My office in the House of Commons is on a somewhat bland but high corridor just off the public rooms of Upper Committee Corridor. Although small, I like it as it is close to the chamber. It also means I often pass one of the access points to the roof of the building where there is regular stream of men and women in protective mountaineering gear coming and going. Some of the tales are alarming, not least of masonry falling onto fellow MPs’ cars - not that any of the brave workers are to blame, who also brave the low temperatures.
In January the issue of renovating the Houses of Parliament will return for debate. The balance between practicality, respect for heritage obligations and responsibility to the taxpayer will be thoroughly investigated. Coincidentally, at the time of writing, members of the House of Lords are spending a few hours today debating the size of that House, and I note that no less than 96 Lords are down to speak.
My own view would tend towards prioritising practical considerations and I am taking up specific issues with the authorities including not wasting money on building an exact replica Commons in a demolished building on Whitehall, promoting electric vehicle charging that does not involve risk from falling parapets, and also improving our disabled access. I am sure our IT specialists, in a constant battle against hackers and cyber-attacks, will welcome the chance to have some input into updating our very outdated infrastructure too.
There are thousands of people who work in Parliament ranging from chefs to tour guides to plumbers and builders and they are the unsung heroes of the place. Refurbishment plans must be made with respect for their jobs.
Although I can see some attraction to moving Parliament from London I don’t think that is a realistic option as we need to be near all the Government Departments, civil servants and various related organisations all based there.
I am very much looking forward to spending some uninterrupted time in the West Country with my family over the next two weeks. With the EU Withdrawal Bill and the Finance Bill being voted on this week it will be busy in Westminster up until Christmas. I was also pleased to get the chance on Tuesday to raise recruitment of registered nurses again in the House, and to keep the pressure for more funding for Somerset County Council on Ministers. This was after receiving news of an £11m increase in funding, which at 3.3% isn’t too bad, but given the increasing pressures on spending it will still need very careful management.
My thanks go to everyone who has helped me over what has been an eventful year but also to local people who have got in touch, shared their thoughts and let me know what they would like to see their MP working on. Of course there are divisive issues, not least the EU, even if most want a positive approach on it, but there is so much that unites us too, and I believe the future for the South West is a bright one.
I hope you all have a good Christmas with family and friends. Should you wish to get in touch you can do so in the usual ways – email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01935314321