Greenock Telegraph [10/11/2018]

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Westminster diary w/b 5th November

Monday

Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Select Committee took evidence from the Right Honourable Mark Harper MP. Mark was the Minister responsible for the Fixed Term Parliament Bill and the committee were seeking his insight into how elections can be forced during a fixed term. Next up was the All-party parliamentary group for Catalonia. This was my first opportunity to report back on my visit to Catalonian political prisoners and it was a privilege to have Sergi Marcen attending the meeting. Sergi is the Head of the Delegation of the Catalan Government to the United Kingdom and Ireland. He leads the bilateral relations between Catalonia and the United Kingdom and Ireland, focusing on economic interests, institutional relations, tourism and cultural promotion, as well as, helping the Catalan community living in these countries. I had a quick dash to make the Delegated Legislation on draft building societies legislation. This is another of the jobs that require to be completed before Brexit. They don’t take long but do tie up roughly twenty people.

Tuesday

Early start for the Westminster Hall debate on Reclassification of synthetic cannabinoids. I spoke against the motion as there is a mountain of evidence to suggest that, although it may feel good to lock up problematic drug users, it doesn’t improve the situation for anyone. I went to the drop in for Responsible Gambling Week and was pleased to hear that a number of people agree with me that a statutory levy on bookmakers should be imposed to fund support for those affected by gambling related harm. Following that I attended the All-party parliamentary group on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals. It was particularly pleasing to have Tracey Crouch MP attend after her principled resignation the previous week over the implementation date of the £2 maximum stake. I was in the chamber to support Marion Fellows MPs ten minute rule motion bill for child maintenance changes. The following debate was to mark the hundred years since Armistice Day and the end of the First World War. I dropped in to the Scottish Renewables event and managed to catch-up with a few familiar faces. I caught the 19:30 flight home.

Wednesday

Back in the constituency as Westminster is not sitting for the rest of the week. I had meetings with constituents regarding a range of topics but mostly universal credit. The full role out in Inverclyde continues to cause damage despite the excellent work being done by the DWP and related organisations. In the afternoon I visited the Beacon to meet the writer, producer, musical director and actors from the new production ‘Lena’. The play tells the story of Lena Zavaroni and her path to fame and ultimately untimely death.

Thursday

After catching up with a raft of paperwork in my office I did a question and answer session with pupils at the West College Scotland waterfront campus. A fifteen minute slot expanded to ninety minutes and it was very enjoyable to run through a wide range of subjects with such an engaged audience. And in the afternoon I did a radio interview for a Catalonian based organisation.

Friday

Was solely based around constituents enquiries and I engaged with a range of people on topics from cycling to Palestine. On Saturday, I shall attending Saint Giles Cathedral’s remembrance service as a guest of the French Consul General. That will be followed by a reception and a recital of Claude Debussy’s wartime work. On Sunday I shall be attending the service of commemoration at the Mid Kirk and shall lay wreaths at the Wellpark and the Cross of Lorraine.

Written question – Gambling [09/11/2018]

To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what funding his Department has allocated to (a) support and (b) treat people who indicate they are addicted to gambling or have suffered gambling related harm in (i) 2018-19 and (ii) 2017-18. (186383)

Tabled on: 31 October 2018

Answer:
Steve Brine:

Decisions on the commissioning of effective treatment services are the responsibility of local commissioners, based on an assessment of local need. Information on funding allocated to gambling related services is not held centrally.

There are a range of services available to people with a gambling addiction, details of which can be found on the NHS Choices website at the following link:

www.nhs.uk/Livewell/addiction/Pages/gamblingaddiction.aspx

The answer was submitted on 09 Nov 2018 at 10:26.

 

Tele column 9th November 2018

In every town of Inverclyde we have permanent war memorials to those who died in armed conflict during the First and Second World War. There are many more memorials in clubs, schools and organisations that are specific to smaller more defined group of people. The prevalence of war memorials came to fruition after the ‘Great War’ as it was hoped it would be the war to end all wars. Sadly we were wrong and one hundred years later wars still rage. Their shape and size has changed and fortunately for most of us living in Inverclyde we have never had to experience war at first hand. But continue they do and members of the armed forces continue to pay the ultimate price, often because of incompetent politicians. I recently visited the Heritage Centre on Cathcart Street to view their Armistice Day commemoration that is made from hundreds of handmade poppies and I met teachers and pupils of Inverclyde Academy who have resurrected the war memorial from the old Greenock High School. On Saturday I shall attend a service at Saint Giles cathedral in Edinburgh and on Sunday, amongst other public engagements, I shall lay wreaths at the war memorials in the Wellpark and at the Cross of Lorraine. Each year we, quite correctly, remember those that died but this year we also give thanks that we are commemorating the end of a war. Our community has physically changed a great deal since 1918, a lot of it for the better, but there are still roads and buildings that existed then. Houses that young men left and never returned to. Roads leading out of town and ultimately to the front line in Belgium, France and beyond. And I can only hope that many returned. Imagine the joy on Armistice Day 1918 when peace was declared. How great were the celebrations when serving personnel returned safely home. Commemoration is not just about paying respect to those who fell, it’s about doing everything we can to maintain a peace that they fought for. And that’s not one day or week in November, its everyday of every year. We should never forget and we must always work to ensure that we never repeat the mistakes that led to war and sacrifice.

 

Written question – Child Maintenance [07/11/2018]

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, pursuant to the Answer of 30 October 2018 to Question 182229 on Children: Maintenance, if she will publish those same figures for Inverclyde constituency. (186382)

Tabled on: 31 October 2018

Answer:
Justin Tomlinson:

The number of paying parents with any unpaid maintenance, and the corresponding amount of money outstanding of such unpaid maintenance as of June 2018 for the constituency of Inverclyde are outlined in the table below. This includes all paying parents with unpaid maintenance regardless of whether there is an ongoing maintenance liability.

Number of paying parents with unpaid maintenance Amount of unpaid maintenance (£)
Inverclyde 150 230,000

Paying parents are rounded to the nearest 10; unpaid maintenance is rounded to the nearest £10,000.

The answer was submitted on 07 Nov 2018 at 10:26.

Responsible Gambling Week

Responsible Gambling Week involves every major operator in the UK and Ireland, with more than 127,000 staff taking part at over 11,000 gambling venues and online sites and is backed by gambling charities. Tips about keeping gambling safe are being shared with customers and those who need specialist help are being referred to the charity GambleAware.

In my role as vice-chair of the All-party parliamentary group (APPG) on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals I have become more aware of the prevalence of gambling in our communities through increased television advertising of bookmakers and the ease of gaining online access to betting.

Supporting Responsible Gambling Week is an important step in highlighting tips about keeping gambling safe are being shared with customers and those who need specialist help are being referred to the charity GambleAware.

If anyone is feeling their gambling is getting out of hand and suffering gambling related harm then please visit www.BeGambleAware.org or contact the National Gambling Helpline on 0808 8020 133.

 

Westminster diary w/b 29th October

Monday

The big event of the day was of course the UK Budget. In just over an hour the Chancellor, Phillip Hammond MP, laid out his plans for the United Kingdom as we rush towards Brexit. Once the Chancellor has sat down, MPs can get copies of the Red Book which goes into more detail. I obtained my copy along with the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) report Economic and Fiscal Outlook. The OBR was established to provide independent and authoritative analysis of the UKs public finances. It didn’t take much reading of the OBR report to find a problem. On page 2 of 253 the OBR state that the treasury had repeatedly failed to observe the forecast timetable and that the OBR could not certify as reasonable the package of measures affecting universal credit on the basis of the information provided. The U.K. Government continues to plough a lone furrow and seems to find it impossible to engage with other bodies, devolved powers and EU members, instead they continue to adopt an alright on the night stance. I don’t share their optimism.

Tuesday

The Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Select Committee met to discuss our future programme. I left before the evidence session as I was chairing a session at the Opioid Addiction Summit. The summit was an engaging and informative event and during my session I endeavoured to get as much interaction with the audience as possible. They were not backward in coming forward. The overall feeling was that until we make drug policy a health issue we will not make the progress required. In the evening I attended a briefing from Alyn Smith MEP regarding Brexit negotiations.

Wednesday

The Transport Select Committee had a private session with Andrew Haines, Chief Executive of Network Rail. I then met with representatives of ABTA to discuss visa, passports, driving licences, cruise ship bookings and a host of other aspect of post Brexit U.K. and tourism which as yet are unresolved. Prime Ministers Questions was particularly poor. The PM and her supporters were in a belligerent mood with cheer leading to the fore and policy left far behind. I met up with Joe Fitzpatrick MSP after his meeting with U.K. government ministers. The SNP MPs and MSPs often take the opportunity to meet and talk even if it’s just half an hour over a coffee. That way we build good inter Parliamentary relations. The All-party Parliamentary Group for drug policy reform met to sign off our work plan and then we heard from Nuna Capez Vice President, commission for the dissuasion of drug addiction in Portugal. It was good to meet up with Nuna again. He always brings clarity through experience to the intricacies of implementing a drug policy with healthcare at its heart.

Thursday

I attended questions to Digital Culture Media and Sport (DCMS) and I was planning on bobbing for a question but kept my powder dry for the fireworks that ensued during an urgent question on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals instead. The U.K. Government have decided, under pressure from bookmakers, to not implement the agreed £2 maximum stake until October 2019. This is six months later than was hoped for and is a dereliction of the U.K. government’s duty to protect those effected by gambling related harm. The centre for medical cannabis had their Parliamentary launch. They are attempting fill a void of knowledge that is required for medical practitioners to prescribe medicinal cannabis. A recent survey showed that 13% of the UK population would consider approaching their GPs for medical cannabis. That’s over six million people. The current system will not fulfil their needs. I caught the 19:30 flight home.

Friday

I caught the 6am train to Edinburgh via Glasgow to attend a Post Brexit common frameworks meeting hosted by the Royal Society of Edinburgh. There were presentations from politicians, academics, the National Farmers Union and of course the Royal Society. I was there to represent the select committee for Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs. It is glaringly obvious that inter-parliamentary decision making is not well served by the current system and there is a real danger that the devolved parliaments will be underrepresented when decisions regarding Brexit are taken.