There was a debate on the sacking of 800 seafarers by P&O Ferries, who were then replaced by new crew that are being paid, in some cases, as little as £1.80 an hour. It would have been a good debate, and there was plenty of energy put into it, had it not been on such a harrowing topic. The 800 were sacked via zoom and with immediate effect and then were escorted off ships by balaclava wearing security guards and were told that they would only receive a redundancy package if they signed a non-disclosure agreement. This is a vile abuse of workers’ rights and it won’t be the last if the UK government do not act swiftly to sanction P&O and reinstate these workers. Attempts by both SNP and Labour at Westminster have been made to legislate to ensure such practices could not happen, post Brexit. And I was surprised to hear so many Conservative and Unionist MPs express their shock, given that they didn’t support the Fire and Rehire Bill which would have gone some way to ban such practices. I stayed for the adjournment debate which was framed around the coroner’s inquest into the tragic death of Jack Ritchie. Jack committed suicide as a result of the woeful lack of professional support on offer to tackle his gambling addiction. That description is not mine, it came from the coroner. On a lighter note, I can confirm that it was me that ran out of the tea-room when a mouse decided to join me.
My first event was a drop in to highlight the work done by Gambling with Lives. I met up with Paul Merson who shares his lived experience as a gambling addict to highlight the reforms required in the Gambling Act 2005. My select committee took evidence from Neil O’Brien MP and Jacob Rees-Mogg MP. The session was on the Common Framework and the Common Procurements Process but Mr Rees-Mogg couldn’t stop himself from expressing his view that Scotland lacks the ability to govern itself. Usually at such evidence sessions witnesses are professional and contained but I lit the blue touch-paper and he went off like a rocket. I attended a drop in event to discuss the future of home heating in Inverclyde and how hydrogen for heat can help to decarbonise the energy network. In the evening we spent two hours voting. In each one I voted ‘no’ to say I didn’t disagree with the Lords amendments to the Nationality and Borders Bill. The government did agree to disagree and therefore their MPs, mostly, voted ‘yes’. We then debated for an hour and had five more votes which followed the same pattern as before. All in all, that was three and a half hours consumed by the most ridiculous voting system you could imagine. Bearing in mind that to vote we need to walk through a lobby and swipe our cards electronically! There are MPs on crutches and MPs undergoing treatment for serious illnesses that during lockdown could have voted on their phones, but that opportunity has now been removed.
Prime Minister’s Questions saw the Conservative benches back to their old ways. Bullying, boorish and braying in a manner that exemplifies this UK government. This was followed by the Spring Statement from the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He announced a reduction of VAT on solar panels, heat pumps and insulation. And he promised a reduction in car fuel costs but he had nothing to offer for those in our society that can’t afford to eat. And there was nothing in the statement to reduce energy bills. The gap between the richest and poorest in society continues to increase. I had a one-on-one meeting with the Minister for Employment to discuss the closure of back office premises around the UK and sought assurances that Inverclyde was not closing.
I was in the Chamber for questions to the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sports (DCMS). Unusually, I was on the Order Paper twice. Once for an oral question and once for topical, which was just as well as we didn’t get as far as me on the oral questions. I asked during topicals about a statutory levy on the gambling industry to fund education, support and research. In 2019 the UK government said that the existing voluntary levy needed to be proven to work or they would enforce a statutory one. I believe that time has come. I travelled home in time to attend The Greenock Highlanders hosted by Inverclyde Gaelic Learners at the Beacon.
I had an interview about the damage Brexit is doing and a meeting with the counter terrorism officer. The rest of the day was taken up with casework.
The diversity of opinions that people hold about MPs and therefore by default me, never ceases to amaze me. In recent weeks I have been told by constituents that I shouldn’t be spending so much time on Ukrainian refugees as we have issues that need resolved in Inverclyde. I have also been encouraged by many constituents to do more for refugees. That is in keeping with the ongoing requests to either not attend Westminster or to be there for every sitting minute of every sitting day. There are also those that perceive me as somebody leeching a living off expenses and living a high life on my salary as an MP. Which is countered by those that actually read the independent parliamentary standards authority published data and understand it. And there is the ‘why am I not doing more for Scotland’s independence’ which is set against the ‘all you do is bang on about independence’. The facts are that in Inverclyde we have 77,000 people of which 60,622 are on the electoral register. For the Westminster general election 39,903 voted and of those 19,295 voted for me. I am therefore elected to represent Inverclyde as part of the wider parliamentary democracy. I can’t ask each person what they think on every issue and then do their bidding. I am entrusted to use my judgment. By the law of averages, I won’t make decisions that everyone agrees with every time. As Edmund Burke said in 1774 “Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgement; and he betrays instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion.”
Therefore, it’s plain to see that if I blew with the wind, I would not be serving my constituents well. My duty to you all is to listen and learn but ultimately there will be things we disagree on. Then we have to respect each-others opinion and conduct ourselves in a mature rational manner. I make this plea not for me but for the many council candidates that will be putting their names forward for the Inverclyde council election on May 5th. These people are stepping up and are willing to take responsibility for their communities. I hope that is respected by the electorate and by their fellow candidates. Inverclyde deserves that.
If she will make it her policy to introduce a statutory levy on gambling operators to fund services relating to gambling harms. (906280)
Tabled on: 24 March 2022
The Government’s Review of the Gambling Act called for evidence on how best to recoup the regulatory and societal costs of problem gambling. We will publish a white paper in the coming weeks.
The answer was submitted on 24 Mar 2022 at 13:36.
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, whether his Department has placed sanctions on Russian owned and operated fishing vessels that may have obtained fish quotas or licences to fish within UK waters. (138315)
Tabled on: 11 March 2022
We have not issued licences to fish in British fishery limits to any vessels which fly the Russian flag. We do not believe that any vessels owned or operated by Russian nationals currently fish in UK waters. UK quotas are only allocated for use by British-registered vessels.
The answer was submitted on 21 Mar 2022 at 16:40.
I worked from my constituency office mostly on casework, but I took time to attend the Inverclyde Alliance Board meeting. Regular updates always make my offices involvement easier, and it is great to see such a body of people working away, mostly in the background, for Inverclyde. I caught a teatime flight and was in the House until just after midnight.
My select committee took evidence from two previous Independent Advisors on Ministerial Standards. The evidence was based around the Prime Minister, his use of the ministerial code and his ability to appoint the Independent Advisors. I was shocked that there was so little formal engagement between the Prime Minister and his advisors.
Questions to the Secretary of State for Scotland was a very mute affair, maybe because of the 11 preordained questions, MPs representing Scottish seats were only allocated one question. MPs from Redcar, East Devon and Watford were given questions but only one out of fifty-nine MPs that represent Scotland was selected. The process is a lottery, so I am not suggesting this was done deliberately but on the one occasion that is specifically designed to hold the Scottish Office to account, I am at a loss as to why so many MPs that don’t represent Scottish seats feel the need to apply. Prime Minister’s Questions were taken by the deputy prime minister, Dominic Raab MP, as the Prime Minister was in Saudi Arabia rubbing shoulders with his new money men. The deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner was not as effective as she usually is. I look forward to her contribution as she relishes her outings at the despatch box but this week, she was wide of the mark. Ian Blackford concentrated on 48 Ukrainian orphans that the Home Office red tape is stopping from coming to Edinburgh. His message resonated more. I sat on a Delegated Legislation Committee to discuss electricity supplier payments, it was non-contentious. Without a doubt the highlight of the week was the news that Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe had been freed after six years in an Iranian jail and was on her way home. I have met with her husband Richard a few times over the years and his strength and love have been crucial in getting this result.
The All- Party Parliamentary Group on Gambling Related Harm at an extremely useful meeting with representatives of many sporting bodies. Most represent sports that gambling firms offer gambling products on but don’t pay anything back to the sport. For example, Golf. The gambling industry will rake in a lot of money from people gambling on events like the British Open but there are no fees charged by the golfing bodies and therefore none of that money makes its way back into the sport. We are looking at a Fair Return scheme that means sporting organisations receive a fee without having to advertise the gambling firms. I made it up the road in time to attend ‘Lena’ at the Beacon Arts Centre. I first heard a read through in November 2018 and it was fascinating to see how the production has evolved since then. It was a very entertaining evening, congratulations to the Beacon and Feather Productions.
I met up with the Royal Society for the Arts. I am a fellow of the RSA but don’t have enough time to contribute as much as I would like. I met up with CVS Inverclyde, primarily to engage with the support available for Ukrainian refugees locally. I then had a meeting with a company to discuss electronic vehicle charging points infrastructure.