Westminster diary w/b 25th April


I was Interviewed for a documentary on medical cannabis. The interview lasted 45 minutes and will probably end up as a 30 second soundbite. That’s how these things usually pan out. Questions to the Home Office is rapidly becoming a vehicle for the most obsequious of the Tory backbenchers. Questions turn into long rambling statements of support for the government position and sycophantic praise of the minister. The outcome is that cross examination of UK government policy and actions is kept to a minimum. I was on a Delegated Legislation committee to debate money laundering and terrorist financing. We removed Zimbabwe from the list of high-risk countries and added the United Arab Emirates. This brings the UK’s list in line with the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) list. Around 18:30 we had a couple of votes on the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill.


Straight into my select committee to read through and approve our report on the Cabinet Office Freedom of Information Clearing House. We also discussed our future agenda. The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Gambling Related Harm took evidence about a Single Customer View which would enable monitoring of gambling behaviour and red flag potential harm but this can only work if the ownership is independent of the gambling industry and it must be written in to legislation that all on line gambling operators must sign up to it. Because we had votes on the ‘judicial review and courts bill lords amendments‘, the APPG for medical cannabis was cancelled but we did have time for the APPG on drug policy reform. It was great to hear from Neil Woods, Niamh Eastwood and Mike Trace. In the chamber a general debate on Ukraine was followed by the Nationality and Borders Bill with votes until 22:57.


PMQs was a sorry affair. I didn’t hang around for long. I had a meeting with the Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury along with Ian Duncan Smith MP and Lord Butler. We are pre-empting the need to convince the treasury to accept the Gambling Act overhaul that we hope DCMS are working on. I hosted an event for GambleAware which was well attended by MPs and it was good to catch-up with Fast Forward who are based in Scotland. And I zoomed in to the Cross Party Group at Holyrood on Medical Cannabis. The Government’s Elections Bill was in, what is referred to as, the ping-pong stage, with amendments made in the House of Lords now coming to the House of Commons for consideration. The Bill’s failings have been highlighted by my select committee the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee (PACAC), whose Conservative Chair concluded – “We feel that the Elections Bill proposals lack a sufficient evidence base, timely consultation, and transparency, all of which should be addressed before it makes any further progress. And with events in Ukraine in mind, Conservative peer Lord Cormack, said “It is grotesque that we have this Bill before us while people are literally dying for democracy.” In the end of a bewildering day of processes, the Lords did not ask any amendments and therefore business collapsed at 9pm. This completely changed Thursday’s business.


I had planned and replanned today a number of times in anticipation of last night’s outcome, but I admit I had not considered the possibility that the Lords would do nothing. I quickly cancelled my accommodation for tonight and booked a flight home.


The biggest event today was a briefing by the Royal Mail. The Regional Operations Director for Scotland, Ross Hutchison opened the briefing by providing an update on Royal Mail’s operations in Scotland. Fiona Hamilton, Head of Public Affairs, then provided an update on the future of Royal Mail services and how the business is changing to meet the needs of customers.