Westminster diary w/b 27th February


Quick hospital appointment and a rush to the airport means a harassed start to the week but the afternoon turns out be extremely worthwhile and rewarding as my select committee finally signs off our reports on the Chilcot inquiry and the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (ACOBA). In theory ACOBA must be approached by ex-cabinet ministers if they wish to take up a private position within twenty four months of leaving their cabinet position. ACOBA can rule that it is inappropriate to use information gained in a ministerial position for private gain. For example George Osborne ex-Chancellor of the exchequer recently joined a private financial company and gets paid a reported £400,000 a year. ACOBA could have said that is wrong but they didn’t. They never do. They have never turned down an application. Hopefully our report will push Parliament to change the rules.


Starts with the second sitting of my select committee and it’s a cracker. It is spent talking with senior political advisers about Brexit. A lot, if not most, of my conversations these days incorporate Brexit in some shape or form but having the opportunity to seek the considered opinion of the people advising the folk at the top table is too good an opportunity to miss. By now we will all be familiar with the phrase ‘Hard Brexit’. This phrase is designed to indicate something that is not smooth and painless. I believe we will have to come up with something else to do justice to the process we are about to go through. Maybe a debilitating gut wrenching omnishambles of a Brexit is more appropriate.

For some light relief I meet up with representatives of a mobile communications company. The discussion is around the emergency services network. I drop into a lobbying event for the Eve Appeal. It’s called ‘Make Time for Tea’. The Eve Appeal specialises in funding ground-breaking research into gynaecological cancers, including ovarian cancer, and Make Time for Tea is a way to raise awareness but also raise vital funds for further research.in the evening I meet up with Ian Hudghton SNP MEP to get the inside track on Brexit discussions in Brussels.


I start the day by meeting representatives of the Association of British Travel Agents. We talk at length about cruise ships and yes, Brexit. There are concerns about all the unknowns regarding passengers from European Union countries and the potential difficulties they will now face. Just as we are building a healthy footprint of tourists it would be a shame if we make it more difficult for them to visit Inverclyde.

I attend a photo opportunity to highlight the ESA cuts which I covered in yesterday’s column. I stand for questions at Scotland questions but don’t get taken. Prime Ministers Questions is a shambles for Jeremy Corbyn and once again it falls on Angus Robertson to scrutinise the Prime Minister. In the late afternoon I host a CND event designed to encourage the UK Government to attend the UN negotiations on a treaty to ban nuclear weapons. I attended a Westminster Hall debate on the role of fathers in the family unit. In the evening I spoke at an event in Waterstone’s bookstore on Tottenham Court Road. The topic is drug reform. As I leave the event at about ten in the evening I am appalled and saddened by the number of homeless people huddled in doorways.


My main meeting of the day is with a property development company that own a large percentage of Spango Valley. It’s a wide ranging conversation about the possibilities and costs involved in redeveloping such a large site.


First appointment is with the Chief Executive of the council. Then it’s off to the annual general meeting of Inverclyde Association for Mental Health followed by surgeries in Greenock, Gourock and Wemyss Bay.