Monthly Archives: June 2000

MP launched into cyberspace – Gavin Strang’s website unveiled today

Gavin Strang MP launched his new website today, Friday 30th June, at 12 noon at Teleport, Craigmillar Community Information Service, Unit 32 Castlebrae Business Centre, Peffer Place, Edinburgh EH16 4BB.

Speaking at the launch, Gavin Strang MP said:

‘I am delighted to launch my website today. People in Edinburgh East and Musselburgh are now able to get information about their local MP through the internet.

‘People visiting my website can find out about

  • how to contact their MP
  • biographical details of their MP
  • how responsibilities are shared between their MP and their MSP
  • the constituency, local councillors and their surgeries
  • election results
  • press releases

‘And people can use links in the website to go to Edinburgh and East Lothian Councils, the Scottish Parliament, the Labour Party, and Government Departments.

‘Information technology is already changing the way many people live. It offers terrific opportunities for the workplace, for commerce, for education and for leisure.

‘And information technology will get more and more important in the years to come.

‘In our current society, the internet is a powerful force for social exclusion. There is a danger that people will become increasingly disadvantaged because they are not able to get access to information technology.

‘The Government has made it clear that it wants Britain to be in the forefront of the internet revolution and that everyone should benefit. The challenge is to do all we reasonably can to ensure that everyone takes advantage of the opportunities that information technology has to offer.’

Keep the Agricultural Wages Boards

Gavin Strang MP is to initiate a debate in the House of Commons late on Wednesday night to make the case for retaining the Agricultural Wages Boards.

The Government is considering the future of the Boards as part of the quinquennial review which they are required to carry out by statute.

Extracts of his speech follow:

‘British farmworkers are skilled workers who deserve a decent rate for the job. But individual farmworkers are in an exceptionally weak negotiating position with their employers. They tend to be isolated, working alone, and often their house goes with their job. There is little mobility of labour, and the social relationship with the farmer can bring its own pressures.

‘That is why the Agricultural Wages Boards are so important. It is where both parties in the agricultural industry negotiate to reach an annual agreement on farmworkers’ pay and conditions.

‘There has been a historic consensus of support for the Agricultural Wages Boards. Farmers don’t want a minority in their midst undercutting them by paying exploitative wages, and the Boards remove the time-consuming and stressful work associated with pay negotiations. Furthermore, unlike other industries, farmers receive large sums of money from the taxpayer in the form of subsidies. It has long been accepted that as a quid pro quo farmers should be required to provide statutory minimum rates of pay and conditions.

‘While the NFU and the Scottish NFU report that their members currently want to see the Boards abolished, the Country Landowners Association, the Farmers Union of Wales and the TGWU – the rural and agricultural workers’ union – are supporting the Boards.

‘It is to the credit of this Labour Government that the National Minimum Wage and the Working Time Regulations are in place. But this improved legislation is in no way a substitute for the Boards. The National Minimum Wage and the provisions of the Working Time Regulations are intended as a floor below which it would be wrong to employ someone.

‘The Agricultural Wages Boards are entirely different. The Boards provide the forum where both parties in the industry reach an agreement which reflects the state of the agricultural industry. The Country Landowners Association states that it is ‘extremely important that the industry should continue to regulate the level of pay for agricultural workers and be able to take into account the peculiarities of employment in agriculture’.

‘Secondly, the Boards provide far more than the National Minimum Wage and the Working Time Regulations.

· The Agricultural Minimum Wage is higher than the National Minimum Wage – the standard agricultural adult hourly rate is £4.57 in England and Wales, £4.42 in Scotland and £4.38 in Northern Ireland compared to the adult national minimum wage of £3.60.

· The Board in England and Wales sets down rates of pay to reflect the skills of farmworkers. The Farmers Union of Wales says that ‘rewarding qualifications, levels of responsibility etc is a vital means of persuading high-calibre people to remain in or enter the industry.’

· The Boards set overtime rates, a better working week, better sick pay, better holidays and rest breaks, a rate for working at night, a better rate for tied accommodation, an allowance for keeping a working dog, and holiday entitlement for working Sundays. The Boards also provide for paid paternity, adoption and bereavement leave.

‘The Boards have not been over-generous to farmworkers – they contain equal numbers of representatives of both farmworkers and farmers. Average pay in the agriculture, hunting and forestry sector is still £129 less every week than the average weekly pay in manufacturing.

‘If the Boards were abolished or weakened, it would not just be agricultural workers who would suffer. The Boards’ rates are used as a benchmark throughout the rural economy. And if farmworkers receive less pay, then it will mean more rural social exclusion, less money spent in the rural economy and a greater cost to the state through Working Families Tax Credit.

‘In opposition the Labour Party campaigned successfully alongside the farmworkers, other parties and indeed the farmers, against the Conservatives’ proposals to abolish the Agricultural Wages Boards. We said that a Labour Government would keep the Boards and we knew that it was crucial that the Boards were not weakened.

‘The Agricultural Wages Boards perform a most important service for farm workers, for the agricultural industry and for the rural economy. It would be a great mistake to weaken or abolish the Wages Boards.’

New Deal working for young people

Figures just released to Parliament show that the Government’s New Deal programme for the young unemployed has moved 174 young people in Edinburgh East and Musselburgh off benefit and into sustained employment.

Local MP Gavin Strang today welcomed the figures and said that steps were being taken to increase still further the New Deal’s preparation of young people to met employers’ needs.

Gavin Strang said:

‘The Labour Government has been waging war on youth unemployment and New Deal has been at the heart of that crusade.

‘The number of people aged 18-24 who are out of work and claiming benefit for 6 months or more has fallen by 52% in East Edinburgh and Musselburgh in the last two years.

‘Nationally, 210,000 young people have moved off welfare and into work through New Deal. This is a major achievement but the Government is determined to press on towards the eradication of long-term youth unemployment.

‘By contrast, the Tories would scrap New Deal and with it the hopes of thousands of young people.

‘Starting this month, all participants in the New Deal for Young People will benefit from an intensified introductory stage to the programme. The new

‘Gateway’ will involve more contact with Employment Service advisers and will focus on intensive job-search and on qualities like punctuality, team-working and communication – the skills employers are increasingly looking for when they recruit.

‘The Government has put an unprecedented programme of support in place and we have record levels of vacancies all over the country. It is now the responsibility of every young person to seize the opportunities on offer and help us build on the success already achieved.’

MP’s pledge to back the Post Office

Gavin Strang addresses the Federation of Subpostmasters and Subpostmistresses
Gavin Strang MP tonight addresses the Edinburgh and Lothian members of the National Federation of Subpostmasters and Postmistresses about their concerns about the move to pay pensions and benefits through the banks. The meeting is at 7.30pm in Edinburgh’s Old Waverley Hotel. Extracts from Gavin Strang’s speech follow:

‘It is the local Post Offices in the less well-off urban areas that are most at risk from the move towards paying pensions and social security benefits through the banks.

‘There has also been a lot of focus on the threat to rural Post Offices. In many villages the Post Office is the only shop for miles. Many people depend on these outlets – it is vital that they survive.

‘I am sure that the Government is now determined to secure the future for the local post office.

‘The Prime Minister has asked the Performance and Innovation Unit of the Cabinet Office to look at the future of the network, and has requested to meet with the General Secretary of the National Federation of Subpostmasters and Postmistresses. The Government has introduced legislation as a safeguard to allow a subsidy to be paid if it is needed.

‘And in urban deprived areas, the government is considering ways to provide special assistance which would allow subpostmasters and subpostmistresses to improve the quality of both the post office and the retail sides of their businesses.

‘The question now is how to deliver this shared vision of a thriving, modern post office network.

‘I see three major opportunities for the Post Office.

· The Post Office as the Government’s local deliverer. The local post office should be an access point for people for as many government services as possible.

· The Post Office must take advantage of the opportunity of Information Technology. Perhaps people could go to their local post office to access the internet, and to order and pay for goods.

· Thirdly, we must broaden the range of commercial services offered to people at their local post office. The Post Office has already won banking business from the Coop Bank, LloydsTSB and Barclays. The Government is also very keen that the Post Office develop a Universal Bank.

‘We must ensure this country has a thriving network of local post offices.
‘I pledge that I will do all that I can to help.’

Protect the Post Office

Gavin Strang MP has accepted an invitation to address the Edinburgh and Lothian members of the National Federation of Subpostmasters and Postmistresses about their concerns about the impact upon their businesses of Automated Credit Transfer for benefit payments. The meeting will be held at 7.30pm on Monday 12 June at the Old Waverley Hotel, Edinburgh.

Speaking in advance of the meeting, Gavin Strang said:

‘From the tiny village to the inner city, our local Post Offices play a vital social and economic role.

‘The Post Office is currently facing many challenges.

‘Postmasters are worried that they will not survive the loss of Benefits Agency work, once the majority of benefits are paid by Automated Credit Transfer.

‘To start with, the scale of these concerns was perhaps not fully recognised.

‘But I believe that the Government are now determined to secure the future for the local post office. And National Federation of Postmasters’ General Secretary, Colin Baker now says ‘we took our vision to Government and we were delighted to see that the Government has returned to us with the very same vision and wanting to work with us to achieve it’.

‘The question now is how to deliver this shared vision of a thriving, modern post office network.

‘I see three major opportunities for the Post Office.

· The Post Office as the Government’s local deliverer. I have always thought that the local post office should be an access point for people for as many government services as possible. The Government is committed to provide all government services on-line by 2005. The Post Office should become a gateway for the delivery of these services.

· The Post Office must take advantage of the opportunity of Information Technology. Perhaps people could go to their local post office to access the internet. Minister Alan Johnson has suggested that Post Offices could become places for customers to order and pay for goods over the internet and where they collect their products once they have arrived.

· Thirdly, we must broaden the range of commercial services offered to people at their local post office. The Post Office has already won banking business from the Coop Bank, LloydsTSB and Barclays. The Government are also very keen that the Post Office develop a Universal Bank. This would help address the problems of financial exclusion in our society.

‘There is an obligation upon government, and upon the Post Office itself, to ensure this country has a thriving network of local post offices.
‘I pledge that I will do all that I can to help.’