While I believe it is crucial to promote the importance of planting the seeds today for a better future, we can’t be so embroiled in making plans that we forget to enjoy the moment.
Throughout my life I have benefitted from the fruits of the hard work of previous generations. Free health care, free education, good public transport, a welfare system and peace, these things didn’t just happen. People planned them, worked at them and even fought and died for them. While we enjoy today, as we should, we must appreciate those that helped create it and we must nurture a vision for a better future for ourselves and our community at large.
As Father Time will indubitably continue to carry us forward our contribution should be to organise and build for a better Inverclyde, full in the knowledge that we won’t all experience the benefits. But to achieve this we need a positive ambitious approach.
Life is full of people quick to criticise, and social media in particular is plagued by them. Their every post criticising a person, an organisation, a decision. They are marinaded in a soup of self-centred, self-promoting conceit and it may seem that they are important, they certainly think they are, but within the big picture they are nothing compared to the genuine desire of the majority who seek to improve the outcomes and opportunities for all. It’s just that the self-effacing, humble, majority don’t tweet about it. Two years into a worldwide pandemic it can be hard to be upbeat and positive all the time but as we approach a new year, we must keep looking beyond this pandemic to a brighter future and we must ensure we are doing everything we can to ensure that happens. Positivity on its own isn’t enough, but mixed with hard work, aspiration and a sense of community it will take us a long way. Meanwhile don’t forget to hug the ones you love and enjoy the passing of time
The current Conservative and Unionist government have been short on effective policies and big on three-word slogans (TWS). From, build back better, get Brexit done, take back control and at one point we had the wholly unremarkable ‘build build build’. It is hard to imagine a more vacuous slogan, but the Tories have had a good try at it. ‘Get a Jab’. I mean really, is that the inspiration you need? But it did get me thinking about messaging. At this time of year, we traditionally write cards to people we don’t see very often. At new year social media and group chats will fill up with messages prior to the bells and soon after. It’s the one time of the year when we are all more engaged in reaching out and sending messages of love and support. And inadvertently because of that, it’s a time of year when people who don’t have family and friends around them can feel especially lonely or isolated. Covid has maybe given us all a taste of that over the last two years, therefore we should be more aware of it. And more prepared to do something about it. It’s going to be another year of disruption and that will require flexibility to sustain ourselves and our communities. But I firmly believe that Inverclyde will survive and given a fair wind and the right people pulling in the right direction, we can thrive. Our record of community involvement and engagement during the Covid pandemic is as good as anyones. In very difficult circumstances, volunteers have worked with and augmented the existing services. In some cases, they have created bespoke services targeted at minority groups. There will always be the those that talk down Inverclyde and Scotland, the cringe isn’t just for Christmas. But I am uplifted by the knowledge that in Inverclyde and in Scotland we have far more people prepared to adopt a positive attitude and strive to improve rather than carp from the sidelines. The New Year will be what me make it. And if I may sign off for this year with a three-word slogan (technically four), then I shall wish you all, peace, love and understanding.
I have, for a number of years, been advocating the benefits of Drug Consumption Rooms as a humane approach to engaging with people actively involved in drug use. The names of such facilities change but whether you say Drug Consumption Room, Safe Consumption Facility or Overdose Prevention Centre, they are the same thing. But with the variety of descriptions, it’s easy to comprehend that we are talking about providing a safe facility where drugs can be consumed, and overdoses prevented! Why would anyone not want that? Why would anyone rather people were left to use in unsafe conditions with a high possibility of overdosing? Well, the UK Government does. Time and time again they have refused to take this discussion forward.
Last week, the Faculty for Public Health led a cross-sector call signed by 70 organisations for the UK Government to pilot Overdose Prevention Centres. In their own words they “are no longer prepared to accept the UK’s record number of drug-related deaths without implementing all available evidence-based interventions to save lives and protect health”. Among the 70 organisations are the Royal Colleges of Emergency Medicine, General Practitioners, Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, Paediatrics and Child Health, Pathologists, Physicians, Psychiatrists, the Faculties of Intensive Care Medicine, Occupational Medicine, and Pharmaceutical Medicine.
And yet to date the Home Office are still refusing to even consider the possibility that these medical experts are better informed and better placed to identify solutions to a health issue. The Home Office minister, Kit Malthouse, admitted this week that he had never visited a DCR. Any legislation based on hubris and ignorance is poor legislation and its particularly reprehensible when the outcome is the unacceptable number of drug deaths we are experiencing across the UK. We can do better and there is a move to open DCRs in Scotland backed by a more compassionate approach from the Scottish Parliament and a different emphasis from the new Lord Advocate. When that happens, we must be ready in Inverclyde to ensure we are not passed by and a suitable facility is made available in our community.
I dialled in to the Inverclyde Alliance meeting and raised my concern that when drug consumption rooms are made available, as surely they will be, that Inverclyde will not be in a position to argue for one. The preparation needs to be done now. I was in the chamber for education questions. The Erasmus scheme benefitted Scotland by £22.6 million and has, since Brexit, been promised only £8.3 million as a replacement via the Turing scheme. The UK Government does not see this as an issue. I met with a company that provide home care in Inverclyde to discuss their place within the local health care provision sector. The day’s business was squeezed by an urgent question and three statements. I bobbed for over an hour but wasn’t taken such is the way at Westminster. In the evening we debated the Armed Forces Bill consideration of Lords Amendments.
My select committee met to read through and agree our imminent report on the Elections Bill. It is no secret that items such as voter Id and the opportunity for people to vote independently have been divisive. As it stands neither the Welsh nor Scottish government will be granting a legislative consent motion. We then took evidence from the electoral commission. I pressed for clarity on the accuracy and visibility of donations and expenditures during elections and referendums, particularly given the rise of digital campaigning. In the chamber we debated and voted on the Nationality and borders bill report. New clause 52 caused concern within the Conservative and Unionist ranks as there was a mini uprising against the government. But they managed to suppress the revolution and will continue to impose hefty immigration fees on commonwealth soldiers and their families who want to live in the UK at the end of their military service. That’s a disgrace, these people have put their lives at risk to fight in the UK armed forces. They should not be penalised for wanting to live in the United Kingdom. I had a very interesting meeting with a company that manufacture house insulation from Hemp. It’s an environmentally friendly product and currently made in Scotland.
Life within Westminster and the surrounding Whitehall is becoming more ridiculous each day as Tory rebels continue to refuse to wear masks but bleat on about Covid disrupting their lives. And this week we heard the relevant minister refuse to confirm that the UK will respect the Human Rights Act. Meanwhile the Prime Minister threw his staff under a bus after details of parties during lockdown last year spread and media staff joked about it. I met with Link to discuss the campaign for access to cash and we focused on the roll out of cash to the penny from retail outlets. I had an interview with a journalist from the publication 1919. We discussed access to medical cannabis. Prime Minister’s Questions started with the PM saying how appalled he was by his staff’s behaviour. He was pressed to resign by the SNP, but he hasn’t and his remorse looks more and more like crocodile tears. I briefly attended a gambling harm awareness event organised by Gambling with Lives but it was interrupted by a plethora of votes.
I bobbed for questions to the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), to my great delight I was taken on the first question and I pressed for funding to encourage farmers to diversify into growing Hemp. This should not be confused with any hallucinogenic drugs. The Hemp plant can be grown and harvested for the manufacture of environmentally friendly cloth, insulation, building bricks and biodegradable plastic. It is a planet friendly plant and should be grown on an industrial scale.
I met Quarriers, virtually, to discuss the work of the charity and in the afternoon, I had another of my frequent school visits (under covid restrictions) to talk to and take questions from modern studies pupils. My last meeting of the week was with Peel Ports to discuss all things relevant to them and Inverclyde. In the evening I attended the stage production of the radio production of the famous film ‘It’s a wonderful life’.
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, how many Cold Weather Payments have been issued by her Department to households in Inverclyde in each of the last five years. (86114)
Tabled on: 02 December 2021
Answer: Guy Opperman:
The Cold Weather Payment scheme is administered at weather station level rather than at a constituency or regional level. The coverage area for each weather station is determined by the Met Office, which assesses the most appropriate weather station for each postcode area. Cold weather payments are triggered when the average temperature recorded at the weather station has been recorded as, or is forecast to be, 0oC or below over seven consecutive days, during the Cold Weather season (November to March)
The constituency of Inverclyde covers all or part of the following postcode areas: PA11, PA13, PA14, PA15, PA16, PA17, PA18 and PA19.
These postcode areas are covered by the weather station Bishopton, which also include constituencies other than Inverclyde.
Table 1 Postcode districts mapped to Weather Stations
Table 2 summarises the number of triggers in the Bishopton weather station over the last 5 complete Cold Weather Payment seasons and the estimated number of payments in the Bishopton weather station area.
Table 2 Estimated number of Cold Weather recipients linked to the Bishopton weather station
Triggers for Bishopton weather station
Estimated number of payments for Bishopton weather station
Where there have been no cold weather triggers in the Bishopton weather station area, no payments were made to eligible recipients.
The number of eligible claimants given here is an estimate as information on the exact number is not readily available. These figures are produced by determining the volume of eligible recipients in each weather station area at the start of the winter season. These figures are then used throughout the winter to estimate payments and expenditure based on the actual triggers recorded.
The number of payments made is not necessarily the total number of individuals benefitting from a Cold Weather Payment. Any individuals making a joint claim for one of the qualifying benefits, such as a couple living together, will receive one payment between them rather than one payment each. Furthermore, if a weather station triggers more than once throughout a cold weather season then the recipients will receive more than one payment.
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