Fur Trade in the UK

I was shocked to hear the extent of real fur being sold in faux fur products on the UK High Street during the recent Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Committee evidence session.

I suspect that like me, many consumers would expect products containing real fur to be expensive – apparently that is not the case and many of the cheaper products and those with fur trims and embellishments are being mis-labelled as synthetic when in fact they contain real fur.

Consumers need to be able to fully trust the information on the product label, and retailers need to be fully aware of what is in the products they are selling to the public.

During the EFRA evidence I also learned about the stringent labelling processes and standards that are enforced in countries like the US and Switzerland. If countries like these can demand accurate labelling on their products then why not the UK?

Many people make their buying choices based on ethical and moral grounds and the idea that we are being misinformed due to technicalities like product label composition is despicable.

You can view the whole evidence gather session here.

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Refugee Family Reunion Bill

In the House of Commons this week, I met with members of the Families Together campaign to discuss the urgency of reuniting refugee families in the UK. Refugees who have been separated from their families continue to be remain apart from their loved ones because of current restrictive UK laws on refugee family reunion.

Refugees should have the right to be with their family, the people that know them best and make them feel safe. But tragically, every single day refugee families already torn apart by conflict and war are being kept apart by restrictive UK rules.

This urgently needs to change. My SNP Colleague Angus MacNeil is bringing forward the Refugee Family Reunion Bill and I will be attending the Private Member’s Bill vote on 16 March and voting to bring refugee families together again.

You can find more about this issue via the Amnesty International UK website.

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East Coast Mainline Franchise and Electric Shock Collar Petitions

I had an early start yesterday morning supporting the petition calling for the East Coast mainline franchise to come back under public ownership.  The petition was handed in to the Department for Transport yesterday.

In the afternoon I signed the pledge and the letter to the Minister calling for a ban on the use of shock collars for dogs.  As a dog owner myself I was pleased to see lots of support for the campaign - These aversive training methods are outdated and cruel, and there is no need for them to be used when there are so many positive training methods available.

You can help the petition get to 10,000 signatures by signing here.

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British Heart Foundation - Kilmarnock Store Visit

Earlier today I popped into the British Heart Foundation - Scotland (BHF) shop in Titchfield Street, Kilmarnock to meet the staff and volunteers who help turn donations into funds for life-saving cardiovascular research.

Many thanks to manager Matthew for the invitation and his time for showing me around. It was great to meet the dedicated members of staff and volunteers who work there. The shop is well stocked with a great variety of goods both donated and brand new items - all good quality and well presented in the spacious shop.

I’d encourage everyone to have a root around at home and donate any unwanted items to their local shop or give the gift of time by volunteering.

Matthew and his team are ready to welcome anyone who is interested in volunteering - and this can sometime be a great first step into employment. During the visit I was introduced to the warehouse manager Dean who started out as a volunteer and I met Julie who was enjoying her work placement in the shop.

It was very interesting to learn about the BHF work that goes into generating vital donations, sorting and displaying stock and making sales that all contribute to funding the £70m worth of life saving cardiovascular research in Scotland.

Further information available from: telephone 01563 481240; email K14@bhf.org.uk; web site: www.bhf.org.uk

Fellow of the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE)

Last week I was elected as a Fellow of the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) - an influential body representing over 92,000 civil engineers and technicians across the world who design, build and maintain our transport, water, energy, waste and flood infrastructure. My fellowship certificate was presented by ICE President Lord Robert Mair at a special ceremony held at ICE’s headquarters in Westminster, London. 

I was very honoured to receive the Fellowship of the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE). I am proud to be part of a profession that contributes to transform people’s lives for the better.

Having graduated from Glasgow University with an Honours degree in Civil Engineering I worked in both the public and private sector for 21 years as a principal engineer before resigning to take up the position as MP for the Kilmarnock and Loudoun constituency.

My career highlight was being a hydraulic engineer for the Ayr sewerage scheme which was designed to clean up the bathing beach.  Doing work to improve my local area was really rewarding. As an aside it was being a member of the EU which made the UK stop discharging raw sewerage onto the bathing beach.  I saw first-hand how the UK government didn’t want to comply but were forced to spend the money.  Hopefully we don’t return to being the dirtiest man in Europe as far as clean beaches go. 

As Co-Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Infrastructure I am also pleased to be able to continue to support the work of engineers and highlight the importance of infrastructure, engineering to the economy and society, and to hear from experts on emerging priorities.

ICE Scotland regional director Sara Thiam said: “The ICE was pleased to extend a Presidential Invitation for Fellowship to Alan Brown MP, recognising both his work as a civil engineer and in championing the importance of civil engineering in Parliament. Alan joins the ICE as a Fellow at a significant time for the ICE – our bicentenary year. We are proud to celebrate his contribution to the profession, demonstrating how civil engineers transform people’s lives for the better and safeguard the future for their families.”

Closer to home, it is my intention to support the work of Kilmarnock Engineering Science Society (KESS) in the constituency, especially as 2018 is the Year of Engineering. If any school or community group is interested in finding out more or wants to get involved then please contact my Constituency Office on 01563 501412


Curling Stones fae Mauchline at the Winter Olympic Games

The XXIII Olympic Winter Games begins today in PyeongChang.

I learned on a recent visit that Kays Curling in Mauchline have provided the competition stones to the Winter Olympic Games since 1998.  

So congratulations! to Kays on their 20th anniversary of being the sole supplier of Ailsa Craig granite stones manufactured in Mauchline and used by all the competitors from around the world.

Good luck to the all-Scots men's and women's Curling teams representing Great Britain when they begin their competition on Wednesday 14th February.


So congratulations! to Kays on their 20th anniversary of being the sole supplier of Ailsa Craig granite stones manufactured in Mauchline and used by all the competitors from around the world.

Representation of the People Act Centenary #Vote100

Today marks 100 years since the Representation of the People Act which gave some women the right to vote and extended the vote to men over the age of 21.

The Representation of the People Act 1918 was a vital step towards the rights women have today, and the centenary of the Act is an incredibly important opportunity for us to reflect on how far we have come, thanks to the extreme bravery and sacrifice of the women who fought – and in some cases died – for equality.

Whether it’s chatting about the issues over a cup of tea, or engaging with one of the many exciting events as part of this year’s UK Parliament Week, there are countless opportunities for schools and community groups across Kilmarnock and Loudoun to get involved in this key anniversary.

We all know that there is still more to do, and I look forward to working with people across Kilmarnock and Loudoun to ensure we create an even more equal society.

Parliament are celebrating 100 years since the first women got the vote with a major exhibition, education programmes, events, talks and tours. Find out how you and your community can get involved! http://goo.gl/fGsWHS   #Vote100

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Holocaust Memorial Day 2018

It was a privilege to attend the Kilmarnock Academy Holocaust Memorial event on Monday 29 January.

As the Holocaust moves from living history, to just history, it becomes ever more important that we take the time to remember the victims and also pay tribute to the survivors.

I would like to thank the pupils and staff for including me in such an important event to reflect on the tragic events of the Holocaust, and to Henry and Ingrid Wuga for sharing their personal stories with us. #hmd2018

10 Minute Rule Bill - Multi-Employer Pensions

Earlier today I presented a 10 Minute Rule Bill to make provision about Multi-employer Pension Schemes, including provision for the protection of unincorporated businesses, such as plumbing businesses, from certain multi-employer pension scheme liabilities; and for connected purposes

The background to this was the revelation that the multi-employer scheme operated for plumbers in Scotland and Northern Ireland, (SNIPEF) is having to advise some members that they owe hundreds of thousands of pounds and even over £1m due to the perceived debt or black hole in their pension fund. However, this is as much to do with changes in legislation to the 1995 Pension Act and how the debt is calculated. And the debt includes “orphan debt” – debts assigned to members who left the scheme prior to the last legislation change in 2005.

As it stands several employers/individuals face financial ruin despite having responsibly tried to look after employees, and many live in fear of financial ruin and cannot change ownership or pass the business on for fear of triggering the debt. A plumbing company in my constituency with approximately 20 employees altogether closed before Christmas as a consequence of it being unsellable with the potential liability associated with it. So changes to the legislation are required before matters get worse across the country.

Energy Saving Week 22 - 28 January 2018

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Thank you to Linda Corbett, Energy Adviser from East Ayrshire Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) for taking the time this morning to pop into my constituency office to explain the help and advice that CAB can offer. CAB energy advisers can provide a wide range of advice on energy issues including support to understand bills, help to make comparisons and find cheaper deals, complaints, escalation of complaints to the ombudsman, advice on options for debt and debt solutions including write off.

Linda and the CAB team will be delivering a week of events across the constituency to coincide with the 'Big Energy Savings Week' including a 'drop-in' advice stall in the Burns Mall Kilmarnock on Tuesday 23rd January and in the Asda store in Cumnock on Friday 26th January. See the attached poster or checkout East Ayrshire Citizens Advice Bureau's Facebook page for all the events next week.

Public Meeting

I will be hosting a Public Meeting on behalf of the HELMS Action Group Ayrshire at the Park Suite, Kilmarnock on Thursday 18th January at 7.00pm.

If you dealt with Home Energy & Lifestyle Management Services Ltd (HELMS) and feel you were mis-sold you can join the HELMS Action Group Ayrshire Facebook page.  You can find further details of the public meeting via this group or from my Constituency Office on 01563 501412


My End of Year Message

Like many readers, the year 2017 has flown past for myself. Clearly there was another general election this year, which was unexpected, unnecessary and unwanted. I was honoured to be re-elected and given the instability of the new Tory Government it remains to be seen if this parliamentary term will last the intended 5 year period.

It is clear that the UK Government still does not have a real plan for Brexit. However, after 18 months and caving in on every demand, they have finally agreed the preliminary terms. So, phase 2 of the talks now begin. The aim is to have deals concluded by October 2018, in order to allow them to be ratified in time for the UK’s planned EU exit in March 2019, so in reality only 10 months to do the real hard negotiations. Government Ministers better make the best of the Christmas holidays as they will be busy thereafter!

Sadly, too many people at this time of year are reliant on foodbanks. This is a combination of Tory welfare cuts, zero hours contracts, low wages and sometimes lack of full time jobs. We have to remember that when children are involved then daily life, including school work and learning is more difficult if you are hungry. I will certainly be making more donations to the foodbank collections and I would urge others to support these initiatives. It would be best if they were not required at all, but at the moment that is wishful thinking.

My personal Christmas wish list is fairer transitional arrangements for women affected by the state pension age increases; EU negotiations that allows Scotland to stay in the single market and customs union, protecting jobs; the UK Government providing financial support for the Ayrshire Growth Deal; the UK Government loosening their purse strings to reverse the cuts to the Scottish budget and for the UK Government to confirm that powers that come from the EU will go directly to the Scottish Government as well as the equivalent budgets. I appreciate that I am somewhat optimistic with my list but even some movement would be good. The WASPI women deserve a decent Christmas present and I hope that the parliamentary arithmetic now means that something will happen.

Here’s to a Merry Christmas 2017, a Happy New Year to all. Remember, for any last minute shopping…use the wonderful friendly local shops.

These thoughts were first published in the Kilmarnock Standard

Christmas E-Card Competition

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Judging the entries for my annual Christmas E-Card Competition with local primary schools is always a very tough task. But this year the children surpassed themselves with their artistic endeavours and I really struggled to reach a decision. 

The overall winner was Lucy Daly from Fenwick Primary and you can see her design above. 

The runners-up were: Brad Dalziel from Park School; Andrew Bowman from Newmilns Primary and Caiomhe Welsh from St. Sophia’s and their designs are below.

Thank you to all the children who submitted their designs – I really enjoyed looking at them all.


Dementia Friends Awareness Session

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My Constituency Office staff recently took part in a training session to become Dementia Friends.

Dementia Friends is an Alzheimer Scotland initiative and anybody can become a Scottish Dementia Friend. It’s just about understanding a bit more about dementia and the small things you can do to help people with the condition. This could be helping someone find the right bus or being patient in a till queue if someone with dementia is taking longer to pay. Every action counts.

Our session was delivered by East Ayrshire Dementia Advisor Helen Hollywood and you can find out more about upcoming local sessions here and more about Dementia Friends Scotland via their website.