Westminster diary w/b 4th June

Monday

I knew I had an early start to business so I took the precaution of flying down to London on Sunday night. My first event was the select committee for constitutional affairs. We were taking evidence from Andy Burnham. He gave up his seat as an MP to stand as Mayor for Greater Manchester. Andy is one of many that want more powers devolved to English regions as he sees London and the South East continuing to attract a disproportionate level of investment in major infrastructure. It’s interesting how he felt he needed to leave Westminster to strengthen his calls for Devolution. I popped in to the chamber for Home Office questions but wasn’t taken. My second select committee on of the day was transport. This was a private briefing from the Chris Grayling MP, Secretary of State for Transport. This was to preempt the statement the following day on the expansion of Heathrow. In the evening I supported the call for a debate on section 58 and 59 of the offences against the person act 1861 and then attended a private viewing at the request of Labour MP Rupa Huq, of an excellent documentary ‘Suburban Steps to Rockland – The story of the Ealing club’. If you like rock music I recommend you search it out and watch it.

Tuesday

The select committee for the constitution met for the second time this week and this time in private. It was an opportunity to review completed work, assess on-going work and plan the next three years workload. I dropped in to the British Red Cross to find out more about U.K. emergency response. People can register as a volunteer and if there is an incident in your area you will be called upon to help. Much like people organised food and bedding in the immediate aftermath of the Grenfell fire.

I was in the chamber for the Government statement on Heathrow and was disappointed to hear that so many of the recommendations by the transport select committee had been disregarded. This was not the message we had been given the day before. Whether you support an expansion of Heathrow or not, this is not good news, as yet again a major infrastructure is in disarray before it has even started. I spoke with the head of government affairs for BMW regarding autonomous vehicles. It was extremely interesting to hear what technology is expected to be available and the categories of autonomous vehicles available. There will be an issue over phasing in these vehicles, particularly HGVs if as is planned local authorities introduce a zonal charge to enter an area. I sat in on the debate on section 58 and 59 of the offences against the person act 1861. I attended a drop in event run by Digital Scotland and was pleased to see that Inverclyde has 97.5% broadband coverage of superfast broadband and we are filling in the gaps. I made a rare foray into the House of Lords to meet with Lord Chadlington to discuss problem gambling. Lord Chadlington has personally funded research and I hope to encourage him to fund more into gambling advertising aimed at children. In the evening I had a briefing from the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority and an SNP group meeting.

Wednesday

My first meeting was with the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association. We discussed clean air quality and of course the now ever present autonomous vehicle roll out. They see the leasing market as a very good way to introduce new cars to the market place in large numbers. Scotland office Questions was a bit of a bun fight as we laid into the Secretary of State. In these times of uncertainty amplified by Brexit, I would have hoped the Secretary of State for Scotland would be fighting for Scotland at every opportunity. Sadly that is not so and we are still not represented at the top table. Scotland will be an after thought in all things Brexit. Prime Ministers Question time was so poor that the empty seats are now becoming obvious. It is quite common to see large numbers of MPs leave the chamber before completion. The All-party Parliamentary Group on Catalonia had a planning meeting and then I met with the head of public health and market access Northern Europe for pharmaceutical company. Their product would change the approach to administrating heroin substitutes. It’s still in the planning stage.

Thursday

Two urgent questions make for a robust start to the day. First it’s Heathrow again. Folk are not happy with the statement made on Tuesday and they have every reason not to be. We are only seeking clarity before the government embarks on this latest scheme. And second we return to clause 58 and 59 of the offences against the person act 1861 following a ruling on human rights by the Supreme Court. I finished my day, before dashing off for a flight, by meeting with Elisenda Paluzie (President of the Catalan National Assembly). She outlined the Catalan democratic deficiency and we discussed ways to highlight the imprisonment of politicians and activists for expressing their political beliefs by the Spanish government. Whether you believe in Catalan independence or not, sending teachers, students and democratically elected members to prison for expressing their views in a peaceful fashion is an outrage against democracy.

Friday

Was constituency work and engaging with local activists regarding their concerns over the council’s housing policy. On Saturday I am attending the Inverclyde Association of Mental Health drop in dementia information session at Broomhill Gardens and on Sunday I am attending a Tea and Blether party organised by Alzheimer Scotland.

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