Westminster diary w/b 10th February

Monday

With one eye on the weather I drove to the BBC studios at Pacific Quay for a 7:45am interview for BBC Scotland. It was a precursor to my meeting with Neil Doncaster, Chief Executive of the Scottish Professional Football League, to discuss their relationship with gambling. The interview went well, and I then nipped across Glasgow to Hampden Park. It was an open and honest exchange of views, but I remain unconvinced that the SPFL are aware of the responsibility they have to the wider society. I shall be following up today’s meeting with a meeting with Ian Maxwell, CEO of the Scottish Football Association. If football is going to take money from the gambling industry, then they must understand the role they play in normalising gambling. I spent a very blustery afternoon in my constituency office, glad to be in Greenock and not in a plane to London.

Tuesday

The day starts with a 7am flight. Chamber business is once again slow and so I busy myself with committee preparation. There is a statement on HS2 and to my surprise the UK government have committed to HS2 at a new cost of over £100 billion. It is eleven years since the Labour Secretary of State announced a high-speed link from London to Scotland and £12 billion pounds has already been consumed. I thought they would cut their losses and cancel it, but it would appear they are going to chase their losses. With no new track laid I don’t think it’s the best plan and of course there is no timetable for HS2 to actually get as far as Scotland. Investment in rail is required but I don’t think HS2 is the solution. I bobbed for a question but was not taken. Today, the opposition day debate is defined by the SNP and we have chosen to debate migration. The Scottish Government has proposed a system for Scottish visas to work beside the existing system and enable the recruitment of key workers. The Conservative benches talk against the motion as they are entrenched in the mindset that if its proposed by the SNP then they have to object. I asked the Minister if he would support any system that improved the situation in Scotland, and he said he was only interested in UK wide solutions. It’s particularly galling as many of their constituencies rely on migrant workers. We pushed it to a vote and lost.

Wednesday

It’s a busy morning that starts with a meeting with Scottish Enterprise to discuss train manufacturing in Scotland followed by a meeting with a medical cannabis company that are trying to manufacture in the UK but running up against the Home Office legislation. It’s Scottish Questions today prior to Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs). They are fairly unremarkable, just another thirty minutes of Tories talking down Scotland. PMQs was a funfair of knock about with Boris the Buffoon entertaining his star struck hoards. Kirsten Oswald (SNP MP for East Renfrewshire), asked the Prime Minister to justify the Lords voting themselves a pay rise to £323 a day while the monthly allowance for a single person over 25 on Universal Credit is £317.82. The PM in his unbounded wisdom declared it was a matter for the Lords. The All- Party Parliamentary Group on Gambling Related Harm took evidence from the Chief Executive of the Gambling Commission, Neil McArthur. He gave evidence to the Lords enquiry yesterday. It is fair to say that today he got cross examined more thoroughly. The Gambling Commission is not fit for purpose and the Gambling Act needs rewritten.

Thursday

I bobbed on questions to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and was taken! I asked that when the gambling act is considered that those with lived experience of gambling harm are consulted. I bobbed for questions to the Attorney General but wasn’t taken but I hung around for an Urgent Question pertains to online harm, I asked about defining legislation for gaming online to stop the spread to gambling via loot boxes.

Friday

I started with one of my regular catchup meetings with Kevin Scarlet at River Clyde Homes. Of all the issues my office deals with, housing is currently the most frequent. In the afternoon along with Stuart McMillan MSP I met with Scottish Enterprise to discuss the economy of the Clyde.

Greenock Telegraph 14th February 2020

After the last General Election many political pundits were predicting a period of calm and stability. Logic would suggest that a government with a large working majority would be able to manage that.  

But politics within the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is never as simple as that. The clue is in the name. Uniting isn’t always easy and it isn’t always the right thing to do. Uniting Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales and England has been contentious for centuries, and the fact that Norther Ireland was created by partitioning off the six north eastern counties from Ireland compounds the difficulties. If you had asked me where the acrimony would first manifest itself after Brexit, I would not have suspected drugs policy but it has. The Scottish Government announce they plan to host a drugs forum and the UK Government rush in and do the same but don’t engage with the Scottish Government first. The U.K. Government jealously protect their interests, putting them before all others. Then Glasgow was chosen to host COP26 and the UK Instantly shut out the Scottish Government’s involvement and tried to come between them by using the platform for the Prime Minister to flirt with his green credentials. They continue to act like the biggest, worst behaved kid in a kindergarten grabbing toys from other children and discarding them just as quickly. They don’t know what they want but they know they want all of it. With the latest opinion polls in Scotland showing over 50% for independence and with the incredible rise of Sinn Fein in last week’s Irish elections the U.K. Government would do well to start building bridges and I don’t mean the one from Portpatrick to Larne. The proposed £5 million love bombing of Scotland will need to be incredibly successful if we are to stay in this relationship. But I can’t imagine that any amount of cards, flowers, champagne and poetry can pull the wool over Scotland’s eyes this time.

Labour are unionists, Tories are too,

I love Scotland, How about you?

 

Written question – Home Office [12/02/2020]

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, when her Department will announce more details on the drugs summit taking place in Glasgow on 27 February 2020. (12956)

Tabled on: 05 February 2020

This question was grouped with the following question(s) for answer:

  1. To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, what relevant organisations and stakeholders have been invited to attend the drugs summit in Glasgow on 27 February 2020. (12957)
    Tabled on: 05 February 2020

Answer:
Kit Malthouse:

The Summit will be an opportunity for dialogue between partners from all parts of the UK on the challenges of, and potential solutions to tackling the harms of, drug misuse. There will be representation at the Summit from all parts of the UK, including contributions from Glasgow, from public health leads of all four nations, and from UK Government Ministers as well as Ministers from each of the devolved administrations.

The Summit will bring together different perspectives across healthcare, law enforcement, prevention and recovery. As part of this there will be discussion of the forthcoming findings of the independent Review of Drugs, hearing from Professor Dame Carol Black about the demand and supply landscape and the nature of drug misuse. Dame Carol’s work will make an important contribution to the evidence base that we can use to take action to tackle drug misuse and the harms it causes.

Announcements on the Summit were made on 23 October 2019 and 24 January this year. Further information will be issued in due course. The full list of invitees is being finalised, taking account of suggestions from the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland as well as from a range of UK Government departments and others. Invitations that have so far been issued include those to the chief medical officers for each part of the UK and chief scientists in relevant departments and in the devolved administrations. Further invitations will be issued over the coming days.

The answer was submitted on 12 Feb 2020 at 15:53.

Westminster diary w/b 3rd February

Monday

No need to rush to Westminster so I catch a midday flight. It’s a routine day. After the turbulent years since the 2017 election this Parliament is threatening to be too predictable. It is Monday so the chamber sits until 10pm then we vote and the government wins. It’s a debate on the agriculture bill and despite SNP, Labour, Plaid Cymru, Independent, Green Party, Liberal Democrat and Alliance all combining to vote for the Labour amendment we can’t get close to the 318 Conservative and Unionists votes. That is worrying given that this UK Government seriously needs to be scrutinised on every vote.

Tuesday

I sit in on Foreign and Commonwealth questions but don’t get taken. I take the opportunity to attend an evidence session in the House of Lords. The Gambling Industry Committee chaired by Michael Grade is taking evidence from GVC (Ladbrokes and Coral), William Hill, Bet365, Sky Betting and Gaming, Paddy Power Betfair and the Betting and Gaming Council. It strikes me that all the concessions they say they are making are the changes that the All-Party Parliamentary Group on gambling related harm have demanded they make. The gambling industry still needs dragged and kicking to the table if we are going to reduce the harm. In the evening there are three votes on the NHS. Normally the SNP and Plaid Cymru would not vote as it is defined as ‘an EVEL division’. English Votes for English Laws was created by David Cameron the day after the Scottish independence referendum to stop MPs that don’t represent English seats voting in matters that only concern England. Truth is the SNP never did anyway but on this occasion the vote will determine the finances of the NHS and therefore there should be a knock-on effect to the Barnet formula consequentials. We vote but our votes are not included in the count. This is the first time that we have been excluded from voting on a matter that potentially affects Scotland.

Wednesday

I am picked up by a taxi at 6:45 to take me to broadcasting house (BBC) for a string of radio interviews on Medical Cannabis provision. It slightly embarrassing as the driver tells me the interviews are now taking place in Millbank studios, he drops me off four hundred yards from my house. And on the same say the BBC announced a rise in the TV licence! The interviews went well and I am struck by how non combative the interviewers are compared to the national stations. Prime Ministers Question time is once again restricted to 30 minutes. I think the new format is better. After that I drop in to meet parents of children with epilepsy that are trying to gain access to Medical Cannabis on prescription. Many are part of an organisation End Our Pain. Sixty MPs signed their letter to the Prime Minister. The numbers are increasing but we still have some way to go.

Thursday

I spend the day in my constituency office. Even in this day of email and social media there is always a lot of paper correspondence to catch up on.

Friday

In the morning I have surgeries in my constituency office and then in the Oak Mall. In the afternoon I have a meeting at Inverclyde Council Health and Social Care Partnership and then the Basic Income Hub to catch up on the proposed pilot basic income projects in Scotland.

Written question – Transport [07/02/2020]

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, whether he plans to include e-scooters in the cycle to work scheme. (10396)

Tabled on: 30 January 2020

Answer:
George Freeman:

The Department has no plans to include e-scooters in the Cycle to Work Scheme. The Cycle to Work Scheme is an employee tax-benefit scheme that enables employees to hire cycles and cycle safety equipment for active travel to work from their employer, or from a third party, in return for a deduction from their earnings via salary sacrifice. The Future of Mobility Regulatory Review is considering appropriate legislation and support framework for emerging micro-mobility vehicles including electric scooters.

The answer was submitted on 07 Feb 2020 at 13:43.

 

Network rail apprenticeship scheme now open

Network Rail is recruiting for future rail leaders through our apprenticeship scheme. Applications are now open for a September 2020 start and will close when all places have been filled.

We would be grateful if you could share this information with your contacts and publicise on your communication channels to help us raise awareness about the apprenticeship scheme.

Our apprentices receive expert training, earn while they learn and develop skills for life. What’s more, they have the opportunity to build a career at one of Britain’s biggest employers.

Applicants will need to be available to start their apprenticeship scheme with us on 29th September 2020 if they apply for this intake.

We currently 26 Apprentice positions at various locations throughout Scotland.  

Whichever career path the apprentice takes, they’ll spend their first 24 weeks at Westwood, Network Rails’ training centre in Coventry developing the technical knowhow and leadership abilities they’ll need for the many exciting challenges ahead. During this time, apprentices will also have periods of time away from Westwood to carry out additional training. For example, they will visit their depot/route for a local route induction and meet their teams.

For the rest of the programme apprentices will be able to put their training into practice and will join an engineering team at a depot close to home. They’ll be out and about on the network, learning alongside more experienced colleagues. Apprentices can specify a preferred depot close to home at application stage, however it should be noted that we recruit based on demand of discipline and delivery needs. 

A Network Rail apprenticeship is just the beginning of an exciting career journey that can lead to varied career options.

For further information about the Network Rail apprenticeship Scheme please visit our website www.networkrail.co.uk/careers/early-careers/apprenticeships, email the apprentice recruitment team at advancedapprenticeshipcareers@networkrail.co.uk  or post a question via our Facebook page (NetworkRailCareers)

Candidates can also WhatsApp our virtual careers advisor with any questions they may have: 07789336038