May I take this opportunity of wishing everyone a peaceful and happy Christmas. I pray the blessing of God be with you all.
I have been up early both yesterday and to do breakfast show interviews. Yesterday I drove down to Manchester to do a live interview on Alan Beswick’s breakfast show on BBC Radio Manchester. Following that I did a pre-recorded piece for Radio 4 on savings being made in local government expenditure.
Today I agreed to do an interview for Radio Five Live on the story that various Liberal Democrat ministers have been secretly taped saying not all that complementary things about some Conservative Ministers. It appears that undercover reporters from a national newspaper have been posing as constituents and obtaining surgery appointments and then secretly recording the comments made by the Liberal Democrat ministers. I was asked what I thought of this my view is that as with any self generated ‘news’ it should be treated by the public with a degree of scepticism. Actually a large amount of what is passed off as news is actually the result of material self generated by the news outlet. In effect rather than reporting the news they are creating it. Sting operations like the one that has entrapped Liberal Democrat ministers are perhaps the most serious example of this but a common example is when a paper commissions an opinion poll and then reports the findings as news. They have created the news themselves.
Since the recess started I have been busy dealing with constituents problems and trying to make some last minute preparations for Christmas.
The Courts Minister Johnathan Djanogly announced this week that Bury County Court is one of only five County Courts on the original list of County Courts scheduled for closure which is to be kept open.
Although I did not receive a huge number of representations about this issue I know that the staff and court users will be relieved. I am particularly grateful for the detailed , calm and considered case that was put forward by the Bury Bench.
It was a pleasant relief after the deliberations of the past week to spend both Sunday morning and a large part of Sunday afternoon down at St. Anne’s Church in Tottington. In the afternoon it was the annual Christingle Service. The Sunday school performed their Nativity Play in front of a packed church full of proud parents and grandparents friends and other relatives. £230 was raised in the collection which will go to the Children’s Society
On Friday the Daylight Saving Bill was given a Second Reading by 82 votes to 10.
The Bill does not provide for an immediate change to our system of setting the clocks. Firstly it requires every Government department to carry out an analysis of the potential costs and benefits of advancing the time by one hour for all or part of the year. Then an independent Commission has to be established to assess the analysis. Only if the Commission conclude that a change would be beneficial for all the four home nations could the Secretary of State order a three-year trial to take place. After the trial has been reviewed the Secretary of State can decide whether to make the trial permanent. If such a decision is taken the change could not be made permanent without the approval of both Houses of Parliament.
As I had received representations both for and again the idea of a change to our present system I decided to vote for the Bill to go to the next stage of the legislative process which is for it to be considered in detail by a Committee of a small number of MP’s who will examine the BIll ‘line by line’.
I had a number of concerns about the detail of the Bill and intended to make reference to these in my speech but I was not called. As I had indicated beforehand I voted against the motion to bring the debate to a premature end. When the closure motion was put it was passed by 123 votes to 8 ( I was one of the 8). So the Bill goes off to Committee. As the Government Minister explained during his speech as there are a number of problems with changing the legislation I expect that if the Bill ever does see the light of day again it will be in a very different form.
I have been receiving a lot of publicity following the publication of the expenses claims put in during the first few weeks by M.P.’s. First of all let me say that expenses are reimbursements of amounts paid out by M.P.’s for the purposes of doing their job as a Member of Parliament. There are very strict rules about what can be claimed.
During the first few weeks covered by the figures released by IPSA the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority yesterday.
In Summary my expenses were:
Flat rent: £3063.37
Hotel bills: £1922.26
Train fares £737.40
By way of explanation the hotel bills covered the first few weeks after I was elected. After that I found a flat and so I will not need to make any more hotel claims for staying in London. The biggest item is for staffing this figure covers two separate invoices for pooled research services which I subscribe to in London. Unlike many members of Parliament I do not employ any staff purely for my own use in Westminster instead I have joined two groups which MP’s join to jointly employ staff and by the end of the year this will be much cheaper than for me employing someone full-time for my own use. The figure of £5827.50 covers the period up to 31st March 2011. Clearly this items affects the overall total as it will not be repeated until next year. Also the figures which have been released do not include salary payments to members of staff which is the biggest head of account. Once the whole picture is fully revealed it will be easier to make meaningful comparisons although I do not think that is necessarily the right thing to do. What matters is that there are strict limits on what can be claimed and provided there is complete transparency I hope we will soon be able to recover the trust of the electorate.