Greenock Telegraph 31st January 2020

Today (Friday the 31st of January 2020) at 11 pm the United Kingdoms of Great Britain and Northern Ireland shall take a great leap of faith into the unknown. We shall break our alliance with the European Union and we shall seek to replace it with alliances and agreements with other countries. I do not support Brexit and genuinely believe it will be detrimental to the UK, Scotland and Inverclyde. Nothing that I have heard has changed my mind since the UK voted to leave in June 2016. Back then Conservative and Unionist MP Sajid Javid would have agreed with me.

Of course, people have the right to change their mind as the available information changes or they feel they have become better informed. But the only thing that has changed and turned Mr Javid into a champion for Brexit is that since then he has been promoted to Home Secretary and since 2019, Chancellor of the Exchequer. His plans for the economy are speculative at best which places me in a dilemma. I have no wish for industry to suffer, jobs to be lost and families to suffer hardships.

Therefore, I hope Mr Javid is right. I hope I am wrong, but I can’t see his vision of financial salvation as he has not, and no other cabinet minister ever has, explained where the trade deals and market places are going to come from. Every product that is imported from the E.U. needs to be sourced and prices negotiated. Every product exported must tender for its place in the market again. Transport costs for import and export will need to be arranged. This will not happen immediately, but it must happen. For four years the UK Government’s ever-changing cabinet ministers have repeated the mantra that it will be alright on the night. Well that night has arrived and it may be alright for the foreseeable future and it may be alright for the vastly wealthy of the U.K. but unless effective plans are made quickly and implemented efficiently, as sure as fate, night will turn to day and we will herald in the dawn of an economic disaster that will punish the poorest in our society quickest. And it won’t end there. Button down the hatches there is a storm coming and the UK Government does not have a chart that will guide us to a safe haven.

Written question – DWP [30/01/2020]

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, when she plans to complete the process of back paying claimants who were incorrectly moved from severe disability premium on to universal credit. (4395)

Tabled on: 16 January 2020

Justin Tomlinson:

The SDP gateway has been in place for over a year to prevent those claimants entitled to the Severe Disability Premium (SDP) as part of their legacy benefit from claiming Universal Credit. We have successfully identified eligible former SDP claimants who have already moved to Universal Credit due to a change in circumstances, providing them with monthly payments and a lump sum in arrears, where appropriate.

As of 17 January 2020, 15,397 claims have been paid an SDP transitional payment. The average (median) value of the lump sum payments is £2,280. To date, over £51.5m has been disbursed to support former SDP claimants, including the recurring payments that have now commenced.

Positive progress has been made and caseload growth has now slowed, however, in the event a new case is discovered payments will be in place quickly. It is not possible to estimate when we will have paid everyone who is entitled as some people become entitled to these payments retrospectively, and therefore the caseload is not a fixed number.

The answer was submitted on 30 Jan 2020 at 10:49.


Westminster diary w/b 20th January


It is never a good start to the week when the first message you receive on your phone is from British Airways to inform you that your flight has been cancelled. A flurry of activity results in a noon flight being booked but it is 6am and I am wide awake! An unexpected opportunity to catch up on some correspondence. Not surprisingly the noon flight is full of members of the House of Commons and Lords. I am in the chamber for the debate on the Queen’s Speech and we finish with votes at 10pm.


In at 9am for the constitution meeting followed by informal discussions with a number of people who are looking for election to chair a select committee. Some of whom I have never met before in my life. The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Gambling Related Harm (GRH) held its Annual General Meeting (AGM) and reconstituted itself. The campaign to control the gambling industry and make it responsible for the damage it causes while respecting people’s desire to enjoy a flutter goes on. It has been a big news week for GRH. I had a number of interviews relating to gambling in football. The most challenging being the Scottish Television one. It was recorded at 20:30 with the presenter and a journalist (Stephen McGowan, chief sports writer with the Daily Mail and fellow resident of Inverclyde) in a studio in Glasgow and me at Westminster in what amounts to little more than a broom cupboard with a camera, bright light and green screen. It’s hard to be part of a coherent conversation when you can’t see the body language of the presenter, but I think I made my point. The game must come before the gambling. I attended the APPG for woods and trees. It’s shocking how far behind the UK Government is in setting targets for reforestation. They are only talking about small scale projects while Africa is planting an 8,000 kilometre green wall right across the continent.


I start the day with an interview with Martyn McLaughlin of the Scotsman (a fellow Morton fan). Once again, the topic is gambling in football. I am hoping this will be an on-going conversation and it won’t require the brave actions of those within the game that are suffering to step up and risk possible expulsion and the subsequent loss of earnings. Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) was short and sharp as is the new way under the speaker, Lindsay Hoyle. The Prime Minister was quick to criticise Scotland and indeed was talking down Scotland before Ian Blackford even got to his feet. I believe the phrase is ‘getting your retaliation in first’. There were five votes on Lord’s amendments to the European Union Withdrawal Bill. They were all defeated by the Conservative and Unionist Government who turned out in their droves to ensure we did not restore the rights of unaccompanied child refugees. In the same week as we remember those who died in the Holocaust we as the United Kingdom are denying unaccompanied children a safe haven. These kids are amongst the most vulnerable in the world, the UK government should hang its head in shame.


I was at Inverclyde Academy to support the ‘Inch by Inch’ campaign which aims to educate and support people to eat a healthier diet. Poverty often leads to a poor diet and obesity. Currently it is estimated that almost a third of children in Scotland are at risk of being overweight. The Scottish Government aims to half that by 2030. I was scheduled to attend the Great British High Street awards in Edinburgh as Kempock Street in Gourock was up for an award. But there was not enough time to fulfil my local commitments locally and travel to the awards.


I visited Peel Ports to see the progress they are making with the floating pontoon that is currently being built at the Inchgreen Dry Dock. In the afternoon I had a discussion on renewable energy in Inverclyde.

Written question – Medical cannabis [23/01/2020]

To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, how many prescriptions for medical cannabis were issued by the NHS in 2019. (3830)

Tabled on: 15 January 2020

Jo Churchill:

NHS England and NHS Improvement is using extant systems to monitor the use of unlicensed cannabis-based products for medicinal use in England. In England, these systems monitor the number of items dispensed and associated costs in primary care and the volume of products used and associated cost in secondary care. NHS England and NHS Improvement Controlled Drug Accountable Officers are also collecting local intelligence in both the National Health Service and independent sector.

The NHS Business Services Authority is only able to provide information on prescriptions for cannabis-based medicines that have been prescribed and submitted to it. The NHS Business Services Authority does not hold information on prescriptions for cannabis-based medicines which have been issued but not fulfilled.

The following table shows the number of items for Nabilone, Sativex and Epidyolex (licensed cannabis-based medicines) and unlicensed cannabis-based medicines that were prescribed on an NHS prescription, dispensed in the community and submitted to the NHS Business Services Authority for reimbursement between January and October 2019 (October 2019 is the most recent dispensing data held by the NHS Business Services Authority).

Month Licensed Cannabis-based medicines Unlicensed cannabis-based medicines
Nabilone Sativex Epidyolex *
January 2019 44 167 2
February 2019 36 159 1
March 2019 51 171 2
April 2019 49 156 2
May 2019 59 176 2
June 2019 47 187 2
July 2019 54 158 2
August 2019 46 174 1
September 2019 58 179 0 1
October 2019 46 173 0 1
Total 490 1,700 0 16
Grand Total 2,206


*Epidyolex was unlicensed prior to September 2019; no NHS prescriptions for Epidyolex have been submitted at the time this data was produced. In addition to the above, approximately 185 patients have accessed Epidyolex through the manufacturer’s (GW Pharma) early access programmes, ahead of a licensing decision by the European Medicines Agency.

The answer was submitted on 23 Jan 2020 at 12:23.

Westminster diary w/b 13th January 2020


There is no pressure to be at Westminster so in keeping with my new year’s resolution I take the opportunity to stay in the constituency. The day easily and fruitfully consumed by constituency matters.


It’s a 5am start but luckily storm Brendan hasn’t affected travel arrangements so I am in my Westminster office by 9:30. Its straight to a meeting of the SNP finance and economy team and then I meet up with representatives of UK Finance to discuss the growing trend to charge for ATMs . We discuss the situation in Inverclyde and are seeking to see if we can benefit from the Community Access to Cash Initiative. As part of my continuing work relating to gambling related harm, I meet with the father of a boy who managed to rack up massive debts and was potentially suicidal. It is those lived experiences that fuel the passion in the All-Party Parliamentary Group to reduce the harm and make the gambling industry accountable. I had a catch up with End Our Pain and we swapped experiences regarding the provision of medical cannabis. Neither of us had good stories. The battle goes on. I finish the day by meeting up with Txell Bonnet, partner of Jordi Cuixart, President of Omnium Cultural who is serving nine years in jail for his connection with the 2017 Catalan independence referendum. The APPG for Catalonia has party support from the SNP, Labour and Conservatives.


I head in the opposite direction from Westminster and walk through the very upmarket Belgravia to the Caledonian Club. It’s an open forum to discuss the next steps for online gambling regulation in the UK. Amongst a wide range of topics, we discuss, advertising and protecting vulnerable groups. A quick walk back to Parliament means I am back in time for Prime Minister’s Questions. The new Speaker, Lindsey Hoyle, is being very strict on the time allocation for this weekly event. Hopefully, it will lead to it being less of a pantomime. Immediately after PMQs I am hosting an event on drugs policy reform. Three experts from the field brief a number of SNP MPs on all the latest outcomes and that allows us to plan future strategy while becoming better informed.


Business is slow but the threat of votes keeps me tied to the estate. I take the opportunity to catch up on the mountain of correspondence that continually threatens to overwhelm me. The chairs for the select committee process is ongoing which makes me very popular amongst fellow MPs as they seek my vote. I hide away in my office. People bothering you to vote for them! Imagine that. I catch the 19:45 flight and I am home at 22:00.


I have a meeting with residents of Ogilvie Homes followed by a discussion with Inverclyde Leisure regarding the plans for Whinhill Golf Course. Members have previously made representations to me. In the afternoon, I have a meeting with Crown Care. I take my turn to staff the office while member’s of my team attend training courses. I finish the week with constituency meetings.