As I've mentioned in the past, there is an awful lot of activity that goes on in the House of Commons outside the main chamber. There are select committees, all party parliamentary groups and debates scheduled most days in Westminster Hall and last week my colleague Chris Matheson and I were successful in securing one on the future of the car industry with the impending decision by the police to purchase a number of vehicles from Peugeot rather than local manufacturers like Vauxhall. The flaw with this process is that the Police Authorities who are making this decision are not there to be challenged but at least we have flagged the matter up with the relevant Minister and other MP's from other parts of the country who may have car manufacturers in their area but weren't necessarily aware of this issue.
Another aspect of Parliament outside the Chamber are the All Party Parliamentary Groups which as the name suggests consist of Mp's and Lords from across all parties who are interested in a particular subject. There are 100's of these groups covering just about everything imaginable and whilst some are for things like beer, most are on a particular issue of importance that Parliamentarians agree need a platform from such a group. I am a number of these groups as wide ranging as autism and aerospace and I have also been made Chair of one, on social mobility. What is social mobility? Well for me it's about challenging the probability that your far more likely to be a high ranking civil servant, a lawyer or a doctor if you're from Surrey rather than Stanney. I don't believe kids from places like ours get the same opportunities as those from other parts of the country. They're no less talented but there is something in the "system" or society that inhibits an equal chance of success. I hope that the group will be able to challenge some of the institutions that I believe hold back our brightest and best.
I have been asked recently about the voting procedure in the Commons and one of the things I have quickly discovered is that it is an awfully lot more cumbersome than it should be. The act of voting itself involves walking through a door (the lobby) depending upon which way you want to vote which can take up to 15 minutes for each vote. The way that Parliamentary procedure is set up means that a Bill (what an Act is called before it becomes law) can come before Parliament up to five times as well as the House of Lords. The early stages are about the principle of the Bill and can be amended (usually amounting to a rejection of all or part of the Bill) and amendments can be moved by any member, although the more members support an amendment the more chance there is that it will be debated and thereafter voted on. The Bill is usually then passed to a Committee which will consist of representatives of most parties who have the opportunity to move amendments to individual parts of the Bill which is usually where any changes can be made. The Bill them returns to the House of Commons where in its final form it is either approved or not. This means that there is plenty of opportunity to challenge a Bill but at each stage the Government has a majority of those eligible to vote.
When I was back in the constituency over the weekend I had the pleasure of visiting some old friends at Naylor Court residential home on Rossmore Road as well as visiting the Westminster Food Action Group who held their Summer BBQ. I would be delighted to come and visit any local community groups or residential homes in the constituency and would ask you to contact my office on 355 2234 should you wish to arrange a visit.