Michael Moore’s Westminster Notes

Secretary of State for Scotland Michael Moore MP writes a weekly column for local newspapers in his constituency. Here’s this week’s edition.

Scottish Questions

Last week was Parliament’s first week back after the Easter break and on Wednesday I had one of my regular sessions of Scottish Questions as Secretary of State for Scotland. Question time is an opportunity for the opposition frontbench and backbench MPs to ask the Government questions about policy and any current issues affecting Scotland. Last week’s questions were therefore mainly focussed on the March budget and the progress of the Scotland Bill through Holyrood and Westminster.

The economy is undoubtedly one of the most pressing issues facing the Government and during question time I emphasised the vital work we are doing to sort out the UK’s budget deficit and put the country on the path to sustainable growth. In order to begin this process, we have had to take some tough decisions but we are also ensuring that the lowest paid are protected. In the Government’s recent budget, I welcomed news that 45,400 Borderers will receive a tax cut next year and the number taken out of income tax altogether since 2010 will be taken up to 4,690. Borders pensioners have also received the biggest ever cash increase in their pensions of £5.30 this month. These measures reflect the Government’s commitment to make the tax and state pension system fairer, while ensuring the rich bear their share of the burden as we clamp down on tax avoidance, introduce a ‘tycoon tax’ and put an end to stamp duty dodging by the super rich.

Scotland Bill

The overwhelming vote by the Scottish Parliament in favour of the UK Government’s Scotland Bill last week was a clear indicator of the strong support for the Bill and takes it a step closer to becoming law. The Bill, which I piloted through Westminster as Secretary of State for Scotland, will make the Scottish Parliament both more powerful and more accountable and will enable MSPs to bring real change to Scotland in the years ahead. This is certainly good news for families in the Borders and across Scotland and is a key part of the Lib Dem commitment to devolving more power to Scotland.

Jobs

Jobs remain one of the most important concerns for people here in the Borders and it was welcome news last week that unemployment in Scotland fell by 12,000 and employment increased by 17,000 from December to February 2012. There is however clearly still a big challenge ahead to bring down unemployment and get more people back into jobs and I have been focussing a lot of my work on this issue in recent months. Through the youth unemployment seminars I have held across the Scotland, one of which was in the Borders, and the work I am doing to promote the Youth Contract, I want to see young Borderers given the opportunities they need to break into the job market.

* Michael Moore was the Liberal Democrat MP for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk from 1997-2015 and Secretary of State for Scotland from 2010-2013.

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