The morning was particularly busy so I travelled down on Sunday afternoon. The morning included meetings with the Parliament digital team and familiarisation with the new security requirements since a recent and ongoing cyber-attack on the estate. It took me back to my previous IT career as the message was repeated time and time again to an audience that didn’t want the technical speak, they just wanted their laptops, iPads and phones to work. My sympathies were with the IT team. I had a question to the home office in the chamber and I pushed the minister on the rules around spousal visas. The current rules are unfair and if the government follow through on their manifesto promises they will get worse. I had a meeting with the president of the Catalan parliament the Right Honourable Carme Forcadell. It was interesting to hear her thoughts on the upcoming referendum on Catalonian independence and the possible outcomes. Catalonian parliamentarians have been prosecuted by the Spanish government over their moves to allow an independence debate and vote. In the evening I attended an event to acknowledge seventy years of the Edinburgh fringe. The fringe was conceived in 1947 to bring countries together to celebrate art and diversity. Seventy years on it continues to do that far better than politicians do.
I was fortunate to get pulled out the ballot for topical questions to the department of health so I asked the Secretary of State for Health if England was prepared to follow the example of Wales and Scotland and introduce a soft opt-out for organ donation. The response was very encouraging and I shall be summing up in a Westminster Hall debate on this subject next week. I attended the All-party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on drugs policy reform. I am the vice-chair in this APPG and it has a wide range of Members from across both houses. Its primary focus will be Investigating cannabis use for medicinal and recreational purposes.
Continuing the theme of health, I attended the All-party Parliamentary Kidney Group, as I am the vice-chair. We are looking at a range of issues to increase awareness around kidney disease and treatment. Prime Ministers Questions was a particularly drab affair. In the afternoon I spoke in a Westminster Hall debate supporting the women against state pension inequality (WASPI) campaign. It was massively oversubscribed but due to my previous involvement I was allocated a speaking slot. The Ministers response was one of the poorest I have ever heard. This problem has been ignored by successive Labour, Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition and Conservative governments and they don’t appear to have an appetite to resolve it now. I caught the eight thirty evening flight home.
Ideally I would have been able to attend the hastily arranged debate on the job centre closures but that would have involved cancelling all my previously arranged meetings back in Inverclyde so I Ieft the debate to my very capable colleagues and fulfilled all my outstanding commitments. I have written to the appropriate government ministers and called on him to visit Inverclyde. I had previously raised an urgent question, in the chamber, over job centre closures and I shall continue to monitor the situation closely.
The entire day was dedicated to constituent surgeries in Port Glasgow, Greenock, Gourock and Inverkip with constituents bringing me a wide range of issues.