Starting to get into the mindset of ‘back to work’ on Monday, by which I mean back to Westminster – I’ve been back at work for the past fortnight in Bristol.
The new political season kicks off with four Bills up before we adjourn again for party conferences (Equitable Life, civil service compensation scheme, fixed-term parliaments, and the AV referendum, plus an Opposition Day debate), and then over the next few weeks we’ll have the Labour leadership finally sorted, the Shadow Cabinet elected by the time we get back on October 11th (nominations and voting start at Labour Conference), and then the Spending Review on October 22nd, and possibly a Welfare Reform white paper soon… Lots to get stuck into.
I’m not especially looking forward to getting back into the routine of living in two places at once. I haven’t set foot in my London flat since July. It’s nice to be spend more than three or four nights in a row in the same place…
One of the things I’m trying to get my head round is which, if any, Fridays I should spend in London over the coming months. Parliament normally sits Monday to Thursdays, but then we have the occasional Private Members Bills sessions on Friday. We don’t have to be there, as it’s not Government business so the usual Government/ Opposition whips for attendance don’t apply, but some of the Bills are important and worth missing a day in the constituency for… Just have to make sure I get twice as much done in Bristol in what’s left of recess! Full list of Bills here, but it will change over time as some of the Bills proceed through the early stages and are relisted for another hearing.
I’m – quite rightly – being lobbied by trade unionists to be there on October 22nd for John McDonnell’s Lawful Industrial Action (Minor Errors) Bill, which is about preventing employers using minor technical errors in trade union ballots for industrial action to take unions to court and stop the strikes. More here at the LibCon site. It’s backed by all the main unions.
Last year when we had the Agency Workers Bill and the Trade Union Freedom Bill I simply couldn’t be in London on the Friday; I’d committed to do an event in the constituency months before, and it was something where I simply couldn’t let the organisers down. Didn’t make me very popular with one or two of the unions, but it was a no win- no win situation.
On October 29th the UK Youth Parliament are sitting in the Commons Chamber, after a marathon session before recess when various Tories tried to block it. Although I was a strong supporter of the UKYP using the Chamber last year, I couldn’t actually be there on the day because of constituency commitments, so I’d really like to see them in action this time round.
I also definitely want to be there on November 12th for the Sustainable Livestock Bill, because it’s an issue I’ve taken an interest in for a long time, and there’s the Public Bodies (Sustainable Food) Bill on second, which is a good one too.
December 3rd looks interesting, though I doubt I’ll want to spare another Friday to be there. It kicks off with the Daylight Savings Bill (the perennial topic of whether we should put the clocks forward another hour, either all year or part of it), then David Hamilton’s attempt to extend the Gangmasters legislation to the Construction Industry, and the Philip Hollobone’s ‘Ban the Burkha Bill’. It will be interesting to see how the Tory whips handle business on that day, and whether they line up any of their loyal backbenchers to talk out Hamilton’s bill (which I assume they won’t support) and ensure they don’t get onto Hollobone’s, which quite frankly is a controversy they could do without.