The week started gently and offered great promise as I was only scheduled to be at Westminster for Tuesday and Wednesday, allowing me to spend three days working in the constituency. It wasn’t going to work out that way. Broadband to home and business continues to be a problem in Inverclyde. I have been engaging with the big suppliers to raise Inverclyde’s profile and seek better solutions. With this in mind I had a meeting with representatives of the Scottish Government and Openreach. We poured over maps of the area and I identified pockets of residential and business communities that are poorly served. Needless to say the conversation is on-going but alternative solutions are being sought.
Red eye to London and straight to Westminster Hall for a debate on the acceleration of the state pension for women born in the 1950s. This issues has been debated many times already, the Women Against State Pension Injustice (WASPI) campaign has been well presented as well as loud and colourful. Members across parties support the call for justice but no Conservative MPs other than the Minister and his aid attended. The Conservative MPs are letting down their constituents by remaining silent on this issue. Then attended a briefing from Foreign Office minister, Tobias Ellwood MP around the Balfour Declaration. Next year is the centenary of the declaration and it is widely felt that the people of Palestine have not been treated fairly in regard to the promises made all those years ago. I had the pleasure of hosting the British Red Cross Humanitarian Citizens Awards in the Churchill room. It was very well attended and it was good to see exceptional young people being praised and rewarded for their selfless acts of kindness and their commitment to helping others. My last appointment was a briefing from the Palestine Solidarity Campaign.
All of yesterday’s briefings culminate in the first debate of the day in Westminster Hall which is the Balfour Declaration 100 years on. It’s a Conservative led debate designed to praise the declaration but nobody considers that it has been good for Palestine. An agreement designed to nurture military support for the U.K. In the Middle East in 1917 which promised to establish Israel and help the Arab state of Palestine has proved troublesome ever since. Getting both sides round the table has been nearly impossible and trust between them is nearly nil. We shall pursue a two state solution but frankly more should have been done over the last 100 years to help these people live in peace and allow them to prosper. Prime Ministers Questions is possibly the poorest I have witnessed. The Labour opposition was even weaker than usual. Jeremy Corbyn increasingly looks like a man isolated from his own Members and the pressure is clearly taking its toll on him. The prime minister mocked and jeered him, encouraged by her sneering hyenas seated closest to her, she laughed at him throughout. It was an unedifying spectacle. The SNP had six questions on the order paper plus two from our Westminster leader Angus Robertson and we dragged the prime minster all over the place leaving her stuck for answers and removing the grin from her face. In the afternoon I met with the Independent Service Providers Association. They are the industry body for broadband providers. Once again I presented the problems we have in Inverclyde and I am now working up a few alternatives that we can look at. The All Party Parliamentary Group on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals took evidence from Tracey Crouch MP as she is the Minister with responsibility for gambling legislation and we took evidence from Sarah Harrison (Chief Executive of the Gambling Commission). Hopefully the UK Government is going to act. I just had time to drop in to the Guide Dogs for the blind event and help highlight issues with taxi legislation. That should have been my last event at Westminster for the week but the boundary changes was being debated on Friday and I was whipped to attend. I came home on Wednesday evening and made plans to return on Thursday evening.
An early start so I can open the new Lidl store in Greenock. Always good to see existing employers in the area investing in the community. I then have other constituency duties and meetings before returning to London in the late afternoon.
I attended the launch of the Fixed Odds Betting Terminals independent review and then the debate on the change of constituency borders and the reduction of MPs from 650 to 600.
I caught the six pm flight home.