Westminster diary wb 6th February


The morning was consumed by briefings and bobbing for questions on asylum seekers but I was not taken. I was going to ask what the U.K. Government was doing regarding providing a clear path for asylum seekers to navigate the Home Office process. I know they plan to clear backlog by the end of the year, but many have already been in the system for over 12 months already and an extra ten months will have an increasing detrimental effect on their already fragile mental health. I bobbed for questions on pre-payment meters . Despite warm words the situation still exists where people are forced onto prepayment meters. I was taken and asked the minister when he was going to take responsibility for the situation as so far he has blamed the utility companies, Ofgem and the Labour government of thirteen years ago. I know some of society’s problems are deep routed because of bad policies made by previous governments and will take decades to undo but this only requires new legislation to ban forced pre-payment meters.


Another early start as I am on the 9am Eurostar train to Brussels with my select committee colleagues. As always, these trips provide an opportunity for us to work together and on this occasion, we are scrutinising the European Union’s implementation of international agreements. Despite leaving the EU the United Kingdom still has to be fully up to speed with all the treaties and trade deals. We are engaging with both the EU and the U.K. representatives that are based in Brussels. Today we met the Ambassador to Belgium, Martin Shearman, members of the Belgian Parliament’s Foreign Relations Committee, Belgian Foreign Affairs Officials, members of the Walloon Regional Parliament. It’s safe to say with a federal system of government based on language and geography and hosting the European Parliament, trade deals and international agreements go through a complicated process before being passed into law. And yet it works and each region has the same authority.


Today was spent in the European Parliament building, which is clean, modern and massive. One corridor is seven hundred metres long!

During the second day of the trip we met with, Lindsey Appleby, head of the U.K. mission to the EU. Then we met the trade Team and EU Parliament team before leaving the British Embassy to go to the European Parliament to meet officials from the Foreign Affairs Committee and the International Trade Committee. In the afternoon we met David McAllister MEP. David is half Scottish and half German. He chairs the Foreign Affairs Committee. Professor Danuta Hubner MEP explained the working of the committee for International Trade. The European Parliament’s research service walked us through their remit which includes running the library and scrutinising the executive, carrying out impact assessments and trying to add value. After two days of taking on information nonstop it was good to get on the Eurostar for London and have time to absorb everything I had learned.


Because I had to travel from Brussels to London last night I had to travel back home today.  I took advantage of being in London and dropped in on two events being hosted by colleagues. Amy Callaghan MP has an event where she promoted removing VAT from sunscreen. Skin cancer is a big problem and anything we can do to reduce the numbers is welcomed. Reducing the cost of sunscreen will encourage more people to use it. Alison Thewliss MP had an event along with the Lancet magazine promoting the benefits of breast feeding.  I got home around 6pm after popping into my office to catch up on local events.


My first meeting was with Stuart Jamieson from Inverclyde Council to discuss a host of local issues. These are regular meetings which allow us both to keep the other up to speed. I then met with the landlords of the Amazon site to hear was prospects they are pursuing. Unfortunately, my next meeting has been cancelled overnight but there are always plenty of other issue to be addressed so the time was not wasted. In the evening, I attended the Ardgowan bowling club Burns supper. It’s the first one since Covid and hopefully a sign that things are mostly returning to normal.