FOBTs

Despite the UK government’s best efforts to bury the announcement today, I welcome the government’s climbdown in finally confirming that it will bring forward the implementation date on FOBTs to April 2019.

This is an issue that I and others have campaigned on for a number of years as we believe it’s an important step in reducing gambling related harm.

The cross party campaign to reduce the maximum unit stake on these machines has listened to the evidence and testimonies of individuals and loved ones who, for some, have lost everything to gambling addiction.

The UK government has finally come to its senses and listened to the growing chorus of calls to act now, not later.

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Responsible Gambling Week

Responsible Gambling Week involves every major operator in the UK and Ireland, with more than 127,000 staff taking part at over 11,000 gambling venues and online sites and is backed by gambling charities. Tips about keeping gambling safe are being shared with customers and those who need specialist help are being referred to the charity GambleAware.

In my role as vice-chair of the All-party parliamentary group (APPG) on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals I have become more aware of the prevalence of gambling in our communities through increased television advertising of bookmakers and the ease of gaining online access to betting.

Supporting Responsible Gambling Week is an important step in highlighting tips about keeping gambling safe are being shared with customers and those who need specialist help are being referred to the charity GambleAware.

If anyone is feeling their gambling is getting out of hand and suffering gambling related harm then please visit www.BeGambleAware.org or contact the National Gambling Helpline on 0808 8020 133.

 

UK Parliament Week

UK Parliament Week is a UK-wide festival taking place from 12-18 November, which aims to engage people, especially young people, from different backgrounds and communities, with the UK Parliament and empower them to get involved.

UK Parliament Week is part of the UK Parliament’s Vote 100 programme, celebrating equal voting rights and other milestones in the UK’s democratic history. A record high of 32% women MPs were elected to the House of Commons in 2017’s General Election. There is further to go in encouraging diversity; UK Parliament invites people of all backgrounds to have a say in their democracy.

As Member of Parliament for Inverclyde I welcome the involvement of people in the area during UK Parliament Week 2018. I am determined to ensure that our voters and citizens of tomorrow understand how vital their participation is in our democracy, and I’m excited to see so many Inverclyde schools, Girlguides, Scouts and local groups taking part.

In 2017, UK Parliament Week reached more than 360,000 people, with over 4,500 events. This year’s UK Parliament Week festival is the largest ever and will see more than 7,000 registered events with over 500,000 people taking part. Participating organisations include Scouts, Girlguiding, and the British Youth Council.

I look forward to visiting Inverclyde schools and speaking to our young people about democracy and the role of an MP.

UK Budget – afterthoughts

On Monday at Westminster we had the UK Budget. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond MP, spoke for just over an hour laying out his financial vision for the United Kingdom. The red book goes into more detail and is available immediately after he concludes speaking. Along with the red book there are a number of other conventions that accompany the budget. The speaker does not attend, instead the deputy speaker is in charge. The speaking order is always, Chancellor, Leader of the opposition, Chair of the finance committee, third party leader. During these speeches interventions are not sought. The latter convention was lost on the Scottish Tories and some of their more senior backbenchers who harangued Ian Blackford MP throughout his speech. Normally one would expect the Tory party whips to be moving among the green benches explaining the process and maintaining party discipline. They were noticeably absent on this occasion. It’s not the first time that an SNP speaker has been disrespected in the House of Commons and I am sure it won’t be the last. In a place that prides itself in its capacity for deference and civility it is extraordinary that it can have such a lack of self awareness when its wants to. But the lack of respect shown to the SNP is nothing compared to the appalling attitude that successive U.K. Governments have shown to the Women Against State Pension Inequality (WASPI) campaign. Since 1997 Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition, Conservative and now Conservative propped up by DUP, have ignored the plight of these woman fighting against state pension inequality. Their protest in the public chamber was born out of understandable frustration and anger. Yet another budget and yet again they are dismissed by the financial mandarins. I was pleased to hear from the Chancellor that the U.K. Government would be moving away from the ruinous PFI schemes that Labours Gordon Brown inflicted on us. It’s good to see the U.K. Government follow the SNP Scottish Government’s lead after we changed the finance model in 2007. And in that vein it was also good to hear that business rates would be reduced, another SNP Scottish government initiative. The Tories may make great play of not listening to the SNP in the House of Commons but even they occasionally recognise good policy when they see it. If only they could see the error of their ways in rolling out the flawed Universal Credit scheme. Another budget comes and goes. A few shiny baubles have been produced and a few back benchers placated but the big picture remains one of Brexit chaos and a Conservative party at war with itself. They shout at the SNP opposition at Westminster and the SNP government at Holyrood but the real anger and bitterness, the true vitriol and venom is reserved for their own inner party career defining battles and that does not serve any of the constituent parts of the United Kingdom well.

UK Budget

After a decade, Tory austerity is far from over and we must see an end to cuts which by 2020 will have slashed Scotland’s budget by £2.6billion.  In 2019-20 alone, there will be a real-terms cuts of £410 million. 

Universal Credit could cost some households up to £2400 a year and the Child Poverty Action Group estimate that a single parent with a disabled child is set to lose £10,000 this decade.

There was nothing in the Chancellor’s speech to support the 5,700 Inverclyde women affected by state pension inequality or the over 1,000 people who’ve been affected by the Equitable Life scandal.

This budget gives the people of Scotland face a choice of two stark futures – an isolated UK or a prosperous Scotland in the EU.

 

‘The UKs drug policy should be a health issue not a criminal justice one’

Maybe in an ideal world everybody would be so happy and content, so free of stress and anxiety, so confident and assured that there would be no requirement for alcohol or indeed any recreational drugs.

But we are not there and we never have been.

Throughout history for a variety of reasons people have taken drugs.

A hundred years ago, you could buy cocaine, heroin or morphine in pharmacies and department stores.

During the First World War, Harrods sold kits with syringes and tubes of cocaine and heroin “For the boys on the front line”. That was under what was termed the ‘British System’. It was a light touch approach to drug consumption. One of tolerance and treatment.

But in 1971 through the misuse of drugs act criminalisation became the name of the game.

The result has been years of violence, tensions, organised crime and a monumental increase in addiction. 

On the up side, recently we have seen a change in the U.K. Government’s approach to cannabis.

From a stance that said ‘cannabis had no therapeutic value ‘The UK Government have become better informed and with that new knowledge we are progressing towards medical cannabis under prescription in the U.K.

There are many hurdles still to overcome regarding the medical expertise and availability of the correct products. But we are now moving in the right direction.

When it comes to recreational drugs we are still running up against a brick wall.

Last week Canada joined nine states of the USA and Washington D.C. to legalise recreational cannabis. They have taken a different approach in various states regarding age limits. Some Canadian provinces will allow people to grow their own, limiting them to 4 plants, other provinces do not allow home growing. We should be looking to those parts of the world to gather evidence and decide if their approach is beneficial and if we should follow suit.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s comment was particularly pertinent. When he said: “We are not legalising cannabis because we think it’s good for our health. We are doing it because we know it’s not good for our children. We know we need to do a better job to protect our children and to eliminate or massively reduce the profits that go to organised crime.”

For me, that is the mind set we need to adopt.

Canada has the same problems we have but like Portugal and Uruguay and others they have taken a different approach to providing a solution. And it’s not ‘drugs for everybody’ it’s regulate the marketplace to take away the control from the criminals.

In July 2017 the UK Government published its Drugs Strategy.

And they announced they were going to appoint a recovery champion.

A Recovery Champion whose role was defined as someone who “will be responsible for driving and supporting collaboration between local authorities, public employment services, housing providers and criminal justice partners.”

There is still nobody in the role so nobody is coordinating those aspects of the support and recovery programme?

I find myself wondering if there is a U.K. government harm reduction recovery programme.

Before we can take a constructive approach to our drugs policy.

We must acknowledge that of the 10% of users that become problematic users the majority have suffered physical, psychological or sexual abuse.

We must acknowledge that problematic use is higher in areas of social deprivation.

We must accept the responsibility of trying to find solutions and acknowledge our failures.

We need to help people with problematic drug-use, with harm-reduction treatment and wrap-around support.

We should. Have a network of safe drug consumption rooms throughout the U.K.

The emergency services should carry naloxone and be trained in its use.

And most importantly the UKs drug policy should be a health issue not a criminal justice one.

Or

We can continue to criminalise users, driving them into the hands of unscrupulous dealers while ignoring the atmosphere of fear that they live in. And all we will do is marginalise them, stigmatise them and ostracise them.

We have lost the war on drugs.

Our own drugs policy saw to that.

We need to change our mind set and we need to ensure we are in a position to win the peace.

Ronnie Cowan MP

https://www.politicshome.com/news/uk/home-affairs/justice-system/opinion/house-commons/99266/ronnie-cowan-mp-we-have-lost-war

Drugs policy debate

First and foremost the issue of drugs policy should be treated as a health issue rather than the current policy of the UK Government in making it a criminal justice one. 

Every time we lock up a criminal gang and announce to the media that we have seized a large quantity of drugs with a street value of so many millions, what they don’t say is supply was disrupted for an hour or so before another gang claimed the newly available market place.  Often these takeovers involve a spate of violence and they are always maintained by violence and the threat of violence. 

We can continue to criminalise users, driving them into the hands of unscrupulous dealers while ignoring the atmosphere of fear that they live in. And all we will do is marginalise them, stigmatise them and ostracise them.  We have lost the war on drugs.

We need to change our mind set and we need to ensure we are in a position to win the peace.

Drugs policy

On Tuesday, I am leading a debate in Westminster Hall on UK drugs policy and wants to hear your views.

What is the one thing you would change in the current UK drugs policy and why?

Comment on the photo on the House of Commons Facebook page to share your thoughts.