Westminster diary w/b 31st January


I had two meetings in the morning which I attended virtually from my home. First up was the Inverclyde Alliance with the guest speaker Dr Martin Valenti. He was inspirational in his vision for an ambitious Inverclyde, hopefully it’s a vision we can all get behind. I then had a meeting with local stakeholders to discuss Naloxone and its role in tackling drug harm in Inverclyde. In the afternoon I attended the funeral of Jim Sorley, a gentle man with a ridiculous talent for languages. I caught an evening flight to London.


Normally starts with a committee meeting but it was cancelled so I took the opportunity to host constituents in Parliament. It’s been a long time since this was allowed and it’s a good sign that we are emerging from the pandemic. But it remains important to keep our eyes on the road ahead. I bobbed for a question during questions to the Treasury and eventually got taken during topicals. I pressed the Chancellor to explain why the UK government is investing taxpayer’s money in an online gambling firm. Presumably they are hoping that their investment will result in a successful profitable gambling business. I can’t understand why they would do this while they are also undergoing a review of the gambling act. Does that not mean the UK government has a direct investment in creating a profitable gambling firm?


Scottish questions were dominated by Members of Parliament that represent seats in England asking pre-scripted questions that allowed the Secretary of State for Scotland to patronise us all and explain why up north is so beloved. There were only four MPs that represent seats in Scotland on the Order Paper and only three got to ask a question. This is not what questions are supposed to be about, we are supposed to hold departments to account. Prime Ministers questions was a rabble but following that we paid tribute to the late Jack Dromey MP. Jack passed away in January and it was heartening to hear Members from across the chamber pay tribute to him and the work he did. If only we could show such respect while holding each other to account in the day to day working of Westminster. There was a statement on ‘levelling up’ accompanied by a 297page publication. It does read like old money rehashed and Westminster imposing projects on devolved countries and regions of England, rather than collaborating with them as they claim to be doing. I managed to mix attending an evidence session on “the role of education in prescribing medical cannabis” organised by the Scottish Parliament and featuring expert testimony from medical professionals and patients, with voting on the Financial Bill (remaking stages). 


Because I am on the chamber rota today, I need to be prepared to cover any urgent questions or statements that appear on the order paper. A quick visit to the whips office early in the day suggest there could be a few but until they are confirmed I continue with my set agenda and attend my select committee where we are interviewing for the position of the ‘First Civil Service Commissioner’. The report will be published next Monday. I took part in a bobbing session to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how his package to help people financially at this time would help alleviate fuel poverty. His solution is a loan of £200 which will be repayable over five years. Goodness knows what the administration costs will be to handle this and after all is said and done the consumer is still paying every penny, therefore not much of a solution.

Next week, I shall be chairing the Westminster Social Policy Forum keynote seminar, Tackling drug dependence and improving delivery of services – assessing the Independent Review of Drugs and the UK Government’s Strategy with Dame Carol Black. Today we ahead a trial run to test the technology. I am sure it will be alright on the night.


I visited Parklea Branching Out to catch up on all the exciting new developments including their plans for a new flexible community-based hub. And in the afternoon, I visited Inverclyde Shed to see their new orchard at Muirshiel Lane.