Westminster diary w/b 15th July


I was on the order paper for questions to the Home Office.  I asked about the process that EU residents, many of whom have been in the U.K. for years, are having to go through to try and remain in the UK after Brexit. SNP MPs highlighted the case of Lizanne Zietsman, who has returned to South Africa after the Home Office ordered her to leave Britain. Lizanne has lived on the Isle of Arran since April 2015. She ran a sandwich shop with her husband. The local community supported her campaign to stay and despite a petition signed by more than 17,000, people the Home Office refused her leave to remain. The process is clearly flawed but the UK Government can’t see that or won’t admit to it.


My morning started with the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs select committee taking evidence on electoral law reform. It Is not as dry a subject as it sounds, especially when you consider the funding issues around the LEAVE campaign in the EU referendum and the possibility of a General Election on the horizon. I caught up with the members of the All Party Parliamentary Group on the Global Sex Trade and we discussed how to take forward our campaign to introduce the Nordic model in the UK This involves prosecuting the purchaser but decriminalising the seller. I spoke in a Westminster Hall debate on drug services. It was especially significant today as the latest drugs related deaths statistics had just been released. Scotland and Inverclyde are both particularly hard hit. While everyone that made a speech asked for a health-based approach and a change in the law to facilitate Drug Consumption Rooms (DCR), the minister responding maintained the UK government stance that DCRs encourage use. A view not shared by any country that has introduced them.


I started my day with an 8am breakfast meeting along with Virgin Airlines. They were keen to discuss aviation and the climate crisis while promoting a third runway at Heathrow and their allocated slots. I see a contradiction in that, but it is just the start of an on-going discussion.  Appropriately my next event was the select committee for Transport and we took evidence from the Secretary of State for Transport Chris Grayling.  That was followed by Prime Minister’s Questions. The leader of the opposition challenged the Prime Minister on the government’s climate record and she responded by accusing him of failing to stamp out racism in the Labour party. PMQs did not improve after that. The All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Drug Policy Reform (DPR) held its Annual General Meeting (AGM) at which point I was overloaded with acronyms. The group shall continue to pursue its campaigns for compassionate policies that treat problematic drug use as a health issue.


The day started with Transport Oral questions. I bobbed but wasn’t taken so didn’t get the opportunity to ask what action the UK Government was taking to reduce toxic emissions from HGV and LGVs. I met up with representatives from GamCare. They provide training, help and support around gambling related harm. They are funded via the gambling commission who in turn are funded by a voluntary levy from the gambling industry. We disagree on a few issues but we agree that a voluntary levy is not good enough and that to allow continuity and long term support a statutory levy is a must. The late afternoon was taken up by votes and I caught the 19:35 flight home.


My office combined with Stuart McMillan MSPs office and we helped at the clean-up of the Murdieston Dam. In the afternoon I met with the Head of Policy & Public Affairs at BT Scotland. We discussed, 5G, Universal Service Obligation & EE in Inverclyde. My last meeting was with REACH for Autism.