It’s going to be a long night at Westminster but as its U.K. Parliament Week I delay my departure and visit St John’s Primary School in Port Glasgow. The primary six class are well briefed and grill me on all aspects of my role as MP. I jump on a train to Glasgow to attend Citizens Basic Income Stakeholder event.
Then it’s off to the airport. The budget debate is in full swing in the House of Commons and I take the opportunity to intervene and express my concern that the UK Government’s decision to delay the £2 maximum bet on FOBTs may have been influenced by a report by KPMG. The report, as the authors freely admit, was framed by the requirements of the British Bookmakers Association. The debate was followed by votes and I make it back to my flat at midnight.
Today was a strange day even for Westminster. Events and meetings were cancelled, rescheduled and cancelled again as rumours circulated the estate of Prime Minister’s statements and cabinet resignations. Amidst the chaos is was good to sit down with members from the ‘cycle to work alliance’. In Inverclyde the Bothy at Gourock railway station and the Community Tracks scheme are working very hard to provide bikes and routes. The next step is for employers to provide facilities to safety store bikes and changing facilities for employees. It was a privilege to attend the formal launch of ‘Gambling with Lives’. This charity has been set up to help publicise gambling related harm including suicide. It is the brave parents of young men that have committed suicide due to gambling addiction that have started the charity and I will be doing everything I can to help promote their cause.
I met with Steve Brine MP (Parliamentary under-secretary of state for Public Health and Primary Care) to discuss medical cannabis under prescription. It was a private meeting with civil servants in attendance as is the protocol. Mr Brine was very open in his views and I welcome that. He was happy to expand the conversation into other drug policy areas and I shall be looking to progress these matters further with him in the chamber in the near future. One good meeting calls for another and that’s just what happened when I met Kat Banyard to discuss prostitution and the global sex trade.
The imminent Brexit Statement was dominating most folk’s minds and we were promised a statement after PMQs but the timing constantly changed. PMQs lasted longer than it needed to which delayed a written statement that I had been waiting for. It wasn’t the Brexit statement it was the agreement from the U.K. Government to implement the £2 maximum spin on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals in April 2019 and not delay it as they had announce in the budget. Compared to Brexit this will not command many column inches but for those people whose lives have been blighted by these machines it is a very big deal. I am glad to have played my part in making this happen along with Carolyn Harris MP (Labour) and Iain Duncan Smith MP (Conservatives) and from the SNP local colleague Stuart McMillan MSP and Stuart McDonald MP.
And so the Brexit statement has been released and as was stated in the chamber during the Statement on the EU exit negotiations, it was dead before it was even read. The Secretary of State for Exiting the EU resigned and more were to follow. Scotland was not mentioned once in the near 600 page document. So much for a family of Nations. The utter contempt that Scotland has been shown during the entire Brexit process reveals the true nature of the U.K. government. After an internal SNP de-briefing I got the 19:30 flight home.
I visited Inverclyde Academy, Clydeview Academy and Port Glasgow High School to discuss democracy and all things politics with the pupils. This rounded off Parliament Week and I would like to thank all the Inverclyde schools and organisations that took part. If we want to affect change we need be skilled in the ways of politics and Parliament. It is encouraging to see so many young folk taking up that challenge.