Medical cannabis under prescription

The law was changed for good reason and the public are rightly outraged that the new policy has been introduced in a way that means these medicines are legal, but no-one can get them.  The stories of the families are heart-breaking.  All have been refused access.  Some have been told to go abroad!  Some have even proved that medical cannabis works for their child but have still been blocked. 

I’ve offered them my continuing support and previously met with the Minster for Public Health, Steve Brine MP, to press the UK Government to intervene and break this deadlock. I was pleased to be one of over 100 co-signatories on the letter to Matt Hancock urging him to intervene.

End Our Pain can be contacted on campaign@endourpain.org

 

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Gambling related harm

When we think of harm that can be caused by drugs, alcohol and tobacco we may have very specific ideas of what that harm looks like.

When it comes to gambling, the harm may not be obvious. But it’s there.

The Responsible Gambling Strategy Board (RGSB) propose the following definition of gambling related harm should be used in British policy and practice.

“Gambling-related harms are the adverse impacts from gambling on the health and wellbeing of individuals, families, communities and society. “

Debt incurred from gambling creates instability, insecurity and can lead to bankruptcy and in the extreme, result in criminal activities.

Relationships can be disrupted and often leads to emotional and social isolation. This can lead to mistrust and erodes cohesive relationships.

The consequences can include psychological distress such as feelings of shame, stigma and guilt. Anxiety levels increase, depression and even suicide can be the final outcome.

According to Gambling with Lives, around 4-11% of suicides were related to gambling, the equivalent to 250-620 deaths per year in the UK.

These figures are based on research carried out by Paul Wong, which appeared in the Journal of Affective Disorders (2010) and research from Louis Appleby at the University of Manchester (2017).

The harm is real and it is growing while the research and support is massively underfunded.

Currently the industry pays a voluntary levy which raises around 10 to maybe 14 million pounds a year. That money is used to fund support for problematic gamblers and campaigns to educate and hopefully reduce harm.

The total gross gambling yield for Great Britain between April 2017 and March 2018 was £14.4 billion, a 4.5% increase from the previous year. The annual sum which gambling firms win from their customers has risen by 65% since the Gambling Act 2005 (came into force 2007).

A statutory levy of 1% would guarantee 140 million pounds a year and that sort of money, in the right hands, could do some good.

Additionally, because it is voluntary, the amount raised can vary from year to year and therefore budgeting for long term treatment is extremely precarious.

Let me be clear, I am not asking for financial recompense from gambling companies just to improve their public image.

A sponsorship deal here and a charitable donation there. These are no more than fig leaves to hide their own embarrassment. And they should be embarrassed.

How can you recompense a family that have lost their son? Or a child that has lost their father. I am not asking for token gestures.

I am asking gambling companies to stop doing the damage in the first place. Rather than just asking punters to gamble responsibly, run your organisations responsibly.

And while we are talking about responsible working practices, companies are gathering data pertaining to the habits of online gamblers. And astonishingly they are closing down accounts of people who are successful and winning, even very small amounts, while targeting and encouraging vulnerable gamblers that are losing to continue.

This callous disregard for the welfare of their customers is tantamount to gross negligence.

And where to start when it comes to advertising?

Live televised sporting events are swamped with betting adverts and inducements. The impression is given that the sporting event in its own right is not sufficient entertainment unless we take a punt on the outcome.

And while punters are being encouraged at every turn, the ease with which gamblers can sign up to an online operator is of great concern.

Punters can gamble twenty four seven and 365 days a year. There is no cooling off period.

Credit cards, pay pal accounts and phone accounts are accepted as a means of payment.

To make it perfectly blunt the gambling companies have stacked the odds against the punters and the damage that is being done needs redressed.

 

https://www.politicshome.com/news/uk/culture/opinion/house-commons/102646/ronnie-cowan-mp-gambling-companies-have-callous

Westminster diary w/b 11th March

Monday

I am on the rota for today which means I am there to potentially cover urgent questions and statements or any other business that is brought forward on the day. Therefore, I caught an earlier flight than is sometimes required. There was an Urgent Question from Jeremy Corbyn MP around the EU withdrawal process. I took part in an extremely lively E-petition debate in Westminster Hall. These debates are born out of citizens signing petitions and if a sufficient number is reached then they will be debated. Although the debate was lively it didn’t stop a Conservative and Unionist MP attempting to lecture me on the cowardice of the people Scotland for voting no in the referendum of 2014. I must admit I reacted by banging my head on the table. I had to leave early to attend a delegated legislation (DL) committee for ‘draft licensing of operators and international road haulage’. This is yet another DL committee set up to transfer EU law to UK law in haste before we crash out on the 29th of March.  

Tuesday

The Select Committee on Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs took evidence from academics on ‘authorising the use of military force’. The first two witnesses were legal experts and the second were more political. Historically it would have been the King or Queen who declared war or instigated military action. That was passed by the royal prerogative to the Prime Minister. The UK has taken part in over 60 military interventions since World War Two. The process that has been followed has varied wildly from the decision to intervene in the Suez Crisis to military action in Northern Ireland. I raised my concern over the lack of visibility when it comes to deploying armed forces on UK soil. For more information on that you may wish to attend the Beacon Theatre tonight to see ‘The Battle of George Square’. The Attorney General made a statement in the House on the legal advice around the EU withdrawal bill. I took part in a Westminster Hall debate on online gambling protection. I raised my on-going concerns regarding ‘loot boxes’. I attended the Kidney Research UK launch of their report ‘Kidney health inequalities’. In the evening we debated the proposed deal for leaving Europe and the UK government lost by 149 votes. 

Wednesday

My day started with the Select Committee for Transport. We took evidence from the chairman of HS2 and I took the opportunity to raise the issue of subcontractors not being paid after contracts were cancelled with no prior notice. This matter was brought to me by a constituent. Prime Ministers Question’s saw the PM and Leader of the Opposition go through the motions. The real battle was scheduled for later in the day and would take place in the voting lobbies. The chancellor made his spring statement. It is effectively a mini budget to tweak a few things and was not surprisingly unremarkable. What can a Chancellor do when the U.K. is crashing out of the E.U. in 17 days’ time and potentially crashing the economy? Today was the second day of EU withdrawal vote and we were debating leaving with no deal. After all was said we had three votes. Amendment A was the most contentious. It was in the name of Caroline Spelman (Conservative and Unionist MP) but she tried to withdraw it. She can’t do that. What she really meant was she wouldn’t move it. But what she didn’t seem to realise is that other people with their name on the amendment could move it and they were lining up to do so. It got moved so we voted to rule out a no deal Brexit. The U.K. Government lost the vote by 312 to 308. It was a particularly galling defeat for the government as four cabinet ministers abstained. They had victory in their grasp and as often happens the Conservative and Unionists turned on themselves. The second amendment was to make various provisions for a ‘managed no-deal’ scenario. It was roundly defeated. Another bad day at the office for the U.K. Government.

Thursday

I started my day at International Trade questions as I had a question on the order papers. A number of people stood and asked questions around international trade deals post Brexit that could harm the NHS. I asked for greater transparency of the trading mechanisms. If we learn anything from Brexit is that the U.K. government needs help negotiating. The major debate of the day was to extend article 50. A rash of amendments were put down and six were selected by the speaker, in the end there were five votes and despite having the opportunity to defeat the government and guarantee a people’s vote many Labour MPs abstained and handed victory to the government. A very quick smash to the airport ensued and I caught the 19:30 home.

Friday

A welcome break from the groundhog days of Westminster and I joined a local postman on his rounds. I am used to delivering leaflets for campaigning purposes but the shift the posties put in is on another scale entirely. I was pleased that my next stop was Belville Gardens for soup and a blether. My plum tree is in rude health and I am glad to say is being well looked after. In the afternoon I had street surgeries along with Councillor Jim McEleny.

 

Tele column 15th March 2019

I am writing this at midnight on Tuesday and the latest but not final thrashings of Brexit are just calming down. Nobody was surprised when the Conservative and Unionist United Kingdom Government lost its latest attempt to get a European Union Withdrawal Bill through the House of Commons by a whopping 149 votes. Tomorrow (Wednesday) we will debate the motion to leave without a deal and if that is defeated parliament agree to an extension to Article 50. This will need to be agreed by the European Union. At this point we have 17 days before we are scheduled to leave, we don’t have a deal and the UK Government don’t have a plan. None of this is a surprise. The sheer incompetence of the U.K. Government in dealing with the EU and the devolved administrations is clear for everyone to see. They went into negotiations with a belligerence and arrogance that defies all logic. At the heart of this shambles is the internal ructions of the Conservative and Unionist Party and yet the polling figures show that in England they are ten points ahead of Labour. In Scotland, the SNP is 19 points ahead of Labour. The choice is clear, a U.K. in the control of an incompetent broken Conservative and Unionist Party or an independent Scotland in the European Union.

Written question – Brexit [13/03/2019]

To ask the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, whether the UK will (a) work with and (b) provide funding to Eurostat after the implementation period or in the event that the UK leaves the EU without a deal. (229797)

Tabled on: 07 March 2019

Answer:
Chris Heaton-Harris:

Under the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement the UK Government will continue to work closely with and contribute data to Eurostat during the Implementation Period. The nature of the statistical relationship we have with the EU beyond the Implementation Period will be decided as part of the future relationship negotiations.

The answer was submitted on 13 Mar 2019 at 11:13.