There is no such thing as a typical day in the life of an MP which is what makes it such an interesting job. A look back at my diary over the last few days gives an idea of just how varied it can be.
All Party Group on Equality
I chaired the meeting of the All Party Group on Equalities when we heard from Trevor Phillips, the Chief Executive of the Equality and Human Rights Commission on their plans for the next three years. Their funding has been so severely cut that their role will be nothing like as strong as it has been in the past, even though only last week they published an important report on Care of the Elderly which was widely welcomed. We are going back decades on these issues.
I intervened in a debate in the Chamber when the Justice Minister was talking about guarding against ‘unfounded allegations’ in cases of domestic violence as an argument for cutting back on legal aid. We know that this is the kind of myth that stops women from reporting incidents of domestic violence, fearing they will not be believed.
One debate after another
One day saw me taking part and speaking in two debates, one after the other. First I spoke on the Funding of Horseracing in the UK. This was about the levy paid by bookmakers to the racecourses to finance the sport. The levy is an outdated mechanism threatening the economic viability of racecourses. The Minister had a few positive ideas about a way forward and I, in turn, was able to explain the importance of Ayr Racecourse for tourism and to the local economy. Immediately following that debate there was a debate on Colombia, coinciding with the visit to the UK of President Santos. I have a longstanding involvement in the campaign against human rights abuses in Colombia and highlighted in my speech the plight of political prisoners there.
Labour Friends of the Forces
Shadow Defence Secretary, Jim Murphy launched Labour Friends of the Forces at a meeting attended by Labour MPs and serving members and veterans of the armed services. For far too long it has been assumed that members of the forces support only the Tories. I know just how untrue this is and how angry they are at the massive cuts to services; service bases; and the thousands of job losses currently underway.
As well as attending a meeting on Afghan Women’s’ Rights, as Chair of the All Party Group on Afghanistan I chaired a special meeting with two representatives of the Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs) working in the Afghan rural areas. They were visiting European countries ahead of the meeting of Foreign Ministers in Bonn last Sunday to talk about Afghanistan post 2014 when troops are due to withdraw.
Solar Power Panels (Feed-in Tariff)
I spoke in this debate to highlight the plight of one of my constituents. On 2 November, they learned that the Department of Energy and Climate Changehad changed the date from 31 March 2012 to 8 December 2011 for reducing the feed-in tariff rate for solar panels fitted to domestic properties from 43%. At the 43% FIT level, they calculated that they could afford to install the panels and meet the loan repayments. If everything isn’t completed by the new deadline they will be trapped in a contract from which they would be making a monthly loss that they cannot afford for the next 25 years. It was completely unreasonable to give five weeks’ notice of such a significant change at a time when suppliers and installers are exceptionally busy meeting the demands of the original 31 March deadline. Even though the work has now been completed and all the registration documents submitted, the energy company couldn’t guarantee that the registration documents would be processed prior to the cut-off date. In the course of the debate I learned that many constituents across the UK were in the same position.
St Andrew’s Day Debate on Poverty in Scotland
I was successful in securing a one and a half hour debate on St Andrew’s Day on the topic of Poverty in Scotland. In my opening remarks I dedicated the debate not only to St Andrew’s Day but also to the Industrial Action in support of public sector pensions also taking place that day. Earlier I, and other Labour MPs, including the Chair of the PLP, had joined pickets outside Parliament and then, with the agreement of the Trades Unions, went in to hold the Government to account at Prime Minister’s Questions and in other debates such as my own debate on Poverty. In my speech I highlighted the problem of poverty levels as set out in research by the well respected Child Poverty Action Group which indicates that nearly a millionpeople in Scotland are currently living in poverty. The Chancellor’s Autumn Statement of the previous day contained cutbacks that the Treasury now admits will leave 100,000 more children across the UK in poverty.
I called for a number of measures to kick start growth and get jobs into the economy including a £2 billion tax on bank bonuses to fund 100,000 jobs for young people and build 25,000 more affordable homes.