This week in Parliament, Ian has been representing Wansbeck in Westminster, championing constituents inside and outside of the debate chamber. Events in Westminster have been in the headlines, and Ian and the Labour Party have been standing up for ordinary people in Wansbeck and beyond.
It’s been a busy week in Parliament, with many votes that may be of interest to Wansbeck residents. One of the most important contributions this week has come from an MP in the North East, Pat Glass, who introduced a Private Members’ Bill that would impact the upcoming Boundary Review.
The week in Westminster was, as always, dominated by Prime Minister’s Questions. Jeremy Corbyn chose to focus on Brexit and asked on behalf of a public that is growing tired of obfuscation by the Prime Minister. Brexit has been rightly described as the greatest challenge that the country has faced in decades. It is in the national interest that she be open and forthcoming about her plans. It isn’t just a question of openness, but of trust in government. All aspects of our lives will be affected, and a botched Brexit could make us permanently poorer. Theresa May can’t simply ask us to trust her with our rights and prosperity without giving any information. In the long term, this approach risks undermining not only the Brexit process, but the trust of the public in Parliament. This is beyond narrow political point scoring, it raises serious questions about the commitment of the government to transparency and to accountability.
One of the major talking points in the media has been the passage of the Investigatory Powers Bill. I voted to retain the amendments made by the Lords, in line with other Labour MPs. Labour did not oppose the bill, but were defeated in our attempts to support modifications made by a variety of peers. This was due to their provision to protect journalistic sources and to protect ordinary people from harassment by the press.
The Private Members’ Bill introduced by Pat Glass would force the Boundary Commission to consider the up to date electoral register when redrawing constituencies. It was debated on Friday and will be considered further, having passed Second Reading. Labour has supported the bill, and Pat Glass is standing down from her seat at the next election, so would not be affected by it if it is implemented. Many difficulties caused by the Boundary Review were mentioned in the debate, such as constituencies being redrawn in a manner that split communities down the middle, in some cases literally down the high street. Stephen Kinnock spoke of his constituency of Aberavon being divided so that a whole community would not be represented by one MP. The steelworks would split from the housing estate built to accommodate those who worked there. The Bill included provision to allow more deviation from the standard size of constituencies, increasing the leeway from 5 to 10%. One other reason given was the physical size of a constituency, which would present challenges to the MP and the constituents within it. Would it be fair for constituents to travel upward of an hour to access a constituency office? An MP would be unable to efficiently represent a community spread over vast tracts of land, and a simplistic approach based purely on population level would disadvantage constituents unfairly simply because of where they lived. Access to an MP is absolutely fundamental right in Britain, and we must be careful that the Boundary Review does not inadvertently make it harder for people to access their representative.
I will continue to update via Facebook and Twitter and will send out an update on Monday via email.
Are you a constituent experiencing difficulty or do you have a cause you wish to raise? You can email email@example.com, call 01670852494 or write to Ian Lavery MP, 7 Esther Court, Wansbeck Business Park, Ashington, NE63 8QZ