Westminster diary w/b 4th December

Monday 

An early start and at the airport for the 7:20. It’s a long day in the chamber debating the European Union (withdrawal) bill. Today the focus is on devolved powers which can only mean clause 11. I am fortunate that my select committee covers the constitution so I have been in the privileged position of talking to experts on this subject for some time. Scotland could benefit from 111 powers being repatriated upon Brexit but clause 11 removes that certainty and instead we need to go cap in hand to Westminster. I mean, who is best to make decisions for Scottish fishermen? The Scottish Government, apparently its Whitehall. I write my speech in the morning and bob dutifully until about ten pm (I think. It was a long day). The debate runs until after midnight, there are three votes (each take about 15 minutes). I stumble into my bed at 2am.

Tuesday 

My alarm goes off at 5:15 and I catch the 7:30 to Glasgow. I have private engagement back home.

Wednesday  

Duty calls and it’s another 5:15 start. I catch the 7:20 and I am at my desk in Westminster for 9:30. 

I am bobbing for questions during questions to the Secretary of State for Scotland. I don’t get taken. Given the fiasco of the previous few days regarding Brexit, the Irish border and the DUP I am expecting the prime minister to get a rough ride from the leader of the opposition at Prime Ministers Questions. I am wrong. The PM was strong and well in command of her brief. Jeremy Corbyn was all over the place. The PM got a very easy ride until Alan Brown MP pointed out since her 12 New Tories that represents Scottish seats had been elected Scotland had lost out on the equivalent of 256 million pounds for each one. She didn’t know where to go with that. I attend a meeting of the cross party group on drugs, alcohol and justice. It’s good to meet up with the folk from VolteFace and Addaction again. They always bring such clarity to proceedings. There are votes at night and the last one is at 20:30.  

Thursday

I am speaking in the Fisheries debate at 15:00 so the morning is spent going over my speech and matching it up with the briefing papers that industry experts have sent me. I get a leisurely five minutes to speak and business finishes at 17:00. I get the 19:30 flight home.

Friday

I meet up with representatives of Peel Ports at 9am and we discuss their commitment to Inverclyde.

I have constituency meetings for the rest of the morning and I host the irrepressible WASPI women in my office in the afternoon. It’s been a long week and by close of day I am utterly exhausted. There will be no alarm clock ringing tomorrow morning (it’s still the best job in the world).

 

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Westminster diary w/b 27th November

Monday 

There is no urgent business to get me out my bed at 5am so I take the opportunity to work in my constituency office during the morning and catch a lunchtime flight. I am in Westminster for 14:30 which allows me to read my Transport Select Committee briefs and spend some time with the committee clerks regarding a particular case I want the committee to look at. The select committee sits at 16:30 and takes evidence from witnesses affected by the recommendations to change the criteria for drivers of community transport organisation (CTO) vehicles. Followed by evidence from those who are making the recommendations. With an ageing population CTOs are proving an invaluable service to a growing market place. In the evening I attended an event to promote the United Kingdom’s major ports. It is always beneficial to hear from other MPs about issues that we share an interest in. I have to admit I am envious of some of the financial investment that other ports have received free m both Scottish and UK governments. We have a wonderful opportunity to make more of our ports in Inverclyde and we should not settle for second best.  

Tuesday 

My select committee on administration and the constitution took evidence from legal experts Michael Carpenter and Professor Nicola McEwen regarding the complexities and nuances in clause eleven of the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill. That’s not as dry as it may sound. Clause eleven will determine how many of the one hundred and eleven powers that are currently under European Union jurisdiction that potentially can be devolved to Scotland, are devolved to Scotland. As soon as the committee meeting ended I made a hasty exit to the chamber as I had a topical question to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I urged the UK government to fund a basic income project so they can make evidence based policy, as is being done in Scotland. The Chancellor and his ministers seemed baffled by the prospect and failed to answer my question. I attended the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on prostitution where we discussed the decriminalisation of the purchasing of sex. This is a worrying concept that was put forward at the TUC congress and TUC woman’s conference. Wisely it was voted down at both. The TUCs stance is that prostitution is abuse, not work. The All-Party Parliamentary Group on drugs policy discussed the uses of cannabis both medicinal and recreational. It is an area where research is growing, people’s attitude is changing and we need to be prepared so we can legislate responsibly. In the evening I attended the launch of the VoltFace report ‘Back Yard’. It is an investigation into the feasibility of establishing drug consumption rooms.  

Wednesday  

I started the day at the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Malawi. Inverclyde has a lot of connections with Malawi including a number of schools that have paired with a school in Malawi. Through this group I hope to be able to help these Inverclyde organisations. Prime Ministers Question time was a battle between the deputies. Damien Greene replaced the PM and Emily Thornberry replaced the leader of the opposition. It was a rather muted affair. I spoke in the WASPI (Women Against State Pension Inequality) debate which we took to a vote and won! The UK Government now has twelve weeks to respond. In the evening I hosted Strathclyde University Constitutional Law students.

Thursday

Happy St Andrew’s Day. Unfortunately, I woke with a raging sore head, runny nose, tickle cough and aching joints. I had my flu jab a few weeks ago but this is obviously man flu which is much worse. I drag myself in for a meeting but it’s a lost cause. I head for a two pm flight.

Friday

I start the day helping out at the Tesco foodbank collection followed by constituency surgeries in Greenock, Port Glasgow and Inverkip. In the evening I attend the official opening of the Greenock Burns Club room at the Customs House Quay.

 

Westminster diary w/b 20th November

Monday 

I caught the seven twenty am flight and after catching up with emails, along with Norman Lamb MP, I had a meeting with representatives from ‘Anyone’s Child’. This group are members of the public that have suffered through the loss of life, ill health or prosecution of a loved one in connection with the current UK drug laws. We met them as a precursor to debate later in the week on drugs harm. I had the great pleasure of meeting up with Ricardo Baptista Leite and Rita Carmo Ferreira. I met them in Portugal earlier this year. Ricardo is an MP in the Portuguese parliament and along with Rita is organising and encouraging a network of parliamentarians to promote the end of HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis and Tuberculosis. In the afternoon I met with representatives of a pharmaceutical company that are promoting a version of buprenorphine which is used to treat opioid addiction. The afternoon was completed by my transport select committee which has a fixation with all things trains. The evening finished with votes just after nine pm.

Tuesday  

My Select Committee on the administration and constitution started the day with an investigation into the civil service and its recruitment policy. I attended a debate on pension age which of course covered women against state pension inequality (WASPI). I also went to an event to mark 50 years since Winnie Ewing was elected to Westminster. It is particularly poignant as Winnie is a resident of Inverclyde now. I then attended an event hosted by ‘Addaction’ which is a support service for alcohol and drug addiction. They have a fantastic web chat application on their website for anyone needing to discuss alcohol or drug issues. The day finished with five votes, each takes fourteen minutes. The last vote was at nine forty one pm precisely. 

Wednesday 

It’s budget day. That means the media descend on Westminster and security is ramped up considerably. It’s the one day when prime Ministers Question time is simply the warm up. I watched the budget from the tea room. This means I get a seat and can hear what’s being said. It also means I can judge the reaction from the Conservatives who, like me, have opted for the more civilised location. They are a very divided bunch. I spoke in a debate with the title ‘human and financial costs of drug addiction’. It was well supported and mostly well informed. There is support across the parties for Heroin Addiction Treatment rooms. I attended the alcohol health alliance ten year anniversary before speaking at a rally against fixed odd betting terminals. I found myself agreeing with Ian Duncan Smith who opposes these machines and is also calling for a two pound maximum stake. It was an early night and so I was home by eight pm. 

Thursday 

We had an informal meeting of the Public administration and constitution committee to discuss clause eleven of the EU (Withdrawal) Bill. Sounds dry but it was fascinating. I then met up with pupils from Clydeview Academy who were touring Westminster as part of their London trip. I was scheduled to speak on a debate on bullying immediately after so I took the opportunity to pick their brains on the subject. I used their feedback in the debate. I caught the six pm flight home. 

Friday  

I had a meeting with the builders Taylor Wimpey regarding a housing development In Kilmacolm. I visited St Columba’s High school to do a question and answer session with pupils and the met up with Inverclyde’ Street pastors to hear about their on-going work. My last engagement of the week was at Notre Dame High School this hear about their involvement in the UNICEF initiative ‘2017 outright campaign’ which focuses on children’s rights and specifically child refugees.

 

Westminster diary w/b 13th November

Monday

This week is UK Parliament Week. The aim to encourage and increase, knowledge of and participation in the democratic process. A number of schools in Inverclyde have been taking part and so my first event of the week was to visit Inverclyde Academy. The pupils quizzed me on a range of subjects including immigration, Universal Credit and children’s rights. I caught the midday flight to London and was in time to attend a Westminster Hall debate. It was a petitions debate in response to two public petitions on the proposal for a second Scottish Independence referendum. As you would expect it was heavily attended by MPs that represent Scottish constituencies. Others were caught up in select committees or chamber business but it was still well attended and lively affair. I am continually disappointed that unionists MPs reasoning mostly revolves around their belief that Scotland isn’t very good and they don’t like the SNP. I would have hoped the debate would have focused more on their perceived benefits of being in the union, like being in the European Union.

Tuesday

The Select Committee for public administration and the constitution took evidence from the United Kingdom Statistics Authority. Part of their role is to scrutinise statistics that organisations produce so as they are accurate and can be quoted. They can intervene when politicians misuse statistics. The most recent example was when they took issue with the Secretary of State for Foreign Office, Boris Johnson over his claim that voting to leave the European Union would return £350 million pounds a week to the NHS. A figure which has been widely discredited. We then took evidence in private from senior civil servants regarding their training programmes. I left early to attend the urgent debate in the House of Commons on tax avoidance and evasion. It was galling to listen to some Conservative MPs defend tax avoidance because it was legal and completely ignore that it is immoral. Whether it be corporations or individuals we all have a duty to pay into a system that provides, health care, education, armed forces and the infrastructure of our society as we all benefit from them. This debate was followed by the first day of debating the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill. Votes continue long into the evening and I get home at ten to midnight.

Wednesday

The day starts with a 9am debate on a report recently compiled by the Lords Speaker’s committee on the reform of the House of Lords. Even this early the phrase turkeys voting for Christmas springs to mind. The proposal is for second unelected chamber of 600 members including 92 hereditary peers and 26 spiritual. Naturally, as I don’t live in the 18th century, I argued against this outcome. Prime Ministers Question time saw an unusually upbeat Prime Minister swipe away weak questioning from Mr Corbyn. She was evasive over a question from the SNP over the vat that police Scotland pay. We have been pursuing this for some time and shall continue to do so. I met with representatives of the multiple sclerosis society to discuss cannabis as a medicinal product. I had a meeting with narcotics anonymous and heard powerful testimony about addiction. I attended a briefing meeting from ‘missing people’ they work to reunite people who have gone missing with their family, friends and communities. A staggering 40,000 people go missing in Scotland each year. Many for a few hours or a day, some for much longer. I attended the All Party Parliamentary Group on Catalonia. Recent events in Catalonia have not shown up the Madrid Government in a good light. It was interesting to be briefed on the on-going situation by an ex Catalonian MP. In the evening I attended an event hosted by Peel Ports. They own the ocean terminal in Greenock along with other coastal land including the dry dock at Inchgreen. They were there to shout about their £750 million pound investment in Liverpool. I was there to take them to task over Inchgreen being moth balled for years when it could be generating jobs for the local community. Another late night.

Thursday

At 9am I chaired the ‘Festival of social science’ discussion on Basic Income. It was well attended and the audience were extremely comfortable with the subject matter. I met with representatives of ‘Release’ and we discussed drug use and the legal implications of a heroin addiction treatment room. That was followed by a lively debate in the House of Commons chamber on the roll out of Universal Credit. I caught the 6 p.m. flight home.

Friday

To round off Parliament week I attended Port Glasgow High School and St Stephens High School to take part in question and answers sessions from the pupils. I met with senior council officers from the health and social care partnerships. As we have budget cuts forced on us from the failed Tory austerity programme, nobody is put under more pressure than HSCP. I finished off the week with constituency casework.

Westminster diary w/b 6th November

Monday 

The morning and most of the afternoon was taken up by preparing for and attending the select committee on transport. Despite parts of transport being devolved there is still sufficient reserved to warrant close scrutiny. I am hopeful that the transport committee will investigate and report on freight haulage and in particular look at our port authorities. In the evening I am winding up on a debate on transport in the North. It’s a Labour debate so the North is the North of England. Performing such tasks is one of the roles of the third party and winding up can be fun as it’s a guaranteed slot, I don’t have to bob up and down and I get ten minutes. The down side is it ten pm before I am finished.

Tuesday 

My day starts with the select committee on administration and the constitution. We take evidence regarding the effectiveness of the civil service. It was disappointing to hear that the civil service has difficulty recruiting senior personnel and retaining them. The civil service is going to be stretched to the limit during the withdrawal from the EU and senior civil servants in particular will be expected to handle a large workload. I had a meeting with BT and then with the SNP group leader. In the evening I was invited to an event on the charter of the forests in the Speaker’s rooms by John McDonnell MP the opposition Shadow Chancellor. We have a mutual friend in Guy Standing and an interest in basic income. The charter of the forests is about land ownership for the common good as was part of the Magna Carta eight hundred years ago.  

Wednesday 

I am up at the crack of dawn to catch the red eye to Glasgow. I then drive through to Edinburgh to meet up with committee members to take evidence around Brexit and in particular clause 11 which deals with repatriation of powers from the EU. We talk to a host of people from academia, civil service and politicians. Part of the day was hosted in the Scottish Parliament but part of it has to be off site as a Westminster committee can’t legally act as a committee in the Scottish Parliament and vice versa. In the evening I have a working meal with a range of politicians from across the parties.  

Thursday 

Was very similar to Wednesday only with different witnesses and I managed to squeeze in a quick tour of the Scottish Parliament. It’s a building that I like more each time I visit it. The day in parliament ends at five, unfortunately it’s a very slow drive home due to traffic. In the evening I hosted an event with Tommy Sheppard MP at the Beacon.  

Friday 

I have a joint meeting with Stuart McMillan MSP and Scottish Enterprise followed by a meeting about Scottish housing. I drop in to the Inverclyde Association for Mental Health new building on Mearns Street to discuss the new Greenock Health and Care Centre. I have an interview for a documentary about basic income in Scotland and then a meeting with Scottish renewables.

On Sunday, I shall be laying wreaths at the war memorials in Well Park and at the Cross of Lorraine.

 

Westminster diary w/b 30th October

Monday 

I delayed my journey to Westminster so I could attend a briefing on Inverclyde Council’s budget. The UK government continuing austerity programme means the Scottish government is £2.9 billion worse off and that means local councils are being put under greater strain. Cuts have to be found but I would hope that the council would also look at ways of generating an income stream, otherwise we will always be at the mercy of others.  

Tuesday 

My day started with a private meeting of the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs committee where one of the topics was an MPs code of conduct. Given recent events the sooner the better seems like a good idea. There was an urgent question in the chamber on the UK Government’s gambling policy strategy and I stood for questions. I was fortunate enough to be taken and asked the minister if she would consider a statutory levy on bookmakers that would raise more than the current voluntary levy of £8 million. This money goes towards reducing gambling related harm. The minister was open to the idea and I have great hopes that we are making progress in a number of gambling related issues. I met with the Ombudsman service to discuss energy and communications in Inverclyde. Complaints to the Ombudsman regarding energy are declining but complaint regarding communications are on the increase. One thing to be aware of regarding energy is that if you get a new smart meter and it’s the first generation then you lose the smart capabilities if you change supplier. This does not happen with the second generation meters. I then had an informal meeting with the department of transport along with my colleagues on the Transport Select Committee. In the evening I attended a briefing on the European Union Withdrawal Bill.  

Wednesday 

A quick meeting with the constitution group was followed by a drop in to the UK pancreatic cancer event. They emphasise that early diagnosis is vital to save lives. Pancreatic cancer has the lowest survival of all the 20 common cancers. In the chamber Welsh Questions was followed by the usual circus of prime ministers question time. I attended a talk from Richard Murphy on currency and then went to the select committee on procedures. The procedures committee is tasked with finding a method to enable the house to process all the legislation coming back from the European Union in a timely fashion. Unfortunately, we are short of time already. I then met with representatives of the Transform Drug Policy Foundation. We are jointly looking at taking the conversation forward and involving politicians, law enforcement organisations, health organisations and the general public. Votes were scheduled for seven in the evening but once again the UK Government ran from the task so I ran to the airport and caught the eight thirty home.  

Thursday 

A day in the office and time to reflect on how far we have or have not come since Winnie Ewing won the Hamilton by-election 50 years ago to the day. Winnie was and remains an inspiration. When elected in 1967 she found herself in a male dominated environment and yet she overcame that and political resentment from Scottish Labour to become a force to be reckoned with. Winnie we salute you.

Friday

Was a busy day with surgeries taking up the morning and attending meetings in the council and the official opening of the Customs House. In the evening I attended an event on ‘positive money’. This event followed on nicely from my meeting with Richard Murphy at Westminster.

 

Westminster diary w/b 23rd October

Monday

A change to my usual routine means I don’t have to go to Westminster until Wednesday. This allows me to spend Monday and Tuesday assisting, or hindering, my office team with the continual stream of casework that my constituency office attracts. And it varies from passport and visa issues to housing, transport and welfare. I am becoming increasingly convinced that Inverclyde requires a Citizen’s Advice Bureau. We are one of two of the thirty two Scottish councils that don’t have one.

Tuesday

Was mostly spent reading the councils budget proposals and writing articles. The variety of tasks that my job offers me never ceases to amaze me but sometimes simply reading and writing is the greatest pleasure.

Wednesday

My slumber is rudely disturbed by my 5am alarm but the good thing about an early start is the road to the airport is quiet. My flight is on time and I make Parliament comfortably by 9:30. I read my briefing papers for the procedure committee on the plane and later in the day we take evidence from the Hansard Society regarding a sifting committee to handle the mass of legislation that Brexit is going to generate in, what for government, is a very short period of time. If Brexit was planned over a ten year time span then it could be done. The outcome wouldn’t be to my liking but robust processes and legislation would be in place. Given the timescale we are working to, that is not going to happen. Scottish Questions consisted of the Secretary of State for Scotland, David Mundell, spouting forth about extra powers to the Scottish government and being unable to name one. This is a man that during the Scottish independence referendum continually complained that the SNP were dragging Scotland out of the European Union and today he moaned that we were dragging Scotland into the European Union. You just can’t please some people. Prime Ministers Question time was devoid of any interest unlike an evening event I attended which was hosted by the renewable energy sector. Over the past two years I have been courting renewable energy companies to locate in Inverclyde and although process is slow I still believe there is a possibility. Inchgreen dry dock could play a large part in any negotiations and leaving it effectively mothballed under private ownership when it could be creating work for the local community is nothing short of a crime.

Thursday

Business questions used to be one of the more entertaining and collegiate events in the chamber but since Andrea Leadsom has taken over the role it has deteriorated. Today she was noticeably rude in her responses, a trait that is becoming increasingly obvious when government ministers are responding to the SNP benches. It’s like they have just realised that we are not going to stop holding them to account and they are becoming irritated and petulant. Despite wide spread disruption my flight to Glasgow was on time. Maybe being on the select committee for transport has its bonuses!

Friday

I try to meet with senior council officers on a regular basis. This helps me keep up to date with the issues they face and also helps to create a better working environment. Today I met Scott Allan and as you would expect we discussed the regeneration of Inverclyde. Along with the need to attract companies to Inverclyde it is hugely important that we look after the ones we have. With that in mind I was delighted to have the opportunity to spend part of my day visiting both Cigna and RPC/BPI.

Westminster diary w/b 16th October

Monday

I delayed my departure to London so I could visit Financial Fitness along with Councillor Liz Robertson. Financial Fitness provide an invaluable service helping people negotiate their way through the trials and tribulations of modern life during these days of Conservative government austerity. With Universal Credit taking six weeks to provide the first payment, PIP assessments appeals taking nineteen weeks in Inverclyde and food bank referrals up by nearly seventy percent, Financial Fitness have a hugely important role to play in supporting those most vulnerable in our society. A quick dash to the airport was of course followed by a slow delay! I arrived in time to make the start of the select committee on transport. It was an interesting session with the Secretary of State for transport, Chris Grayling, giving evidence to the committee on his department’s priorities, the electrification u-turn and of course Brexit. I also took the opportunity to quiz him about coastguard cuts.

Tuesday

Started with the select committee on Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs (PACAC). The Institute of Government provided us with a private briefing on government bodies and their current suitability to handle Brexit. I then met with Sabrinna Valisce. She had been a prostitute working in New Zealand and had supported the decriminalisation of the purchasing of sex. Once the law was changed she witnessed the horrendous consequences. She now supports the Nordic Model where the selling of sex is decriminalised but the purchase is still illegal. It is tremendously brave of Sabrinna to tell her story and she deserves to be listened to. I had the great pleasure of meeting up with Emmanuel Cocher (consular general France). We usually only meet during the wreath laying ceremony at the Cross of Lorraine on Remembrance Sunday. This time we had time to discuss Brexit (what else?) and the special relationship between Scotland and France. After that I was up in front of the Backbench business committee with Caroline Lucas. We are jointly bidding for a debate on the treaty for nuclear disarmament that 122 countries have endorsed but not the UK. I dropped in to an event on responsible gambling and then attended a debate on the Use of devolved powers in Scotland. The debate was no more than an opportunity for the Scottish conservatives to talk down the Scottish Government and Scottish parliament. Which was a great shame as it could have been a joint attempt to improve the powers at Holyrood.

Wednesday

I started the day with the Devolved and Constitutional powers group. Most of the conversation was about the repatriation of powers from Brussels to the UK and avoiding a power grab at Westminster. I then met constitution Rob Behrens. Rob is the parliamentary and health service ombudsman and works with the select committee on public administration and the constitution, as well as being held to account by it. It’s an interesting situation. I dropped in to Macmillan’s parliamentary coffee morning and managed a slice of chocolate cake before heading to prime Ministers question time. I should have stayed for more cake. In the last year Inverclyde has received over fourteen million pounds in big lottery funding so I dropped in to their event to catch up and assure them it is being spent wisely. The main debate in the House of Commons was to pause and fix the universal credit roll out. It was an ill-tempered affair and having been roundly criticised the government then abstained on the vote. At the end of the evening I caught up with a delegation from Catalonia that had come to report on the recent referendum there. During the day I managed to squeeze in a blood test for anaemia and get a flu jab.

Thursday

First thing in the morning I travelled out to Glazier’s Hall at London Bridge where I chaired the Westminster energy environment and transport forum. It was an opportunity for politicians and business people to discuss a wide range of topics but primarily large infrastructure projects. The main concern from the business sector was a lack of long term planning from government. It was heartening to hear so many people cite the Scottish government’s good practice in infrastructure, broadband and renewables, not perfect but moving in the right direction. I caught a mid-afternoon flight home which for the young boy in the seat in front of me was a voyage of vomit, sick bags and wet wipes. I hope he is feeling better now.

Friday

I had my monthly catch up with Inverclyde Council Chief Executive, Aubrey Fawcett where we discussed a range of topics and I visited Cloch housing association (Care and Repair) with Councillor John Crowther. The remainder of the day was consumed by case work.

Westminster diary w/b 9th October

Monday 

The second day of SNP conference in Glasgow. Conference is always a good opportunity to catch up with members across the country and meet a wide range of interest groups in one day. I spoke to the motion on moving Scotland’s drug policy towards a health based approach and was pleased that the motion and the amendment to ask for the powers to manage drug policy should belong to the Scottish Government both passed. I met representatives from Scotrail. We discussed local issues, flooding, rolling stock and the policing of the Wemyss Bay line as well as the bigger picture. I then met representatives from Heathrow in my wider capacity as a member of the Select Committee on Transport. I caught the 5pm flight to London. On arrival I drop into my office and read briefing papers for the next day.  

Tuesday  

The day starts at 9am with the Select Committee for Public Administration and Constitution Affairs. With a number of new members we take a while to get to know each other and then discuss the agenda for the next session. It’s always a contentious conversation and after the politic posturing is put to bed we agree in a couple of items related to the capability of the civil service and Brexit. Amidst a day of reading, writing and emails I managed to catch the First Ministers speech at conference. In the evening I met up with a few colleagues for a meal and we discussed a range of political issues. That’s what happens when politicians socialise!  

Wednesday  

First meeting is the devolved and constitution policy team meeting and then on to a parliamentary CND meeting. Prime Ministers Question time is loud and ill-mannered. Nothing new there. Immediately after that I had the pleasure of meeting Chris Eagle. He is a cancer survivor after a stem cell transplant and his story of prejudice by employers and insurance companies after his operation is a disturbing one. These issues are being highlighted by the Anthony Nolan organisation. My third Select Committee of the week is the Procedures Committee and we discuss the recommendations from the Hansard Society to introduce a sifting committee to handle the Brexit process. The meeting is continually interrupted by voting in the chamber and we agree to reconvene next week. My second last meeting if the day is the Drugs, Alcohol & Justice Cross-Party Parliamentary Group. Finally I attend a briefing from Mike Russell MSP on Brexit.  

Thursday  

As a follow up to the Anthony Nolan event, I attended the Cancer Campaigning group event hosted by Labour MP Thangam Debbonaire. The group is made up of 56 charities as well as elected members and medical professionals. It’s a good example of politicians being given the opportunity to learn from the experts. And the perfect example of that was my next meeting when I met the extraordinary Ron Hogg, Durham police crime and victims’ commissioner. We discuss the UK government’s drug policy. Ron has spoken out in an extremely courageous but informed manner on the need for a health based approach and I look forward to working with him in the future. I caught the 5pm flight home.  

Friday

Starts with a review of outstanding casework. During the day I had meetings with Circles Network Advocacy, a post graduate student researching basic income and a local charity fund raiser. Just another varied day in the best job in the world.

 

Westminster Diary w/b 11th September

Monday

Up at the crack of dawn to catch the red eye to London. It’s delayed! I have arranged to meet lobby groups at Westminster in the morning and later I attended the launch of the Institute for Policy Research forthcoming Policy Brief, titled Assessing the Case for Universal Basic Income in the UK. It was followed by a vigorous discussion. Back at Westminster and the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill is debated late into the night and voting was concluded at half past midnight which means I am home by 1am.

Tuesday

In my office for 8:30am and to give constituents a tour of the estate. Early in the morning is always best as I can get access to both the House of Lords and House of Commons. I have a meeting with the organisation Voltface at which we discuss the legalisation of cannabis. I attended an event on ‘Problem gambling focused on woman’ followed by a meeting with the hair industry looking at its importance to high streets throughout the UK. I met with the minister for work and pensions Damian Hinds to talk about the job centre closure in Port Glasgow and the transition of service to Greenock. As an aside, his office is in the ‘lower ministerial corridor’ which despite spending £130,000 on vermin control last year on the estate, the ‘lower ministerial corridor’ is still overrun with mice.

Wednesday

I am on three select committees and they all chose today to get together for the first time in this parliamentary session to go through the necessary paperwork and look to setting timetables. First was transport, then public administration and constitutional affairs and finally the procedure committee. Between these meetings I met with Amnesty International, attended the all party parliamentary group on prostitution, sat in on a debate on the relationship between Scotland and Malawi. In Scotland there are over 1,100 organisation with links to Malawi including 9 schools in Inverclyde that work in collaboration and respect with schools in Malawi. My last event was the all party parliamentary group on drugs policy and we had guest speakers talking about medicinal cannabis. I had to wait until 7pm to see if there was going to be any votes but there were not. I caught the 20:30 flight home.

Thursday

A sad start to the day attending the funeral of the ex-councillor Jim Grieve. Jim was well known in his ward and cared deeply about this area. My next two meetings were with PG Paper and later Ferguson Marine. Both local companies determined to stay here and contribute to our community for many years to come. In the evening I attended a magnificent public meeting in Kilmacolm. The only item on the agenda is the proposed purchase of land by a property speculator. When six hundred people turn out for a meeting in the local church hall it’s is clear so see they mean business. They were well informed and extremely eloquent in putting forward their case. Kilmacolm is ready for the fight ahead.

Friday

I attended a joint MP and MSP event in Edinburgh.