Antisemitism in the UK

Debate between Ronnie Cowan and Chris Philp
Monday 19th February 2024

(1 week, 6 days ago)

Commons Chamber
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Ronnie Cowan Portrait Ronnie Cowan (Inverclyde) (SNP)
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I thank the Minister for advance sight of his statement. The sharp rise in antisemitism and Islamophobia in the UK is extremely concerning, and the SNP extends our heartfelt sympathies to victims of antisemitism and all forms of hate crime.

In today’s statement, I see references to “funding to bolster security”, “caught and punished”, “the full force of the law”, and “a maximum of 14 years in prison and/or an unlimited fine”, none of which I disagree with in any way, shape or form. We need to implement the law robustly. However, I am a bit concerned that there is only one line in the statement that talks about education. It says that £7 million of funding will be delivered “in education”, but I would like it to say “through education”, because surely we can eradicate antisemitism through education. Through incarceration, it becomes a lot harder.

Part of Scotland’s strength is our diversity. We value Scotland’s Jewish communities and other faith and belief communities. We recognise the important role that they play in making Scotland a safer, stronger and more inclusive society in which everyone can live in peace and work to realise their potential. In June 2017, the Scottish Government formally adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of antisemitism. Formally adopting the IHRA definition demonstrates the Scottish Government’s determination that there should be no place in Scotland for any form of antisemitism or religious hatred that makes our communities feel insecure or threatened in their daily lives.

The Scottish Government’s recently published hate crime strategy sets out their strategic priorities for tackling hate crime, including antisemitism. It was informed by the communities with lived experiences of hate crime. It makes a number of commitments, including ensuring improved support for victims, improving data and evidence, and developing effective approaches to preventing hate crime. If I have one ask of the Minister, it is to reconsider how much money we are putting into educating people, so that we can all eradicate this heinous crime.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
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The hon. Gentleman asks about education. I made it clear in my earlier remarks that, in the autumn statement on 22 November, the Government announced a further £7 million of funding to help tackle antisemitism in education and ensure that support is in place for schools and colleges. In addition to that—since he asks about education—on 5 November the Department for Education announced a five-point plan to protect Jewish students on university campuses, which included a call for visas to be withdrawn from international students who incite racial hatred, asking vice-chancellors to act decisively against staff and students involved in antisemitism, and meeting the Office for Students, the independent regulator, to find out what more it can do to make it clear that antisemitism and racial hatred incited on campuses should be referred to the police, and to explore an antisemitism charter in higher education. I accept the point that education at school and universities is important, but that is an area where the Department for Education is taking a lot of action in England. I would certainly urge the devolved Administrations in Wales and Scotland to do the same.

Dangerous Drugs

Debate between Ronnie Cowan and Chris Philp
Tuesday 12th September 2023

(5 months, 3 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
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Yes, I can provide that assurance. I will expand on this later, but those who are using nitrous oxide for legitimate purposes, which includes the catering industry, the dental sector, research and even semiconductor manufacture, will be outside the scope of these restrictions.

The hon. Gentleman touched on the control of harmful drugs more generally. It is important to control harmful drugs, particularly where they are very addictive and cause health harms. We have seen in cities in North America that have liberalised their drug laws substantially, such as San Francisco, Portland and some Canadian cities, that it has resulted in widescale public health problems.

Ronnie Cowan Portrait Ronnie Cowan (Inverclyde) (SNP)
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I knew that the Minister was going to bring up Portland at some point. There has been a clarion call to the extreme right wing to clamp down on drug policies, but we have to look at Portland in its entirety. Yes, it decriminalised drugs, but it also cut back all its support services drastically and had a fentanyl crisis at exactly the same time. That created a perfect storm for the damage that has been done there. We would not want to undermine some of the good work that has been done there as well.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
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Well, if we look at the centre of San Francisco at the moment, it is not a very happy sight. The de facto decriminalisation of drugs and, indeed, the failure to police certain criminal offences such as shoplifting has led to disastrous outcomes, and I am determined that we do not see the same in our jurisdiction. I do accept that treatment is very important, which is why we are investing all that extra money in treatment.

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between Ronnie Cowan and Chris Philp
Monday 3rd July 2023

(8 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Ronnie Cowan Portrait Ronnie Cowan (Inverclyde) (SNP)
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2. Whether her Department has had recent discussions with the industrial hemp industry on licensing.

Chris Philp Portrait The Minister for Crime, Policing and Fire (Chris Philp)
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The hon. Gentleman will recall that the two of us met just a few weeks ago, on 17 May, together with industry representatives, to discuss hemp licensing. I thank him for taking the time and trouble to organise that meeting. As he knows, there is a light-touch process for licensing industrial hemp. Since 2013, the number of hemp licences has increased from six to 134.

Ronnie Cowan Portrait Ronnie Cowan
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I recollect the conversation well. We have an opportunity within the UK to grow hemp on an industrial scale and so feed many growing industries that use hemp to produce environmentally friendly products. The growth of these industries has been hampered by overly complicated regulations and a poor application process. Meanwhile, foreign companies are racing ahead in this arena. To protect UK farmers and encourage UK industry, will the Minister consider giving the licensing process over to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and making the process farmer friendly?

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
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It is, of course, important to make sure that UK industry can compete globally, and a light-touch regulatory framework is important in that. We should be aware that some parts of the plant contain high levels of THC—tetrahydrocannabinol—and do need regulation, which is the Home Office’s concern. I will be meeting DEFRA colleagues in the near future to make sure that our approach to regulation is as light-touch as possible, because, like him, I want to see our domestic industry flourish and I do not want any excessive regulation.

--- Later in debate ---
Chris Philp Portrait The Minister for Crime, Policing and Fire (Chris Philp)
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As I said in response to an earlier question, the Government intend to consult in due course on a new police funding formula, and part of that consultation will involve looking at the factors that should be taken into account. Those might include things such as population and crime levels, but things such as rurality, sparsity and seasonality, particularly seasonal tourism, are likely to form part of the new formula. I encourage Members across the House to engage closely with that consultation when it comes forward, to ensure that those factors are properly accounted for.

Ronnie Cowan Portrait Ronnie Cowan (Inverclyde) (SNP)
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T5. I refer Members to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests. In recent weeks, the media have carried stories of patients who were receiving medical cannabis on private prescriptions, and who are now having their prescriptions paid for by the NHS. On the surface that is a great leap forward, but parents of children with intractable epilepsy who have been asking for such things for years are still being ignored. Will the Home Office consider reopening the 2018 licensing scheme to enable those children who are already being privately prescribed medical cannabis to have access to it via their NHS GP?

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between Ronnie Cowan and Chris Philp
Monday 20th March 2023

(11 months, 2 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Chris Philp Portrait The Minister for Crime, Policing and Fire (Chris Philp)
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My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Police and crime commissioners, particularly the one in the west midlands, should visit all parts of their patch. I was also rather concerned to hear that the Labour PCC in the west midlands is formulating plans to close up to 20 police stations, despite having received a 10% increase in funding over recent years, which I think is pretty shocking.

Ronnie Cowan Portrait Ronnie Cowan (Inverclyde) (SNP)
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On the back of last week’s Budget, I made a speech about industrial hemp. The industry is telling me that it can create 105,000 jobs and pay £1 billion in tax if it is allowed to grow—pun intended. I will be writing to the Minister to explain this in detail, but it would be really helpful if I could sit down with the relevant Minister and industry representatives so they can make their case.

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between Ronnie Cowan and Chris Philp
Thursday 24th March 2022

(1 year, 11 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Ronnie Cowan Portrait Ronnie Cowan  (Inverclyde) (SNP)
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T2.   The gambling industry currently makes a voluntary contribution to the cost of the education, health support and research required to address gambling-related harm. The then Secretary of State, the right hon. and learned Member for Kenilworth and Southam (Jeremy Wright), said in 2019 that“the Government reserve the right to pursue a mandatory route…if a voluntary route does not prove effective.”—[Official Report, 2 July 2019; Vol. 662, c. 1072.]In other words, the 2019 voluntary agreement is conditional on its being effective. With the gambling review imminent, how do we know whether the current voluntary contribution is effective?

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
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I pay tribute to the hon. Gentleman for his tireless campaigning on this issue. We are very conscious of the debate on the voluntary levy and the effectiveness of treatment. I have met and discussed this with clinicians such as Dr Matt Gaskell from the Leeds gambling centre and, of course, Dr Henrietta Bowden-Jones from the London clinic. I assure the hon. Gentleman that his question is under active consideration.

Jack Ritchie: Gambling Act Review

Debate between Ronnie Cowan and Chris Philp
Monday 21st March 2022

(1 year, 11 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Chris Philp Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (Chris Philp)
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I congratulate the hon. Member for Sheffield Central (Paul Blomfield) on securing this important and moving debate, inspired by a young man, Jack Ritchie, whose life was tragically lost as a result of gambling addiction. I join him in paying tribute to Jack’s brave and determined parents, Liz and Charles, who as he says are with us this evening and whom I have had the privilege of meeting on at least three occasions since becoming the Minister responsible in this area, about six months ago, for their campaigning and work to bring something constructive and positive from their son’s tragic death. They have pursued their campaign with great vigour and have succeeded in getting the attention of Government and Parliament, as this evening’s debate clearly demonstrates.

The coroner’s report into Jack’s tragic death is very powerful, and I will turn to its contents in a moment. Clearly, the coroner’s report lays out, as the hon. Member said very eloquently and powerfully, a number of inadequacies and failings. I have in front of me a copy of the coroner’s Regulation 28 report, which says that

“the system of regulation in force at the time of his death did not stop Jack gambling at a point when he was obviously addicted to gambling.”

That was a point that the hon. Member cited in his speech. The second point that it makes, under its section “Matters of Concern” says:

“The warnings Jack received were insufficient to prevent him gambling.”

The record of inquest, a separate document, says:

“The evidence was that gambling contributed to Jack’s death.”

It makes it very clear that there was a link between the two.

I thank the senior coroner for the South Yorkshire West area, David Urpeth, for the time and trouble that he took in preparing this thoughtful report and in writing to us. He said in his report:

“I issue this preventing future death report in the hope that Government finds the concerns raised informative and of assistance, especially at a time they are considering the whole issue of gambling and its regulation.”

We do find the report informative and of assistance, and I am grateful to the coroner, to the family, Liz and Charles, and to everyone who played a part in that inquest for their work in bringing this report to the attention of the House and to the attention of Government.

It is worth putting it on record that there have been some positive changes since 2017, but, clearly, these do not go far enough. Just for the record, it is worth emphasising what those changes are. Clearly, this House voted a couple of years ago, after a powerful public campaign, to reduce the stake on fixed odds betting terminals—the B2 machines—from £100 down to £2 because of the overwhelming evidence that they were causing and fuelling gambling addiction. Gambling on credit cards has now been banned, online slot games have been made safer by design, the age limit for the National Lottery has been increased to 18, and there are tighter restrictions on the VIP scheme. In addition, there are currently two, about to be five, and there will be 15 gambling addiction treatment clinics funded by the NHS long-term plan, but, as I will say in a moment, these measures are not enough by a long chalk and we need to go further.

Ronnie Cowan Portrait Ronnie Cowan
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I welcome all those measures, but the Government have brought every single one of them to the table kicking and screaming. They have all been from pressure groups outside looking in and saying, “You must change this.” What I want to see is the Government leading by example, particularly when it comes to the entire review of the Gambling Act 2005.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
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I thank the hon. Member for his intervention. I hope that he has heard me speak on these topics relatively frequently, including just a week or two ago, and I hope that he will gather from those comments that he has heard me make—families will say the same thing, as I have spent time with many families over the past few months—that there will not be any kicking or screaming required when it comes to the Gambling Act review, which is now imminent. The evidence that we have seen, including from this coroner’s report and from many other sources, makes the case that we need to go significantly further to make sure that people are appropriately protected.

As Members will appreciate, I cannot pre-announce all the proposals on which we are working that will form part of the White Paper, the Gambling Act review. Clearly, a great deal has changed in the 17 years since 2005 when that Act was passed, not least the explosion of internet gambling, which was not really a phenomenon back in 2005. Since then though, it has exploded. It now represents about half of all gross gambling yield. The nature of the online games, the fact that people can access them 24/7, the fact that frequency of play is very high, and the look and feel of some of the features make them significantly more risky than other forms of gambling, such as gambling in person at a racecourse, playing bingo or playing the National Lottery. All those things can be addictive, but the online games have a much higher risk.

Of course, when the 2005 Act was conceived, that was not appreciated or understood, but it is appreciated and understood now. That is why the gambling review will take the significant additional steps needed to protect people like Jack and to protect everybody who is gambling. We want to be proportionate in taking those steps—we do not want to prevent people who want to gamble on a leisure basis from doing so or put unreasonable obstacles in the way—but we do need to take action.

Another piece of evidence we should all consider in making the case for action is that of the failures being committed today by gambling operators. For example, just a couple of weeks ago one of the major operators —I think it was 888—was fined £9.4 million by the Gambling Commission for a series of failures. Those failures included allowing someone to lose £37,000—not to gamble £37,000, but to lose it—in a very short space of time without any checks or intervention. Obviously, that is an unaffordable amount for almost anybody. It also allowed an NHS worker to have a loss limit set at approximately 90% of their monthly salary.

There was another case where a gentleman was eventually jailed, I think, because he had stolen £15 million to fund a gambling addiction. How can it be possible that someone can be allowed to lose £15 million without appropriate checks? It is just absurd. A further fine was levied against a major gambling operator, which I think was owned as part of the Flutter Entertainment group, which had sent marketing material actively promoting gambling products and promotions to recovering addicts.

Ronnie Cowan Portrait Ronnie Cowan
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The Minister is correct to point out that 888 was fined £9.4 million for its tardiness, but the point behind this is that the operators decide what rules they implement, because they are governed by their own body, the Gambling Commission, which they fund. 888 is a gambling firm—a bookmaker. It will have weighed up the odds: “Fine me £9 million? I’m making £29 million. I’m making £200 million. If you’re going to fine me £9 million for breaking the rules, I’ll do that anyway.” 888 is a bookie. That is what it does.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
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I thank the hon. Gentleman for his intervention. The reason I highlighted those failings was to make the point that proportionate reform is needed. I agree with him that it is no good the Gambling Commission’s identifying some of those cases after the event—and it by no means identifies all of them; these are just the cases it finds. They are just the tip of the iceberg. The fact that these examples were found after the event is further evidence of the need for appropriate reform. It needs to be proportionate, as I say, but reform is needed.

One area where we can go is using data. I mentioned that online gambling is one of the areas that carry higher risk, unlike betting at a racecourse, for example, which carries a risk, but a significantly lower one. Data should and will enable the Gambling Commission to do a much better job at identifying what the operators are really doing and getting a complete picture of whether they are intervening when people’s gambling patterns of behaviour indicate that there is a problem, which clearly did not happen in Jack Ritchie’s case.

I take the point about the single customer view that the hon. Member for Sheffield Central made. We are watching that extremely carefully and will be commenting further on that in the White Paper. I also take his points about timing and about the need for it to be effective and appropriately overseen and governed.

I also take the hon. Gentleman’s point about the importance of affordability checks. They need to be proportionate and pitched at the right level, but they have a really important role in making sure that some of the situations that I have mentioned, and situations like Jack Ritchie’s, do not occur. The data is available if operators properly use it and if the Gambling Commission has proper access to it to deliver that result. That should be a very significant area of attention in the Gambling Act review that is coming up very shortly.

I repeat my thanks to the hon. Gentleman for convening this debate and for speaking so powerfully and eloquently on this topic. I look forward to working with him, with the shadow Minister and with other colleagues across the House on this issue, which I think commands cross-party support. As we seek to reform our country’s gambling legislation through the review, we do so with cases like Jack Ritchie’s in mind. I know that all of us in this House will be profoundly and powerfully conscious of our duty and our obligation to protect young people like Jack Ritchie and many, many others to make sure that we learn the lessons from his tragic death and so protect our fellow citizens. I conclude by saying once again how grateful we all are for the campaigning and courage of Charles and Liz in bringing this important issue to the attention of the Government and of the House.

Question put and agreed to.

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between Ronnie Cowan and Chris Philp
Thursday 10th February 2022

(2 years ago)

Commons Chamber
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Ronnie Cowan Portrait Ronnie Cowan (Inverclyde) (SNP)
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T3. This Sunday I shall be taking part in a walk with members of The Big Step to highlight the issue of gambling advertising in football. The campaign recognises the harm that gambling does every single day, and the part that football advertising plays in grooming children and normalising gambling among adults. With a gambling Bill seemingly getting further and further away, are there any measures that will be in the final Act that could be implemented now, rather than waiting to dot every i and cross every t? Will the Secretary of State meet me and other members of the all-party parliamentary group for gambling related harm to discuss the matter further?

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
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I thank the hon. Member for his question and for the meetings that we have had with the hon. Member for Swansea East (Carolyn Harris) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Chingford and Woodford Green (Sir Iain Duncan Smith). He is right to raise this serious issue, as people are suffering harm from gambling addiction. The review is getting very close now—he will not have to wait much longer—and the issues that he is raising will be squarely addressed. I am happy to meet him and the other members of the APPG at any time; if they just get in touch, we would be happy to organise a meeting.

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between Ronnie Cowan and Chris Philp
Thursday 18th November 2021

(2 years, 3 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Ronnie Cowan Portrait Ronnie Cowan (Inverclyde) (SNP)
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The actions of Football Index can only be described as scandalous. The Scottish National party called for an inquiry, and that has been delivered. Can the Minister guarantee that the actions the Government take as a result of the inquiry will ensure that such shameful behaviour by the gambling firms will never be repeated?

Chris Philp Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (Chris Philp)
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I thank the hon. Member for his question. We are taking this very seriously. As I said on an earlier question, a detailed review by a QC is being conducted already to make sure that the regulatory action—whether by the Gambling Commission or, in different circumstances, the FCA—is appropriate. It is important that these gambling firms are looked at very carefully, and it is our intention that the Gambling Commission do that.