Tele column – 28th April 2017

This shall be my last column (hopefully just for a short while) because as of midnight on Tuesday 2nd May I cease being an MP. Theresa May in her haste to protect Conservative MPs that are under scrutiny for election fraud, combined with political opportunism to kill off the divided and rudderless Labour Party has called a General Election. I have every intention of winning the Inverclyde seat back but I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone in the local community for their incredible support over the last two years. Businesses, organisations, private and public have been open and honest with me and I have responded accordingly. The frustration now is that the rug has been pulled from under my feet and the working relationship we have created must now be put on hold. They say a week is a long time in politics and it can be, but two years can be too short when we are trying to move mountains. My short term in office has been based around constituents. Issues you have brought to me have become campaigns I have promoted. The casework my team have taken on has been at the heart of everything we do. Every case won, every constituent we have helped has been a victory. So if the electorate will it, we shall speak again. Whatever the outcome, it has been a huge privilege to serve you and an opportunity I would not have missed for the world.

 

Advertisements

Inverclyde MP and MSP Condemn Tory Rape Clause

Stuart McMillan MSP has joined with me in condemning changes to child tax credits and the controversial provision known as the “rape clause”.

The welfare changes, which were announced in 2015 and came into effect from 6 April, limit tax credits to the first two children in a family, with exceptions for children born as a result of “non-consensual conception” – forcing the mother to prove that a third child was conceived as a result of rape or during an abusive relationship.

A debate recently took place in the Scottish Parliament, where the SNP’s motion to oppose the UK Government’s imposition, with amendments from Labour and the Greens, was backed by 91 votes to 31.

As I’ve previously stated, the ‘rape clause’ is one of the most heinous and despicable polices brought forward by any Government.

Having women relive the trauma of being raped, simply to claim tax credits is repugnant, repressive and regressive.

The Tories are completely isolated on this issue and must see the outrage it has caused and ultimately scrap the clause. They could have admitted their mistake and amended this tawdry piece of legislation but it strikes me that the Tory government is not going to be seen to back down on any subject, is not prepared to listen to alternative views and is belligerent in its response to criticism no matter constructive or how well intended it is.

Stuart McMillan MSP said:

“Asking a woman to prove that her child was conceived as a result of rape is utterly appalling and must be one of the most abhorrent policies ever to emanate from Westminster. The trauma and stigma that the rape assessment process will cause both survivors and children of rape is unthinkable.

“The two-child limit will drag over 200,000 more children below the poverty line, leaving working families unable to make up for the cut.

“That the Tories haven’t even attempted to consider how these changes will affect some of the most vulnerable women and families in this country demonstrates a contemptible lack of compassion and human decency.

“It takes a special kind of twisted logic for the Tory leader in Scotland to call for the Scottish Parliament to protect families from the vindictive policies of the Tory Government in Westminster.

“It’s time for the Tories to realise their mistake and stop this policy in its tracks now.”

Job centre closures

As I’ve previously stated, the decision to close Port Glasgow job centre has absolutely nothing to do with providing a Government service. Rather, it is part of the UK Government’s goal of selling £4.5 billion-worth of Government land and property by 2020-21.

The Scottish Affairs Committee highlights a lack of clear planning.

Therefore, a full and proper evaluation of Jobcentre Plus provision throughout Scotland must be carried out to ensure the quality of service provided and the job security of DWP staff.

http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/scottish-affairs-committee/news-parliament-2015/jobcentre-closures-report-published-16-17

Westminster diary w/b 17th April

Monday

I utilised the last morning of recess to catch up with office and administration work and in the afternoon I attended the launch of the SNP council manifesto.

Tuesday

I caught an earlier than usual flight as my select committee started at 9am. The weeks after recess are always busy we have a few outstanding reports waiting to be published. These include ‘lessons learned from the EU referendum’ and the snappily titled ‘MANAGING MINISTERS’ AND OFFICIALS’ CONFLICTS OF INTEREST: TIME FOR CLEARER VALUES, PRINCIPLES AND ACTION’. The former was to be presented to the house on Thursday and so we completed the read through and made the final few amendments. The latter has been delayed at my request as I wanted to get the ex Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, in front of the committee to give evidence. In theory ex cabinet ministers can’t take up appointments in positions where their ministerial experience and contacts would give anyone an unfair advantage. The process is that ex cabinet ministers wishing to take up business appointments must request permission from ACoBA (Advisory Committee on Business Appointments) to take up the position. They can then be refused. In practice they are never refused. Mr Osborne now has six jobs. I was wanting to ask him how he manages to have five jobs as well as commit the necessary time to perform his duties as an MP? But we shall never know as events quickly overtook us. We had been informed the Prime Minister was making a statement at 11:15 outside 10 Downing Street. The rumours were about her health or Northern Ireland but as we now know she was going to announce a snap General election. I was in a room with 5 Conservatives and 2 Labour MPs, nobody foresaw the announcement. With that statement our little cloistered world was turned upside down. In the evening our usual SNP group meeting was attended by the First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon and it’s fair to say everyone was very focused on the job at hand.

Wednesday

My diary is changing by the minute as events are cancelled and other hastily arranged. All outstanding business has to be concluded or it falls when Parliament is dissolved. My committee meets twice and we finalise our reports for presenting to the house the following day. In the light of the previous day’s events, questions to the Secretary of State for Scotland, David Mundell, were entertaining and Mr Mundell was even more nervous than usual. But he was the only the warm up man for Prime Minister’s questions during which Theresa May defended her decision to call an early election despite parliament having a 5 year fixed term. PMQs was followed by a debate about having an election. The Fixed-term Parliaments Act was put in-place to give stability and to prevent political opportunism. However, the Prime Minister has circumnavigated this Act and decided it was in her self-interest to seek a general election.

Thursday

I am in the House for business questions which is followed by questions to the leader of the house, traditionally these sessions are much more relaxed and even entertaining and given that everyone was in demob mode that’s how it turned out. I then spoke to the report on ‘Lessons learned from the EU referendum’. There was major disruption on the underground so I was just glad to get to the airport in time to catch my flight home.

Friday

I start by updating my office team on the process around the snap election. It is not just my job that is on the line. As of the 3rd of May I am no longer an MP and representing myself in any way that looks like I am is illegal. So there are restrictions imposed on me and my office but we still need to handle all outstanding cases. Even without an MP the need for one remains. I have a prearranged meeting with the Chief Executive of Inverclyde Council and a few constituency meetings in my office. As has often been said, that was the week that was.