Westminster diary w/b 16th May

Monday

Early start at 6:00 and it is almost like covid never happened as we all crush onto the London underground. I had an interview with Danielle Theis for her dissertation on drugs deaths. Daniella will be a welcome addition to the Greenock Telegraph staff. Bobbing away in the Chamber for questions to the Secretary of State for Levelling Up.  But the UK government were not bobbing for supplementary questions which means the Speaker can’t go back and forth across the house as he has to. Therefore, opposition MPs who are bobbing can’t get to ask their questions. Extremely infuriating and hopefully not a tactic they are deploying. I had time to write my speech for the Chamber in the evening before the debate started at 16:30. After three and a half hours of bobbing I got five minutes to talk at 20:00. Pity as I had ten minutes written! I focused on the lack of detail in the Queen’s speech regarding poverty and deprivation. We cannot provide equal opportunities and a stimulating environment throughout life, in order to enable people to live truly fulfilling lives, while we continue to have such high levels of poverty, and insecurity. And while we continue to support a society where greed is good and poverty is rife. I grabbed some food and was back in the Chamber at 21:30 for the front bench speeches. I got to my hotel at 22:30 

Tuesday

A warm day in London and my first meeting is with the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs (PACAC) Select Committee. We continue to take evidence around the Propriety of Governance in Light of Greensill. Our witness was the Right Honourable Peter Riddell CBE in his capacity as the previous Commissioner for Public Appointments. Along with Kat Banyard from Feminista, I met with Rachel McLean (Safeguarding Minister) regarding online pornographers.  I am seeking an amendment to the online safety bill to enable people to have pornography removed from the internet if it features them and they either never gave consent or wish to withdraw it. I was scheduled to do an interview with the Hemp Community but technical difficulties at their end made that impossible. There was one vote at 19:00 on a possible windfall tax but we lost to the UK Government. 

Wednesday

Back in the Chamber for questions to the Secretary of State for Scotland. I bobbed on the back of a question on the UK Shared Prosperity Fund. I fear Inverclyde is missing out because of de-population. Once again, I didn’t get in as nobody was bobbing on the other side! PMQs followed Scotland questions. It was a complete waste of time. This is a Prime Minister who neither cares nor knows why we have an austerity crisis. When faced with a question about a kidney dialysis patient that can’t afford to heat his house, the Prime Minister answered about Crossrail investment and boasted about his time as Mayor of London. I had a meeting on Basic Income. It is 80th anniversary of the Beveridge Report, Basic Income Conversation and Compass have published new research modelling a basic income that could reverse the poverty and inequality rises of the last 45 years at no net cost. The debate on the Queen’s speech continued throughout the day ending with X votes at 19:00. This meant I had to stay overnight in London and catch the red eye on Thursday.

Thursday

Up with the sparrows and caught the 6:55 am flight to Glasgow. My first event in Inverclyde was a visit to Quarrier’s village at 10:00 am to see the work done there. It’s a magnificent location but facilitating care in a residential setting has moved on over the years since the village was founded in 1878 with the construction of two cottages and a central building which served as a school and church. I have been advertising for a new case worker in my parliamentary office and I carried out interviews for that position before attending the first meeting of the new Inverclyde council in the Town Hall.

Friday

Today was filled with interviews and a quick visit to Your Voice 30th anniversary at the Beacon Arts Centre.

Greenock Telegraph 20th May 2022

The start of a new session at Westminster is heralded in by the Queen’s speech. The name is a misnomer as it is not actually the monarch’s speech at all, the Queen reads out the U.K. governments proposed bills for the coming session. For some unfathomable reason this involves a procession from Buckingham palace of royals and hangers on, the wearing of ermine robes, jewelled tiaras, fanciful military attire and the utilisation of gold thrones. This year, due to the Queen’s advancing years and poor health her sprightly 73-year-old son got to read out the speech. As I said, it is not his speech, but it does rankle with me that someone born into a position of immense wealth and privilege, wearing a ridiculous ruritanian uniform and sitting on the fore-mentioned gold throne is imparts such vacuous nonsense, none of which is designed to help those most in need during these trying times. The Queen’s speech was void of any substantial bills that will help lift people out of poverty, support people in old age, or stimulate economic growth. The pantomime of black rod banging on the door, the procession of MPs up to the Lords and all the accompanying pomp and circumstance is an affront to the seriousness of the austerity crisis that faces the U.K. today.  These occasions only serve to support the concept of a class system. The bowing and scraping to the aristocrats and doffing of caps should be consigned to the rubbish bin along with the regal trappings and faux military attire. How can we applaud a 73-year-old man that has not seen one day of military action in his life, dressed up like some conquering hero being lauded for reading out loud while so many ex-military personnel sleep rough on our city streets, while casualties of PTSD struggle to get the help and support they deserve? We need to change our priorities and start focusing on the most needy in society and not be dazzled by the pantomime of royal privilege.

Written question – Home Office [17/05/2022]

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, how much monies her Department has received as a result of calls to the Homes for Ukraine hotline made by hon. Members’ offices. (844)

Tabled on: 11 May 2022

This question was grouped with the following question(s) for answer:

  1. To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, how much it costs per minute to call the hon. Members telephone hotline for UK Visas and Immigration. (842)
    Tabled on: 11 May 2022
  2. To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, how many calls have been received by the Homes for Ukraine hotline from hon. Members’ offices between 1 March and 11 May 2022. (843)
    Tabled on: 11 May 2022

Answer:
Kevin Foster:

842 – The MP enquiry line is an 0345 number which is a local rate number, so calls to this line cost the same as calls to a geographic number and will be dependent on your telephone service provider. UKVI does not charge for calls to this number.

843 – The Ukraine option on the MP enquiry line has received 3223 calls between 1 March and 11 May 2022

844 – UKVI has not received any money as a result of calls to the MP Enquiry line, including the Ukraine specific option.

The answer was submitted on 17 May 2022 at 14:24.

Greenock Telegraph 6th May 2022

Just like the fake gothic facade that is wrapped around the Palace of Westminster there is a mask of acceptance and tolerance that hides the true face of the UK Government. 

It is an establishment deeply ingrained with prejudice and where a beating heart, nourished by entitlement and money, sustains outdated attitudes towards women, race, addiction and many under-represented minorities. 

Outwardly, the media training and years in private schools spent nurturing misplaced self-confidence enables them to hold a party line and express their deep concern about issues that have not crossed their minds once, in their sheltered privileged lives. Inwardly the need to conform to the party mantra and to be subservient to the more senior party members, results in a parody of politics that the most talented of comedy script writers could only dream of creating. Too often the need to present a believable scenario as an excuse to a calamitous situation outweighs an inconvenient truth and the need for an honest appraisal is replaced by whatever falsehood they feel they can get away with. 

Westminster is mired in a web of deceit.  And as George Orwell said, “In a time of deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.” There are no revolutionaries in the heart of the U.K. establishment, they have no interest in changing a system that serves their needs. Instead, they cling to age old traditions that give them solace to a romanticised past and hope for their own cosseted future. Westminster will never be reformed from within. We need to recognise that and remove ourselves from the constraints of a system that is not for a modern 21st century democracy like Scotland.