Wednesday, 20 February 2008


We finished at about midnight last night, although the Scots and Welsh MPs and the whips had to stay till 2am to make up a quorum on a debate about reorganising local government boundaries in Shropshire. (I did my stint at staying late on that last week, when we did Wiltshire).

Today was a classic example of just how varied an MP's work is. First official thing was PPS-ing for a DFID debate in Westminster Hall, on Development Aid and Oil Extraction brought by Andrew Smith MP who has both Oxfam and People and Planet based in his constituency.

Before it started I caught the Local Government Minister's response to a debate on regeneration funding in Leeds, which seems to be in the same position as Bristol, i.e. they've benefitted from millions in Neighbourhood Renewal funding since 2001, but don't qualify for the replacement scheme, the Working Neighbourhood's Fund, which is more employment focused.

Then PMQs, where I was up at Q5. I thought it was Gordon's best performance to date, and his jibe about Cameron indulging in student politics certainly hit the mark. I asked about long-term youth unemployment, and families where a culture of being out of work is being passed on from one generation to the next. Do we write them off, or do we get tough? Later on in the day I did BBC Radio Bristol's Drivetime show on the same topic. The PM had mentioned apprenticeships in his response, and the show's presenter said that there seemed to be a common misconception that apprenticeships no longer exist, whereas in fact employers are having trouble finding people to fill them. People simply don't realise quite how much this Government has been doing on this front, which is a bit frustrating.

After PMQs and the Home Secretary's statement on citizenship, it was time for a fair trade photo op with the Secretary of State for International Development, which I'd organised. As a loyal PPS my role was to raid my cupboards for fair trade tea, coffee, jam, bananas, as props for the photo shoot, and to do some last minute shopping for roses and chocolate. The aim was to highlight Fairtrade fortnight, which starts on Monday - and we had nearly 60 Labour MPs turn up, all keen to show their support.

Then it was off to the first meeting of the Severn Barrage Feasbility Forum, a cross party meeting of Welsh and South West MPs which was chaired by John Hutton, Sec of State at DBERR and also attended by Phil Woolas, the Climate Change Minister, and various members of the Welsh Assembly. The meeting was full of MPs who have been talking about the barrage since the 1980s - including my neighbour Doug Naysmith was chair of Bristol Port Authority back then. Let's hope this time we do more than just talk.

Then it was back to the office to do some paperwork, make some calls, organise a fairtrade survey which I'm sending out to constituents this weekend, and to start preparing for a child poverty debate next week - all interrupted by a series of votes on the EU treaty. Voting later than usual tonight, but the division bell has just gone!

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