Westminster diary w/b 4th March

Monday

I delayed my departure to Westminster to meet with Angela Rintoul who is a senior lecturer at Monash University in Australia. She is gathering information on gambling related harm and I was happy to pass on the knowledge I have gleaned from my work at Westminster. Gambling related harm is a worldwide issue. I would have stayed in Inverclyde and gotten on with the day job but we were expecting a debate in the Financial Services Bill and possible votes so I headed for the midday flight. Unfortunately, the debate was pulled but there were plenty of urgent questions to fill the void. I was taken (miracles of miracles) for a question on the shambles of the ferry contracts. Surprisingly it was the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care that came to answer. Or not answer as the case may be. I raised my concern over healthcare companies that are extending their credit limits to borrow money so they can stockpile medicines. The other side of the coin is that banks are having to extend loans over longer periods than they would normally have an appetite for.

Tuesday

The select committee on Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs took evidence from experts on the gathering of statistics. What sounds like a very dry topic was in fact an extremely interesting session. In these days of ‘fake news’ it is increasingly important that data can be gathered and reports produced that can guide industry and commerce without political interference. The local SNP branch have a resolution for SNP conference that a Scottish Statistics Agency should be established. I hosted a meeting of Narcotics Anonymous where we addressed their concerns that access to prisons for ex-offenders was difficult. Often and particularly within Narcotics Anonymous, it is the testament of members of the fellowship that gives strength to others. Unfortunately some of those members have criminal records. We are seeking clarification over when they can get permission to return to prison to help and counsel inmates. We had an SO24 (emergency debate granted by the Speaker) on the Ferry Contract debacle. This time the Secretary of State for Transport actually turned up. In the evening the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Catalonia had an extremely well attended and we heard from Toni Comin (ex Minister for Health) and Professor Bill Bowring, an international observer at the trails of political prisoners in Madrid.

Wednesday

I started the day at a round table event with Scottish Renewables. It was an extremely interesting discussion encompassing both on shore and off shore wind and importantly how we can mix tidal, wave and solar into the package. I attended both the Marie Curie and Brain Tumour drop ins. Prime Minister’s Question was sparsely attended by the Conservative and Unionist Party, the discontent within their party rumbles on as we approach the decisive Brexit votes next week. I attended and spoke at a Parliamentary round table event on Global Drug Policy. It was attended by delegates from Uganda, Zambia, Ghana, India and many other countries that are suffering because of their part in the international drugs trade. The hard fact that many of the UK representatives couldn’t grasp was that these countries were brutalised by colonialism and had their natural resources stolen from them. Their current poverty and therefore the need of poor farmers to grow the crops and play their part in the industry is because of British colonialism. It is a bit rich that all these years later we still think we can teach them how to run their own countries. Not surprisingly the delegates from those countries agreed with me. Business in the chamber is slow at Westminster so I managed to catch the 20:30 flight home.

Thursday

The morning was taken up by street surgeries in Port Glasgow and I squeezed in some leafleting for Councillor Jim Mcleod at lunch time. The afternoon was spent in my office handling casework to allow members of my team to take holidays and attend on-going training and personal development. In the evening I attendee ‘Creative Inverclyde’ at the Albany. This is a fantastic initiative to encourage cooperation amongst the creative sector while promoting Inverclyde as a place to work and live.

Friday

The plan was to do more street surgeries in the morning but our beautiful rain intervened and I worked in the office instead. I had a meeting with Riverside Inverclyde in the afternoon.

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