Westminster diary w/b 6th May 2019


Much has been said about the regeneration of Dundee. As today was a public holiday I visited the V&A and the Dundee Contemporary Arts (DCA) centre to see them for myself. The water side regeneration is impressive and both venues were extremely busy. The V&A building is stunning but the exhibition space seemed small. The addition of a canteen and a souvenir shop in the grand entrance hall look very much like afterthoughts. The DCA which is comparable to our Beacon Arts Centre, has combined exhibition space with cinemas, restaurants and bars. It struck me as less touristy than the V&A and a well-liked well used facility by local people. The port of Dundee looks across the silver Tay To Fife and it can be beautiful and moody but it doesn’t compare to the stunning beauty that we enjoy in inverclyde looking across the Clyde to Argyll and Bute.


An early flight was required to get me on the Westminster estate for the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs select committee which started at 9:30. We took evidence from senior civil servants about the leadership programmes and how the most senior civil servants are trained. There was a lot of management speak banded about and I am not convinced that the outcomes are measured in any meaningful way.


The Transport select committee took evidence from the department of transport parliamentary under Secretary of State, Andrew Jones MP and Polly Payne, director general of the Rail Group. It was mostly about franchising and accessibility. Neither of which were answered convincingly. I had to leave early as I was on the Order Paper for questions to the Secretary of State for Scotland. Mr Mundell continued his attempts to muddy the waters over the sovereign right of the people of Scotland to determine their own future. It appears the Claim of Rights and the four parliamentary elections since 2014 mean nothing to him. Prime Ministers Question’s saw the Prime Minister and the leader of her majesty’s opposition use the NHS in England and Wales as a political punch bag. Taking it in turn to criticise the one run by each of their parties. Tory England versus Labour Wales. The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Gambling Related Harm was, as ever, extremely well attended and we took evidence from organisations that provide education modules for children and adults to raise awareness of the potential pitfalls of gambling. We also heard the story of how a young man’s suicide had motivated his mother to form an education organisation and the difficulties they have in funding it. They are currently active in over 1,000 schools and 5 universities but to grow they need more money over a longer period of time. This is just one example where a statutory levy on the gambling industry could be put to good use. The for Drugs, Alcohol and Justice cross-party group was also very well attended and its focus was learning lessons from Scotland. Minimum pricing of alcohol was high up on the agenda as were, safe drug consumption facilities, diversion techniques and static needle exchanges. My flight home was delayed and I got home at 23:30.


I had an early start as I was on BBC Radio Scotland at 8:05. Sometimes these interviews can be done over the phone but they wanted to record some TV too so I drove up to Pacific Quay instead. On the back of a report just released by Glasgow University, the topic of conversation was gambling related harm. The rest of the day was consumed by research and writing.


A good day of street surgeries and engagement with the people of Inverclyde. Top of their agenda was Brexit and the European Union elections on the 23rd of May. It was good to have Margaret Ferrier along with me in her capacity as an ex MP and candidate for MEP.