Month: May 2023
Westminster diary wb 22nd May
I didn’t travel to Westminster as I was helping to host the judges for Council of the Year. Inverclyde is one of the finalists and I met with two of the judges at the new Greenock Ocean Terminal to discuss levelling up funding and the wider regeneration plans for the area. I was happy to support council officer Stuart Jamieson in this role and hopefully we can win the award. More importantly, we must push forward the bold plans to reshape the town centre for both tourists and locals and attract more industry into the area. We are always planting these seeds and it’s frustrating when it takes so long for any to come to fruition, but I do believe we are much better placed now than we have been for a number of years.
Down to Westminster and a great meeting with the owners of a company that grow medical cannabis. The setup they are required to provide involves the growing rooms, security of product and efficacy of the medicine. It’s an impressive investment but they, like all other growers, are experiencing difficulties in acquiring licences from the Home Office. It takes six months to apply and the licence is for a year. Therefore, it’s one continual cycle which doesn’t help to attract investment. I received an online briefing from Voltface pertaining to an event I am doing with them on medical cannabis prescribing early in June. In the evening I attended the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on the 12 step recovery. It was a mixture of a presentation of research from Dame Carol Black and lived experience testimony. The latter is always the more powerful. A very famous retired footballer told his story of addictions. This is a player that on the surface had everything, but his story brought a tear to everyone’s eye. He was brutally honest and there was not a shred of self pity in what he said. So often the people that have come through addiction are the best of people.
Prime Minister’s Questions was both worse and better than usual. Worse because of the pathetic performance from the Leader of the Opposition. Any man that wants to form the next government has to start telling folk what the differences are between his party and the Conservatives. But it was better because finally the Speaker told a Member to leave because their behaviour is unacceptable. It was one of the usual suspects and as he walked out with his tail between his legs his fellow school ground bullies looked down nervously and shuffled their feet in-case they were next. Hopefully, the lesson has been learned and PMQs can become a platform to hold the U.K. government to account once again. I say this full in the knowledge that I have a question on the Order Paper to the Prime Minister in a couple of weeks.
I bobbed for question to Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) but wasn’t taken. I was going to ask if they had any conversations with their colleagues in the Home Office about hemp growing licences, I shall put it in writing to them instead. I suspect I know the answer. There were a couple of Urgent Questions, and I covered the chamber until it was time to best a retreat back up the road.
I had a catch-up meeting with senior council officers in the morning. Caught up with casework and the usual paperwork and in the afternoon I hosted the screening of a documentary called One Last Spin at the Hub in Inverkip. It’s a documentary about gambling addiction and we followed that with a question-and-answer session afterwards with one of the documentary creators Martin Paterson.
Greenock Telegraph [27/05/2023]
Greenock Telegraph [24/05/2023]
Urgent question- The criteria for launching an investigation into a potential breach of the Ministerial Code [23/05/2023]
Greenock Telegraph [20/05/2023]
Greenock Telegraph [22/05/2023]
Westminster diary wb 20th May
The All Party Parliamentary Group ( APPG ) on commercial sexual exploitation had a meeting to discuss what we can do to amend the Online Safety Bill after it comes back from the House of Lords. It is a harrowing subject matter but it’s an opportunity to make the right changes. The APPG shall be reaching out to all parties to help members understand the size and significance of the problem.
Today was the SNP opposition debate day. We chose to debate the cost of living and Brexit, so often when people talk about the cost of living crisis they acknowledge the Russian invasion of Ukraine and Covid but Brexit seems to have been dismissed. We then debated the disgraceful attack on the right to free speech which is the Public Order Act. I met with Transform Drugs Policy to get a briefing on Psilocybin. The APPG on gambling related harm met to discuss our approach to the recently published white paper on gambling. Earlier I sat in on the select committee hearing on this and was deeply disappointed by the majority of it. I summed up in a Westminster Hall debate on corporate profit or more accurately corporate greed.
It was up to the party deputies to cross examine the U.K. government at PMQs. Angela Rayner as deputy leader of the Labour Party has, in the past, been very strong at this but not today when she waffled on and on which simply allows the baying mobs of the U.K. government benches to shout over her and then the whole thing descends into chaos. Mhairi Black kept it short and made her points. The deputy Prime Minister’s contempt for Scotland is already well known and his manner at PMQs emphasised that. I had a zoom meeting with Giulia Spilotros from the Green Network to get an update on the peatland reclamation programme in Inverclyde. Late afternoon I had a meeting with Chris Philp MP, minister for policing, along with industry experts to discuss the problems with the licensing of hemp. It was a constructive meeting.
My select committee met and we took evidence from senior civil servants on the survey of 360,000 civil servants and the way they publish the data. I spoke in the House of Commons on a motion to reschedule psilocybin. It was brought forward by myself, Crispin Blunt MP and Charlotte Nichols MP. Despite it having that level of CEOs party support the government response was poor.
I worked in my office all day and caught up with the local police to cover a range of local issues. On Saturday I shall be attending the Scottish Families affected by alcohol and drugs 20th birthday party at the Beacon.
Greenock Telegraph 19th May
On the day of the Coronation seven people who wished to express their discontent with the proceedings were arrested. They had previously engaged with the authorities and had, as is normal in these situations, agreed where they would be, how many would be there, what form the protest would take and when they would disperse. That’s how protests are done at Westminster. They are scheduled and coordinated, orderly and peaceful. But against that background the U.K. Government have driven through the Public Order Act 2023. And now perfectly peaceful protestors can be arrested under the most vague of charges. The once firebrand Labour Party have supported the U.K. government every step of the way in implementing this bill. They even withdrew their vote on the stop and search clause after agreeing to push it. And they abstained on the latest vote to repeal the act, brought forward by the SNP. Their lack of opposition has been noted and their leader, Keir Starmer, has said that if Labour wins the next general election, they will not repeal this act. It’s almost impossible to tell the difference between the Conservative and Unionists and the Labour Party these days. As Orwell nearly said, ‘from Tory to Labour, and from Labour to Tory again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.’ It was stomach churning on Tuesday to watch the Government and Labour front bench chatting and cosying up together during the speech from Anne McLaughlin, SNP spokesperson, on the Public Order Act. At times like these, as your ability to vote is being undermined, the right to strike threatened and right to protest removed, we need an official opposition that is prepared to stand up to the U.K. government and stand up for the electorate. Currently, they are posted missing. They see themselves as a government in waiting but in truth they have shown nothing that justifies that. The opinion polls may swing them back into power in England, but the difference will be negligible and damage will be irreparable to Scotland.
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