Westminster diary w/b 21st May

Monday 

My first event was the All-party parliamentary group on prostitution. We were launching a report with the title ‘Behind Closed Doors’. It deals with the sexual exploitation of woman trafficked across Europe to be abused in pop up brothels. The event include a speech from an incredibly strong, articulate and brave woman named Mia De Faoite. Mia survived prostitution and campaigns to promote the Nordic model which will decriminalise the seller and prosecute the purchaser. It’s a model I fully support and it was good to have an SNP colleague, Ash Denham MSP, also speaking at the event. I nipped into the chamber for questions to work and pensions. Most of the afternoon was spent in the transport select committee discussing the intercity east coast rail franchise. 

Tuesday 

I started the day taking evidence from Andy Street, the mayor of the West Midlands, in front of the select committee for public administration and constitutional affairs. He wants more powers devolved to the West Midlands post Brexit and even pursued the idea of the West Midlands staying in the customs union. He recently wrote a damning article describing the potential pitfalls to the supply chain for manufacturers after we leave the E.U. I then left the parliamentary estate to chair an infrastructure event in the Royal Aeronautical Society. In the afternoon I was briefed by the Minister for Defence Procurement, Guto Bebb MP. His brief covers shipbuilding so it was a lively discussion. I then had a meeting with the Minister for Sport, Tracey Crouch. This was a follow up to the announcement that the UK Government intends to set the maximum stake on fixed odd betting terminals at £2. We are now discussing the timeline for implementation. My last event of the day was a reception for Heathrow Airport where my colleague Alan Brown MP spoke.  

Wednesday 

I had a meeting with Highways England with my transport select committee hat on. We discussed major infrastructure programmes including a new tunnel under the M25 to accommodate the proposed new runway at Heathrow. I spoke at an event discussing the future of gambling in the U.K. It was good to see that some bookmakers attended the event and are prepared to engage with a programme of socially responsible gambling. I then ventured into the House of Lords to speak at the All-Party Parliamentary Group on drug policy reform. The focus on medical cannabis is becoming so time consuming that we agree to support the setting up of an APPG solely dedicated to medical cannabis. This frees up the existing group to focus on drug related harm and support. 

Thursday 

I stood for topical questions on Transport and asked the Secretary of State if the bidding process for the eastern railway franchise, which has failed three times now, would include a clause to consider prosperity weighting. This is an idea the ministry for defence is considering for future defence contracts. I covered this in my column in yesterday’s edition. I stayed in the chamber just long enough to respond to the public accounts select committee report on Carillion. It still disappoints me that after three profit warnings the U.K. Government were still awarding Carillion contracts worth billions of pounds. It would appear they had adopted the attitude that Carillion were too big to fail and therefore more tax payer money was used to attempt to offset a cash flow problem which eventually brought them down. 

Friday

First day of recess. Most of the day was spent on constituency casework however I managed to squeeze in a catch up with the local DWP and a council group meeting to discuss local development plans.

 

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Westminster diary w/b 14th May

Monday 

This was my first day back at Westminster since the death of my partner, Linda, and it was always going to be difficult. I prepared for it, almost like a first day at school. Shining my shoes, laying out clothes and packing a bag the night before. Fortunately it was a day short on confrontation and spent listening and learning instead. I met with Marc Etches from Gamble Aware to talk about a range of ways to address gambling related harm, including a statutory levy on bookmakers and restricting advertising target audiences. The Select Committee on Transport took evidence on ‘Mobility as a Service’. MaaS is designed to join up different methods of transport to allow a person to utilise a combination of bike, car, bus, ferry and train to plan their journeys with a central payment method along the line of the system currently available in Helsinki. I attended a debate in the chamber on the effect of Brexit on haulage permits and trailer regulations.  

Tuesday 

I dropped in on an event organised to highlight Scotland’s Declaration on Human Rights. This event highlights it is 70th years since the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Select Committee on Public Administration and the Constitution took evidence on the methodology and scrutiny behind the pre-appointment process within Whitehall. In the chamber there was an urgent question on the murder of civilians in Palestine and a vote on the recommendations from the Leveson inquiry.  

Wednesday  

Started with oral questions to the chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster and Minister for the cabinet office. I bobbed for a question. I was going to ask him to explain how he claimed to be preserving the integrity of the United Kingdom while he refused to acknowledge the Scottish Parliament vote that was supported by all parties except the Tories, not to a pass a legislative consent motion regarding Brexit. But as I was not selected, we shall never know. In the afternoon I attended an extremely interesting event that explained how the island of Orkney has become a centre for excellence for renewable energy. Orkney has overcome many obstacles to achieve this but they used an island mentality of getting on with the job and recognising the community value that their hard work has brought to fruition. I sat in on the latest Brexit debate on customs. It’s truly frightening how poorly prepared the United Kingdom is for leaving the European Union and it won’t be cabinet ministers that suffer it will be the ordinary citizens of the entire U.K. When so many manufacturing companies work with the ‘just in time’ process that means any interruption to their supply chain will grind production to a halt, we need to get customs regulations agreed across the European Union now. 

Thursday 

I had been given the heads up that the U.K. Government were going to announce a change to the betting limits on fixed odd betting terminals (FOBTs) so I was planning on being in the chamber to hear the news and possibly talk to the statement. As it turned out I was given the privilege to respond from the front benches by the SNP. This change to set the maximum bet at £2 per spin is extremely welcome and it was achieved by cross party cooperation. I worked hand in glove with Carolyn Harris (Labour) and Ian Duncan Smith (Conservative) to get this through and my hope is that we can continue to work together to reform gambling policy and improve the support provided for those affected by gambling related harm. I bumped into Gordon Brown (ex-Labour Prime Minister) at the airport. I was going to remind him that he said in April 2015 that Labour would never lose Inverclyde to the SNP but the poor man looked miserable enough without me annoying him, that and the fact he had two armed guards at his side.  

Friday 

I have meetings with West College, a visit to the site of the new demolished Inverkip power station and meetings with constituents. And finally can I just thank everyone who has helped and supported me during a most difficult time, especially my office team, my friends and my family. Love and respect.

 

Westminster diary w/b 26th February

Monday

A morning flight for London and my first event is Home Office questions. I am trying to get a question raised on medicinal cannabis. I have been in contact with the mother of Billy Caldwell who receives a prescription for medicinal cannabis to help control his seizures and I am trying to help the family of Alfie Dingley achieve the same outcome. Hopefully they will see sense sooner rather than later. The transport select committee discuss rail infrastructure. It is mostly devolved but it is always of value to hear about issues and solutions across the UK. The All-party parliamentary group on Catalonia heard from an independent group that acted as observers at the Catalonian elections. There feedback was interesting and highlighted the use of the media to the detriment of the independence movement.

Tuesday

My first meeting was as part of a joint select committee. Public Accounts and Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs combined to take evidence from the senior managers at Carillion. It amazes me that as they ran down the employee’s pension fund (deficit of £500 million), left suppliers unpaid (£2 billion) and now over 1,000 people are being made redundant they still managed to pay executive bonuses of over £4 million. Which because they changed the rules can’t be clawed back. My next meeting is with the head of government relations for SAP (computer software solutions and consultancy business). On the back of the Carillion crash they are looking to provide a procurement platform for government contracts and beyond. A quick but informative gathering of the Scottish Constitution group was followed by a meeting with the First Minister. I finished the day with an evening event hosted by Babcock.

Wednesday

I attended the Marie Curie Great Daffodil Appeal before Prime Minsters Question time. I am one of the judges in ‘Your UK Parliament Awards’ along with the Speaker of the House John Bercow. The level of entrants is extremely high and we eventually settle for winners of each of the five categories. A number of local schools took part in UK Parliament Week and I see it as an opportunity to engage young adults in the democratic process. It is not all about parliament and includes community activism and social mobility. In the evening I attended a dinner hosted by the Industry and Parliament Trust titled ‘Powering the Future of Electric Vehicles’. I am sure there are many of you that remember the launch of the embarrassing Sinclair C5 in 1985. Thankfully electric vehicles have come a long way in recent years. The challenge ahead is to have an infrastructure that supports them.

Thursday

The first event of the day is Transport questions. Given the weather in London and the red weather warning across central Scotland most of us are already thinking about transport but primarily how to get home. We are finding it hard if not impossible to secure any guaranteed passage. The rest of the day is consumed by meetings and definitely no fun in the snow.

Friday

Due to the weather I was detained in London and so all my appointments in Inverclyde were cancelled. My apologies to all those that I had to let down. I spoil myself with a day of reading Johann Hari’s latest book ‘Lost Connections – uncovering the real causes of depression and the unexpected solutions’. It is thought provoking and I hope to get Johann up to Inverclyde sometime for a speaking engagement.

Westminster diary w/b 19th February

Monday

This is the last day of recess. I use it to catch up with the paperwork that I should have already caught up with, such is recess. I meet a land management company. This is one of these spin offs from a speculative meeting in Westminster when I identified a local connection. In the afternoon I caught up with Ferguson Marine. Anyone who has visited the site over the last few years would be hugely impressed with the progress that has been made. The financial investment is reaping its rewards. Going forward, any Ministry of Defence work that can be secured would be extremely welcome too.

Tuesday

An early start ensures I am at Westminster for 9:30am. My select committee on Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs takes evidence in a private session from people close to the collapse of Carillion. These private sessions, although they are confidential, provide me with the information I require to constructively question the senior members of Carillion next week when they come in front of the committee in public. An urgent question in the chamber on medicinal cannabis gives me the opportunity to highlight the case of Alfie Dingley. He can suffer from as many as thirty fits in a day and we know they can be controlled by medicinal cannabis but the Home Office will not permit it. The select committee on transport takes evidence from a number of stakeholders in aviation regarding a proposed new runway at Heathrow. I was hoping to attend the London School of Economics as part of a panel talking on Basic Income but I could not get away from the estate.

Wednesday

My first meeting is with an energy consortium that have created an energy park much like the one I outlined for Spango Valley. I shall be taking them up with their offer to visit it soon. I met the Mum of Billy Caldwell. Billy like Alfie suffers from epilepsy and has seizures. His are controlled by medicinal cannabis and his family are looking to help other families in the same situation gain access. Prime Minister’s Question time was a fairly drab affair. This is reflected in the number of members that are no longer attending. It is not the energy charged hot House it used to be. I attend a drop in for ‘Disability Confident’ and share our local experiences with the organisers. The All Party Parliamentary Group on Drug Policy reform is a lively affair as we feel we may be getting somewhere with medicinal cannabis. In the evening I attend an event to hear Johann Hari talk about his latest book ‘Lost Connections’  the causes of depression and the solutions. I am hoping to get Johann to come to Inverclyde to talk at some time.

Thursday

I am scheduled to speak in a debate on the Cancer Strategy but I am changed to summing up which means a hasty rewrite so I can facilitate the summary aspect as well. The debate goes well and many members from across the house made valuable contributions. I caught the 19:30 flight home.

Friday

A busy day in the constituency includes casework and meetings. It is finished off with an evening with the local police incident officer. I attended the briefing and local incidents until 23:00. A lot the work carried out by our local police force goes unnoticed but its cumulative effect makes our society a safer and better place to live in.

 

Westminster diary w/b 5th February

Monday

The select committee for Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs (PACAC) is taking evidence from members of the Welsh assembly so I caught a flight down on Sunday evening. It was clear during the session that despite the fact that the Welsh electorate voted to leave the European Union they are less than pleased with the way negotiations have been handled and in particular the lack of respect shown to the Welsh Assembly. I travel with the committee members and clerks by train to London. Not surprisingly it’s three hour journey during which the conversation turns to politics. The debate is actually better than many in the House of Commons. I make it back in time to attend the select committee on transport. We take evidence from two of the senior managers proposing a third runway at Heathrow. They are very slick and extremely well briefed. The financial argument is strong but the additional air pollution and noise pollution seem to have been pushed to the side. Especially as the flight routes have still to be defined. Local activists are in attendance and I had an interesting chat with them at the end.

Tuesday

An early start with a Delegated Legislation committee. We were debating the draft Seafarers (Insolvency, Collective Redundancies and Information and Consultation Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2018. It was not contentious and we rattled through it. Which was just as well as I had a closed meeting with PACAC to discuss outstanding reports and future business to attend. The Ombudsman, House of Lords Reform, the advisory committee on business appointments and existing the European Union and its effect on the devolved administrations shall all come under our scrutiny.

Wednesday

I got the train home last night so that I can address a number of issues in the constituency. Recess is until the 20th of February so I have a decent period of time to accommodate everyone. The day flashed by with constituency work and Maree Todd MSP (Minister for Childcare and Early Years) dropped in as she was in the neighbourhood. It’s always good to catch up with Holyrood colleagues and get their perspective of things. When I am in Inverclyde I try to take in as many community councils I can so this evening I went to the Larkfield, Braeside and Branchton meeting. The main concerns were the effect of council cuts to community assets. It was good to hear that the reported crime was low.

Thursday

Was a day spent mostly researching and writing. I tend to work up speeches and articles and then when the time comes to use them they get polished and validated. Days like this save me a lot of time later.

Friday

First meeting is at the Greenock jobcentre to find out how they are adjusted to the closure of the jobcentre in Port Glasgow. All the services are being transferred and vacant space utilised. I have a meeting with local businesses about the cost of employment. I attended the local launch of the year of the young people. This year will see an exciting programme of educational and cultural events centred on Scotland’s great assets, our young people, driven by collaboration across a range of sectors and interests. I find it difficult to square this with the council’s decision to withdraw funding for a number of local youth projects.

Westminster diary w/b 29th January

Monday

I spent the morning in my constituency office catching up on casework and in the afternoon I attended the launch of the International Space School Educational Trust at the University of the West of Scotland. The event covered the work carried out in the space stations in particular the medical research. I was particularly pleased to see the work being done on tissue growth as it was a discussion I had with Kidney Research just the week before. I also got to meet a real life astronaut Mike Foale. Mike has spent more than 370 days in space and taken part in 6 space walks.

Tuesday

I pay the price for not traveling last night by starting the day at 4:45 am. The benefit is that I am on the estate in plenty of time for my select committee on public administration and the constitutional affairs. We took evidence from Lord Burns about the proposal to reduce the House of Lords to 600 members. The report contains no justification for 600 members and retains the 90 hereditary peers and 26 bishops. Needless to say it was an interesting exchange. I had to leave early as I had a question in the chamber to the minister for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy. I was on the papers as question 22, so I was never going to get taken. My question was around renewable energy so I stood on an earlier question on the same topic and got taken. The games we play! There was an urgent question on Personal Independent Payments (PIP), I stayed for that as I was speaking in a debate the following day and wanted to gauge the minister’s commitment to current policy. In the evening I attended the Parliamentary Space Committee winter reception. It was not as engaging as Monday’s event at UWS.

Wednesday

I spoke in the PIP debate. It was very well attended and almost everyone attacked the callous process currently in place. Everyone except the Scottish Tories that came to heckle and intervene and then left without attempting to add anything productive to the debate. This is a routine they have fallen into and even their English colleagues are getting a bit fed up with their constant negativity. I attended a drop in session with Centrica revolving round business competitiveness in Inverclyde. Prime Minister’s Question time was bereft of the Prime Minister and therefore the leader of the opposition. This gave David Lidington and Emily Thornberry an opportunity to shine. They didn’t. What was very interesting was a discussion with representatives from the Baltic states of Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania. The Baltic and Nordic states can be great friends and trading partners to Scotland. It was a pleasure to listen to their aspirations for their own small Northern Europe countries. A busy day continued with a private briefing session from John Manzoni, chief executive of the civil service and permanent secretary at the cabinet office, about the collapse of Carillion. I finished the day with an evening reception organised by Citizens Advice Scotland.

Thursday

It was my privilege to host and sponsor an event for World Cancer Day (Sunday 4th February). Cancer research has major concerns over funding and also sharing research post Brexit. Sorting out the laws around drug regulation has to be a priority for the negotiation team. This echoes information I received from Kidney Research recently. Life sciences are hugely important, not just for jobs but for the future diagnosis and treatment of many major illnesses.

Friday

Was a very busy day with constituency surgeries and a meeting with the Scottish Drugs Forum regarding the use and availability of Naloxone.

Westminster diary w/b 22nd January

Monday 

The main event on Monday was the second reading of the Financial Guidance and Claims Bill. It’s a wide ranging bill and was always set to go through unopposed but it provided me with an opportunity to talk about an area that wasn’t in the bill but should be. Financial services providers don’t have a ‘duty of care’ to customers who become ill. I am proposing that they should. I focused on those that have cancer but the need is not exclusive to them. It was a gentleman that had pancreatic cancer that brought this to my attention and Macmillan Cancer have been keeping me up to date. The premise is really quite simple, if you are diagnosed with cancer your bank or building society should be duty bound to provide a flexible product that does not discriminate against you. It’s an amendment that has cross party support and hopefully will have its day. 

Tuesday 

My Select Committee on public administration and the constitution took evidence from three law professors about devolution and exiting the European Union. It sounds like the start of a bad joke but there was a Scots man and Irish man and Welsh man. It was interesting to hear their perspective of how badly the exit is going. The word crisis was used. Later I met with a representative of Kidney Research UK. He explained to me in great detail how Brexit was damaging the life sciences in Scotland. There are three main areas of concern. We lose European Union funding, we don’t conform with European Union regulations and we lose European nationals that lose the right to live in the United Kingdom. Already long term projects are under threat and foreign nationals are leaving. Finally I attended the Westminster Hall debate on the national shipbuilding strategy.  

Wednesday  

The first item in the House of Commons chamber was questions to the Secretary of State for Scotland. He was pushed time and time again to explain why clause 11 had not been amended to devolve repatriated powers from the European Union to Scotland. His excuse is that he ran out of time. Prime Ministers Questions was a dull affair and increasingly missable. I hung around as I was scheduled to raise a Point of Order immediately after PMQs. I was slightly delayed as there was an urgent question. I then got to raise my point of order which I used to point out that the minister had been wrong to talk down the effectiveness of drug consumption rooms and had misled the house. The Speaker responded that it was a difference of opinion. It is not it’s a misrepresentation of the facts. 

Thursday 

Unusually I had a Thursday in the constituency and I used it to meet with a range of constituents in the morning and met with council officers in the afternoon. In the evening I attended a Burns night in Port Glasgow Town Hall with Paul Kavanagh better known as the Wee Ginger Dug. 

Friday 

I responded to constituent emails and read over paperwork in-advance of next week’s Select Committee meeting and debate on Personal Independence Payments (PIP).

 

Westminster diary w/b 15th January

Monday

Early start and a busy with a long busy day ahead. A 7:20 flight means I get to my office around 9:30. This allows for some last minute preparation for my first select committee of the day. In the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee (PACAC) we discuss the handling of government contracts. It is particularly relevant with the collapse of Carillion. I get the feeling the cross examination is far too cosy and the civil servants are not being held to account.

I rush to the second select committee of the day which is transport. It takes three hours but is an extremely open and frank discussion about a new (the North West) runway at Heathrow. The UK Government is pushing ahead seeking agreement for a new runway but very little information exists around, the added air pollution, noise pollution, flight paths or upgrade required to the surrounding infrastructure.

Tuesday

I was mostly confined to my office writing a speech and doing research for two debates on Wednesday. It is on days like these that I appreciate having a good quality office within the Westminster estate, not all MPs are as fortunate. I am kept up-to-date with the weather in Inverclyde and can only sympathise as although it is cold in London there is no snow. I take time out to attend a drop in event on the campaign for £2 stake for Fixed Odd Betting Terminals.

Wednesday

I attend and speak in a debate on ‘County Lines’. This is the practice where drug dealers recruit children to act as couriers. It is child slavery enforced by violence and fear and I welcome the opportunity to speak out against it. Prime Ministers Question Time was a dismal affair. I attended the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on New Psychoactive Substances (NPS). We heard presentations from Manchester and Wrexham Police. This was a suitable warm up for my debate on Drug Consumption Rooms (DCRs) later in the day and I was glad to see that the police representatives stayed on to attend my debate. What should have been a one hour debate was interrupted twice by votes in the main chamber (ten votes to be precise) and therefore it took three and a half hours. I have the support of Scottish MPs from Labour, LibDem, Conservative and the SNP to introduce DCRs but the UK Government is completely intransient and ill-informed in this issue. Unlike some of the people with drug addictions that the UK Government is turning their back on, I shall live to fight another day.

Thursday

I was pulled out the hat for a topical question at transport so I take the opportunity to ask the secretary of state for transport what effect Brexit will have on the Ocean Terminal in Greenock as it continues to be an important part in the supply chain from Scotland to rest of the world. We are after all an island and our sea routes need protected.

Friday

I have a site visit with Stuart McMillan MSP and Scottish Water to discuss Scottish Water’s £2.8 million investment which will alleviate the flooding problems in and around the Oak Mall Shopping Centre. I have a range of constituency meetings including one focusing on Disability Confident and my last appointment of the week is a visit to the Inverclyde Centre for Independent Living in Gibshill.

Westminster diary w/b 8th January

Monday 

Recess is over and I am quickly back into the old routine on the 7:20 flight to London. I was scheduled to be part of a delegated legislation committee to consider the appointment of the commissioner of the Electoral Commission. By the time I landed the meeting had been cancelled. Not the best start to the week but it freed me up to prepare for my select committee on Tuesday. We had votes at 22:16 and 22:30 followed by an adjournment debate on the problems experienced by people with genetic conditions, that could lead to ill-health, obtaining insurance. This is an area I have spoken on previously in connection with people with cancer. It is a worrying trend and many people are predicting that eventually we shall all have to undergo DNA tests prior to getting insurance as these tests could highlight any genetic risk of contracting illnesses at some stage in our life. We need legislation on this sooner rather than later to ensure people are not financially penalised for a genetic condition. 

Tuesday 

Currently there are moves being made to reduce the number of MPs from 650 to 600. This is a UK Government request and the boundaries commission are tasked with providing the solution. Today my select committee on the constitution and public administration took evidence from academics and representatives of the appropriate bodies to ascertain the possible outcomes. The Parliamentary boundary changes proposed for Scotland would see the number of MPs drop from 59 to 53 at the same time as powers are being returned to the United Kingdom’s Government from the European Union. Currently there are no plans to pass any of these powers to the Scottish Parliament, therefore the prospect of Scotland’s democratically election representation being reduced is concerning. Remember the number of Scotland’s MPs was reduced after 2005 election from 72 to 59 because we were getting devolved powers. To reduce it further without any more Devolution is unthinkable. Rather than tell the boundaries commission to accommodate a reduction of 50 MPs across the United Kingdom we should be asking them how best to construct constituencies that lend themselves to providing the best representation possible for the citizens of that constituency. In the afternoon I met with a representative of the Gambling commission, primarily to discuss the reduction of the stake on fixed odd betting terminals to £2. Later I hosted an event on gambling awareness. These sort of events allow parliamentarians to meet a range of organisations that have a mutual interest, in a short period of time and helps them to network with each other. We all gain a better understanding and alliances are born.  

Wednesday  

Today started with the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs) and the presentation of a report from the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR). Prime Ministers Question time have become pretty routine (the vast majority of it was given over to the NHS in England) and even after the debacle of the worst cabinet shuffle in living memory the Prime Minister managed to come out of it unscathed. I attended an event to promote the companies that have sprung up around the filming of the TV programme Outlander. And I managed to make two local links that are very close to my office in Crawfurd Street. The owner of the kilt shop next door to my office, Jim Sweeney, has appeared as an extra in Outlander and two doors down the tour operator Slainte Scotland Tours which is owned and operated by Catriona Stevenson and regularly takes tourists from the cruise ships on tours connected with Outlander too. In the late afternoon I summed up in a debate on the Disability Confident scheme. Locally, I have been involved in two jobs fairs in conjunction with Disability Confident. Their primary role is to aid people with disabilities into the workplace and these events help employers understand how this can be achieved, the help and advice that is available and the potential benefit to their companies. I then sprinted to the All Party Parliamentary Group on Drugs Policy Reform. We are working on legalising medicinal cannabis and are currently gathering evidence. In the evening I attended a dinner with the APPG for FOBTs along with thirty or so interested parties. These sort of dinners always have more to do with work than play.  

Thursday 

My morning was consumed entirely by a closed door training session with the institute for Government at Chatham House. I caught an afternoon flight home and in the evening attend the Wemyss Bay and Inverkip Community Council meeting. 

Friday  

I met with the Inverclyde schools Malawi partnership then with the new area police commander for Inverclyde, Chief Inspector Hazel Scott. I had a visit to the British Heart Foundation shop and the rest of the day was taken up with constituency cases.

 

Westminster diary w/b 18th December

Monday

This is my final week of traveling this year and I make an early start with 6am departure. The major business of the day is the select committee on transport. And the major topic of conversation is Heathrow. We consider the proposed expansion and the effect it will have on other airports and their associated transport infrastructures. We then move on to the environmental impact of adding another runway. I attended the adjournment debate on the closure of Royal Bank of Scotland branches. Inverclyde felt the effects of this when the RBS branch in Kilmacolm closed. More rural communities look set to be greatly inconvenienced.

Tuesday

First commitment of the day is the public administration and constitutional affairs select committee. We continue to investigate the current methodology within the civil service and in particular the working relationship between the Secretary of States and the permanent secretaries. Sometimes the chemistry between these two individuals can determine the success or failure of a department. I raised the issue around the response time to previous reports. The government is supposed to answer in a timely fashion but such is the pressure on elected members and civil servants from Brexit that many are not being responded to six months after they were published.

Wednesday

Every week I submit a request for a question to the Prime Minister. It’s down to luck if I get taken. Some folk seem to be a lot luckier than me. The same process applies for questions to any department on any allocated day. This week I was lucky, twice. I got a PMQ and asked the prime minister to either introduce drug consumption rooms in the United Kingdom or devolve the relevant powers (that have already been asked for) to the Scottish Parliament. Drug consumption rooms in eight European countries plus Australia and Canada have a very good track record of decreasing the spread of hepatitis C and HIV. They provide a safe, clean, supervised area and as a result nobody has ever died of an overdose in a DCR anywhere in the world. The Prime Minister thinks the concept is liberal and that abstinence is best. What she is actually doing is condemning people with drug addictions today to share needles, contract illnesses and die prematurely.

Thursday

And my luck continues with questions. I have a question to Digital Culture Media and Sport. I take the opportunity to highlight the amount of gambling advertising being aimed at under 16s and ask for a statutory fee to be paid by bookmakers to pay for education. Unfortunately my question is down the order paper and I don’t get taken. Instead I stand (bob up and down) for a topical question and I am taken then. As an aside, the gentleman that decides (performs the shuffle) who gets to ask questions is Nick. He wears an unusual hat when doing this. The hat means don’t talk to me, I am doing the shuffle. This is not an ancient tradition of Westminster it’s just one that Nick invented as he had a hat. I head for a mid-afternoon flight home and as I try to read my papers at the airport my thoughts turn to Catalonia and the elections going on there. After the brutality handed out by the Spanish police during the referendum there I can only hope that democracy gets shown the respect it requires to work today.

Friday

The day is entirely consumed by constituency work and in the evening I plan to attend the Riverside Youth Band’s sixth annual Christmas concert in the Port Glasgow Town Hall, which I am sure will be a great start to the festive season. And finally may I wish you a peaceful and prosperous new year.

Peace, love and understanding.