Westminster diary w/b 16th October


I delayed my departure to London so I could visit Financial Fitness along with Councillor Liz Robertson. Financial Fitness provide an invaluable service helping people negotiate their way through the trials and tribulations of modern life during these days of Conservative government austerity. With Universal Credit taking six weeks to provide the first payment, PIP assessments appeals taking nineteen weeks in Inverclyde and food bank referrals up by nearly seventy percent, Financial Fitness have a hugely important role to play in supporting those most vulnerable in our society. A quick dash to the airport was of course followed by a slow delay! I arrived in time to make the start of the select committee on transport. It was an interesting session with the Secretary of State for transport, Chris Grayling, giving evidence to the committee on his department’s priorities, the electrification u-turn and of course Brexit. I also took the opportunity to quiz him about coastguard cuts.


Started with the select committee on Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs (PACAC). The Institute of Government provided us with a private briefing on government bodies and their current suitability to handle Brexit. I then met with Sabrinna Valisce. She had been a prostitute working in New Zealand and had supported the decriminalisation of the purchasing of sex. Once the law was changed she witnessed the horrendous consequences. She now supports the Nordic Model where the selling of sex is decriminalised but the purchase is still illegal. It is tremendously brave of Sabrinna to tell her story and she deserves to be listened to. I had the great pleasure of meeting up with Emmanuel Cocher (consular general France). We usually only meet during the wreath laying ceremony at the Cross of Lorraine on Remembrance Sunday. This time we had time to discuss Brexit (what else?) and the special relationship between Scotland and France. After that I was up in front of the Backbench business committee with Caroline Lucas. We are jointly bidding for a debate on the treaty for nuclear disarmament that 122 countries have endorsed but not the UK. I dropped in to an event on responsible gambling and then attended a debate on the Use of devolved powers in Scotland. The debate was no more than an opportunity for the Scottish conservatives to talk down the Scottish Government and Scottish parliament. Which was a great shame as it could have been a joint attempt to improve the powers at Holyrood.


I started the day with the Devolved and Constitutional powers group. Most of the conversation was about the repatriation of powers from Brussels to the UK and avoiding a power grab at Westminster. I then met constitution Rob Behrens. Rob is the parliamentary and health service ombudsman and works with the select committee on public administration and the constitution, as well as being held to account by it. It’s an interesting situation. I dropped in to Macmillan’s parliamentary coffee morning and managed a slice of chocolate cake before heading to prime Ministers question time. I should have stayed for more cake. In the last year Inverclyde has received over fourteen million pounds in big lottery funding so I dropped in to their event to catch up and assure them it is being spent wisely. The main debate in the House of Commons was to pause and fix the universal credit roll out. It was an ill-tempered affair and having been roundly criticised the government then abstained on the vote. At the end of the evening I caught up with a delegation from Catalonia that had come to report on the recent referendum there. During the day I managed to squeeze in a blood test for anaemia and get a flu jab.


First thing in the morning I travelled out to Glazier’s Hall at London Bridge where I chaired the Westminster energy environment and transport forum. It was an opportunity for politicians and business people to discuss a wide range of topics but primarily large infrastructure projects. The main concern from the business sector was a lack of long term planning from government. It was heartening to hear so many people cite the Scottish government’s good practice in infrastructure, broadband and renewables, not perfect but moving in the right direction. I caught a mid-afternoon flight home which for the young boy in the seat in front of me was a voyage of vomit, sick bags and wet wipes. I hope he is feeling better now.


I had my monthly catch up with Inverclyde Council Chief Executive, Aubrey Fawcett where we discussed a range of topics and I visited Cloch housing association (Care and Repair) with Councillor John Crowther. The remainder of the day was consumed by case work.