Presentation of Addresses to King Charles III [12/09/2022]

The demise of the Queen has been planned for and the processes that followed her death were developed and agreed years ago. Operation London Bridge and Unicorn have been rehearsed and improved over time. That’s not cruel, it reflects two facts. First the Queen was well into her nineties, so no one was being premature and second as the head of the monarchy a transition is required that is quick and legally binding. We have known for years that Prince Charles would ascend to the throne. The speed of transition is to dampen down any discussion around a republic and also provide continuity which at least historically was seen to be desirable.  The events that have taken place since the Queen died and will continue for two days after her funeral will seem to many as unnecessary or over the top.  To others the pomp and circumstance around these ceremonies is valued and respected. I find myself as the elected member of parliament caught in the middle. I never like pomp and circumstance, I don’t like to stand on ceremony. It’s not something I am personally comfortable with. But I do understand that at times of great change there is a need for that change to be in the public eye and therefore it is open, transparent and can be critiqued.

On Monday, I was present at the Presentation of Addresses. This is basically two speeches from the House of Lords and House of Commons to the new monarch. The King then replied with his speech. This is the first time it has been such a public affair, it’s normally a more low-key event but this time it became a public ceremony in its own right.  It would be wrong to say London came to a standstill to accommodate it but the city of Westminster did. During my short walk in to work there were noticeably more police vans parked up in side streets.  A couple of police cars sped through red traffic lights with their blue lights flashing. The pop-up media city has grown overnight and my normal entrance to the estate is not available and so I enter the parliamentary estate via Black Rod’s gate at the House of Lords. There is a stillness and a calm within the estate but that’s not unusual for 8am. What is unusual is the queue of MPs that is already forming to get into Westminster Hall. Some MPs relish such events. Westminster hall is the oldest part of the palace estate and dates back over 900 years. It has seen many a state occasion and monarchs and prime minister have lay in state within its walls. It’s also where William Wallace was tried before the King in 1305 before being hung, drawn and quartered. It seems trivial amidst such history to note that the acoustics are not great and the sound of the band of the Household Cavalry emanating from their position below the south window balcony is slightly muffled. But nobody seems to care. The Yeomen of the Guard enter in their instantly recognisable red uniforms along with the Honourable Corps of Gentlemen with preposterous white feathered helmets. Together they are officially the King’s Bodyguard. They look a trifle old for that in my opinion and the men in blue suits with ear-pieces and bulging jackets standing inconspicuously at the fringes seem leaner and keener to me. Security is high. With MPs, Lords and the new Monarch all under one roof, I am not surprised.  The media are accommodated with some very cleverly disguised partitions that look like the walls of the hall but they weren’t there the day before and they won’t be there the day after. The speeches are made, trumpets are blown, and everyone troops back out. Was it all necessary? Not really. It happens so people can dress up in costumes that make them and the event seem important and then people that attend hope the importance rubs off on them. The new King barely glanced at anyone in the crowd, but grown men and women cried at the thought of just being in his presence. I was happy to represent Inverclyde, but I didn’t shed a tear.

Picture – ©UK Parliament_Photography by Roger Harris

Westminster diary 5th September

Monday

Recess is over and normal life, if such a thing exists, at Westminster resumes. First day back is always a bit of much ado about nothing so I delay my departure until Tuesday as there are always productive things to be done in Inverclyde. Our council has rightly been praised for the way it has handled the arrival of refugees from around the world in recent months but every so often there are issues that need addressed and my office plays it’s part, particularly when it comes to visas and passports. It was a busy day. 

Tuesday

Caught the red eye to London, happy birthday to me! My first diary entry was the All-party Parliamentary Group for the Arctic & Nordic Councils. The guest speaker was H.E. Wegger Chr. Strømmen Norwegian Ambassador to the United Kingdom. He is always a good speaker and this time he covered in detail Norway’s proposed Chairmanship of the Arctic Council in 2023 and challenges faced in the High North due to geopolitical tensions. He made a very serious issue, given that Russia is currently waging war in Ukraine, interesting and even humorous. The Norwegian politicians I have met are always very capable and confident. I had a briefing from a number of stakeholders regarding access to cash prior to the Finance Bill debate scheduled for Wednesday.

Wednesday 

With a new Prime Minister due to make her debut at Prime Minister’s Questions it was understandably extremely busy. It is always interesting to see which Conservative and Unionists don’t turn up and most of the last administration was noticeable by their absence. Liz Truss sneered as she does but the bookies are already predicting she won’t last until the planned general election in 2024. Boris is hanging around and making veiled references to comebacks. The ghastly and obscenely expensive décor of the Prime Minister’s residence will be a daily reminder of his presence should she need one. I spoke in the Financial Services Bill in the House of Commons and focused on the continued need for free access to cash. There are nods in that direction in the bill but nothing conclusive. 

Thursday

I should have been up the road last night, but the Government have brought forward a debate on UK energy costs. It was an inauspicious start to Liz Truss’s tenure as the statement she read should have been published in advance and circulated to members. Her predecessor was not good at this and at her first attempt she also failed. This means we are debating something we haven’t read. She announced her intention to cap bills but not to impose a windfall tax on the energy companies. The debate was overshadowed by the announcement that the Queen was unwell. It’s the first time I have witnessed a mass exodus from the media benches so we knew something was up. While I was waiting to travel home the news came through that the Queen had passed away. Nobody wants to predict the end of life of the Queen but Operation London Bridge has been developed over the years with the Queen’s input and covers all the necessary arrangements and protocols. The demise of the monarch is a finely choreographed occasion that lasts 10 days. I hope the mass media can find it within themselves to allow those closest to the Queen to mourn her passing in private. My thoughts are with her family. 

Friday

In line with parliamentary protocol, I was duty bound to cancel all my engagements today. 

Westminster diary wb 11th July

Monday
After a beautiful weekend in Inverclyde when warm weather means walking, eating outside and going on the Waverley, the Monday work reality is a very hot sticky London. Lots of happy tourists and lots of grumpy people like me in suits. I brighten my day by taking passport cases to the Home Office pop-up location where they are fast tracking passport and visa cases. We have had a very good success rate by taking on the issues from a number of angles.


Tuesday
My select committee took evidence from the ex-Prime Minister, Sir John Major. It was centred around the ethics and propriety of the current Prime Minister and his cabinet. Sir John was scathing in his criticism of the abuse of the ministerial code, the undermining of the electoral commission, the weakening of the voting franchise and the behaviour of the Prime Minister and his apologists. He also bemoaned the dearth of talent in the current Conservative and Unionist party, nostalgically citing the abilities of Michael Heseltine, Douglas Hurd and Ken Clarke. I was in the chamber for the debate and votes on the Online Safety Bill. The bill has just finished its committee stage and the amendments and new clauses were based on the outcome of fifty hours of deliberation at committee. I put my name along with Dame Diana Johnson MP (Labour) on new clause 7 which was designed to give anyone the right to have pornographic images of themselves removed from the internet if they had either never given consent or had withdrawn consent. Unbelievably, the Conservative and Unionists opposed it. They have opposed every attempt to improve the bill, but this was the lowest point for me.


Wednesday
Prime Minister’s Questions may have been his last as the government have brought forward a vote of no confidence in themselves. This is their ploy to get the Prime Minister out before September. He seemed relaxed and enjoyed the knock about, unlike the speaker who was extremely vexed by the Alba MPs who both got chucked out for refusing to sit down. They will be suspended for five sitting days and will be unable to vote against the government on Monday. I had a meeting with representatives of the British Ports Association. We covered all aspects of Inverclyde’s waterfront. Hot on the heels of successful passport cases I attended the Home Office passport pop-up location again with a couple of new cases. When we get to recess, we will miss this facility.


Thursday
Today, I am hearing that the Online Safety Bill may be pulled from the government timetable. I am hoping this is because they have realised it is nowhere near as good as it should be. But I have my doubts. I did an interview on gambling, highlighting the soon to be announced ‘any day now’ white paper on gambling reform and talking about advertising in sport and the Football Index, which was no more than a ponzi scheme licensed by the Gambling Commission.


Friday
I caught up with the council’s health and social care department regarding the arrangements that are in place for the asylum seekers at the Holiday Inn. The firm responsible for the dispersement centre praised Inverclyde Council’s support and were very impressed with the interaction from the communities and voluntary section. And in the afternoon, I visited the Trust at 7 ½ John Wood Street to learn about the Pantry scheme.

Westminster diary wb 4th July

Monday

I was on the panel of the Ayesha Hazarika show on Times Radio on Sunday evening. It was a decent chat with myself, a Labour, a Conservative and a newspaper editor. Not surprisingly we discussed the pending Scottish independence referendum. What was surprising was the amount of social media abuse I received because I said it was the democratic right of the people of Scotland to decide their own constitutional future. In contrast the main event for me at Westminster today was the debate on assisted dying. Although strong views were expressed by those for and against, both sides were respectful of the others input. What was clear was that if we are to move towards assisted dying then the legislation must provide the necessary safeguards to prevent coercion. It’s a tough ask but one part of an MPs job is to legislate, and we shouldn’t shy away from that. I believe to deny the choice for a dignified end of life is an abdication of that responsibility. We had six votes late in the evening.

Tuesday

My select committee took evidence from eminent experts in international law regarding the interpretation and implementation of international treaties. It is complex and nuanced but in the hands of such experts as Professor Richard Gardiner (academic and former legal adviser to the Foreign Office) and Penelope Nevill (Twenty Essex chambers and representing the Bar Council) it is incredibly interesting. International treaties are reserved to Westminster and the UK government can stop the Scottish Parliament from passing legislation that they feel is incompatible with international obligations of the UK. The Home Office has a dedicated facility set up in Portcullis House to help process passport and visa applications. I took four cases to them in person and hopefully managed to progress them all. I dropped into a medical cannabis event to talk to growers based in Scotland and pharmaceutical companies developing medicines. I met with Quentin Wilson to discuss electronic vehicles and also managed a quick chat about synthetic fuels. He is not a fan.

Wednesday

I started with a meeting with an organisation (UNITE) that funds and delivers vaccination programmes around the world. They are doing amazing work to reduce the spread of many infectious diseases and are supported around the world by politicians of many different parties. Prime Ministers Questions was the ultimate display of denial by a Prime Minister whose own cabinet were abandoning him left, right and centre. As quickly as he could appoint replacements, they were resigning too. The Conservative and Unionist government is a complete and utter shambles. I dropped in to support my colleague, Stuart C McDonald’s private member’s bill for Neonatal Care paid leave and I did a walking interview with Dr Alex Prior of London South Bank University to discuss the parliamentary estate and the effect it has on the mindset of those that work there.

Thursday

I met with people from Glasgow Council for Voluntary Sector to discuss their approach to providing support for people with gambling related harm. As always funding such posts is difficult. And I discussed the growing CBD marketplace with retailers in the Oak Mall. There is a massive amount of confusion around such products. And we need to clearly define the difference between novel food products and medical cannabis. The revolving door at Downing Street continued today and the reputation, or what’s left of it, of the UK government took another hammering as chaos ruled the waves. The Prime Minister stays in post despite what he has said, and a summer of discontent ensues. Meanwhile, the ruling party will be consumed with inner turmoil and self- serving manoeuvres. It really is Conservative and Unionism first and the UK facing austerity and turmoil pushed to the side to take care of itself. They want all the power and none of the responsibility.

Friday

I visited the Holiday Inn Express to meet with hotel management, the company behind the support of the asylum seekers and the asylum seekers themselves to better understand the issues we face while providing a safe haven for many young men fleeing oppression and wars but being faced with suspicion here in Inverclyde.

Westminster diary wb 13th June

Monday

In the morning I chaired the Westminster Media Forum policy conference. The topic for discussion was the ‘Next steps for gambling regulation in the UK’. It was a strong panel and fair to say there were different opinions. This event was virtual and although it was nice to get a lie in on a Monday, what is missing from such events is the ability to network after them. Hopefully, we will be having these events in person very soon. The airport was mayhem. Cancelled flights to London led to long queues of disgruntled passengers, many of whom were catching connecting flights. I was therefore surprised to see empty seats on my flight to London.

Tuesday

My select committee took evidence from the Independent Adviser on Ministerial Interests, the Right Honourable Lord Geidt. The adviser is personally appointed by the Prime Minister to advise him on matters pertaining to standards in public life and the appointment is entirely at the Prime Minister’s discretion. There are other people and committees that fulfil very similar functions, including the First Civil Service Commissioner, the Commissioner for Public Appointments, the Chair of ACOBA and the Registrar of Consultant Lobbyists. With so many to choose from I tend to think the Prime Minister chooses the path of least resistance and follows that advice. Lord Geidt entered committee room 15 looking very tense. He was closely followed by senior members of the press which would not have helped. It did give the impression of a man going to the gallows. As it turned out he said nothing of note and further strengthened my views that the powers that be at Westminster avoid scrutiny by building an impenetrable force of place men around them all loyal to the cause of protecting the establishment. To brighten my day, I bobbed at Health questions. I didn’t get in on orals, but I persevered at topicals and got taken as the last question. I pushed the Secretary of State on his appalling record of failing to provide medical cannabis for children with intractable epilepsy. It over 1,800 days since the UK government said they would. I attended a joint meeting of SNP MPs and MSPs to hear the First Minister of Scotland outline the path to independence backed up by substantial discussion papers. Scotland is our country to design and build as we feel fit.

Wednesday

I was in the Chamber for COP26 questions and made the mistake of staying for Prime Minister’s questions. It really is the very worst aspect of life at Westminster and today it was as bad as I have ever seen it. Keir Starmer was appalling, Ian Blackford couldn’t be heard over the abuse and Ed Davey was the victim of a coordinated barracking from the Conservative and Unionist benches. This sort of behaviour would not be deemed appropriate in any other walk of life. The Speaker should be throwing people out and asserting his discipline. He has tried appealing to their better nature but they don’t seem to have one. I spoke in a Westminster Hall debate on the ‘Potential merits of a Universal Basic Income’. It’s a sensible topic for debate that never gets the hearing it deserves from the Conservative and unionist government because they are ideologically opposed to the eradication of poverty. The debate was interrupted for a vote in the main chamber on rail strikes. We then restarted and concluded the debate. There then followed a rush through sweltering London to get to the airport to get home.

Thursday

I had a catch-up meeting at Ferguson Marine. It has attracted a lot of misinform criticism and I feel for the current management and workforce as they have become a political tool, where in truth they are highly motivated, professional and doing a very difficult job. I was impressed at the progress since my last visit and intend to catch up soon. I dropped in on the West Coast College – social science information session, at the waterfront campus. And then visited the two exhibitions currently running at the Beacon and the East India Harbour. Both very interesting in their own ways and very much worth a visit.

Friday

Two interviews this morning. First with the Greenock Telegraph to discuss addiction and changing the law on drugs and gambling. And then with Clyde Insider to talk primarily about gambling related harm. In the afternoon, I visited the jobcentre, had a constituent meeting regarding immigration and finished the day with Scottish Women’s Aid discussing the Scottish Welfare Fund.,

Westminster diary wb 6th June

Monday

Although my morning at Westminster was free, I kept to my usual routine and got down the road nice and early. Celebrity spotting at the airport this week consisted of Lewis Capaldi. He is a regular traveller and comes over as a very grounded guy, nothing pretentious about him. On the other hand, at Westminster the Conservative and Unionist Party are falling over themselves to seem important as a pending vote of no confidence in the Prime Minister looms. But before that I meet up with Peter Krykant and his Overdose Prevention Van. We had a very good briefing from Drugs Science, and I shall continue to lobby the UK government to allow Drug Consumption rooms to be opened.

In the evening the 148 Conservative and Unionists MPs declared that they had no confidence in their own leader. 211 said they did, and so he survives. But that result was worse than similar votes against, Margaret Thatcher, John Major and Theresa May and eventually they all resigned. It is worth repeating that 148 MPs that work with the Prime Minister and have access to him, that have watched him operate in public and private do not have confidence in him.

Tuesday

I was in Westminster Hall for a debate on the need for a smart statutory levy in the forthcoming white paper on the gambling act reform.  I have to confess that I am getting nervous about this and sincerely hope that the UK Government do not fudge this paper and try to water down the very clear requirements.  I retreated to my office at 53 Parliament Street to write a speech for a debate on the Football Index collapse and while I was doing that an unidentified package was blown up outside my office close to the Cenotaph. I expect it was somebody’s lost souvenir, but it is a timely reminder to me that the men and women of the security services remain vigilant at all times while I am allowed to get on with my job free from threats or intimidation and all MPs owe them a great deal of thanks. I met with a leading UK-based manufacturer of natural and pure CBD active pharmaceutical ingredients for early clinical trial research and drug development. As we progress the debate regarding the benefits of the hemp plant it is important to identify the market-place and the best people to supply it. The debate on the Football Index collapse followed shortly after and it was interesting to note that the usual cohort of MPs that speak out against gambling reform were noticeable by their absence. I am sure they too have constituents who were robbed by this Ponzi scheme. Walking back to my office I bumped into a brass band and the Princess Royal. Nothing surprises me about Westminster.

Wednesday

At the request of parents that have lost family members to suicide through gambling harm I attended a debate on ‘Government action on suicide prevention‘ and took the opportunity to include their loved ones in the discussion. An estimated 4% to 11% of all suicides are related to gambling addictions. I pressed the minister to liaise with DCMS to ensure that suitable regulations are coming forward. PMQs resembled a chimpanzee’s tea party as the 148 Conservative and Unionists MPs that don’t have any confidence in their Prime Minister pretended they did by being very loud and annoying. I attended a drop in to support the call for the UK government to ratify the Istanbul Convention on violence against women. The UK Government have indicated that after ten years they are moving to do so but with reservations on certain clauses, which is deeply concerning. I was in the Chamber to support my colleague Patricia Gibson MP as she read the riot act to the UK Government over the flaws in the Levelling Up Bill. Most of the Conservative and Unionists had grown tired of the sound of their own voices by this point and had left.

Thursday

My select committee took evidence from Lord Pickles on the propriety of governance in light of Greensill. This was our third session, and a report will be produced.

Friday

Today was a day for constituency meetings. I met with Inverclyde Council officers regarding the Shared Prosperity Fund, then representatives of Titan Spirits. I then had a tour of the Glebe building with local stakeholders. I finished the day at a meeting of local councillors and elected members.

Westminster diary wb 23rd May

Monday

A change to the usual routine as I was in Edinburgh at the Scottish Parliament.  My select committee had four meetings scheduled with, John-Paul Marks (Permanent Secretary to the Scottish Government), Angus Robertson MSP (Cabinet Secretary for the Constitution, External Affairs and Culture) and two committees, the Constitution, Europe, External Affairs and Culture committee and the Finance and Public Administration committee. These exchanges were informative and form part of an ongoing investigation into inter governmental relationships. By late evening I was in Westminster and the striking difference between both parliaments was uppermost in my mind. While Holyrood offers a vibrant, bright, clean, sharp, professional working environment, Westminster is dark, dirty, stagnant and through its architecture and demeanour promotes an environment of entitlement, class and privilege.

Tuesday

I bobbed on justice questions and was taken early. I think the speaker felt guilty about not taking me last week. Maybe not. I asked about the removal of pornographic material from the internet where consent had not been given or had been withdrawn. Technically this is a Home Office issue but to resolve it will require them, Justice and DCMS. I am covering my bases, so nobody has an excuse to say I didn’t ask them. The rest of my day was taken up by writing articles that hopefully will appear in the Tele over the coming weeks.

Wednesday

I attended the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Gambling. This group is closer to the bookmakers than the gambling related harm APPG and the minister responsible for the gambling act white paper was addressing them. I was a spy in the camp. It was actually quite constructive and it’s clear that within the APPG that some have a better understanding of the harm related issues than others. I rushed from there to sit in the audience for the Home Office select committee taking evidence on drugs policy reform. The first panel was Councillor Joanne Harding and Maggie Boreham (Public Health Team at Hackney Council).  They were both excellent. Very well informed and engaged in their subject matter. The second panel was Dame Carol Black with whom I agree on some aspects but not others. We had a small chat at the end of proceedings. I look forward to the committee’s report. I was in the chamber in time for Prime Minister’s Questions, but it was a sorry affair. Immediately after it was over the Prime Minister made a statement to the house on the back of the Sue Gray report. I bobbed and was taken, my lucky week, I impressed upon the Prime Minister that after my constituents had taken responsibility for their actions by following the Covid guidelines and in doing so had helped to protect our community he should be ashamed of his behaviour, attending parties at number 10. But he doesn’t get it and probably never will.

Thursday

I visited The Trust at their Devol industrial estate site. It was good to catch up with Angela Spence and Duncan McNeil. The Trust offers tremendous opportunities to many people in this are and I sincerely hope they continue to be a force for good for many years to come. I attended a quick- photo opportunity to help promote the Inverclyde Literati campaign to reduce, reuse and recycle plastic. The focus is around local sports teams and encouraging them to use reusable bottles for their water.

Friday

I had a catch-up meeting with Skills Development Scotland and in the afternoon I met with Adfam, the national charity tackling the effects of drinking, drug use or gambling on family members and friends.

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.