Westminster diary w/b 26th February


A morning flight for London and my first event is Home Office questions. I am trying to get a question raised on medicinal cannabis. I have been in contact with the mother of Billy Caldwell who receives a prescription for medicinal cannabis to help control his seizures and I am trying to help the family of Alfie Dingley achieve the same outcome. Hopefully they will see sense sooner rather than later. The transport select committee discuss rail infrastructure. It is mostly devolved but it is always of value to hear about issues and solutions across the UK. The All-party parliamentary group on Catalonia heard from an independent group that acted as observers at the Catalonian elections. There feedback was interesting and highlighted the use of the media to the detriment of the independence movement.


My first meeting was as part of a joint select committee. Public Accounts and Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs combined to take evidence from the senior managers at Carillion. It amazes me that as they ran down the employee’s pension fund (deficit of £500 million), left suppliers unpaid (£2 billion) and now over 1,000 people are being made redundant they still managed to pay executive bonuses of over £4 million. Which because they changed the rules can’t be clawed back. My next meeting is with the head of government relations for SAP (computer software solutions and consultancy business). On the back of the Carillion crash they are looking to provide a procurement platform for government contracts and beyond. A quick but informative gathering of the Scottish Constitution group was followed by a meeting with the First Minister. I finished the day with an evening event hosted by Babcock.


I attended the Marie Curie Great Daffodil Appeal before Prime Minsters Question time. I am one of the judges in ‘Your UK Parliament Awards’ along with the Speaker of the House John Bercow. The level of entrants is extremely high and we eventually settle for winners of each of the five categories. A number of local schools took part in UK Parliament Week and I see it as an opportunity to engage young adults in the democratic process. It is not all about parliament and includes community activism and social mobility. In the evening I attended a dinner hosted by the Industry and Parliament Trust titled ‘Powering the Future of Electric Vehicles’. I am sure there are many of you that remember the launch of the embarrassing Sinclair C5 in 1985. Thankfully electric vehicles have come a long way in recent years. The challenge ahead is to have an infrastructure that supports them.


The first event of the day is Transport questions. Given the weather in London and the red weather warning across central Scotland most of us are already thinking about transport but primarily how to get home. We are finding it hard if not impossible to secure any guaranteed passage. The rest of the day is consumed by meetings and definitely no fun in the snow.


Due to the weather I was detained in London and so all my appointments in Inverclyde were cancelled. My apologies to all those that I had to let down. I spoil myself with a day of reading Johann Hari’s latest book ‘Lost Connections – uncovering the real causes of depression and the unexpected solutions’. It is thought provoking and I hope to get Johann up to Inverclyde sometime for a speaking engagement.