Written Question – Health [27/02/2018]

To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what steps his Department is taking to reduce the number of people who overdose on prescription opioids. (128090)

Tabled on: 19 February 2018

Answer: Steve Brine:

The Government is concerned about the impact of long term use of prescription opioids. The Department has commissioned Public Health England to undertake an evidence review to better understand the scope of the problem of prescribed drug dependence.

The review will bring together the best available evidence on prevalence and prescribing; the nature and likely causes of dependence or discontinuation syndrome among some people who continue to take these medicines; and effective prevention and treatment responses for each condition they are prescribed for.

The answer was submitted on 27 Feb 2018 at 16:52

Westminster diary w/b 19th February


This is the last day of recess. I use it to catch up with the paperwork that I should have already caught up with, such is recess. I meet a land management company. This is one of these spin offs from a speculative meeting in Westminster when I identified a local connection. In the afternoon I caught up with Ferguson Marine. Anyone who has visited the site over the last few years would be hugely impressed with the progress that has been made. The financial investment is reaping its rewards. Going forward, any Ministry of Defence work that can be secured would be extremely welcome too.


An early start ensures I am at Westminster for 9:30am. My select committee on Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs takes evidence in a private session from people close to the collapse of Carillion. These private sessions, although they are confidential, provide me with the information I require to constructively question the senior members of Carillion next week when they come in front of the committee in public. An urgent question in the chamber on medicinal cannabis gives me the opportunity to highlight the case of Alfie Dingley. He can suffer from as many as thirty fits in a day and we know they can be controlled by medicinal cannabis but the Home Office will not permit it. The select committee on transport takes evidence from a number of stakeholders in aviation regarding a proposed new runway at Heathrow. I was hoping to attend the London School of Economics as part of a panel talking on Basic Income but I could not get away from the estate.


My first meeting is with an energy consortium that have created an energy park much like the one I outlined for Spango Valley. I shall be taking them up with their offer to visit it soon. I met the Mum of Billy Caldwell. Billy like Alfie suffers from epilepsy and has seizures. His are controlled by medicinal cannabis and his family are looking to help other families in the same situation gain access. Prime Minister’s Question time was a fairly drab affair. This is reflected in the number of members that are no longer attending. It is not the energy charged hot House it used to be. I attend a drop in for ‘Disability Confident’ and share our local experiences with the organisers. The All Party Parliamentary Group on Drug Policy reform is a lively affair as we feel we may be getting somewhere with medicinal cannabis. In the evening I attend an event to hear Johann Hari talk about his latest book ‘Lost Connections’  the causes of depression and the solutions. I am hoping to get Johann to come to Inverclyde to talk at some time.


I am scheduled to speak in a debate on the Cancer Strategy but I am changed to summing up which means a hasty rewrite so I can facilitate the summary aspect as well. The debate goes well and many members from across the house made valuable contributions. I caught the 19:30 flight home.


A busy day in the constituency includes casework and meetings. It is finished off with an evening with the local police incident officer. I attended the briefing and local incidents until 23:00. A lot the work carried out by our local police force goes unnoticed but its cumulative effect makes our society a safer and better place to live in.


Fixed Odds Betting Terminals – Loss Calculator Launched

New Fixed Odds Betting Terminals loss calculator launched by the FOBT APPG shows the extent of losses on FOBTs with £57 lost every second and £3,424 lost every minute by gamblers.

The Fixed Odds Betting Terminals All Party Parliamentary Group has today launched a loss calculator on its website http://www.fobt-appg.com/

This calculator shows the money that gamblers are losing each day on FOBT machines and the total amount lost on FOBT machines since the end of the Government’s consultation on gaming machines which closed on 23 January 2018. Every day that the Government delay making a decision on FOBTs the losses mount up by £5m. This money is also often lost by those who can least afford it.

The total amount of money being lost by gamblers on FOBTs is:

  • £57.09 a second
  • £3,424 a minute
  • £205,500.000 an hour
  • £5m a day
  • £34.6m a week
  • £150m a month and
  • £1.8bn a year

This money which is being lost by gamblers and paid to betting companies could pay for the following each year:

  • 77,646 nurses
  • 58,250 police officers
  • 63,988 secondary school teachers
  • 61,339 fireman

Carolyn Harris MP, the Chair of the FOBT APPG said:

“The FOBT loss calculator shows the amount of money being lost by gamblers every second of every day, often by those who can least afford it. Every day that the Government delays making a decision on the FOBT stake, the amount of money lost grows by £5m. This is unacceptable.”

“The Government must not delay any longer. The stake on FOBTs must be reduced immediately to £2 to prevent further harm to the most vulnerable in our society.”

Ronnie Cowan MP, the Vice Chair of the FOBT APPG said:

“I very much welcome this calculator which shows the magnitude of the losses that are happening as a result of FOBTs. As the Secretary of State himself has said, FOBTs are a ‘social blight’ on all our communities and the Government must reduce the stake to £2 with immediate effect.”

Notes to Editors

  • The loss calculator is calculated using Gambling Commission figures from April 2014 to March 2017 and based on Licensed Betting Shop opening hours of 12 hours per day Monday to Saturday and 7 hours per day on a Sunday
  • The FOBT APPG has undertaken two inquiries into FOBTs and written to the Prime Minster imploring her to act on these machines.
  • Further information on the FOBT APPG can be found at http://www.fobt-appg.com/

Tele column – 16th February 2018

As the snow fell this week I was glad that my days of driving tens of thousands of miles a year, as part of my job, are behind me. I remember one journey from Darlington to Jedburgh on a dark snowy Wednesday night. I had to drive over Carter’s Bar which takes you from England into Scotland with the border at the very top. I managed to manoeuvre a rear wheel drive automatic up the steep and winding hill. Moving from side to side to gain grip and patiently edging forward. When I got to the top I was delighted. And then the reality hit me. The second half of the journey was going to be even more difficult. Downhill, twists and turns, a lack of road markings and signage obliterated by driving snow. Any momentum built up, unlike on the ascent, made the descent more treacherous. I couldn’t let the vehicle run away from me and so I had to keep it in check at every turn. And that readers is my Brexit allegory. The picture that was painted looked good. Getting to the leaving point was achieved, with a struggle, but the next stage of the journey, to reach its destination, is treacherous. We risk damaging the vehicle beyond repair. And now when we need strong leadership and we seek to gain confidence from those in charge we discover that the Secretary of State for Scotland, our man at the top table, either didn’t know or didn’t want to tell us that a damning report outlining the damage to Scotland existed. Another example, if we need one, that we can’t rely on lapdogs and sycophants to represent Scotland at UK government level. When we needed a terrier we got a poodle. If the UK Government wants us to go on a journey with them they could at least provide a map, a destination and some strong leadership.


Tougher Action on Gambling Advertising

I welcome the commitment from the Committee on Advertising Practice (CAP) on tougher standards on gambling advertising.

These stricter regulations are very welcome and something I have been campaigning to see happen – now we need to maintain the pressure on the UK government on the wider issue of Fixed Odd Betting Terminals.

The increasing normalisation and visibility of gambling adverts should be thoroughly scrutinised, so the decision to target advertisements which appeal to problem gamblers and promote free bets and bonuses  – is clearly a step in the right direction. This will hopefully help reduce the acceptance and normalisation of this kind of gambling, while also helping those suffering with gambling related harm.

The Committees of Advertising Practice (CAP) have already indicated they will respond and live up to the commitments – as set out in the UK Government’s recent consultation – on proposals for changes to Gaming Machines and Social Responsibility Measures.

I urge the UK Government now to get on with announcing their proposals on reducing the maximum unit stake on FOBTs and other measures to address gambling related harm.

Westminster diary w/b 5th February


The select committee for Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs (PACAC) is taking evidence from members of the Welsh assembly so I caught a flight down on Sunday evening. It was clear during the session that despite the fact that the Welsh electorate voted to leave the European Union they are less than pleased with the way negotiations have been handled and in particular the lack of respect shown to the Welsh Assembly. I travel with the committee members and clerks by train to London. Not surprisingly it’s three hour journey during which the conversation turns to politics. The debate is actually better than many in the House of Commons. I make it back in time to attend the select committee on transport. We take evidence from two of the senior managers proposing a third runway at Heathrow. They are very slick and extremely well briefed. The financial argument is strong but the additional air pollution and noise pollution seem to have been pushed to the side. Especially as the flight routes have still to be defined. Local activists are in attendance and I had an interesting chat with them at the end.


An early start with a Delegated Legislation committee. We were debating the draft Seafarers (Insolvency, Collective Redundancies and Information and Consultation Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2018. It was not contentious and we rattled through it. Which was just as well as I had a closed meeting with PACAC to discuss outstanding reports and future business to attend. The Ombudsman, House of Lords Reform, the advisory committee on business appointments and existing the European Union and its effect on the devolved administrations shall all come under our scrutiny.


I got the train home last night so that I can address a number of issues in the constituency. Recess is until the 20th of February so I have a decent period of time to accommodate everyone. The day flashed by with constituency work and Maree Todd MSP (Minister for Childcare and Early Years) dropped in as she was in the neighbourhood. It’s always good to catch up with Holyrood colleagues and get their perspective of things. When I am in Inverclyde I try to take in as many community councils I can so this evening I went to the Larkfield, Braeside and Branchton meeting. The main concerns were the effect of council cuts to community assets. It was good to hear that the reported crime was low.


Was a day spent mostly researching and writing. I tend to work up speeches and articles and then when the time comes to use them they get polished and validated. Days like this save me a lot of time later.


First meeting is at the Greenock jobcentre to find out how they are adjusted to the closure of the jobcentre in Port Glasgow. All the services are being transferred and vacant space utilised. I have a meeting with local businesses about the cost of employment. I attended the local launch of the year of the young people. This year will see an exciting programme of educational and cultural events centred on Scotland’s great assets, our young people, driven by collaboration across a range of sectors and interests. I find it difficult to square this with the council’s decision to withdraw funding for a number of local youth projects.