Tele column – 28th October 2016

Almost a year ago I attended a Private Members Bill debate at Westminster. It was designed to change the law regarding off-patent drugs. It was shamelessly talked out by the UK Government. Talking out a debate prevents a vote and therefore halts the progress of a bill. It’s undemocratic, cynical and an abuse of the parliamentary process. The Government to its increasing shame employed the same tactic last Friday and talked out the Turing bill that was brought forward by the SNP. The Turing bill was designed to pardon men convicted of crimes related to homosexual activity. Crimes that are no longer crimes. There is an indication that after a year Westminster may actually be reconsidering the off-patent drug bill which is an issue controlled at U.K. level but the Turing bill can be implemented in Scotland and it will. Within a few days of Westminster sinking the bill the Scottish Government has reached a cross party agreement to grant automatic pardons. At some point the UK Government may catch up. It often feels like wading through treacle to achieve anything at Westminster. The Chagossians, forcibly expelled from their homes in the Chagos Islands fifty years ago and still seeking justice can testify to that.

One potential green shoot of progress is that after years of lobbying and pressure from many MPs, including myself, the UK government may act to reduce the maximum stake on fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs) to £2. These victories go a long way to reenergising me when it comes to the day to day slog that can be Westminster. The fight goes on.