Tomorrow I'm launching a new APPG. (That's All-Party Parliamentary Group). There are hundreds of APPGS, and most MPs, myself included, lose track of which ones we belong to. We're active in a handful, and silent supporters of the rest. Just to give a flavour of it - this week's Whip includes notices of meetings for:
- the Furniture Industry;
- Slimming World AND Weight Watchers;
- Sewers and Sewerage;
- Rugby Union;
- Jazz Appreciation;
- War Grave and Battlefields Heritage;
- Town Centre Management;
- Betting and Gaming;
- Adventure and Recreation in Society;
- Youth Hostels.
Not to mention a whole host of country-related APPGs, including: France, Bolivia, Australia/ New Zealand, South Africa, Nepal, North Korea, Africa, Singapore, Palestine, Algeria, Israel... and they're just the ones that are meeting in July.
Perhaps the most bizarre is the APPG for Cheese, which has been set up by a Lib Dem MP. (It just would be, wouldn't it?) I have toyed with the idea of forming my own Cheezly APPG (one member - me), but then who would stand up for the needs of the Scheese lobby?
I wouldn't want to give the wrong impression. There is some excellent work being carried out by APPGs, particularly in the International Development field. There's an APPG on the Great Lakes region, and its most active members are incredibly well-informed on what's going on in the DRC and use every opportunity they can to raise it in the House. Some of the health APPGs are very good too.
The APPG I'm launching is on Credit Unions, and has a very specific remit - to push for new credit union legislation which will allow them to expand and enhance their services. It's been nearly 30 years since the last Credit Union Act.
I was approached to head up the new group, in part because of Bristol Credit Union's excellent reputation; it's seen as one of the best in the country. We've got Kitty Ussher, the Treasury Minister, coming along, and we're told she's going to make an announcement, so watch this space.