Back to Westminster after Easter recess. I had l a quick tour of the place with a constituent. It’s always good to let people see the inner workings of parliament and make it as inclusive as possible. I had an interview with the Evening Standard around the forthcoming white paper on gambling reform. Not for the first time I have been told that it is imminent. The 27th of April is now looking likely. From the rumours I hear there shall be good things included but I do have concerns that despite the acknowledgment that advertising can lead to harm the planned restrictions will not go nearly far enough. There were no votes at the end of the day which meant the first day back was mercifully not a late night sitting.
I had a productive meeting with Scotrail regarding the planned timetable for Inverclyde trains. I expect the proposals to be a reduction in off peak fast trains in the short term but an increase in the Sunday service by summer 2024 along with an improved and targeted off peak service. Importantly this is not death by a thousand cuts and I have urged Scotrail to engage with the public as soon as they are in a situation to do so. This way we can end the speculation and debate the facts. I am fully committed to protecting and improving the rail service. I attended a drop-in event to highlight the inequality of prepayment meters. The campaign is determined to ensure that energy customers are treated fairly and equally. I had to appear in front of the Backbench Business Committee to request a debate on Psilocybin. It went well and the debate should take place on the 18th of May. There were three votes on the Finance Bill and the last one was just after 5pm.
Prime Minister’s Questions has now become a complete waste of time. The reason that it was introduced was to give parliament a scheduled time of the week, every week, to hold the Prime Minister to account. It is now no more than a rabble of dissenting voices. Increasingly it feels like the official opposition is being held to account by the government. Keir Starmer, Leader of the official opposition, spent the entire time on the back foot and rushed through his questions in record time, given the very strong impression that he didn’t want to be there. Fortunately, Stephen Flynn was on good form and managed to both quell the Conservative and Unionist hordes and hold the Prime Minister to account. There were four more votes on the Finance Bill. I attended the enable safer gambling event and had a very interesting discussion with folk from the Behavioural Insights Group, previously known as the nudge unit. It’s fascinating how they measure what influence’s people behaviour, in this case gambling. I went to a PHSO drop-in and spoke with Rob Behrens who is the Ombudsman. These casual events are a nice change from the formal evidence sessions that I usually interact with him at. GambleAware had an event to launch their new advertising campaign. I wish them well. The television adverts they have commissioned are very good.
The main event of the day from my perspective was the debate in Westminster Hall on the economic contribution of medical cannabis. I have spent years explaining the moral and ethical benefits of medical cannabis to countless Conservative and Unionist ministers and they have not listened. But introduce the concept that it’s an industry they can tax and raise money from and suddenly their ears prick up. It wasn’t a great debate but I got to express my opinions.
I opened the Inverclyde jobs fair at the town hall. This is an event that required a lot of collaboration from the council and local employment and skills agencies. Over 25 companies
and organisations took part and hopefully those seeking employment, or a change of employment found it fruitful. Keeping people gainfully employed within the Inverclyde area is hugely important to the economic survival of this community. In the afternoon, I met with representatives from Openreach to discuss their broadband plans for Inverclyde and covered a few issues raised by constituents too.
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