Written question – Welfare [29/11/2018]

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what (a) detailed analysis and (b) impact assessments she has undertaken in areas with full-service universal credit in place in order to inform the future roll-out of that policy. (194190)

Tabled on: 21 November 2018

Alok Sharma:

I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave to Question 169858 on 11 September.

In addition we have recently published the Social Security Advisory Committee response which includes a detailed analysis of Managed Migration which can be accessed at:


The answer was submitted on 29 Nov 2018 at 18:38.


Scot Govt – Alcohol & drugs strategy

I am delighted that the SNP Government’s strategy is unashamedly focused on health care and comfortably combines alcohol and drugs in many aspects of the defined support and treatment. This goes a long way to remove the stigma associated with addiction.

Importantly this strategy clearly defines the need to work with partners across healthcare, academia, law enforcement and welfare. Problematic use is a complex issue and there are no easy solutions but without doubt improved education and support, the provision of drug consumption rooms and the availability of naloxone are all steps in the right direction.

This is a recovery orientated strategy that puts the most vulnerable in our society at its heart.


GambleAware’s #CanWeHaveOurBallBack Campaign

GambleAware’s #CanWeHaveOurBallBack is designed to generate conversation and prompt reflection about the impact of betting on football and ask the question whether betting is taking away the nations’ love of football.

The launch of the national conversation comes off the back of recent financial analysis by GambleAware and gambling industry specialists Regulus Partners which shows that 80% of marketing spend by gambling companies is now online.

This surge in online spending coincides with growing concern about the nature and extent of gambling-related marketing and whether it has led to the normalisation of gambling for children. Figures released last week by the Gambling Commission show that that 450,000 children spend their own money on gambling, and that 55,000 children are problem gamblers.

This is an important initiative which brings much needed attention to a growing issue in our community. Football is a game which is enjoyed by people of all ages, but without a frank discussion about the recent uptick in gambling-related marketing, we’re in danger of forgetting the reasons we fell in love with the sport in the first place.

I hope this initiative encourages local fans to reconsider their relationship with betting and football, and remember that ultimately football is about enjoyment without the need to bet on the outcome.

The #CanWeHaveOurBallBack online video is directed by BAFTA nominee Scott Lyon, and can be viewed here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j8lXRAeHYDg&feature=youtu.be.


Written question – Cycling [26/11/2018]

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what steps he is taking to (a) encourage and (b) promote uptake in the Cycle to Work scheme. (194186)

Tabled on: 21 November 2018

Jesse Norman:

The Cycle to Work scheme is one of the many ways in which the Government is supporting cycling, as set out in the 2017 Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy. Officials from the Department for Transport, Her Majesty’s Treasury and Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs are currently finalising a review of the current guidance on the Cycle to Work scheme to provide greater clarity for employers on how the scheme works. The Department is planning to publish the revised guidance shortly.

The answer was submitted on 26 Nov 2018 at 16:37.


Westminster diary w/b 19th November


First day of the Finance Bill at committee stage on the floor of the house but before that I attend the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Select Committee to take evidence from Andrea Leadsom (Leader of the House of Commons). It’s the role of the leader to ensure that Parliament and Government work together. Her opinion on this differs from mine. Too often ministers responding to debates come with pre-prepared statements and don’t respond to the arguments put forward during the debate. The rest of the day was consumed by the Finance Bill and votes. There were six votes and I got home at 23:30.


I spend the morning writing my speech for the afternoon. I am leading for the SNP on the Finance Bill and I have a new clause I intend to push to a vote. I want the government to commit to a review of the public health effects of gaming provisions and lay a report of that review before the house within six months of passing the act. I see this as holding the actions of the government to account. It also should allow organisations to feed into the review and have their voices heard. My speech writing is interrupted by a visit from Nicola Sturgeon (First Minister of Scotland) to update the group on Brexit negotiations. The debate is also delayed in starting but when it does the minister states in his opening remarks that he will not accept my new clause. This takes me back to the comments made the day before by the Leader of the House. Why debate if the governments mind is closed. To my utter amazement in his closing remarks he says he will accept the new clause. I would like to think it was down to my amazing debating skills but I tend to think the government is nearing exhaustion and didn’t have the stomach for a fight when I had so many back benchers across the parties supporting me. I shall take the win and become only the third SNP MP to amend UK law.  In the evening I attended an event at the Tate Modern hosted by YouTube. It was to promote people who had launched media platforms from You Tube, including teachers, business folk and musicians.


Prime Ministers Questions revealed nothing new. The Prime Minister reverting to her big book of standard responses to most questions. The most interesting exchange was between her and the DUP. Now that they are not supporting the government their relationship is becoming increasingly stressed day by day and vote by vote. In the evening attended the BACTA reception. BACTA is the trade association for the amusement machine industry and its supply chain. The guest speaker was the Right Honourable Tracey Crouch MP.


The Westminster Hall debate on WASPI was well attended by MPs. To accommodate the WASPI campaigners it was broadcast live into the main hall so everyone that had come could watch it live. An unexpected statement from the Prime Minister, on the progress of Brexit negotiations, meant I had to leave before the end to go to the House of Commons. The latest missive from 10 Downing Street is full of the meaningless political jargon that we have come to expect. Of particular interest to Scotland is the fisheries policy. At this late stage on fisheries it states in paragraph 73, “the Parties should cooperate” in 74 that phrase is repeated and in 75 it states that “the Parties should establish”. By now it should of course say “we have established and we have cooperated”. The vagueness and therefore dubious interpretations of the latest statement have not satisfied the Brexiteers one wee bit and so the show rolls on.


I started the day at a meeting with local councillors and then I attended the foodbank to catch up with their situation in the run up to the festive season. In the afternoon I visited my dentist for some root canal treatment.  On Saturday morning I hope to be able to speak at an SNP event in the Beacon.

Tele column 23rd November 2018

Over the years different UK governments of various constructs have attempted to modify and amend the welfare system. The most recent and most ambitious is Universal Credit (UC). Inverclyde has had what is termed ‘full roll out’ since November 2016. But it isn’t finished yet and potentially 6,910 people in Inverclyde still need to be migrated from the old system.

UC was introduced to simplify the benefits system. The roll out has been fraught with complications and there continue to be problems around access to online recording of data, time-lapse in receiving payments and those payments being an accurate reflection of the recipient’s requirements.

Our local Job Centre staff work tirelessly, under very difficult conditions, to support a system that has been massively underfunded. And the UK government’s response is to close Jobcentres across the UK, including Port Glasgow.

Meanwhile welfare spending on poor people dropped by 25% during the decade of austerity, cuts to benefits that disabled people receive were significant. Cuts include, tax credits (£4.6bn), universal credit (£3.6bn), child benefit (£3.4bn), disability benefits (£2.8bn), ESA and incapacity benefit (£2bn) and housing benefit (£2.3bn).

The Trussell Trust tell me that in Inverclyde between 1st April 2018 and 30th September 2018 in Inverclyde, 3,013 three-day emergency food supplies were given to local people in crisis. Across the UK, foodbanks in The Trussell Trust network distributed 658,048 three day emergency food supplies to help people in crisis, a rise of 13% for the same period last year. It is worth noting that the Trussell Trust is a charity, it is not part of the welfare system.

It is time to stop the roll out and fix the system. Anyone for Universal Basic Income?

Gambling related harm

Last night, the SNP secured a successful amendment to the Finance Bill requiring the UK government to undertake a review of the public health effects of gambling terminals – and the party has called for the UK government to implement a joined-up strategy to tackle the rising threat of problem gambling across society.

The UK government must urgently get a grip on the devastating and growing impact that problem gambling is having across society under its watch.

Tory ministers have not taken the threat anywhere near seriously enough, and – despite widespread calls – they have repeatedly refused and failed to take the action needed.

It cannot be right that the number of children in the UK with a gambling problem is soaring under the Tories, while highly-addictive gambling machines blight our high-streets and ruin the lives of many thousands of families.

The UK government must finally listen to the evidence, undertake a full review of the impact of gambling related harm on public health and society, and take meaningful action against highly-addictive and exploitative forms of gambling – instead of capitulating to the corporate interests of bookmakers.