Labour and Co-operative Member of
Parliament for Kemptown and Peacehaven

Scheduling of Parliamentary Business

by Lloyd on 17.07.17 in Uncategorised
I am probably one of the only Members of the Youth Parliament when it was set up in 2000 and 2001 who has now become a Member of Parliament. I reflect on that experience compared to this one. The kind of behaviour we now see from the Government—cutting down the opportunity for debate and discussion—would have been unheard of in the Youth Parliament.This is meant to be the mother of Parliaments, but it seems perfectly acceptable to play jiggery-pokery with the timetable.
I am probably one of the only Members of the Youth Parliament when it was set up in 2000 and 2001 who has now become a Member of Parliament. I reflect on that experience compared to this one. The kind of behaviour we now see from the Government—cutting down the opportunity for debate and discussion—would have been unheard of in the Youth Parliament.This is meant to be the mother of Parliaments, but it seems perfectly acceptable to play jiggery-pokery with the timetable.

I wonder about the responsibility of the Government, and what this looks like for constituents out in the wider world.

Today my constituents were queuing around the block for more than an hour, not for a gig or a music activity, but to see the local doctor in Peacehaven. That is a regular thing for my constituents. Why? Because, of course, doctors’ workloads have doubled, and the resources to our NHS have reduced. Equally, we do not have enough houses. Independent research shows that teachers’ pay has reduced by £3 an hour in real terms and that their workloads have increased since the Conservative party took power. [Interruption.] Members on the other side of the Chamber may wish to chunter about that, but I suggest they read the research.

My constituents would be flabbergasted to think that we are effectively reducing our workload by covering the same amount in two years as we would in one. I am afraid that saying, “Oh, it is all because that is what it says in the Standing Orders” is a weak response. We need to take the moral high ground, not just the letter of the Standing Orders.

We can take from the best all around the world—from Scandinavia, Germany and so on. Germany, for example, has a strong economy and a ​fairer society, unlike under this Government, where we have a bigger divide between rich and poor, and where people have not been able to access vital services.

Last week, a woman came into my surgery and said she had been on the waiting list for a council house for two years. I had to tell her that she was likely to remain on that waiting list for another three or four years, because the reality is that not enough houses have been built under this Government, under previous Governments and for a generation. Surely, we need to talk about making sure we can hold the Government to account for their policies. My constituent asked me to make sure her voice is heard in this Chamber. If I go back to her and say, “I’m terribly sorry, but we didn’t quite get enough Opposition days to raise your urgent needs,” she will feel as if her voice, through me, has been taken away—and she will feel like that quite rightly, because it has been taken away. A lack of debate and Opposition time takes the voice away from constituents from all constituencies across this country.

This has happened not with a vote in Parliament but just with an announcement in the papers that we will now have a two-year period rather than a one-year period. [Interruption.] Session. I do not think constituents will really care what you wish to call it. They will care about the fact that the Government are denying them a voice in Parliament, not about the petty name politics that some Members wish to play.

I am a relatively new Member—I have been here only a few weeks—but if I were an employee and I suddenly said, “I’m not going to do my work in a year. I’m going to take two years to do it,” I would be put on capability, and I would probably not have a job. Well, I suggest that this Government are put on capability and that they should not have a job, because extending the amount of time in which to do the same amount of work in is not on in the workplace, and it should not be on in our Parliament.

What the Government could do is very simple: they could come here and pledge to do three things. They could say the same number of days per year will be offered for Opposition and Back-Bench business as there are in the Standing Orders per Session—easy-peasy. They should say that, make a pledge and make a commitment. Then we will not need to shoot our guns early; we will be able to sit down and relax.

The second thing the Government could easily do is say that there will be the same number of days in this Parliament for all these things as there were in previous Parliaments. That would be nice and easy to do. They could make that statement now, and, again, we could relax.

Finally, the Conservative party could get on with selecting its Select Committee representatives. They could get on with allowing us to scrutinise legislation. They could get on with the work. It is easy. The Labour party has managed to hold an election today. Our election shut 10 minutes ago. We will be announcing our representatives. Conservative Members could have been busy doing the same. Why have they not done that? They have been fiddling while democracy burns. Get on with it! That is what members of the public want: they want you to get on with it. That is what Opposition Members want: they want you to get on with it. The Government should agree the times, agree the days, make a statement, allow us to debate the issues that matter, and stop wasting our time by their prevarications.

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Labour and Co-operative Member of
Parliament for Kemptown and Peacehaven

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