FOBTs Review

I’m extremely disappointed to learn the Government may be shelving their review of Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs) as the Treasury are thinking of how much tax they can receive from gaming machines and therefore do not want any stake reduction.

As vice-chair of the All-party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on FOBTs I’ve heard first-hand accounts from individuals whose lives have been affected by gambling related harm and these machines.  In my constituency of Inverclyde cash inserted in FOBTs was over £11.5m in 2016, with losses amounting to nearly £3m.

The evidence shows that these machines are directly linked to problem gambling with 4 out of 5 FOBT gamblers exhibiting problem gambling behaviour at stakes in excess of £13 a spin compared to 1 in 5 at stakes £2 and under.

I have written to the Department of Culture, Media and Sport to seek immediate clarification that the Review of Gaming Machines and Social Responsibility Measures will report back in autumn as the Minister previously outlined.

 

Investment in IRH

The board has underlined its commitment to the Inverclyde Royal Hospital (IRH) with £800,000 investment over the current financial year.

Last year the board carried out a £2.5 million investment in a new boiler at the IRH as well as committing £400,000 on a new chiller unit to regulate temperature in wards in the summer and £430,000 in energy efficiency works.

NHSGGC has consistently stated its commitment to the IRH and they must be commended for backing this support with significant levels of funding over the past five years.

The IRH is an important part of NHSGGC’s work in delivering high quality health care and this long-term commitment will undoubtedly be welcomed by everyone in Inverclyde.

The money is in addition to recent capital investment in the hospital which includes:

  • £1.2 million refurbishment of the Emergency Department (ED) and the main entrance
  • £4.3 million on a new clean room for ophthalmology patients undergoing intra-vitreal therapy, and refurbishment of oncology and haematology areas
  • £6.5 million NHS centre for specialist dementia and mental health support on the IRH site
  • £2.5 million in new IRH main boiler house
  • £500,000 new state-of-the-art tube system for transfer of bloods and samples throughout the hospital
  • £370,000 on a new canopy for Emergency Department and new gym roof
  • £750,000 on new Medical Equipment in 2016/17.

WASPI

According to the House of Commons Library, “WASPI” women (women born in the 1950s affected by changes to the State Pension Age by the 1995, 2007 and 2011 Pension Acts) affected in Inverclyde is 5,600.

The UK Government’s reply, to my letter, is frustratingly all about equalisation. I can’t believe that this far down the line they are still so uninformed or blind to the WASPI argument that they genuinely think equalisation is the issue. That can only lead me to the conclusion that the UK government are so entrenched in their ways that they are incapable of engaging in a meaningful discussion on this issue.

Their attitude towards the plight of the woman affected by this policy is appalling.

The WASPI campaign has been run with great dignity and it’s time the UK government responded in kind by righting this wrong.

 

The UK Government is to raise the state pension age to 68 from 2037, seven years earlier than planned.

The announcement was made just before the House of Commons broke for the Summer recess period, giving Members no time to question government ministers on the change.  New analysis from the House of Commons library found that each person affected by the change stood to lose around £9,800. (https://www.theguardian.com/money/2017/jul/24/state-pension-changes-will-cost-7-million-people-10000-each)

This will have a detrimental impact on a large number of people in both Inverclyde and Scotland, meaning they will be forced to wait another year for their state pension.

The UK Government is already causing unnecessary pain for the Women Against State Pension Inequality (WASPI) and now we have more bad news on pensions.

As my SNP colleagues have stated, we will continue to call for the establishment of an independent Savings and Pensions Commission to responsibly consider pension policies.

Tax Credits Renewals

I would like to remind constituents in Inverclyde that the deadline for renewing tax credits is 31st July and anyone who fails to renew by the deadline could lose their payments.

Importantly, you still need to complete your renewal pack even if you’re not making a claim for the coming year.  This is something which many people do not realise and thus don’t complete the documentation, which means they may not be paid the right amount of tax credits for the current year.

For more information please visit Gov.uk website – https://www.gov.uk/renewing-your-tax-credits-claim 

 

Meeting with Chief Exec of NHS GG&C

I was pleased to sit down with both the Chief Executive and Chairman of NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, alongside my colleague Stuart McMillan MSP, to discuss health services in Inverclyde. 

During the discussion, the health board indicated they will be working with elected representatives through stakeholder management as a way of keeping us informed of what’s happening with local health services.  This includes the new mental health unit and Greenock Health Centre which will be welcome additions to local services in Inverclyde.

I believe the health board are keen to undertake more engagement and consultation with the public over the health services they receive and what actions can be taken to improve service delivery.  This can only be a good thing as more constructive discussion with the public and health service users should bring about service delivery which is more responsive to Inverclyde and the west of Scotland.

 

Drugs policy debate

When is the UK Government going to comprehend that drug reform is a health issue and the war on drugs, as it has been waged for the last hundred years, has failed.

The current approach isn’t working and we need a fundamental change of philosophy.  There is a growing body of well-informed people that say it’s time to decriminalise and legalise drugs.

Stamping down hard on the criminals that controls the growth, harvesting and distribution of drugs has only increased the levels of violence, fear and corruption which is used to hold onto and grow their marketplace.  Once we started a war that we were never going to win, ending it becomes increasingly difficult.

The Home Secretary says she wants the Government drugs strategy to deliver a ‘drug-free society’ and that in a nutshell is why this strategy is seriously flawed. Because the drugs are not the problem.  When we should be asking why do people take drugs and why do some, ten percent of users, develop an addiction?

I will continue to talk to those in the health industry, such as RSPH, BMA, Transform and LEAP about drugs policy reform and ensure pressure continues to be put on the Government to make this issue, first and foremost, a health issue rather than a criminal justice one.

Link to speech on drugs policy – https://hansard.digiminster.com/Commons/2017-07-18/debates/733C6229-49D0-4559-8F59-5F1244C2DE13/DrugsPolicy#contribution-6194BCB2-762D-436F-A75E-74A58C930E4B

Recent article published on RSA on drugs policy – https://www.thersa.org/discover/publications-and-articles/rsa-comment/2017/07/high-time-for-changing-drug-policy

 

Cancer Research UK

Last week, I attended a parliamentary event, held by Cancer Research UK, in Westminster last week (12 July) to find out how MPs can keep cancer at the top of the new Parliament’s agenda.

Over the course of this Parliament, two million people will be diagnosed with cancer across the UK, so Cancer Research UK needs political support in order to continue to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer.

Cancer survival in the UK is still lagging behind other countries and too many cancers are diagnosed at an advanced stage, when they are harder to treat successfully.

We must not underestimate the devastating impact cancer will have on people in Inverclyde now and in the future, so it gives me hope to hear that Cancer Research UK’s pioneering research is turning the tables on the disease.

The outlook for new and better cancer treatments in the UK is bright. However, it is clear that there is a critical role for politicians to play in helping to prevent and detect cancer earlier and bring innovative new treatments to patients faster.

One life lost to this terrible disease is one too many and that’s why I’m supporting Cancer Research UK in their mission to beat cancer sooner.

For more information please visit cruk.org.

 

Organ donation debate

Recently, the Scottish Government announced it intends to introduce legislation for a soft opt out system of organ and tissue donation.  Public Health Minister Aileen Campbell has confirmed plans to bring forward legislation during this Parliament after 82% of consultation responses supported the move.

I believe that the most important people in this debate are the many waiting for a donor—those whose lives are poorer or even on the line as they wait, and wait.

In my view, a soft opt-out scheme is the path to go down, but whatever comes of this debate, it must stimulate discussion.

We should all make our wishes known to our friends and family. When my time comes, as it will, please take whatever you want.

https://hansard.digiminster.com/commons/2017-07-13/debates/d46608ab-bf07-4072-99ff-11853badaa37/OrganDonationOpt-OutSystem

https://news.gov.scot/news/increasing-organ-and-tissue-donation

Energy Prices

Octopus Energy recently launched www.thepriceofpower.co.uk which allows any UK consumer to input their postcode and find out exactly how much their constituency is over paying on energy bills.

It’s deeply disappointing to learn that people in Inverclyde are over paying millions of pounds on their energy bills.

Much more needs to be done to protect those in Inverclyde who are struggling to pay their energy bills that are £234 more than they would be in a competitive market.

Octopus Energy – www.thepriceofpower.co.uk