Westminster diary w/b 20th May

Monday

My first engagement on the estate is the select committee for Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs. We are taking evidence from David Lidington (Minister for the Cabinet Office and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster) and Mark Lancaster (Minister of State for the Armed Forces) regarding the role of parliament in the UK constitution authorising the use of military force.  The session was just warming up when business in the main chamber moved on very rapidly and I had to make a hasty exit from the committee as I was scheduled to talk. It is symptomatic of Westminster in general that business is chopping and changing all the time. Unfortunately for me, two things that I wanted to get involved in clashed with each other. The debate in the chamber lasted four and a half hours and was a decent discussion on the provision of medical cannabis. The only person that doesn’t seem to get it was the UK Health Minister, who was there to respond on behalf of the government. The adjournment debate was a tribute to the late Billy McNeill. It was humorous and touching in equal measures and well led by Brendan O’Hara MP.

Tuesday

A beautiful sunny London morning and I am in my office by 7:30am writing articles and preparing questions for the rest of the week. At 9:00am I meet up with teachers and pupils of Craigmarloch school and give them a guided tour of parliament. I met with Amanda Lyne, Chair UK, Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Association (UK HFCA) to discuss the role for hydrogen in heavy and long range transport. This is extremely relevant to Inverclyde as we host cruise ships and container ships every day. They are amongst the heaviest polluters and if the vessels are going to use hydrogen power then the infrastructure of the ports has to accommodate that. The All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Drug Policy Reform held a joint meeting with the APPG on Drugs, Alcohol and Justice.

Wednesday

Another sunny morning and an early start. In my office by 8am and reading briefing papers. I am on the order paper for Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQ). I put my name down every week but this is only the third time I have been pulled out the hat since 2015. I take the opportunity to ask the Prime Minister what she can do to get medical cannabis into the hands of patients that would benefit from it. The current law, which was passed last year, means that to be prioritised a patient must have already used medical cannabis and found it beneficial. The problem with that is that to access medical cannabis they must either travel abroad and pay for the prescription, medicine, travel and accommodation and risk being arrested and the medicine confiscated or pay a fortune from a private clinic in the UK. Another way to climb the priority list is to take all the existing medicines, some with dangerous side effects and prove they don’t work. Even given these obvious limitations the Prime Minister can’t see any way to improve the current system. In the afternoon I attended a discussion on the place for cannabis in our society. It was hosted by the Spectator magazine. This event dragged me of the estate but was well worth attending. I returned to Westminster to watch a film documentary on climate change forcing girls into prostitution. It was followed by a discussion with the film maker and a panel of experts.

Thursday

Up bright and early as I am on the order paper again. This time for questions to Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS). I ask the minister what alternatives the UK Government has to the often muted, but as yet not implemented, statutory levy on bookmakers. The current voluntary system raise less than £10 million a year. A levy of 1% would raise £140 million. As the industry turns over £14 billion I don’t think 1% is too much to ask for.  I catch the 18:20 flight home and my first task is to vote in the European Union election.  After that it’s time to crash out and enjoy my own bed and the joy of  blackout curtains! The dawn can wait.

Friday

Today is the first day of Whitsun recess and I am in my office. I have a meeting regarding Scotland’s drug policy and the rest of the day is consumed by meetings with constituents. On Sunday I shall attend the count for the EU elections.

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