Westminster diary w/b 16th May

Monday

Early start at 6:00 and it is almost like covid never happened as we all crush onto the London underground. I had an interview with Danielle Theis for her dissertation on drugs deaths. Daniella will be a welcome addition to the Greenock Telegraph staff. Bobbing away in the Chamber for questions to the Secretary of State for Levelling Up.  But the UK government were not bobbing for supplementary questions which means the Speaker can’t go back and forth across the house as he has to. Therefore, opposition MPs who are bobbing can’t get to ask their questions. Extremely infuriating and hopefully not a tactic they are deploying. I had time to write my speech for the Chamber in the evening before the debate started at 16:30. After three and a half hours of bobbing I got five minutes to talk at 20:00. Pity as I had ten minutes written! I focused on the lack of detail in the Queen’s speech regarding poverty and deprivation. We cannot provide equal opportunities and a stimulating environment throughout life, in order to enable people to live truly fulfilling lives, while we continue to have such high levels of poverty, and insecurity. And while we continue to support a society where greed is good and poverty is rife. I grabbed some food and was back in the Chamber at 21:30 for the front bench speeches. I got to my hotel at 22:30 

Tuesday

A warm day in London and my first meeting is with the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs (PACAC) Select Committee. We continue to take evidence around the Propriety of Governance in Light of Greensill. Our witness was the Right Honourable Peter Riddell CBE in his capacity as the previous Commissioner for Public Appointments. Along with Kat Banyard from Feminista, I met with Rachel McLean (Safeguarding Minister) regarding online pornographers.  I am seeking an amendment to the online safety bill to enable people to have pornography removed from the internet if it features them and they either never gave consent or wish to withdraw it. I was scheduled to do an interview with the Hemp Community but technical difficulties at their end made that impossible. There was one vote at 19:00 on a possible windfall tax but we lost to the UK Government. 

Wednesday

Back in the Chamber for questions to the Secretary of State for Scotland. I bobbed on the back of a question on the UK Shared Prosperity Fund. I fear Inverclyde is missing out because of de-population. Once again, I didn’t get in as nobody was bobbing on the other side! PMQs followed Scotland questions. It was a complete waste of time. This is a Prime Minister who neither cares nor knows why we have an austerity crisis. When faced with a question about a kidney dialysis patient that can’t afford to heat his house, the Prime Minister answered about Crossrail investment and boasted about his time as Mayor of London. I had a meeting on Basic Income. It is 80th anniversary of the Beveridge Report, Basic Income Conversation and Compass have published new research modelling a basic income that could reverse the poverty and inequality rises of the last 45 years at no net cost. The debate on the Queen’s speech continued throughout the day ending with X votes at 19:00. This meant I had to stay overnight in London and catch the red eye on Thursday.

Thursday

Up with the sparrows and caught the 6:55 am flight to Glasgow. My first event in Inverclyde was a visit to Quarrier’s village at 10:00 am to see the work done there. It’s a magnificent location but facilitating care in a residential setting has moved on over the years since the village was founded in 1878 with the construction of two cottages and a central building which served as a school and church. I have been advertising for a new case worker in my parliamentary office and I carried out interviews for that position before attending the first meeting of the new Inverclyde council in the Town Hall.

Friday

Today was filled with interviews and a quick visit to Your Voice 30th anniversary at the Beacon Arts Centre.

Westminster diary w/b 25th April

Monday

I was Interviewed for a documentary on medical cannabis. The interview lasted 45 minutes and will probably end up as a 30 second soundbite. That’s how these things usually pan out. Questions to the Home Office is rapidly becoming a vehicle for the most obsequious of the Tory backbenchers. Questions turn into long rambling statements of support for the government position and sycophantic praise of the minister. The outcome is that cross examination of UK government policy and actions is kept to a minimum. I was on a Delegated Legislation committee to debate money laundering and terrorist financing. We removed Zimbabwe from the list of high-risk countries and added the United Arab Emirates. This brings the UK’s list in line with the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) list. Around 18:30 we had a couple of votes on the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill.

Tuesday

Straight into my select committee to read through and approve our report on the Cabinet Office Freedom of Information Clearing House. We also discussed our future agenda. The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Gambling Related Harm took evidence about a Single Customer View which would enable monitoring of gambling behaviour and red flag potential harm but this can only work if the ownership is independent of the gambling industry and it must be written in to legislation that all on line gambling operators must sign up to it. Because we had votes on the ‘judicial review and courts bill lords amendments‘, the APPG for medical cannabis was cancelled but we did have time for the APPG on drug policy reform. It was great to hear from Neil Woods, Niamh Eastwood and Mike Trace. In the chamber a general debate on Ukraine was followed by the Nationality and Borders Bill with votes until 22:57.

Wednesday

PMQs was a sorry affair. I didn’t hang around for long. I had a meeting with the Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury along with Ian Duncan Smith MP and Lord Butler. We are pre-empting the need to convince the treasury to accept the Gambling Act overhaul that we hope DCMS are working on. I hosted an event for GambleAware which was well attended by MPs and it was good to catch-up with Fast Forward who are based in Scotland. And I zoomed in to the Cross Party Group at Holyrood on Medical Cannabis. The Government’s Elections Bill was in, what is referred to as, the ping-pong stage, with amendments made in the House of Lords now coming to the House of Commons for consideration. The Bill’s failings have been highlighted by my select committee the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee (PACAC), whose Conservative Chair concluded – “We feel that the Elections Bill proposals lack a sufficient evidence base, timely consultation, and transparency, all of which should be addressed before it makes any further progress. And with events in Ukraine in mind, Conservative peer Lord Cormack, said “It is grotesque that we have this Bill before us while people are literally dying for democracy.” In the end of a bewildering day of processes, the Lords did not ask any amendments and therefore business collapsed at 9pm. This completely changed Thursday’s business.

Thursday

I had planned and replanned today a number of times in anticipation of last night’s outcome, but I admit I had not considered the possibility that the Lords would do nothing. I quickly cancelled my accommodation for tonight and booked a flight home.

Friday

The biggest event today was a briefing by the Royal Mail. The Regional Operations Director for Scotland, Ross Hutchison opened the briefing by providing an update on Royal Mail’s operations in Scotland. Fiona Hamilton, Head of Public Affairs, then provided an update on the future of Royal Mail services and how the business is changing to meet the needs of customers.

Westminster diary w/b 18th April

Monday

Lucky for me I was on holiday today, so I used the time wisely and washed my windows. Life in the fast lane indeed.

Tuesday

Up at the crack of dawn and off to Westminster. Unusually I had a member of my team travel with me as we have discovered that getting satisfactory outcomes for Ukrainian refugee cases is proving much easier and faster if we can talk directly to the Home Office staff directly. We had six outstanding cases and managed to resolve five of them in one day.  I dropped in to the ‘access to cash’ event and I shall continue to press for cash to the penny for the many people who require on this facility. I visited the Maritime UK event and had an interesting discussion about the lower Clyde coast and all the opportunities that exist. In the Chamber we were debating the Global Migration Challenge. Immigration brings out the worst in the UK Government’s attitude and hiding behind this legislation is a pernicious vile attitude that seeks to persecute those fleeing from war torn countries.  The Prime Minister then made a two-minute half-hearted explanation of his actions when he broke the law and attended a party at 10 Downing Street. He quickly progressed to the crisis in Ukraine and shamelessly tried to tie himself into the narrative regarding the bravery of the Ukrainian resistance. It was a sickening display of politicking totally devoid of any sense of humility.

Wednesday

My select committee took evidence from Lord Bew in his capacity as Chair of the House of Lords Appointment Commission. The session focused mostly on the appointment of Lord Lebedev whom after being placed in the Lords donated half a million pounds to the Conservative and Unionist Party.  I took the opportunity to drop in and support the guide dogs who visit parliament every year and do such magnificent work. It’s always amusing to see hardnosed ruthless politicians gushing over the cutest of dogs and desperate for their attention.  Maybe we are human after all. I was the SNP spokesperson for a debate in Westminster Hall on Tackling Drug Crime in Local Communities. There I still a tendency to think we can arrest our way out of a health crisis but that hasn’t worked for fifty years. The debate was interrupted by votes in the House of Commons, but they were just a prelude to the voting fiasco at the end of the day when during eleven votes the telling machines broke down one by one until we were reduced to using paper and pen which slows down the whole process. For those that follow such things I didn’t vote in the first vote as I was acting as a teller. I counted 311 people voting against the outcome I wanted. Sometimes this job can be cruel.

Thursday

The main event was a debate to hold the Prime Minister to account for lying to and misleading Parliament. A number of Conservatives feel so angry at the behaviour of the Prime Minister that they have called for him to resign and would have voted for the motion of contempt but in the end, they didn’t contest the motion and so there was no division and therefore no vote. This allowed me to make a quick sprint to the airport and make it home by quarter past eight.

Friday

In the morning, I welcomed the First Minister to the Beacon Arts Centre as part of the local council campaign. In the afternoon I had a meeting with Liberty Charge. They own Virgin Media and we discussed electronic charging points powered by their broadband network. And I spoke with the local sea cadets to get a better understanding of the issues they are experiencing regarding a suitable location for their requirements.

Westminster diary w/b 21st March

Monday

There was a debate on the sacking of 800 seafarers by P&O Ferries, who were then replaced by new crew that are being paid, in some cases, as little as £1.80 an hour. It would have been a good debate, and there was plenty of energy put into it, had it not been on such a harrowing topic. The 800 were sacked via zoom and with immediate effect and then were escorted off ships by balaclava wearing security guards and were told that they would only receive a redundancy package if they signed a non-disclosure agreement. This is a vile abuse of workers’ rights and it won’t be the last if the UK government do not act swiftly to sanction P&O and reinstate these workers. Attempts by both SNP and Labour at Westminster have been made to legislate to ensure such practices could not happen, post Brexit. And I was surprised to hear so many Conservative and Unionist MPs express their shock, given that they didn’t support the Fire and Rehire Bill which would have gone some way to ban such practices. I stayed for the adjournment debate which was framed around the coroner’s inquest into the tragic death of Jack Ritchie. Jack committed suicide as a result of the woeful lack of professional support on offer to tackle his gambling addiction. That description is not mine, it came from the coroner. On a lighter note, I can confirm that it was me that ran out of the tea-room when a mouse decided to join me.

Tuesday

My first event was a drop in to highlight the work done by Gambling with Lives. I met up with Paul Merson who shares his lived experience as a gambling addict to highlight the reforms required in the Gambling Act 2005. My select committee took evidence from Neil O’Brien MP and Jacob Rees-Mogg MP. The session was on the Common Framework and the Common Procurements Process but Mr Rees-Mogg couldn’t stop himself from expressing his view that Scotland lacks the ability to govern itself. Usually at such evidence sessions witnesses are professional and contained but I lit the blue touch-paper and he went off like a rocket. I attended a drop in event to discuss the future of home heating in Inverclyde and how hydrogen for heat can help to decarbonise the energy network. In the evening we spent two hours voting. In each one I voted ‘no’ to say I didn’t disagree with the Lords amendments to the Nationality and Borders Bill. The government did agree to disagree and therefore their MPs, mostly, voted ‘yes’. We then debated for an hour and had five more votes which followed the same pattern as before. All in all, that was three and a half hours consumed by the most ridiculous voting system you could imagine. Bearing in mind that to vote we need to walk through a lobby and swipe our cards electronically! There are MPs on crutches and MPs undergoing treatment for serious illnesses that during lockdown could have voted on their phones, but that opportunity has now been removed.

Wednesday

Prime Minister’s Questions saw the Conservative benches back to their old ways. Bullying, boorish and braying in a manner that exemplifies this UK government. This was followed by the Spring Statement from the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He announced a reduction of VAT on solar panels, heat pumps and insulation. And he promised a reduction in car fuel costs but he had nothing to offer for those in our society that can’t afford to eat. And there was nothing in the statement to reduce energy bills. The gap between the richest and poorest in society continues to increase. I had a one-on-one meeting with the Minister for Employment to discuss the closure of back office premises around the UK and sought assurances that Inverclyde was not closing.

Thursday

I was in the Chamber for questions to the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sports (DCMS). Unusually, I was on the Order Paper twice. Once for an oral question and once for topical, which was just as well as we didn’t get as far as me on the oral questions. I asked during topicals about a statutory levy on the gambling industry to fund education, support and research. In 2019 the UK government said that the existing voluntary levy needed to be proven to work or they would enforce a statutory one. I believe that time has come. I travelled home in time to attend The Greenock Highlanders hosted by Inverclyde Gaelic Learners at the Beacon.

Friday

I had an interview about the damage Brexit is doing and a meeting with the counter terrorism officer. The rest of the day was taken up with casework.

Westminster diary w/b 14th March

Monday

I worked from my constituency office mostly on casework, but I took time to attend the Inverclyde Alliance Board meeting. Regular updates always make my offices involvement easier, and it is great to see such a body of people working away, mostly in the background, for Inverclyde. I caught a teatime flight and was in the House until just after midnight.  

Tuesday

My select committee took evidence from two previous Independent Advisors on Ministerial Standards. The evidence was based around the Prime Minister, his use of the ministerial code and his ability to appoint the Independent Advisors. I was shocked that there was so little formal engagement between the Prime Minister and his advisors.

Wednesday

Questions to the Secretary of State for Scotland was a very mute affair, maybe because of the 11 preordained questions, MPs representing Scottish seats were only allocated one question. MPs from Redcar, East Devon and Watford were given questions but only one out of fifty-nine MPs that represent Scotland was selected. The process is a lottery, so I am not suggesting this was done deliberately but on the one occasion that is specifically designed to hold the Scottish Office to account, I am at a loss as to why so many MPs that don’t represent Scottish seats feel the need to apply.  Prime Minister’s Questions were taken by the deputy prime minister, Dominic Raab MP, as the Prime Minister was in Saudi Arabia rubbing shoulders with his new money men. The deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner was not as effective as she usually is. I look forward to her contribution as she relishes her outings at the despatch box but this week, she was wide of the mark. Ian Blackford concentrated on 48 Ukrainian orphans that the Home Office red tape is stopping from coming to Edinburgh. His message resonated more. I sat on a Delegated Legislation Committee to discuss electricity supplier payments, it was non-contentious. Without a doubt the highlight of the week was the news that Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe had been freed after six years in an Iranian jail and was on her way home. I have met with her husband Richard a few times over the years and his strength and love have been crucial in getting this result.

Thursday

The All- Party Parliamentary Group on Gambling Related Harm at an extremely useful meeting with representatives of many sporting bodies. Most represent sports that gambling firms offer gambling products on but don’t pay anything back to the sport. For example, Golf. The gambling industry will rake in a lot of money from people gambling on events like the British Open but there are no fees charged by the golfing bodies and therefore none of that money makes its way back into the sport. We are looking at a Fair Return scheme that means sporting organisations receive a fee without having to advertise the gambling firms. I made it up the road in time to attend ‘Lena’ at the Beacon Arts Centre. I first heard a read through in November 2018 and it was fascinating to see how the production has evolved since then. It was a very entertaining evening, congratulations to the Beacon and Feather Productions.

Friday

I met up with the Royal Society for the Arts. I am a fellow of the RSA but don’t have enough time to contribute as much as I would like. I met up with CVS Inverclyde, primarily to engage with the support available for Ukrainian refugees locally.  I then had a meeting with a company to discuss electronic vehicle charging points infrastructure.

Westminster diary w/b 7th March

Monday

Today I bobbed on questions to the Minister for Housing, Communities and Levelling Up as despite his promise to update Inverclyde Council on the criteria and timescale to apply for funding, he hasn’t. I was fortunate enough to be taken and I reiterated my question.  Hopefully, this time he will respond to the local authority.

Tuesday

I chaired a round table discussion for people with lived experience of gambling related harm. This was a prior to the main event organised to highlight the changes required in the gambling act. Listening to the stories of people who have lost loved ones through suicide and people whose lives have been torn apart is the fundamental driver to recognising the changes required to safeguard consumers and hold the gambling industry to task. In the afternoon guest speakers included, England’s most capped goalkeeper, Peter Shilton, his wife Steph, ex professional footballer Paul Merson of Arsenal and England, and Paul Pettigrew from Inverclyde and founder of Gamtalk. It was interesting to hear Fintan Drury, former chairman of Paddy Power say that “young Paul” was the way forward if we are to engage with young people. In the chamber we had an historical address from President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine. Through an interpreter he detailed the 14 days of war since Russia invaded.

Wednesday

Today on the back of a conversation with my parliamentary team I decided to bob for a question to the Prime Minister. I emailed the speaker first to let him know what I was asking and I was pleased that he managed to fit me in. The Prime Minister had been economical with the truth regarding the UK’s contribution to the accommodation of refugees, this provided a good platform for my question as I outlined the details of a constituency case where my constituent’s parents are stuck in Hungary having fled Ukraine and were unable to navigate the cumbersome visa application system that the UK government has in place. It’s a good example of casework being handled by my office and then me escalating it to push for a result.

Thursday

The good news today is that after a great deal of pressure from a number of MPs the UK government has decided to restaff their visa application centres and streamline the process. Biometrics can now be done in the UK. This is not a u-turn and therefore there are a number of questions that need to be answered but on the surface, this looks like a step in the right direction.

Friday

I had my bi-weekly catch up with Stuart McMillan MSP and Councillor Elizabeth Robertson, followed by a discussion with River Clyde Homes which was very informative and contributed to my final meeting of the week with CVS Inverclyde to discuss the support being offered to refugees.

Westminster diary w/b 28th February

Monday

Upon arriving at Westminster, I am told that I can’t access my office at 53 Parliament Street as a gas leak has closed the building. We are decanted to work out of the Commons library and the committee room number ten. It is not great because we have no printers and no privacy. I have a zoom meeting with a cross party group to discuss the Welsh ‘basic income pilot’. I am not happy with the term but as a proposal it should help fund a group of carers and provide them with the opportunities akin to a form of basic income. I am in the House for questions to the Home Office and bob for a question. Unlike my two previous attempts I am taken. I press the Secretary of State to implement a legal framework to prevent and address the harms associated with the production and consumption of pornography. The minister agrees to a meeting. I am afraid the bon accord didn’t last long as some of the questions from the government benches around crime and drugs were well off the mark and got the reception they deserved. The continuing theme of the Conservative and Unionists treating parliament as their personal playground continued as the secretary of state then made what could only be described as a statement on the situation in Ukraine. Normal convention would require pre sight for opposition spokespersons and the opportunity to be questioned by members. Neither of those happened. This caused a great deal of anger. After questions, there was a statement from the Foreign Secretary and a debate on the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill. The day finished with four votes at midnight.

Tuesday

My first event of the day was health and social care questions. I bobbed on a question on pharmaceuticals being prescribed to children. But and this is how Westminster works, because the question on the paper came from an MP on the opposition benches, I can be taken until someone from the government benches has asked a question. Nobody from the government benches bobbed for a question, so I didn’t get taken. The Speaker saw my obvious frustration and took me at topicals. I pressed the Secretary of State for Health to fix the anomaly that discriminates against people who can’t afford to pay for private prescriptions for medical cannabis. My select committee took evidence from Michael Gove MP and I questioned him on various topics, including vote Id, parliamentary scrutiny and devolved powers. I also took the opportunity to have a quick chat about levelling up funding for Inverclyde.

Wednesday

I met with the Transform Drugs Policy Foundation to discuss their upcoming white paper and also their input to the Home Affairs select committee enquiry into drugs policy. Independent experts are always valuable contributors to select committee reports. Prime Minister’s Questions was fairly muted as much of the debate revolved around the current situation in Ukraine. I attended a drop in with Openreach to talk about their continuing rollout of broadband in Inverclyde and discuss the Product Security and Telecommunications Infrastructure Bill. And before I headed home, I dropped in to meet campaigners and lend my support to my colleague Patricia Gibson’s bill to extend bereavement leave.

Thursday

I visited the mobile post office that is servicing Wemyss Bay and Inverkip. The Postmaster has taken on the service to support communities where there are no post offices. Ideally, we would all like fixed permanent Post Offices and so going forward, I shall be monitoring the success of this venture. It has only recently been introduced and was being well used in both locations that I visited. I have received correspondence from a number of constituents regarding the situation in Ukraine and it continues to cause great concern. My office is liaising with the relevant authorities to ensure we have a realistic understanding of a rapidly evolving issue. And when required we are helping families with loved ones caught up in this crisis.

Friday

The morning was taken up by the administrative tasks required to allocate next year’s budgets to run my constituency office and employ my staff. In the afternoon I met with BayWa to discuss on shore wind and wind farms in Inverclyde.

Westminster diary w/b 21st February

Monday

It would be fair to say the flight or at least the landing on Monday was interesting. Storm Eunice was desperately trying to blow us onto runway 2 at Stanstead which was unfortunate as we were trying to land at the City Airport. Wind swept and interesting I made it into my Westminster office in time to meet up virtually with all my team and plan the coming week. I was in the chamber for question to the department for defence, once again no SNP members were on the order paper. I am beginning to think they don’t like us. We had the latest of a series of statements in the house on the unfolding situation in Ukraine. There is a sense of anger and frustration that we have stood back and watched the situation in Ukraine deteriorate over the years and now find ourselves on the brink of military involvement. In the evening President Putin made a very long rambling statement in an attempt to justify the situation.

Tuesday

I had a pre-meeting meeting (they are always the best) with the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Small Business, Consumers and Labour, Paul Sully MP. We discussed the Post Office network, access to cash and the Horizon scandal. That was followed by the official meeting with others to discuss the Post Office action plan. Mr Scully seems to get it but as always, the Treasury will have the final say. I visited a drop in to get briefed on the Product Security and Telecommunications Infrastructure Bill organised by Speed Up Britain. The All- Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Sexual Exploitation had our final evidence session on pornography. These sessions have been brutal to sit through and the last one was no exception.  I had to leave before the last witness as I had to vote but I made sure my office was represented as it was a survivor of trafficking giving her testimony and they deserve to be heard.

Wednesday

Early start as the reading material gathered during the week is already taking over my desk. I was in the chamber at the start of business as I wanted to ask a question to the department for Women and Equalities. I bobbed on questions 1, 3 and 11 but was not taken. I was going to ask about the online safety bill and the government’s desire and ability to create a legal framework to prevent and address the harms associated with the production and consumption of pornography as this has been proven to be a major factor in fuelling violence against women and girls. Prime Minister’s Questions were boorish and suffer because of that. Caroline Lucas MP was barracked by the Conservative and Unionist benches and struggled to be heard as she pressed the Prime Minister on any Russian interference in UK elections. I then had a very constructive meeting with Maree Todd MSP to discuss gambling related harm support and education in Scotland. 

Thursday 

My select committee met to take evidence from the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Sajid Javid. We are reporting on the ‘Coronavirus Virus Act two years on’. The act was made in haste to allow guidelines to be followed but the required laws by enlarge already existed in the Public Health Act 1984 and the Civil Contingencies Act 2004. We are focusing on the emergency legislation framework, ahead of the Act’s inbuilt sunset clause coming into effect on 25 March 2022. This will enable the Committee to ultimately make recommendations about whether the Act should be extended, the processes by which Parliament should be able to scrutinise any such extension, and reflection on the passage of legislation at pace to respond to emerging crises. The crisis in Ukraine weighs heavy on us all and the potential outcomes are truly frightening. As the Prime Minister takes to his feet to make his latest statement on the unfolding situation, Russian troops are closing in on Kyiv and the UK, NATO and a host of stakeholders are seemingly bereft of ideas as to how best influence the outcome. 

Friday 

I have an early morning brief on Ukraine and then a meeting with Michaela Jones from the Scottish Recovery Consortium to discuss drugs policy. The afternoon is consumed by casework.  

Westminster diary w/b 7th February

Monday

The difficulty of balancing life in Inverclyde and Westminster was highlighted today as I tried to attend events in Inverclyde which were cancelled, rearranged and the cancelled again. Each time travel arrangements were changed and changed again. Eventually, I managed to attend a briefing from Ofgem on the energy price cap and the fuel crisis that is facing the UK. I was disappointed in what they had to say but had to remind myself that although they are not ministerial, they are a UK government department. The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Gambling Related Harm met for a catch up and to discuss strategy as we push the UK government to radically overhaul the Gambling Act (2005). 

Tuesday

Select committee had a good session taking evidence on international treaties. Not the most obviously entertaining subject but expert witnesses that know their topic inside out can often spread their enthusiasm in the room and despite the fact they were on zoom, they still managed to do that. In the afternoon the APPG for Commercial Sexual Exploitation continued our enquiry in pornography. It is a brutal arena, and the education of young men is paramount if the damage it causes is to be addressed. It harms those who are being exploited and the audience that it desensitises, often producing aggressive and entitled young men. 

Wednesday 

I had an early start as I was chairing the Westminster Policy Forum discussion on Tackling Drug Dependence and Improving Delivery of Services. We had an excellent panel from a wide knowledge base, and they all contributed to an informative discussion. The principal speaker was Dame Carol Black, and she covered her Independent Review of Drugs that was published last year. I managed to catch the second half of Prime Minister’s Questions, after which the Prime Minister appeared in the tea-room and worked the tables with his many admirers in the Conservative and Unionist party fawning over his every word. The afternoon consisted of the APPG on Medical Cannabis where Dr Nathan Hasson explained the difficulties that the medical profession faces in prescribing medical cannabis. Most of the issues he has faced came from the British Paediatric Neurology Association. It is remarkable that a body that exists to represent doctors who specialise in the care of children with neurological disorders is so blind to the evidence that doctors are putting in front of them. Long term we need research and knowledge to base policy on but short term we need to find the money to fund the private prescriptions that are keeping kids alive. My last meeting was the CPPLG on Universal Basic Income. Andy White was a member of the body that put together the report for a basic income pilot in four Scottish councils and he walked us through the process. We also heard from similar projects in Northern Ireland and Wales.      

Thursday

I was on the Order Paper for questions to the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and asked about implementing the solutions to problems identified in the Gambling Act review, now rather than wait for the gambling act review to finish. I was primarily referring to advertising in football. I met with representatives of the Cancard system. Cancard is a validated indication to the police, or any third party, that you are consuming cannabis for medical reasons.          

Friday

I visited Peel Ports for a catch up on all things Inverclyde including the on-going saga of Inchgreen. I was scheduled to host a remote question and answer session with pupils from St Columba’s High school but due to Covid restrictions their tour to London and Westminster was cancelled.

On Sunday, I shall be joining the gambling charity ‘The Big Step’ to walk from Hamilton football club to Hampden via Celtic, Patrick Thistle and Rangers, to raise awareness of gambling advertising in football. 

Westminster diary w/b 31st January

Monday

I had two meetings in the morning which I attended virtually from my home. First up was the Inverclyde Alliance with the guest speaker Dr Martin Valenti. He was inspirational in his vision for an ambitious Inverclyde, hopefully it’s a vision we can all get behind. I then had a meeting with local stakeholders to discuss Naloxone and its role in tackling drug harm in Inverclyde. In the afternoon I attended the funeral of Jim Sorley, a gentle man with a ridiculous talent for languages. I caught an evening flight to London.

Tuesday

Normally starts with a committee meeting but it was cancelled so I took the opportunity to host constituents in Parliament. It’s been a long time since this was allowed and it’s a good sign that we are emerging from the pandemic. But it remains important to keep our eyes on the road ahead. I bobbed for a question during questions to the Treasury and eventually got taken during topicals. I pressed the Chancellor to explain why the UK government is investing taxpayer’s money in an online gambling firm. Presumably they are hoping that their investment will result in a successful profitable gambling business. I can’t understand why they would do this while they are also undergoing a review of the gambling act. Does that not mean the UK government has a direct investment in creating a profitable gambling firm?

Wednesday

Scottish questions were dominated by Members of Parliament that represent seats in England asking pre-scripted questions that allowed the Secretary of State for Scotland to patronise us all and explain why up north is so beloved. There were only four MPs that represent seats in Scotland on the Order Paper and only three got to ask a question. This is not what questions are supposed to be about, we are supposed to hold departments to account. Prime Ministers questions was a rabble but following that we paid tribute to the late Jack Dromey MP. Jack passed away in January and it was heartening to hear Members from across the chamber pay tribute to him and the work he did. If only we could show such respect while holding each other to account in the day to day working of Westminster. There was a statement on ‘levelling up’ accompanied by a 297page publication. It does read like old money rehashed and Westminster imposing projects on devolved countries and regions of England, rather than collaborating with them as they claim to be doing. I managed to mix attending an evidence session on “the role of education in prescribing medical cannabis” organised by the Scottish Parliament and featuring expert testimony from medical professionals and patients, with voting on the Financial Bill (remaking stages). 

Thursday

Because I am on the chamber rota today, I need to be prepared to cover any urgent questions or statements that appear on the order paper. A quick visit to the whips office early in the day suggest there could be a few but until they are confirmed I continue with my set agenda and attend my select committee where we are interviewing for the position of the ‘First Civil Service Commissioner’. The report will be published next Monday. I took part in a bobbing session to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how his package to help people financially at this time would help alleviate fuel poverty. His solution is a loan of £200 which will be repayable over five years. Goodness knows what the administration costs will be to handle this and after all is said and done the consumer is still paying every penny, therefore not much of a solution.

Next week, I shall be chairing the Westminster Social Policy Forum keynote seminar, Tackling drug dependence and improving delivery of services – assessing the Independent Review of Drugs and the UK Government’s Strategy with Dame Carol Black. Today we ahead a trial run to test the technology. I am sure it will be alright on the night.

Friday

I visited Parklea Branching Out to catch up on all the exciting new developments including their plans for a new flexible community-based hub. And in the afternoon, I visited Inverclyde Shed to see their new orchard at Muirshiel Lane.