Westminster diary wb 23rd January


I attended the Inverclyde Taskforce in the municipal buildings. Among the items on the agenda were the losing bid for Greenport status, the winning bid for levelling up money and the recent announcement that Amazon are ‘considering’ pulling out of Gourock. It was a well-attended meeting and Ivan McKee MSP was there from the Scottish Government. I took advantage of having Ivan in the room to have a private discussion around other industrial opportunities in Inverclyde.  Having met with Glasgow Airport last week I met Peel Ports in the afternoon. Obviously, they are disappointed about losing out on the Greenport bid and questions must be answered regarding the winning bids, but I was heartened by the investment Peel are making in Inverclyde, much of which goes unnoticed. 


I had an early flight down and spent the morning preparing for my select committee on Thursday as my diary was extremely busy up until then.  The main event of the day for me was the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Drug Policy Reform who had a joint meeting with Unite which is a parliamentary network for global health. There were representatives from Chile, Mexico, USA, Luxembourg, Malta and Germany as well as the U.K.  We discussed approaches to cannabis laws designed to reduce drug related harm. It is fair to say, as i did in my column in the Greenock Telegraph yesterday that the U.K. is lagging behind and as a result we are experiencing more harm and more crime than other European countries.  We had the last vote of the day on the economic crime and corporate transparency bill at 18:51. 


I dropped in on the Collective Voice addiction treatment providers who had many good representatives there, including Change Grow Live, Humankind, Forward Trust and With You. Together they were assessing the level of support provided for people in recovery with a view to the recommendations made in the Dame Carol Black report one year ago. I had a meeting with Kate Winstanley from Community Alcohol Partnerships. That are not active in Inverclyde, but they do a great deal of good work in other parts of Scotland. The weekly display of kindergarten petulance from the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition at Prime Minister’s Questions was appalling and I know I am biased but the Westminster leader of the SNP Stephen Flynn wiped the floor with the Prime Minister and did what the leader of the opposition should be doing every week by holding him to account over the gross negligence exhibited day in day out by the Conservative and Unionist U.K. government.  I then met with Together with Refugees and talked to asylum seekers about their lived experiences. The last event before votes was the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Drugs, Alcohol and Justice. The focus of the meeting was on woman’s treatment services. Women’s groups testified that many women are forced into addiction as a result of abusive relationships and they lamented the lack of woman only rehabilitation centres.  We voted at 17:40.


My select committee took evidence from the Right Honourable Oliver Dowden MP, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Alex Chisholm, Cabinet Office Permanent Secretary and Civil Service Chief Operating Officer. The enquiry is about the work of the Cabinet Office and I questioned the witnesses on the potential changes within the Cabinet Office to make it “better, smaller and fairer”, and the role the Cabinet Office will take in the King’s coronation through the new Coronation Claims Office which has been created in the Cabinet Office. I pressed the view that in times of great austerity when people are struggling to pay their energy bills, many are living in damp housings, one in four kids are living in poverty, foodbanks are on the increase and teachers, nurses, postal workers and civil servants are striking for more pay, that a man wearing a crown and jewels worth a fortune while riding in a gold coach was maybe not appropriate . The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster disagreed with me.


Stuart McMillan MSP and I ran joint surgeries in Port Glasgow. The focus was on energy advice, and we had representatives from Social Security Scotland, Advice Direct and Home Energy Scotland. It’s a sad sign of the times that surgeries that specialise on finance and energy are always busy.