The week at Westminster: grub’s up for MP access

It might cost £250,000 to secure a meal at No10 with “Call Me Dave” Cameron, but a school dinner with Croydon Central MP Gavin Barwell is a “mere” £30. Former MP ANDREW PELLING takes the budget option to chart the activities of our representatives during the past week

Big Ben? It will be the Elizabeth Tower, if Richard Ottaway has his way after last week's obsequious EDM. The knighthood's in the post, Dickie...

Richard Ottaway was again the main performer of our local MPs in Parliament this week, with Gavin Barwell resorting to complete radio silence. Barwell was probably saving himself for the loving cup ceremony and loyal toasts as chairman of Trinity School’s Founder’s Day dinner at the end of the week.

Ottaway, as chairman of the Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee, took advantage of visits to Cairo and Tripoli to ask junior Foreign Office minister and fellow left-wing Tory Alistair Burt MP about prospects for democracy taking root after the Arab Spring, clearly a prime concern for the constituents of Croydon South.

“Not bad” was Burt’s view of the prospects, as he referred to Ottaway’s own “off and on” interest in African affairs over the past 25 years. Ottaway said that his observation of young men with AK47s on the streets of Tripoli and concerns about the Libyan army’s attitude to democracy were the background to the question about democratic prospects.

In Cairo, Ottaway had met the Egyptian Foreign Minister and Egyptian army strong men and asked whether we enjoyed “the same solid relationship” with the new government that Britain had enjoyed with deposed president Hosni Mubarak. Burt said the Egyptian government was “transitional” and relations are “cordial”.

Ottaway also backed an early day motion (EDM) to have St Stephen’s Tower, known colloquially as Big Ben after the bell housed at its top, be called the Elizabeth Tower in recognition of the Queen’s dedication to a life of public service and her Diamond Jubilee. The tower at the other end of Parliament is called the Victoria Tower after Queen Victoria, who also celebrated a Diamond Jubilee. It was previously called the King’s Tower.

Malcolm Wicks, Croydon North’s MP, backed a different EDM, raising concerns about limits on contributions into lower cost pension schemes provided by the National Employment Savings Trust.

LibDem Carshalton and Wallington MP Tom Brake, who casts a covetous eye at the prospective new parliamentary seat of Croydon Central and St Helier, was pulled up by the Deputy Speaker for being rude to the rather gentle Labour member for Kingston upon Hull North, Diana Johnson.

“Order. The right hon. Gentleman will not shout across the Chamber at somebody who is speaking. If he wishes to intervene, he should do it in the normal way,” Dawn Primarolo scolded Brake. Certainly not the behaviour of somebody who sits on the Privy Council. Brake got that uplift in July last year. Let’s hope he gives the Queen good counsel.

Brake was involved on three other occasions last week, asking after how discussions on extradition agreements with the United States were progressing, wondering whether the new elected police commissioners would tackle stalking, and expressing concern about whether privatised policing would be involved in arrests and detective work. On the last point, Theresa May, the Home Secretary, was able to give Brake reassurance.

Brake seconded an EDM sending condolences to those affected by the Toulouse atrocities and speaking out against anti-Semitism.

Barwell, meanwhile, the busy constituency MP who discriminates over who receives email notifications about his activities, spent last Friday visiting Coulsdon College (not in his constituency) and dining at an all-male Old Boys’ dinner at his former public school (fees: £12,462 per year). “The price for this treat is a mere £30 per person,” the Old Mid-Whitgiftians Association website advised of its dinner. So despite the Sunday Times‘s allegations at the weekend, maybe access to “leading parliamentary figures” can come cheap.

MP activity this week (Mar 19-23)

Votes (out of 9)/ Written questions/Speeches/Oral questions & interventions/EDMs

Barwell 9/0/0/0/0
Brake 9/0/0/4/1
Ottaway 9/0/0/0/1
Wicks 5/0/0/0/1

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News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email
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