Learning how Parliament works

I’d asked one of the Commons Committee Clerks to come and brief me on the rules for Standing Committee as I will be leading for the Lib Dems on the Violent Crime Reduction Bill which goes into committee next Thursday.

The protocols of what you say, in what order you speak, when you stand, when you table amendments, at what point you can argue what and so on is much of a mystery to me at the moment as I’ve not yet done such a bill. So I have invited an expert to walk me through the procedure – which he does.

Lots to learn and lots of pitfalls for me to descend into! He then takes me and Mette (my Parliamentary Researcher) over to the Bills Office to introduce me so that I can ‘introduce’ Mette. This is a formal procedure without which they will not accept amendments from Mette (as opposed to me personally going over there). Doncha just love those quaint customs! Actually – this one probably has a point – i.e. no one can masquerade as me or Mette to put down amendments to the bill. Can’t imagine there would be a queue of fraudsters – but best to err on the safe side.

Then I have a meeting with a woman who has come at my request to brief me further on mental health issues. She, herself, suffers from schizophrenia. She obviously knows both from being a campaigner in this area as well as a user of the services all about where to go and how to get help. Invaluable.

Followed by a meeting with the Beer and Pub Association who want to discuss the Violent Crime Reduction Bill with me. Half of the bill is about how to deal with alcohol disorder – both by banning individuals from areas and also making areas with lots of disorder ‘Alcohol Disorder Zones’. This is a real legislative mess and so broadly drawn as to leave almost every decision up to the Home Secretary. Controlling or what? I agree with much of their lobbying – but not all.

Then off to my surgery in Hornsey Vale Community centre where – as always – I am constantly amazed by the range of problems that present. Finish at 7pm and go to my constituency office to sign things.

Get home about 9pm to watch the news on the Tory beauty parade – a misnomer if ever there was one. As my daughter said to me – if you had to sleep with one of them who would you choose?

Seriously though – I think David Davis must have given a sweetener to party organisers to put Cameron and Clarke on the same day. Both gave a good show – but Cameron made Clark look old and Clark made Cameron look wet behind the ears. Never-the-less DD has a bit of a show to put on when he speaks – or else.