Tours of the Houses of Parliament

With parliament now in session and MPs back at Westminster, the tours of the Houses of Parliament are available to residents of Inverclyde.

The tours of both Houses is an ideal opportunity to witness the workings of parliament and how the business and traditions of both Houses contribute to the day to day workings of the UK Parliament.

If Inverclyde residents are planning to be in London, after the summer recess ends, then please do not hesitate to contact my office to see if a tour can be arranged.

Queen’s Speech

The Queen’s Speech is a very glitzy affair. Crowns, robes, uniforms, best bib and tucker is the order of the day and one might expect a speech of great importance to accompany such an event, but it did not happen.

Rather like the ermine robes held together with safety pins the speech was tawdry and disappointing. Manifesto promises did not get a mention. If the social welfare reform has disappeared then that has to be a good thing.

Amazingly there was nothing in this programme to try and turn around the faltering economy, or how to support our under-pressure public services. Brexit is of course looming large on the horizon but the UKs negotiation team has already been blown off course and nobody at the table is looking after Scotland’s interests.

Years of Tory infighting have left this government fractured and impotent. A speech that could have healed wounds, offered a hand of encouragement, provided guidance and support was instead bland and uninspiring.

All in all it was just another day at the office.

No Opportunity to Quiz Welfare Ministers

The new Parliament session will officially begin, tomorrow, with the Queen’s Speech outlining the Government’s programme. The dates and deadlines for oral questions, in the chamber, will be announced this week and it’s been stated that Department of Work and Pensions question time is not due to answer before the Summer recess.  This means MPs will not have the opportunity to question Minister’s in the Chamber until September, at the earliest.

The Department of Work and Pensions portfolio has responsibility, amongst other things, as to whether Women Against State Pension Inequality (WASPI) will receive the pensions they deserve, also whether Personal Independence Payment (PIP) assessments will be conducted locally.  Alongside this, I have previously raised the issue of jobcentre closures and the introduction of a universal basic income with welfare ministers.

I find it very disappointing to learn that Government ministers from the Department of Work and Pensions won’t be quizzed by MPs, on the House floor, until after the summer recess.

The public had to endure a period of over 5 weeks without having a Member of Parliament to represent them.  Now my office is back in place and taking on constituent casework, much of which has to do with benefit entitlement, welfare assessments and pensions.  Yet, I won’t be able to quiz the Minister on these subject till September at the earliest.

What was required is moving the time to accommodate Members and the Minister but these are extraordinary times and Westminster has to move with them.

This Government has brought about instability, with calling an early general election and a lack of clear direction.  The news that MPs won’t be able to quiz welfare Ministers is another example of the shambles at the heart of this Government.


Housing funding for Inverclyde

Today, the SNP Government have announced further invested of £29.6 million in building affordable housing in Inverclyde.

The commitment put forward will see all of Scotland’s 32 councils know now what their share of around £1.754 billion in grant subsidy over three years to 2021 will be allowing them to plan the affordable housing in their area.

I’m delighted to learn that Inverclyde will receive further investment of £29.6m, from the Scottish Government, for building affordable housing.

This funding will be will be vital in improving the housing stock in the area and will play a role in improving life chances and lifting people out of poverty

I hope local businesses and companies will be included in the procurement process and will benefit from the opportunities this funding will bring.

Return to the day job

Firstly, I would like to, again, thank the people who voted for me and continue to place their faith in me as their Member of Parliament for Inverclyde. As I’ve previously said, this is the greatest job in the world and I’m delighted to continue in the role.

The first week back at Westminster will be an opportunity to meet with returning colleagues and also participate in the process of electing a Speaker of the House. I shall also endeavor to undertake the swearing in process this week as it’s mandatory to do this before I can take part in any debates.

I shall be holding my first constituent surgery of this new term on Saturday, to allow people to raise any cases or issues with myself and my office.

There is a lot of work to be done but I relish the opportunity to get on with the job and representing Inverclyde to the best of my ability.

WASPI campaign

During my time as Member of Parliament for Inverclyde I have been approached by a number of women who are adversely affected by the changes to state pension age.  I joined many of them in Glasgow, last month, at a day of action to highlight our concerns to the UK Government’s proposals.

The UK Government have ducked their responsibility to the WASPI women for too long.  It’s time for action to be taken to support the women of Inverclyde and Scotland as a whole.

Therefore, I have written to the newly appointed Secretary of State for Work and Pensions to urge the UK Government to re-consider its proposals and provide the women affected with the pensions they are entitled to and deserve.

Annual Report 2016-2017

I’m pleased to publish my annual report which outlines the work that I’ve undertaken since May 2016.

The past year has been challenging in terms of the issues that we’ve faced in Inverclyde. My office has seen a 52% increase in the number of welfare and pension cases in particular, with constituents also frequently contacting me about tax credits and broadband connectivity.

However, there are positives and it has been a privilege to meet and support the many individuals and organisations that are working within our community.

I’ve also managed to make progress on plans to re-develop Spango Valley, with a working group established and a draft feasibility study completed.

Unfortunately an unexpected general election just two years into the job has meant that I’ve had to delay all of my work, including constituency casework.

I hope to be re-elected on the 8th of June so that I am able to hit the ground running after the election and continue to build on the progress that we’ve made over the past two years.

Download the report [here].

Inverclyde MP and MSP Condemn Tory Rape Clause

Stuart McMillan MSP has joined with me in condemning changes to child tax credits and the controversial provision known as the “rape clause”.

The welfare changes, which were announced in 2015 and came into effect from 6 April, limit tax credits to the first two children in a family, with exceptions for children born as a result of “non-consensual conception” – forcing the mother to prove that a third child was conceived as a result of rape or during an abusive relationship.

A debate recently took place in the Scottish Parliament, where the SNP’s motion to oppose the UK Government’s imposition, with amendments from Labour and the Greens, was backed by 91 votes to 31.

As I’ve previously stated, the ‘rape clause’ is one of the most heinous and despicable polices brought forward by any Government.

Having women relive the trauma of being raped, simply to claim tax credits is repugnant, repressive and regressive.

The Tories are completely isolated on this issue and must see the outrage it has caused and ultimately scrap the clause. They could have admitted their mistake and amended this tawdry piece of legislation but it strikes me that the Tory government is not going to be seen to back down on any subject, is not prepared to listen to alternative views and is belligerent in its response to criticism no matter constructive or how well intended it is.

Stuart McMillan MSP said:

“Asking a woman to prove that her child was conceived as a result of rape is utterly appalling and must be one of the most abhorrent policies ever to emanate from Westminster. The trauma and stigma that the rape assessment process will cause both survivors and children of rape is unthinkable.

“The two-child limit will drag over 200,000 more children below the poverty line, leaving working families unable to make up for the cut.

“That the Tories haven’t even attempted to consider how these changes will affect some of the most vulnerable women and families in this country demonstrates a contemptible lack of compassion and human decency.

“It takes a special kind of twisted logic for the Tory leader in Scotland to call for the Scottish Parliament to protect families from the vindictive policies of the Tory Government in Westminster.

“It’s time for the Tories to realise their mistake and stop this policy in its tracks now.”

Job centre closures

As I’ve previously stated, the decision to close Port Glasgow job centre has absolutely nothing to do with providing a Government service. Rather, it is part of the UK Government’s goal of selling £4.5 billion-worth of Government land and property by 2020-21.

The Scottish Affairs Committee highlights a lack of clear planning.

Therefore, a full and proper evaluation of Jobcentre Plus provision throughout Scotland must be carried out to ensure the quality of service provided and the job security of DWP staff.

‘Lessons Learned from the EU Referendum’

The Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee report says any future referendum in the UK should take note of the lessons learned from the execution of the Brexit referendum, including the damage to the reputation of the Civil Service and the lack of preparation for either of the possible outcomes.

The committee report highlights the requirements for the civil service to be prepared for either outcome of a referendum.  It also stresses the need for purdah to be enforced fairly.

Personally, I see a huge responsibility on the media to balance coverage during purdah. Mark Carney has been cited as an example of an influential public figure who is not restricted by purdah and I would expect the media, when reporting comments from people in similar positions, to balance their reports with possibly opposing views.

What we are trying to provide is a system where information is delivered in an open and honest manner, allowing the electorate to be fully informed so they can make their judgement to the best of their abilities.

Read the report –