Greenock Telegraph [27/04/2018]

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Tele column – 27th April 2018

Tele readers will be aware I’ve been campaigning on the issue of gambling addiction and gambling related harm for some time. As vice-chair of the All-party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs) I’ve heard testimony and evidence from individuals whose lives have been adversely affected by these machines.

The losses people can occur gambling and using FOBT machines can be devastating and leave individuals and ultimately their families with large debts which impact their lives. This is why alongside colleagues on the APPG we have called on the Department for Culture to introduce a maximum unit stake on FOBTs to be £2 per spin. Research shows that FOBT problem gamblers could be imposing a cost of £1.5 billion on themselves, their families and their wider social networks. The report published by the Centre for Economic and Business Research (Cebr), found that those on lower incomes or in deprived areas are the main beneficiaries of a reduction to a £2 stake.

Alongside the Chair of the APPG on FOBTs, Carolyn Harris MP and Iain Duncan Smith MP we have lobbied the Gambling Commission, Secretary of State for Culture Matt Hancock MP and also wrote to HM Treasury to ensure they do not block any stake reduction to £2. The majority of MP’s on both sides of the House and in the Lords are in favour of a stake reduction. Therefore, I was pleased to read reports, earlier this week that HM Treasury have backed down in their opposition to reducing the maximum unit stake to £2. The reasoning for opposition was over how lost taxes would be replaced. It appears an announcement will be forthcoming and it’s hoped the hard-work of everyone involved will lead to a stake reduction.

However, a stake reduction on FOBTs is only a step in the right direction and I will continue to campaign for further action to address gambling related harm. Some of the areas of focus include the issue of young people and gambling; compulsory levy from bookmakers to GambleAware charity; the creation of a problem gambling clinic in Scotland and more inspections of gaming/gambling premises.

Written Question – Home Office [24/04/2018]

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, what representations she has received from representatives of pharmaceutical companies on the legal status of cannabis for medical treatments in the last 12 months. (136094)

Tabled on: 17 April 2018

Answer:
Mr Nick Hurd:

In the last 12 months, the Home Office has discussed the potential use of Epidiolex as an alternative option for treatment with the manufacturer, GW Pharmaceuticals. However no representations have been received from representatives of pharmaceutical companies regarding the general legal status of cannabis for medicinal purposes.

The answer was submitted on 24 Apr 2018 at 17:40.

 

Written Question – Home Office [23/04/2018]

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, how many meetings Ministers or officials of his Department have had with pharmaceutical companies at which medical cannabis was discussed in the last 12 months. (135988)

Tabled on: 16 April 2018

Answer:
Mr Nick Hurd:

Home Office Ministers have regular meetings as part of the process of policy development and delivery. As was the case with previous administrations, it is not the Government’s practice to provide details of all such meetings.

The answer was submitted on 23 Apr 2018 at 17:43.

 

Time for Action on Drug Consumption Rooms

Yesterday the Scottish Parliament voted to support plans to introduce the UK’s first safe injection room for drug users in Glasgow. This vote received cross party support with only the Tories voting against it.

As a long term advocate of such a measure I welcome the Scottish Parliament’s support. There is an overwhelming body of evidence to suggest it would not only reduce the spread of HIV and Hepatitis C, but also prevent needles and other drug paraphernalia from being left in public spaces.

However the laws that are needed to allow this facility to operate are reserved to the Westminster Parliament. The UK Government refuses to transfer these powers and by doing so continues to ignore health professionals, former members of law enforcement, addiction services, drugs policy organisations and governments from around the world that have found these facilities to be beneficial to society.

In January 2018 I hosted a parliamentary debate and urged the UK Government to take a more evidence based approach to drugs policy. I was joined by colleagues from across the chamber who agreed that maintaining the failed drug policies of the past is no longer an option.

If the UK Government is unwilling to act then they should forward the relevant powers to Scotland so that we can press ahead with drug consumption facilities similar to those that are already operating in 70 cities across the world.

Tele column – 13th April 2018

As I’ve previously highlighted, the mailbag of an MP can be both interesting and varied. From cases on housing to social security to immigration and visas there’s rarely a dull day. However, a lot of the correspondence my office receives is on three subjects – broadband, flooding and parking. If only we could solve these three issues then the caseload would be significantly lighter.

However, this is why the Scottish Government have invested significant sums of money in improving the infrastructure throughout the country. Currently, Inverclyde has 95.2% of households/premises connected to superfast broadband and the next stage is to see every home and business accessing superfast broadband by 2021. This is occurring through a £600 million investment confirmed by the Scottish Government. The Reaching 100% (R100) programme which will deliver fast and reliable internet.

Therefore, I met with representatives of Digital Scotland to discuss broadband access and speeds in Inverclyde. One area of particular attention is in Inverkip where a number of blackspots highlight poor broadband speeds. This has led to the creation of a new broadband cabinet for an area which is hopefully coming ‘online’ in late May. Many see broadband as the fourth utility and something which is essential to communicate with family overseas, work from home and download/watch digital content. For more information on superfast broadband please visit www.scotlandsuperfast.com.

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Last week, Glasgow City Council approved a motion to commend the work of the Health and Social Care Partnership, the third sector and others in supporting people impacted by drug use, including their families and communities. Glasgow is looking to pilot the UKs first safe injection facility, otherwise known as a drug consumption room. I have campaigned on drug policy reform for some time and believe we must firstly treat the issue as a health problem rather than a criminal justice one. However, the powers currently lie at Westminster and the UK Government have no immediate plans to either introduce a drug consumption room or transfer the powers to the Scottish Parliament.

A Modern Day Witch Hunt

We were once content to direct our bile at innocent individuals and label them witches’ so that we could inflict all manner of horrors on them. Individuals would be identified for a range of trivial reasons and persecuted. After all if someone else is the target then you are safe. Don’t speak up or you will be next. A modest estimate is that tens of thousands of innocent people were killed in this way. Turns out there is no such thing as witches but we never learned any lessons, did we? To think that whole communities would stand back and allow atrocities to be committed in their name because a few powerful and influential individuals were so absorbed with their own self importance, so twisted by power that it suited their purpose. We wouldn’t do that now. Would we?

And yet we continue to marginalise, stigmatise and breed resentment. We fuel distrust and fan the flames of hate. We do it to immigrants in this country just as we have done it to foreign countries in the past. We build fear in the community so we can justify our outrageous bigoted behaviour. We have waged war on Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan. In fact, we have destroyed communities throughout the Middle East  and the continent of Africa. The U.K. empire has been constructing and manipulating wars for centuries. And when the armoury is full we unleash death and destruction on the demonised targets of our own construct. Sometimes the barbaric action conceals the reason. Just like burning witches.