Broadband Report

I welcome the news from Ofcom that more consumers in Inverclyde are receiving faster broadband speeds.  The quality of the product being provided is continuing to improve and I look forward to further developments.

This year’s report outlines progress on the availability and take-up of broadband and mobile services, which are crucial to people’s personal and working lives.  The average download speed in Inverclyde has increased to 62.1(Mbit/s) from a previous 52.3 (Mb/s).  The combined superfast and ultra-fast broadband availability in Inverclyde is now 93% from a previous 86.3%

This comes on the welcome announcement during the Scottish Budget that every home and business will have access to superfast broadband by 2021, as a result of a £600 million investment.

 

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Young People & Gambling Statistics

It’s deeply worrying to learn that young people in Scotland are experiencing gambling in situations where the risks are not always explained.  Only last week, the GambleAware conference highlighted that over half a million in the UK are gambling each week.

The smart-phone generation have ready access to gambling, something which has not previously been available and the statistics from the Gambling Commission highlights that 11% of 11-16 year olds have played free gambling-style social games online. 

Loot boxes within computer games, such as Star Wars Battlefront, is increasing the opportunities for young people to inadvertently gamble and we must provide more education on the dangers of gaming and gambling.  Therefore, my office has contacted Inverclyde HSCP to make them aware of this information.

 

Written Question – Treasury [12/12/2017]

HM Treasury has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (117218):

Question:
To ask Mr Chancellor of the Exchequer, what discussions his Department has had with the Financial Conduct Authority about the introduction of a duty of care for the banking sector to support people with cancer. (117218)

Tabled on: 04 December 2017

Answer:
Stephen Barclay:

The government believes that the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), as the UK’s independent conduct regulator for the financial services industry, is best placed to evaluate the merits of a duty of care for financial services providers. We therefore welcome the FCA’s commitment to publish a Discussion Paper on the subject, which the FCA plans to publish after the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.

The answer was submitted on 12 Dec 2017 at 14:50.

 

Westminster diary w/b 4th December

Monday 

An early start and at the airport for the 7:20. It’s a long day in the chamber debating the European Union (withdrawal) bill. Today the focus is on devolved powers which can only mean clause 11. I am fortunate that my select committee covers the constitution so I have been in the privileged position of talking to experts on this subject for some time. Scotland could benefit from 111 powers being repatriated upon Brexit but clause 11 removes that certainty and instead we need to go cap in hand to Westminster. I mean, who is best to make decisions for Scottish fishermen? The Scottish Government, apparently its Whitehall. I write my speech in the morning and bob dutifully until about ten pm (I think. It was a long day). The debate runs until after midnight, there are three votes (each take about 15 minutes). I stumble into my bed at 2am.

Tuesday 

My alarm goes off at 5:15 and I catch the 7:30 to Glasgow. I have private engagement back home.

Wednesday  

Duty calls and it’s another 5:15 start. I catch the 7:20 and I am at my desk in Westminster for 9:30. 

I am bobbing for questions during questions to the Secretary of State for Scotland. I don’t get taken. Given the fiasco of the previous few days regarding Brexit, the Irish border and the DUP I am expecting the prime minister to get a rough ride from the leader of the opposition at Prime Ministers Questions. I am wrong. The PM was strong and well in command of her brief. Jeremy Corbyn was all over the place. The PM got a very easy ride until Alan Brown MP pointed out since her 12 New Tories that represents Scottish seats had been elected Scotland had lost out on the equivalent of 256 million pounds for each one. She didn’t know where to go with that. I attend a meeting of the cross party group on drugs, alcohol and justice. It’s good to meet up with the folk from VolteFace and Addaction again. They always bring such clarity to proceedings. There are votes at night and the last one is at 20:30.  

Thursday

I am speaking in the Fisheries debate at 15:00 so the morning is spent going over my speech and matching it up with the briefing papers that industry experts have sent me. I get a leisurely five minutes to speak and business finishes at 17:00. I get the 19:30 flight home.

Friday

I meet up with representatives of Peel Ports at 9am and we discuss their commitment to Inverclyde.

I have constituency meetings for the rest of the morning and I host the irrepressible WASPI women in my office in the afternoon. It’s been a long week and by close of day I am utterly exhausted. There will be no alarm clock ringing tomorrow morning (it’s still the best job in the world).

 

Tele column – 8th December 2017

The DUP is not just for Christmas

What about the DUP then? The phrase ‘tail wagging the dog’ springs to mind. The United Kingdom (that is of course the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland) had actually managed to broker a deal with the European Union over the border between the north and south of Ireland. The difficulty that has occurred is that once the UK leaves the EU we don’t want a hard border between the north and south of Ireland. We want goods and people to be able to flow back and forward just as they currently do. This is one of the major stumbling blocks in the European Union withdrawal process and Theresa May’s team seemed to have cracked it. Much joy was consumed in the Westminster bars and smug Tories indulged in copious back slapping and self-congratulations, until someone told their compadres, the Democratic Unionists. And then the castle, built on sand, fell into the sea. It’s not just a billion pounds that the DUP have in their pocket, it’s the UK government and apparently the EU withdrawal negotiations too. To be honest I was surprised the border deal could be done at all but apparently, where there is a will there is a way. Remember that next time we are told an independent Scotland would need a hard border with England and that families would be torn apart, parents from their children and grandparents from their grandchildren. One by one the Scottish referendum lies are being exposed. And then, after midnight on Monday, to add injury to insult, the DUP trooped through the voting lobby four times with the UK government effectively killing off any amendments to clause eleven of the EU (withdrawal) bill that could have repatriated one hundred and eleven EU powers to Scotland. Instead they now lie with the UK government. This action shows a total disregard for the Scotland Act of 1998 (schedule 5) which defines the powers that are reserved to Westminster and that all others are devolved to Holyrood. Monday provided two great opportunities to move Brexit forward but by combining political naivety and DUPlicity both opportunities were lost.

 

Consultation on Inverclyde Constituency Boundary Changes

I have lodged an objection with the Boundary Commission in response to plans that would see the Inverclyde constituency enlarged to include Bishopton, Langbank, Bridge of Weir, Erskine and Inchinnan.

The UK Government tasked the Boundary Commission with re-examining existing constituency boundaries with a view to reducing the number of seats across the UK from 650 to 600. Under the most recent plans a new seat, ‘Inverclyde and Erskine’, would be established.

The latest boundary proposals would increase this size of the seat by 19,000 people, a rise of 32% without any associated rise in staff wages or resources for my office.

My four staff already have a high volume of constituency cases, a problem exacerbated by Inverclyde’s lack of a Citizen’s Advice Bureau and the closure of the Port Glasgow Job Centre. Inverclyde also generates a high number of complex cases because of on-going problems with social deprivation, unemployment and poverty.

My concern is that increasing the size of the constituency by almost a third will put a heavy burden on my staff and greatly reduce the service my office, and that of any future MP for the area, is able to offer constituents. I am strongly opposed to any proposal that would reduce the quality of service any MP can offer their constituents.

I would encourage constituents to make their views known by responding to the Boundary Commission Consultation before the 11th of December.

Notes

To view my full response to the consultation please click here.

 

Support for Basic Income

The support of Reform Scotland on the proposal and debate around the basic income is welcome and comes at a time when the idea is now receiving widespread attention.

This is one of the reasons the Scottish Government have committed funding to support the four local authorities as they aim to design a pilot scheme.

There is a growing awareness and interest in the idea of a basic income, so any debate we can contribute to is worthwhile – we will continue to discuss the concept of a basic income and working with those who also wish to do so.

We should be hugely proud that Scotland is leading the way in the evolution of this important debate.

Reform Scotland Briefing https://reformscotland.com/2017/12/basic-income-guarantee-nows-right-time-big-idea