The National [31/01/2017]

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Launch of FOBT Report

Today the Fixed Odds Betting Terminals All-Party Group published our report – “Fixed Odds Betting Terminals – Assessing the Impact”. 

In a series of hearings, the inquiry took oral evidence from a range of stakeholders in the FOBT debate including the UK Government, gambling addiction experts and FOBT users, to regulators and their representatives. 

As a member of the group it was important to hear from a wide range of stakeholders on how FOBTs have affected people’s lives, particularly those who’ve become addicted to using said machines.

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.

Therefore, I hope our report will facilitate further debate and discussion around FOBTs and encourage the UK Government to take much needed action to reduce the maximum unit stake and stop the spread of these machines on our high streets.

Further information on the All Party Group can be found at www.fobt-appg.com

Ronnie Cowan MP Leads Debate on Unfair Spousal Visa Rules

Today, I hosted a debate in the UK Parliament about the UK Government’s spousal visa rules.

Since July 2012, UK Government rules state that for a UK citizen to bring a spouse into the country from outside the European Economic Area (EEA), then they must have a minimum income of £18,600 per year or £62,500 in savings. The income requirement rises by £3,800 for an additional child, and £2,400 for each subsequent child.

Research from the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford estimates that around 41% of people in Scotland are ineligible to bring a spouse into the country under the current rules. The Home Office estimates that their policy is preventing up to 17,800 people from entering the UK every year.

The spousal visa rules, which are currently being challenged at the Supreme Court, have led to the rise of ‘Skype families’, because some children have only been able to maintain contact with one parent through the online messaging program Skype.

When people contact my office about spousal visa rules they usual assume that as UK citizens it’s a straight forward process to bring their spouse into the country from outside the EEA.

Sadly this is not the case and the UK Government’s unfair financial rules are punishing UK citizens for marrying Australians, Americans, Canadians and other citizens of non-EEA countries.

UK citizens should be entitled to live in their own country, with their own family, regardless of where their spouse or children were born. I do not agree with the UK Government that the right to a family life should only be reserved for those with the most money.

I am regularly contacted by constituents whose families have been damaged by UK Government spousal visa rules and I will continue to call on the minister to remove these unfair financial restrictions.

Written Question – Welfare [31/01/2017]

Question:
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, how many people in Inverclyde constituency had their motability car removed after changes to their benefit entitlement in (a) 2014, (b) 2015 and (c) 2016. (61307)

Tabled on: 24 January 2017

Answer:
Penny Mordaunt:

The information requested is not readily available and to provide it would incur disproportionate cost.

The answer was submitted on 31 Jan 2017 at 12:14.

 

Call to Immediately Halt Jobcentre Closures

Plans to drastically cut the number of Jobcentres across the UK should be immediately halted until a full equality impact assessment has been completed for every site affected, the Scottish National Party has said.

Ronnie Cowan MP, who represents Inverclyde where the Department for Work and Pensions plans to close the Jobcentre in Port Glasgow, asked an Urgent Question about the closures in the House of Commons today.

The Department for Work and Pensions announced plans for further office closures – including Jobcentres and call centres – on top of eight previously announced closures in Glasgow last week.

Ronnie Cowan, MP for Inverclyde, said:

“These proposals to slash the number of Jobcentres and other DWP offices are completely unacceptable and another Tory betrayal of the people of Scotland.  The UK government has shockingly failed to consult with either the communities affected or the Scottish Government which flies in the face of the principles of the Smith Commission.

“In Inverclyde, closing Port Glasgow Jobcentre will force people from Kilmacolm, Port Glasgow and the east of Greenock to travel miles further to access DWP services and this story is repeated in communities all over Scotland.  This is an utter disgrace and could push vulnerable people further into crisis due to the added travel distance and costs.

“The added pressure of increased risk of benefit sanctions will undoubtedly worry the thousands of people in in Scotland who will be affected by these closures and today the UK government has offered no assurances to alleviate these fears.

“The Tories should not treat these closures as simply a spreadsheet exercise and should instead put the individual needs of their constituents first.

“The DWP must immediately halt these planned closures until a full equality impact assessment is conducted and a full consultation on all sites has taken place if we are to believe that it truly has considered the views of the people of Scotland.”

Westminster diary w/b 23rd January

 

Monday 

Red eye to London is delayed by fog but it gives me the unexpected opportunity of a natter with the First Minister who is also heading to London. Eventually my flight takes off but it is diverted to Stansted. One train and two tube journeys later I arrive in Westminster. What is normally a three and a half hour journey door to door has turned into a seven hour journey. I am just in time for a TV interview in my office before heading to the chamber. There is an urgent question about a test of the Trident nuclear missile system that went wrong. I stand for questions but it’s obvious given the pecking order of front bench, spokesperson, select committee and so on that I am not going to get picked. So I leave it to my colleagues to question the Secretary of State for Defence. It’s clear from the offset that he is adopting the “I know nothing stance”. He refuses to shed any light on the incident.  

Tuesday  

My select committee is taking evidence from Rupert Soames regarding the relationship between private company’s and the outsourcing process of government contracts. I don’t think he is suitable witness as his company gains to benefit so much from the existing process that he is hardly likely to criticise it. We then rubber stamp the appointment of the next United Kingdom Statistics Authority chair. The Secretary of State for Brexit, David Davis, is making a statement about the triggering of article 50 on the back of the supreme court’s ruling that it must be voted on by parliament and also that the Sewell convention which was defined to encourage the UK parliament to respect the devolved administrations can be totally ignored. I stand for questions and after two hours and forty five minutes I get to ask the Secretary if he will seek meaningful discussions with the Scottish Government that reflect the desire of the Scottish electorate to remain in the EU. I then attend a drop in event to support the Machrihanish bid to become a space port. It’s not as tenuous as it may seem with an existence runway and clear air space heading out to the Atlantic. I am then given a briefing on the situation in Stormont and the pending election in Northern Ireland. I do an interview with Talk Radio about Brexit, article 50 and a second Scottish independence referendum.  

Wednesday  

I have very interesting meeting with EE as they map out their plans to provide improved mobile coverage across Inverclyde. Work on upgrading their existing masts is on-going. Prime Minister’s Question time is very poor and Jeremy Corbyn takes a hammering yet again. He even sent his condolences to a family whose son had been shot in Northern Ireland when he is in fact alive and still fighting for his life. The rest of the day is consumed by drop-ins and meetings and I manage to attend a Burns supper in the evening. 

Thursday 

All day is given up to research and preparation. Working in my office is a strange experience as unlike most jobs there is a TV on the wall and it is on constantly. I work with one ear tuned to the news programmes and throughout the day there is speculation about the meeting between Theresa May and Donald Trump. Within Westminster the rumour is that Labour will impose a three line whip and force all their MPs to vote to trigger article 50. As I am leaving for the airport this is confirmed. Tulip Siddiq MP is the first to revolt and announce her resignation from the shadow cabinet. 

Friday  

I have a meeting with the Inverclyde Drug and Alcohol Partnership. We have a number of remarkable organisations who provide much needed services for people with drug or alcohol addictions. My role is to be aware of the issues and possible opportunities that arise that can be utilised locally. These meetings are always informative and help me enormously.

I have a visit to Inverclyde Academy to talk about Westminster and the process of engagement. Followed by a meeting to discuss hydro schemes and flooding in Inverclyde.

The rest of the day is taken up with casework. In the evening I am writing a speech for an event on Saturday in Fife on universal basic income.

 

Written Question – Welfare [27/01/2017]

Question:
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what representations his Department has received on the future leasing of job centre offices in Scotland. (61081)

Tabled on: 23 January 2017

Answer:
Damian Hinds:

We started a consultation process for the proposed closure of some Glasgow Jobcentres on 7 December 2016 and we will continue to collect feedback from people until the consultation closes on 31 January 2017.

We have also received a number of questions from MPs, MSPs and other representatives.

The answer was submitted on 27 Jan 2017 at 13:10.