General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)

Can I find out the personal data that the [Member’s office] holds about me?

At your request, [Member’s office] can confirm what information we hold about you and how it is processed. If [Member’s office] does hold personal data about you, you can request the following information:

  • Our identity and the contact details.
  • Contact details of the data protection officer.
  • The purpose of the processing as well as the legal basis for processing.
  • If the processing is based on the legitimate interests of [Member’s office] or a third party, information about those interests.
  • The categories of personal data collected, stored and processed.
  • Recipient(s) or categories of recipients that the data is/will be disclosed to.
  • If we intend to transfer the personal data to a third country or international organisation, information about how we ensure this is done securely. The EU has approved sending personal data to some countries because they meet a minimum standard of data protection. In other cases, we will ensure there are specific measures in place to secure your information.
  • How long the data will be stored.
  • Details of your rights to correct, erase, restrict or object to such processing.
  • Information about your right to withdraw consent at any time.
  • How to lodge a complaint with the supervisory authority.
  • Whether the provision of personal data is a statutory or contractual requirement, or a requirement necessary to enter into a contract, as well as whether you are obliged to provide the personal data and the possible consequences of failing to provide such data.
  • The source of personal data if it wasn’t collected directly from you.
  • Any details and information of automated decision making, such as profiling, and any meaningful information about the logic involved, as well as the significance and expected consequences of such processing.
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Gambling Policy

Gambling related harm is an issue which rightly continues to receive more attention and it’s vital the UK Government continue to listen to the many people, such as Dr Henrietta Bowden Jones and organisations who are highlighting how gambling is becoming more prevalent, especially with young people. 

The Campaign for Fairer Gambling estimate that in Inverclyde, alone, cash inserted into FOBTs in 2016 was £11,527,602.  These figures put into perspective the challenges we face in Inverclyde when it comes to gambling.

During the meeting with the Minister, I raised the link between young people and gambling, alongside the need for a statutory levy on bookmakers to fund GambleAware and their activities to tackle gambling related harm.

Hopefully, this can be a platform to implement more legislation that can help those affected by gambling and those who may become problem gamblers.

 

Fixed Odds Betting Terminals

Today, the UK Government finally announced its findings to the Consultation on proposals for changes to Gaming Machines and Social Responsibility Measures.  A consultation which launched back in October 2017, it has taken the government over 6 months to respond and highlight their actions on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs). 

However, I welcome the announcement by the UK Government to reduce the maximum unit stake on FOBTs to £2 per spin.  This is something I have strongly campaigned for in my role as vice-chair of the All-party parliamentary group on FOBTs alongside other MP’s such as Carolyn Harris and Iain Duncan Smith.  I would like to put on record my praise for the Minister for Sport, Tracey Crouch MP for her action on this issue and her acknowledgment of the harm these machines can do.   

I have heard numerous testimonies and stories from individuals, who lives have been ruined by these machines.  This is why Carolyn Harris MP (Chair of the APPG on FOBTS) Iain Duncan Smith MP and I have wrote numerous letters to the UK Government to highlight our concerns and urge the Government to reduce the maximum unit stake on FOBTs to £2.  The issue of gambling related harm was too great for any Government department to block a reduction on the unit stake on FOBTs to £2.  Politicians from across the chamber recognise this and thankfully the Government now too. 

The wider issue of gambling related harm has rightly received more coverage as we learn the true extend of problem gambling.  One of the emerging challenges I believe, and which requires further action, is the link between young people and gambling.  Over half a million children are gambling per week and according to Gambling Commission statistics, for 2017, 0.9% of 11-16 year olds are problem gamblers, 1.3% are ‘at-risk’ gamblers and 15.5% are non-problem gamblers.  These are startling figures and demonstrates the problem we face.  The advances in technology mean young people are able to use smartphones to download betting apps and open accounts with little verification checks.  Alongside this, it’s clear that bookmakers have been targeting their online advertising, using browser history and cookies, at young people.  A welcome step in addressing these concerns was during the two day GambleAware conference, which took place in December 2017, and focused on young people and gambling.  The conference highlighted how the internet has become a new way for young people to gamble, as access is more readily available and the appeal, through loot box games, is increasing.  I believe an important factor in addressing gambling related harm in young people is to educate parents of the dangers of problem gambling and how easy it is for their children to access gambling.  As was mentioned at the conference, problem gambling is a public health concern.  This is why I welcome the work being undertaken in collaboration between GambleAware and the Royal Society for Public Health on young people and gambling. 

Also, another area which I believe will assist in promoting social responsibility and safeguarding vulnerable groups is for the introduction of a compulsory levy for bookmakers to fund GambleAware and their activities to tackle gambling related harm.  Currently, bookmakers contribute just 0.01% of their profits to support research into gambling related harm, which is an outrage and highlights their mind-set when it comes to putting profits before people. I believe they are doing a complete disservice to punters and reneging on their duty to ensure responsible gambling and also addressing gambling related harm.  My views are somewhat echoed by the Minister for Sport and Civil Society, Tracey Crouch MP, who is on record as saying “gambling operators should step up on funding for research, education and treatment.  If not, government will consider other options, including introducing a mandatory levy on gambling operators.  We believe this approach is the necessary action required to protect people and wider communities, whilst also making sure those experiencing harm receive the help they need.”  This is something which I fully support. 

Gambling related harm is an issue which rightly continues to receive more attention and it’s vital the Government continue to listen to the many people and organisations who are highlighting how FOBTs, in particular, are having a detrimental effect on society.  It’s time further action on the areas I’ve outlined above are taken to help both those who have been affected by gambling and to also prevent others who may become problem gamblers.

 

Westminster Brexit power grab

The Scottish Parliament has refused to give its consent to the UK’s main piece of Brexit legislation.

The UK Government must not perform a power grab where powers over devolved competencies are taken away from Scotland. Therefore, repatriated EU powers must return to the Scottish Parliament in areas where it is wholly or partly responsible such as agriculture and fisheries.

Scotland’s interests are best protected by remaining in the Single Market and Customs Union. This is something I will continue to raise at Westminster alongside my colleagues.

 

Further Spending on Trident

The Tory Defence Secretary is today announcing a £1.5bn contract with BAE systems for a new Astute hunter killer submarine as well as contracts worth £960 million for the Dreadnought submarine programme. 

This comes following the House of Common’s public accounts committee’s criticism last week that the Ministry of Defence spending plans were simply “not realistic” and could be more than

With the escalating cost of renewing Trident increasing to over £200 billion, it’s clear this would be a wasteful and reckless spend on a weapons programme which is opposed by the overwhelming majority of parliamentarians in Scotland. 

The money would be far better dispersed via the devolved parliaments which would allow them to target education, health and transport rather than killing innocent men, women and children.                                                                                                               

 

The UK is putting £2.5 billion into its nuclear submarine programme

‘Delivering the defence estate’ – report published by National Audit Office

BBC report – ‘Run-down MoD estate threat to defence, says audit watchdog’

 

Time for Action on Drug Consumption Rooms

Yesterday the Scottish Parliament voted to support plans to introduce the UK’s first safe injection room for drug users in Glasgow. This vote received cross party support with only the Tories voting against it.

As a long term advocate of such a measure I welcome the Scottish Parliament’s support. There is an overwhelming body of evidence to suggest it would not only reduce the spread of HIV and Hepatitis C, but also prevent needles and other drug paraphernalia from being left in public spaces.

However the laws that are needed to allow this facility to operate are reserved to the Westminster Parliament. The UK Government refuses to transfer these powers and by doing so continues to ignore health professionals, former members of law enforcement, addiction services, drugs policy organisations and governments from around the world that have found these facilities to be beneficial to society.

In January 2018 I hosted a parliamentary debate and urged the UK Government to take a more evidence based approach to drugs policy. I was joined by colleagues from across the chamber who agreed that maintaining the failed drug policies of the past is no longer an option.

If the UK Government is unwilling to act then they should forward the relevant powers to Scotland so that we can press ahead with drug consumption facilities similar to those that are already operating in 70 cities across the world.

A Modern Day Witch Hunt

We were once content to direct our bile at innocent individuals and label them witches’ so that we could inflict all manner of horrors on them. Individuals would be identified for a range of trivial reasons and persecuted. After all if someone else is the target then you are safe. Don’t speak up or you will be next. A modest estimate is that tens of thousands of innocent people were killed in this way. Turns out there is no such thing as witches but we never learned any lessons, did we? To think that whole communities would stand back and allow atrocities to be committed in their name because a few powerful and influential individuals were so absorbed with their own self importance, so twisted by power that it suited their purpose. We wouldn’t do that now. Would we?

And yet we continue to marginalise, stigmatise and breed resentment. We fuel distrust and fan the flames of hate. We do it to immigrants in this country just as we have done it to foreign countries in the past. We build fear in the community so we can justify our outrageous bigoted behaviour. We have waged war on Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan. In fact, we have destroyed communities throughout the Middle East  and the continent of Africa. The U.K. empire has been constructing and manipulating wars for centuries. And when the armoury is full we unleash death and destruction on the demonised targets of our own construct. Sometimes the barbaric action conceals the reason. Just like burning witches.

Clyde Life article – April 2018

I was a child in the 1960s and maybe because of that my perspective of cannabis is one of a leafy plant that when the leaves are dried can be smoked to get high. All sorts of hippy connotations spring to mind. Peace, love and transcendental meditation. In-fact the cannabis plant is a form of the hemp plant and there are many variations available. They tend to be graded by the amount of THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol is one of at least 113 cannabinoids identified in cannabis and is the principal psychoactive constituent of cannabis) and CBD (Cannabidiol) that they contain. The balance of THC and CBD determines the effect of the product. People have been smoking cannabis recreationally for centuries and for many years people have been smoking cannabis to relieve pain associated with a range of illnesses including Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease and certain cancers. This has blurred the lines between recreational and medicinal use. I want to concentrate on medicinal cannabis. Today throughout the United Kingdom people purchase cannabis based products, oils, sprays and tablets to help alleviate pain. Products can be purchased from such well known outlets as Amazon. They can be delivered to your door and consumed in the privacy of your own home. There is a legal cannabis-derived prescription drug called Sativex (produced by GW Pharmaceuticals) but it is prohibitively expensive and was found to be ‘not sufficiently effective’ by NICE (The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence). As a result the drug, administered as a spray under the tongue, isn’t available in England and Scotland on the NHS.

But because cannabis is registered as a class B drug under the misuse of drugs act 1971 in the United Kingdom, people buying it or using it are breaking the law and are liable to be prosecuted. The result is that they purchase and consume a product that is not regulated for safety or effectiveness. The outcome can’t be predicted and the cost is entirely at the seller’s discretion.

Medicinal cannabis is legal in 29 of the States of America, Canada, Austria, Czech Republic, France, Spain, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Switzerland and many other countries. The laws and application of these laws vary but the premise is the same, medicinal cannabis provides effective help for people who are suffering. Making it legal is a humane thing to do.

In the United Kingdom there have been some high profile cases where legal cannabis has been sought via permission from the Home Office. Cases including Billy Caldwell and Alfie Dingley. In both these cases young children were suffering seizures which were damaging them. The quantity and severity of these seizures were dramatically decreased through the use of cannabis-derived products. Both families had sought and found such products outside the United Kingdom but could not get access to effective products legally in the United Kingdom. At the time of writing this, Billy’s family have managed to find a doctor that is licensed to and is willing to prescribe THC/CBD and a pharmacist prepared to produce the required medicine. Alfie’s family is still at loggerheads with the Home Office, although they are investigating possibilities. My issue is that there are thousands of Billy’s and Alfie’s. Each with families struggling to find the correct medicines to ease the pain of their loved ones, while knowing that a change in the law would accommodate their needs.

If we were to legalise cannabis for medicinal purposes it would be assessed for quality and effectiveness, it would be designed or tailored to specific illnesses, it would be regulated and taxed.

I am not asking for the law to permit people to grow their own weed just as I don’t advocate people having their own gin production facility in their kitchen. I am asking for a legally regulated business that produces medicine in laboratories from the cannabinoids extracted from commercially grown plants. Each product could be designed for a specific illness and the distribution, prescription and use would be monitored and controlled. The UK Government still maintains there is no therapeutic value attached to medicinal cannabis and yet it grants a licence to British Sugar to grow it and provide the raw product to pharmaceutical companies. The UK Government can no longer continue to ride two horses either it’s effective in which case it must be legalised or it’s not in which case we shouldn’t be growing it and selling it to pharmaceutical companies.

Travel Discount Card for Jobseekers

The Rail Delivery Group’s initiative, on behalf of train companies, is raising awareness about a travel discount card that helps lower the cost of finding work.

The Jobcentre Plus Travel Discount Card is available to eligible people in Scotland who have been out of work for 12 weeks or longer.  It offers jobseekers a 50% discount on train fares as they travel to interviews, to the Jobcentre or to and from training, for up to three months at a time.

Nationally, between March 2017 and March 2018, 518,822 discounted journeys were made by jobseekers, with 3708 jobseeker journeys being taken using the discount card’s benefits in Inverclyde.

In addition to the Jobcentre Plus Travel Discount Card, ScotRail also offers a Jobseeker scheme.  Under this scheme, they offer the jobseeker up to 2 free tickets a month for travel to interviews and a free monthly season ticket once the jobseeker secures work.

 

The Jobcentre Plus Travel Discount Card: The card provides discounts of 50% on Anytime Day tickets, Off Peak Day tickets, and Season tickets up to three months in duration. The card is valid on all British train operator services and can be used to purchase tickets online, including National Rail Enquiries, at ticket machines and ticket offices. 

 

Jobcentre Plus Travel Discount Card eligibility: To be eligible for the discount card, one of the following criteria must be satisfied:  

i.          Claiming Jobseekers Allowance or Universal Credit AND are aged 18-24 and have been unemployed for 13-39 weeks

ii.         Claiming Jobseekers Allowance or Universal Credit AND are 25 or over and have been unemployed for 13-52 weeks

iii.         Claiming Incapacity Benefit, Employment & Support Allowance or Income Support AND are actively engaged with an advisor in returning to employment

4.         Journey data: we hold information about the number of passenger journeys made using the discount card from between 4 February 2017 and 2 February 2018. Please enquire for sub-regional data.

 

Campaign to Support Alfie Dingley

The UK government stance is that they do not acknowledge the therapeutic value of cannabis and yet the UK is the biggest producer and exporter of legal cannabis for medical and scientific use, in the world.

It has been proven that using medical cannabis can be more effective and drastically cheaper than the current prescription drugs. As the acceptance and use spreads across the world ,it is time the UK government changed the law. Granting exemptions one at a time to the most high profile cases will not satisfy the need.

Thousands of people across the UK with a range of conditions could benefit from medical cannabis and it is time the UK government acknowledged that and acted accordingly.