Saturday, 25 July 2015



I have recently commented on historic and well documented poor health statistics for Hyndburn which have been reported on in the local press. 

People are dying unnecessarily - or suffering chronic ill health as a result - from smoking, heavy drinking, fatty food and sugar. People are being hoodwinked into the attractiveness or cheapness of these products. 

What hurts me personally is seeing parents in supermarkets with cheap fatty food whilst purchasing cigarettes and or alcohol. Moralising isn't the answer but tackling the food and drink industry is. However we have weak prime minister who is unable and unwilling to do anything about it. 

35 Swanage Road
London SW18 2DZ
Tel: 07769 745281

Dear Mr Jones,

Over the last twenty years, wine has become ever stronger. As a 2011 study of 80,000 wines from across the globe by the American Association of Wine Economists reveals, the average bottle was around 10% more alcoholic in 2011 than in 1992.

It's a big shift. And while the reasons behind it might be understandable - climate change with warmer, sunnier countries making wine, improvements in technology and viticulture - that doesn't mean they are desirable - or unavoidable. 

Another consequence of stronger wines is to be seen in British waistlines. According to UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, one in four Brits is obese; three times as many as 50 years ago. Approximately 10% of the calories consumed by the average adult comes from alcohol. Two large pub glasses of 14.5% red wine represent around a sixth of the the ideal calorie intake for the average male.

Recent research for Sainsbury's suggests that 85% of consumers are unaware of the number of calories in a glass of wine, while a YouGov study revealed that over half the respondents thought a glass of wine contained a third less calories than it did.

The tide is changing however. A growing number of British wine drinkers are increasingly aware and concerned about the ever-increasing strength of their favourite tipple. In a recent survey conducted by Wine Intelligence among UK wine drinkers, 40% of the respondents said that alcohol level is an important influence on their purchase, up from 28% in 2010. Two in three respondents to the Sainsbury's study would like to see calorie labelling on alcohol; 62% say they limit their consumption for health reasons and 44% include reduced drinking when trying to manage their weight.

The Healthy Drinking Alliance is a new lobbying body, aiming to increase awareness of the wide range of alcoholic strengths and calorie contents in wine and alcoholic beverages in general. Among its aims is the introduction of a three-tiered duty rate on wine that rewards producers making wine at a lower level of alcohol and penalises their high-strength peers.

We believe this will incentivise wine producers to move towards wines with more moderate alcohol levels, and encourage consumers - who are already warm to the idea - to drink them. We will be in regular contact with Parliament, the EU and the national media to get behind the idea because we think it's a sensible way of moderating our country's alcohol consumption, and one that will have a positive impact on two major health issues. 

A14% ABV wine has almost 100 calories more per bottle than the same wine at 12% ABV (626kCal against 542kCal). Drop the alcohol further to 8.5% and there are fewer than 400kCal in a bottle. 

Even more significant is the role that a lowering of ABV could have in addressing alcohol related health issues. This is not a way of combating extreme problem drinkers (over 50/35 units per week for men/women) but it can have a significant impact on groups of people who regularly go beyond their weekly and daily limits without even realising it. 

The Office for National Statistics estimates that a third of men, and a fifth of women, between the ages of 25 and 64 regularly surpass their approved unit intake - probably because wine is stronger than it used to be. A man, for instance, can drink two standard glasses of wine at 12% ABV and be within his daily alcohol limit of four units. But two glasses of 14.5% ABV wine - at five units - will put him over. 

Lowering the strength of wine by a few percentage points, in other words, can be an effective way of helping the population to lead healthier lives, without resorting to the controversial issue of minimum pricing.

As well as a nudge towards lower alcohol, the HDA intends to push for a more effective labelling system.

The last government's Alcohol Strategy (published March 2012) admitted that, despite years of efforts, the public's comprehension of alcohol units was still poor. We believe there is room for an easy-to-undertand, medically robust system that will quickly and easily allow the public to make a more informed choice.

We will be sending you further details about this in the autumn, but our ambition is to create a system that could be adopted across all alcohol products, Europe-wide. 

So, a better- informed population, willingly choosing healthier products and living more active, balanced lives as a result with zero cost - indeed a financial benefit - to the country as a whole.

We think this is a laudable and achievable aim, and while we will be in regular contact over the next 12 months, we would welcome any feedback from you now. 

Yours sincerely, 

Peter Darbyshire.

The Healthy Drinking Alliance - Company number 9636314
Registered Office: Devonshire House, 582 Honeypot Lane, Stanmore, Middlesex HA7 1JS

Thursday, 23 July 2015

FOBTs: The SNP are abandoning working class communities

I recently wrote to Scotland’s First Minister about the SNP’s duplicity on FOBTs and problem gambling. Empty SNP rhetoric simply doesn’t match their inactions In a strongly worded response to my letter raising concerns about the SNP’s approach to dealing with betting shop clustering and Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs), Nicola Sturgeon claimed that I am “entirely wrong” to assert they are doing too little.

Obviously a little sensitive on this issue, she claimed that rather than not doing enough, the opposite is the case for the SNP, even though the Scottish Executive have “very limited powers available”.

We saw in the Scotland Bill that there has been an SNP capitulation (to the Tories)from their rhetoric in their Smith Commission submission, their manifesto and communiques. The SNP sought to table no substantial amendments to Tory policy. An acceptance that the Tory policy - through the SNP - is best for Scotland. Labour tabled substantial amendments that not only fulfilled those unmet SNP manifesto commitments but substantially strengthened Scottish devolved powers to deal with FOBTs.

The SNP claim Scotland has too few powers but if that is true, why did they table no substantial amendments to the Scotland Bill. The SNP claim that Scotland doesn’t have powers to deal with FOBTs but that’s a convenient untruth.

In the area of planning policy and regulation, the Scottish Executive have full authority. Last year, hot on the heels of a Westminster government consultation for England and Wales on the issue of planning and betting shops, the SNP launched their own Scottish consultation. Both proposals similarly concluded that betting shops should return to a “sui generis” class thus ensuring all proposed new betting premises would be required to seek a planning consent.

The proposal under the Scottish consultation was to remove the word “betting offices” from the current A2 use class category and transfer them to a category for “undefined use” along with amusement arcades, pubs and hot food takeaways. This was backed by Labour run Glasgow City Council which has the highest number of betting shops of anywhere in the UK.

Then in February this year came the sudden announcement by SNP ministers that they wouldn’t be seeing the consultation proposal through – it was dropped and so betting shops in Scotland would continue to open in any premises they wished with no consideration under planning consent. This was contradictory to the promises of Derek Mackay, the former SNP local government minister, said in 2014 that the Scottish government would change planning legislation to prevent the proliferation of betting shops and pay day loan shops. The SNP Scottish Government consultation proposed to do just that and Scotland has the devolved powers to implement this aspect of legislation, but didn’t. 

Whilst Scotish Labour was standing up for oridnary people and for Scotland – the SNP have hidden behind the Tories in Westminster.

Nicola Sturgeon is wrong to say they have taken action within the “limited powers” available to them, as the SNP have taken no action in the one area they already have full autonomy.

Sturgeon’s empty rhetoric has instead focused on an irrelevant piece of regulation to defend SNP wider inaction. The First Minister relates “action” to the very limited, bureaucratic and costly powers contained under Article 4 direction, which allows councils, subject to 12 months’ notice (or pay compensation), to implement an exclusion of new betting premises (A2) within a designated area. A small number of councils in England have tried this and the Local Government Association has said it doesn’t go far enough. Not least because in areas where this has been tried, there has been an influx of betting shop applications in the 12 month notice period.

As it stands now the Scotland Bill will allow the Scottish Government to vary the number of machines where the maximum stake is more than £10.00 but not the numbers on race tracks or at sporting events.

The question being asked in the boardrooms of the major betting chains, prompted by the proposals under the Smith Commission, is: how many FOBTs will the SNP allow bookmakers to have?

Will the power to set a limit be devolved to licensing authorities? Surely there has to be a centrally set number per premises to avoid such devolved powers becoming strategically incoherent? Some of these questions will be answered under the proposed consultation launched by Holyrood last week.
The SNP’s inaction and acceptance of Tory policies and Tory agenda is somewhat inexplicable. Despite denials of donations from betting operators, it is no secret that the family of one senior betting industry figure has assisted their independence campaign financially, whilst understanding some of their more of their direct donations is more difficult.

My amendments proposed for the Scottish Bill address areas of real concern emanating from betting shops and FOBTs, beyond those of just machine numbers but these amendments were not supported by the SNP at committee stage. What the SNP fail to recognise is that the speed and intensity of play at 20 seconds per spin, the addictive content when linked to maximum stakes of £100 are toxic and socially damaging. Given Nicola Sturgeon is keen to assert that the SNP are seeking powers to take “effective action” that Scotland would like to take maybe the SNP will backing my amendments to report stage of the Scotland Bill?

The current SNP & Tory position on the Scotland Bill of setting “stakes above £10” stake threshold to identify the machines that will fall under new devolved powers is a shortsighted SNP view that fails that is a capitulation to the Tories and and abandonment of working class communities.

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Fwd: The government's rejection of Newham Council's submission under the SCA

Dear Graham Jones,


As you may be aware, on Thursday 16th July the Government rejected Newham Council's submission under the Sustainable Communities Act, which called for a reduction in the maximum stake on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs) from £100 a spin to £2.


The proposal was the best supported submission under the Sustainable Communities Act to date. 93 councils backed the initial submission and a further two declared support for it after, taking the total number of supportive local authorities to 95, including Hyndburn.


The Government rejected the proposal, with Local Government Minister Marcus Jones MP blaming Councils for not dealing with the issues caused by FOBTs and betting shops. Mr. Jones implied that Councils had allowed multiple betting shops to open by granting them premise licenses, but he later undermined his own argument by acknowledging that Councils are hamstrung as they have to "aim to permit" gambling.


In April 2014, the Government announced very watered down measures for FOBTs that took a year to come into force. They require customers who wish to bet more than £50 a spin – or £150 a minute – to identify themselves to staff or sign up to a loyalty card.


£50 every 20 seconds is still far too high and unsafe, so it is dangerous for the Government to imply that this is an acceptable level for customers to be wagering. High levels of problem gambling occurs at a much lower staking levels anyway. For example, the Responsible Gambling Trust research found that around 80% of those that bet £13.40 or more were gambling problematically and it should be remembered that FOBTs are still available for play at up to £100 every 20 seconds.


Player tracking is unlikely to mean player protection when it will be left entirely up to the bookmakers to utilise the data from their higher staking customers to ensure they are preventing problem gambling. Bookmakers are aggressively marketing to their loyalty card holders, sending them multiple text messages each week to encourage further engagement with FOBTs at higher stakes.

The Campaign has received reports from staff that they are being encouraged to show customers how to play two FOBTs at the same time. Some operators only require a phone number, a name and an email address to enable access to stakes above £50 a spin, but only the phone number needs is verified and is then used for direct marketing.


Staff are also expected to confront problematic gamblers if they suspect they are experiencing harm. This puts the member of staff at extreme risk, especially when corporate bookmakers now operate a policy of lone staffing.


The Campaign for Fairer Gambling is not anti-gambling. We simply acknowledge that FOBTs are extremely addictive and high speed, high stake casino content does not belong in an easy access, supposedly soft gambling environment like betting shops.


Under the terms of the Sustainable Communities Act, the Local Government Association (LGA) – as a Selector – will re submit Newham's proposal and enter into negotiations with the Government for a period of six months. The Government has to come to agreement with the Selector within this timeframe.


We would welcome an opportunity to discuss how we might work together to support the LGA in its negotiations, and raise the profile of the issue in your constituency. Let us know if and when a meeting can be arranged at your convenience.


You can also read more about our response to the announcement in the Campaign's latest Central Lobby article.


Yours sincerely,


Derek Webb                              Adrian Parkinson                       Matt Zarb-Cousin


The Campaign for Fairer Gambling Team



Lucy Knighton Press Officer
telephone: +44 (0)115 948 6900



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Sunday, 19 July 2015

Supporting the ban on foxhunting with hounds

 I am committed to defending the 2004 ban on hunting with hounds and will vote against the Government’s proposals to weaken the Hunting Act.

I believe that we have a moral duty to treat animals in a humane and compassionate way. The unnecessary, prolonged suffering of defenceless animals has no place in our civilised society. 

The Conservative Party’s election manifesto included a commitment to give Parliament the opportunity to repeal the Hunting Act on a free vote. David Cameron has now confirmed that his party intends to water down the Hunting Act in England and Wales instead.
According to the Tories, this change allow farmers and gamekeepers to use “effective and humane shooting” as a method of pest control “as part of the existing exemption in the Act”. 

Stepping back in time at WaterAid’s Victorian street to support call for taps and toilets for all

I stepped back in time this week to take a walk down WaterAid’s Victorian street, experiencing the sights and smells of an era when open sewage ran through our roads and rivers, to mark 150 years of Britain’s modern sewers.

More than 100 parliamentarians met characters from Victorian times to discover what life was like during the Great Stink of 1858 to highlight WaterAid’s call for the UK Government to lead the way in ending the global water and sanitation crisis.

I also met some of the 115,056 supporters who signed the charity’s ‘Make It Happen’ petition, who came from across the country to discuss the importance of ensuring everyone everywhere has clean water to drink and somewhere safe to go to the toilet.

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Consumer information on car rental

Dear Mr Jones, I thought you might be interested in sharing with your constituents an advice summary we have produced for consumers, aimed at helping them when renting a car. 
This follows a Europe-wide review of the sector which has resulted in five leading EU car rental companies committing to improving the way they deal with their customers.
The advice guide can be downloaded here and below is a screen grab to give you an idea of what it looks like.

Fwd: Lancashire student encourages teens to take part in National Citizen Service programme

Lancashire student encourages teens to take part in National Citizen Service programme

Good morning, Following news that young people are planning to spend 84 hours lying in, 75 hours watching Netflix and 44 hours 'taking selfies' this summer, 18 year old student, Daniel Lee, is urging all Lancashire teens to put down their phones and seize the unique opportunity this summer brings, following his own life-changing experience on a National Citizen Service (NCS) programme last year, designed to offer 16 and 17 year olds across Hampshire a fun way to learn skills for work and life.