Recess is over and normal life, if such a thing exists, at Westminster resumes. First day back is always a bit of much ado about nothing so I delay my departure until Tuesday as there are always productive things to be done in Inverclyde. Our council has rightly been praised for the way it has handled the arrival of refugees from around the world in recent months but every so often there are issues that need addressed and my office plays it’s part, particularly when it comes to visas and passports. It was a busy day.
Caught the red eye to London, happy birthday to me! My first diary entry was the All-party Parliamentary Group for the Arctic & Nordic Councils. The guest speaker was H.E. Wegger Chr. Strømmen Norwegian Ambassador to the United Kingdom. He is always a good speaker and this time he covered in detail Norway’s proposed Chairmanship of the Arctic Council in 2023 and challenges faced in the High North due to geopolitical tensions. He made a very serious issue, given that Russia is currently waging war in Ukraine, interesting and even humorous. The Norwegian politicians I have met are always very capable and confident. I had a briefing from a number of stakeholders regarding access to cash prior to the Finance Bill debate scheduled for Wednesday.
With a new Prime Minister due to make her debut at Prime Minister’s Questions it was understandably extremely busy. It is always interesting to see which Conservative and Unionists don’t turn up and most of the last administration was noticeable by their absence. Liz Truss sneered as she does but the bookies are already predicting she won’t last until the planned general election in 2024. Boris is hanging around and making veiled references to comebacks. The ghastly and obscenely expensive décor of the Prime Minister’s residence will be a daily reminder of his presence should she need one. I spoke in the Financial Services Bill in the House of Commons and focused on the continued need for free access to cash. There are nods in that direction in the bill but nothing conclusive.
I should have been up the road last night, but the Government have brought forward a debate on UK energy costs. It was an inauspicious start to Liz Truss’s tenure as the statement she read should have been published in advance and circulated to members. Her predecessor was not good at this and at her first attempt she also failed. This means we are debating something we haven’t read. She announced her intention to cap bills but not to impose a windfall tax on the energy companies. The debate was overshadowed by the announcement that the Queen was unwell. It’s the first time I have witnessed a mass exodus from the media benches so we knew something was up. While I was waiting to travel home the news came through that the Queen had passed away. Nobody wants to predict the end of life of the Queen but Operation London Bridge has been developed over the years with the Queen’s input and covers all the necessary arrangements and protocols. The demise of the monarch is a finely choreographed occasion that lasts 10 days. I hope the mass media can find it within themselves to allow those closest to the Queen to mourn her passing in private. My thoughts are with her family.
In line with parliamentary protocol, I was duty bound to cancel all my engagements today.