Westminster diary w/b 11th December


I utilised the morning to answer emails and perform more general administrative tasks. The lunch time flight gets me to London in good time for my select committee on transport. The evidence session revolves around best practice to encourage commuters to cycle and walk. While recreational cycling is on the increase it is harder to get people to cycle or walk to work. Personally it has always been the issues around changing clothes and showering that have stopped me. To my great surprise the citizens of countries with similar climates to the United Kingdom commute by bike in greater numbers than we do. So that’s my argument destroyed. In the evening I attended a briefing on the European Union withdrawal process.  


My first event is the select committee on public administration and the constitution. We are currently putting together a report on the working of the PHSO (Public Health Service Ombudsman). When people believe they have been let down by the health service it’s usually because a loved one has died or not received the treatment they feel was appropriate. This makes such cases emotionally charged. We took evidence from the two most senior people in the PHSO and the public gallery was full. Hopefully we are moving towards a more open and approachable service and the evidence provided did suggest that but emotions did, understandably, come to the fore and the public gallery, very unusually, did raise their voices in discontent. In the evening we had four votes on the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, the last one was at 22:04. 


This was always going to be an interesting day. Some Conservatives had put down an amendment to the withdrawal bill (amendment seven). For this amendment to go through it needed to attract support from Labour, Liberal Democrats and SNP. All day people were hurrying back and forward trying to add up the numbers and most importantly trying to assess how many Conservatives would rebel and back the amendment. The amendment was designed to give parliament a greater say in leaving the European Union. By 19:00 it was clear that the vote was going to be close and that’s how it turned out with 309 votes for the amendment and 305 against. The government lost that vote despite the support of ten DUP members and two Labour members because twelve Conservatives rebelled. There were two further votes at 21:00 which meant my working day finished at 21:28.


The plan was to get an early flight up the road and work in the constituency. But today of all days my flight is delayed and delayed and delayed. I spend the day, until mid-afternoon, researching and writing. Airports are not the ideal place for this despite providing the three main ingredients required, wi-fi, charging points and coffee. As the flights stack up, space is at a premium, so I am glad when we finally take off. Such are the first world problems that beset today’s commuters.  


I spent today doing constituency work and was delighted to be told that I was successful in ‘the shuffle’ and have a question to the prime minister next Wednesday.