Westminster diary w/b 22nd October

Monday

I was briefed by a company that develop innovative and long acting medicines for the treatment of severe and chronic pain, cancer and endocrine disorders. Naturally they are now interested in the potential United Kingdom market for medical cannabis. I am talking at an opioid conference soon and so their position is interesting. I had a question on the papers for defence and took the opportunity to ask about the private firms that are providing increasing services to the armed forces but are failing to do the job specified. The Select Committee for Transport took evidence from the Secretary of State for Transport Chris Grayling MP. The focus was the timetable roll out last May that caused mayhem on the east coast of England line. We also took evidence from senior management at the Office of Road and Rail, Industry Readiness Board and Govia Thameslink Railway. Between them they still seem to be pushing the problem around. December’s planned changes should be interesting.

Tuesday

The Select Committee for Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs was a hard slog through the technical aspects of the House of Commons procedure. I did get the feeling that some committee members were using the extremely well versed witnesses as free legal advice to be used somewhere down the Brexit line. I led in a drugs policy debate in Westminster Hall. It was well subscribed and apart from the Scottish Tories doing their usual SNPBAD it was a good debate. That was until the Minister allocated by the Home Office opened her speech by saying she had to recuse herself from talking about cannabis due to her husband’s business interests. What is the point of sending someone to reply to speeches on drugs if that person can’t talk about cannabis. Having said that I asked the Minister five questions on other drug related matters and she didn’t answer them either. After the debate I attended a briefing from the House of Commons library on the roll out of Universal Credit. Inverclyde has had full roll out since November 2016 but we now face a migration period of the remaining people who are not on it yet. Despite the hard work and dedication of our local jobcentre I expect this next stage to be difficult for many.

Wednesday

I talked to the good folk from the ‘faces and voices of recovery’. They are a small but highly thought of organisation that has developed some very good ideas around alcohol and drug recovery. I attended a briefing and question and answer session with the Right Honourable Chloe Smith MP. This session was designed to encourage better intergovernmental relations. Pity it’s taken this long before someone at Westminster realised they need to work better with the devolved administrations. It was Welsh Questions in the chamber and I went to hear the minister’s answers to questions around the shared prosperity fund. I was not convinced. There is a real danger that money currently spent in Wales and Scotland by the EU will go elsewhere. PMQs was a non-event except for Ian Blackford who questioned the U.K. continued arms deals with Saudi Arabia. The recent murder of the respected Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi is the latest in a line of atrocities perpetrated by the Saudis. We need to use whatever diplomatic or financial force we have end these atrocities. The SNP finance and economics group was interesting and was quickly followed by the All-party Parliamentary kidney group. The current focus of the group is to encourage live donors. Living donors currently represent 40% of donors. I finished my day with a visit to the onshore wind generation forum. Lots has been done and there is still a lot we can do.

Thursday

I was on the order paper again and eventually (after 50 minutes) got my question to the Minister for exiting the European Union. We need to know what the U.K. is doing during Brexit negotiations regarding the single market and customs union. I had another delighted legislation committee. More EU law being converted to U.K. laws. I went to the launch of UK Parliament Week. This is always well organised and I like it as it encourages people to engage with democracy. I am pleased that some local schools are getting involved. I was the SNP lead on the last debate of the day on inclusive transport. Councillor Jim McLeod fed into my speech and I was delighted to acknowledge that in the House. Jim has worked tirelessly on the subject for years. I caught the 19:30 flight home.

Friday

I visited Inverclyde Academy to see the restored war memorial. I met with Craig Berry from the Common Weal to discuss automation and I met with the young folk at I-zone to talk about the young people as ambassadors.

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