Westminster diary w/b 20th January


It is never a good start to the week when the first message you receive on your phone is from British Airways to inform you that your flight has been cancelled. A flurry of activity results in a noon flight being booked but it is 6am and I am wide awake! An unexpected opportunity to catch up on some correspondence. Not surprisingly the noon flight is full of members of the House of Commons and Lords. I am in the chamber for the debate on the Queen’s Speech and we finish with votes at 10pm.


In at 9am for the constitution meeting followed by informal discussions with a number of people who are looking for election to chair a select committee. Some of whom I have never met before in my life. The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Gambling Related Harm (GRH) held its Annual General Meeting (AGM) and reconstituted itself. The campaign to control the gambling industry and make it responsible for the damage it causes while respecting people’s desire to enjoy a flutter goes on. It has been a big news week for GRH. I had a number of interviews relating to gambling in football. The most challenging being the Scottish Television one. It was recorded at 20:30 with the presenter and a journalist (Stephen McGowan, chief sports writer with the Daily Mail and fellow resident of Inverclyde) in a studio in Glasgow and me at Westminster in what amounts to little more than a broom cupboard with a camera, bright light and green screen. It’s hard to be part of a coherent conversation when you can’t see the body language of the presenter, but I think I made my point. The game must come before the gambling. I attended the APPG for woods and trees. It’s shocking how far behind the UK Government is in setting targets for reforestation. They are only talking about small scale projects while Africa is planting an 8,000 kilometre green wall right across the continent.


I start the day with an interview with Martyn McLaughlin of the Scotsman (a fellow Morton fan). Once again, the topic is gambling in football. I am hoping this will be an on-going conversation and it won’t require the brave actions of those within the game that are suffering to step up and risk possible expulsion and the subsequent loss of earnings. Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) was short and sharp as is the new way under the speaker, Lindsay Hoyle. The Prime Minister was quick to criticise Scotland and indeed was talking down Scotland before Ian Blackford even got to his feet. I believe the phrase is ‘getting your retaliation in first’. There were five votes on Lord’s amendments to the European Union Withdrawal Bill. They were all defeated by the Conservative and Unionist Government who turned out in their droves to ensure we did not restore the rights of unaccompanied child refugees. In the same week as we remember those who died in the Holocaust we as the United Kingdom are denying unaccompanied children a safe haven. These kids are amongst the most vulnerable in the world, the UK government should hang its head in shame.


I was at Inverclyde Academy to support the ‘Inch by Inch’ campaign which aims to educate and support people to eat a healthier diet. Poverty often leads to a poor diet and obesity. Currently it is estimated that almost a third of children in Scotland are at risk of being overweight. The Scottish Government aims to half that by 2030. I was scheduled to attend the Great British High Street awards in Edinburgh as Kempock Street in Gourock was up for an award. But there was not enough time to fulfil my local commitments locally and travel to the awards.


I visited Peel Ports to see the progress they are making with the floating pontoon that is currently being built at the Inchgreen Dry Dock. In the afternoon I had a discussion on renewable energy in Inverclyde.