Being an MP gives one a ‘locus’ to engage in related but outside activities. So it was this week:-
Monday. Recruiting session for next years Armed Forces Parliamentary Scheme, of which I am chairman. A total of 64 MPs and peers from all sides of the House will spend a minimum of 15 days with one of the armed services. 300 or so over a 5 year Parliament probably means that half of all MPs have some military exposure. I also (coincidentally) chair the All Party Group for Armed Forces who lay on high level briefings. The two bodies mean a very real understanding of the MoD in Parliament (and, I think, vice-versa.) Going to war must be one of our gravest responsibilities, so at least having some idea of what it means is of huge importance.
Dinner in Lords for AFPS sponsors, which Mr Speaker attends as our newly-appointed Vice President. He has a great enthusiasm for military matters and is in every way a first class Speaker. (Comparisons with predecessors are never very helpful.)
Tuesday (and Thursday): Continue to chair detailed line-by-line consideration of massive Energy Bill. My role is just to ensure fair debate and proper consideration of the bill. Complex procedural wrangles makes me glad of a ‘learned clerk’ by my side to keep me on the right track. Clause 73, sub-clause (f) delete ‘if’ and insert ‘but’ occasions a 30 minute speech from Shadow Minister. Government brings in vast quantities of amendments and new clauses showing how poorly drafted bill was in the first place.
As a ‘Younger Brother’ (I am very pleased with the ‘Younger’ bit of the title), spend an evening with Trinity House who have responsibility for lighthouses, maritime training, pilotage and a host of other shipping related matters. Set up by Henry Vlll in 1514, Trinity House still makes a vital contribution to British pre-eminence in seafaring. Long (and private) chat with Princess Royal who takes Trinity House very seriously.
Wednesday: Breakfast with Council on Geostrategy group, to whom I am advisor. Strategic director of Foreign Office speaking. Not very impressive These people tell you what’s as plain as the nose on your face, but very rarely predict anything. PMQs is dull as ditchwater. Have trouble staying awake. Procedure Committee in afternoon very concerned about a proposal to suspend MPs from Parliament if they are accused of sexual or physical abuse of any kind. What happened to ‘innocent until proved guilty’? The Environment Committee is quizzing George Monbiot and others about food security and the environment. Find myself more or less on my own in preferring food production to hideous solar energy production sites. (They are not ‘farms’). Two votes defeat Labour Opposition Day motions; dinner with chums in Members’ Dining Room.
Thursday. Government have not issued report on historic mistreatment of LGBT soldiers which was promised for today. Shame. This is ‘Pride Month’ so an oral ministerial statement would have been appropriate. Took my ‘Rainbow’ tie in specially. I like being counter-intuitive.
Weekend: Reception and dinner in Tetbury area; surgeries in Calne and Royal Wootton Bassett; big lunch party at home. Cut the grass and deal with in tray in the meantime. Relatively relaxing weekend after rather a fraught week, albeit one without a discernible theme to it. I love the diversity of Parliamentary life.