An unusual start to the week as a number of engagements are changed and cancelled which means a quick reshuffle of my diary. Business in the chamber also suffers from hasty rearrangements and the whips office has us all on our toes. The first vote of the day is to vote against the government motion which is a motion to disagree with the Lords amendment of the social security ‘up rating of benefits’ bill. Voting no to agree with the amendment seems counter intuitive, the doors of the voting lobbies are therefore heavily populated with whips from all parties to ensure nobody slips up.
Westminster Hall was overflowing with MPs as we debated the unlawful detainment of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe in Iran for over 2,000 days. I met Nazanin’s husband Richard recently while he was on hunger strike but tragically it was over 5 years ago that I first met him regarding this injustice. Despite meetings and platitudes from the Foreign Office there has still been no promises and no real commitments from the UK government. It was shocking to listen to the government minster refuse to answer questions, read a prepared statement and refuse interventions. Government ministers responding to debates and not taking interventions is becoming a feature of debates at Westminster. I stayed in Westminster Hall for the debate on the retiral age of prison officers. As a result of having Greenock prison in my constituency I have been contacted by a lot of officers who either live and work in Inverclyde or live-in neighbouring constituencies and works in HMP Greenock. There is no logical reason why prison officers should be expected to carry out their duties until they are 68. It is a physical and stressful job and should attract the same retirement rights as the emergency services.
Will I never learn? Full of hope I filed in to Prime Minister’s Questions and it was a horror show. I was hoping that a Parliament which has been shamed by scandal after scandal in recent weeks and a Prime Minister who has been at the very heart of it would show contrition and display courtesy and professionalism in the workplace. Instead, I witnessed the Prime Minister being berated by the Speaker for his behaviour. Not once, not twice but three times. The arrogance and conceit from the U.K. government benches knows no bounds. Fortunately for my blood pressure I had a constructive meeting with the Parliamentary under Secretary of State at Digital Culture Media and Sport (DCMS). I am looking for big changes in the gambling act. I live in hope. I spoke in the second of the Labour debates ‘Strengthening Standards in Public Life’. All the standards or conventions in the world won’t fix the problem if the U.K. government does not have a mindset that respects the seven (Nolan) principles of public life. Yet again a U.K. government minister in his summing up speech refused to take any interventions.
I bobbed for questions for DCMS but didn’t get taken. The speaker indicated he would take me during topicals, and he did. I pressed the UK government on the lessons learned from the investigation into the Football Index collapse which robbed many people of large sums of money. Hopefully it’s a lesson learnt by the UK Government but we also need to recompense those that have been cheated. I had a meeting with Public Health England to hear about their report into gambling harm. In the afternoon I met with Cardtronics to discuss access to cash.
I had meetings with Citizens Advice Scotland and the Chief Executive of Inverclyde Council, Louise Long.
On Saturday, I shall be attending the Inverclyde Faith in Throughcare prisoner’s week which is supported by the artist Gerard M Burns.