Westminster diary w/b 15th July

Monday

I was on the order paper for questions to the Home Office.  I asked about the process that EU residents, many of whom have been in the U.K. for years, are having to go through to try and remain in the UK after Brexit. SNP MPs highlighted the case of Lizanne Zietsman, who has returned to South Africa after the Home Office ordered her to leave Britain. Lizanne has lived on the Isle of Arran since April 2015. She ran a sandwich shop with her husband. The local community supported her campaign to stay and despite a petition signed by more than 17,000, people the Home Office refused her leave to remain. The process is clearly flawed but the UK Government can’t see that or won’t admit to it.

Tuesday

My morning started with the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs select committee taking evidence on electoral law reform. It Is not as dry a subject as it sounds, especially when you consider the funding issues around the LEAVE campaign in the EU referendum and the possibility of a General Election on the horizon. I caught up with the members of the All Party Parliamentary Group on the Global Sex Trade and we discussed how to take forward our campaign to introduce the Nordic model in the UK This involves prosecuting the purchaser but decriminalising the seller. I spoke in a Westminster Hall debate on drug services. It was especially significant today as the latest drugs related deaths statistics had just been released. Scotland and Inverclyde are both particularly hard hit. While everyone that made a speech asked for a health-based approach and a change in the law to facilitate Drug Consumption Rooms (DCR), the minister responding maintained the UK government stance that DCRs encourage use. A view not shared by any country that has introduced them.

Wednesday

I started my day with an 8am breakfast meeting along with Virgin Airlines. They were keen to discuss aviation and the climate crisis while promoting a third runway at Heathrow and their allocated slots. I see a contradiction in that, but it is just the start of an on-going discussion.  Appropriately my next event was the select committee for Transport and we took evidence from the Secretary of State for Transport Chris Grayling.  That was followed by Prime Minister’s Questions. The leader of the opposition challenged the Prime Minister on the government’s climate record and she responded by accusing him of failing to stamp out racism in the Labour party. PMQs did not improve after that. The All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Drug Policy Reform (DPR) held its Annual General Meeting (AGM) at which point I was overloaded with acronyms. The group shall continue to pursue its campaigns for compassionate policies that treat problematic drug use as a health issue.

Thursday

The day started with Transport Oral questions. I bobbed but wasn’t taken so didn’t get the opportunity to ask what action the UK Government was taking to reduce toxic emissions from HGV and LGVs. I met up with representatives from GamCare. They provide training, help and support around gambling related harm. They are funded via the gambling commission who in turn are funded by a voluntary levy from the gambling industry. We disagree on a few issues but we agree that a voluntary levy is not good enough and that to allow continuity and long term support a statutory levy is a must. The late afternoon was taken up by votes and I caught the 19:35 flight home.

Friday

My office combined with Stuart McMillan MSPs office and we helped at the clean-up of the Murdieston Dam. In the afternoon I met with the Head of Policy & Public Affairs at BT Scotland. We discussed, 5G, Universal Service Obligation & EE in Inverclyde. My last meeting was with REACH for Autism.

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Westminster diary w/b 8th July

Monday

It’s going to be a long week at Westminster and its starts with my 5am alarm. Most of the day is taken up by meetings and briefings and the voting started at 5pm and lasted until 8pm wit a short break when a debate broke out.

Tuesday

I start the day with debate on Active Travel. It’s a Westminster Hall debate but better attended than the main chamber. This is becoming a feature at Westminster. I make the case for cycling and walking while stressing the need for government investment. I dropped in to the Scottish Select Affairs Select Committee to listen to Joe Fitzpatrick MSP give evidence on drugs policy. Joe is the Scottish Government minister with that responsibility. I have to leave early as I have a meeting along with Carolyn Harris (Labour MP for Swansea East) with Lord Michael Grade. He is chairing a Lords Committee on gambling related harm and we are sharing our evidence gathered from our All-party parliamentary group. I then catch up with Joe in my office to share our views and discuss policy reform.

Wednesday

The Transport Select Committee had a closed door review of our future programme and our impending meeting with the Secretary of State. That is followed by Prime Minister’s Questions. It is till notable for the sparse attendance of the government MPs and there sudden support for their Prime Minister now that they have forced her out. The All-party parliamentary group on gambling related harm took evidence from clinical experts and members of GamCare around the funding and provision of support for people with gambling addictions. I then spoke in another well attended Westminster hall debate. This one was on HS2. Ten billion pounds spent, ten years since it was first announced and not one mile of new track. It’s an infrastructure project that has gone massively wrong.

Thursday

I have an 8:30 meeting with representatives of William Hill. While I am pursuing a mandatory levy on bookmakers and I am critical of some aspects of the gambling industry, I am always open to hear their views and their solutions in areas that we agree. This was followed by an internal trading course run with House of Commons staff. These courses are extremely well prepared and are part of on-going training to make sure that MPs are good employers and that we understand our role and the responsibility it brings. I finish the working day by talking in a debate in the main chamber on 20 years of devolution. It was a good debate but rather tainted by the usual suspects that make their speech and then feel the need to constantly intervene on others. This takes time away from the speakers at the end of the list. So for that reason I refused all interventions.

Friday

A beautiful sunny day in inverclyde and I took advantage of that by holding street surgeries and distributing contact details to households.

 

Westminster diary w/b 1st July

Monday

I met with Liz Karter in Portcullis House to discuss gambling related harm therapy. Liz is an expert in this area and we had a long and informative conversation. The big five bookmakers have bowed to pressure and have offered to increase their contributions to offset gambling related harm. The offer is much more than they currently pay but it’s not mandatory and it’s still not enough. However now that there will be more money available the conversation is about how best to use that money. I was in the Chamber for questions to the Department for Work and Pensions and I hoped to get in in topical questions but it didn’t happen.

Tuesday

I sat in on the Scottish Affairs Select committee session as it was taking evidence from people I know in the drug policy reform movement. It was a fascinating session and received a lot of media coverage. The witnesses are experts that have travelled into Westminster to provide evidence at the request of the committee so it was extremely disappointing to watch some committee members spend the session on their mobile devices reading. Sitting on two select committees I often search for information during a session if its not in the briefing but that’s not what I was watching unfold during this session. It was disrespectful and totally unwarranted. In the afternoon I again took on the role of observer and watched the Health Select committee take evidence from a different set of witnesses on the same subject. It was not as good a session. In between these sessions I replied to a government statement on the big 5 bookmakers proposal to offer more money, but not mandatory, for gambling related harm. I described it as a bribe.

Wednesday

The Select Committee on Transport took evidence on pavement parking. It is set to be banned in Scotland but enforcing it in areas where the roads are too narrow for emergency services, when cars are not parked on the pavements is going to be problematic. Prime Ministers Questions was a dour uninspiring affair. I met with Henrietta Bowden-Jones to discuss her opinions on how gambling related harm should be funded and provided. She is an expert in this area and already runs a clinic in Fulham. We also discovered a mutual appreciation of art. I dropped in to an event hosted by Scottish Water to hear about their role in renewable energies. I was heartened to hear how much they knew about Inverclyde and our possibilities for hydro power. My flight was delayed but I made it back home for 10pm.

Thursday

I met with constituents in the morning and spoke to Radio Clyde regarding William Hill and the proposed closure of several bookmakers. In the afternoon I delivered contacts details to local houses and held street surgeries.

Friday

I started by meeting BayWa, they are the new owners of Forsa Energy’s renewables business that was located at Pottery Street. The afternoon was consumed by surgeries in my constituency office.

Westminster diary w/b 24th June

Monday

Early morning flight to London. I have a meeting with a company that provide systems for diesel engines that enables them to also use liquid natural gas and therefore reduce their carbon footprint. In conjunction with the proposals at Hunterston for a power station they see the possibility to duel fuel diesel trains. The Prime Minister made a statement in the House on the European Council. As part of her statement she talked about the spirit of cooperation and consensus. I bobbed for a question and was taken. I asked if this new spirit could be extended to the devolved parliaments. The PM responded that it always had. Of course, we know that’s not the view of the devolved parliaments. In the evening I spoke on the panel of the Global Cannabis Partnership. There was a lot of talk about ethical growing, international financial opportunities, nationally recognised legislation but far too little about patients and their needs.

Tuesday

The Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Select Committee took evidence from two excellent witnesses, Hannah Vickers, CEO, the Association for Consulting and Engineering and Miles Ashley, Fellow of the Institution of Civil Engineers, on the Government’s management of major infrastructure projects. I then spoke at an event organised by Anyone’s Child to highlight the terrible loss of life due to the current UK drug policy.

Wednesday

Less than one hundred Conservative and Unionist MPs turned up for Prime Minister’s Questions. Apathy combined with their internal party conflict has deemed the government incapable of even putting on a show of unity. Despite their small numbers they made one heck of a noise when Iain Blackford challenged the Prime Minister. They were so noisy that no one could hear Iain. This was brought to the attention of the speaker who then rebuked me for shouting out. This was disappointing as he didn’t rebuke the government benches for their part in the fiasco and it wasn’t me that shouted out. But I took one for the team. I attended the climate coalition lobby and the immigration debate before catching the 18:20 flight home.

Thursday

I delivered contact details to constituents and held street surgeries. I do this on a regular basis but it’s always nicer when the sun is shining as it was today.

Friday

I have an interview on gambling and its relationship with Scottish football followed by one of my regular catch ups with Laura Reilly of Belville Gardens. As part of National Care Home Day, I visited the Crown Care day centre.

Westminster diary w/b 17th June

Monday

I attended the Inverclyde Alliance ‘Every Child Every Chance’ event in Port Glasgow Town Hall. The focus was tackling child poverty. There were excellent speeches and it was good to see councillors from Labour, Conservative, SNP and Independent all in attendance. In the afternoon I was in Edinburgh at the Gambling Commission launch of its National Strategy. I have issues with the Gambling Commissions funding model but this report is a good one and it recognises the need for a statutory levy on the gambling industry. Making it statutory allows the providers of support for gambling related harm, along with those developing education, to make long term plans. I am increasingly using trains to travel and once again I managed to leave Edinburgh and be in my flat in Greenock in two hours.

Tuesday

Today was a day reserved for constituency work. I also carried out street surgeries in the area.

Wednesday

With the increasingly debilitating Brexit process now being compounded by the Conservative and Unionist Party leadership race, I am attempting to squeeze meaningful work into fewer days at Westminster. With that in mind I left at 5:30am for the 6:30am flight. In amongst a plethora of meetings I also had a question to the Secretary of State for Scotland and asked if he agreed with the Duchy of Lancaster when he said that a review of the intergovernmental process could wait until the end of the year. He neither confirmed nor denied it. The Prime Minister is looking better now that she has an escape route for herself planned and was skating through PMQs until Ian Blackford called out Boris Johnson as a racist. When the predictable outcry came from the Government benches, Ian doubled down and listed the racist remarks that had been made. Confronted with that information it is impossible to defend Boris but his Conservative colleagues tried. After the dog fight that is PMQs I was pleased to support some more placid canine friends. I hosted a room to help support guide dogs for the blind. I took the opportunity to meet with owners of the working dogs and puppies in training. My last event was a roundtable discussion and podcast hosted by UK LEAP and Anyone’s Child. The focus of the discussion was the progress of the drug policy reform lobby and the path forward. My journey home did not go well as there was major disruption on the tube and my flight was delayed. To cap it all the M8 was shut and I had a detour via Bishopton. I got home at 23:15. I look upon it all as experienced living for my role on the transport select committee!

Thursday

The morning was spent catching up with case work and in the afternoon, I did the Inverclyde Bothy Walk. Active travel is becoming more and more mainstream and designing transport systems that can integrate safe walking and cycling are important for our health and our planet.

Friday

I joined the teams from Inverclyde Bothy in Gourock railway station and Community Tracks for a cycle through Inverclyde. The purpose was to review the proposals for the route being supported by Sustrans. Looking at pinch points and obstacles. In the afternoon I caught up with Craig Berry of the Common Weal. I often reach out to academics and think tanks for a non-partisan take on issues and I have also contributed to the Common Weal over the years. In the evening I attended the Kilmacolm Civic Trust 50th Anniversary celebration at Windyhill, the Charles Rennie McIntosh house. On Saturday, I shall be supporting the Wemyss Bay Train station open day and on Sunday I shall be attending some of the ‘Great Get Together’ events around Inverclyde.

Westminster diary w/b 10th June

Monday

I attended the sod cutting ceremony at the new Scottish Government funded NHS clinic which is being built on the site of the old Wellington Academy. It doesn’t come cheap at over £20 million pounds but it will be a welcome replacement for the existing facility opposite the West station. I took the opportunity to have a meeting with Jeanne Freeman MSP (Cabinet Secretary for Health) and we covered a range of issues.

Tuesday

I caught an early flight which ensured I got to Westminster for a 9:30 start to the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs select committee. We were taking evidence on managing major projects. The U.K. Government does not have a good track record with major infrastructure projects and there seems to be a reluctance to learn from failure. Primarily due to their reluctance to admit they failed and supported by political expedience. I made my way to the Chamber to listen to debate on TV licences being paid for by over 75s. Another example of the U.K. Government attempting to divest itself of responsibility. I met with representatives from the People’s Post Code Lottery. They have concerns around the capping of their income and that they would be adversely hit by a statutory levy on gambling companies. The People’s Post Code Lottery is a charity and so don’t pay tax but they do pass on a higher percentage of the money raised to good causes than other gambling organisations.

Wednesday

Mike Russell MSP (Scottish Government Brexit Minister) briefed the SNP group on the current state of play regarding Brexit brexit and the plans afoot to develop citizens assemblies in Scotland. I am particularly pleased that citizens assemblies are on the political agenda. The example that Ireland has produced could go a long way to providing a template for a Scottish version. I met with Charles and Liz Ritchie whose son Jack committed suicide as a result of his gambling addiction. They started a charity called Gambling with Lives and have very quickly built it to be a source of excellent research and a powerful lobby group for reform, education and support. Prime Ministers Questions was again poorly attended by the governing party as the Conservative and Unionist party are too deeply entrenched in inner party conflict to actually get on with doing the job they were elected to do. The All-Party Parliamentary Group for Gambling Related Harm took evidence from a number of witnesses including the CEO of Camelot.

In the evening all 35 SNP MPs voted on an opposition motion to suspend standing orders on Tuesday 25th June to allow a backbench bill to be taken as the first item of business – with the presumption the bill would prevent the UK Government from allowing a ‘no deal’ scenario. This is similar to the mechanism used in April by Yvette Cooper MP and Oliver Letwin MP to take control of the parliamentary agenda. The motion was defeated 298 – 309. Which was a great shame as 8 Labour MPs voted against their own party.

Thursday

I chaired a symposium on Infrastructure, accountability and meeting the needs of users. It was arranged by the Westminster Energy, Environment and Transport Forum and held in the Caledonian Club out at Hyde Park. It was particularly interesting to hear from experts from France, Switzerland and those representing the freight industry in the UK. After a quick walk in the pouring rain I made it back to Westminster where I had a meeting with John Coates the CEO of Bet365. This was part of the ongoing investigation into gambling related harm and the responsibilities the gambling industry has.

Friday

Today started with a meeting with Louise Hunter from Creative Inverclyde. It’s always good to meet people who believe that this area can and should be represented on a bigger stage. We need to encourage others to have the confidence to invest in Inverclyde. I then drove up to Whitelee Windfarm for a tour of the control centre and windfarm site. In the evening I attended Notre Dame High School’s production of Les Misérables. On Sunday I shall be supporting the Port Glasgow 10k run with my good friend Cappy the Cat.

Westminster diary w/b 3rd June

Monday

I spent the last day of Whitsun recess in my Greenock office dealing with constituency cases and reading briefing papers for the coming week. To be honest there were not many as business is so light at Westminster. First Brexit and now the Conservative and Unionist party leadership campaign have brought progress to a halt. The usual method of progressing bills is by voting. A successful vote ensures the next step in the process takes place. We haven’t voted since the tenth of April.

Tuesday

I got a morning fight down to Westminster and embarked on a series of meetings regarding the provision of medical cannabis. Most notably I catch up with End Our Pain. Together we are trying to develop a safe and legal way that parents of children with severe epilepsy can access Bedrolite.   Currently if you can afford private medicine and the cost of purchasing the medicine you can get it but not everyone can afford the tens of thousands of pounds that are required.

Wednesday

Prime Minister’s Questions is only notable because the Prime Minster, Leader of the opposition and SNP Westminster Group Leader are all absent while attending the D-Day commemoration events. Noticeably Emily Thornberry MP would stand in for Labour but more in fighting led to here being demoted and replaced by Rebecca Long-Bailey MP. Rebecca is seen by many as a possible successor to Jeremy Corbyn MP. A great deal of PMQs was given up to the concerns that the NHS will be traded after Brexit and ultimately privatised. Even though Scotland’s NHS is devolved this is of great concern, not just because I would hate to see England have its NHS privatised but the less UK government money spent on it means less for Scotland through the Barnett consequentials and public procurement is not devolved which a real worry. I had a meeting with the General Medical Council so as I can learn more about the guidelines for prescribing medical cannabis. It was a very informative meeting. I attended a debate in Westminster Hall on Universal Credit and Debt. This should be debated in the main chamber but was dumped in the lesser chamber. It was massively over-subscribed and was even interrupted for a vote in the main chamber where there was a small fraction of MPs compared to Westminster Hall. The matter was covered by English votes for English laws so I didn’t vote. I got the 18:20 flight up the road.

Thursday

A day of reading and writing. These tend to be welcomed days in amongst the frantic goings on at Westminster but recently they are becoming more frequent, so I undertake street surgeries in the afternoon and had a quick catch up with the hardest working McEleny (Marie) in the mobile Alzheimer’s van in Cathcart Square. I would also like to say how sad it is to hear of the death of Sean Caulfield who worked so hard and brought so much to the local Alzheimer’s organisation. His sudden and tragic death at such a young age is a great loss.

Friday

I had constituency surgeries in Port Glasgow in the morning and Greenock in the early afternoon. I also undertook street surgeries and attended a charity quiz night in the evening.

Westminster diary w/b 20th May

Monday

My first engagement on the estate is the select committee for Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs. We are taking evidence from David Lidington (Minister for the Cabinet Office and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster) and Mark Lancaster (Minister of State for the Armed Forces) regarding the role of parliament in the UK constitution authorising the use of military force.  The session was just warming up when business in the main chamber moved on very rapidly and I had to make a hasty exit from the committee as I was scheduled to talk. It is symptomatic of Westminster in general that business is chopping and changing all the time. Unfortunately for me, two things that I wanted to get involved in clashed with each other. The debate in the chamber lasted four and a half hours and was a decent discussion on the provision of medical cannabis. The only person that doesn’t seem to get it was the UK Health Minister, who was there to respond on behalf of the government. The adjournment debate was a tribute to the late Billy McNeill. It was humorous and touching in equal measures and well led by Brendan O’Hara MP.

Tuesday

A beautiful sunny London morning and I am in my office by 7:30am writing articles and preparing questions for the rest of the week. At 9:00am I meet up with teachers and pupils of Craigmarloch school and give them a guided tour of parliament. I met with Amanda Lyne, Chair UK, Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Association (UK HFCA) to discuss the role for hydrogen in heavy and long range transport. This is extremely relevant to Inverclyde as we host cruise ships and container ships every day. They are amongst the heaviest polluters and if the vessels are going to use hydrogen power then the infrastructure of the ports has to accommodate that. The All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Drug Policy Reform held a joint meeting with the APPG on Drugs, Alcohol and Justice.

Wednesday

Another sunny morning and an early start. In my office by 8am and reading briefing papers. I am on the order paper for Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQ). I put my name down every week but this is only the third time I have been pulled out the hat since 2015. I take the opportunity to ask the Prime Minister what she can do to get medical cannabis into the hands of patients that would benefit from it. The current law, which was passed last year, means that to be prioritised a patient must have already used medical cannabis and found it beneficial. The problem with that is that to access medical cannabis they must either travel abroad and pay for the prescription, medicine, travel and accommodation and risk being arrested and the medicine confiscated or pay a fortune from a private clinic in the UK. Another way to climb the priority list is to take all the existing medicines, some with dangerous side effects and prove they don’t work. Even given these obvious limitations the Prime Minister can’t see any way to improve the current system. In the afternoon I attended a discussion on the place for cannabis in our society. It was hosted by the Spectator magazine. This event dragged me of the estate but was well worth attending. I returned to Westminster to watch a film documentary on climate change forcing girls into prostitution. It was followed by a discussion with the film maker and a panel of experts.

Thursday

Up bright and early as I am on the order paper again. This time for questions to Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS). I ask the minister what alternatives the UK Government has to the often muted, but as yet not implemented, statutory levy on bookmakers. The current voluntary system raise less than £10 million a year. A levy of 1% would raise £140 million. As the industry turns over £14 billion I don’t think 1% is too much to ask for.  I catch the 18:20 flight home and my first task is to vote in the European Union election.  After that it’s time to crash out and enjoy my own bed and the joy of  blackout curtains! The dawn can wait.

Friday

Today is the first day of Whitsun recess and I am in my office. I have a meeting regarding Scotland’s drug policy and the rest of the day is consumed by meetings with constituents. On Sunday I shall attend the count for the EU elections.

Westminster diary w/b 13th May

Monday

Business continues to be slow at Westminster so I took the opportunity to work in my constituency office in the morning and catch a later flight to London. Incredibly, at this point in time, when we are at the cusp of the United Kingdom’s relationship with the European Union business in the House lasted from 14:30 to 17:45. There are duties and responsibilities that drag me to London but in all honesty, there are days when my time would be better spent in my constituency.

Tuesday

Today started with the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Select Committee taking evidence about eating disorders and the Public health Ombudsman. The oral evidence was interesting, but the written evidence was harrowing. The lack of intervention and knowledge within the medical profession as a result of the lack of training is staggering. During a ten year training period the average GP in England will receive 2 hours training in eating disorders. It was a joy to then meet up with Ian Russell, Chair of the Infrastructure Commission for Scotland and hear about the long-term strategy for infrastructure that he is working on. Too often politicians are pulled into 5 year plans. So, to hear that he is developing a 30 year strategy at the request of the Scottish Government was encouraging. I dropped into the alcohol alliance Parliamentary reception and did an interview for Panorama. The minimum unit price, as part of broader strategy has been effective but there is a long way to go to improve Scotland’s relationship with alcohol.

Wednesday

I started at the end child poverty drop in where I was given the statistics on Inverclyde’s child poverty. 25% of children in Inverclyde are living in poverty and although that is far from the worst it is still a stark reminder of how far we have to go. I attended the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Bees. We are trying to encourage the development of pollinator strips. Fortunately, Inverclyde is already switched on to the need and we have excellent projects at Broomhill, Hector McNeil Baths and Belville Gardens leading the way. Prime Ministers Questions was a sorry affair of posturing with very little real engagement. I hosted a meeting with Ladbrokes Coral and was interested to hear their commitment to reducing gambling related harm. I remain unconvinced.

Thursday

Up early to catch the tube then train to Heathrow as I am on the 8:55 to Stockholm along with cross party colleagues from the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on prostitution. We are on a fact-finding mission to Sweden to investigate the Nordic Model. It is a hectic two days. Today we had briefings from the ambassador at large for combating trafficking and the Ministry for Foreign Affairs.

Friday

An early start with an 08:00 meeting with the Swedish Police Authority. This takes up most of the day. One of the joys about these sort of events is the opportunity to meet experts in their field and mix with Parliamentary colleagues from other parties to seek out and find common ground on which we can work. Mia de Faoite is a survivor of prostitution and her knowledge, lived experience and intellect are hugely influential and a privilege to experience. She also has an encyclopaedic knowledge of Eurovision but nobody is perfect. I make my way home via the 18:05 Stockholm to Heathrow London and the 21:30 to Glasgow. I arrive home at 23:30.

Westminster diary w/b 6th May 2019

Monday

Much has been said about the regeneration of Dundee. As today was a public holiday I visited the V&A and the Dundee Contemporary Arts (DCA) centre to see them for myself. The water side regeneration is impressive and both venues were extremely busy. The V&A building is stunning but the exhibition space seemed small. The addition of a canteen and a souvenir shop in the grand entrance hall look very much like afterthoughts. The DCA which is comparable to our Beacon Arts Centre, has combined exhibition space with cinemas, restaurants and bars. It struck me as less touristy than the V&A and a well-liked well used facility by local people. The port of Dundee looks across the silver Tay To Fife and it can be beautiful and moody but it doesn’t compare to the stunning beauty that we enjoy in inverclyde looking across the Clyde to Argyll and Bute.

Tuesday

An early flight was required to get me on the Westminster estate for the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs select committee which started at 9:30. We took evidence from senior civil servants about the leadership programmes and how the most senior civil servants are trained. There was a lot of management speak banded about and I am not convinced that the outcomes are measured in any meaningful way.

Wednesday

The Transport select committee took evidence from the department of transport parliamentary under Secretary of State, Andrew Jones MP and Polly Payne, director general of the Rail Group. It was mostly about franchising and accessibility. Neither of which were answered convincingly. I had to leave early as I was on the Order Paper for questions to the Secretary of State for Scotland. Mr Mundell continued his attempts to muddy the waters over the sovereign right of the people of Scotland to determine their own future. It appears the Claim of Rights and the four parliamentary elections since 2014 mean nothing to him. Prime Ministers Question’s saw the Prime Minister and the leader of her majesty’s opposition use the NHS in England and Wales as a political punch bag. Taking it in turn to criticise the one run by each of their parties. Tory England versus Labour Wales. The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Gambling Related Harm was, as ever, extremely well attended and we took evidence from organisations that provide education modules for children and adults to raise awareness of the potential pitfalls of gambling. We also heard the story of how a young man’s suicide had motivated his mother to form an education organisation and the difficulties they have in funding it. They are currently active in over 1,000 schools and 5 universities but to grow they need more money over a longer period of time. This is just one example where a statutory levy on the gambling industry could be put to good use. The for Drugs, Alcohol and Justice cross-party group was also very well attended and its focus was learning lessons from Scotland. Minimum pricing of alcohol was high up on the agenda as were, safe drug consumption facilities, diversion techniques and static needle exchanges. My flight home was delayed and I got home at 23:30.

Thursday

I had an early start as I was on BBC Radio Scotland at 8:05. Sometimes these interviews can be done over the phone but they wanted to record some TV too so I drove up to Pacific Quay instead. On the back of a report just released by Glasgow University, the topic of conversation was gambling related harm. The rest of the day was consumed by research and writing.

Friday

A good day of street surgeries and engagement with the people of Inverclyde. Top of their agenda was Brexit and the European Union elections on the 23rd of May. It was good to have Margaret Ferrier along with me in her capacity as an ex MP and candidate for MEP.