Westminster diary w/b 9th July

Monday

My first event at Westminster was a briefing regarding the cabinet meeting at Chequers the previous Friday. In keeping with the Brexit process so far, the intended host of the event was changed at the last minute and the projector required for the power point presentation went missing. I don’t know what goes on behind the closed doors of the upper echelon of power but every time I see it manifested in public it’s a shambles. Following the briefing the Prime Minister made a statement in the house. It was beyond contempt as she continued with the ‘All Right on the Night’ mentality. Meanwhile, three cabinet members had resigned. Things are clearly not alright and yet the UK government continues to reject overtures of conciliatory discussions from devolved powers. In the evening I met with Rachel Moran to discuss the Nordic Model for prostitution.

Tuesday

I met with various trade union representatives to listen to their concerns around the bidding process to build the ‘Fleet Solid Support’ ships. The FSS contract has been extended to countries across the world. The trade unions and many others believe that the FSS are warships and therefore should be built in the UK, which is the usual process. I had a meeting with the Glasgow coordinator for the WASPI campaign and it was good to catch up with ongoing campaign. I was disappointed to learn that the ministers with responsibility for the Department for Work and Pensions had still not managed to sit down with the board members of the WASPI campaign. This is another classic example of the UK government burying its head in the sand. This issue will not just go away, in fact after their upcoming AGM I expect it will come roaring back. The All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Scottish Sport consisted of an extremely interesting briefing on transitioning back to normal life after a career in sport. It highlighted the lack of support that most sportspeople are given by their organising bodies and the financial difficulties along with psychological issues that can arise.

Wednesday

I had an interview with academics from Bath University regarding Universal Basic Income. It is an area that I have worked on since I was elected and shall continue to investigate. I spoke last year in Portugal on this topic and thirty one countries were represented. I have been invited to speak in Barcelona this September. It is an indication of the growth of this movement that it continues to spread across the globe and many professionals, politicians and academics are seeking a positive outcome. In the chamber, once again Scotland Questions was an ill-tempered affair as the Secretary of State dismissed all criticism regardless of how constructive it was. Prime Minsters Questions was bereft of the Prime Minster as she was in Brussels and as protocol dictates the Labour opposition was provided by their deputy too. So it was David Lidington against Emily Thornberry. And the winner was Ian Blackford who amidst the mindless barracking between Conservative and Labour, struck the correct tone, questioning the confrontational stance of President Trump. I spoke (all be it brief and quick) in the ship building debate. I put forward the case to build the FSS in the UK and highlighted the benefit to communities. The cheapest option is not always the best and the social economic benefit in the immediate community and throughout the supply chain should always be a consideration. The reason the debate was concluded before its allotted time and speeches were cut short was quite unbelievably because a football match was taking place. I think thousands of shipyard workers jobs deserve better than that.

Thursday

I sat in on business questions and was expecting to read up on Carillion for the afternoon debate. I was not expecting the government statement on the Brexit White Paper. It turned into an extremely confrontational event. The process is that before a government minister gets to his or her feet to make a statement the spokesperson of the opposition parties are given a copy within a suitable timescale to read it and produce a response. This government decide to release the white paper to the media four hours before any opposition members. Another Brexit Shambles. In a very rare if not unique action the speaker of the house basically instructed the government minister to get the white paper into the hands of all members before he made his statement. To do this he had to prompt him a few times and eventually suspend the house. I took place in the last debate of the day which focused on the collapse of Carillion. I grabbed the 20:30 flight home.

Friday

Was mostly spent catching up with constituency casework and local issues. In the afternoon I managed to squeeze in a physiotherapy appointment for my latest sporting injury.

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Ferguson Marine

Ferguson Marine have already bid for work relating to the Type 31e Frigates and have also successfully won funding from the EU to produce the world’s first hydrogen-powered ferry. It’s clear that Inverclyde is producing some of the highest quality ships in the world. 

It therefore makes no sense that the UK Government would put additional obstacles in Ferguson Marine’s path when they are well placed to bid for a lucrative new defence contract that would sustain jobs, apprentices and investment in Inverclyde.

I have heard it argued that by allowing countries from across the globe to bid for UK work then the UK shipbuilders will be able to bid for work across the globe. However, this only works if an industry is already vibrant and the shipbuilding sector in the UK is still reinventing itself after years of neglect. It’s need nurtured before it can take on the world.

Surely a UK Government that genuinely cared about domestic shipbuilding would be trying to find an excuse to give Scottish yards the best possible chance of success rather than threatening a positive outcome.

The UK Government must back yards such as Ferguson Marine and ensure that taxpayers money is supporting employment in the UK, rather than subsidising their competition.

Gambling related harm

I welcome more action to both highlight and identify gambling related harm and the issues this can cause for individuals and their family members.

The Gambling Commission report indicates that Total Gross Gambling Yield is £13.9bn which should mean the industry provides £14m (0.1% of GGY) to GambleAware to support their work into research and treatment.

Alongside this, the report highlights there are 33,648 B2 (FOBT) machines in the UK which continue to allow players to lose up to £100 per spin. It’s time for the UK Government to implement the £2 maximum unit stake on FOBTs.

http://www.gamblingcommission.gov.uk/news-action-and-statistics/news/2018/Measuring-the-impact-of-gambling-related-harms.aspx

Written question – Social security [11/07/2018]

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what data her Department collects on the time taken from making a claim to the first payment under universal credit where the claimant has submitted a DS1500; and what the average amount of time people with a DS1500 have had to wait to receive their first universal credit payment. (159665)

Tabled on: 02 July 2018

Answer:
Alok Sharma:

The information requested is not readily available and to provide it would incur disproportionate cost.

The answer was submitted on 10 Jul 2018 at 16:51.

 

Westminster diary w/b 2nd July

Monday

I let the train take the strain on Monday morning. I took the 8:40 from Glasgow Central to London Euston. Its four and a half hours without interruption when I can read and prepare. I had a question on the order paper for the Department of Work and Pensions and the outcome is that they informed me that 1200 people had died while waiting for universal credit assessment and therefore received no payment. I then asked the minister to improve the process as currently if someone on universal credit dies at the end of their assessment period, it is presumed they died at the start and there is no payment for that period. The Prime Minister made a statement to the House, which was really an update on the latest European Council meeting. Not surprisingly we didn’t hear anything we didn’t already know.

Tuesday

The first item on my agenda was the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs select committee. We took evidence from cabinet minister Oliver Dowden who until recently was a member of the committee. The topic was pre-appointment hearings. It was interesting to hear how the government plans to improve both gender and ethnic minority representation in high profile public posts. But I wasn’t totally convinced. I am afraid that most of the top jobs are still the domain of the pale, male and stale brigade. We then ran through our report on ‘Carillion – report on public sector outsourcing’. I would have been happier if the report had highlighted the failings of the PFI schemes that have saddled so many councils around the U.K. with masses of debt to repay. Inverclyde’s in in the region of £9 million a year. I also think the report was light on the failings of Carillion itself. I had a number of internal meetings on strategy, policy and portfolios.

Wednesday

My first engagement was off campus at a local hotel where I was a guest speaker for the public policy exchange. The topic was ‘Tackling drug dependency and abuse’. It was a very well informed audience of people who work in this sector and it was extremely interesting. Unfortunately I had to leave and get back to Prime Minister’s Questions which was neither well informed nor interesting. I spoke in a Westminster Hall debate titled ‘Tackling demand for commercial sexual exploitation’. It’s a controversial subject but I favour the Nordic Model which decriminalises the selling of sex and prosecutes the buyer. There is no ideal solution but we could do a tremendous amount of good if we educated men to understand the violence and intimidation that the majority of woman are subjected to when they are being prostituted. If they acknowledged the human trafficking then maybe men would stop purchasing sex. The SNP opposition debate was on the ‘Claim of Rights for Scotland’. This affirms that the sovereignty of the nation of Scotland is with the people.

Thursday

A busy wee day started with a question to the Transport Minister. I asked him about the readiness of the port authorities post Brexit. He assured me it would be alright on the night. I replied, in my role as infrastructure spokesperson, to a government statement on the construction sector deal.

To be fair the minister responded well to my questions and I look forward to see how much of the new money is allocated to Scotland. In keeping with being the third party, we have a duty to provide MPs for various roles. One of those is summing up debates. This allows members to speak so I summed up the debate on the ‘Future of transforming social care programme’ even though it was really an England only matter. I still managed to make the 18:15 flight home.

Friday

I had a meeting with EE and held constituency surgeries in Branchton, Boglestone and the Auchmountain Glen project.