Kate with Caroline from Gorse Hill Studios.
Kate with Caroline from Gorse Hill Studios.

It has been a frantic week in parliament as the government rushed to get all its business through before the end of this parliamentary session. Bill after bill went to and fro between the Lords and Commons in a process known as ‘ping-pong’. The Commons send a bill to the Lords. The Lords amend it and send it back to the Commons. The government doesn’t like the Lords amendments, its MPs vote them down, and send the bill back again. The Lords dig in, amend the bill again, and back it comes to the Commons. And so on, until one House (usually the Lords, who ultimately recognise the primacy of the elected Commons) gives up the struggle.

Some of the bills going through this ping-pong process this week were pretty controversial. The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts bill, which bans ‘noisy’ protests. The Elections bill, which requires voters to take photographic ID to a polling station. And the utterly nasty Nationality and Borders bill, which will mean asylum seekers fleeing persecution who seek sanctuary in the UK could be sent to Rwanda to have their claim processed, and wouldn’t be allowed to come here, even if their application is successful.

All this meant a series of unpredictably late nights as the Lords repeatedly made amendments that were promptly thrown out again by the government in the Commons. But eventually, all these bills passed into law, and on Thursday, parliament ‘prorogued’ – which means we won’t return to Westminster until 10 May, when the Queen’s speech will lay out the government’s programme for the new parliamentary session.

While all this was going on, I was busy with a Public Accounts Committee hearing into police recruitment. Austerity cuts have slashed the number of police on our streets, and belatedly the government is now trying to replace them. While the recruitment programme is going fairly well, I wanted to ask about the ethnic backgrounds of the new recruits. Some of our communities lack confidence in the police, and if the police can’t attract people from a wide range of backgrounds, their authority and legitimacy comes into question. I was also interested to ask about how inexperienced new officers can adequately make up for the loss of longstanding policemen and women.

More pleasurably, I was delighted to get out of Westminster on Tuesday morning to visit Lambeth Palace gardens with the RSPB, who had organised a walkabout for MPs to learn about and listen to birdsong. It was a beautiful morning, the gardens are glorious, and it was such a tranquil way to spend an hour.

And I was absolutely delighted to welcome Caroline from Gorse Hill studios to parliament on Monday night to receive a Kids Count award for her work with our young people. Congratulations Caroline and everyone at GHS – it is so good to see your excellent work recognised.

Finally, as Ramadan draws to a close, I’d like to wish ‘Eid Mubarak’ to all constituents who are celebrating this joyful festival!

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