These last three months at Westminster have been a time of dramatic upheaval. With the end of the year and the end of the Brexit transition period and a no-deal cliff-edge approaching, it has been more imperative than ever before to work to scrutinise the UK Government’s legislative programme and to support my constituents in a time of economic and financial crisis.
Here is a summary of my constituency and parliamentary activity over the last three months.
My team and I have continued to work hard over these last few months assisting constituents on a range of matters including DWP, business and employment support, broadband and immigration, just to name a few. Since March 2020 my staff have dealt with thousands of cases on a variety of subjects and are always delighted when we get a good result for the constituents of Rutherglen and Hamilton West.
In these last months I have attended a raft of meetings with organisations, groups and community councils operating in our constituency. I have also liaised with companies and organisations at the request of constituents to assist them with their cases. Most notably I attended meetings with the Community Access to Cash Pilot scheme to receive an update on the Cambuslang pilot. I also met with Openreach to discuss broadband issues in our constituency.
- Logan Street Tenants and Residents Association – Blantyre
- Voluntary Action South Lanarkshire (VASLAN)
- Hamilton Citizens Advice Bureau – 50th Anniversary
Community Council meetings
- Cambuslang Community Council
- Hillhouse Community Council
Other constituency meetings
- Openreach, on broadband issues in the constituency
- Community Access to Cash Pilot (CACP) update on the CACP pilot in Cambuslang
European Scrutiny Committee
The European Scrutiny Committee, which I am a member of, has been holding virtual meetings on a weekly basis. The committee is set up to assess the legal and political importance of EU legislation.
At the current time the Committee is running two inquiries – one into parliamentary scrutiny of the Withdrawal Agreement and the application of the Northern Ireland Protocol, and another into the continued operation of the Channel Tunnel Fixed Link.
All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) Meetings
Over these three months I attended virtual meetings of several APPGs I am a member of, including:
- Green Deal Mis-selling
- Gaps in Support
- Ending the Need for Foodbanks
- Gambling Related Harm
- Debt & Personal Finance
- Choice at the End of Life
- Myalgic Encephalomyelitis
- Fire Rescue and Safety
- Life Sciences
- Women in Parliament
- Hong Kong
I was particularly busy with the Gaps in Support APPG, which has held regular meetings to discuss how to best raise the issues faced by those excluded from UK government support during the coronavirus pandemic, and the Ending the Need for Foodbanks APPG, where I was elected as one of the vice-chairs.
UK Export Finance
The Department for International Trade has launched a parliamentary export programme that will host virtual events across the four nations of the UK in 2021. The events are being run to encourage businesses to increase their export market or to start exporting. The theme of these events is “Free Trade Agreements and Exporting after Brexit”. There were places for 100 constituencies to take part in the programme and I’m delighted to confirm that Rutherglen and Hamilton West has been chosen as one of them. I look forward to providing more information on this programme in the New Year – watch this space!
Other parliamentary meetings and briefings
In the past three months I have attended an extensive list of online meetings and briefings as part of my parliamentary work, including briefings by UK Export Finance, Dr Willie Stewart at QEUH on dementia in sport, Citizens UK on Brexit and settled status for long-term UK residents, and others. An exhaustive list of such meetings can be found below.
- Future of Football
- Dr. Willie Stewart QEUH on dementia in sport
- Care for Women
- Citizens UK on Brexit and settled status for long-term UK residents
- National Farmers Union
- UK Export Finance
- UK Government on Trade Bill amendment regarding the Trade and Agricultural Commission
- Ambassadorial country update briefings;
- UAE, Bahrain and Israel
- Denmark and Italy
- Switzerland and Liechtenstein
- Republic of Korea and Vietnam
- Central America
- Federation of Wholesale Distributors
- Road Haulage Association
- Payment Systems Regulator on Access to Cash
- UK Geoenergy Observatory Launch
- Guide Dogs
- Dogs Trust on puppy smuggling
I have remained active in scrutinising Government legislative policy with oral and written questions and letters to UK and Scottish Government ministers. I have also participated in surgeries with UK Government ministers to resolve casework matters.
November 12, Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office: I pressed the Minister for Asia on whether the Government would consider abolishing the immigration health surcharge for British Nationals Overseas from Hong Kong applying through the new immigration route that will open in January. (video)
November 17, Department for International Trade: I highlighted the Government’s incompetent handling of trade negotiations in the aftermath of the Brexit vote and called for a full review of the timeline and negotiating strategy for future trade deals. (video)
November 18, Prime Minister: I highlighted a case where a constituent has been awaiting the result of her and her son’s settled status application since September 2019 to the Prime Minister. (video)
November 24, Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office: I raised my concerns about the killing of Mr Mahboob Khan, a representative of the Ahmadiyya community in Pakistan, and the persecution of Ahmadis in Pakistan. (video)
November 25, Treasury Spending Review: I raised my concerns with the Chancellor about the public sector pay cap in his spending review, which is being imposed on public sector workers other than the NHS. (video)
November 26, Business of the House: Following on from the Chancellor’s spending review the previous day, where he did not clarify if the £20 uplift to universal credit will be permanent after April next year, I requested a debate in Government time about making this uplift permanent. The Leader of the House was unfortunately unforthcoming on this vital issue. (video)
November 26, Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office: I highlighted concerns expressed by a constituent about the Spending Review’s cut to the international aid budget, and highlighted the way this catastrophic decision by the UK Government will harm millions of vulnerable people around the world. (video)
December 7, Ministry of Defence: I raised the issue of potential post-Brexit disruption in the UK’s defence supply chain, and asked for clarification on what steps are being taken to prevent it. The Minister unfortunately chose to dodge the question. (video)
December 8, Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport: I highlighted the significantly higher than average rates of problem gambling among former and present members of the Armed Forces and inquired with the Minister if he has had any consultations with the Ministry of Defence on how to best address this issue. (video)
December 10, Cabinet Office: I raised the government’s recent concession in negotiations with the EU of clause 45 of the Internal Market Bill, which would have allowed the UK to apply UK state aid law to Northern Ireland, and called on the UK Government to delete clause 50 as well, which stipulates that same right for the UK Government in Scotland and Wales. (video)
Asked on November 12, Cabinet Office: “What steps he is taking with the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to ensure the adequacy of fuel and electricity supplies in the event of no agreement on the future relationship with the EU at the end of the transition period.”
Asked on November 12, Home Office: “To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, if she will waive the Immigration Health Surcharge for British Nationals (Overseas) who apply for UK visas from January 2021.”
Asked on November 12, Home Office: “To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, what plans her Department has for the resumption of refugee resettlement flights to the UK; and if she will make a statement.”
Asked on December 14, Home Office: “What estimate she has made of the number of non-UK nationals who are at risk of deportation under the updated Immigration Rules as a result of rough sleeping.”
Early Day Motions
I have in these three months tabled four Early Day Motions (EDMs): EDMs no. 1195, 1231, 1256 and 1270.
EDM 1195: Logan Street Tenants and Residents’ Association
That this House congratulates the Logan Street Tenants and Residents Association in Blantyre on their hard work this year working together with local agencies and South Lanarkshire Council to improve living conditions in and around Logan Street in Blantyre; notes the vital support the Association has provided to local tenants and their children during the time of the covid-19 outbreak; recognises their achievements over this year, such as a reduction in cars accessing Logan Street illegally and working together with the housing services to provide better lighting for the street; highlights the particular work they have done with local children, including providing sweets bags for children for Halloween and graduations and arranging free internet access and tablets; and therefore thanks Logan Street Tenants and Residents Association and all such local resident support groups for the vital role they play in our local communities.
EDM 1231: Human Rights Day 2020
That this House notes that the world celebrates Human Rights Day 2020 on 10 December; further notes that this is a day to commemorate the UN General Assembly adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948; highlights that human rights are abused by repressive regimes across the world, whereby certain governments restrict freedom of speech and expression, continue to hold unfair trials and systematically persecute religious and ethnic minorities and LGBTI+ communities, among other incredibly serious violations; commits to working cross-party to uphold human rights in the UK and globally; and calls on the Government to work constructively with other sovereign states around the world to promote the universality of human rights.
EDM 1256: Glasgow Geoenergy Observatory
That this House notes the beginning of the operation of the Geoenergy Observatory in Glasgow and Rutherglen, which comprises of 12 boreholes fitted with 319 state-of-the-art sensors; acknowledges that this sort of subsurface observatory is a first in the UK; recognises the value of the data collected in this Observatory in advancing understanding of geothermal energy; notes that in central Scotland, northern England and southern Wales there are many abandoned mines flooded with water; acknowledges the importance of the Observatory’s work to how their water could be utilised to supply homes and industry with heat, and that this geothermal energy source could be a vital contribution to ensuring the UK reaches carbon neutrality; and congratulates the scientists at the Observatory and all UKGEOS, Natural Environment Research Council and British Geological Survey staff on this significant achievement.
EDM 1270: 50 years of the Hamilton Citizens Advice Bureau
That this House congratulates the Hamilton Citizens Advice Bureau, which is celebrating its 50 year anniversary; recognises their extensive work supporting the people of Hamilton and South Lanarkshire; highlights that in 2019-20 Hamilton Citizens Advice Bureau advised, represented and supported over 3,300 people, handled over 14,000 issues over 15 areas of advice and generated gains of £1.649 million for local communities in South Lanarkshire; applauds the Citizens Advice Bureau’s participation in such projects as the South Lanarkshire Council Child Poverty Action Plan, the South Lanarkshire Community Plan, the Fuel Poverty Working Group and the Lanarkshire PACE Strategy Group; and wishes the Hamilton Citizens Advice Bureau another 50 successful years of supporting the people of South Lanarkshire.