Festive message

That was the year that was! A bit of a rollercoaster for me as we had a general election half way through but even then I knew that win or lose Inverclyde would continue to be well served by the myriad of voluntary and 3rd sector organisations that day in day out help and support the most vulnerable in our society. My office signposts people to these organisations on a daily basis and without them we would all be poorer. As I look back I owe a debt of gratitude to all these organisations and to the council employees and officers that have engaged with my office. 

Christmas and the New Year are about hope. Disenchantment and weariness are the baggage we accrue when things don’t go well. The New Year offers the opportunity to wipe the slate clean and start over again. There is a palpable feeling that we can put all the negative stuff behind us and next year we can make things better. Or if you have had a cracking year, then you can build on that one and make next year even better. The New Year stretches out before us, pristine and unspoiled. It offers challenges and is not judgmental. We must make the best of it. Seizing every opportunity and filling every day. So I hope you get the Christmas you deserve and together we can make a better (or even better) New Year.  

Finally, my thanks to my team in Crawfurd Street for their ongoing help, advice and support during the year. On that note my office is open, up to and including the 22nd and we are accepting donations for the foodbank. Between Christmas and New Year we are open on the 27th and 28th if you need assistance.


Westminster diary w/b 18th December


This is my final week of traveling this year and I make an early start with 6am departure. The major business of the day is the select committee on transport. And the major topic of conversation is Heathrow. We consider the proposed expansion and the effect it will have on other airports and their associated transport infrastructures. We then move on to the environmental impact of adding another runway. I attended the adjournment debate on the closure of Royal Bank of Scotland branches. Inverclyde felt the effects of this when the RBS branch in Kilmacolm closed. More rural communities look set to be greatly inconvenienced.


First commitment of the day is the public administration and constitutional affairs select committee. We continue to investigate the current methodology within the civil service and in particular the working relationship between the Secretary of States and the permanent secretaries. Sometimes the chemistry between these two individuals can determine the success or failure of a department. I raised the issue around the response time to previous reports. The government is supposed to answer in a timely fashion but such is the pressure on elected members and civil servants from Brexit that many are not being responded to six months after they were published.


Every week I submit a request for a question to the Prime Minister. It’s down to luck if I get taken. Some folk seem to be a lot luckier than me. The same process applies for questions to any department on any allocated day. This week I was lucky, twice. I got a PMQ and asked the prime minister to either introduce drug consumption rooms in the United Kingdom or devolve the relevant powers (that have already been asked for) to the Scottish Parliament. Drug consumption rooms in eight European countries plus Australia and Canada have a very good track record of decreasing the spread of hepatitis C and HIV. They provide a safe, clean, supervised area and as a result nobody has ever died of an overdose in a DCR anywhere in the world. The Prime Minister thinks the concept is liberal and that abstinence is best. What she is actually doing is condemning people with drug addictions today to share needles, contract illnesses and die prematurely.


And my luck continues with questions. I have a question to Digital Culture Media and Sport. I take the opportunity to highlight the amount of gambling advertising being aimed at under 16s and ask for a statutory fee to be paid by bookmakers to pay for education. Unfortunately my question is down the order paper and I don’t get taken. Instead I stand (bob up and down) for a topical question and I am taken then. As an aside, the gentleman that decides (performs the shuffle) who gets to ask questions is Nick. He wears an unusual hat when doing this. The hat means don’t talk to me, I am doing the shuffle. This is not an ancient tradition of Westminster it’s just one that Nick invented as he had a hat. I head for a mid-afternoon flight home and as I try to read my papers at the airport my thoughts turn to Catalonia and the elections going on there. After the brutality handed out by the Spanish police during the referendum there I can only hope that democracy gets shown the respect it requires to work today.


The day is entirely consumed by constituency work and in the evening I plan to attend the Riverside Youth Band’s sixth annual Christmas concert in the Port Glasgow Town Hall, which I am sure will be a great start to the festive season. And finally may I wish you a peaceful and prosperous new year.

Peace, love and understanding.

Tele column – 22nd December 2017

In years gone by various versions of the United Kingdom, Great Britain and England have fought battles at sea to protect shipping and therefore trade routes. These days there are trade agreements and treaties in place that are mutually agreeable to the concerned countries but as an archipelago of islands, the surrounding oceans, seas and channels are of paramount importance to us.  

Over the years we have traded with Western and Southern Europe as a matter of course and as foreign holidays became more affordable we have become used to holidaying in those regions too. 

As we get closer to Brexit, questions are being asked as to what sort of trade agreements we shall negotiate. The major theme appears to be that we attempt to keep what we have with the remaining twenty seven countries in the European Union and then go beyond to create new agreements beyond those twenty seven countries. Personally I am sceptical about just how many of the existing deals with the remaining twenty seven countries we shall be able to maintain but time shall tell. 

As the United Kingdom Government is set to spend £250m on a new lorry park at Dover, it’s clear that the route to Europe is still envisaged as being from the south of England. But this creates logistical problems as we are moving the goods via road and rail to get to a port at the very South of the United Kingdom. The additional transportation costs for companies based North of Watford makes their goods more expensive and there is also additional environmental damage related to the transportation of the goods by road over such a distance. 

Amidst these negotiations we, especially in Scotland, must keep an open mind and look to create new markets and trade with a wider range of countries. With that in mind we could do well to look North rather than South. The Nordic countries and Baltic states should be high on the list of potential trading partners. But we need to improve the infrastructure to make that possible. The port of Liverpool has seen massive private investment of £250m but Hull (on the East coast) hasn’t. Greenock will see an increase in container ships as it is fed from Liverpool. Aberdeen could be expanded as a port with road and rail links improved accordingly. Whether it is part of the European Union, European Economic Area or European Free Trade Association we have to expand our horizons. But as Scotland can’t negotiate foreign trade deals we rely on the United Kingdom’s Government to do that for us. I expect the new car park for nearly four thousand lorries near Dover will be getting utilised sooner rather than later and the Northern regions along with Scotland shall be expected to put up and shut up when it comes to the extra cost and pollution that causes.


Written question – Gambling [21/12/2017]

What steps the Government is taking to protect young people from gambling-related harm. (903088)

Tabled on: 21 December 2017

Tracey Crouch:

We published a consultation on gaming machines and social responsibility in October. This includes measures to strengthen protections around online gambling and gambling advertising, which can be found here:


In addition we are introducting a new package of measures to strengthen protections around around online gambling and Gamble Aware will lead a major responsible gambling advertising campaign, to make sure parents and children are aware of risks associated with gambling.

Protecting children and vulnerable people is a key aim for the Gambling Commission and government.

The answer was submitted on 21 Dec 2017 at 13:54.


Written question – Health [21/12/2017]

To ask the Secretary of State for Health, what steps his Department is taking to tackle drug addiction. (119316)

Tabled on: 13 December 2017

Steve Brine:

Public Health England (PHE) is working closely with the Department of Health and other government departments to support the Drug Strategy and its ambition for recovery by enhancing treatment quality and improving outcomes through tailored interventions for different user groups. The Drug Strategy is available at:


PHE will support local areas to ensure the right interventions are given to people according to their needs. PHE will also support local areas to deliver an enhanced joined-up approach to commissioning and delivery of the wide range of services, in addition to treatment, that are essential to supporting every individual to live a life free from drugs and dependence.

We know recovery is only achievable through a partnership-based approach with action taken across a range of services, particularly housing, employment and mental health.

The answer was submitted on 21 Dec 2017 at 16:43.


Scottish Water Investment in Greenock

Scottish Water will invest £2.8m into tackling flooding in Greenock’s town centre.  

This investment project aims to help reduce the risk of flooding in the Oak Mall Shopping Centre and surrounding areas, with the first phase of work to improve the company’s waste infrastructure commencing on 12th January next year.

I look forward to seeing the details of the solution. Water management in Inverclyde has been poor for too long. The problems we face today were created by bad decisions made over a period of time.

Water is a natural resource that we should be harnessing and benefiting from, it should be seen as an opportunity, not a problem to be managed.


Drug Consumption Rooms

Drug related harm and deaths in Scotland are continuing to grow. However, in eight European countries plus Canada and Australia where Drug Consumption Rooms (DCR) have been established, the spread of HIV has decreased, the spread of Hepatitis C has decreased and the crime rate has decreased.

Added to this no one has ever died from an overdose in a supervised drug consumption room. This adds to the evidence that they have a positive effect.

Organisations such as Transform, Release and Anyone’s Child, amongst others, have been strong campaigners for drug policy reform and believe action must be taken now to introduce drug consumption rooms in this country.

In the interest of public health its vital the UK Government seek to establish DCRs.  If not, the UK Government must devolve the relevant powers to the Scottish Parliament so the necessary action can be taken.


Written Question – Pension [19/12/2017]

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what steps his Department is taking to investigate complaints his Department has received from women born in the 1950s and affected by changes in state pension age. (119315)

Tabled on: 13 December 2017

Damian Hinds:

The Department has a two tier complaints process which considers formal complaints about our service.

Complaints received from women born in the 1950s and affected by changes in State Pension age are handled in line with the overall Departmental complaints process.

The answer was submitted on 19 Dec 2017 at 12:42.