Westminster diary w/b 12th November

Monday

It’s going to be a long night at Westminster but as its U.K. Parliament Week I delay my departure and visit St John’s Primary School in Port Glasgow. The primary six class are well briefed and grill me on all aspects of my role as MP. I jump on a train to Glasgow to attend Citizens Basic Income Stakeholder event.

Then it’s off to the airport. The budget debate is in full swing in the House of Commons and I take the opportunity to intervene and express my concern that the UK Government’s decision to delay the £2 maximum bet on FOBTs may have been influenced by a report by KPMG. The report, as the authors freely admit, was framed by the requirements of the British Bookmakers Association. The debate was followed by votes and I make it back to my flat at midnight.

Tuesday

Today was a strange day even for Westminster. Events and meetings were cancelled, rescheduled and cancelled again as rumours circulated the estate of Prime Minister’s statements and cabinet resignations. Amidst the chaos is was good to sit down with members from the ‘cycle to work alliance’. In Inverclyde the Bothy at Gourock railway station and the Community Tracks scheme are working very hard to provide bikes and routes. The next step is for employers to provide facilities to safety store bikes and changing facilities for employees. It was a privilege to attend the formal launch of ‘Gambling with Lives’. This charity has been set up to help publicise gambling related harm including suicide. It is the brave parents of young men that have committed suicide due to gambling addiction that have started the charity and I will be doing everything I can to help promote their cause.

Wednesday

I met with Steve Brine MP (Parliamentary under-secretary of state for Public Health and Primary Care) to discuss medical cannabis under prescription. It was a private meeting with civil servants in attendance as is the protocol. Mr Brine was very open in his views and I welcome that. He was happy to expand the conversation into other drug policy areas and I shall be looking to progress these matters further with him in the chamber in the near future. One good meeting calls for another and that’s just what happened when I met Kat Banyard to discuss prostitution and the global sex trade.

The imminent Brexit Statement was dominating most folk’s minds and we were promised a statement after PMQs but the timing constantly changed. PMQs lasted longer than it needed to which delayed a written statement that I had been waiting for. It wasn’t the Brexit statement it was the agreement from the U.K. Government to implement the £2 maximum spin on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals in April 2019 and not delay it as they had announce in the budget. Compared to Brexit this will not command many column inches but for those people whose lives have been blighted by these machines it is a very big deal. I am glad to have played my part in making this happen along with Carolyn Harris MP (Labour) and Iain Duncan Smith MP (Conservatives) and from the SNP local colleague Stuart McMillan MSP and Stuart McDonald MP.

Thursday

And so the Brexit statement has been released and as was stated in the chamber during the Statement on the EU exit negotiations, it was dead before it was even read. The Secretary of State for Exiting the EU resigned and more were to follow. Scotland was not mentioned once in the near 600 page document. So much for a family of Nations. The utter contempt that Scotland has been shown during the entire Brexit process reveals the true nature of the U.K. government. After an internal SNP de-briefing I got the 19:30 flight home.

Friday

I visited Inverclyde Academy, Clydeview Academy and Port Glasgow High School to discuss democracy and all things politics with the pupils. This rounded off Parliament Week and I would like to thank all the Inverclyde schools and organisations that took part. If we want to affect change we need be skilled in the ways of politics and Parliament. It is encouraging to see so many young folk taking up that challenge.

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Written question – Cannabis [15/11/2018]

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, whether his Department remains the ministerial lead for the medicinal use of cannabis-based products. (188186)

Tabled on: 05 November 2018

Answer:
Mr Nick Hurd:

The Home Office leads the Government’s policy and legislation on the misuse of drugs, including on the scheduling of substances controlled under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 and associated legislation. The Department of Health and Social Care has responsibility for the safe management and use of medicines in healthcare.

The answer was submitted on 15 Nov 2018 at 17:58.

 

Written question – Welfare [14/11/2018]

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, how many claimants in Inverclyde were in receipt of severe disability premium before transferring to universal credit. (189739)

Tabled on: 09 November 2018

Answer:
Sarah Newton:

The information requested is not collated centrally. This would require the merging of several complex datasets, and could only be provided at disproportionate cost.

The answer was submitted on 14 Nov 2018 at 16:20.

 

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.

Westminster diary w/b 5th November

Monday

Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Select Committee took evidence from the Right Honourable Mark Harper MP. Mark was the Minister responsible for the Fixed Term Parliament Bill and the committee were seeking his insight into how elections can be forced during a fixed term. Next up was the All-party parliamentary group for Catalonia. This was my first opportunity to report back on my visit to Catalonian political prisoners and it was a privilege to have Sergi Marcen attending the meeting. Sergi is the Head of the Delegation of the Catalan Government to the United Kingdom and Ireland. He leads the bilateral relations between Catalonia and the United Kingdom and Ireland, focusing on economic interests, institutional relations, tourism and cultural promotion, as well as, helping the Catalan community living in these countries. I had a quick dash to make the Delegated Legislation on draft building societies legislation. This is another of the jobs that require to be completed before Brexit. They don’t take long but do tie up roughly twenty people.

Tuesday

Early start for the Westminster Hall debate on Reclassification of synthetic cannabinoids. I spoke against the motion as there is a mountain of evidence to suggest that, although it may feel good to lock up problematic drug users, it doesn’t improve the situation for anyone. I went to the drop in for Responsible Gambling Week and was pleased to hear that a number of people agree with me that a statutory levy on bookmakers should be imposed to fund support for those affected by gambling related harm. Following that I attended the All-party parliamentary group on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals. It was particularly pleasing to have Tracey Crouch MP attend after her principled resignation the previous week over the implementation date of the £2 maximum stake. I was in the chamber to support Marion Fellows MPs ten minute rule motion bill for child maintenance changes. The following debate was to mark the hundred years since Armistice Day and the end of the First World War. I dropped in to the Scottish Renewables event and managed to catch-up with a few familiar faces. I caught the 19:30 flight home.

Wednesday

Back in the constituency as Westminster is not sitting for the rest of the week. I had meetings with constituents regarding a range of topics but mostly universal credit. The full role out in Inverclyde continues to cause damage despite the excellent work being done by the DWP and related organisations. In the afternoon I visited the Beacon to meet the writer, producer, musical director and actors from the new production ‘Lena’. The play tells the story of Lena Zavaroni and her path to fame and ultimately untimely death.

Thursday

After catching up with a raft of paperwork in my office I did a question and answer session with pupils at the West College Scotland waterfront campus. A fifteen minute slot expanded to ninety minutes and it was very enjoyable to run through a wide range of subjects with such an engaged audience. And in the afternoon I did a radio interview for a Catalonian based organisation.

Friday

Was solely based around constituents enquiries and I engaged with a range of people on topics from cycling to Palestine. On Saturday, I shall attending Saint Giles Cathedral’s remembrance service as a guest of the French Consul General. That will be followed by a reception and a recital of Claude Debussy’s wartime work. On Sunday I shall be attending the service of commemoration at the Mid Kirk and shall lay wreaths at the Wellpark and the Cross of Lorraine.

Written question – Gambling [09/11/2018]

To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what funding his Department has allocated to (a) support and (b) treat people who indicate they are addicted to gambling or have suffered gambling related harm in (i) 2018-19 and (ii) 2017-18. (186383)

Tabled on: 31 October 2018

Answer:
Steve Brine:

Decisions on the commissioning of effective treatment services are the responsibility of local commissioners, based on an assessment of local need. Information on funding allocated to gambling related services is not held centrally.

There are a range of services available to people with a gambling addiction, details of which can be found on the NHS Choices website at the following link:

www.nhs.uk/Livewell/addiction/Pages/gamblingaddiction.aspx

The answer was submitted on 09 Nov 2018 at 10:26.

 

Tele column 9th November 2018

In every town of Inverclyde we have permanent war memorials to those who died in armed conflict during the First and Second World War. There are many more memorials in clubs, schools and organisations that are specific to smaller more defined group of people. The prevalence of war memorials came to fruition after the ‘Great War’ as it was hoped it would be the war to end all wars. Sadly we were wrong and one hundred years later wars still rage. Their shape and size has changed and fortunately for most of us living in Inverclyde we have never had to experience war at first hand. But continue they do and members of the armed forces continue to pay the ultimate price, often because of incompetent politicians. I recently visited the Heritage Centre on Cathcart Street to view their Armistice Day commemoration that is made from hundreds of handmade poppies and I met teachers and pupils of Inverclyde Academy who have resurrected the war memorial from the old Greenock High School. On Saturday I shall attend a service at Saint Giles cathedral in Edinburgh and on Sunday, amongst other public engagements, I shall lay wreaths at the war memorials in the Wellpark and at the Cross of Lorraine. Each year we, quite correctly, remember those that died but this year we also give thanks that we are commemorating the end of a war. Our community has physically changed a great deal since 1918, a lot of it for the better, but there are still roads and buildings that existed then. Houses that young men left and never returned to. Roads leading out of town and ultimately to the front line in Belgium, France and beyond. And I can only hope that many returned. Imagine the joy on Armistice Day 1918 when peace was declared. How great were the celebrations when serving personnel returned safely home. Commemoration is not just about paying respect to those who fell, it’s about doing everything we can to maintain a peace that they fought for. And that’s not one day or week in November, its everyday of every year. We should never forget and we must always work to ensure that we never repeat the mistakes that led to war and sacrifice.

 

Written question – Child Maintenance [07/11/2018]

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, pursuant to the Answer of 30 October 2018 to Question 182229 on Children: Maintenance, if she will publish those same figures for Inverclyde constituency. (186382)

Tabled on: 31 October 2018

Answer:
Justin Tomlinson:

The number of paying parents with any unpaid maintenance, and the corresponding amount of money outstanding of such unpaid maintenance as of June 2018 for the constituency of Inverclyde are outlined in the table below. This includes all paying parents with unpaid maintenance regardless of whether there is an ongoing maintenance liability.

Number of paying parents with unpaid maintenance Amount of unpaid maintenance (£)
Inverclyde 150 230,000

Paying parents are rounded to the nearest 10; unpaid maintenance is rounded to the nearest £10,000.

The answer was submitted on 07 Nov 2018 at 10:26.