Christmas Message – 24th Dec 15

Whether your festive season involves sending and receiving cards and gifts, putting a tree up inside your house, adorning it with lights and decorations, eating turkey, stuffing, roast potatoes and sprouts. Or whether you only do some or indeed none of the above it is still the festive season and you can’t help but Continue reading “Christmas Message – 24th Dec 15”

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Holding the UK Government to account over shipbuilding jobs

At the start of the month I asked the UK Government how many shipbuilding jobs will be supported by construction of the fleet that will replace the outgoing Type 23 Frigates.

During the referendum campaign the UK Government promised that 13 Type-26 Frigates would be constructed to replace the Royal Navy’s aging frigate fleet. The Secretary of State for Defence later confirmed that only 8 on the Type-26 would definitely be ordered.

In response to my written question it has since been revealed that the UK Government does not know how many shipbuilding jobs will be sustained by the construction of the Type-26 Frigate. This revelation, that the UK Government doesn’t actually know how many jobs will be secured by the new frigate programme, will cause great concern for shipbuilders on the Clyde.

During the referendum we heard time and time again that shipbuilding jobs and contracts would only be safe if we stayed within the union. As we have seen with HMRC job losses this is yet more evidence that Westminster cannot keep the promises they made to the Scottish people just over a year ago.

The UK Government gave Clyde shipbuilders a clear pledge of 13 Type-26 Frigates, but the response to my written question shows that shipbuilders are right to be sceptical about Westminster’s empty promises.

This lack of certainty can be sharply contrasted with the action of the Scottish Government, whose financial assistance has led to the creation of sustainable employment at Ferguson Marine in Port Glasgow.

Photo from Royal Navy Media Archive

Could you crew Inverclyde’s powerboat?

Riverside Inverclyde are looking for a local powerboat racing crew to compete in the 2016 P1 SuperStock UK Championship, a five-venue race series that will include the first ever P1 Scottish Grand Prix of the Sea. The Grand Prix will take place on the 18th and 19th of June in Greenock.

The boat crew will comprise of a driver and a navigator who will race the Inverclyde branded powerboat that was unveiled in Greenock last month by our First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

The specially branded boat will be representing Inverclyde at every round of the championship which starts in Scarborough in May before traveling to the Clyde, Gosposrt, Cardiff and the series finale in Bournemouth in September.

If you think you have what it takes you should email Robert.wicks@powerboatp1.com with your name, address, telephone number and evidence of completing the RYA course by 8th of January.

More details on the P1 race series can be found here.

Starter Packs Inverclyde

Yesterday I got to visit the local charity Starter Packs Inverclyde. Starter Packs was set up as a direct response to the problems faced by homeless people who are offered a tenancy but lack of sufficient funds to purchase the many small household items needed to set up and maintain a home.

Things like kitchen ware, bedding and cleaning products will make a world of difference for homeless people moving into their first tenancy. Getting a home is the first step towards stability and Starter Packs are there to make that transition much easier.

I can see the amazing work that they do within the community, the Christmas cards hanging on the wall was testament to the people that they have helped. It is nice to see the community coming together to help and support those who are in need especially at this time of year.

You can find out a bit more about Starter Packs Inverclyde here.

£12 Million for Families and Communities

Today Scotland’s Children’s Minister has announced £12 million worth of funding for 116 voluntary organisations to that tackle inequalities and poverty, support parents and carers, improve learning and build skills.

The active local charity Quarriers has received £36,000 to help them with their activities nationally.

This money will help thousands of children, families and communities across Scotland and here in Inverclyde. The Scottish Government have prioritised tackling inequalities in order to create a fairer Scotland, this funding recognises that charities and other third sector groups are crucial to achieving this.

The Children’s Minister, Aileen Campbell said:
“I’m delighted we have been able to provide funding for so many organisations that provide vital support for families and communities across the country.

“I’ve seen first-hand some of the life-changing work these organisations do and this new fund has meant we can support a wider range of groups providing services from childcare to adult learning and family support to youth work.”

Questioning Democracy of Appointed Delegates

As part of the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee I had the opportunity to quiz the Leader of the House, Chris Grayling MP, again. My questions focused specifically on the undemocratic selection of the UK delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. You can watch the Committee meeting here. 

Currently, delegates to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe are appointed by David Cameron. The most recently proposed UK delegation includes 5 Lords, 4 Baronesses and an Earl. I cannot see how this can be in line with the democratic principles of the Council of Europe or democratically representative of our country’s demographic. The proposed list has been criticised for not including three ‘independently minded’ Conservative former members of the delegation and has been described as ‘undemocratic’.

I would much rather we followed the democratic systems of our European neighbours, including Germany, Greece and the Netherlands who put forward their nominations directly from parliament.

The current delegation shows Cameron’s dangerous tendency to further his aims with no regards for the democratic nature of the parliament and even to the detriment of the democratic process of his own party.

Climate Change and Flooding [15 December 2015]

Today I spoke in the Climate Change and Flooding debate. Unfortunately I was unable to deliver my full speech due to time constraints in the chamber. You can watch the speech I delivered here and read my speech in full here –

UK Government analysis shows that Global Warming is expected to cause more intensive heavy rainfall events and we have to ask ourselves are we are prepared for the ramifications of those changes in our weather?

I note the government has set up a “National Flood Resilience Review” and a report will be published in summer 2016. I would hope this review looks far and wide for innovative sustainable solutions because it has rained before, it has flooded before and we have had reviews before.

And I fear the solution will not be found with more parliamentarians naval gazing.

The cry of “I want to make things right, just not right now” is how we fail to make things better.

I hear the Government promising over the next 6 years £2.3 billion capital funding in flood defences. And acknowledge that in 2014/15, the Government spent £171 million of tax payer’s money on flood maintenance.

But we are just like the wee boy with his finger in the dam.
Required as these actions are they don’t solve the problems.
We have two problems facing us.

First we are screwing up the environment, let’s be absolutely clear about that.

Turning that around is a massive task that sticking plaster policies will not address.

Second. We need to find ways to alleviate the flooding that we now see on an annual basis.

If we are to find adequate solutions to the problems of flooding it can only be done on a collaborative basis, with the cooperation of different levels of government and environmental organisations.

Every additional instance of flooding means more lost revenue for local businesses or damage to homes – we owe it to our constituents to meet or exceed our targeted time frames for tackling this issue.

We must also recognise that the way we have changed the environment has left us more exposed to the risks of flooding.
We should give serious consideration to reforestation, as one method of assisting with flood prevention.

Trees catch rainfall and take water from the soil, with careful planning they could be our first line of defence.

And these trees managed correctly lead us to the next logical stage.

Utilising Biomass boilers can maintain a closed carbon cycle with no net increase in atmospheric CO2 levels. If all public buildings used biomass boilers and could source their fuel, primarily wood pellets or wood chips, locally, we would start to see a coherent localised industry, employing local people as part of an environmentally friendly solution.

Reforestation is just one of many policies we could implement to improve our “catchment management” in the longer term.

Contour ploughing, restoring upland bogs, and reintroducing the meanders in straightened rivers are other measures we may wish to consider as we seek more permanent solutions.

One change will not fix the problem. But a series of correct adjustments will help in a number of different ways.

Mr Speaker, the lasting message I would like to leave the chamber is clear – until we have a greater appreciation of our role in changing the natural environment we will never find long term solutions to this problem.

Whether it is reforestation or tackling climate change, it is time for us to be bold with our policy making and ensure that no more lives, businesses or homes are ruined by flooding.

THANK YOU! Another car load of food.

My office staff took the last load of Foodbank donations to Inverclyde Foodbank today. During December I opened my office up to donations as part of the Foodbank’s Christmas Appeal. I have been overwhelmed with the amount of generosity that has been displayed. My team had to make two journeys with the car full of donations.

Tomorrow [16th Dec] is the final day the Foodbank will be sorting the food into Christmas Packages. If you have a couple of hours to spare tomorrow I would encourage you to get in touch with the foodbank and donate some of your time. These packages are going to make a huge difference to the people who need them over the festive period. Thank you again for all the donations we have received!

Post Office Visit

In the early hours of Friday morning [11th December] I went to the Royal Mail delivery office in Greenock to see how the staff are coping with the Festive workload. In the run up to Christmas there is an increased demand on the mail service as 45,000 houses from Bishopton to Largs wait on their Christmas packages.

The busy season is now well underway and with more people than ever doing their Christmas shopping online the team have to make sure that they are organised to keep up with demand. The team are doing a fantastic job and seeing the amount of mail that gets sorted daily makes you really appreciate the hard work that is put into making sure we all receive our parcels in time for Christmas.