851 702272.”

Winter Fuel Payment is not means tested. You can get it if you’re working or claiming a benefit. You can automatically qualify for a Winter Fuel Payment for winter 2018/2019 if both the following apply: you have reached the qualifying age which means you were born on or before 5 November 1953 and you normally lived in Northern Ireland or Great Britain on any day throughout the week 17 to 23 September 2018 – this is known as the ‘qualifying week’.

Isles MP makes formal move to abandon Brexit

Isles MP Angus B MacNeil is asking MPs to support a move to abandon Brexit and avoid inflicting economic damage on all countries of the UK.

He has already secured the support of Father of the House, Kenneth Clarke MP, and several other cross party MPs.

With the choice of the Prime Minister’s damaging Brexit deal –  being presented to the House of Commons once again today (Thursday) – or an even more damaging No deal, Na h-Eileanan an Iar’s SNP MP has tabled an amendment to the Government’s EU Withdrawal motion calling for Article 50 to be revoked before March 29th.

Mr MacNeil said: “I am tabling an amendment to the EU Withdrawal motion to revoke Article 50, not to extend it and breathe further life into this economically damaging phase.

“Leaving the EU will negatively impact all of us and damages the economy of the islands.

“Membership of the Single Market and Customs Union is crucial for industry in the islands and the rest of Scotland.

“Free movement of people is also hugely beneficial to us as we really need more people to live and work here and to make a valuable contribution to our communities.”

The Treaty of Lisbon outlines the constitution of the EU. Any member state wishing to leave the EU must invoke Article 50 of the Treaty. The European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled in December that the UK can unilaterally revoke its withdrawal notification made under Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union.