Tele diary w/b 11th February

Monday

Business started with questions to the Department for Work and Pensions. I was not on the Order Paper so I bobbed furiously on the back of other people’s questions. My extreme bobbing was in vain as I failed to catch the Speaker’s eye. I had lodged an urgent question on the allocation of European Conference of Ministers of Transport permits (ECMT) to road hauliers but I was unsuccessful. The urgent question was on the contract awarded and subsequently cancelled to Seaborne for the provision of Ferries post Brexit. I had a cunning plan to squeeze in my question about road hauliers but once again the speaker chose to ignore me. I had yet another Delegated Legislation (DL) Committee. This one was on eco-design for energy-related products and energy information. In the evening I appeared on the James Whale show on Talk radio. I took the opportunity to finally explain that the U.K. has an allocation of 984 ECMT permits and there have been over 11,000 applications. Simple maths tell me that less than ten percent of the applicants will be able to continue to transport goods from and to the U.K. post Brexit if we have a no deal. With forty one days to go the U.K. Government continues to hide its head in the sand over serious issues with extreme consequences.

Tuesday

I met with MPs from the Conservative and Unionist Party, Labour Party and Plaid Cymru to show solidarity with the Catalan political prisoners. In the chamber the Prime Minister made another, very similar, statement about leaving the European Union. These matters are hugely important which makes it all the more disappointing that the conversation has not moved on in over 30 months. My second DL Committee of the week. This time it was draft judicial pensions and fee-paid judge’s pensions. I dropped in to see Digital Scotland to hear about the next phase of broadband rollout in Scotland. Inverclyde is well served already but there will always be room for improvement. I met the Parliamentary cyber security team to ensure that my office staff and I are doing everything we should to keep our data secure. I made a short speech outside Number 10 to Catalan protestors.

Wednesday

I met with representatives of pharmaceutical companies regarding the supply of prescription drugs after Brexit. Although many are manufactured in the U.K. most require ingredients from outside the U.K. The supply chain, as per my previous observations regarding the haulage industry, will be under extreme pressure. Prime Ministers Question’s has stagnated into a she says, he says affair. I attended the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on global security and the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons. Late afternoon I attended my third DL committee of the week, the draft financial services contracts. One of the great things about this job is the wide variety of subjects that I get involved in but these DL committees really are stretching that theory to the limit.

Thursday

First up were questions to the Department of Transport. I bobbed, I wasn’t taken. I am one of the judges in the UK parliament awards so I spent some time reviewing this year’s entrants. I have gone to some lengths to encourage people of all walks of life to engage with politics and politicians and these awards are a good vehicle to do that. The re-run of the E.U. Withdrawal Bill was debated in the chamber and votes started at 17:00. There were 2 amendments voted on but followed by the main business of the day and we had two interesting developments. The SNP amendment to extend article 50 was supported by 41 Labour MPs who ignored their party whips and the government lost their motion by 303 votes to 258. A hammering in anyone’s language. And so the Brexit debacle continues. The ’mother of all parliaments’ overseeing the mother of all farces. I arrived home at 22:50

Friday

I caught up with some casework and then attended the Inverclyde Alliance Tobacco Strategy update. I had meetings with constituents and street surgeries all afternoon. In the evening I finally got to a Burns Supper.

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Tele column 15th February 2019

The owners of the Inverkip Power Station, Scottish Power, have applied for planning permission for up to 650 houses/premises on the site. This does not mean that they will build them, it means if planning permission is granted that the land can then be marketed and sold with planning permission in place and therefore it increases in value. I have viewed this site and it is truly unique. Although close to the A78 it is secluded and peaceful. I think that this site offers so much more than most and with that in mind I have entered discussion with Alzheimer’s Scotland to gather their views on approaching prospective purchasers and asking them to include a ‘dementia village’ in their plans. Such villages have been muted around other parts of the U.K. and they already exist in other countries. They are designed to allow people with dementia to receive appropriate care and live their lives to the maximum. The entire village would be inhabited by residents and carers. It is estimated that over a million people in the U.K. will be living with dementia by 2025 and the need for practical methods of caring for people with dementia will continue to increase. I have asked Scottish Power to consider this when it comes to selling the land. I understand the council may look at this site and see a revenue source via council tax and I also understand that all budgets are stretched but I would hope they would see beyond the cash in hand and consider this as a long term investment in the citizens of Inverclyde.

Universal Credit flaws

The link between Universal Credit and soaring foodbank use has long been disputed by senior Tories at Westminster and Holyrood – but the Work and Pensions Secretary has finally admitted that the policy, which has been plagued with delays, has led to widespread poverty.

Amber Rudd yesterday admitted that: “It is absolutely clear that there were challenges with the initial rollout of universal credit –and the main issue that led to an increase in food bank use could have been the fact that people had difficulty accessing their money early enough.”

It’s now abundantly clear that the welfare cuts inflicted by the UK Government on people across Scotland are directly forcing vulnerable people into poverty.

I have been campaigning and commenting on the subject of Universal Credit since my election in 2015 and have voted against the UK Government’s welfare cuts at every opportunity.  The public petition I have created has been signed by hundreds of Inverclyde constituents who have raised their concerns about the policy. 

Universal Credit still carries the punitive benefit freeze, two child cap and rape clause as well as the brutal sanctions regime born from ideologically-driven Tory austerity.  I will continue to campaign for further changes to the policy.

 

Westminster diary w/b 4th February

Monday

Business continues to be slow at Westminster as the government is completely incapacitated by the prospect of leaving the European Union. I utilised my time away by holding extra meetings with constituents. Until Westminster sorts itself out, if that is possible, then I shall be making plans to spend as much time in Inverclyde as I can and use that time constructively.  

Tuesday

Paying the price for not travelling down yesterday and caught the red eye to London. Despite a slight delay due to fog I was in Westminster by 9:30 and started the day with the select committee for Transport. We took evidence from the road haulage industry regarding Brexit. This was a follow up session to a previous one where we took evidence from the rail haulage industry. It’s an accurate reflection on the evidence provided that the haulage industry has been dreadfully under-represented in any withdrawal discussions. There are a host of questions unanswered that need to be addressed if goods are going to flow back and forward unhindered. In the afternoon I had a meeting with the Minister of State for disabled people Sarah Newton. I updated her on four universal credit cases that my office are dealing with as they represent a cross section of typical cases. I attended the debate on Unpaid Work Trials brought forward by my SNP colleague Stewart M McDonald MP. And finished the day with an internal group meeting to keep us updated with all things Brexit. 

Wednesday

A second meeting of the Transport Select Committee was another private session. We took evidence from representatives of air traffic controllers, pilots and senior management from Gatwick and Heathrow about drones. This was prompted by the closure of Gatwick due to drones. It was an extremely informative session from experts in their field. I caught most of Prime Minister’s Question Time. It was the day of the deputies as the Prime Minister was otherwise engaged desperately seeking anyone that would back her Brexit deal. I had a meeting with the Secretary of State for Culture, Jeremy Wright MP and Minister for Sport and Civic Society, Mims Davies MP. The topic of conversation was gambling related harm. I am pressing them for a range of changes including advertising regulations, funding and the proliferation of ‘loot boxes’. As once again business collapsed early I caught an evening flight home. 

Thursday

Great start to the day with a cycle to work and meeting with the Inverclyde Bothy and Halfords to promote cycling in Inverclyde. Swift peddle back to my office for a range of meetings with constituents and organisations. In the evening I attended the community council meeting for Inverkip and Wemyss Bay. Amongst a range of issues discussed the biggest concerns were the proposed 650 houses on the old power station site and the state of the A78.  

Friday

I had a meeting with constituents to discuss employment issues. I then had one of my regular meetings with Police Scotland to review my and my team’s security. A quick catch up with Tommy ‘the clown’ Armstrong was followed by a meeting with River Clyde Homes management for an update and constituent cases. I ended the week with a meeting with Scottish Power to discuss their plans for the Inverkip Power Station site. We can do so much more with that site than just houses.

 

Drugs policy inquiry

The Health and Social Care Committee is seeking written submissions on the health consequences of illicit drugs policy including on:

Health and harms:

  • What is the extent of health harms resulting from drug use?

Prevention and early intervention:

  • What are the reasons for both the initial and the continued, sustained use of drugs? This refers to the wide spectrum of use, from high-risk use to the normalisation of recreational use.
  • How effective and evidence-based are strategies for prevention and early intervention in managing and countering the drivers of use? This includes whether a whole-system approach is taken.

Treatment and harm reduction:

  • How effective and evidence-based is treatment provision? This refers to both healthcare services and wider agencies, and the extent to which joined-up care pathways operate.
  • Is policy is sufficiently geared towards treatment? This includes the extent to which health is prioritised, in the context of the Government’s criminal justice-led approach.

Best practice:

  • What would a high-quality, evidence-based response to drugs look like?
  • What responses to drugs internationally stand out as particularly innovative and / or relevant, and what evidence is there of impact in these cases?

Accepting written submissions; the closing dates is Monday 18 March 2019.

https://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/health-and-social-care-committee/inquiries/parliament-2017/drugs-policy-inquiry-17-19

Gambling Related Harm

I welcome the measures being announced by the Gambling Commission today as further steps to address gambling related harm.  It must not be simple for people to create gambling accounts without necessary age verification and identity checks.

Yesterday, I met with the Secretary of State for Culture, Jeremy Wright MP and Minister for Sport, Mims Davies MP to discuss a number of issues relating to gambling addiction such as FOBTs, online advertising rules and the increased prevalence of young people gambling.

I will be proposing a resolution to the upcoming SNP Conference which seeks support for classifying loot boxes as gambling rather than gaming and urging the UK Government to follow the lead of Belgium in banning these in-game options.  If the UK Government do not take the necessary action then the powers should be transferred to the Scottish Parliament to allow it the opportunity to address the problem.

 

Written question – Gambling [07/02/2019]

To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, what recent discussions his Department has had with the representatives from the betting industry on the implementation of a £2 maximum unit stake on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals. (214598)

Tabled on: 30 January 2019

Answer:
Mims Davies:

Ministers and officials regularly meet with stakeholders to discuss a range of subjects, including the implementation of the stake reduction on B2 machines. Details of Ministerial meetings are published on a quarterly basis on gov.uk

The answer was submitted on 07 Feb 2019 at 16:19.

 

UK Parliament Teacher Ambassador Programme

Step One: Teachers’ Institute

The first step in becoming a UK Parliament Teacher Ambassador is to attend our unique 3-day professional development opportunity: Teachers’ Institute. During these days you will immerse yourself in the politics of UK Parliament with this unique professional development opportunity. Teachers of Government & Politics, Citizenship and related subjects, and other education professionals, can apply to experience an intensive, informative and unforgettable course based at the Houses of Parliament. UK Parliament covers your travel costs, residential accommodation and most meals. All resources, workshops and events are free of charge.

Teachers’ Institute offers:

  • A tour of the Palace of Westminster
  • The chance to watch debates in the chambers
  • Q&A with Members from both Houses
  • Informative sessions to improve delegates’ knowledge of Parliament and democracy
  • Activities that will help to develop classroom resources
  • All the resources you’ll need as a UK Parliament Teacher Ambassador
  • Networking opportunities

 View a sample Teachers’ Institute timetable.

Step Two: Work towards UK Parliament Teacher Ambassador Status

Once you return to your educational setting, you will commit to becoming either a bronze, silver or gold UK Parliament Ambassador through delivering assemblies, training and events to students and fellow teaching staff. Teachers’ Institute will have given you all the tools, now it’s your turn!

View our UK Parliament Teacher Ambassador Levels.

Step three: Receive your UK Parliament Teacher Ambassador Accreditation

After submitting a portfolio of evidence, you will receive either your bronze, silver or gold accreditation with an official certificate and badges for your website. You will also join our Teacher Ambassador community and benefit from a continuing partnership with UK Parliament Education.

How can I apply?

Apply here for our next Teachers’ Institute 1-3 July. Application close on Sunday 21 April.

For any enquiries please contact engage@parliament.uk