Greenock Telegraph [22/04/2019]

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UK Government delay disability back payments

While the Tory government continue to delay these repayments, each day thousands of the most vulnerable people in society are missing out on the money they need to live and the money they are entitled to.

The UK government must stop kicking this issue into the long grass and imminently reimburse the thousands of people who have missed out on vital disability payments.

This is the third back payment scandal the DWP has overseen in two years – it seems the Secretary of State has not learned any lessons and fails to deliver on the promises she has made.

The Tories committed to reimburse the 7,000 people who had missed out on vital payments in July 2018, who have now been told they may now have to wait up to six months until MPs vote in the summer of 2019. It is outrageous that thousands of disability claimants have to wait this long to receive what they are owed.

The DWP must follow up on its promise and make the repayments immediately – failing that, there should be a separate debate and vote on the issue next week to avoid any more delays.

Westminster diary w/b 9th April

Monday

Another historic week of votes stretches out in front of me. Or maybe not. The truth is the United Kingdom’s withdrawal process from the European Union has been so shambolic that with five days until the deadline we are no further forward than we were nearly three years ago. As a result, all business in the house of commons is subject to change at almost any given moment. As I set off with colleagues our latest update tells us we can expect a Friday sitting and possibly a Saturday one too. I am pleased to hear that Sir Mike Penning MP (Conservative and Unionist) has secured an urgent question on the supply of medical cannabis. This follows on from the disgraceful scenes at Southend airport over the weekend, when Teagan Appleby had her supply confiscated. Teagan’s parents had paid £4,600 for a three month supply that was prescribed by a paediatric neurologist at the Erasmus Hospital in Rotterdam. The Secretary of State, Matt Hancock, did his best to defend the indefensible and I have some sympathy for him as he has inherited a colossal mess from his predecessor. I bobbed for a question and was taken. We can’t continue to fight each one of these cases in the House of Commons. The law needs changed now.

Tuesday

Another session of bobbing resulted in me being taken during the presentation of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport white paper – Online Harms. I questioned how they could identify ‘designed addiction’ but still largely rely on the gambling industry to govern itself through the gambling commission. If we know the industry is designing in addiction then that must be stopped. The rest of the day was a mish mash of business thrown together as the Prime Minster was off campus trying secure a deal, obtain an extension and start meaningful talks with a Labour party that has multiple leaders and at the same time none. What could possibly go wrong?

Wednesday

I have a meeting with a renewable energy contact that is looking to acquire more contracts in Inverclyde. It continues to frustrate me that people from outside Inverclyde see the potential for renewables projects and yet when locally based businesses seek to operate in this market place they are faced with a barrage of red tape and scepticism. Prime Ministers Questions was noticeable for the many empty spaces on the government benches and the quietest public gallery I have ever seen. The public galleries I can understand as this was supposed to be recess so many tickets would not have been allocated but there is no excuse for the government benches to be so sparsely populated. I had a meeting Carolyn Harris MP (Labour) and the father of a young man that is recovering from a gambling addiction. He highlighted a number of areas that his son utilised to secure gambling funds from and we shall work with him to amend the law accordingly to help protect people with a gambling addiction. The debate ‘50th Anniversary of the continuous at sea deterrent’ that was cancelled last week took place today. It was led on behalf of the SNP by Stewart M McDonald who made an excellent speech and handled some very aggressive but ill-informed interventions from both Conservative and Unionists and Labour. It was interesting to hear the Labour spokesperson confirm that Scottish Labour MPs would toe the line of the UK party. I used my time on my feet to highlight the absurdity of the escalation of weapons of mass destruction as a rational way to create a more peaceful society. Escalation can’t bring peace it maintains agreed distrust and then escalates again.

Thursday

Somewhere around 2am the news breaks that the United Kingdom has been given an extension until the 31st of October before leaving the European Union. A zombie government extended until Halloween, you couldn’t make this stuff up. I had a very informative meeting with a company that grow, package and distribute medical cannabis in the USA. Of course, they see a market place to make money from but we currently have people that could benefit from their products. Somebody within the UK government has to realise that as we seek a long term solution we should also be looking at quick fixes to cater for patients today. The Prime Minister made a statement which sounded remarkably like all her other previous statements and even included the line “we need to leave the European Union with a deal as soon as possible “. The immediate result being that Friday sitting was cancelled and next week becomes recess with parliament not returning until the 23rd of April. The greatest constitutional crisis the United Kingdom has faced in modern times and the government’s reaction is to re-instate an already cancelled recess.

Friday

A quick reshuffle of the diary (again), as I now find myself in recess and therefore not at Westminster, means that a lot of next week has changed, I shall be in Inverclyde and expect a great deal of the week shall entail surgeries and door knocking. I know people want to talk Brexit but it will be good to get an opportunity to engage with constituents with local issues once again. As always, my office is at your disposal and I may be coming to street near you.

Tele column 12th April 2019

This week the U.K. Government’s Home Office department published a white paper regarding ‘online harms’. It is a good document that manages to identify a range of areas where people are bullied, abused, exploited and put at risk. The rapid growth of social media and the associated technologies has far outstripped any governments ability to legislate for it. And as a result, those with the least moral compunction have forged ahead spreading their material far and wide. Children have been drawn in and, in many cases, have been abused as a result. Bullying once associated with the school playground now has access to the victims wherever they are via their mobile phones. Terrorist groups spread propaganda, gang culture is promoted, and disinformation undermines our democratic values. Historically governments have shied away from legislating in these areas and instead have relied on companies to self-govern. They have encouraged responsible behaviour but in far too many cases that has not been forthcoming. Currently the printed media and their associated web sites are bound by publishing laws but the same can’t be said for the legion of self-styled commentators on the web. They are not bound by any legal obligation and a loose code of conduct is not adhered to. The balancing act that the government must achieve is to regulate the internet without hindering free speech. The statutory duty of care that is being proposed by the UK Government does not do enough. Any respectable publisher will take full responsibility for its content and not hide behind anonymity. We don’t just need a culture of transparency we need it legally enforced.

 

Oral question – Gambling [11/04/2019]

To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, what steps his Department is taking to ensure that bookmakers comply with the £2 maximum unit stake on B2 gaming machines. (242184)

Tabled on: 08 April 2019

Answer:
Mims Davies:

The Gambling Commission has strong regulatory powers up to and including revocation of operating licences. The Government and the Gambling Commission expect industry to comply with both the spirit and the letter of the new regulations on B2 gaming machines to ensure that consumers continue to be protected from harm.

High-stake roulette-style products launched on 1 April by two high-street bookmakers were withdrawn the following day after a warning from the Gambling Commission. The Commission is continuing to investigate the circumstances and the operators could still face regulatory action. The Commission may also investigate key senior staff at bookmakers who are responsible for bringing those products to market.

The Government and the Gambling Commission will continue to monitor any such actions and will take action where necessary.

The answer was submitted on 11 Apr 2019 at 12:29.