Westminster diary w/b 9th March

Monday

9am flight and on the parliamentary estate by 11am. Just time to prepare for questions, which today are for the Department for Work and Pensions. I bobbed for questions but wasn’t taken. Not deterred I bobbed for topical questions and didn’t get taken. I was hoping to raise a Universal Credit case with the minister. I shall pursue other channels. There was a statement on the Corona virus (COVID–19). It’s not a time to panic but I am concerned about the scheduled cruise ships visiting the area. I have to say the Secretary of States response was disappointing. He was unable to explain any plan to contain a breakout on a cruise ship in UK waters. I was on a Delegated Legislation Committee to change the law on tax credits. It was not a controversial matter and was not challenged. I took the opportunity to ask the government to end the 2-child cap which will force another 20,000 Scottish children in to poverty.

Tuesday

This was a hectic day. The evidence session with the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs select Committee (PACAC) was very interesting. The witnesses were Sir John Manzoni KCB who currently serves as chief executive of the civil service and the Cabinet Office Permanent Secretary and Sir Mark Sedwill KCMG FRGS Cabinet Secretary and Head of the Civil Service since 2018. He has served as National Security Adviser since 2017. These two big hitters were there to explain the recruitment policy for special advisers (SPADS) at cabinet level and importantly who can hire and fire SPADS. The influence of Dominic Cummings was questioned but you don’t get to the heady heights of the civil service that these two gentlemen have reached by being phased by a mere select committee. They came, they saw, they told us nothing. It was just like the comedy programme Yes Minister but without the laughs. I went straight from there to the chamber to lead in a debate on the Telecommunications Bill. First, we debated amendments to the bill. One from Labour and one from the Conservatives were designed to omit Huawei from the digital infrastructure. Neither managed to get enough backing but there was a minor revolution in the Tory ranks and we shall revisit that when the next telecommunications bill is being debated. We then had the 3rd reading but that was uncontentious.

Wednesday

It’s UK Budget day. A budget long on promises but short on substance. It was almost like a pre-election (oh please not again) budget. Lots of sweeteners to keep folk happy but nothing to say where the money is coming from. As the saying goes, the devil and god are in the detail. I suspect as it unfolds, we shall see that a lot of these sweeteners will be on the never never or maybe the never at all. The red book will be poured over in the coming days.

Thursday

I had the pleasure of meeting President of Catalonia, Roger Torrent. He explained the negotiations with the Spanish Government who are now recognising the conflict, recognising the Catalan cause and negotiating as equals. He is still pressing for an amnesty for the political prisoners and the 1,000 people who have been informed they could be prosecuted because of their part in the 2017 referendum. It was good to hear that the prisoners are allowed out to work up to 5 days a week. They are still prisoners, but they are strong. I caught a rather quiet flight home. Fewer people are travelling because of COVID-19 and I shall continue to monitor the situation regarding my travelling and the service provided by my constituency office.

Friday

A few engagements have been cancelled but I have constituent meetings to keep me busy along with an article for the ClydeLife magazine to write. If the event is not cancelled, I shall be planting trees up at the Coves Road Reservoir on Saturday.

 

Westminster diary w/b 2nd March

Monday

I took advantage of a slow day at Westminster to stay in Inverclyde and catch up with local organisations including Financial Fitness. Many local organisations that do magnificent work are constantly on the lookout for funding. Financial Fitness is one of them. It was good to get up to speed with their needs prior to my meeting with the National Lottery scheduled for later in the week. In the afternoon, I attended the Oxfam led event hosted by Your Voice to investigate inequality and poverty.

Tuesday

The downside of staying in Inverclyde yesterday is the 5am alarm today. I am in Westminster for 9am and there is a whiff of alcohol in the air. Not from the many bars on the estate but from the hand wash that is being supplied to discourage the spread of the corona virus. There is a quick get together of the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Select Committee (PACAC) as we reform with a new Chair and many new Members. Its primary purpose is to clear the paperwork required. I head across the city with several MPs from other parties to sit in on a briefing in the National Problem Gambling Clinic. It was interesting and informative to hear from the experts in clinical support. I am back in time to drop in on the National Lottery Community Fund event and the Maritime UK drop in session. My next event is new to me. Rather than take evidence I am giving evidence to the Gambling Industry Committee in the House of Lords. It is chaired by Michael Grade and it was an intense but enjoyable process. Late afternoon and I am hosting a GambleAware event in the Members dining room. I break out to attend a briefing on the corona virus from the Secretary of State for Heath and the chief medical officer. Once completed I returned to the GambleAware event. I finish my day in Parliament with an internal SNP meeting.

Wednesday

PACACs first evidence session is with the commissioner for public appointments. It’s a good introduction to the new members and a chance to grill Peter Riddell again. Prime Minister’s Questions lacked any real substance and I went from that to the cross-party group for CND. I then met with representatives of the Institution of Civil Engineers to discuss infrastructure. The wonderful WASPI women were in Portcullis House so obviously I dropped in on them. I glad they are holding their campaign together and continuing to hold the U.K. government to account. The cross-party parliamentary group on drugs, alcohol and justice heard from the select few that were allowed into the UK government drug policy summit in Glasgow. The view was it was a highly politicised event and the dismissal of DCRs as part of the solution was guided by ideology rather than evidence. I caught the 19:45 fight home.

Thursday

I finally got time to read Dame Carol Black’s ‘Review of Drugs’. I didn’t find anything new in it, but I guess I am not the target audience. Until the UK government starts listening to the experts, we will continue to fail to address the misuse of drugs and the associated harm and costs, financial and health, to society. Throughout the day my office continued to receive abusive calls regarding the suspension of the out of hours GP service. I wonder if the people who fuel the anger understand that it is often the people that serve the community that they are placing in this position. I wonder if these keyboard warriors consider the consequences of their actions at all.

Friday

I met with Ian Maxwell, the Chief Executive of the Scottish Football Association to discuss the SFA’s relationship with the gambling industry. I held surgeries in my constituency office in the afternoon and in the evening was a guest at the Innerkip Society Dinner.

Westminster diary w/b 24th February

Monday

On the back of a week’s recess when I managed to meet with NHS Greater Glasgow And Clyde, Network Rail, SAMH, West College Scotland, Mind Mosaic, Our Place Our Future, a number of local businesses and attend the excellent ‘Watt Talk’ at the Watt Institute, I also managed an hour of physiotherapy to ease my aching body. I don’t pretend to begin to understand acupuncture, but it has worked for me on a number of occasions. Today was mostly spent writing and researching and in the evening, I attended the Port Glasgow West community council meeting to get the low down on the plans for health and social care in Inverclyde.

Tuesday

An early flight and back to Westminster. It would appear it’s not just Inverclyde that has traffic management issues as my flight lands on time and then spends 30 minutes looking for a parking space. As I disembark, I am tempted to put a cardboard clock in the cockpit window just in case a warden is lurking. My good mood is cut short when I am informed that NHSGGC are suspending the GP out of hours service in Inverclyde. I have met with NHSGGC twice in the last week and despite the issue being raised they never intimated they would be taking this action. I met with Virgin media to track work being done in Inverclyde and they have a good news story to tell. Along with Carolyn Harris (Labour MP Swansea East) I met the goalkeeping legend Peter Shilton and his wife Steph. Unfortunately, we were not there to discuss his goalkeeping exploits (remember the hand of God or that save from Kenny Dalglish in 1973 at Wembley) we were talking about his gambling addiction. Peter will be working to raise awareness of the issue.

Wednesday

Prime Minister’s Questions was less about holding the PM to account and more about prepared party lines being trotted out by Tory back benchers which were greeted with much fervour by an increasingly disengaged and seemingly untouchable mob hired to jeer at the opposition. The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Drug Policy Reform met and took evidence from experts on County Lines (the practice of distributing drugs around the UK primarily using young adults as couriers). One of the witnesses was an ex-gang member who now runs courses and diversion programmes. The testimony of those with lived experience is always engaging and it is encouraging to see that they have overcome personal difficulties to create positive lives for themselves and are now working to help others. Lastly, I met with Gambling With Lives to hear about the progress they are making in changing the gambling act. Their organisation was born out of torment and anger at the loss of loved ones to gambling addiction. But the work they are doing is constructive and there is a sense that the industry is coming under pressure to change. I caught the 19:45 flight home.

Thursday

Today was an entire day of research, casework and replying to a pile of correspondence. Also, I’m in the process of arranging a roundtable on reforestation and tree planting which I hope will lead to more action locally. Also, I tried to find out more details of the UK Government drugs summit taking place in Glasgow, today, but it was a closed shop!

Friday

I met with the Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland to discuss gambling harm. The Alliance role is to engage with people with lived experience and to ensure their voice is at the heart of the decision-making process. I visited the local prison to discuss a range of issues including providing boxing sessions in the prison. This is a project brought to me my local campaigner Rhys McCole. My last appointment of the day was with a builder contractor to discuss local house building developments.

Westminster diary w/b 10th February

Monday

With one eye on the weather I drove to the BBC studios at Pacific Quay for a 7:45am interview for BBC Scotland. It was a precursor to my meeting with Neil Doncaster, Chief Executive of the Scottish Professional Football League, to discuss their relationship with gambling. The interview went well, and I then nipped across Glasgow to Hampden Park. It was an open and honest exchange of views, but I remain unconvinced that the SPFL are aware of the responsibility they have to the wider society. I shall be following up today’s meeting with a meeting with Ian Maxwell, CEO of the Scottish Football Association. If football is going to take money from the gambling industry, then they must understand the role they play in normalising gambling. I spent a very blustery afternoon in my constituency office, glad to be in Greenock and not in a plane to London.

Tuesday

The day starts with a 7am flight. Chamber business is once again slow and so I busy myself with committee preparation. There is a statement on HS2 and to my surprise the UK government have committed to HS2 at a new cost of over £100 billion. It is eleven years since the Labour Secretary of State announced a high-speed link from London to Scotland and £12 billion pounds has already been consumed. I thought they would cut their losses and cancel it, but it would appear they are going to chase their losses. With no new track laid I don’t think it’s the best plan and of course there is no timetable for HS2 to actually get as far as Scotland. Investment in rail is required but I don’t think HS2 is the solution. I bobbed for a question but was not taken. Today, the opposition day debate is defined by the SNP and we have chosen to debate migration. The Scottish Government has proposed a system for Scottish visas to work beside the existing system and enable the recruitment of key workers. The Conservative benches talk against the motion as they are entrenched in the mindset that if its proposed by the SNP then they have to object. I asked the Minister if he would support any system that improved the situation in Scotland, and he said he was only interested in UK wide solutions. It’s particularly galling as many of their constituencies rely on migrant workers. We pushed it to a vote and lost.

Wednesday

It’s a busy morning that starts with a meeting with Scottish Enterprise to discuss train manufacturing in Scotland followed by a meeting with a medical cannabis company that are trying to manufacture in the UK but running up against the Home Office legislation. It’s Scottish Questions today prior to Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs). They are fairly unremarkable, just another thirty minutes of Tories talking down Scotland. PMQs was a funfair of knock about with Boris the Buffoon entertaining his star struck hoards. Kirsten Oswald (SNP MP for East Renfrewshire), asked the Prime Minister to justify the Lords voting themselves a pay rise to £323 a day while the monthly allowance for a single person over 25 on Universal Credit is £317.82. The PM in his unbounded wisdom declared it was a matter for the Lords. The All- Party Parliamentary Group on Gambling Related Harm took evidence from the Chief Executive of the Gambling Commission, Neil McArthur. He gave evidence to the Lords enquiry yesterday. It is fair to say that today he got cross examined more thoroughly. The Gambling Commission is not fit for purpose and the Gambling Act needs rewritten.

Thursday

I bobbed on questions to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and was taken! I asked that when the gambling act is considered that those with lived experience of gambling harm are consulted. I bobbed for questions to the Attorney General but wasn’t taken but I hung around for an Urgent Question pertains to online harm, I asked about defining legislation for gaming online to stop the spread to gambling via loot boxes.

Friday

I started with one of my regular catchup meetings with Kevin Scarlet at River Clyde Homes. Of all the issues my office deals with, housing is currently the most frequent. In the afternoon along with Stuart McMillan MSP I met with Scottish Enterprise to discuss the economy of the Clyde.

Westminster diary w/b 3rd February

Monday

No need to rush to Westminster so I catch a midday flight. It’s a routine day. After the turbulent years since the 2017 election this Parliament is threatening to be too predictable. It is Monday so the chamber sits until 10pm then we vote and the government wins. It’s a debate on the agriculture bill and despite SNP, Labour, Plaid Cymru, Independent, Green Party, Liberal Democrat and Alliance all combining to vote for the Labour amendment we can’t get close to the 318 Conservative and Unionists votes. That is worrying given that this UK Government seriously needs to be scrutinised on every vote.

Tuesday

I sit in on Foreign and Commonwealth questions but don’t get taken. I take the opportunity to attend an evidence session in the House of Lords. The Gambling Industry Committee chaired by Michael Grade is taking evidence from GVC (Ladbrokes and Coral), William Hill, Bet365, Sky Betting and Gaming, Paddy Power Betfair and the Betting and Gaming Council. It strikes me that all the concessions they say they are making are the changes that the All-Party Parliamentary Group on gambling related harm have demanded they make. The gambling industry still needs dragged and kicking to the table if we are going to reduce the harm. In the evening there are three votes on the NHS. Normally the SNP and Plaid Cymru would not vote as it is defined as ‘an EVEL division’. English Votes for English Laws was created by David Cameron the day after the Scottish independence referendum to stop MPs that don’t represent English seats voting in matters that only concern England. Truth is the SNP never did anyway but on this occasion the vote will determine the finances of the NHS and therefore there should be a knock-on effect to the Barnet formula consequentials. We vote but our votes are not included in the count. This is the first time that we have been excluded from voting on a matter that potentially affects Scotland.

Wednesday

I am picked up by a taxi at 6:45 to take me to broadcasting house (BBC) for a string of radio interviews on Medical Cannabis provision. It slightly embarrassing as the driver tells me the interviews are now taking place in Millbank studios, he drops me off four hundred yards from my house. And on the same say the BBC announced a rise in the TV licence! The interviews went well and I am struck by how non combative the interviewers are compared to the national stations. Prime Ministers Question time is once again restricted to 30 minutes. I think the new format is better. After that I drop in to meet parents of children with epilepsy that are trying to gain access to Medical Cannabis on prescription. Many are part of an organisation End Our Pain. Sixty MPs signed their letter to the Prime Minister. The numbers are increasing but we still have some way to go.

Thursday

I spend the day in my constituency office. Even in this day of email and social media there is always a lot of paper correspondence to catch up on.

Friday

In the morning I have surgeries in my constituency office and then in the Oak Mall. In the afternoon I have a meeting at Inverclyde Council Health and Social Care Partnership and then the Basic Income Hub to catch up on the proposed pilot basic income projects in Scotland.

Westminster diary w/b 27th January

Monday

I am on the rota at Westminster so I catch the breakfast flight. I am in the House bobbing for questions as the ridiculous protocol demands. I didn’t get taken for written questions, so I bob again for topical and I didn’t get taken, so I bob again during the Urgent Question on the 5G network and role of Huawei in it. I finally get taken after one and three quarter hours of standing up and sitting down. Good for the abdomen muscles but infuriating at the same time. I asked the minister of he could offer a 100% guarantee that the digital network would not be compromised if Huawei were offered a future contract. He couldn’t. I sat in for the start of the debate of facial recognition software. The day ended with the adjournment debate brought forward by Patricia Gibson MP (Ayrshire and Arran) on the Claim of Rights. Despite it being about the sovereign right of the people of Scotland determining Scotland’s future the Tory benches spent the entire timing talking down Scotland.

Tuesday

I was taken for a question during the statement on 5G telecommunications. I can’t believe the UK Government can classify Huawei as a ‘high risk’ vendor and still include them in the 5G infrastructure build. To describe their input as on the periphery is to completely misunderstand the architecture of a 5G system. The UK Government is playing with fire and compromising the integrity of the UKs digital network.

Wednesday

I had a question at Prime Minister’s Questions which as is now becoming the norm was restricted to 30 minutes. I got in and asked about the damage the UKs immigration policy will do to the care sector in Scotland. The Prime Minister answered something about seasonal workers. I met with Link to discuss the provision of ATMs that don’t charge for withdrawals in Inverclyde. And I met with members of gambling anonymous to hear their lived experience of gambling addiction.

Thursday

I caught the 6:30am train from Fort Matilda to Edinburgh to attend the 10th annual infrastructure conference. This year’s topic was Delivering Scotland’s New Infrastructure and Increased Capital Investment. It was more interesting than it sounds. The Infrastructure Commission is working on a 30 year plan for Scotland and published its first report recently. I then hot footed it to the Scottish Parliament and attended a debate in the chamber on Drugs and Alcohol. A lot of common sense was spoken from all parties. Now we need the powers and the budget to implement the support and education required. I got home in time to attend a tenants meeting to hear about concerns over housing issues.

Friday

I had a meeting with Valerie Campbell, Lead Community Link Worker to discuss the community link work project in Inverclyde. In the afternoon I had a meeting with Kenny Lang, Environmental Services Manager, Inverclyde Council regarding reforestation and tree planting.

Westminster diary w/b 20th January

Monday

It is never a good start to the week when the first message you receive on your phone is from British Airways to inform you that your flight has been cancelled. A flurry of activity results in a noon flight being booked but it is 6am and I am wide awake! An unexpected opportunity to catch up on some correspondence. Not surprisingly the noon flight is full of members of the House of Commons and Lords. I am in the chamber for the debate on the Queen’s Speech and we finish with votes at 10pm.

Tuesday

In at 9am for the constitution meeting followed by informal discussions with a number of people who are looking for election to chair a select committee. Some of whom I have never met before in my life. The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Gambling Related Harm (GRH) held its Annual General Meeting (AGM) and reconstituted itself. The campaign to control the gambling industry and make it responsible for the damage it causes while respecting people’s desire to enjoy a flutter goes on. It has been a big news week for GRH. I had a number of interviews relating to gambling in football. The most challenging being the Scottish Television one. It was recorded at 20:30 with the presenter and a journalist (Stephen McGowan, chief sports writer with the Daily Mail and fellow resident of Inverclyde) in a studio in Glasgow and me at Westminster in what amounts to little more than a broom cupboard with a camera, bright light and green screen. It’s hard to be part of a coherent conversation when you can’t see the body language of the presenter, but I think I made my point. The game must come before the gambling. I attended the APPG for woods and trees. It’s shocking how far behind the UK Government is in setting targets for reforestation. They are only talking about small scale projects while Africa is planting an 8,000 kilometre green wall right across the continent.

Wednesday

I start the day with an interview with Martyn McLaughlin of the Scotsman (a fellow Morton fan). Once again, the topic is gambling in football. I am hoping this will be an on-going conversation and it won’t require the brave actions of those within the game that are suffering to step up and risk possible expulsion and the subsequent loss of earnings. Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) was short and sharp as is the new way under the speaker, Lindsay Hoyle. The Prime Minister was quick to criticise Scotland and indeed was talking down Scotland before Ian Blackford even got to his feet. I believe the phrase is ‘getting your retaliation in first’. There were five votes on Lord’s amendments to the European Union Withdrawal Bill. They were all defeated by the Conservative and Unionist Government who turned out in their droves to ensure we did not restore the rights of unaccompanied child refugees. In the same week as we remember those who died in the Holocaust we as the United Kingdom are denying unaccompanied children a safe haven. These kids are amongst the most vulnerable in the world, the UK government should hang its head in shame.

Thursday

I was at Inverclyde Academy to support the ‘Inch by Inch’ campaign which aims to educate and support people to eat a healthier diet. Poverty often leads to a poor diet and obesity. Currently it is estimated that almost a third of children in Scotland are at risk of being overweight. The Scottish Government aims to half that by 2030. I was scheduled to attend the Great British High Street awards in Edinburgh as Kempock Street in Gourock was up for an award. But there was not enough time to fulfil my local commitments locally and travel to the awards.

Friday

I visited Peel Ports to see the progress they are making with the floating pontoon that is currently being built at the Inchgreen Dry Dock. In the afternoon I had a discussion on renewable energy in Inverclyde.

Westminster diary w/b 13th January 2020

Monday

There is no pressure to be at Westminster so in keeping with my new year’s resolution I take the opportunity to stay in the constituency. The day easily and fruitfully consumed by constituency matters.

Tuesday

It’s a 5am start but luckily storm Brendan hasn’t affected travel arrangements so I am in my Westminster office by 9:30. Its straight to a meeting of the SNP finance and economy team and then I meet up with representatives of UK Finance to discuss the growing trend to charge for ATMs . We discuss the situation in Inverclyde and are seeking to see if we can benefit from the Community Access to Cash Initiative. As part of my continuing work relating to gambling related harm, I meet with the father of a boy who managed to rack up massive debts and was potentially suicidal. It is those lived experiences that fuel the passion in the All-Party Parliamentary Group to reduce the harm and make the gambling industry accountable. I had a catch up with End Our Pain and we swapped experiences regarding the provision of medical cannabis. Neither of us had good stories. The battle goes on. I finish the day by meeting up with Txell Bonnet, partner of Jordi Cuixart, President of Omnium Cultural who is serving nine years in jail for his connection with the 2017 Catalan independence referendum. The APPG for Catalonia has party support from the SNP, Labour and Conservatives.

Wednesday

I head in the opposite direction from Westminster and walk through the very upmarket Belgravia to the Caledonian Club. It’s an open forum to discuss the next steps for online gambling regulation in the UK. Amongst a wide range of topics, we discuss, advertising and protecting vulnerable groups. A quick walk back to Parliament means I am back in time for Prime Minister’s Questions. The new Speaker, Lindsey Hoyle, is being very strict on the time allocation for this weekly event. Hopefully, it will lead to it being less of a pantomime. Immediately after PMQs I am hosting an event on drugs policy reform. Three experts from the field brief a number of SNP MPs on all the latest outcomes and that allows us to plan future strategy while becoming better informed.

Thursday

Business is slow but the threat of votes keeps me tied to the estate. I take the opportunity to catch up on the mountain of correspondence that continually threatens to overwhelm me. The chairs for the select committee process is ongoing which makes me very popular amongst fellow MPs as they seek my vote. I hide away in my office. People bothering you to vote for them! Imagine that. I catch the 19:45 flight and I am home at 22:00.

Friday

I have a meeting with residents of Ogilvie Homes followed by a discussion with Inverclyde Leisure regarding the plans for Whinhill Golf Course. Members have previously made representations to me. In the afternoon, I have a meeting with Crown Care. I take my turn to staff the office while member’s of my team attend training courses. I finish the week with constituency meetings.

Westminster diary w/b 6th January 2020

Monday

I spent today in my constituency office catching up on correspondence and along with my office team, planning the best practice to handle our work load for the next five years. We aim to use the experience we have gained since 2015 to provide even better care and support for all constituents of Inverclyde.

Tuesday

Extreme weather warnings are not what you want to waken up to at 6am when you are set to travel to London. But apart from it still being dark at 8:30am there was no signs of any storms and my journey is unaffected by the weather. The storm clouds are only metaphorical and are gathering over Westminster. Even when he was Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Boris Johnson’s grasp of foreign affairs was famously tenuous and now with President Trump at his fully belligerent ill thought out worst, we need leaders that have the gravitas and diplomatic skills of articulate considered adults to manage the situation that is brewing in the middle east. But we have Johnson and Trump! What could possibly go wrong? The morning is taken up with catch up meetings following recess. Treasury questions are a sickening display of self-congratulations from a Tory government whose self-belief is clearly not kept in check by any obvious self-awareness. There is a statement on the middle east. Too often when we speak of diplomacy it is bracketed with pressure. Diplomatic pressure is not diplomatic negotiations. What can I do to you is not the same as what can I do for you? It was good to hear the Secretary of State, Ben Wallace MP, say that the best people to run Iran are the people of Iran. The day ended at 9pm with three new clauses to the European Union Withdrawal Agreement all being defeated by the Government.

Wednesday

The deputy speaker elections are ongoing. It strikes me that MPs lobbying MPs from other parties to vote for them can be a particularly obsequious process. Out of nowhere they all have a burning desire to tell me about their Scottish ancestry and love for the old country. Jog on. Scottish questions was an exercise in sycophancy for Scottish Conservatives aided and abetted by the one Labour MP with a Scottish seat. Instead of representing Scotland they continually talk it down, undermining their own nation in order to prop up their own careers. Off campus, I had an interesting meeting with Baroness Blackwood (Parliamentary under Secretary of State for life science). The discussion was about the provision of medical cannabis under prescription on the NHS. We agreed on most of the requirements that were still to be met and within her role she is moving the discussion and provision of a solution forward. We got into this mess because of the Home Ooffice’s lack of understanding and reluctance to change. Hopefully, now that it is a health issue, progress will be quicker.

Thursday

There was an Urgent Question on the new deal between the English FA and the gambling industry that requires people to register with a bookmaker before they can watch FA cup matches. I bobbed for a question and as I am the vice chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Gambling Related Harm I was taken quite early. The current deal with the FA will lead to vulnerable gamblers being hounded by the gambling industry. I implored the minister to create a new gambling act and to coordinate with people with lived experience of gambling related harm during its creation.

Friday

I visited Jericho House to talk to people taking part in the recovery programme. I had a site visit of Diodes Incorporated followed by a quick photo opportunity with the Tele for a story about broadband. I squeezed in the Watt Talk at the Watt Institution. And I visited the jobcentre to catch up with staff there. On Saturday I shall be attending the Scouts Awards Evening in the Town Hall.

Westminster diary w/b 16th December

Monday

Normal business has been resumed and I spend the morning in my constituency office before catching the midday flight to London. Most of the business of the day is procedural and I accompany some new Members round their induction. With the winter recess due to start we want everyone up to speed, sworn in and settled in their office before we break. Interspersed between the formal meetings there is a lot of catching up to do. And as contrary to rumours MPs are human there is a lot of comparing majorities and boasting of campaign successes. In the evening there is a social event to help new members get to know returning Members. It is not a late night as most people are still exhausted by their campaigns.

Tuesday

We go through the performance of electing the Speaker but as Lindsay Hoyle was elevated to that position two days before we broke for the general election it is just a formality. The longest serving members take their oath throughout the day. My office is up and running and new casework is starting to come in. Nothing has changed and Universal Credit continues to create problems for many. There is a lull in the number of Members being sworn in at around 8pm so I grab the opportunity and take the affirmation.

Wednesday

No business in the chamber today so it’s a day of catching up on a rapidly increasing flood of emails. The invitations to attend and host events has resumed, and my head has to make the journey from campaigning to keep my job to actually doing my job. Diary management is difficult at this time of year and compounded by the stop start nature of the UK parliament over the last six months. There will be no clear routine until the new year. In the mean-time rooms and events are booked somewhat speculatively.

Thursday.

The Queen’s speech is the first event of the day and the streets outside Parliament are parked up with large black cars identifiable by their diplomatic plates along with official embassy transport. Chauffeurs and bodyguards stand on the pavement looking rather uneasy. The police presence is highly visible and armed guards are to the fore. The real action was on the front benches as for some reason known only to them the Labour party decided to sit in SNP seats. It was all resolved when the Labour hierarchy told them to scoot. Normal service, or as normal as anything at Westminster, was resumed. After the usual pomp and circumstances of the State Opening we finally got down to debating.

Friday

A full day of debates on the Queen’s speech. The speech covers a wide range of topics from armed forces and climate change, to business rates and domestic abuse. The danger is that not enough time is given to these and that this Conservative and Unionist government railroad through change. I caught the 18:00 flight home. I shall be in my constituency until January the sixth. My office is open on the 23rd, 27th and 30th of December and the 3rd of January 2020.