Westminster diary wb 14th November

Monday

Travel chaos due to fog in London. Flights are cancelled and therefore trains are over booked. This is compounded by issues south of Peterborough and many commuters either arrive very late or cancel their trips and travel tomorrow. I am in the former category. I utilised my waiting time by starting to read the latest book from Darren McGarvey, The Social Distance Between Us, which is a follow up to his debut novel Poverty Safari. It’s reading well so far, and I think it will be a valuable resource to stimulate and inform the discussion around the much needed societal reforms.

Tuesday

My select committee took evidence on lobbying. It is a grey area that needs tighten up as currently the register only requires disclosure that lobbying has taken place and not who has been lobbied, for what purpose and in whose behalf. There is also an issue over who has do declare that they have been lobbied, but that should all be covered in detail once we produce the report. I had a very interesting meeting with Voltface to discuss emerging medicines, including medical cannabis, psilocybin and ketamine. Other countries are progressing with trials, including their use for post-traumatic stress disorder and schizophrenia but the U.K. is lagging behind. I dropped in to hear what Green Pastures are doing to help with the homelessness situation and attended a briefing on energy and the challenges facing us all this winter. Finally, I met with Openreach to catch up on all things broadband and their current rollout of ultrafast in Inverclyde. We discussed the poles that are once again increasing in numbers, the problems with wayleaves and their desire to decarbonise their fleet.

Wednesday

I met with Tenacious Labs to discuss the potential for a cannabis industry with all its complexities and opportunities. A properly regulated industry could employ thousands in growing hemp and supplying an industry that is hungry for the raw product to make insulating panels, clothes, biodegradable plastics and many other products. In the chamber Scotland Questions was a sorry affair with a Secretly of State that is biding his time before going to the House of Lords. Prime Minister’s Questions was also underwhelming as the PM is in Bali at the G20 conference, so it was a day for the deputies. Despite being pushed time and time again by Angela Rayner and Kirsten Oswald on the financial chaos that we are experiencing, the deputy PM, Dominic Raab, parroted, covid, Ukraine and recession but steadfastly refused to say the word Brexit. It’s as if the word has been removed from the English language and yet it’s the cause of so many of our current problems. I went to an access for cash drop in to hear from about community banking. I shall be pursuing LINK for details and suitability for Inverclyde. I then heard from Penny who has survived pancreatic cancer. It’s a cancer that has little research and is rarely diagnosed early. She is one of the lucky ones to have survived. Next up in varied day was a meeting with the Cruise Line International Association to discuss decarbonisation of the marine industry, a possible tourist tax and issues around a universal permission to travel. I had votes at 18:00 and then a hasty journey to the airport to catch a flight and got home at 23:00.

Thursday

As part of U.K. Parliament Week, I visit schools in Inverclyde to engage pupils in the democratic process and do question and answer sessions with them. First up today was Port Glasgow High where I met with students studying politics and then the student council. In the afternoon I went to talk to Saint Patrick Primary school P7, they questioned me relentlessly on a range of subjects, after which I had to lie down in a darkened room for a while.

Friday

I continued my school visits today and went to Clydeview Academy and Saint Columba Gourock. My last appointment of the week was with the Green Action Trust to discuss the action required to tackle the nature and climate crisis.

Greenock Telegraph 18th November

I have been campaigning for the provision of medical cannabis for most of my seven and a half years as a Member of Parliament and sadly the progress has not been as rapid as I would have liked. I have a particular focus on the supply of Bedrolite, Bedrocan and Bedica2. They are prescribed for children with intractable epilepsy. The results of children that have been using them are quite startling. Kids that were suffering over 100 seizures a day and were confined to a wheelchair as a result are now capable of cycling in the local park, attending school and conversing with truer parents and siblings. They are seizure free, the transformation is remarkable. But unfortunately, it is not all good news. Those kids that are getting the medicine are paying for it through private prescriptions. This can cost up to £2,000 a month. We have managed to set up manufacturing in the U.K. which removes the need to import it from the Netherlands but the cost is still prohibitively high. Because of my involvement in this campaign, it has been brought to my attention that other new medicines are experiencing the same issues. They exist, they have been passed by the MHRA as effective but not passed as cost effective by NICE. Therefore, they can only be accessed privately. This includes medicines for post-traumatic stress disorder, schizophrenia and even one, Evusheld which you may have read about in the Greenock Telegraph recently, for people who are still shielding from Covid because they have suppressed immune systems. The crucial fact is that those who can pay for their medicine can access it and those that can’t must go without. While I want this situation rectified, my wider concern is that what we are witnessing is the privatisation of the health centre, one step at a time. The health service was founded on the principle of free access at the point of need and that must not be allowed to be eroded or undermined at any cost.

Westminster diary wb 7th November

Monday

Constituency boundary changes.  Talk of the steamie or at least the Members tea-room and late into the evening conservative and unionist MPs were pouring over maps working out who would stay and who would go. I bobbed on the urgent question regarding immigration and was the last person taken from the opposition benches. I pressed the point that in-order to help local authorities accommodate asylum seekers the authorities need to be engaged with at an early stage to ensure that the support and finance is in place otherwise we risk fuelling the bigotry and intolerance that is already obvious from some of the Conservative and Unionist back benches.

Tuesday

I co-chaired a joint event between the Gambling Related Harm APPG and the Suicide and Self-Harm Prevention APPG with Liz Twist MP. The panel consisted of Heather Wardle who is an academic at Glasgow University, Matt Gaskill who is a consultant psychologist and Annie Ashton whose husband completed suicide due to gambling related issues. They all spoke well and answered a range of questions from a very engaged audience. I met with the Portman group who are responsible for regulating alcohol advertising. As they are an industry funded body, I have my reservations, but they are light years ahead of the Gambling Commission. I had a briefing from Irish government about their basic income pilot that they are rolling out to artists and a artisans. The results will be very interesting. Next up was a meeting in the House of Lords to discuss the online safety bill, in particular regarding child pornography on the internet.

A day which covered, suicide, gambling harm, and child pornography could be seen as a day of despair but what I heard today from a range of organisations was their commitment to address these issues and create positive outcomes. It was a day of hope and positivity.

Wednesday

The Prime Minister’s Questions from the opposition benches were mostly questioning his judgment in appointing Gavin Williamson, who has since resigned and also the wisdom of appointing incumbent MPs to the House of Lords. It does beg the question how dedicated to their constituencies they are?

Thursday

I started the day at West College Scotland talking to and doing a question and answer session with politics students. These are always invigorating and really enjoyable sessions. I had a remote meeting with the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and minister responsible for gambling. It says a lot that gambling comes under the auspices of DCMS. I have been pushing the U.K. government to publish their white paper on gambling reform for over two years now and due to a number of circumstances this has not happened. Hopefully we will be spared a cabinet reshuffle until the ministers and civil servants involved can publish this paper. Then we shall know the government’s stance on gambling reforms and the debate can start. In the afternoon I met with the Tail of the Bank credit union to catch up with their new management and discuss their plans for the future.

Friday

I started the day with an update on Inverclyde Council budget proposals. And then I visited the Madeira Street site that is proposed for housing. In the afternoon I visited the Amazon fulfilment centre and finally I visited and chatted to 6 Foot Labs about their projects called The Hive and Designed Necessities. Another week covering a wide range of subject matters and engaging with people from all walks of life. That truly is one of the privileges of the job.

On this Remembrance Sunday, I shall be attending the church service in the Mid-Kirk and laying poppy wreaths at the Wellpark and the Cross of Lorraine on the Lyle Hill.

Written question – Gambling [09/11/2022]

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, what plans his Department has to increase support provided to sufferers of gambling disorder who are serving custodial sentences. (75998)

Tabled on: 01 November 2022

Answer:
Damian Hinds:

His Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) is currently in the process of undertaking a needs analysis to help identify the extent of those with a gambling disorder. HMPPS are consulting widely with NHS England and charities such as GamCare, Gamble Aware and Gamblers Anonymous and listening to those with lived experiences to help inform future care pathways.

The answer was submitted on 09 Nov 2022 at 15:35.