A calm start to what was going to be a frenetic week. A group of six MPs and a couple of Members of the House of Lords found ourselves on the same flight and the same tube journey to Westminster. Normally we just get on with our own business. We exchange pleasantries but not much more but today the atmosphere is different and our phones are hot as rumour and counter rumour leak and are leaked from London. The only known business of the day is the Prime Minister’s statement after the G20 summit. It’s a statement so there are no votes but it does serve a purpose as the opening salvoes are fired across the government bows. However, they took no notice. They should have.
The UK government flip flop from charm offensive to hostile behaviour, rotating at hourly intervals. They are clearly in a spin and are desperate to assert their authority. The first vote of the day is a government amendment to a ‘Privilege Motion’ it has the title Contempt of House. The amendment seeks to remove the censure of contempt and instead refer the question of publication of legal advice, and the increasing use of the ‘humble address’ mechanism, to the Privileges Committee. The SNP voted against the amendment (so did two Conservative members) and we won 311 to 307. We then voted on the Privilege Motion (un-amended). The motion found Ministers in contempt of the House for refusing to publish the Brexit legal advice, and it ordered immediate publication of the advice. SNP voted AYE and the motion was carried 311 to 293. A point of order followed during which the government confirmed it would publish the legal advice the following day. There then followed an amendment to allow any motion brought to the House under section 13 of the EU Withdrawal Act to be amendable. Currently the EU Withdrawal Act and Standing Orders only require a neutral, unamendable motion in the event of a no deal situation being declared. SNP voted AYE along with 25 Conservative Members, and the amendment was carried 321 – 299. The Business Motion as amended was then carried without division. Then the debate started. I wandered home at midnight leaving a few of my SNP colleagues still in the chamber waiting for their turn to speak.
Despite lots of noise from the benches Prime Ministers Question time was a dull affair. The government were still hurting from losing three votes the night before and didn’t come looking for a fight. I spoke at the Drugs, Alcohol and Justice All Party Parliamentary Group. This group is well represented by those in recovery and those providing the services. There are differences in opinion regarding how services are commissioned but a united belief that safe drug consumption rooms could make a valuable contribution. In the evening I attended a Saint Andrew’s Day event to promote Scottish produce. I was delighted that The New Chocolate Company and The Start-Up Drinks Lab both based in the Kelburn Business Park, Port Glasgow, had produce available. I can confirm that it went down very well.
I was twentieth on the business papers for a question to Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union and miraculously I was taken. I pressed the Secretary to respect the vote of the Scottish Parliament to reject the withdrawal bill but he chose not to. I spoke in the European Union Withdrawal Act debate. I even threw in a joke from one of Greenock’s favourite sons Chic Murray. As penance I was in the chamber until eight pm.
Up with the sparrows in time to catch the Heathrow express and the 7:40 flight to Glasgow. I had a day of surgeries throughout the constituency and in the evening hosted an evening with Lesley Riddoch in the Beacon Arts Centre. Over 120 people took the opportunity to watch two short films about, Norway and The Faroe Islands and then take part in a question and answer session with Lesley. On Sunday I shall be taking part (I didn’t say running) in the Santa Dash organised by Tommy (the clown) Armstrong.