After a very busy week in Westminster today has been a very busy day back in the Constituency.
At lunchtime I met with a group of local businessmen to discuss their concerns about the current problems they face. This was an opportunity for me to hear at first hand from a range of different businesses and I think the main message that came out was how important it is to maintain confidence in UK PLC.
Later in the afternoon I went to Kays Gardens to attend the launch of a balloon race. Staff from Bury Solicitors GLP had spent the day raising money by (among other things) selling balloons to raise money to pay for specialist treatment for the brave young Bury girl Poppy Taylor. Fortunately, the weather was fine and thanks to the generosity of shoppers several hundreds of pounds was raised.
I then returned to spend the last two hours of the day dealing with my usual constituents surgery. As ever a diverse range of difficult problems and no easy answers.
Just a quick note to thank all those who have rung and left messages or written to me or emailed me with regard to the Motion calling for the introduction of a Bill to provide for the holding of a national referendum on our membership of the European Union.
As readers will know despite the fact that all three major parties issued a three-line whip instructing M.P.’s to vote against the Motion it nevertheless attracted the support of 111 M.P.’s (plus the two tellers).
Mr Alan Creswell, The Mayor Councillor Yvonne Creswell, Di Webb, David, Councillor Yvonne Wright.
Last night Sue and I attended the Annual dinner of the Bury and District Society for Blind and Partially Sighted Persons at Greenmount Golf Club. An excellent meal and great company.
Co-incidentally, the Gospel reading in church this morning was of Jesus healing the blind man.
Yesterday Sue and I attended the launch of the Save our Spire Appeal at St. Paul’s church at Ramsbottom. After of 150 years of standing up to the East Pennine weather urgent repairs are needed. The Mayor officially launched the appeal along with ITV news anchorman Tony Morris.
If you would like to make a donation to this appeal send a cheque made payable to St. Paul’s P.C.C.to Mr Les Norris at 1 Vernon Road, Greenmoount, Bury, BL8 4DD
Today I will be asking the Backbench Business Committee for a debate on whether the United Kingdom should hold a national referendum on or membership of the European Union.
It is 36 years since we last held a referendum and our relationship with what was then known as the Common Market and the European Union has changed out of all recognition since that time.
The motion I am submitting for debate is:
This House calls upon the Government to introduce a Bill in the next session of Parliament to provide for the holding of a national referendum on whether the United Kingdom should:
(a) remain a member of the European Union on the current terms;
(b) leave the European Union; or
(c) re-negotiate the terms of its membership in order to create a new relationship based on trade and co-operation.
I believe that a referendum along these lines would allow the public to make clear their views about our current membership of the European Union.
UPDATE I am pleased to report that the application to the Backbench Business Committee was successful and a debate on the above motion will now take place on Thursday 27th October.
FURTHER UPDATE The date of the debate has been changed to Nonday 24th October.
Following an interesting debate during which all shades of opinion were aired, the motion to allow hand-held electronic devices to be used in the Chamber of the House of Commons was approved by 206 votes to 63 votes.
I appreciate that some have genuine reservations about the move but in essence all that is happening is the formalisation of what has already been happening on a daily basis in the Chamber. Members regularly use tablet computers and smartphones to check emails and surf the internet. Many already update their blogs and tweet from the Chamber. It will all now be allowed without running the risk of breaking the rules of the House. I do expect that the requirement that all devices are used silently and with decorum is strictly enforced.
Today several months after the Procedure Committee (which I am a member of) completed its report the House of Commons will debate the Committee’s report and the recommendation that the current rule be relaxed.
The current rule dates back to 25th October 2007 which permits the use of mobile phones and other hand-held devices to keep up to date with emails provided that it causes no disturbance.
Since then technology has developed and there are now tablet computers and smartphones which simply did not exist back in 2007. It is a controversial subject. Personally I believe that we should allow the use of the new tablet computers I think it would be difficult if not impossible to enforce any restriction on what the computers could be used for. The Committee was agreed that the use of laptop computers would continue to be prohibited because of the lack of space in the chamber. As a matter of fact many people already use hand-held tablet computers and smartphones in the Chamber.
I try and spend as much time as I can in the Chamber but as with all Members there are so many demands on our time that it is difficult to spend more than a small proportion of the total time the House sits in the Chamber. My view is that Members may be able to spend more time in the Chamber if greater use of hand-held devices is permitted. One of the questions I am often asked is why are there are so few Members in the Chamber. the Answer is that there are so many demands on MP’s and as yet no one has been able to arrange for any Member to be in be in two places at the same time!
I will report the result of the debate in a later post.