Last week I participated in my first debate as an MP after giving my maiden speech. It's not actually that easy to get to speak in Parliament on every issue that you want to. Firstly, you can only speak on the Bill or issue that is currently being debated and that of course depends on what legislation is being put through Parliament at the time. Secondly, a certain amount of time is reserved for front bench spokespeople who understandably get a significant chunk of time in any debate. After that it is literally a lottery.
The terminology used in order to be called to speak is for the MP to "catch the speakers eye" which translates in practical terms into writing to the Speaker in advance and hoping that the reasons you give for wanting to be called in a particular debate are good enough. For example, you may say that the Bill in question has a particular impact on the constituency or individual constituents or that you have some relevant experience or knowledge about the subject from before you were elected. Obviously lots of MPs will have many different but valid reasons for being called in a debate and more often than not debates will be oversubscribed. I understand that in those circumstances it literally is a lottery although if you have recently requested to speak and not been called that will increase your chances. MP's can also apply for adjournment debates which take place for half an hour at the end of each day. These can be on any subject the MP raises but within the time allotted it is difficult to do the subject matter justice.
Aside from the main chamber there are also debates in Westminster Hall which is where MP's can request debates take place on any subject they wish to see discussed. There are only a limited number of slots and so far my requests have been unsuccessful. However, I did participate in a debate about English votes for English Laws and the impact on North Wales. The basic issue is that many people live on one side of the England and Wales border but work on the other. People cross the border for medical treatment and to access other services and of course transport is truly cross border but there seems to be little recognition that those affected on both sides of the border still need to have their views considered.
The timing of this debate was good as he following day we were presented with proposals for "English votes for English Laws". With further devolution proposed in Scotland and Wales as well as some parts of England, now is the time to look at he way Parliament operates. However, the Government intend to make this law within the next two weeks without any consultation and to me it looks like a complicated mess designed to entrench a Tory majority rather than a serious attempt to rebalance the constitution. There is certainly nothing in it which will deal with the issues I highlighted regarding North Wales.
There was lovely weather this weekend which was just as well as I attended a number of Summer Fairs. I visited both St. John 's and St Paul's before heading off to Neston where it seemed the whole town had come out for their Summer fete. On the Sunday I attend the Mayor of Ellesmere Port's Civic Service held at St Thomas's where Gordon McGuiness gave his customary thought provoking sermon.