Westminster diary w/b 25th June

Monday

My first engagement of the day was with the select committee for transport. We mulled over the National Policy Statement regarding Heathrow. It’s fair to say the committee were less than happy with the government’s claims that they had reacted to twenty four of our twenty five recommendations, at least in part. After further scrutiny I could only see one recommendation fully implemented and seven that you could argue had partially been implemented. A committee that had a majority of support for Heathrow quickly turned against it. We took full advantage of the good weather and held the ‘Show racism the red card’ event outside on the green. In the evening Heathrow’s expansion was debated. Despite promises made to the Scottish Government I could not support the move. The environmental arguments against the new runway are overwhelming.

Tuesday

Today started with the select committee for Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs (PACAC) taking evidence from the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan. The topic was leaving the European Union and devolved powers. It’s not just Scotland that could benefit from more powers, the larger regions of the midlands, Greater Manchester and Greater London Authority amongst others also see the benefits. It was interesting to hear the mayor say that he had regular meeting with the Brexit minister, David Davis, and his team. More meetings than Scotland’s first Minister Nicola Sturgeon has been granted. Anyone’s Child is an organisation set up by people who have been bereaved by the war on drugs. These are people who have lost a brother or sister, parent or friend to an overdose, drug related illness or even the violence around the production and distribution of illegal drugs. They have formed an organisation to change the laws to legalise and regulate drugs so as the power is taken away from the criminals and the purity of drugs can be guaranteed and monitored. I booked them a room so they had space to congregate and also as a space to retreat to during a long day. I attended their meet and greet and made a quick speech while photographs were snapped.

I also went to their evening event to hear speaker’s personal experiences. Hearing a mother talk of losing her daughter at fifteen years and nine months because the tablet she was sold was so pure it killed her and parents talk of losing two sons through heroin addiction because there was no place to turn or there boys would be arrested only firmed up my views that the current U.K. drug policy is hopelessly outdated and needs radical reform.

Wednesday

The inaugural meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group on medical cannabis under prescription was interesting. After that I made a quick dash (or as quick as I can be with a torn cartilage) to the BBC studio at Millbank. I did an interview on BBC radio Scotland with Stephen Jardine around gambling related harm. I quick limp and I made it back for Prime Ministers Questions. I need not have bothered. I attended a drop in event that highlighted the difficulties with sleep in care and the battle for a decent hourly rate and back pay. In the evening I attended, with colleagues from other parties, a book launch for a new publication ‘Drug Wars’ by Neil Woods and JS Rafaeli.

Thursday

I had an early start with an interview for the BBC on medical cannabis on the back of my question to the prime minister last week. The PACAC select committee took evidence regarding pre appointment hearings. We listened to the chairs of other select committees to hear their experiences in this role. There is a general feeling that pre appointment hearings are just a rubber stamp to place people in roles that won’t disrupt government. My last event of the day was to speak in a debate on the role of the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (ACoBA). This is when ministers leave their post and take up jobs in the private sector. In theory ACoBA can advise them not to as they could be seen to be using their inside knowledge garnished as a minister to the advantage of one private company. In practice ACoBA has never advised against taking a position in the private sector. I was scheduled for the half eight flight home but still managed to speak in the chamber in the last debate of the day and make the quarter past six flight. I had the pleasure of sitting next to Patricia Gibson MP (North Ayrshire and Arran).

Friday

Meeting with constituents and local organisations including Caledonian MacBrayne, Mind Mosaic, and local representatives about the development of grass roots tennis (no pun intended) in conjunction with the Judy Murray Foundation.

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Written question – Home Office [26/06/2018]

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, whether the lifting of restrictions on the allocation of Tier 2 visas will apply to highly skilled veterinarians. (155851)

Tabled on: 20 June 2018

Answer:
Caroline Nokes:

On Friday 15 June, the Government announced changes to the allocation of places within the Tier 2 (General) cap of 20,700. The change – which will be implemented through amended Immigration Rules coming into effect on 6 July – will ensure that all doctors and all nurses needed in the UK will be able to be recruited to work here without being counted against the cap. This is intended to be a temporary change which recognises the importance of alleviating pressure on the NHS and which creates extra space within the cap for other sectors of the economy, including highly skilled veterinarians.

In parallel, we have asked the independent Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) to review the full composition of the Shortage Occupation List.

The answer was submitted on 26 Jun 2018 at 12:36.

 

Westminster diary w/b 18th June

Monday

I injured myself playing football on Sunday in a match against Afghanistan refugees so after the red eye flight I had a quick visit to Saint Thomas’s accident and emergency. They confirmed a torn cartilage and damaged ligaments. Westminster is not a good place to work when walking is painful. I hobbled in to the chamber for an urgent question on medical cannabis. I wrote about this in yesterday’s edition of the Tele. Fortunately the speaker allowed me to express my desire to speak by waving my order papers from a seated position. The SNP secured a three hour debate on the Sewel Convention and I managed to get a short sharp speech on the record. The recent disrespect for the Sewel Convention is the latest of many such actions perpetrated on the people of Scotland by this Conservative Government.

Tuesday

I started the day with our group AGM. Apart from a couple of vacant positions being filled it was business as usual. The stability of the group is important but it doesn’t happen without rigorous debate and self-examination. I attended the annual general meeting of the All-party Parliamentary group on Fixed Odd Betting Terminals. I remain vice chair supporting the fabulous Carolyn Harris (Labour – Swansea East). We already have an agreement from the government to reduce the maximum bet to £2 on FOBTs but the treasury are, as expected, attempting to delay the implementation until April 2020. Back in the chamber the Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, made a statement on drugs licensing. The government have been dragged kicking and screaming to the table on this issue and still seem perplexed as to what they should do or why their drugs policy review last year was so widely scorned. In the evening I took part in a Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) podcast along with Thangam Debbonaire MP (Labour – Bristol West) and Crispin Blunt MP (Conservative – Reigate).

Wednesday

Today was dominated by probably the worst performance from Jeremy Corbyn at Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) that I have witnessed. I often wonder why the Prime Minister, amidst her Brexit debacle and Conservative party in fighting still manages to hang on to her job and then you see who is opposite her at the despatch box. Ian Blackford called on the Prime Minister to condemn the action of Donald Trump’s administration in relation to separating children from parents in refugee camps. We have all seen these truly horrific scenes of children in cages. She didn’t condemn it. I was lucky to get a question in the ballot (3 in as many years) and I asked the Prime Minister how her proposed panel of experts would decide who could and who could not get medical cannabis on a one to one basis when 20,000 ( modest estimate) would apply on day one. And if she would consider medical cannabis being made available under prescription. She was swiftly handed a prepared statement that told me she was setting up a panel of experts. Well I knew that already. I now know why it’s called Prime Ministers Questions, because if it was called Prime Minister’s Answers she would be sued under the trade description act. In the afternoon I attended a rather poor briefing on medical cannabis.

Thursday

First event of the day was questions to Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS). I was not on the ballot paper but stood on the back of a question regarding gambling related harm. I was selected (I think my painful groans and grimaces may be a tactic I deploy in the future ) and I asked the Secretary of State to use his influence on the Treasury to force the implementation of a £2 maximum stake on FOBTs by the end of April 2019 and not as currently proposed April 2020. This was followed by a meeting with Heathrow airport. I caught a mid-afternoon flight and attended a community event in Kilmacolm regarding proposed housing developments. I finished the evening with a radio interview for Talk Radio’s James Whale.

Friday

Along with meeting constituents regarding their cases I met with Rape Crisis, Your Voice and the Ardgowan hospice. In the evening I indulged my guilty pleasure by attending the Clydeview Academy performance of the Sound of Music. On Saturday I shall be helping at the Coves Road reservoir clean up organised by Councillor Natasha Murphy. My contribution shall depend upon how mobile and pain free I am and on Sunday I am at the Great Get Together in St Mary’s Hall.

 

Tele column – 22nd June 2018

The U.K. Government announced this week that it will consider allowing prescriptions for medical cannabis on a one by one basis Assessing cases one by one is slow, cumbersome and therefore cruel. Tens of thousands of people could benefit now. Making them wait while other people with the same condition are provided with medicine is not a solution. Billy Caldwell’s family had to break the law, by bringing medical cannabis into the U.K. from Canada, before the Home Office caved in and allowed him access to his own drugs. MPs had to threaten to travel abroad to get the medicine Alfie Dingley requires before he was offered his by the Home Office. Other less high profile individuals are satisfying their medical needs by making their own provisions because they can’t access legal medical cannabis in the UK. Medical cannabis is available in 30 of the states in the USA and 13 European countries. Somebody living in the Netherlands suffering from epilepsy can bring their medical cannabis into the U.K. and use it to self-medicate. But a resident of the U.K. can’t travel to the Netherlands and bring back the same drugs even if they suffer from exactly the same condition. The Home Secretary announced on Tuesday that the licencing of medicinal cannabis is to be reviewed. Therefore we know that there are moves afoot to address the licensing and prescription of medical cannabis but these advances must be geared towards encompassing medical cannabis into the existing drug portfolio available to general practitioners. The end goal for the Home Office must be to allow the provision of medical cannabis under prescription. And before we can do that we have to address the supply chain for the raw materials and the laboratory facilities to produce the end product. There is a lot of work to do and we need to get started now. The time for grandstanding and prevarication has come and gone.

 

Written question – Environment [25/06/2018]

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, whether the Government plans to create an Antarctic Ocean Sanctuary. (153884)

Tabled on: 14 June 2018

Answer:
Sir Alan Duncan:

The UK is an active member of the Commission on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) and is committed to establishing a representative network of marine protected areas around Antarctica. The UK led the proposal for the South Orkney Islands Southern Shelf Marine Protected Area, which was the first MPA agreed by CCAMLR in 2009. The UK also strongly supported the designation of the Ross Sea region MPA, agreed in 2016. The UK is a co-proponent of the proposals to establish MPAs in the Weddell Sea and East Antarctica, and will be strongly advocating their adoption at the 37th CCAMLR meeting in October 2018.

The answer was submitted on 22 Jun 2018 at 14:48.

 

Written question – Home Office [21/06/18]

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, what steps his Department plans to take in relation to non-UK EU citizens who do not apply for settled status by the UK Government’s deadline. (153367)

Tabled on: 13 June 2018

Answer:
Caroline Nokes:

EU citizens, and their family members, who are resident in the UK before the end of the implementation period on 31 December 2020 will have until 30 June 2021 to make their application to the EU settlement scheme. We will take a proportionate approach to those who miss this deadline where they have a good reason for doing so. Those who do will be given a reasonable further period in which to apply.

The answer was submitted on 21 Jun 2018 at 15:49.