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.