Friday, 23 January 2009

Anne Begg's Week

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Week beginning 19th January – Obamamania.

On Monday, my Select Committee began to take evidence for the inquiry into the Equalities Bill. However, there was no escaping from the Obama effect this week

On Tuesday morning Obama’s achievement dominated the first public meeting of the Speaker’s Conference of which I am vice-chair. We had Operation Black Vote, RADAR and the Women’s Institute giving evidence on how we can get more women, disabled people and people from ethnic minorities into Parliament. The theme was ‘If he can do it, so can we’.

At 4.30pm later that day I was Chairing a European Scrutiny Committee on “Food for deprived areas”. It could have lasted for two and a half hours but we finished at 5pm just as Obama was being sworn in. However, within minutes the division bells began to ring and we all had to go off to vote. I got through the lobby just in time to catch the end of his speech. It seemed that every monitor in the Palace of Westminster was tuned into the event

I had an All Party Equalities Group meeting on Wednesday where we discussed the use of public sector procurement to encourage the private sector to embed equality in their employment practices. Later that day, I also found myself in front of the cameras as we recorded an interview with BBC Parliament about the Speaker’s Conference. It should be going out on Friday evening and I will put up a link to it here as soon as it goes up.

Despite all this, the undoubted highlight of my week was an event at Dover House, the home of the Scotland Office in Whitehall. I just thought I was going to a launch of a new coin and set of stamps to commemorate the 250th anniversary of the birth of Robert Burns. The event also included entertainment from school children who had been winners of the Burns Federation Competition. Unexpectedly, there was a good turnout from Aberdeen, and my constituency in particular. One performer was a young 9 year old boy from Peterculter Primary School who played a set of bagpipes which seemed bigger than he was. His name is Calum Brown and, as it turns out, I had met him before when he was a new-born baby and his mother was threatened by deportation! I can assure you it was quite an emotional reunion.

After Wednesday’s events Thursday was fairly quiet comparatively, but I will have an especially frenzied schedule on Friday with constituent surgeries in the morning and afternoon interspersed with other meetings in the constituency.

It's good to see Parliament taking diversity in office seriously [see Tuesday], the best way (in my opinion) to make sure that everyone is treated equally in a fair and equitable society is to make sure that they are properly represented by a diverse legislative body. There are simply too many white men in the House of Commons and I think any move towards balance is a good thing.

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