Westminster diary w/b 21st October


The Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs select committee (PACAC) took evidence from the Minister for the Constitution, Kevin Stewart MP. It was mostly around voter identification, the regulation of spending and the use of social media. I am not convinced about the need for voter identification cards in case they are a barrier to people voting. Regulation gets trashed on a regular basis and fines don’t solve it. And social media is miles ahead of the legislation required to make it safe and legal. The Minister didn’t address any of these facts. The APPG on Catalonia heard from their Foreign Affairs minister, Alfred Bosch. His plea was simple. In these turbulent times the Catalan government want to sit down and talk. That is the only way to resolve the issues. He urged us to use all the diplomatic channels that we can. In the Chamber the UK Government were attempting to rerun the debate they had and lost on Saturday. The speaker schooled them on parliamentary process pointing out that the avenue they were pursuing, that of significant change in circumstances, was not appropriate as they had applied for the debate 21 minutes after the last one ended and nothing significant had happened in that time. I sat in a delegated committee on gas tariffs. It was not controversial and passed unopposed.


Not content with one session a week, PACAC met to take evidence from expert witnesses on the role of the speaker. I should have been forewarned that it was going to be a long session when I read the brief which started ‘by the civil war period’. As it turned out it lasted just over three hours but was hugely entertaining and informative. I met with representatives of Health Poverty Action to update them on drugs policy and see how we can work together to improve the current policies. I was in the chamber for the Prime Minister’s speech on the Withdrawal Agreement Bill. I get the feeling that he is light on detail and heavy on promises. I met with Digital Scotland to discuss broadband rollout in Inverclyde and the R100 programme which aims to provide 100% access to superfast broadband by 2021. The evening was scheduled to run until 22:30 but the votes at 19:00 did not go the way the UK Government wanted. The Prime Minister had wanted to railroad ahead with plans to implement legislation that will drag Scotland out of the EU, and inflict lasting harm on its economy, small and large businesses, public services, and people’s livelihoods, all the SNP MPs voted against this. The UK Government then paused the bill!


I met with Amazon to discuss the future of the plant in Inverclyde and working conditions for employees. I was on the order paper for Prime Minister’s Questions and took great consideration composing my question. They don’t come along often, and I didn’t want to squander it. The government have stock answers to many questions, and I wanted to avoid those. I asked about the availability and funding of medical cannabis. It’s an issue that this Prime Minister has been more open to than his predecessor. He responded to me by saying “I will take it up personally with him” and that is an offer I shall certainly accept. I met up with a representative of Virgin Media to discuss the continued quest to roll out the best possible local service and representatives of NoteMachine, the second largest ATM provider in the UK. We discussed the increasing policy of charging for the use of ATMs.


I had an interview with the author J.S. Rafaeli. He is researching drug policy reform for an article for vice.com which says its remit is ‘original reporting on everything that matters’. I then spoke with the Royal Mail. They highlighted the dramatic increase in parcel delivery, which fitted in well with my discussions with Amazon on Wednesday. The Queen’s speech went through and a statement was made that a General Election will be voted on next Monday. The Tory plan is to push through a bad deal with minimum scrutiny. We aren’t falling for it.


In the morning I had meetings with constituents and in the afternoon, I met with Financial Fitness and visited Belville gardens to catch up with the Our Place Our Future Roadshow. In between I met up with the Greenock Telegraph to highlight my appeal to retailers to stop selling Fireworks to the public.