What is the building like to work in?

The first thing to be aware of is that Parliament now covers more than just the Palace of Westminster. There are several buildings which house offices for Members of Parliament and those who keep the whole show on the road. Together they are referred to as the Parliamentary Estate.

As a new Member of Parliament I have still visited all the buildings in the estate simply because there has been no need and I have kept to the buildings which I have needed to be in. Other than the Palace of Westminster itself most of my time is spent in 1. Parliament Street where the office I have been allocated is situated. The other principal building is Portcullis House which depending on the route I choose to take I have to pass through to reach the House of Commons.

The Palace of Westminster itself has literally hundreds of rooms and offices and even Members who have been there for several years still have not been in all of them. Just before the House rose for the summer recess I was invited to meet one of the Deputy Speakers (Lindsay Hoyle the MP for Chorley) and after asking two experienced members who were in the vicinity neither of whom knew where his rooms were I along with a colleague I was with finished up asking one of the security staff who pointed us in the right direction. This scenario has been replicated many times in the first few weeks of the new Parliament.

Apart from the sheer size of the buildings the architectural splendour of the Palace of Westminster and the numerous magnificent works of art it contains never fail to impress. I am conscious that many people I suspect most of my constituents will not have visited Westminster and for those who are interested in the architecture and artwork in the Palace the Parliament website has an excellent virtual tour that is well worth viewing.

One further aspect that I had not considered before being elected was the part the public play as visitors. As an MP you have to become used to working in a building that for many ( especially visitors to the UK from abroad) is simply a tourist attraction. It is not an exaggeration to say that at times it is difficult to even walk along the pavement to get into the House because of the number of tourists all busy admiring the magnificent building and taking photographs of it from all angles and then trying to take photos of each other in front of it.

End of term

The week of Parliament before the summer recess had a very much end of term feel about it. One or two colleagues were already missing on long booked holidays and this together with the fact we were only meeting for the first two days of the week added to the general air of relaxation. It has been an exciting first few weeks for all the new members of Parliament.

Understandably the question everyone is now asking is ‘how I am finding it?’ A short question but a long answer and inevitably I rarely have enough time to answer fully as I pass someone briefly in the street. It is my intention to use the summer recess to try and expand on the short answer that “I’m very, very busy and it is has been a steep learning curve.” That is the quickest way I have found of summing up hundreds ( if not thousands) of separate little incidents which have illuminated the past three months.

For me the highlight of the last two sitting days was my appointment by the House of Commons to the House Procedure Committee. For the first time there have been Party elections to determine who will serve on the Select Committees and initially I took the view that as a new M.P. my time would be better served learning about the wider work of the House than spending many hours on monitoring the work of a particular department. There are only a few places on each Committee and on most of the select Committees the reality was that there were many others who either had more experience or more expertise or both than I had. But then the less well publicised Committees became available and as everything that happens in the House revolves around its procedures I saw this as a great opportunity both to be able to learn about the procedures and also contribute to the process of evolving the procedures of the House.

A good example of the way the House administration runs is that the motion to appoint the Committee was passed at about 10.15pm on the Monday evening and within an hour the Clerks had emailed the Members notifying us that the initial meeting was to take place the next day at 2pm.