Westminster diary w/b 17th July

Monday

Business was slow at Westminster so I took the opportunity to stay in my constituency for the day and meet with a number of constituents. I also attended the Climate Challenge Fund event in the Beacon Arts Centre. Suitable community applications can be granted up to £150,000 to invest in projects that are beneficial to the environment. My office shall be contacting a range of local organisations in regard to this.

Tuesday

It’s a 5am start to catch the early bird down to London. My first meeting of the day should have been with Amnesty International but due to an on-going situation in Turkey the meeting was cancelled. I attended an event titled ‘Meaningful Multilateralism: Future UK leadership in Nuclear Disarmament’. The main speaker was Sir Malcolm Rifkind. I was disappointed to miss the photo opportunity to highlight the campaign to reduce the odds to £2 on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs) but I was scheduled to speak in a debate on drugs policy reform and therefore had to be in the chamber. The debate was extremely interesting and I spoke without a time constraint which was a welcome experience. There is cross party support that wishes to make drug reform a health led issue rather than a criminal justice one, as it is now. But the latest UK Government report is still not following that line. In the evening, I attended a showing of Al Gore’s new documentary. It’s a follow up to his massive success (it won two Oscars) ‘An inconvenient truth’. The follow up (An Inconvenient Sequel) is rather less about climate change, a little more about Al Gore. Maybe his political career isn’t over yet.

Wednesday

It was the turn of the Secretary of State for Scotland to come to the House to face questions. Tommy Shepherd MP leads for the SNP on this occasion and handled it extremely well. Tommy can work an audience and managed to silence the 13 Tory MPs that represent Scottish constituents with one withering look. The Secretary and the shadow Secretary (Labour’s Lesley Laird MP) seemed happy to agree on most things and blame the SNP for them too. I am afraid the tribalism of Holyrood has come to Westminster. It does not serve the public well. Prime Ministers Questions was a poor affair but I have grown used to that.

Thursday

The main event is a debate on Job centre closures, secured by my SNP colleague Chris Stephen MP. I take the opportunity to take the government to task over the planned closure of the Port Glasgow Job centre and once again ask the minister Damian Hinds to visit Inverclyde to understand the geography and the difficulties the planned closure will bring. Unbelievably the new Tory MP for Ayr Carrick and Cumnock can’t resist defending the ‘modernisation’ process. He then said he had visited a job centre in 2005 after he left the fire service. I wonder if it is still open to give others the support he got then. The debate finishes at five and it’s a dash to the airport only to see I am delayed.

Friday

My first day of the summer recess and it’s a busy one. My first meeting is with constituents regarding issues in Larkfield. Then I meet with Inverclyde Council Chief Executive, Aubrey Fawcett, to discuss all things Inverclyde. The afternoon is packed with constituent meeting ranging from policing, heritage and child care. I then get a guided tour of the refurbished custom house by Riverside Inverclyde.

Westminster diary w/b 10th July

Monday

Thankfully, I had no early morning flight to London as the parliamentary business was light. Who knew the Government had a razor thin majority which meant very little, if any meaningful debate before summer recess.

This meant I was able to spend the day in the constituency office working on research and casework. I was delighted to welcome Andrew, a work experience pupil, from St Columba’s High School, Gourock into the office. Andrew will be spending a number of days in the constituency office learning about politics and the Westminster system.

I caught the evening flight down to London in preparation for a busy few days.

Tuesday

The Government announced the findings of Matthew Taylor’s review into the so-called gig economy. It’s estimated that 1.1million people work in the gig economy for companies such as Uber and Deliveroo. Unfortuantely, the report did little to appease concerns about zero hour contracts and no mention was made to introducing a universal basic income. I asked the Minister, during the statement, whether the Government would consider looking into a basic income. I believe a basic income, for all, could play an important role in supporting those in the gig economy who are vulnerable to zero hour contracts and irregular shift patterns.

I had a catch-up meeting with the Solar Trade Association to discuss solar deployment in Scotland. The organisation continue to be encouraged by the efforts of the Scottish Government to promote renewable technology.

Tuesday evening was taken up by a discussion I was sponsoring alongside the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) on drugs policy. The event include health practitioners, policy analysts, doctors and professors. It was a discussion regarding the need for pragmatic drug policy reform based on evidence and ethics to prioritise health and human rights, and what role the medical establishment can and should play in driving forward this debate and reform.

I was delighted how the discussion went and look forward to making further progress, with interested parties, on this important health issue.

Wednesday

My first engagement was a Parliamentary CND meeting where we discussed the recent talks at the United Nations on the nuclear weapons ban treaty. The U.K. Government were not present at the UN talks.

The usual PMQs was not the usual PMQs as the Prime Minister was absent due to the visit of the King of Spain. This meant the Punch and Judy show was led by others with the usual back and forward resulting in nothing!

The afternoon I dropped in to two parliamentary events, the first was Cancer Research UK where we discussed measures to prevent cancer in Inverclyde. Obesity is one of the big issues we currently face here in the west of Scotland. Next, I attended a briefing on energy prices and how residents in Inverclyde are being ripped off by £4.73 million on their energy bills. In the evening I attended the Electoral Reform Society summer reception.

Thursday

At 9:30am I attended transport question time in the chamber where the Minister answered, or tried to, a number of questions. My colleague Alan Brown MP has recently taken on the Shadow Transport role for the SNP.

In the afternoon, I spoke in the Westminster Hall debate on organ donation. The Scottish Government announced it intends to introduce legislation for a soft opt out system of organ and tissue donation.

I then caught an evening flight back to Glasgow.

Friday

I met with the recently appointed Head of Inverclyde Health and Social Care Partnership (HSCP) as a way of introduction and to ensure my office has a good working relationship with the organisation.

I then had a meetings with Ardgowan Hospice and finished with a discussion with the health board.

Westminster diary w/b 3rd July

Monday

The morning was particularly busy so I travelled down on Sunday afternoon. The morning included meetings with the Parliament digital team and familiarisation with the new security requirements since a recent and ongoing cyber-attack on the estate. It took me back to my previous IT career as the message was repeated time and time again to an audience that didn’t want the technical speak, they just wanted their laptops, iPads and phones to work. My sympathies were with the IT team. I had a question to the home office in the chamber and I pushed the minister on the rules around spousal visas. The current rules are unfair and if the government follow through on their manifesto promises they will get worse. I had a meeting with the president of the Catalan parliament the Right Honourable Carme Forcadell. It was interesting to hear her thoughts on the upcoming referendum on Catalonian independence and the possible outcomes. Catalonian parliamentarians have been prosecuted by the Spanish government over their moves to allow an independence debate and vote. In the evening I attended an event to acknowledge seventy years of the Edinburgh fringe. The fringe was conceived in 1947 to bring countries together to celebrate art and diversity. Seventy years on it continues to do that far better than politicians do.

Tuesday

I was fortunate to get pulled out the ballot for topical questions to the department of health so I asked the Secretary of State for Health if England was prepared to follow the example of Wales and Scotland and introduce a soft opt-out for organ donation. The response was very encouraging and I shall be summing up in a Westminster Hall debate on this subject next week. I attended the All-party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on drugs policy reform. I am the vice-chair in this APPG and it has a wide range of Members from across both houses. Its primary focus will be Investigating cannabis use for medicinal and recreational purposes.

Wednesday

Continuing the theme of health, I attended the All-party Parliamentary Kidney Group, as I am the vice-chair. We are looking at a range of issues to increase awareness around kidney disease and treatment. Prime Ministers Questions was a particularly drab affair. In the afternoon I spoke in a Westminster Hall debate supporting the women against state pension inequality (WASPI) campaign. It was massively oversubscribed but due to my previous involvement I was allocated a speaking slot. The Ministers response was one of the poorest I have ever heard. This problem has been ignored by successive Labour, Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition and Conservative governments and they don’t appear to have an appetite to resolve it now. I caught the eight thirty evening flight home.

Thursday

Ideally I would have been able to attend the hastily arranged debate on the job centre closures but that would have involved cancelling all my previously arranged meetings back in Inverclyde so I Ieft the debate to my very capable colleagues and fulfilled all my outstanding commitments. I have written to the appropriate government ministers and called on him to visit Inverclyde. I had previously raised an urgent question, in the chamber, over job centre closures and I shall continue to monitor the situation closely.

Friday

The entire day was dedicated to constituent surgeries in Port Glasgow, Greenock, Gourock and Inverkip with constituents bringing me a wide range of issues.

Westminster diary w/b 26th June

Monday

Firmly back in the old routine now and on the red eye to London City. My first meeting of the day is with Marc Etches the Chief Executive of Gamble Aware and we discuss gambling related harm. Next I meet Jonny Ross Tatem from the Buchanan institute to discuss their excellent publication ‘Putting Health First: A New Approach to UK Drug Policy’. Next it’s a Clydesdale Bank drop in event to meet David Duffy and talk about small and medium sized enterprises.

I am scheduled to talk on the Brexit aspect of the queen’s speech. I finally get to contribute at twenty past nine in the evening. I wait to hear the Foreign Secretary’s response and Boris responds as he always does. Like he is chatting to his pals at the Conservative club and everybody else is a fool. His lack of professionalism is only outweighed by his lack of self-awareness.

Tuesday

My first meeting is with Jonathan Kingsley in his capacity as the parliamentary and policy manager for Muscular Dystrophy UK. Amongst other things we go over the PIP assessment process that is resulting in so many people losing their Motability allowance. This meeting underlined what I already knew, that so many people are being unfairly deprived of their independence by a system that clearly doesn’t work. My last meeting of the day was with Declan O’Mahony who happens to be a Director of Motability. It’s fair to say he shares my concerns. But I am delighted that they are changing the rules with regard to removing someone’s car and plan to extend it to up to 24 weeks which should allow time for a full review and appeal process. Motability are taking the financial hit, not the government.

Wednesday

PMQs and a surprisingly upbeat Prime Minister given her disastrous election and grubby deal with the DUP. And just to make matters worse the leader of the opposition, Jeremy Corbyn was back to his monotonous worst. It’s one thing wowing an audience of festival goers at Glastonbury but it’s quite another holding your own at the ballot box. I am the Vice Convenor of the all party parliamentary group on fixed odd betting terminals and we reconvened for this parliamentary session all the more determined to force the government to impose a maximum two pounds bet per spin. It’s taking longer than we hoped but we will get there.

Thursday

The morning started at 8:30am with an event hosted by the Trussell Trust to highlight the work they do and in particular their management of food banks. I was in the chamber for questions to the Department of Culture Media and Sport as question 9 was about fixed odd betting terminals. The plan was to get in on the back of that but the best laid plans of mice and men came unstuck as the speaker stopped at Question 8 and my plan was thwarted. Talking of mice, their big cousins the rats are still terrorising me in the yard behind my office that I cross to get to Parliament. I am sure they have grown since last week. I had a meeting with the transport policy team and we discussed aspects of transport from trains to space ports.

In the afternoon I attended a seminar with the title ‘Power and People in the UK Constitution’. It was attended and contributed to by representatives from the Electoral Reform Society, universities, local governments, MPs and various constitutional lobby groups. That may sound like a recipe for a long boring afternoon but in fact these seminars provide a platform for open honest discussion without political point scoring and as a result they are invigorating and rewarding. They motivate me to do my job better. There were votes at the end of the day on the Queens speech and I caught the 8:30pm flight home.

Friday

Busy day with constituents, the Inverclyde food bank, the Ardgowan distillery and Riverside Inverclyde. Busy and typical of the range and diversity that makes mine such a great job.

Westminster diary w/b 19th June

Monday

Parliament has not yet got back up to speed following the aberration of a General Election and so I took the opportunity to meet with constituents in my office during the morning and catch a later flight to London. Offices are still being allocated and so to make a potential move easier I did a quick spring clean and threw out all unnecessary paperwork that I had acquired over the last two years. In the evening I attended a law enforcement against prohibition event which featured the comedian Marcus Brigstocke. He spoke about his addictions and his approach to dealing with them. I particularly struck by his food action. Any preconceived notions I had of a man binging on cream cakes were quickly dispelled as he recounted stories of eating food from bins while crying inconsolably. Eating disorders can often be conveyed as a physical thing when they are serious mental health issues.

Tuesday

There was no business in the chamber today as we are waiting for the Queen’s speech tomorrow. I managed to catch up with Paul Flynn and Kelvin Hopkins. They are both Labour MPs who both enjoyed comfortable victories. Despite our different parties we have always worked well in committee together and it was good to see those two old war horses back. In the afternoon we had the internal SNP group meeting and elected our new group leader.

Wednesday

My walk into Parliament is usually a relaxing stroll lost in whatever music I have chosen that day but when there are armed and unarmed police officers at every corner, roads are closed and passes are being checked well before entering the building it’s clearly not just another day. The extra high-visibility security in place for the Queen attending parliament just seems to add to the excitement for many of the guests who, given the extremely hot weather, have chosen bright colourful summer clothing. Many are, just like the Queen, en-route to Royal Ascot. Prince Phillip is indisposed and so the Queen allows Prince Charles to sit on the throne beside her. He does look distinctly uncomfortable and as one observer put it “it’s like bring your child to work day”.

We debated the speech (as we shall do next week too) and at ten pm there was an adjournment debate on the cost of phone calls to the DWP. The social welfare system is as we all know in a terrible state and the UK government would do well to consider the social security bill brought forward by Jeanne Freeman MSP in the Scottish Parliament as a better way forward. Only this week the high court in England described the UK government policy as ‘causing real harm’ for ‘no good purpose’.

Thursday

The morning gives me the opportunity to work on articles for politics home and house magazine before getting a midday flight home. Unfortunately it is delayed and I use the time at the airport to catch up on some reading. In the evening I attend an SNP planning meeting.

Friday

The morning is consumed by paperwork and administration and in the afternoon I have meetings with River Clyde Homes regarding constituents housing issues. My last meeting of the day is with senior council officers. Over the weekend I shall be attending the P1 powerboat events.

Westminster diary w/b 17th April

Monday

I utilised the last morning of recess to catch up with office and administration work and in the afternoon I attended the launch of the SNP council manifesto.

Tuesday

I caught an earlier than usual flight as my select committee started at 9am. The weeks after recess are always busy we have a few outstanding reports waiting to be published. These include ‘lessons learned from the EU referendum’ and the snappily titled ‘MANAGING MINISTERS’ AND OFFICIALS’ CONFLICTS OF INTEREST: TIME FOR CLEARER VALUES, PRINCIPLES AND ACTION’. The former was to be presented to the house on Thursday and so we completed the read through and made the final few amendments. The latter has been delayed at my request as I wanted to get the ex Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, in front of the committee to give evidence. In theory ex cabinet ministers can’t take up appointments in positions where their ministerial experience and contacts would give anyone an unfair advantage. The process is that ex cabinet ministers wishing to take up business appointments must request permission from ACoBA (Advisory Committee on Business Appointments) to take up the position. They can then be refused. In practice they are never refused. Mr Osborne now has six jobs. I was wanting to ask him how he manages to have five jobs as well as commit the necessary time to perform his duties as an MP? But we shall never know as events quickly overtook us. We had been informed the Prime Minister was making a statement at 11:15 outside 10 Downing Street. The rumours were about her health or Northern Ireland but as we now know she was going to announce a snap General election. I was in a room with 5 Conservatives and 2 Labour MPs, nobody foresaw the announcement. With that statement our little cloistered world was turned upside down. In the evening our usual SNP group meeting was attended by the First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon and it’s fair to say everyone was very focused on the job at hand.

Wednesday

My diary is changing by the minute as events are cancelled and other hastily arranged. All outstanding business has to be concluded or it falls when Parliament is dissolved. My committee meets twice and we finalise our reports for presenting to the house the following day. In the light of the previous day’s events, questions to the Secretary of State for Scotland, David Mundell, were entertaining and Mr Mundell was even more nervous than usual. But he was the only the warm up man for Prime Minister’s questions during which Theresa May defended her decision to call an early election despite parliament having a 5 year fixed term. PMQs was followed by a debate about having an election. The Fixed-term Parliaments Act was put in-place to give stability and to prevent political opportunism. However, the Prime Minister has circumnavigated this Act and decided it was in her self-interest to seek a general election.

Thursday

I am in the House for business questions which is followed by questions to the leader of the house, traditionally these sessions are much more relaxed and even entertaining and given that everyone was in demob mode that’s how it turned out. I then spoke to the report on ‘Lessons learned from the EU referendum’. There was major disruption on the underground so I was just glad to get to the airport in time to catch my flight home.

Friday

I start by updating my office team on the process around the snap election. It is not just my job that is on the line. As of the 3rd of May I am no longer an MP and representing myself in any way that looks like I am is illegal. So there are restrictions imposed on me and my office but we still need to handle all outstanding cases. Even without an MP the need for one remains. I have a prearranged meeting with the Chief Executive of Inverclyde Council and a few constituency meetings in my office. As has often been said, that was the week that was.

Westminster diary w/b 27th March

Monday

It is an early start to the week as I walk past the huge array of flowers that adorn the main gates. They have been placed there by well-wishers following the atrocity of the previous week. Westminster continues to be a tourist attraction, work place and a secure haven thanks to the selfless commitment of the many police and security personnel that, day in day out, put member’s safety before their own. We are forever in their debt.

By the luck of the draw I have a question to the minister for the department of work and pensions. I choose to highlight the ignorance in withdrawing Motability cars from claimants while their appeals are on-going. Upon a successful appeal, cars are re-instated but the inconvenience of being without during the appeal process should not be underestimated and is unnecessary.

Tuesday

My Select Committee is reviewing the House of Lords and bi-cameral systems in general. We shall also be asking the previous Chancellor of the Exchequer (George Osborne) to come in front of the committee so we can question him over the jobs he has taken on since leaving the cabinet but remaining as an MP. I had a meeting with PCS to discuss the rationale behind the closure of Job Centres. I attended an Irlen awareness event. I hope to progress this with the help of local autism groups as the conditions are often linked. I then went in front of the back bench business committee along with Norman Lamb MP (Lib Dem) to plead our case for a debate on the war on drugs. Finally I attended the white ribbon campaign and was interested to hear the support from other groups with regard to the Istanbul Convention.

Wednesday

I dropped in on a Parkinson’s Awareness event and then went to Prime Ministers Question time. It was always going to be a long day for the Prime Minister as immediately after PMQs was the Brexit statement. Members can stand for questions pertaining to any statement and on this occasion we did. One hundred and thirteen of us. Eventually after bobbing I got to ask when the Scottish Government would have the opportunity to add some meat to the bones of the statement which was no more than clichés and platitudes.

I sat in on the emergency debate on ‘changes to the Personal Independence Payment’ and finished the day at the All-party Parliamentary Group for Scottish Sport. I met with Sport Scotland and the lawn tennis association to discuss an indoor complex in Inverclyde.

Thursday

A morning of reading and writing, including an article on prostitution for Politics Home was followed up by an afternoon with my constitution team. Personally I am trying to wrap my head round how, powers returned from the European Union that are in areas devolved to Scotland will be effected by the Sewell convention and Henry VIII clauses. I would like to think they won’t be but nobody will give me that guarantee.

Friday

Back in the constituency for a meeting with council officers regarding regeneration. This sits nicely with my later meeting with Scottish Enterprise on the same subject. Other constituency meetings complete the day.

Westminster diary w/b 13th March

Monday

I caught my regular 7:20 flight but instead of going straight to my office in Westminster I continued my journey to the Science museum in Kensington. It was my pleasure to attend and support the team from St Columba’s, Kilmacolm who were competing in the final of the ‘Ultimate STEM Challenge. Michael, Michael, Quinn and Lewis presented their project extremely well and received a commendation from the judges for the “scientific rigour of their experimental work”. I was back at Westminster in time for questions. I wanted to get in a question about Universal Basic Income but once again I stood in vain. I did have a spring in my step as earlier on Scotland’s First Minister had announced that she would be seeking a referendum which would allow the people of Scotland a choice on the kind of future they want. Meanwhile in Parliament the article 50 amendments didn’t take long and naturally the government drove any changes off.

Tuesday

My Select Committee inquiry is into reforming the House of Lords. I suggested scrapping and electing a second chamber which reflects all the countries and regions of the UK. I don’t object to a bi-cameral system it is just that our current second chamber is too big and too London centric. I attended a very interesting all party group on the 4th industrial revolution. It was interesting to hear the input from the likes of Hugh Millward (Director of External and Legal Affairs at Microsoft) with regard to where they see the jobs market going. I can only see a workforce that will be required to be flexible and adaptable in both their approach and working hours as artificial intelligence takes great strides forward. The Minister for Digital, Matt Hancock MP, was open enough to tell us that despite his position he is a descendent of a leading Luddite that’s smashed up the Cartwright looms. It seems there is always a threat to the workforce, perceived or otherwise.

Wednesday

The industrial theme continued and I met with the ‘Industrial Communities Alliance’. They have gathered the combined knowledge, experience and views of local authorities across the UK to create a strategy that they believe can revive British industry and create a high wage, high employment economy across the UK. Prime Minister’s Question time was in parts amusing but mostly the usual slagging match between the Prime Minister and leader of the opposition. I keep going in case I miss something. I feel I have invested a lot of time in this particular event but each week it’s the same dismal failure. I attended a debate on triggering Article 50 and the implications on Scottish devolution. In the evening I did an interview for the James Whale show on Talk Radio.

Thursday

My Select Committee had a private meeting to plan our approach to the exit of the United Kingdom from the European Union and the consequences for the devolved administrations.

If we get the witnesses we want it could be both interesting and productive. My committee also presented our report on the lessons learned from the Chilcot inquiry. As a Member of the committee I was allowed to speak to the report. It is our tenth report and the work load shows no sign of letting up. I took part in a Westminster Hall debate on the closure of jobcentres.

Friday

First thing is another radio interview about the Scottish referendum. The strange thing is the SNP are accused of being obsessed by a referendum but the fact is the English based media are fascinated by it and want to talk about it. The rest of the day shall be constituency work, research and writing.

Westminster diary w/b 6th March

Monday

The opportunity arose to stay in Inverclyde as there were no votes at Westminster. Naturally I took it. Constituency work is so important and never ending. I had a number of constituents that came to my office and I attended the inaugural meeting of the Inverclyde ‘A’ team Autism support group in Boglestone.

Tuesday

I pay the price for staying at home on Monday as my day starts at 4:30 a.m. My select committee starts at 9:15am and I make it with minutes to spare. We are finalising our report on the lessons learned from the EU referendum, the report will be published soon. I got lucky in the ballot for questions to the Justice Department. I took the opportunity to question the minister over the process that is seeing an increasing number of people losing benefits for around ten weeks and then being reinstated after appeal. These benefits can include Motability cars. I pressed him to consider not imposing the sanction until after the appeal process was exhausted and therefore not punish people who are winning their appeal. I attended a big lottery fund drop in session and was pleased to hear that following the events my office ran last year more applications from Inverclyde has been successful than previous years. We will build on this for future years.

Wednesday

My first event was the all party parliamentary group for the campaign for nuclear disarmament. We received a briefing from Dr Ian Fairlie on the links between civil nuclear power and nuclear weapons in the UK. His theories surrounding Tritium and its creation are very interesting. Prime Ministers question time constitutes Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn acting like a couple of badly behaved spoiled brats. This is really no way to run a country. But today they are just the warm up act for the Chancellor of the Exchequer Phillip Hammond who for one day only thinks he is a comedian. The spring statement is poorly thought out and punctuated by surly jokes at the expense of everyone that isn’t a Tory. Of course the real joke is on the Tories as within hours of the budget statement it is clear that they have broken manifesto promises and hiked the tax on the self employed. To say it was met with a cool response from his back bench is a massive understatement. And one group that were openly less than happy were the Woman Against State Pension Inequality (WASPI). Once again they were ignored by the UK government. A contract broken and many comfortable lives in retirement ruined. I spoke in a debate on the advertising standards authority responsibility to broadband users. The claims being made by providers are dubious to say the least. In the evening I attended ‘Barefoot in Business’ as part of international woman’s day. It was an opportunity to talk with the makers of the documentary about female entrepreneurs in Uganda. There are lessons to be learned by us all.

Thursday

I attended a fantastic lecture organised by the Royal Society of Arts (RSA) in their London HQ. Its title is ‘Utopia for Realists’ and is presented by Rutger Bregman. It covers his plans for a shorter working week, Universal Basic Income and open borders. His influences range from Thomas More to Richard Nixon. More wrote his ‘Utopia’ in 1516 so it’s an idea 500 years in the making. I get a tea time flight home.

Friday

I have casework to catch up with. A meeting with the Ardgowan Hospice and a meeting in the council buildings. On Saturday I plan to visit the Inverclyde street pastors and watch the rugby at Twickenham.

 

Westminster diary w/b 27th February

Monday

Quick hospital appointment and a rush to the airport means a harassed start to the week but the afternoon turns out be extremely worthwhile and rewarding as my select committee finally signs off our reports on the Chilcot inquiry and the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (ACOBA). In theory ACOBA must be approached by ex-cabinet ministers if they wish to take up a private position within twenty four months of leaving their cabinet position. ACOBA can rule that it is inappropriate to use information gained in a ministerial position for private gain. For example George Osborne ex-Chancellor of the exchequer recently joined a private financial company and gets paid a reported £400,000 a year. ACOBA could have said that is wrong but they didn’t. They never do. They have never turned down an application. Hopefully our report will push Parliament to change the rules.

Tuesday

Starts with the second sitting of my select committee and it’s a cracker. It is spent talking with senior political advisers about Brexit. A lot, if not most, of my conversations these days incorporate Brexit in some shape or form but having the opportunity to seek the considered opinion of the people advising the folk at the top table is too good an opportunity to miss. By now we will all be familiar with the phrase ‘Hard Brexit’. This phrase is designed to indicate something that is not smooth and painless. I believe we will have to come up with something else to do justice to the process we are about to go through. Maybe a debilitating gut wrenching omnishambles of a Brexit is more appropriate.

For some light relief I meet up with representatives of a mobile communications company. The discussion is around the emergency services network. I drop into a lobbying event for the Eve Appeal. It’s called ‘Make Time for Tea’. The Eve Appeal specialises in funding ground-breaking research into gynaecological cancers, including ovarian cancer, and Make Time for Tea is a way to raise awareness but also raise vital funds for further research.in the evening I meet up with Ian Hudghton SNP MEP to get the inside track on Brexit discussions in Brussels.

Wednesday

I start the day by meeting representatives of the Association of British Travel Agents. We talk at length about cruise ships and yes, Brexit. There are concerns about all the unknowns regarding passengers from European Union countries and the potential difficulties they will now face. Just as we are building a healthy footprint of tourists it would be a shame if we make it more difficult for them to visit Inverclyde.

I attend a photo opportunity to highlight the ESA cuts which I covered in yesterday’s column. I stand for questions at Scotland questions but don’t get taken. Prime Ministers Questions is a shambles for Jeremy Corbyn and once again it falls on Angus Robertson to scrutinise the Prime Minister. In the late afternoon I host a CND event designed to encourage the UK Government to attend the UN negotiations on a treaty to ban nuclear weapons. I attended a Westminster Hall debate on the role of fathers in the family unit. In the evening I spoke at an event in Waterstone’s bookstore on Tottenham Court Road. The topic is drug reform. As I leave the event at about ten in the evening I am appalled and saddened by the number of homeless people huddled in doorways.

Thursday

My main meeting of the day is with a property development company that own a large percentage of Spango Valley. It’s a wide ranging conversation about the possibilities and costs involved in redeveloping such a large site.

Friday

First appointment is with the Chief Executive of the council. Then it’s off to the annual general meeting of Inverclyde Association for Mental Health followed by surgeries in Greenock, Gourock and Wemyss Bay.