Westminster diary w/b 7th February


The difficulty of balancing life in Inverclyde and Westminster was highlighted today as I tried to attend events in Inverclyde which were cancelled, rearranged and the cancelled again. Each time travel arrangements were changed and changed again. Eventually, I managed to attend a briefing from Ofgem on the energy price cap and the fuel crisis that is facing the UK. I was disappointed in what they had to say but had to remind myself that although they are not ministerial, they are a UK government department. The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Gambling Related Harm met for a catch up and to discuss strategy as we push the UK government to radically overhaul the Gambling Act (2005). 


Select committee had a good session taking evidence on international treaties. Not the most obviously entertaining subject but expert witnesses that know their topic inside out can often spread their enthusiasm in the room and despite the fact they were on zoom, they still managed to do that. In the afternoon the APPG for Commercial Sexual Exploitation continued our enquiry in pornography. It is a brutal arena, and the education of young men is paramount if the damage it causes is to be addressed. It harms those who are being exploited and the audience that it desensitises, often producing aggressive and entitled young men. 


I had an early start as I was chairing the Westminster Policy Forum discussion on Tackling Drug Dependence and Improving Delivery of Services. We had an excellent panel from a wide knowledge base, and they all contributed to an informative discussion. The principal speaker was Dame Carol Black, and she covered her Independent Review of Drugs that was published last year. I managed to catch the second half of Prime Minister’s Questions, after which the Prime Minister appeared in the tea-room and worked the tables with his many admirers in the Conservative and Unionist party fawning over his every word. The afternoon consisted of the APPG on Medical Cannabis where Dr Nathan Hasson explained the difficulties that the medical profession faces in prescribing medical cannabis. Most of the issues he has faced came from the British Paediatric Neurology Association. It is remarkable that a body that exists to represent doctors who specialise in the care of children with neurological disorders is so blind to the evidence that doctors are putting in front of them. Long term we need research and knowledge to base policy on but short term we need to find the money to fund the private prescriptions that are keeping kids alive. My last meeting was the CPPLG on Universal Basic Income. Andy White was a member of the body that put together the report for a basic income pilot in four Scottish councils and he walked us through the process. We also heard from similar projects in Northern Ireland and Wales.      


I was on the Order Paper for questions to the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and asked about implementing the solutions to problems identified in the Gambling Act review, now rather than wait for the gambling act review to finish. I was primarily referring to advertising in football. I met with representatives of the Cancard system. Cancard is a validated indication to the police, or any third party, that you are consuming cannabis for medical reasons.          


I visited Peel Ports for a catch up on all things Inverclyde including the on-going saga of Inchgreen. I was scheduled to host a remote question and answer session with pupils from St Columba’s High school but due to Covid restrictions their tour to London and Westminster was cancelled.

On Sunday, I shall be joining the gambling charity ‘The Big Step’ to walk from Hamilton football club to Hampden via Celtic, Patrick Thistle and Rangers, to raise awareness of gambling advertising in football.