Westminster diary w/b 30th October


I delayed my journey to Westminster so I could attend a briefing on Inverclyde Council’s budget. The UK government continuing austerity programme means the Scottish government is £2.9 billion worse off and that means local councils are being put under greater strain. Cuts have to be found but I would hope that the council would also look at ways of generating an income stream, otherwise we will always be at the mercy of others.  


My day started with a private meeting of the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs committee where one of the topics was an MPs code of conduct. Given recent events the sooner the better seems like a good idea. There was an urgent question in the chamber on the UK Government’s gambling policy strategy and I stood for questions. I was fortunate enough to be taken and asked the minister if she would consider a statutory levy on bookmakers that would raise more than the current voluntary levy of £8 million. This money goes towards reducing gambling related harm. The minister was open to the idea and I have great hopes that we are making progress in a number of gambling related issues. I met with the Ombudsman service to discuss energy and communications in Inverclyde. Complaints to the Ombudsman regarding energy are declining but complaint regarding communications are on the increase. One thing to be aware of regarding energy is that if you get a new smart meter and it’s the first generation then you lose the smart capabilities if you change supplier. This does not happen with the second generation meters. I then had an informal meeting with the department of transport along with my colleagues on the Transport Select Committee. In the evening I attended a briefing on the European Union Withdrawal Bill.  


A quick meeting with the constitution group was followed by a drop in to the UK pancreatic cancer event. They emphasise that early diagnosis is vital to save lives. Pancreatic cancer has the lowest survival of all the 20 common cancers. In the chamber Welsh Questions was followed by the usual circus of prime ministers question time. I attended a talk from Richard Murphy on currency and then went to the select committee on procedures. The procedures committee is tasked with finding a method to enable the house to process all the legislation coming back from the European Union in a timely fashion. Unfortunately, we are short of time already. I then met with representatives of the Transform Drug Policy Foundation. We are jointly looking at taking the conversation forward and involving politicians, law enforcement organisations, health organisations and the general public. Votes were scheduled for seven in the evening but once again the UK Government ran from the task so I ran to the airport and caught the eight thirty home.  


A day in the office and time to reflect on how far we have or have not come since Winnie Ewing won the Hamilton by-election 50 years ago to the day. Winnie was and remains an inspiration. When elected in 1967 she found herself in a male dominated environment and yet she overcame that and political resentment from Scottish Labour to become a force to be reckoned with. Winnie we salute you.


Was a busy day with surgeries taking up the morning and attending meetings in the council and the official opening of the Customs House. In the evening I attended an event on ‘positive money’. This event followed on nicely from my meeting with Richard Murphy at Westminster.