The week at Westminster: life can be such a fag for our MPs

It was a busy week in Parliament for our local MPs, ANDREW PELLING reports

Malcolm Wicks: supporting local Post Offices

Back at Westminster after the Easter break, and there were 22 visits to the voting lobby in just four days of the Parliamentary working week. That’s very hard work indeed by normal standards – all that waiting around aimlessly for the votes to actually happen. So congratulations to Gavin Barwell on collecting the full set.

That’s what Parliamentary Private Secretary position-holders are all about. You are at the bottom of the ministerial food chain, the job is a bit like being a fag at Eton. You don’t get paid any more for the job but you are expected to be there to vote morning, noon or night.

You are also supposed to be unstintingly and unthinkingly loyal, just like Barwell’s lone comments to the 1922 committee about the merits of Lords Reform.

This unquestioning loyalty also saw the Croydon Central MP vote for the Granny Tax, the Pasty Tax and the new tax on churches, while voting against proposals to water down cuts to child benefit for the middle classes and cuts to legal aid on matters like domestic violence, benefits, industrial and respiratory diseases, and against taxes to reduce diabetes-inducing sugar drinks.

Richard Ottaway, Croydon South’s Conservative MP, and Tom Brake, the LibDem from Carshalton and Wallington, as loyal members of the government also voted for these measures, although Brake was absent on a benefits vote.

Malcolm Wicks (Labour, Croydon North) signed a motion against downgrades to services in 2,000 Post Offices.

Brake led on a motion congratulating the Sutton Guardian on stopping south London council taxpayers having to pay for the upkeep of the Lea Valley Regional Park. Ottaway backed Brake. Barwell, who is reported by the local paper as backing the campaign, has not signed the motion, however.

Barwell also spoke of his admiration for the achievements of academy schools in Croydon – a shame he did not dedicate his precious time for asking for money to make up for the huge shortage in primary school places in Croydon.

Both Barwell and Brake asked about the Abu Qatada fiasco. Theresa May went to Oxford, unlike Barwell who went to a poly somewhere out amongst the long-lingering fogs on the Fens. At Oxford, the fifth week of the summer term is called “Eights week”, so that may explain the Home Secretary’s confusion with numbers.

Ottaway again was leading on foreign affairs, worrying about a ceasefire actually bolstering the Assad regime in Syria. He was also writing as chair of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee to ask what the Foreign and Commonwealth Office had really done to look into the death of businessman Neil Haywood in China. William Hague will be so pleased.

Ottaway also supported a motion condemning the attempted restitution of an old law of “scandalising a judge” in a case brought against the former Northern Ireland Secretary and senior Labour figure, Peter Hain. A former judge in Northern Ireland is having a go at a book of memoirs published by Conservative supremo Iain Dale at Biteback Publishing.

MPs activity last week (April 16-20)
Votes (out of 22)/ Written questions/Speeches/Oral questions & interventions/EDMs

Barwell 22/0/2/1/0
Brake 21/5/1/5/10
Ottaway 19/0/1/0/2
Wicks 10/0/0/0/1

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