This week in Parliament started with a bang, and I was pleased to have the chance to participate in a number of important sessions in the main Chamber.
First, oral questions on Education policies, where I asked how the Government are seeking to improve knowledge of the gender and ethnicity pay gaps in school age children to prepare them for the workplace in future. You can read a transcript of my question in Hansard, or watch it on ParliamentTV.
Later, Kit Malthouse MP, the Home Office Minister for Crime and Policing, gave a statement on the UK Government’s Ten-Year Drugs Strategy. He outlined a number of policies, focusing on rehabilitation, targeting criminal and ‘county lines’ gangs, and tougher consequences for recreational drug users. I took the opportunity to highlight the good work of the Beacons in Blantyre, who not only work to rehabilitate drug users, but is staffed by volunteers with lived experience.
Usual legislative parliamentary business then commenced with consideration of the House of Lords amendments to the Armed Forces Bill. There was much media coverage of amendments relating to the removal of sexual assault cases from martial courts to civilian ones, and this was heavily reflected in the debate. I chose to focus on amendments that would strengthen the Armed Forces Covenant, which dictates the provision of services to the armed forces community post-service to ensure that they receive the same access as any other civilian. I spoke to the amendment that would make the Secretary of State a named person with duty of due regard, meaning that he also would have responsibility for ensuring services can be accessed.
In the very late evening, we turned to a motion establishing a Parliamentary Partnership Assembly (PPA) under Article 11 of the UK-EU Trade and Co-operation Agreement. I was keen to speak, in my role as member of the EU Scrutiny Committee, and as an MP representing a Scottish constituency with its devolved legislature. I was grateful that the Leader of the House gave me an opportunity to intervene, where I heavily impressed on him that Scotland and the other devolved nations need to be proportionately represented in the PPA’s makeup.
Finally, the evening drew to a close with an adjournment debate marking the UN International Day of Persons with Disabilities, opened by the Member for East Kilbride, Strathaven & Lesmahagow, Dr Lisa Cameron MP. I am thankful to her for the opportunity to intervene, where I noted the upcoming 150th Anniversary of the Ballot Bill, which gave voters the right to cast their ballot both independently and in secret. Unfortunately this is still not possible for many blind and partially sighted voters, and I asked if she agreed that better provisions need to be made available in polling stations across the UK.