Westminster diary w/b 25th March


It’s a morning flight this week as I am on the order paper for questions to the Defence department. With increasing concerns around the supply of medicines and food, post Brexit, I have been trying to clarify the situation regarding the legality of Government and Parliament deploying armed forces on UK soil. To the best of my knowledge this has only happened twice in modern history. During the troubles in Northern Ireland and in George Square Glasgow in 1919. Using the forces in an unarmed capacity is a completely different thing. The now weekly statement from the Prime Minister contained the staggering line “I cannot commit the Government to delivering the outcome of any votes held by this house.” This was a nod to the indicative votes that were being scheduled for Wednesday. My delegated legislation committee considered draft customs and security procedures. Yes, that’s right, customs and security, four days before the planned exit date. I spoke against the statutory instrument as it completely ignored the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic. It actually said, “further details on the arrangement for trade between Northern Ireland and Ireland will be published as soon as possible.” That’s not good enough.


Coincidentally the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs select committee we were also looking at military deployment. We took evidence from three extremely senior members of the armed forces. The frustration at the military continually being thrown into conflicts ill prepared and with no exit strategy was shared by all three. When parliament votes on such things the voice of the armed forces but also be heard and their advice must be seriously considered. Of course, the difficulty arises if the armed forces are seen to be political and therefore they tend to be side-lined in the decision-making process. I think we least they deserve is an exit strategy and the correct care and support for veterans after they have served. I bobbed for questions to the Health department but didn’t get taken. I wanted to ask about the availability of medical cannabis. I took the opportunity to talk to the Secretary of State for Health later in the day during votes. I may as well put the archaic voting system to some good use. The All Party Parliamentary Group for Medical Cannabis met and took evidence later in the day. There were too many money men represented for my liking and I can see big business dominating and controlling the market place.


In for Scotland questions and the usual suspects from the Conservative and Unionists mocking the ability of Scotland to run its own affairs. Take one good look at Brexit and tell me Westminster function’s as a responsible parliament. Prime Ministers Questions was an appalling spectacle. The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Gambling related harm was hard going as we listened to evidence from people who have lost money and their health to gambling addiction. Particularly harrowing was evidence that people suffering from acquired brain injuries have been exploited due to their repetitive behaviour disorders. The evening was dominated by the eight indicative votes. None were accepted. A very good indication of what parliament doesn’t want but not very useful in trying to move the debate forward. We did manage to agree to bump the leaving date forward subject to approval from the EU. Amidst all this the Prime Minister offered to resign if her deal was accepted. I have never heard that technique used. Back my deal or I will resign is the usual stance but back my deal and I will resign! Strong and stable anyone!


The political machinations moved into hyper-drive today as the dust settled on last night’s indicative votes. In some quarters there seems to be a lot of confusion around why I voted for, against or abstained on certain amendments. Indicative votes are a way of securing Parliamentary time for debate followed by a series of votes on various scenarios, to see which, if any, might command a majority in the House of Commons. They form opinion and may lead to motions that the government believes will have the support of the house. I used my votes to indicate my preferences. Had I voted for some that I abstained on that would have deflected from my priorities. As we move forward and we get to substantive motions then all consideration will be taken to supporting other amendments. Meanwhile business is sparse and all eyes are on the House for a declaration of business tomorrow. Flights are being cancelled, hotels booked, business cancelled and we are all hunkering down for another day in the chamber.


All my constituency work has been cancelled. My apologies to those I have had to let down at the last minute. Today the UK Government brought forward only the Withdrawal Agreement to be voted on and not the Political Declaration. There were a number of amendments and votes at 2:30pm and then I rushed to catch a flight home, sweet home.