It was a week of two halves in parliament. On Monday and Tuesday, I hardly set foot in the chamber, except to ask a question of Treasury ministers about rising levels of personal debt (that doesn’t mean I was doing nothing, by the way! I had plenty of emails and meetings to keep me busy).
But Wednesday saw me in the chamber to vote for nearly two hours solid, as the European Withdrawal Bill completed its passage through the House of Commons (it now goes to the House of Lords for their scrutiny over the coming months). On Thursday, I was back in the chamber for most of the day, to ask more questions about our appalling train service, about the plight of the Rohingya Muslims forced to flee persecution in Burma, to listen to speeches to mark Holocaust Memorial Day, and to speak in a debate about Royal Bank of Scotland’s appalling treatment of its customers. And I even spent Friday in parliament - normally I would keep Friday clear for constituency meetings, but I was there to support my great friend Karen Buck MP, who presented a bill to give tenants more rights against their landlord if their property isn’t kept up to decent standards. As one of the sponsors of this bill, I am delighted it passed without opposition, and now moves to the next stage of the parliamentary process on the way to becoming law. Indeed, the bill even had welcome government support; it’s just a pity Tory ministers didn’t support similar proposals when Labour put them forward two years ago.
Although, come to think of it, maybe Conservative MPs supporting Labour MPs is becoming a new thing. My question about poor train services was backed up by Tory MPs from other parts of the country - as you can see here:
Sadly, I am afraid the minister managed both to ignore the point of the question, and also apparently failed to realise that the fact that more compensation has been paid out to passengers in the last year is because services are so bad!
As for Wednesday night’s voting, it was a classic example of the crazy way we do things in parliament. A total of 10 votes between 4.30 pm and 7pm, each lasting approximately 15 minutes, took up a huge chunk of time while we all trooped in and out of the voting lobbies for each vote. Quite a few MPs think it’s high time we switched to electronic voting to speed things up a bit!
I was also very pleased to attend Operation Black Vote’s reception on Thursday evening, in the very grand rooms in Speaker’s House, with my OBV ‘shadow’, Rev Malaika. And a big thank you to Talk Listen Change charity in Old Trafford for speaking to me about your work on my visit last week, and to disability charity Leonard Cheshire for inviting me to join you and your Can Do-ers on the slopes at Chill Factore. I was so impressed to watch these disabled young people boldly taking to their skis - but very relieved I was only there as a spectator!