Westminster diary w/b 22nd November


Today my diary was dominated by two events. First the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on gambling related harm took evidence from medical experts relating to gambling harm. It was powerful testimony and all five experts, Dr Anna Van Der Gaag CBE – Chair, Advisory Board for Safer Gambling! Professor Dame Clare Gerada – Medical Director, Primary Care Gambling Service! Professor Henrietta Bowden Jones OBE – Director, National Problem Gambling Clinic! Dr Matt Gaskell – Clinical Lead, NHS Northern Gambling Service and Professor Jim Orford – Emeritus Professor of Clinical and Community Psychology, University of Birmingham were united in calling for a statutory levy on the gambling industry to fund the support, treatment and education that is required. They also supported the pushing out of treatment through the existing NHS services. My second major event of the day was speaking on a panel of MPs on the topic of Drug Law Reform. I spoke alongside Dr Dan Poulter of the Conservative Party and Christine Jardine of the Liberal Democrats. We pretty much agree on the next stages required, especially with regard to the need for greater medical cannabis research and development with the aim to producing licensed products for use in the UK.


The APPG on commercial sexual exploitation convened to re-elect the executive. We also briefly discussed our investigations going forward. Some of the evidence taken at these sessions is harrowing but it gives a voice to those who have been used and abused and empowers them to seek change. Therefore, it is the very least we can do to listen. The rest of the day was consumed by constituency case work and preparation for future meetings.


The APPG for Catalonia met with the Catalan Minister for Foreign Affairs, Victoria Alsina. She gave us an update of the current political situation between Spain and Catalonia. It is frustrating that while talks continue to improve the dialogue between both governments, people are still being arrested for promoting Catalonia’s right to self-determination. Persecution has no place in a modern democracy and political views must be heard even if we don’t agree with them. I went to Prime Minister’s Questions because I was elected to represent the entire community of Inverclyde, believe me, if I was just representing me I would not. The unedifying sight of the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom calling the Leader of Her Majesty’s opposition names is appalling. It is like I remember a primary school playground, with apologies to all primary school pupils, it is my experience having visited many local primary schools that their behaviour these days is much better. In the afternoon I was at the Cross Party Parliamentary and Local Government (CPPLG) for Universal Basic Income (UBI). We heard from the UBI projects in both Wales and Northern Ireland about their proposals to run pilot schemes. Only by running them will we learn more of the pros and cons. And the United Kingdom government should be supporting these pilots. Policy should be evidence driven and pilot projects will provide evidence for robust analysis. Ignorance is not bliss when it comes to developing a fair welfare system.


My select committee sat today and we took evidence from the Information Commissioner, Elizabeth Dunham and the Head of FOI Complaints and Appeals at the Information Commissioner’s Office, Andrew White. The answered questions primarily around freedom of information which will be part of a report on the Clearing House within the Cabinet Office. The outcome of the report is still to be considered but I was surprised to hear that the UK government is creating a new Environmental Agency which is not subject to inquiries under the Freedom of Information Act.

The adjournment debate on the subject of ‘Potential merits of ring-fenced funding for tidal energy generation’ was led by Ian Blackford. I took the opportunity to point out that we need to plant the seeds of clean green renewable energy now if we are to reap the fruits in years to come. The UK government must act now and throw all possible resources into providing better outcomes by investing now.


Today I had an Interview on a YouTube channel regarding medical cannabis. I met up with colleagues to discuss levelling up funding. I then I had a zoom meeting with Holistic Highland Hemp to discuss hemp and CBD products. This meeting came about as a result of a chance meeting with a third party at COP26. As is so often the case networking throws up some surprising opportunities. I had my regular meeting with councillors and Stuart McMillan MSPs office. In the evening I dropped into the Recovery café.