Review of FOBTs

I welcomed the written statement from the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Culture, Media and Sport that the Department for Culture, Media and Sport has published a terms of reference and a call for evidence for a review of gaming machines and social responsibility requirements across the gambling industry.

The review will include a close look at the issue of B2 gaming machines (more commonly known as Fixed Odds Betting Terminals – FOBTs) and specific concerns about the harm they cause, be that to the player or the communities in which they are located.

I have continued to campaign for further action to be taken on gambling related harm.  He previously proposed that funds from dormant betting accounts should be used to support individuals and families whose lives have been affected by gambling related harm.

I’m pleased to learn that the Department of Culture, Media and Sport are to undertake a long awaited review of FOBTs. 

The evidence shows that these machines are directly linked to problem gambling with 4 out of 5 FOBT gamblers exhibiting problem gambling behaviour at stakes in excess of £13 a spin compared to 1 in 5 at stakes £2 and under.

The Minister is on record, in a letter to me, indicating her long-standing interest in the area and her reservations about FOBTs.  Therefore, I hope this review will be the start of a crack-down on the proliferation of FOBTs on our high streets.

 

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Westminster Diary w/b 17th October

Monday

The seven twenty flight down and the entire day is taken up by reading research papers and administration. Never my favourite days but they need done.

Tuesday

I attended a Westminster hall debate regarding the performance of Concentrix and how they handled the tax credits contract. Given that this issue covers all constituencies it was extremely busy and speakers were limited to two minutes each. There will be a debate in the Chamber on Wednesday which I hope to speak in.

In preparation for Parliament Week 2016 I did an interview for parliament TV about the role of select committees. I attended the Westminster hall debate on the timetable for the type 26 frigates build. Apparently there is no timetable. Another UK Government promise broken and this one leads to the Govan workforce worrying over their jobs. While I was attending the debate I missed the Friends of Palestine event but I had representation there and was fully briefed. The SNP group meeting ended the evening.

Wednesday

I met with the Mark Lancaster MP, Minister for Defence Veterans. Time and time again I have cases brought to me where our military veterans are not being looked after by the system, after they have served. Whether it be poor housing, sleeping rough, addiction, mental health problems or pensions. We are quick to send them into war zones and quick to forget them when they return. I was pursuing a particular case but I was not encouraged by the Minister’s response. PMQ’s came and went and we are none the richer for it. We had two SNP led debates. First on the rights of European Union nationals after we leave the EU. The UK Government were evasive, contradictory and callous in their response. Then we debated the reform of the House of Lords. Nothing new was said and the numbers continue to swell. In contrast, the new Westminster constituency borders were published and the proposal is that Scotland will lose six MPs. Inverclyde expands to cover parts of North Ayrshire, as far as West Kilbride, and Cumbrae. I love Millport and I have friends throughout North Ayrshire but the area covered nearly doubles, as do the number of constituents which can only lead to poorer representation. I was loaded with the cold so headed home at eight PM for an early night.

Thursday

Eight fifteen start to do a quick tour of the estate with constituents. In the house for questions to the Department for Exiting the Europe Union. I didn’t make that up, apparently we do actually have a department called that and then the debate on British Home Stores (BHS), with an amendment to strip Phillip Green of his knighthood. I had an evening event at Severs House.

Friday

Unusually, I was still at Westminster as we have a Private Members Bill brought forward by my SNP colleague, John Nicholson MP. I catch the five pm flight home eager with anticipation for the cup semi- final on Saturday. Mon the Ton!

Big Energy Saving Week

Big Energy Saving Week (31 October – 6 November) is run by Energy Saving Trust (EST), Citizens Advice and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and aims to help people cut their energy bills.

New figures released ahead of the campaign show that households could save an average of £300 a year by switching energy supplier, but many aren’t aware of this. Of the 15 million households who didn’t switch last year, 60% said it was because they believed they were already on the cheapest tariff available. 

The cost of energy bills can be a worry for many local people.

Big Energy Saving Week is a great opportunity for people to find out about the different ways they can cut their spending on gas and electricity, whether that’s switching supplier or making their home more energy efficient.

I would encourage anyone in Inverclyde who wants to find out how much money they could save to go online at www.energysavingtrust.org.uk/scotland or call 0808 808 2282.

 

Cowan Urges Constituents to Get Ready for Winter

With winter on the way, Ronnie Cowan MP has today called on his constituents to ensure they are taking advantage of free help and support with energy bills.

Ronnie Cowan MP said,

“It’s important to be prepared for winter. I want constituents to know that there is support available for keeping bills under control and being energy efficient.

“The first point of contact for constituents should be their energy supplier as they are best placed to explain what support is on offer, including cheaper tariffs or discounts for vulnerable customers.”

Sarwjit Sambhi, Managing Director of UK Home at Scottish Gas, said,

“Winter can be a challenging time for households and many people may be concerned about their winter energy bill. Help is available and we urge customers to get in touch so we can offer them advice and support. 

“In the long term, energy efficiency is still the best way to save money on bills. Scottish Gas is proud to be leading the roll-out of smart meters across Britain, which enable you to see how much energy you’re using in pounds and pence and identify where savings can be made.”

 

Get the best deal

Make sure you are on the best gas and electricity tariff for you. Scottish Gas tells customers in every bill if they have a better tariff for them, allows customers to switch between its tariffs without paying a penalty charge and offers flexible payment plans which enable customers to set and manage their own payments. Anyone worried about their energy bill can call Scottish Gas on 0800 048 0202 to discuss the help available.

Get a smart meter

Your energy supplier will be able to install a smart meter, which means an end to estimated bills. A smart energy monitor shows how much energy you are using, and what you are spending. Scottish Gas customers are provided with online tools to help them manage their energy usage. Find out more by visiting www.britishgas.co.uk/smartmeters

Extra support for vulnerable customers

Constituents may be entitled to extra support from the Government and their energy supplier if they meet certain criteria.  Last year more than 700,000 British Gas and Scottish Gas customers in the UK received the Warm Home Discount – a one off discount of £140 on the electricity bill. The company has the broadest eligibility criteria of all energy suppliers. Scottish Gas customers should call 0800 072 8625.

The Scottish Gas Energy Trust

The Scottish Gas Energy Trust is an independent charitable trust that offers advice and support for people who are struggling with their household bills.  Since it was established in 2004, British Gas has provided £85million of funding to the Trust which has helped more than 176,000 people with debt advice and grants. For more information on the Scottish Gas Energy Trust, visit: www.britishgasenergytrust.org.uk.

Keep your home warm, working and safe

Your gas appliances should be checked for safety every 12 months by a Gas Safe registered engineer. These important checks can detect a range of problems from boiler faults to gas leaks and carbon monoxide poisoning. For more information on booker checks, visit: www.britishgas.co.uk/homecare

Meeting with the ‘Boys in Blue’

On Sunday, I attended Greenock Police Office – Open Day and met with a number of officers, including those who have since retired from active service.

Due to the success of last year’s event, Police Scotland decided to organise another Open Day.  The day included activities in the yard, garage areas and in the gymnasium and allowed the organisation to showcase their own varied departments along with the partner agencies, colleagues and local groups they work closely with.

I was delighted to attend Greenock Police Office – Open Day at the weekend and meet with a number of serving officers.

It was a very enjoyable day and the time I spent with the Lanarkshire Police Historical Society was of great interest.  It’s tremendous to see their enthusiasm for the police force, even in retirement.