I was in the chamber for questions to the Department for ‘Levelling Up, Housing and communities. I wasn’t on the Order Paper but bobbed enthusiastically during topical questions. Unfortunately, I was not taken. I am seeking further clarity on the guidelines for round two of the levelling up fund so as Inverclyde council is best informed prior to our bid or bids. Other avenues exist and I shall leave no stone unturned. Levelling up exists because of the disparity in wealth and opportunity within the United Kingdom and it’s only right that Inverclyde should be prioritised during this process. One of the less glamorous tasks as an MP is participating in some rather humdrum Delegated Legislation committees. Today I sat on the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation (amendment) 2021 and it was as exciting as it sounds. But needs must and I managed to abstain with style. Once again business in the house collapsed early, which is a continuing frustration. Not because I desperately want to be in the debating chamber until 10pm for the sake of it but because there is a lot to debate which isn’t getting the time it deserves. Tuesday being a perfect example.
Today was a day when the Scottish National Party get to choose the topics for debate. And we had chosen to cover two topics. First was ‘Cost of Living Crisis’ and second was the ‘Conduct of the Right Honourable Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip’ otherwise known as the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson. Despite an early end to chamber business yet again yesterday, the UK government felt the need to take back the time for our first debate and replace it with ‘Health Protection (Coronavirus, Wearing of Face Coverings) (England) Regulations 2021’. The second debate however was a lively affair, but the Member didn’t come to defend himself, he left that to his backbenchers. It did have one interesting historical note as the use of the word ‘liar’ is not permitted in the House of Commons. But the House staff that adjudicate over the chamber decided that the word could be used otherwise we couldn’t adequately describe the conduct of the Prime Minister. The deputy speaker made this clear before the debate started. Prior to all that, I met with a range of financial institutions to discuss what has to be done to protect people from experiencing gambling harm and in particular losing vast sums of money, extremely quickly.
The Prime Minister did turn up for PMQs, so did I. Nothing of note happened. I had a meeting with representatives from Link and the Post Office regarding access to cash. With high street banks closing branches and post offices following the same pattern we need to rethink how we can provide cash and the other services that post offices and ATMs provide. It has been announced that following a successful trial, 2,000 shops will offer cash to the penny without purchase. Along with bank hubs which are being trialled this is an interesting development. At 4pm I visited number 10 Downing Street along with Carolyn Harris MP and Ian Duncan Smith MP to meet with the government’s lead gambling adviser. We are seeking massive changes to the gambling act which has been an absolute disaster since Tony Blair introduced it in 2005. This follows a previous meeting with the government minister responsible. Hopefully the message is getting through. But I don’t underestimate the power of the gambling industry and their paid lobbying partners. One interesting incident was that Carolyn managed to switch on the Christmas tree lights at number 10 by accident. Much to everyone’s surprise as the official ceremony was scheduled for later in the evening! We had a couple of votes at around 6pm and the conclusion of the finance bill part two. Yet again the minister responding refusing interventions, citing a lack of time and then sits down well within the time allocated. This is a trend that should be questioned. Ministers are there on government time to be held accountable.
In the morning I ring fenced some time to read. Not unfortunately the latest John le Carrè novel but the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee Chair’s draft report – the elections bill. It’s not a great page turner but at least nobody dies in it. The afternoon is consumed by constituency casework and catching up with my office team.
The day starts with a meeting with River Clyde Homes. Social housing is a major issue in Inverclyde and understandably an extremely emotive one. I visited St Columba Kilmacolm to talk with some of their modern studies pupils. This meeting was arranged after a couple of pupils emailed me with specific questions. I took the opportunity to expand the discussion by doing it in person and while I was there and I caught up with their Rector, Vicky Reilly. I dropped in to the Chest Heart and Stroke Scotland shop in Kilmacolm and in the evening attended (virtually) the local SNP branch meeting.
On Saturday I shall be getting my covid booster and flu jag.