Figures published recently highlighted an unexpected contraction in our economy.

In the period from October to December last year, the UK economy shrank by 0.5 per cent.

Economists have said that this contraction was much worse than expected.

The Government needs to take this as a stark warning. Its frightening cuts are too deep and too fast. The decisive action taken by the previous Labour Government got us back into growth but the Tory-led Government is recklessly throwing that away by slashing public spending. The biggest fear is that this will lead to a double-dip recession.

These worrying figures will have very real consequences for people in West Dunbartonshire. They will mean more job losses as businesses find it increasingly difficult to survive. The Government needs to wake up and realise the damage their irresponsible cuts are doing to our economy.

Petrol prices OUR economy had started to shrink even before the Tory-led Government's hike in VAT kicked in which has seen prices rise on the high street and at the petrol pumps.

In the case of fuel, prices have risen to a record level, and that is causing real pain for local families and businesses. Fuel duty is set to rise by a further penny in April - that could tip some families and businesses over the edge.

Before last year's election the Tories and Lib Dems said they would act to keep fuel prices down.

That's another promise they've broken as fuel prices are now higher than ever before thanks to their hike in VAT.

Not only does the Government need to reconsider the rise in VAT, but they should scrap the 1p April fuel duty rise.

Ahead of the Budget due next month, I have written to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, to call on him to spare local families yet more pain by scrapping the fuel duty rise.

Coastguards I recently called on the Conservative-led Government to rethink plans to close the Clyde coastguard operations centre, based at Greenock.

The operations centre co-ordinates maritime rescues from the Mull of Galloway in the south west to Ardmamurchan Point in the north west, the Clyde and various islands including Arran, Bute and Cumbrae.

The Government wants to shut the operations centre to save money. Scotland would then be left with only one 24-hour control centre, in Aberdeen.

There are very real fears that the proposal will risk lives on the waters of the Clyde.

Local knowledge is crucial to maritime rescue, not just for the rescue teams but by the operations centre staff too.

People are understandably worried that local knowledge and safety will be compromised if coastguard operations are transferred to the north east.

Last month I pressed the Secretary of State for Transport, Philip Hammond, in Parliament to rethink the plans.

He refused to give a commitment to do so, but I will continue to highlight concerns about damaging impact of the closure plans.