Written question – Home Office [20/09/2017]

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, what discussions she has had with (a) Cabinet colleagues and (b) the devolved administrations on making cannabis available through pharmaceuticals where use of that drug can be helpful. (8282)

Tabled on: 04 September 2017

Answer:
Sarah Newton:

Cannabis, in its raw form, has no recognised medicinal benefits in the UK.

There is a clear regime in place, administered by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), to enable medicines (including those containing controlled drugs such as cannabis) to be developed, licensed and made available for medicinal use to patients in the UK.

The Minister for Safeguarding, Vulnerability and Crime has recently written to and met with the Parliamentary under Secretary of State for Public Health and Primary Care to consider how to ensure cannabis-based medicines are available where appropriate.

Minister of State, Baroness Williams wrote to her counterpart Lord O’Shaughnessy on the same issue earlier in September.

Officials in the Home Office remain in frequent dialogue with officials of the devolved administrations on all aspects of drug policy.

The answer was submitted on 20 Sep 2017 at 14:18.

 

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EU Funding for Inverclyde

The funding Inverclyde receives from the European Union (EU), over £6m since 2008, is of vital importance and the decision to leave the EU could have a lasting effect on our area.  Alongside this, not having access to both the single market and customs union will be bad for business, tourism and trade.

Here in Inverclyde, the people sent a clear message that they’d rather remain in the EU, however we are being pulled out by a Tory Government who are still fighting, sixteen months after the vote, on what terms we leave.

The damage of a Tory hard Brexit isn’t just something to worry about in the future – it is something that is causing damage to our economy in the here and now.

The SNP group at Westminster will continue to stand up for Scotland and ensure our voice is heard.

Written question – Health [18/09/2017]

To ask the Secretary of State for Health, how his Department plans to work with the Scottish Government on protecting children from junk food marketing. (9910)

Tabled on: 11 September 2017

This question was grouped with the following question(s) for answer:

  1. To ask the Secretary of State for Health, what discussions he has had with the Scottish Government on developing advertising powers to enable that government to protect children from junk food marketing. (9911) Tabled on: 11 September 2017
  2. To ask the Secretary of State for Health, what steps his Department plans to take to allow the Scottish Government to restrict junk food advertising to children. (9912) Tabled on: 11 September 2017

Answer: Steve Brine:

Departmental officials will continue to work with colleagues in the devolved administrations, sharing our thinking and progress to ensure children across the United Kingdom can have the best start in life.

Current advertising restrictions in the UK on high fat, salt or sugar (HFSS) products are among the toughest in the world. Strict new rules came into effect on 1 July banning the advertising of HFSS food or drink products in children’s media. These restrictions apply across all non-broadcast media including in print, cinema, online and in social media.

In August we announced £5 million investment in a policy research unit on childhood obesity to provide a robust evidence, evaluation and research capability including looking at the impact of marketing on childhood obesity. The unit’s findings will be fed into future meetings with colleagues across the UK.

The answer was submitted on 18 Sep 2017 at 15:47.

Westminster Diary w/b 11th September

Monday

Up at the crack of dawn to catch the red eye to London. It’s delayed! I have arranged to meet lobby groups at Westminster in the morning and later I attended the launch of the Institute for Policy Research forthcoming Policy Brief, titled Assessing the Case for Universal Basic Income in the UK. It was followed by a vigorous discussion. Back at Westminster and the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill is debated late into the night and voting was concluded at half past midnight which means I am home by 1am.

Tuesday

In my office for 8:30am and to give constituents a tour of the estate. Early in the morning is always best as I can get access to both the House of Lords and House of Commons. I have a meeting with the organisation Voltface at which we discuss the legalisation of cannabis. I attended an event on ‘Problem gambling focused on woman’ followed by a meeting with the hair industry looking at its importance to high streets throughout the UK. I met with the minister for work and pensions Damian Hinds to talk about the job centre closure in Port Glasgow and the transition of service to Greenock. As an aside, his office is in the ‘lower ministerial corridor’ which despite spending £130,000 on vermin control last year on the estate, the ‘lower ministerial corridor’ is still overrun with mice.

Wednesday

I am on three select committees and they all chose today to get together for the first time in this parliamentary session to go through the necessary paperwork and look to setting timetables. First was transport, then public administration and constitutional affairs and finally the procedure committee. Between these meetings I met with Amnesty International, attended the all party parliamentary group on prostitution, sat in on a debate on the relationship between Scotland and Malawi. In Scotland there are over 1,100 organisation with links to Malawi including 9 schools in Inverclyde that work in collaboration and respect with schools in Malawi. My last event was the all party parliamentary group on drugs policy and we had guest speakers talking about medicinal cannabis. I had to wait until 7pm to see if there was going to be any votes but there were not. I caught the 20:30 flight home.

Thursday

A sad start to the day attending the funeral of the ex-councillor Jim Grieve. Jim was well known in his ward and cared deeply about this area. My next two meetings were with PG Paper and later Ferguson Marine. Both local companies determined to stay here and contribute to our community for many years to come. In the evening I attended a magnificent public meeting in Kilmacolm. The only item on the agenda is the proposed purchase of land by a property speculator. When six hundred people turn out for a meeting in the local church hall it’s is clear so see they mean business. They were well informed and extremely eloquent in putting forward their case. Kilmacolm is ready for the fight ahead.

Friday

I attended a joint MP and MSP event in Edinburgh.

Tele column – 15th September 2017

When the government of any country attempts to undermine the democratic process that it purports to hold so dear then it is playing with fire. Democracy doesn’t just happen, it has been fought for and defended over a long period of time. At the heart of this ideal is that government can be held to account. That is why we have opposition parties. That is why government ministers must come to the house and be questioned. That is why we have debates and votes. The alternative would be a government that governed absolutely. In the last week during the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill the Conservative government have perpetrated two outrageous injustices. One on the United Kingdom and the other on Scotland.

First it abused the exit process by planting Henry VIII clauses throughout. This allows the government to amend primary legislation with secondary legislation. This is not new (the hints in the name) and it is used regularly to amend tedious legislation but within section 7 of the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill it can be used to alter the substance and effect of the law.

Second, according to the Law Society of Scotland the bill will “remove powers from the Scottish Parliament and erode human rights”. They went on to say “the effect of the bill would be to remove the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament in relation to any matter in retained European Union law.” Needless to say the Conservative MPs representing Scottish seats backed their Westminster bosses, once again the Labour Party were split and went through both voting lobbies. It would appear that the job off opposition has once again fallen to the SNP in both scrutinising the EU exit process and standing up for Scotland.

 

During the meeting with the Minister I pressed upon him the unique geography and employment problems relating to the area of Inverclyde.

I urged the Minister not to treat Inverclyde with a broad brush, rather look at the circumstances and issues relevant to this specific area when deciding the future of our jobcentres.

Alongside this, I raise the issue of the long term future of the Greenock site and asked for assurances, which I received, that it will remain.

Finally, I also mentioned the rollout of Universal Credit (UC) as Inverclyde is a full service area.  I informed the Minister of the increase in volume of correspondence my office is receiving from people on Universal Credit, many of whom are waiting up to 6 weeks for financial support.  I welcome the work of Citizens Advice Scotland and others in highlighting the flaws in the current system.

European Union (Withdrawal) Bill

The passing of the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill to the committee stage marks a dark day for devolution and democracy in the UK.

Both Inverclyde and Scotland, as a whole, voted overwhelmingly to remain in Europe – and that has to be respected.

The focus will continue to be on protecting Scotland’s interests and ensuring devolved competences, such as agriculture and fisheries, transfer to the Scottish Parliament and are not swallowed up by this Tory Government.

Westminster Diary w/b 4th September

Monday

Parliament does not sit until Tuesday but I have an event ‘Pathways to Statehood: Scotland and Catalonia’ at Saint Mary’s University in the evening so I went for a morning flight to London and got settled into my office again. The evening event is first class. It’s always good to hear an independent view of Scotland’s constitutional situation and the possibilities around it.

Tuesday

My first appointment is at a briefing from the Hansard Society on the ‘Repeal Bill’. The Hansard Society is a completely independent organisation from Parliament, not to be confused with ‘Hansard’ that record all the debates. They are non-political and are experts in the democratic process required to govern. They have put together suggestions to enhance the UK Parliament’s ability to process the Repeal Bill within the time constraints of Brexit. They also highlighted the dangers of the Henry VIII clauses and the complexity of the current process. I attended a round table event to discuss the possible outcomes of a Catalonian referendum. The general consensus, across all parties, was that if Catalonia voted to become independent, then Spain ultimately could not deny the democratic process and the UK would recognise Catalonia as an independent state. My last event was an internal SNP group meeting at which the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, walked us through the Scottish government’s ambitious Programme for Government. I am delighted that they have published such an ambitious programme including the feasibility of a basic income and a National Investment Bank.

Wednesday

I started the day with an in depth briefing of the Brexit process presented by the Hansard Society. I then attended a debate on solar panels. Later during PMQs it was clear that her role is taking its toll on Theresa May as she looked and acted like someone under a great deal of pressure. Jeremy Corbyn was not much better, his summer jaunt to Scotland seems to have worn him out. Following PMQs I attended the protest and lent my support to the public sector workers campaign to scrap the 1% pay cap. It has been scrapped in Scotland by the SNP government and the UK should follow. The National Shipbuilding Strategy was launched today. I was briefed the day before by Harriet Baldwin MP (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Defence Procurement) and I hope the new bidding process is beneficial to Ferguson Marine allowing them to break into the lucrative defence market. I attended a drop in event for the organ donation scheme and will continue to urge the UK government to once again follow the lead of the SNP Scottish Government and introduce a soft opt-out scheme.

Thursday

Most of the day was consumed by a visit to the ‘National Problem Gambling Clinic’ where I was hosted by Dr Henrietta Bowden-Jones. Visits such as these allow me to learn from experts and the plan is to host an event at Westminster focusing on gambling addiction and related harm. Addictions of many varieties blight the lives of far too many. Research and understanding of them as a health related issue is required and funding must be provided to allow it to take place. I caught the 20:30 flight home.

Friday

I held surgeries in Kilmacolm Community Centre, Port Glasgow Library, my constituency office in Greenock and the Inverkip Community Centre.