Westminster diary w/b 7th March


Today I bobbed on questions to the Minister for Housing, Communities and Levelling Up as despite his promise to update Inverclyde Council on the criteria and timescale to apply for funding, he hasn’t. I was fortunate enough to be taken and I reiterated my question.  Hopefully, this time he will respond to the local authority.


I chaired a round table discussion for people with lived experience of gambling related harm. This was a prior to the main event organised to highlight the changes required in the gambling act. Listening to the stories of people who have lost loved ones through suicide and people whose lives have been torn apart is the fundamental driver to recognising the changes required to safeguard consumers and hold the gambling industry to task. In the afternoon guest speakers included, England’s most capped goalkeeper, Peter Shilton, his wife Steph, ex professional footballer Paul Merson of Arsenal and England, and Paul Pettigrew from Inverclyde and founder of Gamtalk. It was interesting to hear Fintan Drury, former chairman of Paddy Power say that “young Paul” was the way forward if we are to engage with young people. In the chamber we had an historical address from President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine. Through an interpreter he detailed the 14 days of war since Russia invaded.


Today on the back of a conversation with my parliamentary team I decided to bob for a question to the Prime Minister. I emailed the speaker first to let him know what I was asking and I was pleased that he managed to fit me in. The Prime Minister had been economical with the truth regarding the UK’s contribution to the accommodation of refugees, this provided a good platform for my question as I outlined the details of a constituency case where my constituent’s parents are stuck in Hungary having fled Ukraine and were unable to navigate the cumbersome visa application system that the UK government has in place. It’s a good example of casework being handled by my office and then me escalating it to push for a result.


The good news today is that after a great deal of pressure from a number of MPs the UK government has decided to restaff their visa application centres and streamline the process. Biometrics can now be done in the UK. This is not a u-turn and therefore there are a number of questions that need to be answered but on the surface, this looks like a step in the right direction.


I had my bi-weekly catch up with Stuart McMillan MSP and Councillor Elizabeth Robertson, followed by a discussion with River Clyde Homes which was very informative and contributed to my final meeting of the week with CVS Inverclyde to discuss the support being offered to refugees.

Greenock Telegraph 11th March 2022

During my seven years as an MP, I have seen some of the most extraordinary political events play out. To be up close and personal to them has been a privilege and an education. On Tuesday, the President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, provided yet another historic moment when he addressed the Houses of Parliament at Westminster. Through the services of a translator, we all listened to him talk of the onslaught his country is suffering at the hands of Russia. He detailed the deaths and the suffering but also the iron will of the people of Ukraine to overcome their oppressors. The UK government can help. The invasion of Ukraine is resulting in over a two million people fleeing their homeland to find a safe haven. The UK should be one of those havens but unforgivably the UK government is tying up the process with red tape and refusing entry to many. We have families in Inverclyde who are at their wits end, desperately seeking information about loved ones and seeking guidance that will bring them safely to the UK. We need clear instructions and the dedicated resources to facilitate them. Instead, we are getting public relations spin and the now accustomed self-righteous pious indignation from the Foreign Office and Home Office. It was disturbing to watch Liz Truss, Boris Johnson and Priti Patel dutifully nod in agreement with President Zelenskyy and rise to their feet to applaud him while they have delayed and obfuscated over the processes required to provide a safe passage for innocents. The time for action is now, they need to wave the visas and open the borders. I never thought I would witness European refugees taking flight from an invading force. But it’s happening and it’s only going to get worse. It is our humanitarian duty to welcome them, we can’t turn a blind eye and we must not turn them away.