Westminster diary w/b 8th January


Recess is over and I am quickly back into the old routine on the 7:20 flight to London. I was scheduled to be part of a delegated legislation committee to consider the appointment of the commissioner of the Electoral Commission. By the time I landed the meeting had been cancelled. Not the best start to the week but it freed me up to prepare for my select committee on Tuesday. We had votes at 22:16 and 22:30 followed by an adjournment debate on the problems experienced by people with genetic conditions, that could lead to ill-health, obtaining insurance. This is an area I have spoken on previously in connection with people with cancer. It is a worrying trend and many people are predicting that eventually we shall all have to undergo DNA tests prior to getting insurance as these tests could highlight any genetic risk of contracting illnesses at some stage in our life. We need legislation on this sooner rather than later to ensure people are not financially penalised for a genetic condition. 


Currently there are moves being made to reduce the number of MPs from 650 to 600. This is a UK Government request and the boundaries commission are tasked with providing the solution. Today my select committee on the constitution and public administration took evidence from academics and representatives of the appropriate bodies to ascertain the possible outcomes. The Parliamentary boundary changes proposed for Scotland would see the number of MPs drop from 59 to 53 at the same time as powers are being returned to the United Kingdom’s Government from the European Union. Currently there are no plans to pass any of these powers to the Scottish Parliament, therefore the prospect of Scotland’s democratically election representation being reduced is concerning. Remember the number of Scotland’s MPs was reduced after 2005 election from 72 to 59 because we were getting devolved powers. To reduce it further without any more Devolution is unthinkable. Rather than tell the boundaries commission to accommodate a reduction of 50 MPs across the United Kingdom we should be asking them how best to construct constituencies that lend themselves to providing the best representation possible for the citizens of that constituency. In the afternoon I met with a representative of the Gambling commission, primarily to discuss the reduction of the stake on fixed odd betting terminals to £2. Later I hosted an event on gambling awareness. These sort of events allow parliamentarians to meet a range of organisations that have a mutual interest, in a short period of time and helps them to network with each other. We all gain a better understanding and alliances are born.  


Today started with the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs) and the presentation of a report from the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR). Prime Ministers Question time have become pretty routine (the vast majority of it was given over to the NHS in England) and even after the debacle of the worst cabinet shuffle in living memory the Prime Minister managed to come out of it unscathed. I attended an event to promote the companies that have sprung up around the filming of the TV programme Outlander. And I managed to make two local links that are very close to my office in Crawfurd Street. The owner of the kilt shop next door to my office, Jim Sweeney, has appeared as an extra in Outlander and two doors down the tour operator Slainte Scotland Tours which is owned and operated by Catriona Stevenson and regularly takes tourists from the cruise ships on tours connected with Outlander too. In the late afternoon I summed up in a debate on the Disability Confident scheme. Locally, I have been involved in two jobs fairs in conjunction with Disability Confident. Their primary role is to aid people with disabilities into the workplace and these events help employers understand how this can be achieved, the help and advice that is available and the potential benefit to their companies. I then sprinted to the All Party Parliamentary Group on Drugs Policy Reform. We are working on legalising medicinal cannabis and are currently gathering evidence. In the evening I attended a dinner with the APPG for FOBTs along with thirty or so interested parties. These sort of dinners always have more to do with work than play.  


My morning was consumed entirely by a closed door training session with the institute for Government at Chatham House. I caught an afternoon flight home and in the evening attend the Wemyss Bay and Inverkip Community Council meeting. 


I met with the Inverclyde schools Malawi partnership then with the new area police commander for Inverclyde, Chief Inspector Hazel Scott. I had a visit to the British Heart Foundation shop and the rest of the day was taken up with constituency cases.