Mark Lazarowicz MP

Member of Parliament for Edinburgh North and Leith

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In a debate on food banks in Parliament, Mark has attacked the way that benefit sanctions are applied as a major factor in people turning to food banks for help.

Over 51,000 people in Scotland received emergency food from one of the Trussell Trust foodbanks between April and September this year, an increase of 124% over the same period last year – and almost a third of those helped were children.

Mark’s intervention in the debate can be found here.

He commented afterwards:

“The continuing increase in the number of people forced to turn to food banks should be a source of shame for our society and not least the number of children growing up in poverty.

“These are people referred by agencies like social services, Citizens Advice Scotland or housing associations so the figures are robust.

“An increasing number of people are being referred even though they are in work because of low income but the main reasons for referrals remain delays in processing benefit claims or benefit sanctions.

“People forced to miss an appointment at a Jobcentre because of illness, family emergency or just a simple misunderstanding can face being left without benefits for weeks or sometimes months.

“There is overwhelming evidence that the way sanctions are applied is inconsistent and harsh to the point of cruelty: the benefit system must not victimise vulnerable people.”

To receive help from a foodbank, someone must be referred by either a voluntary or statutory agency and the agency must give a reason for doing so. Benefit problems (46%) and ‘low income’ (18%) are the most common causes of foodbank use.

There are 5 food banks overall operated by the Trussell Trust in Edinburgh but there are 13 distribution centres linked to the main centres.

In Edinburgh North and Leith, there are now three food bank networks – North-East Edinburgh (including Leith), North-West Edinburgh, and Central Edinburgh.

Mark attacks Government on benefit sanctions as major factor in people turning to food banks

In a debate on food banks in Parliament, Mark has attacked the way that benefit sanctions are applied as a major factor in people turning to food banks for help....

Mark led a debate today in Parliament to call for justice for bmi staff, a number of whom were Edinburgh-based, who saw their pensions significantly reduced after takeovers first by Lufthansa, then by IAG, the group that includes British Airways.
 
Lufthansa is paying compensation to members of the bmi pension fund but it is to be subject to tax and National Insurance by HMRC. That is the issue that a constituent who lost out substantially contacted Mark about and the debate today focused on.

Mark’s speech can be found here. Afterwards he commented:  

“Longstanding staff, some of them based here in Edinburgh, have seen their pensions cut significantly and are now losing out again as the compensation is taxed by HMRC.    

“The Government has said it has no choice but to apply the tax rules but it is the Government itself and Parliament that decide what the tax rules are.   

“This is a matter of justice and has much wider implications for pensions: if a perfectly solvent company takes over another solvent company with pension liabilities, how is it possible for both companies to be freed of responsibility for those pension liabilities?  

“The Government should act to allow bmi staff to receive the compensation in full – employee pensions built up over years should not be wiped away amidst commercial wheeling and dealing.”  

When bmi was sold to Lufthansa in 2009 there was no obligation on it to fund the pension scheme although it was prepared to continue to do so to a limited degree. When Lufthansa then sold bmi to IAG in 2012, the pension fund was excluded from the deal.  

At that point it entered the public Pension Protection Fund which does not pay all of the pension entitlement built up where staff have not yet reached retirement and some staff have lost as much as 50% of their entitlement even after the Lufthansa compensation.  

In the case of Equitable Life, the Government decided to pay compensation tax-free to those members who lost out and in another taxation issue, improvements to listed buildings, it set up a fund to compensate for the imposition of VAT.

In November, Mark challenged the Treasury Minister responsible for taxation, David Gauke, on this issue but simply received the reply that the Treasury was not responsible for the tax rules and had to apply them as they stand. You can find the exchange here.

Protecting pension rights: Mark calls for justice for bmi staff

Mark led a debate today in Parliament to call for justice for bmi staff, a number of whom were Edinburgh-based, who saw their pensions significantly reduced after takeovers first by...

Mark voted in Parliament today to introduce pay transparency across large companies. The measure, put forward by Labour will require companies which employ over 250 staff to publish their own gender pay gap in their annual report. It would apply across the UK.

Mark said:  

“Women and their families across Edinburgh will be wondering why so many Tories and Lib Dems failed to back equal pay for millions of women across Britain.

“Women shouldn’t have to wait another generation for equal pay. Pay transparency will shine a light on the problem and help employers to close the pay gap once and for all.

“This Government might not be prepared to act but a Labour Government will.”

Labour MPs were joined in Parliament by Gwen Davis, Sheila Douglass, Vera Sime and Eileen Pullen – four of the original Dagenham women who went on strike for equal pay leading to the Equal Pay Act of 1970, as well as the stars of the hit musical ‘Made in Dagenham’ including Gemma Arterton and Isla Blair.

But despite Labour voting through the motion this week, most Liberal Democrat and Conservative MPs failed to vote in favour after the Government indicated that it did not intend to make pay transparency the law.

The campaign for pay transparency is being led by Labour in Parliament, and supported by Grazia magazine and employers including PricewaterhouseCoopers and Genesis Housing who are amongst just five companies known to voluntarily publish their pay gap.

Shockingly women still earn an average 81p for every pound earned by men, despite the Equal Pay Act being passed 44 years ago. To coincide with the vote Labour is releasing new analysis of official figures which show that because of the gender pay gap, women earn an average £209,976 less over their lifetime than men.

Pay transparency for large employers was originally included by Labour in the Equality Act (2010) (section 78) but ditched by the Conservatives and Lib Dems on entering Government. The measure is widely viewed as a way to stimulate action on the causes of the gender pay gap within workplaces.

Mark votes for Equal Pay as Lib Dems and Tories fail to back measure

Mark voted in Parliament today to introduce pay transparency across large companies. The measure, put forward by Labour will require companies which employ over 250 staff to publish their own...


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