One of the supposed advantages of securing debates at Westminster is that it is obligatory to have a Minister respond at the end of the debate. This is intended to provide Government thoughts and answers to the person leading the debate and other points raised in other contributions. What this means in reality is that you are completely at the mercy of the competence and knowledge of the Minister responding. My colleague, Gavin Newlands, secured a debate on the HELMS mis-selling of the Green Deal leaving hundreds of my constituents out of pocket and tied to long term loans. However, the Minister responding didn’t have a clue about it and more or less waffled. During her speech she highlighted how many individual complaints have been lodged about HELMS installations. I was able to work out that was only about 10% of the installs. So I put it to her that is 90% of people have not complained - likely because they don’t know how to, or worse, may not be aware they have been potentially ripped off. Then the UK Government have a duty to contact these people to try to understand the bigger picture and provide assistance. She advised that she didn’t know if the UK Government had undertaken an investigation, but if they hadn’t they might consider it. The whole thrust of the debate was MPs calling on the UK Government to take action and therefore not leave it to individuals to act alone and to date, the UK Government have refused to look at collective action. So it is really worrying that a Minister cannot even listen to what is being said and process it logically.
Later that day, another colleague, Ronnie Cowan secured a debate on drugs policy. The Minister responding however advised that she “recuse” herself on issues to do with cannabis and synthetic cannabinoids due to her husband’s business interests. What is the point of a Minister responding when she cannot talk about matter which might come up in a debate? Constituents often complain to me about the poor answers Ministers give back to me after I have asked a question, this can be very annoying. However, I understand there is often a wider political game and the Ministers try not to give concessions in their question responses. Despite this, not being able to provide answers or detail in a debate that lasts an hour and a half is unforgivable. It also shows the real lack of talent within the UK Government at the moment. If these Ministers cannot provide policy detail in debates it means they do not know what is going on in the departments they are responsible for. It really is quite damning.
These views were first expressed in the Kilmarnock Standard.